Colombo needs a legal slap-down 18 Oct 2010

From today’s Australian newspaper:

Governments around the world are studying the “Sri Lanka method” for dealing with internal conflicts, but the prospect should fill us with alarm.
Respected independent observers including the US State Department and the International Crisis Group have drawn attention to credible allegations of war crimes against both the Tamil Tiger rebels and the government, leading to thousands of civilian deaths. If Colombo can get away with it — by beguiling western media, for example, into focusing elsewhere — then it sets a dangerous precedent.
An independent investigation, as called for by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, remains the only way to resolve these matters with any degree of satisfaction.
Jake Lynch, Associate Professor and Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney 

It’s not hard to be accused of hatred by Zionist haters  18 Oct 2010

This is priceless. Zionist fundamentalists hold conferences about the “delegitimisation” of Israel globally while finding nothing to fault in Israeli policies except bad PR. Occupation? What occupation? Apartheid? Just an anti-Semitic allegation by Jimmy Carter. Feel the desperation:

Many perpetrators from very diverse backgrounds are heavily involved in the ongoing de-legitimization of Israel, without any one being dominant. This is different from the build up of extreme anti-Semitism before the Holocaust. Then most of the overwhelming demonization of the Jews came from a single source: Hitler and his followers and allies. They built on an infrastructure laid over many centuries, mainly by the Catholic Church and certain factions of Protestantism.
On Sunday and Monday of the past week Boston-based CAMERA – which combats media distortion of information about Israel – held a conference on Israel’s de-legitimization. The lecturers were experts who have studied various sources of demonization. This gave an audience of about 1,000 people an overview of this frightening phenomenon. Many had come from other parts of the United States and Canada.
The purveyors of anti-Israel hatred include large parts of the Muslim world. At the conference Daniel Pipes said that Jews should focus their efforts on combating adherents of radical Islam. His view however may be too narrow an approach as much of the de-legitimization of Israel comes from the mainstream of Muslim societies. Former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler showed how several categories of law, including human rights law, have been corrupted by the United Nations. The same subject was dealt with in more detail by Professor Anne Bayefsky of the Hudson Institute.
Andrea Levin, who heads CAMERA, gave a number of examples of how the New York Times corrupts information about Israel. The academic Tammy Benjamin illustrated how anti-Israel hatred is promoted on the campuses of the University of California, the largest State university system in the United States. The forces of de-legitimization are on the one hand university teachers who use their courses for propaganda. On the other hand Muslim and leftist students spew hatred against Israel and try to frighten pro-Israeli Jews.
Even if this contradicts university rules often administrations hardly react to complaints.Professor Alvin Rosenfeld of the University of Indiana focused on Jews and Israelis who are in the forefront of those causing damage to Israel. He mentioned that after the Gaza flotilla incident more than 1,000 US rabbis, rabbinical students and academics instituted a fast to pray that Israel will become a more moral state and be nicer to the inhabitants of Gaza. Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, who heads NGO Monitor claimed, that NGOs are often at the origin of anti-Israel news in the media.
Other hate promoters are various Christian groups, mainly liberal Protestants. Yet another source of hatred is trade unions. One cannot neglect right-wing sources of anti-Israel hate promotion, but one overwhelming message of the Boston conference was that the greatest threat to Israel comes from various groups in the Muslim world, assisted to a large extent by many extreme left-wing forces, but also by more moderate mainstream forces from social democracy.

This is what our asylum seeker policy looks like  18 Oct 2010

While Australia releases some families from immigration detention into the community yet builds more facilities to imprison refugees, a foreign journalist visits the country and finds a privatised and largely unaccountable system away from the prying eyes of average citizens.
Just as the government wants it to be.


Hungry for a kinder regime  17 Oct 2010

My following book review appeared in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Tom Keneally
Knopf, 324pp, $49.95

History is littered with catastrophic examples of government-induced disasters. A new book by the University of Hong Kong’s Frank Dikotter, Mao’s Great Famine, claims that 45 million people were killed between 1958 and 1962. Mao achieved this by “collectivising everybody” and forcing “famished people” to work as slave labour.
Today, according to the United Nations, roughly 25,000 people die daily of hunger or hunger-related causes. The recent meeting in New York to assess the Millennium Development Goals found global poverty had reduced but nearly a billion people still were experiencing extreme poverty.
Tom Keneally’s latest work is a detailed examination of how societies should not function. He explains why millions died in Ireland, Bengal and Ethiopia and how “mindsets of governments, racial preconceptions and administrative incompetence were more lethal than the initiating blights, the loss of potatoes or rice or livestock or of the grain named teff”.
The book opens with a graphic description of the effect of hunger on the body – swelling stomachs, the “self-devouring state”, heart damage and profound depression – that is largely unseen in the West. Keneally chastises “disaster tourism” and wonders what it will take to force Westerners to see the issue as a phenomenon of the present, not just the past. His well-crafted historical narrative echoes with modern relevance, as there are famines today in various parts of Africa and beyond, mostly away from journalists and bloggers.
In the disasters covered by Three Famines we learn about the necessity of families to economise on the amount eaten daily and the inevitable reduction in healthy food for the body, bringing immune systems to collapse. People in Ethiopia and Bengal were forced to sell bicycles, radios, pots, pans, furniture, jewellery and anything else that would buy needed grain.
Keneally documents the social breakdown in countries where living communally was the only way. For example, the role of landlords in feudal states caused families to be both heavily indebted to men of influence and desperate to find ways to get money when they no longer had land as an insurance policy.
Tragically, religious beliefs often meant life or death. In Bengal, Muslims were unable to eat pigs and turtles and Hindus could not consume cattle: “Many Brahmin women, the members of the intellectual and priestly caste, rather than lower themselves to hunt for food, wasted to death in their homes because they could not bring themselves to eat gruel prepared by either lower-caste or Muslim hands.”
Fear, greed and delusion drove the politics that ultimately sealed the fate of millions. In Ireland, between 1845 and 1852, about a million people died not only from disease but also from government incompetence and an unquestioning belief in the magic of the market to rectify the issues. Lower, middle and upper class resistance was inevitable and Keneally praises a “brave speech” by the leader of Young Ireland, William Smith O’Brien, for going on strike and being imprisoned due to his belief that only mass uprising could solve the nation’s problems. If only revolution had occurred years earlier.
In Bengal in the early 1940s, about 3 million died due to malnutrition and Keneally wonders about the culpability of Winston Churchill; the British prime minister doesn’t escape blame. Readers of a new book by Richard Toye, Churchill’s Empire, will be under no illusion about Churchill’s profound racism towards the subcontinent.
“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion,” he said. He blamed the Bengalis for “breeding like rabbits” and didn’t offer any aid for months as hundreds of thousands perished. Bengal suffered as Britain focused on saving white men from Nazi aggression.
Ethiopia also resonates with colonial pain. Keneally details the brutal civil war under the rule of Mengistu Haile Mariam, a Cold War warrior whose army operated with virtual impunity, destroying lives. An Ethiopian refugee explains there was no hunger before the military went on constant rampages. The Live Aid movement was born at this time and publicly claimed to save millions of starving people. But according to a BBC investigation this year, untold amounts of money were spent on buying weapons and not food for the huddled masses. Hundreds of thousands of people died in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s.
Three Famines is a brave attempt at humanising a complex problem that can so easily drown in overwhelming numbers. Keneally warns of new challenges, not least AIDS and climate change. He rightly argues that more Western aid, while not always the panacea, remains essential. The colonial legacy in Africa has barely been acknowledged in the West and famine is its bastard child.

The second victims of the Holocaust 17 Oct 2010

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *