Thursday, September 27

Mahmoud Ahmadinajad’s Columbia University Speech

Much has been written and discussed about Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, the President of Iran. The speech that he gave at Columbia University adds further grist to the mill of the credibility of this notorious, self-righteous dictator. He has made no bones about his desire for Israel’s destruction at almost every opportunity granted to him. He started his speech with a “soft-serve” technique, trying to win the hearts of his audience. He is an expert at rhetoric and camouflage of his true intentions. His evasion of loaded questions was so blatant that the intelligent listener could be left in no doubt as to the half-truths that were part of his speech.

Perhaps it was a good idea of the university president, Lee Bollinger, contrary to what many think, to have invited this undesirable, notorious, Iranian dictator to address an audience at Columbia University. By giving Ahmadinajad a platform for his speech, the American people can judge this unsavory character for what he really is and treat him with the contempt that he deserves.

He started his speech by quoting from the Koran, which was out of context. A lot of the speech was a sort of preamble about research – pointed remarks leading up to his views to further research the irrefutable facts concerning the Holocaust. He was trying to tell his audience almost apologetically that he does not deny the Holocaust but it needs to be further researched. The bottom line of that is obvious. He wishes to deny the Holocaust in a rather obtuse way to make the denial acceptable.

Assuming (in Ahmadinajad’s view) that the Holocaust did occur, Israel has no right to be established on the backs of the Palestinians. This point is odd and contradictory in Ahmadinajad’s “logic”. In other words, Ahmadinajad believes that the Holocaust resulted in Israel’s unjustified existence and this resulted in Palestinian suffering. He never referred to Israel but rather to the Zionist enemy. The point is that Ahmadinajad is not a Holocaust denier in the true sense of the word. He even stated that. He is using the Holocaust cynically to justify Israel’s destruction thereby negating his ambiguous approach to classical Holocaust denial.

Those people who admire Ahmadinajad for standing up against the US must understand that this despot is no democrat, liberal or even a leftist. He is not a humanist that cares about human rights. His views are closer to classical fascism. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that does not care about the Palestinian people at all. According to Ahmadinajad:

After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role to play in it. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with?

The Palestinian people didn't commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish communities and the Christian communities in peace at the time. They didn't have any problems.

And today, too, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood all over the world in many parts of the world. They don't have any serious problems.

But why is it that the Palestinians should pay a price, innocent Palestinians, for 5 million people to remain displaced or refugees abroad for 60 years. Is this not a crime? Is asking about these crimes a crime by itself?

Why should an academic myself face insults when asking questions like this? Is this what you call freedom and upholding the freedom of thought?

And as for the second topic, Iran's nuclear issue, I know there is time limits, but I need time. I mean, a lot of time was taken from me.

We are a country, we are a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. For over 33 years we are a member state of the agency. The bylaw of the agency explicitly states that all member states have the right to the peaceful nuclear fuel technology. This is an explicit statement made in the bylaw, and the bylaw says that there is no pretext or excuse, even the inspections carried by the IAEA itself that can prevent member states' right to have that right.

Of course, the IAEA is responsible to carry out inspections. We are one of the countries that carried out the most amount of level of cooperation with the IAEA. They have had hours, weeks, and days of inspections in our country, and repeatedly the agency's reports indicate that Iran's activities are peaceful, that they have not detected a deviation, and that Iran -- they have received positive cooperation from Iran.

But regretfully, two or three monopolistic powers, selfish powers want to force their word on the Iranian people and deny them their right. “

He uses Palestinian hardships cynically in order to justify his hate for Israel and the US. As regards the Palestinians, the following post puts it concisely:

Neither Bollinger, Nor Ahmadinajad. I watched some of Ahmadinajad show at Columbia University. It was carried live on MSNBC. I don't know where to start and I don't have the time. But let me first say something about the university president Lee Bollinger. The same Zionist hoodlums, who just yesterday were attacking Bollinger, will be praising him tomorrow morning. They will express their pride in one of the most demagogic college presidents in the US. As one commentator on MSNBC (and FOX News) said: he succeeding in making Ahmadinajad look good on US TV. He allowed Ahmadinajad to score points, among the international audience in particular. Bollinger always came across, not as president of a university, but like a typical sleazy politician who is willing to say anything, to pander to any crowd, provided it kept him in his job, or propelled him to a better job. He came across as small and presumptuous: especially when he claimed to speak on behalf of the civilized world. Bollinger has proven at Columbia to be the enemy of free speech: and when a professor at his university (Joseph Massad), was coming under attack from Zionist hoodlums around the country, he in fact spoke in favor of restricting freedom of speech, and said that freedom of speech applies in public institutions. And this Bollinger tries to grandstand: would he also have the courage to call King Abdullah (of Jordan or of Saudi Arabia--take your pick) a dictator? I can see him personally bestowing honors and awarding honorary doctorates to dictators provided they contribute to Columbia's endowment, and provided they follow US foreign policy orientations. As for Ahmadinajad: I don't understand why students (presumably leftists? or pro-Palestinian activists?) were applauding him. For what? Ahmadinajad is not a leftist and he does not even deserve the support of advocates for Palestine. If those who were applauding were just pleased to hear praise for the Palestinians and criticisms of Israel--rare indeed in the US--they should know that fascists and Nazis are often critical of Israel--but from their own anti-Semitic perspective. There is nothing worthy of leftist support in Ahmadinajad: the economic policies of his administration have squeezed the poor further, and his economic policies are not popular with the Iranian masses. More importantly, those who may sympathize with Ahmadinajad should note that his stupid and ignorant statements on the holocaust have hurt the Palestinian cause and not helped it. Ahmadinajad is the greatest gift to Zionist propaganda since Ahmad Shuqayri in the 1960s.”

Ahmadinajad made a rather surprising statement that defies all logic. He stated that there are no homosexuals in Iran and therefore there is no problem with homosexuality. Strange! According to Ahmadinajad, the Iranians must be some sort of a super human race if homosexuality does not exist in Iran! If a president of a country can make such an over-generalization surely this should be a red light as to his credibility even when he talks about the “marvelous democracy and rule of law” existing in Iran under his leadership.

The tragedy in Iran is its president – a total megalomaniac – who is dangerous and untruthful. His lies are so transparent that anybody can see through them. Like Hitler, he has the gift of rabblerousing the unfortunate and disguising his evil intentions. This is especially true when he talks about the Palestinian’s plight for which he does not really care.

This tyrant has been talking about human rights abuses, but not a word about human rights abuses in his own country against Iranians who do not think like him. He is a master of deception and lies. According to Amnesty International:

“Violations of human rights continue unabated in Iran. Amnesty International “again” called on the Iranian authorities to uphold their obligations under international law and ensure that no one is detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression or association.

Paris, 15 Jul. (IPS) Amnesty International and other human rights organizations expressed concern at the increasing violations and disregards of the Iranian Islamic regime for human rights, freedom of the press and the civil society, as seen by the recent closure of two pro reform newspapers and one news agency, the arrest of several women activists, 16 students and a popular union leader, described by the authorities as “hooligans”.

In a statement, the London based Amnesty International said it “is greatly concerned by continuing human rights violations in Iran, including new arrests of human rights defenders and the high rate of executions, including the first execution by stoning confirmed by the authorities since a moratorium on stonings was announced in 2002”.

For its part, the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) “deplored the arbitrary and repressive methods of a regime whose Culture Minister recently accused the media of promoting a “creeping coup” against the government”.

In its statement, Amnesty International “again” called on the Iranian authorities to uphold their obligations under international law and ensure that no one is detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression or association, and to impose an immediate moratorium on all executions and take steps to remove the death penalty from Iranian law.

Human rights defenders arrested

Two Iranian Kurdish journalists and human rights defenders were arrested earlier this month. Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, Chair of the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization (RMMK), was taken from his workplace in Tehran by plain-clothed security officers on 1 July. He was facing a one-year prison sentence because of articles he had published in the now banned Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan (Message of the People of Kurdistan), but it is not clear if this is the reason for his current detention.
Ajlal Qavami, a member of the RMMK board and former journalist of Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan and member of the editorial board of the bilingual weekly Didgah (Viewpoint), was arrested on or around 9 July after being summoned to the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj. He had previously been sentenced to three years' imprisonment by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Sanadaj for organizing a demonstration in July 2005 in protest at the killing of Showan Qaderi, a member of the Kurdish minority, by security forces. He had appealed against this sentence but his appeal is reported to have been rejected, although this outcome had not been communicated to either Ajlal Qavami or his lawyer before Ajlal Qavami's arrest.
Sa'id Sa'edi, another Kurdish journalist who was sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment in the same case, may also now be at risk of arrest.”

Is this despot worthy of Palestinian support?

Friday, September 14

The Direction of Judaism in Israel

For many of us in Israel, the approach of the High Holydays leaves us with a certain sense of frustration. This is very true of those immigrants who have arrived from Western Countries, more so than immigrant Jews from Middle Eastern countries has. Speaking as one, who arrived from South Africa more than 30 years ago, and who was brought up in a liberal home that fought apartheid and racism in all its forms. We prided ourselves on ethics that Judaism had taught us, even though our life-style was secular. We were always aware of our history as Jews, the racism that Jews suffered over the centuries and culminating in the Nazi holocaust. Somehow, arriving in Israel, I realized that the practice of Judaism is under the realm of orthodox rabbinical, religious party bigots of all forms and sizes. The lack of tolerance for pluralism in Judaism had made a deep dent in religious freedom.

Now with Rosh Hashanah (New Year) upon us, this has become evident more and more. All that remains of religious freedom is the right not to go to synagogue. The official Orthodox Jewish status quo is one of intolerance towards the more liberal streams of Judaism. I think of the Conservative and the Progressive (Reform) streams of Judaism that are viewed as illegitimate. Their rabbis have no rights in marrying couples who do not wish to marry in the Orthodox Jewish tradition and all it entails. Pluralism in Judaism is unrecognized in the official Orthodox Jewish camp which has tremendous powers and decides on the eternal “Who is a Jew” and does not recognize reform or conservative conversions.

The intolerant Orthodox Judaism camp is what decides the Jewish character of the state of Israel. Those who do not agree are pushed into the margins. These attitudes have resulted in many liberal-minded Jews being pushed out of the Jewish observance fold. Orthodox Jewish congregations do receive subsidies from the government. Conservative and Reform Judaism are much maligned, relying on donations from their sympathizers.

The rigid orthodox practices have become the monopoly of self-styled rabbis - graduates of yeshivas, which are narrow in their scope of learning in contrast to the rabbinical schools and universities in the Diaspora where rabbis receive a broad based education and attain university degrees in Judaism. Some rabbis who wield the power are very often associated with narrow Orthodox religious parties such as the Sephardic Shas Party, headed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, whose Halacha (Jewish Law) rulings, many of which are narrow, have a great influence amongst the economically deprived Sephardic Jews, whose origins are from North Africa and other Arab countries. He often makes comments that are cruel and out of place against his opponents including curses of hell and brimstone towards political opponents such as the well-known ex-Knesset Member, Yossi Sarid. After that he needs “expert commentators” (of which there are many in his camp of bigots) to give a “learned” explanation as to what he really meant after he had made libelous statements against his opponents to avoid court cases of slander.

Apart from that, there are many “cults” in orthodoxy, many of which have attracted the newly religious to their fold and who have become fanatic in their beliefs. These orthodox streams have all kinds of rabbis from yeshivas of dubious origins, whose influence amongst the newly-religious are great. Many of these newly-religious come from broken homes, involved in petty crime or were drug addicts; their emphasis is on reading tehillim (psalms) all day and praying at every opportunity. Almost every moment of their lives is involved in some kind of religious personal ceremony of some kind and quoting from some oft-quoted biblical source or Talmud, as stipulated by their rabbis whom they hero-worship, in order to gain further candidates to their newly found belief in God. There are a number of orthodox streams, who engage in this form of returning the wayward to the fold. A case in point is the various Hasidic (pious) groups. Many of these self-styled “rabbis” are materialistic. They take advantage of the poor, and economically disadvantaged, who seek help and a promise of a better life. Naturally, they expect a financial donation for their dubious services. Their activities are noticeable at the so-called tombs of Tzadikim (righteous people or martyrs) where they sell their folklore cures laced with blessings.

However, the message portrayed by these groups as well as many state orthodox institutions is very similar. Many view non-Jews as anti-Semites who must be treated with a wide berth. They have an insatiable hate for Arabs and have a strong belief in holding onto territory captured in the Six Day War of June 1967. This is true of religious orthodox right wing Zionists who see these captured territories as Greater Israel that belongs to the Jews as a right. Elements of these people are found in the settler movements living in the heart of Hebron and elsewhere in the occupied territories.

Conservative and Progressive Judaism are considered unacceptable and they do not recognize these movements as legitimate. They see these movements as a threat to their hegemony and the future of the Jewish People. The orthodox establishment has enormous powers in Israel. They are not known for tolerance towards those who do not follow their line.

They have estranged many Jews who left the fold for a secular way of life. The Jewish ethic of “Love they Neighbour as thyself” has received a very narrow interpretation in Orthodox Judaism Israeli style. This ethos has been changed to “Love thy Jewish Neighbour as thyself” and in practice one is not left in any doubt of that. The Conservative and Reform Movements in Judaism are more in keeping with the true spirit of Judaism rather than the Orthodox which has become clerical, intolerant and even racist. They wish to maintain their power by influencing the government in a sort of blackmail in order to gain their support.

Thursday, September 13

Wishing all Moslem readers Ramadan Kareem and a Successful Fast.

Wishing all Jewish readers a Happy New Year and Well Over the Fast.

Friday, September 7

The New Year Is Upon Us

At this time of the year many Jews, secular as well as religious, review the previous year. Many ask themselves what went wrong in their personal lives as well as the collective lives of all. It is a period of soul searching. Apart from the shopping rush for the annual New Year family feast with apples dipped in honey, resolutions and wishes are made. Many resolutions are personal and involve some desire for a better life and self improvement in one’s relationship with one’s family, friends and neighbours.

This year, the Muslim Fast of Ramadan also begins on the eve of Rosh Hashanah (New Year). This fast will last for a month from sunrise to sunset and the motive is not different from the Jewish motive of repentance. Here both great monotheistic faiths are calling for the same human desires of self-improvement.

Surely we should add more substance in our common goals, Jewish as well as Muslim, of trying to make a greater effort for peace and understanding between our two peoples and this of course includes Israelis and Palestinians. Both peoples, Israelis as well as Palestinians have not been behaving humanely towards each other.

The threat of Palestinian terror over the last year has been on Israel’s doorstep. This includes the constant Qassam rocket fire into Sderot in southern Israel. Many families living in Sderot are in fear of their lives. Their lives are disrupted because of warning sirens of Qassams falling. Kindergartens have been hit and it was just a matter of luck that there were no children there at the time. The logic behind the Hamas and Islamic Jihad support of this form of terror is difficult to fathom. These two Islamist extremist terrorist groups are uncompromising in their hate for Israel and the Jewish people. Their desire is total destruction of the Jewish state and its people. The firing of Qassam rockets is just one of the symptoms of their desire to achieve this. Negotiations for peace and coexistence are not in their lexicon.

Nevertheless, the silent majority in both the Israeli and Palestinian camps wish to achieve peace. It is up to both our peoples to make our voices heard in this direction.

We, the ordinary people, Palestinian and Israeli, have not done enough to improve the atmosphere for peace. Peace is good for everybody. Peace is also security for everybody. Peace will also provide job opportunities for everybody as outside world business entrepreneurs would show more readiness to invest in both Israel and Palestine. Israelis and Palestinians could set an example to the world about conflict solving. It is a matter of good will and building trust. Perhaps here the South African example of reconciliation could be emulated.

Despite the severe differences in apartheid South Africa and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, similarities in conflict solving could be adopted. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as initiated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, could be used as a role model. Naturally modifications to suit the situation in this conflict would be necessary. The Palestinian leadership, whether under Hamas or Fatah, should show a basic desire to come to terms with Israel’s existence and cease terror operations. The former has not come to terms with Israel’s existence and their manifesto states that very clearly. The latter has come to terms with Israel’s existence, but they are weak.

Israel, on the other hand, has also increased Palestinian suffering by the inhuman security check posts and humiliating body searches. Many innocent Palestinians are suffering because they have tremendous difficulties in traveling to work in their own lands because of the check posts.

However, there is slight cause for optimism in the Israeli legal system. According to a report in Haaretz, 5th September 2007, the High Court of Justice ordered the state to redraw, partially dismantle and rebuild the route of a 1.7 kilometer section of the West Bank separation fence, which was built on land belonging to Bil'in, a Palestinian village which has become a focus of opposition to the barrier. This illustrates that the High Court of Justice was not oblivious to legitimate Palestinian claims of a travesty of justice in the route of the security fence surrounding Bil’in. If the judges ruled in favor of the Palestinians on this issue, there is room for optimism in the Israeli legal system. They cannot be accused of being pro-Palestinian even by the right wing elements in Israel.

The internal situation in Israel has been marred by corruption and even sexual scandals in government. The year started with so many unpleasant examples of corruption that it has become impossible to record all the examples in chronological order as many incidents occurred simultaneously. Is this the new modern Zionism? In a previous article, I wrote about the incidents of corruption. The accountant-general, Dr. Yaron Zelekha, has made some embarrassing discoveries about the running of state and PM Olmert’s personal affairs. He has been carrying on a personal vendetta against state corruption. This has cost him his job because of his whistle blowing activities. He has exposed the prime minister’s questionable activities as well as the activities of many other Members of the Knesset. The cover up has started and there will be more of the same in the coming year.

Those who seem to have the power and influence in this country are the new “moneybags of Israel”. An example of such is the multimillionaire Arcady Gaidemak. He is buying influence with his money in all kinds of projects. He is a major influence. He has managed to get into high places hobnobbing with the rulers of Israel by influencing decision-making with his money. Surely his influence is a threat to democracy in Israel and the rule of law. He is also under investigation for financial irregularities and money laundering. It would not be surprising if he will be elected Israel’s “Man of the Year”. He has won the hearts of many people who have benefited from his charitable donations.

Israel’s leadership today is poor and the alternatives offered are no better. There are no signs of new leadership potential in the next year. There will be competition between two “has beens” Benjamin Netanyahu, an ex-Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who attempted to bring the Israeli economy out of the doldrums on the backs of economically weak Israelis while leaving the rich unaffected by cuts in salary and budgetary cuts. He was also responsible for pushing up the retirement age from 65 years to 67 years in men and from 60 years to 62 years in the case of women. By doing this he saved the country money in paying out pensions, which created delays for young people entering the employment market. Does he deserve to be the next prime minister for the increased suffering he caused to the economically deprived? The alternative is Ehud Barak, the current Defense Minister and ex-Prime Minister. Both men left Israel for a couple of years to make money overseas before returning to politics for another bash at being given a second chance of re-election to the prime ministership despite their poor performance in that role. PM Olmert’s popularity is rock bottom and he has been tainted by suspected scandals of corruption. What we have is Hobson’s choice in leadership as both politicians have not achieved much during their tenure as prime minister. PM Olmert is also surrounded by a cartel of strange bedfellows such as Arcadi Gaydemak (the hidden persuader with unlimited finances), Abraham Hirschson (an ex finance minister who is about to stand trial for bribery, corruption and money laundering), Chaim Ramon (who French kissed a young girl soldier) and was rewarded by being appointed Vice Prime Minister (perhaps a new ministerial portfolio of Minister of Vice in his honour is more appropriate!). See what a French kiss can achieve in high places! High ranking government officials, such as Dr Yaron Zelehka, the accountant-general, who uncover scandals and corruption in high places, are fired.

Another “Israeli star” of the year is ex-President Moshe Katzav, who has had his rape charges shelved in a court settlement orchestrated by the attorney-general, Meni Mazuz. Where is this country heading in the New Year? Is it any wonder that peace with our Palestinian neighbours remains remote? Our biggest enemy is corruption and lack of direction. This does not bode well for the future of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the New Year.