ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing
Kristen Gillespie


*The fallout from the arrest of a Saudi woman, Manal al-Sharif, continues. Last week, al-Sharif posted a video of her driving in east Saudi Arabia on YouTube. She was arrested and remains in custody for violating the public order. The Facebook reaction was swift. The "I will drive my car" group has set June 17th as the day that women in Saudi Arabia will get into their cars and drive. The administrator notes his/her views as "very conservative," and maintains that a woman should be "wearing a full head/face covering with the eyes showing while driving or else face punishment" and that women should be allowed to drive "in cities only," among other conditions.

*Khalid Hajri writes, "We are all with Manal, and for women driving freely in Saudi Arabia."

*Esmahan Ghourabi adds, "This is your right and we are with you in Arab countries."

*The "We are all Manal al-Sharif" group has more than 16,000 members, hundreds of whom have already pledged to drive on Friday, June 17th at 9:00am.

*The "Campaign against ‘I will drive my car" group" was recently founded to counter the pro-driving movement. It includes a poster of Manal al-Sharif with her face crossed out. The administrator urges Saudi men to do "all they can to stop women from driving." That includes using the thick wire bound in cotton that is wrapped twice around the head to hold a male's checkered headdress in place. The administrator initially posted a picture of a man beating a woman using the igal headdress, but that has since been removed.

*This YouTube video features a young Saudi man in a mask mocking women as barely capable of functioning, much less driving. If allowed to drive, the unnamed speaker says, they would confuse the gender roles, threatening the masculine supremacy of society.

Despite rumors in the Egyptian media that former President Hosni Mubarak could receive a pardon, he was referred to the Attorney General today for prosecution in the deaths of protesters during the January 25th revolution. An estimated 846 people were killed during the uprising. Mubarak, his two sons Alaa and Gamal and others face criminal charges of conspiring to kill civilians. Moheet newspaper reported that "the Attorney General issued a decree forming a committee of medical experts to re-examine Mubarak's health and assess the possibility of his transfer to a prison hospital."

May 24, 2011

photo credit: illustir

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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