Wednesday, June 18, 2014
POROSHENKO TO ISSUE CEASEFIRE
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko announced after a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that he would order shortly a “unilateral ceasefire” by government troops engaged in fights with pro-Russian groups in Eastern Ukraine, The Kyiv Post reports. According to RT’s live blog, fighters in the Luhansk region were exchanging dead bodies, suggesting the cease-fire has already begun.
ISIS ATTACKS IRAQ’S MAIN OIL REFINERY
Islamists fighters with the organization Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant have attacked Iraq’s biggest oil refinery with mortars and machine guns and are now in control of 75% of the facility, The Guardian reports on its live blog. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal expressed concern over the events unfolding in Iraq, saying it "carries warning signs of a civil war with unpredictable consequences for the region," according to AFP. Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meanwhile accused the Saudi monarchy of supporting ISIS “financially and morally, and for the outcome of that, which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide,” as hundreds of Shiite Iraqis were killed since the Sunni group’s offensive last week.
In a chilling article, the Financial Times explains that ISIS have been keeping detailed records of their deadly operations over the past few years, leading experts to say that the organization “is not so much the ragtag terrorist band depicted by Iraqi officials but more of an organised military structure with a clear political strategy to set up a Sunni sectarian state.”
BLAST TARGETS WORLD CUP FANS IN NIGERIA
A suicide bomber believed to be linked with Boko Haram blew himself up outside a public venue in northeastern Nigeria yesterday where people were gathered to watch the World Cup’s Brazil v. Mexico game. At least 21 people were killed and another 27 injured, according to AFP.
Fast-moving wildfires that have been raging since Friday are now threatening a Native American community northwest of Albuquerque in New Mexico.
ARRESTS CONTINUE IN ISRAEL
Israel arrested 65 more Palestinians overnight, including 51 former prisoners who had been released as part of swap deal in 2011, as the search for three missing students continues, Reuters reports. The Israeli government decided at a cabinet meeting yesterday to harden the jail conditions of prisoners from Hamas, in a bid to increase the pressure on the organization, which they believe is behind the abductions. This morning, the municipality of Jerusalem greenlighted a construction project for 172 settlements in the occupied area of East Jerusalem. Yosef Pepe Alalu, a city councilor opposed to settlements told AFP: "This is the final stage before construction, and is the continuation of a policy that harms the peace process."
Israeli daily Calcalist looks into how the current hostage crisis played out across social media, despite a gag order by the military. “So if the objective of the gag order was to prevent the information from getting out to the Palestinians, it failed miserably. Besides, a Palestinian can just stick his head out of the window to see that something unusual is going on, and look it up on the Internet and get the whole picture in a matter of minutes.”
Read the full article, Israeli Hostages, Gag Orders And Social Media.
JAPAN 1: 3D IMAGES TO BOOST FUKUSHIMA CLEANUP
The cleanup operations at Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant Fukushima are likely to get some high-tech help in the near future thanks to a new technology that will provide engineers with 3D images of the reactor cores, enabling them to assess with precision the damage inside, The New York Times reports.
JAPAN 2: NEW CHILD PORN LAW EXEMPTS MANGA
After years of resistance, Japan has finally made possession of child pornography images a criminal offense. But the bill approved Wednesday by parliament exempts such content in the form of manga and anime, Japan Times reports.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
Uruguayan soccer fans have attributed their national team's 3-1 loss against Costa Rica Saturday on a lack of caramel spread. Brazilian officials said they confiscated 39kg of the sweet confection from the South American squad upon their arrival at the Confins airport for the World Cup last week.
Amazon is expected to announce later today the launch of a smartphone with a 3D interface and rumor has it there could be more to come soon.
100 YEARS TIME LAPSE
Around Europe, countries and cities are marking 100 years since World War I began. This video offers a fascinating photographic look at how the city of Antwerp has (and hasn’t) changed in the century that has passed.
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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