Geopolitics

Is Killing Bin Laden Worthy Of A Great Democracy?

Opinion: As the U.S. celebrates the killing of its No. 1 enemy, one German commentator says Americans should ask themselves: was it worth it?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/58964293@N00/5681399919/sizes/z/in/gallery-60393420@N04-72157626512551675/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/58964293@N00/5681399919/sizes/z/in/gallery-60393420@N04-72157626512551675/

New York celebrates Osama's death (davem_330)

The images coming from the U.S. were reminiscent of the scenes following Saddam Hussein's capture in December 2003, when he was hiding in a hole in a farm near the town of Tikrit. What followed was a degrading treatment of the Iraqi president on the world's stage, allegedly to determine his identity. In fact, the show was meant to demonstrate the power of the United States.

The message was clear: we can catch anyone, and no one is safe. This time, it was Osama Bin Laden who had his turn – the Al Qaeda leader was the No. 1 public enemy in the United States. A $50 million bounty had been issued for his capture: "dead or alive."

President Obama personally gave the order for the mission, and Americans are now celebrating as if killing Osama Bin Laden had solved all of their problems in one stroke – high unemployment, runaway national debt, failed health care reform, the country's tarnished prestige in the world.

The execution of Osama Bin Laden – or it is better to speak of murder? – allows Americans to forget their troubles for a moment. It is like a balm on the wounds of the nation. In the rush of emotion, no one is asking the questions that need to be asked. For example – was it really Osama Bin Laden who was killed? Is it possible that it was one of his doubles?

In the United States, the accused have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Guilt or innocence can only be decided in a proper court of law. Osama Bin Laden was given the "short shrift". He did not have the opportunity to defend himself from the accusations made against him, he had no fair trial, no lawyer. He was probably not even asked to surrender. Such a procedure is unworthy of a constitutional state. Even Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution of the Jewish question, was given due process before he was sentenced to death.

If we ask ourselves, "cui bono?" ("who benefits?"), the answer is clear: the United States. The superpower was caught cold by the recent uprisings in the Arab world, it has failed to solve the Palestinian question, it has not even come to terms with inflation at home. Something needed to happen.

The timing was not perfect, but apparently no one wanted to wait until the tenth anniversary of 9/11. As Americans celebrate in the streets, they forget that violence often produces counter-violence in turn. The execution of Osama Bin Laden will have consequences; it will undoubtedly set a new spiral of violence in motion again.

Was it worth it? Could the United States have made an extradition request to the Pakistani government? After all, the action grossly violated Pakistan's sovereignty. The government in Islamabad has no choice but to make the best of a bad game, but its reputation in the country is not getting any better. It is already seen as an agent for the United States. This in turn will give new impetus to the radical Islamists.

At the very least, we should now demand the creation of an independent commission to investigate whether or not, and under what circumstances, Osama Bin Laden was killed. Only then will we know for certain and prevent the spread of conspiracy theories like the ones that have developed about events such as the moon landing and 9/11.

The leader of such a commission would need to be an experienced and impartial jurist. For example, Richard Goldstone, the former Chief Justice of South Africa, who investigated Israel's latest operation in Gaza.

Read the original article in German

photo - (davem_330)

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
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.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ