Friday, May 16, 2014
UN WARNING ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN EASTERN UKRAINE
In its monthly report on the Ukrainian crisis, the United Nations warned of an “alarming deterioration” in eastern regions of the country, the BBC reports. The organization denounces violent attacks on “peaceful demonstrations, primarily by supporters of Ukraine's unity,” adding that local police forces did nothing to prevent those attacks or sided with pro-Russian militants. The reaction from Moscow came promptly, with the Russian Foreign Ministry accusing the UN of “double standards” and of “carrying out a political order to whitewash” the actions of the Kiev government.
“India has won,” Indian opposition leader and prime minister candidate Narendra Modi tweeted today after it became clear his party won a landslide victory against the ruling Indian National Congress party. The INC, led by the Gandhi family, looks to have registered their worst-ever performance in the country’s general election, The Indian Express reports.
For more about the reasons behind the collapse of the Congress party and the toppling of the Gandhi dynasty, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch piece, Why India's Gandhi Dynasty May Be About To Crumble.
San Diego County, California, has been battling an unprecedented number of wildfires over the past three days, and possible arson is being investigated. See our Snapshot here.
18 MINERS IN TURKEY STILL MISSING
Eighteen workers are still missing and believed to be trapped in Soma, Turkey three days after a fire caused a mine to collapse, killing at least 284 people, Hurriyet quoted Energy Minister Taner Yildiz as saying. According to the BBC, 122 miners were injured in the incident and 363 managed to escape safely. The mine’s operator denied any negligence, although it admitted that there was no refuge chamber in the mine, which could have saved lives. “Legally, we don't have an obligation to build a refuge chamber. But we would have completed it in three-four months if this accident hadn’t happened," the company’s chief said. More controversy is piling up on Prime Minister Erdogan after he was accused of having slapped a protester during his visit to the site.
Switzerland could soon boast the world’s highest minimum wage, as the country is scheduled to vote Sunday on a referendum that would guarantee workers a minimum $25 an hour.
CHINA AND VIETNAM MINISTERS TO MEET
The Chinese and Vietnamese commerce ministers will meet later today to discuss ongoing anti-Chinese riots, which Beijing says left at least two Chinese people dead and more than 100 injured, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, China’s state-run newspaper Global Times reportedly wrote that a “forced war would convince some countries of China’s sincerely peaceful intentions,” as protesters also demonstrated in the Philippine capital of Manila. A Chinese official, however, said that Beijing would continue drilling for oil in disputed waters of the South China Sea.
BRAZIL PROTESTS AHEAD OF WORLD CUP
Thousands of anti-World Cup protesters gathered in Brazil’s main cities yesterday, clashing with police in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo just 27 days before the competition’s kick-off, O Globo reports. In São Paulo, where about 1,200 people were demonstrating, eight were arrested after a small group attacked shops and bank branches and threw stones at police officers, who replied with tear-gas, Folha de São Paulo reports.
As Le Monde’s Alain Salles writes, European politicians have been hailing an economic uptick in the troubled Greek economy, but Greeks themselves have yet to see any real signs of rebound. “In the streets of Athens, this so-called success story doesn’t seem to be trickling down to the people,” the journalist writes. “The unemployment rate is slightly decreasing, but a staggering 26.5% of the workforce and 57% of young people are still unemployed. A quarter of residents are excluded from public health care, and poverty affects 23.7% of the total population.
Read the full article, The Myth Of The Greek Recovery.
ISRAELI SANCTIONS AGAINST PALESTINE
Israel has launched financial sanctions against Palestinian banks, preventing them from making deposits in shekels, the Israeli currency, in its banks in response to the collapse of peace talks, Haaretz reports. This comes after the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank were hit by power cuts, following a decision from the state-owned Israel Electric Corporation to cut electricity supplies by half twice a day. The newspaper explains, however, that Israeli settlements are unaffected because they were provided with generators.
LIKE A BIRD
Some people aren’t scared of pulling crazy stunts. Check out this expand=1] incredible video of paragliding pilot Dave Edwards around New Zealand’s Mount Maunganui.
If Zeppelin ripped off “Stairway to Heaven,” Businessweek just destroyed your teenage memories.
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.
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.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
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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