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Why Should Reporters Without Borders Care If There is No Free Media In The West Bank Or Gaza So Long As They Can Find An Anti-Israeli Angle To Their Work?
by Hani Abbas
March 5, 2012 at 5:00 am
It would have been better if Reporters Without Borders expressed similar attitudes about the continued assault on free speech and journalism not only in the Palestinian territories, but also the entire Arab world.
The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders says it is "deeply shocked" by the Israeli army's recent closure of two Palestinian TV stations in Ramallah.
Israeli soldiers and inspectors from the Israeli Ministry of Communications raided the two TV stations, Watan and Al-Quds Educational, and confiscated their transmitters because their broadcasts had been disrupting communications at Ben Gurion Airport.
Israel did not conduct the raid on the TV stations because it wants to silence the Palestinian media, as some Palestinians have claimed.
The raid was aimed at preventing a disaster as a result of the disruption of communications between aircraft and Ben Gurion Airport.
But that has not stopped groups such as Reporters Without Borders from calling on the Israeli government to "return the confiscated equipment and allow the two stations to resume broadcasting."
The group has, in fact, blindly endorsed the Palestinian version -- basically that the raid was part of an Israeli crackdown on freedom of media and expression in the Palestinian territories.
So what if a civilian aircraft crashes over Tel Aviv because of the unlicensed stations broadcasting from Ramallah? Does France allow unlicensed TV or radio stations to endanger the lives of thousands of passengers at one of its airports? Does France even have TV or radio stations that are not government-controlled?
The raid on the two stations came after the Palestinian Authority government repeatedly ignored demands from Israel to stop the broadcasts.
It is worth noting that the Palestinian Authority government itself has in the past closed a number of TV and radio stations in the Palestinian territories because they did not have a license or because they dared to criticize Palestinian leaders.
But international human rights organizations do not care about what the Palestinian Authority or Hamas do against Palestinian media. They only care when Israel is involved, as is made clear by their response to the two TV stations.
Groups such as Reporters Without Borders do not care about the harassment and intimidation of Palestinian reporters by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Why should they care if there is no free media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip so long as they are able to find an anti-Israel angle to their work?
Instead of voicing "deep shock" at the closure of the Palestinian TV stations, it would have been better had Reporters Without Borders expressed similar attitudes about the continued assault on free speech and journalism not only in the Palestinian territories, but also the entire Arab world.
Hani Abbas is a Palestinian journalist based in Jerusalem.
by Peter Martino
March 5, 2012 at 4:00 am
The Jewish homeland guarantees Jews their security -- which is why every attempt to rob them of this homeland, or endanger its existence, is an anti-Semitic act endangering the entire Jewish community.
On March 18, the Germans will appoint a new President. It is a ceremonial function, which the German political class will bestow on the 72-year old pastor Joachim Gauck, a former human rights activist from East Germany. Gauck is backed by the major German parties, from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian-Democrats and her Liberal coalition partners, to the Socialist and the Green opposition parties.
The far-left party, Die Linke (The Left), however, has put forward its own candidate for the function, 73-year old Beate Klarsfeld. She is not a party member, but has been chosen by Die Linke as a symbolic figure.
Beate Klarsfeld, née Künzel, was born in a German Christian family. She has lived in France since the 1960s, after marrying the French Romanian-born lawyer Serge Klarsfeld. Serge is a Jew, whose father was murdered in Auschwitz. In the 1970s and 80s, the Klarsfelds were famous human rights activists who brought several Nazi war criminals to justice. Like her husband, Beate has always been a strong supporter of Israel.
When last week Beate Klarsfeld was asked who of the various candidates for the French presidential elections next April she supports, she did not name Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidate of the far-left Front de Gauche (Left Front), the French sister party of Die Linke, nor François Hollande, the Socialist candidate who is leading in the polls; she named Nicolas Sarkozy, France's incumbent president who hopes to win a second term. Of all the French presidential candidates, Sarkozy is the one most friendly towards Israel.
Klarsfeld's pro-Israeli positions are not shared by Die Linke. Three Linke members of the Bundestag, the German Parliament, remained seated when Israeli President Shimon Peres visited the Bundestag in 2010. Several Linke deputies have also taken part in demonstrations where "Death to Israel" was chanted. Some took part in the so-called "Gaza flotilla." Inge Höger, a Bundestag member, who attended a pro-Hamas conference clad in a keffiyeh [checkered headscarf for men] showing a map labeled "Palestine" across the entire territory of the State of Israel, accused opponents of "misusing the Holocaust" in silencing criticism of Israeli "occupation policies." The German newspaper Die Welt has called Höger a "flawless anti-Semite" because of her "anti-Jewish statements." Independent academic observers have warned that positions hostile to both Israel and Jews are increasingly dominant within Die Linke.
With this record, it seems puzzling why Die Linke put Beate Klarsfeld forward as its candidate for the presidency. The answer is probably that the party, knowing that Klarsfeld does not stand a chance, just wants to annoy the ruling German Christian-Democrat establishment -- many of whose members still bear a personal grudge against Klarsfeld for her campaign in the 1960s against Kurt Georg Kiesinger, a Christian-Democrat who was West German Chancellor from 1966 to 1969. During the war, Kiesinger, a Nazi Party member, had worked at the propaganda department of the Foreign Ministry. In 1968, Beate Klarsfeld slapped Kiesinger in the face, an action for which she was sentenced to one year in prison – a sentence later reduced to four months probation.
In 2009, Die Linke nominated Beate Klarsfeld for the Federal Cross of Merit in honor of her relentless efforts to bring Nazi criminals to court. The request was turned down by the German government. One year later, in stark contrast to Beate's treatment by the German political establishment, the French government awarded her husband Serge the title of Commander in the Legion of Honor.
The revelation that, almost seven decades after the defeat of Germany's Nazi regime, Germany still has more problems with the Klarsfelds than with France, should not come as a surprise. History seems to leave deep cultural impressions which are difficult to eradicate.
Last year, two German economists, Nico Voigtländer of the UCLA in Los Angeles and Hans-Joachim Voth of the university of Barcelona, Spain, published a paper in which they showed a remarkable geographical pattern between the anti-Jewish pogroms in 14th century Germany, 1920s pogroms in Germany, and the electoral strength of the Nazi Party in 1928 (before it became a mass movement attracting all sorts of opportunists).
Their study showed that German towns that blamed the Black Death, the pestilence epidemic, in 1348-1350, on the Jews and subsequently murdered them were much more likely to commit anti-Semitic violence in the 1920s and vote for the Nazis.
Of the 19 pogroms recorded in the 1920s, fully 18 took place in towns and cities with a record of medieval violence against Jews. In the places with a 14th century history of Jew-burning, the Nazi Party received 1.5 times as many votes as in places without it. In cities like Aachen, for example, the Jews were left undisturbed in 1349, while they were massacred in Würzburg. In the 1920s and 30s, Würzburg was again the scene of anti-Jewish violence, while Aachen witnessed no such violence. In the 1928 elections, the Nazi Party got 6.3 percent of the Würzburg vote, twice the national average, while in Aachen it got barely 1 percent.
The parallels are striking. The German regions with the highest incidence of medieval anti-Semitic violence were also the regions with the highest incidence of anti-Semitic violence in the 1920s. They attracted 1.5 times as many Nazi voters, deported 24% more Jews between 1933 and 1944, destroyed or damaged a fifth more synagogues in 1938, and their inhabitants sent 20 percent more letters to the anti-Semitic Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer.
In a new study, to be published later this year in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Voigtländer and Voth researched whether the old patterns still exist today. By asking people questions such as "Do you object to a Jew coming to live next door?" or "Do Jews abuse the Holocaust for their own personal gains?" they tried to quantify the degree of anti-Semitism in a particular region.
To their amazement, they found that for every 10 percent of extra votes which the Nazi party used to attract in a particular German town, there are 1 percent more anti-Semites in this town today. This is a very high percentage, says Voth, as only about 4 to 5 percent of the contemporary Germans are considered to be anti-Semites.
Looking at the historical records, it is understandable that many Jews consider Israel a safer place to live than Europe. The Jewish homeland guarantees Jews their security – which is why every attempt to rob them of this homeland, or endanger its existence, is an anti-Semitic act endangering the entire Jewish community.
by AK Group
March 5, 2012 at 3:00 am
Turkish President Abdullah Gül on Thursday said Russia and Iran would soon realize they had little choice but to join international diplomatic efforts for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
He acknowledged, however, the divisions in the Syrian opposition and its lack of preparedness to take power, saying it must create a structure that embraces all segments of society.
Turkey has been at the forefront of fostering the Syrian opposition since abandoning its long-time ally Assad over his violent crackdown on protests. The opposition Syrian National Council meets in Istanbul and the 'Free Syrian Army' operates from Turkish soil on the Syrian border.
Turkey and Western and Arab allies were angered by Russia's vetoing, along with China, of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Assad's use of force, which has intensified in past days with a siege against the city of Homs.
"We have to wait and see how long Russia will be able to take upon itself the burden of this regime," he told Reuters in an interview. "In my opinion, it won't be very long. In the time of the Cold War, such things happened in a very closed environment. I think in time Russia will see its support has been abused by the Syrian regime. They will recognize this fact when they see the heavy weapons being used against the people in Syria. That is not very tolerable, not even for Russia."
Russia has continued to supply arms to Syria as protests have grown, with the formation of rebel military units, into something approaching civil war. Defeated Syrian rebels pulled out of the city of Homs on Thursday after a 26-day army bombardment, but fighting continues across the country. Sources say arms are being brought into Syria for the opposition forces by non-government parties. Russia and China moved a step toward joining international action on Thursday when they joined other Security Council members in expressing "deep disappointment" that Damascus had refused to allow United Nations humanitarian aid chief, Valerie Amos, into the country.
In vetoing the resolution, Russia had argued that both sides of Syria's conflict should be condemned for the violence, not just Assad's government. The Turkish presidency is not executive and most power in the country rests with the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Gül, however, commands great personal influence and plays a central role in foreign policy. According to Gül, Ankara was talking to Iran, a close ally of Assad, in an effort to persuade it to accept the inevitable and back diplomatic action against Assad.
"Even Iran doesn't have the power to make water run uphill. And if the worse scenario were to come true, it is not possible that Iran could not feel any responsibility for that. It will be responsible," Gül said, adding that Russia and Iran should be persuaded by the international community and countries of the region to persuade the Syrian government to accept reality and stop the crackdown.
He cited the 'Yemeni Model' as the most reasonable option as a way out for Assad. In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped aside, under pressure from Gulf Arab states, with guarantees of protection to allow an election for a new leader.
Gül has warned in the past of the danger of violence in Syria fueling sectarian conflict that could envelop the entire Muslim Middle East.
"It's a trap in the region, and similar incidents happened in the Middle Ages in Europe. The Middle East should not repeat these mistakes," he said. "We know that the danger is there, but awareness is also there."
In Syria, any new administration must find ways of accommodating Sunni Muslims and Christians, as well as the Alawites who have been the bedrock of Assad's rule.
Putin Defends Russia's Stance on Syria
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has strongly criticized the West for backing the Syrian opposition against the government, saying it has fueled the conflict.
On Friday, Putin called for both the Syrian government, and opposition forces, to pull out of besieged cities to end the bloodshed, adding that Western refusal to make that demand of President Bashar al-Assad's opponents has encouraged them to keep fighting.
"Do they want Assad to pull out his forces so the opposition moves right in?" Putin said at a meeting with editors of top Western newspapers in remarks carried by state television. "Is it a balanced approach?"
Putin ridiculed Western demands of Assad, saying the next thing they want will be for the Syrian leader "to grab a wooden mackintosh and have music play in his house."
Assad "will not hear (the music) because it will be his funeral," Putin said. "He will never agree to that demand."
Putin refused to speculate on Assad's chance of holding onto power, saying that reforms in Syria have been long overdue and it's unclear whether the government and the opposition could find a consensus; Syria is Russia's last remaining ally in the Middle East.
Last month, Putin defended the Russia-China veto of a UN resolution condemning Assad's crackdown on protests, saying that Moscow wants to prevent the replay of what happened in Libya, where a NATO air campaign helped Libyan opposition forces oust Moammar Gadhafi. Putin said that while Gadhafi's regime was "crazy," its ouster led to the massive killings of civilians.
"Instead of encouraging parties to the conflict, it's necessary to force them to sit down for talks and begin political procedures and political reforms that would be acceptable for all participants in the conflict," he said. Putin also reaffirmed a strong warning against an attack on Iran.
"For us, it will have extremely negative consequences," he said, adding that a strike on Iran will likely trigger a flow of refugees into Russia.
Prime Minister Lashes Out at Leading Business Group
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the Turkish Industry and Business Association, or TÜSİAD, for having a "blind ideology" as he kept up an attack on the business group over its criticism of the planned education reform.
"They are confusing people with their blind ideology in order to block our recovery efforts in the field of education. But we will not allow this. We are not the government of elites and bosses," he said.
The government's education reform plan came under fire by opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations as the plan envisaged vocational education starting after the first four years of school, at the age of 10. Critics indicated that students in Western countries were asked to choose vocational programs no earlier than the age of 16.
Speaking at the press conference revealing the new sign of the Turkish Lira Thursday, Erdoğan said uninterrupted eight-year compulsory education harmed both society and the economy.
"An association representing the businessmen shot itself in the foot by imposing its own ideology. Vocational schools became dysfunctional after the Feb. 28 [1997 National Security Council] decisions. The industrialists, economy, people and the country suffered from it. They [TÜSİAD] are trying to repeat a mistake they made before," Erdoğan said.
Uninterrupted eight-year compulsory education was enforced after the "Feb. 28 process" of 1997, closing down the middle classes of vocational schools. The motivation behind this decision was seen as wanting to block students from attending imam-hatip religious schools at a younger age.
Last week, TÜSİAD chair Ümit Boyner criticized the government's plan, indicating that the separation of primary education into two tiers and efforts to associate the second tier with "open learning" could cause problems in girls' schooling rates.
The government later agreed to present students with home-schooling options after eight compulsory years in school rather than four, but Erdoğan urged the business group "to mind their own business."
Erdogan Set to Visit Iran for Nuclear Talks
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is scheduled to pay a visit to neighboring Iran to discuss the results of an international nuclear security summit set to take place in South Korea in late March; the summit will focus on Iran's disputed nuclear enrichment program.
Erdoğan will meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran during the week following the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit from March 26 to 27. The prime minister is scheduled to deliver the final message at the summit.
Erdoğan first planned to head to Tehran on March 28 after attending the meeting in Seoul, but Iran wanted the meeting to be held the following week because Ahmadinejad would not be in Tehran. During the Seoul nuclear summit, Erdoğan is set to suggest that a second meeting between Iran and the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany -- could be held in İstanbul. The prospective second round of talks is expected to start in April if all parties reach an agreement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced at a press conference held in Iran on Feb. 19 that the next round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran will probably be held in İstanbul, but did not specify a timeframe.
The Seoul nuclear summit will host detailed discussions on how international cooperation can be used to mitigate nuclear threats. EU governments and the U.S., as well as regional countries such as Israel, have deep concerns over Iran's uranium enrichment program, which is allegedly part of a wider program to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran is insisting that its nuclear program is solely for the purposes of generating energy.
Erdoğan will resume his schedule of diplomatic visits in March, after having recovered from a second round of surgery on his digestive system.
On March 17, Erdoğan will visit the German city of Bochum to attend the Der Steiger awards ceremony, where he will receive the award for international leadership, granted annually to individuals for their achievements in such areas as politics, media, sports and the environment. In addition to Erdoğan, Queen Silvia of Sweden and former German President Horst Köhler will be honored at the event.
Crosses on Alevi Doors 'Child's Play,' Minister Says
Markings found on the doors of Alevis' houses in the eastern province of Adıyaman are mere "child's play" and not a premonition of an attack, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said.
"You may ask how the police reached the conclusion that some children drew those signs, but the signs' height is at the point where a child can reach. There is no need to exaggerate the incident, some Sunni family houses were also marked, not just Alevis' [houses], according to the investigation we launched," he said.
But Republican People's Party, or CHP, Deputy Sabahat Akkiray said the government had the responsibility to protect Alevis.
"They are frightened and waiting in turns night and day. Alevis have been through several massacres in recent history of the country. A new massacre, possibly like [past] ones in Kahramanmaraş, Sivas or Çorum, is on their minds," Akkiray said.
Akkiray, a famous Alevi singer-turned-deputy who goes by the stage name of Sabahat Akkiraz, called on the government to take necessary precautions before any attacks. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ commented on the incident, saying, "Whoever committed this atrociousness, I condemn it."
Bozdağ also said this could be part of an "evil game." Celal Dinçer, a CHP deputy, said Turkey was familiar with such conspiracies.
"We saw the same in the provinces of Erzincan, Kahramanmaraş and Sivas. We have to take seriously what happened in Adıyaman; we can't evaluate it as 'child's play.' The tension in Turkey is increasing. Some dark forces may try to create turmoil in Turkey. I am calling on the prosecutors and the local authorities to do their duties and reveal the actors of the incident," Dinçer said.
The doors of a number of houses belonging to members of the Alevi community in Adıyaman were marked with crosses by unknown people, CHP Deputy Hüseyin Aygün announced on his Facebook account on Wednesday. A similar method was used to mark the houses of Alevis prior to the Maraş Massacre of 1978, in which at least 105 people were killed.
Davutoglu Briefs Parliament on Commission on Syria
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met with members of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission Thursday in order to discuss Turkey's current foreign policy issues.
The main opposition raised criticisms over Turkey's policy including that concerning the Syrian crisis, one of the participants said.
"We oppose the Syrian regime using violence against its people. However, there should not be a direct intervention," Osman Korutürk, deputy from the Republican People's Party, or CHP, told Hürriyet Daily News. "We also stressed the need to be careful on international legitimacy."
Providing national reconciliation was important for the success of foreign policy, the minister told reporters at the meeting.
"Sure, there will be diffident opinions. They will be expressed in different ways. What is important is to share perspectives," Davutoğlu said. "We got into an enormous process of change in which great opportunities are coming along with great challenges when considering both economic crises and political crises nearby Turkey."