July 12, 2013
ABU GOSH - Standing in front of his house in this Arab-Israeli village west of Jerusalem, Ibrahim Hatem stares in disbelief: “I don’t understand. I am Israeli. I like this country. On my street, my neighbors are all Jewish.”
On June 18, Ibrahim Hatem became yet another victim of the “price tag” movement, which has been gaining momentum lately and performing acts of vandalism all over the country. In Abu Gosh, about 30 cars had their tires slashed during the night. Graffiti reading “Arabs out,” and “racism or assimilation” was spray-painted on the walls.
And yet, of all Arab villages, Abu Gosh is perhaps the most loyal to Israel – it was the only Palestinian village to side with Israel in 1948. “If those who committed these crimes want to make the country implode, they chose just the right place to do it,” worries Hatem.
This attack on a symbol of Arab-Israeli coexistence puts the government in an increasingly uncomfortable situation. On June 16, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu refused to classify the authors of this racist vandalism as “terrorists,” against the wishes of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who had been advocating for the classification of the attacks as “acts of terror.”
In the past month, attacks have been multiplying in Israel and in the West Bank. They have been attributed to Jewish radicals from the Hilltop Youth movement, a group of second-generation settlers, proponents of a “Greater Israel” – from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. The modus operandi is usually the same: slashed tires, burnt cars and “price tag” graffiti, which often mention Eviatar Borovsky, a father of five from the West Bank settlement of Yitzhak who was stabbed by a Palestinian while waiting for a bus on April 30.
Acts of revenge between Palestinians and West Bank settlers are nothing new – the expression “price tag” first appeared in 2008. Their objective is to respond eye for eye to every attack against Israeli settlements. They justify their actions by saying they are “exacting a price” after acts perpetrated by the Palestinians against them or after moves by the Israeli security forces to dismantle illegal settlement outposts.
The concept was theorized in a 2009 book called Torat Hamelech (“The King’s Torah”), written by extremist rabbis who argued that killing non-Jews is acceptable as part of a religious war. Coincidence? After this inflammatory book was published, the number of attacks against Palestinians went up 144% between 2009 and 2011.
Targeting places of worship
In addition to these assaults, what is most striking is how fast the “price tag” concept has been spreading. “It has now largely overtaken its initial concept of taking back the West Bank, and even the issue of settlements. It has become a way to express the hatred of minorities,” explains Barak Weiss, coordinator of the Tag Me’ir group, which fights against this growing phenomenon. Since September 2011, he says, 25 “price tag” attacks have been perpetrated inside Israel’s Green Line, particularly in Arab-Israeli towns.
Since the beginning of 2012, more and more of these attacks have been targeting places of worship, including Christian churches. On May 31, 2013, the phrase “Christians are monkeys” was spray-painted on the walls of the Benedictine Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. On June 13 in Tel Aviv, tombstones were vandalized in the Christian Orthodox cemetery, in the historic district of Jaffa.
Christian authorities are starting to worry about this new development: “Anti-Christian acts have always existed. What is new is that they are happening within a political protest movement. But what do West Bank settlements have to do with churches?” asks Father David Neuhaus, a patriarchal vicar in Jerusalem.
On the other hand, we are also witnessing a shift in the way the “price tag” activists are acting out. At first, it was mostly impulsive acts of vengeance, but now we are seeing a spate of well thought-out and planned attacks. “There hasn’t been any particular event recently against West Bank settlements,” Weiss points out. This development has not escaped Prime Minister Netanyahu. On June 2, he condemned the “Racism against Israeli Arabs and acts of hooliganism against Palestinians, without any provocation or justification.”
Aside from these official condemnations, Israel has not done much to put an end to the movement. The Israeli police, who has been accused of doing nothing, tried show its good faith by announcing that in the past 18 months, it had opened 788 investigations, arrested 276 people and indicted 154 of them.
Israeli NGOs however remain skeptical about these numbers. According to B’Tselem, over the past ten years, only a dozen of people have been charged for these attacks. So far, none of them have yet been brought to trial.
This leading French daily newspaper Le Monde ("The World") was founded in December 1944 in the aftermath of World War II. Today, it is distributed in 120 countries. In late 2010, a trio formed by Pierre Berge, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse took a controlling 64.5% stake in the newspaper.
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Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
October 25, 2021
Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.
[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.
• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.
• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.
• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.
• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.
• Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.
• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest
Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.
👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.
🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.
💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."
— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.
🕌 🔍 IN OTHER NEWS
Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013
At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.
The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.
The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.
Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.
All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.
It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.
"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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