Geopolitics

Deadly Sectarian Clashes In Burma Coincide With Visit By Google's Schmidt

AFP, BBC, IRRAWADDY (Burma), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

MEIKTILA- Burmese sectarian violence has turned deadly, as angry mobs rioted in the streets and at least five people have been reported killed in the central city of Meiktila.

The BBC cites a death toll of 20 by Friday morning, though the Myanmar government has only confirmed five fatalities after an argument in a gold shop escalated into mobs setting mainly Muslim buildings on fire -- including mosques -- and rival communities fighting in the streets.

Meiktila is more than 500km north of the capital Yangon (Rangoon)

The state media reported that a Buddhist monk is among the dead, with dozens wounded. Anonymous state authorities have put the death toll at 10 or higher, says Reuters. Buildings were still burning Friday morning and Buddhist crowds roamed the otherwise empty streets of the city in one of Asia’s most ethnically diverse countries, which is known to many as Burma but officially recognized as Myanmar.

“Two mosques and an Islamic religious school nearby were destroyed. A Buddhist monk and another man succumbed to their injuries at the hospital around 11 pm yesterday,” said an officer from the police station in Meiktila to Burmese daily Irrawaddy, without explaining how the two had been injured.

Irrawaddy reports that Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition chief Aung San Suu Kyi urged the Police Chief to take action as soon as possible. “Don’t sit by and watch. Act in accordance with the law.”

Parts of Meiktila have been reduced to ashes in the most serious Buddhist-Muslim clashes since those last year in the northern Rakhine State riots that left more than 120,000 displaced. Most of the victims were the Rohingya Muslims who are not recognized as Burmese citizens.

The ethnic cleansing in Burma had been previously hushed up but since the current government took power in 2011, people have been using the Internet more and more to publicize what is going on.

Coincidentally, Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt arrived in Burma on Friday to promote the use of technology. The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon was live-tweeting his speech and visit.

LIVE! #Google"s Eric Schmidt in Rangoon: "Myanmar was a formerly inaccessible country, but the Internet will make it impossible to go back."

— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013

LIVE! #Google"s Eric Schmidt in Rangoon speech: "Rule #1 - Don't let the government control the Internet." Audience applauds

— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013

Schmidt: Techonology empowers individuals. One mobile phone in one village can record injustices.

— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013

#Google"s Eric Schmidt:Myanmar is right on the cusp and will be able to leapfrog many other developing countries. This is your big moment.

— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) March 22, 2013

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Society

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

-Essay-

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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