Wednesday, December 17, 2014
PAKISTAN MOURNS DEAD CHILDREN
A three-day period of mourning began today in Pakistan, with vigils held in the country’s major cities and funerals in Peshawar, after Tuesday’s Taliban attack on a school in the northwest city that killed 141 people, including 132 children.
The army began a series of massive air strikes early Wednesday against militants, while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism cases. The Taliban threatened to continue carrying out similar attacks.
Pakistani daily The Nation accused Sharif of having contributed “absolutely nothing towards building a narrative against extremism,” and says that “everyone, from the wider population to the civil and military leadership is responsible for the barbarity our children were subjected to.” The newspaper wrote that the motivation behind its strongly worded editorial was “not to berate or discourage, but to offer a reality check and prompt change of policy.”
RUBLE SLIDE CONTINUES DESPITE NEW MEASURES
The ruble resumed its slide, albeit at a slower pace, after a slight rebound in early trading following what experts are calling a “Black Tuesday” yesterday, when the Russian currency lost close to 20% of its value. A second emergency measure from the Finance Ministry, which said it had begun selling part of its $7 billion foreign exchange reserve failed to stop the trend, according to Bloomberg. The volatility of the currency even prompted Apple to stop online sales of its products in Russia. U.S. President Barack Obama meanwhile increased the pressure on Moscow, saying he would sign a new bill that imposes fresh sanctions on Russian industry and gives him authority to send lethal and non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine. Read more from The New York Times.
EBOLA KILLINGS SCORES OF SIERRA LEONE DOCTORS
The World Health Organization has released its latest figures of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, showing that at least 6,841 people have been killed by the virus and a total of 18,464 have been infected. Liberia still has the highest number of casualties, but the situation is also deteriorating fast in Sierra Leone, where most of the recent cases have been reported. According to The Washington Post, nearly 10% of the country’s doctors have died since the epidemic started in March.
COURT ORDERS HAMAS REMOVAL FROM EU TERROR LIST
The General Court of the European Union, the EU’s second highest court, has ruled that the Palestinian organization Hamas must be removed from a list of terrorist organizations, The Jerusalem Post reports. The court argued that the decision to place Hamas on that list in 2001 had not been on sound legal judgments but on “factual imputations derived from the press and the Internet.” The ruling however did not lift travel bans or the freezing of the group’s assets. Israeli leaders reacted angrily to the decision and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected Hamas to be put back on the list “immediately.” This comes as a Palestinian delegation will today introduce a UN draft resolution setting a two-year deadline for Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian territories, despite the U.S. warning that it will veto the text.
Writing in Tel Aviv-based Calcalist, Yoel Esteron looked ahead to the early elections called by Netanyahu, saying it was high time to get rid of the increasingly isolated longtime Prime Minister. “Nobody is trying to hide Bibi Netanyahu's paranoia. It can be felt in each one of his statements. And sadly, his advisors and others surrounding him cultivate it without shame. Bibi is good for Jews! Paranoia is good for Jews! It might even become a campaign slogan."
Read the full article: Leadership-By-Paranoia, Why Netanyahu Must Go.
A ‘STUPID’ DALAI LAMA?
His Holiness spoke with the BBC.
BUSH VS. CLINTON IN 2016?
After Jeb Bush’s announcement yesterday that he would “actively explore” the possibility of running for the White House (which provoked mocking reactions on social media), The Washington Post looks at the possibility of a new Bush vs. Clinton battle in 2016 and the “complicated” relationship between the two clans. While acknowledging that their last names are an “enormous advantage,” especially to gain access to “big money,” the newspaper notes that they also have their downsides and that only a good campaign can ensure them of being their respective parties’ candidates, as Hillary Clinton learned the hard way when she faced Obama.
NORTH KOREA ENDS MOURNING OF FORMER LEADER
Today marks the end of a three-year mourning period for North Korea’s former leader Kim Jong-iI, the father of Kim Jong-un who will now have more freedom “to put a more personal stamp on the way the country is run,” AP writes. This comes after an ongoing series of hacks at Sony Pictures escalated yesterday with hackers threatening 9/11-style attacks on theaters that would show the movie “The Interview.” The New York premiere, planned for tomorrow, has been canceled. In a bizarre twist, the comedy film, which is said to portray the death of Kim Jong-un, is inspiring news ways of protesting, with South Korea activists reportedly planning to drop DVDs on North Korea using hydrogen balloons. Read more from The Daily Telegraph.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
A recently discovered species of deep sea snail has been named by scientists in honor of the Clash frontman Joe Strummer. Yes, you read that well.
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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