Monday, October 28, 2013

EU Proposal to Monitor "Intolerant" Citizens

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EU Proposal to Monitor "Intolerant" Citizens

by Soeren Kern
October 28, 2013 at 5:00 am
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"There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant" — European Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance, Article 4
"The supra-national surveillance that it would imply would certainly be a dark day for European democracy." — European Dignity Watch
While European leaders are busy expressing public indignation over reports of American espionage operations in the European Union, the European Parliament is quietly considering a proposal that calls for the direct surveillance of any EU citizen suspected of being "intolerant."
Critics say the measure -- which seeks to force the national governments of all 28 EU member states to establish "special administrative units" to monitor any individual or group expressing views that the self-appointed guardians of European multiculturalism deem to be "intolerant" -- represents an unparalleled threat to free speech in a Europe where citizens are already regularly punished for expressing the "wrong" opinions, especially about Islam.
The proposed European Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance was recently presented to members of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, the only directly-elected body of the European Union.
The policy proposal was drafted by the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR), a non-governmental organization established in Paris in 2008 by the former president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor.
The ECTR -- which describes itself as a "tolerance watchdog" that "prepares practical recommendations to governments and international organizations on improving interreligious and interethnic relations on the continent" -- includes on its board more than a dozen prominent European politicians, including former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar.
The ECTR first presented its proposal for a Europe-wide Law on Tolerance to the European Parliament in November 2008 as part of the European Week of Tolerance that marked the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht, a night of anti-Semitic violence that began the Jewish Holocaust in Germany.
After five years of lobbying in Europe's halls of power, the ECTR proposal appears to be making headway, as evidenced by the European Parliament's recent decision to give the group a prominent 45-minute time slot to present its proposal to the Civil Liberties committee on September 17.
Also known as the "Model Statute for Tolerance," the ECTR's proposal was presented as part of the EU's ongoing work towards a new "Equal Treatment Directive" (ETD) that would vastly expand the scope of discrimination to all sectors of life in both the public and private spheres.
Critics of the ETD, currently being negotiated within the Council of the European Union, say the directive seeks to establish an ill-conceived concept of "equal treatment" as a horizontal principle governing the relationships between all and everyone, thus interfering with the right of self-determination of all citizens.
According to European Dignity Watch, a civil rights watchdog based in Brussels,
The principles of freedom of contract and the freedom to live according to one's personal moral views are in danger of being superseded by a newly developed concept of 'equality.' It would undermine freedom and self-determination for all Europeans and subject the private life of citizens to legal uncertainty and the control of bureaucrats. It is about governmental control of social behavior of citizens. These tendencies begin to give the impression of long-passed totalitarian ideas and constitute an unprecedented attack on citizens' rights.
When viewed in the broader context of the ETD, the ECTR document is so audacious in scope, while at the same time so vague in defining its terminology, that critics say the proposal, if implemented, would open a Pandora's Box of abuse, thereby effectively shutting down the right to free speech in Europe.
According to Section 1 (d), for example, the term "tolerance" is broadly defined as "respect for and acceptance of the expression, preservation and development of the distinct identity of a group." Section 2 (d) states that the purpose of the statute is to "condemn all manifestations of intolerance based on bias, bigotry and prejudice."
An explanatory note to Section 2 states: "Religious intolerance is understood to cover Islamophobia" but it provides no definition at all of "Islamophobia," a term invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1990s. If taken to its logical conclusion, Section 2 would presumably ban all critical scrutiny of Islam and Islamic Sharia law, a key objective of Muslim activist groups for more than two decades.
The document also declares that "tolerance must be practiced not only by governmental bodies but equally by individuals." Section 3 (iv) elaborates on this: "Guarantee of tolerance must be understood not only as a vertical relationship (government-to-individuals) but also as a horizontal relationship (group-to-group and person-to-person). It is the obligation of the government to ensure that intolerance is not practiced either in vertical or in horizontal relationships."
According to Section 4 (f) (i) of the document: "There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant. This is especially important as far as freedom of expression is concerned." Section 5 (a) states: "Tolerance (as defined in Section 1(d)) must be guaranteed to any group, whether it has long-standing societal roots or it is recently formed, especially as a result of migration from abroad."
Section 6 states: "It goes without saying that enactment of a Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance does not suffice by itself. There must be a mechanism in place ensuring that the Statute does not remain on paper and is actually implemented in the world of reality."
An explanatory note to Section 6 (a) states: "Members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are entitled to a special protection, additional to the general protection that has to be provided by the Government to every person within the State." Another note adds: "The special protection afforded to members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups may imply a preferential treatment. Strictly speaking, this preferential treatment goes beyond mere respect and acceptance lying at the root of tolerance."
Section 6 (b) demands that every one of the 28 member states of the EU "set up a special administrative unit in order to supervise the implementation of this Statute." An explanatory note adds: "The special administrative unit should preferably operate within the Ministry of Justice (although the Ministry of the Interior is another reasonable possibility)."
Section 6 (c) calls for the establishment of a "National Tolerance Monitoring Commission as an independent body -- composed of eminent persons from outside the civil service -- vested with the authority to promote tolerance." An explanatory note adds: "The independent Commission will be empowered to express its views regarding implementation of the Statute by all concerned. Implementation in this context includes (but is not limited to) the imposition of penal sanctions."
Section 7 (a) states: "The following acts will be regarded as criminal offences punishable as aggravated crimes: Incitement to violence against a group and group libel. "Group libel" is broadly defined as: "defamatory comments made in public and aimed against a group or members thereof with a view to inciting to violence, slandering the group, holding it to ridicule or subjecting it to false charges."
Section 7 (b) states that "Juveniles convicted of committing crimes listed in paragraph (a) will be required to undergo a rehabilitation program designed to instill in them a culture of tolerance." Paragraph 7 (e) states that "victims of crimes listed in paragraph (a) will have a legal standing to bring a case against the perpetrators, as well as a right to redress." Paragraph 7 (f) states that "free legal aid will be offered to victims of crimes listed in paragraph (a), irrespective of qualification in terms of impecuniosity."
Section 8 states that "the government shall ensure that (a) Schools, from the primary level upwards, will introduce courses encouraging students to accept diversity and promoting a climate of tolerance as regards the qualities and cultures of others." An explanatory note adds: "It is very important to start such courses as early as possible in the educational program, i.e. in elementary school. Yet, these courses must be offered also at higher levels of education, up to and including universities."
Section 9 (a) states: "The government shall ensure that public broadcasting (television and radio) stations will devote a prescribed percentage of their program to promoting a climate of tolerance." Section 9 (b) adds: "The government shall encourage all privately owned mass media (including the printed press) to promote a climate of tolerance." Section 9 (c) states: "The government shall encourage all the mass media (public as well as private) to adopt an ethical code of conduct, which will prevent the spreading of intolerance and will be supervised by a mass media complaints commission."
The document, if adopted by the European Parliament in its current form, would -- among other problems -- establish a right to a freedom from hurt feelings at the expense of the freedom of speech and expression. In practical terms, critics say, the highly subjective definition of terms and concepts such as "tolerance," "discrimination," "vulnerable," and "disadvantaged," amounts to a legal straitjacket that would encourage frivolous litigation aimed at silencing individuals and groups, or at finding circumlocutions that appear to avoid violating these principles.
"Faith-based groups and schools, adherents of a particular religion or even just parents who want to teach their children certain moral values would all be put under general suspicion of being intolerant," according to European Dignity Watch.
"Even worse, if enshrined as EU policy, such language also could lead to the possibility that charges are brought on unclear or even without legal grounds. The chilling result of this would be the dramatic diminution (and possible disappearance) of the fundamental freedom of expression -- individuals and groups would censor themselves, afraid that they might be prosecuted for expressing their own personal moral views," the NGO argues in a statement.
"The authors of this proposed statute -- under the aegis of an international NGO for tolerance and reconciliation -- have invited the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee to endorse it as a legal project. But not only would an adoption of this statute at the national level of the European states be a significant step backward," the statement concludes, "but the supra-national surveillance that it would imply would certainly be a dark day for European democracy."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.
Related Topics:  Soeren Kern

Iran's Terror Entity in Lebanon

by Yaakov Lappin
October 28, 2013 at 4:00 am
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One out of every ten homes in Lebanon now has a rocket launcher or Hezbollah weapons stored in it, according to Gilad Erdan, Israel's Home Front Defense Minister. Civilian homes are constructed in a way that allows the roof to open up for the firing of a rocket at Israel. Added up, the number of rockets and missiles reached is 200,000.
In the chaotic Middle East, every day brings new strategic changes and brutal instances of violence, the one thing that has remained constant is Iran's continuing construction of a military-terrorist missile base in Lebanon.
Through its Shi'ite Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, Iran today has formed a terrorist entity that is unprecedented in scope and firepower, whose rockets and missiles can strike any point in Israel.
During a recent security conference held at the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, senior Israeli officials divulged some staggering figures that give a sense of the significant capabilities Hezbollah has built-up.
To be sure, Israel has been preparing for the day it will need to tackle Hezbollah, and the Israel Defense Force apparently feels ready to deal with the threat if and when it is required to do so.
The threat, however, remains potent; and Hezbollah's cynical use of Lebanese civilians as a cover from which to attack Israeli civilians remains a serious challenge facing Israeli defense planners.
During the conference, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, pointed out that, "in Lebanon today, there are homes in which there are guestrooms alongside missile storage rooms. This is a clear intelligence reality."
The situation was also addressed by Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, who unveiled a government plan to find solutions quickly for the 30% of Israeli civilians who do not have rocket-proof rooms in their apartments, or access to bomb shelters in their buildings or the immediate vicinity.
In any full-scale war, Erdan warned, the Israeli home front will be pounded by thousands of rockets for up to three weeks, and every point in the country could be hit by Hezbollah.
One out of every 10 homes in Lebanon now has a rocket launcher or Hezbollah weapons stored in it, Erdan said. Civilian homes, he said, are constructed in southern Lebanon in a way that allows the roof to open up for the firing of a rocket at Israel.
An increasing number of Hezbollah's projectiles, Erdan cautioned, are guided, accurate weapons, with which the terror organization will seek to strike Israeli national infrastructure sites, such as electricity production centers.
If the number of rockets and missiles possessed by Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are added up, he added, the number reached is 200,000.
"Our enemies," he said, "want to break the spirit of Israelis, and get them to stop believing that we can have a normal life here."
The IDF has very effective offensive plans for these threats, but the government also had to come up with new ways of keeping civilian life going during a future war, he continued.
"We need to create a mechanism to allow the continuous functionality of the home front, and not to return to scenes of the Second Lebanon War of 2006," he said. "No other country is facing the threat we are today."
Hezbollah is heavily armed, more so than most Western countries, but it is also deterred by Israel's firepower. Additionally, its main focus today is on fulfilling the orders of its masters in Tehran and fighting in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Assad regime, a move that has provoked the wrath of Sunni jihadis. This change was noted in recent days by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who stated: "To those who are not yet aware, there is already a civil war in Lebanon. [The Sunni] Global Jihad, which has infiltrated Lebanon and is attacking Hezbollah, is blowing car bombs in [the south Beirut Hezbollah stronghold of] Dahia, and is firing rockets at Dahia and the Beka'a Valley [in northern Lebanon, where Hezbollah is also based]."
During the conference, new ideas were put forward by top security figures on how Israel might enhance its deterrence even further.
Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council (which advises the prime minister), said Israel should reject the idea that it must fight against terrorist guerrilla organizations embedded in civilian areas, and return to the idea that it is fighting enemy states.
It is impossible to defeat guerrilla forces, Eiland argued; but if the enemy and its territory are defined as a hostile state, victory becomes possible once again. "In 2006," he said, "we tried to do something impossible by hitting rocket launchers. If tomorrow there is a third Lebanon war and if we try to do the same thing, the result will be worse. We and Hezbollah have improved tactically."
"If war does break out," he added, "treating Lebanon as an enemy would end the conflict in three days, not three weeks," Eiland predicted. "This entails bombing bridges and other state-affiliated targets, though staying clear of civilian sites like schools and hospitals," he stressed. "It is not right for us to accept the idea of fighting low-intensity counter-terrorism conflicts. We should move to an interstate conflict system."
Related Topics:  Lebanon  |  Yaakov Lappin

Egypt's Challenge: Writing a New Constitution

by Ashraf Ramelah
October 28, 2013 at 3:00 am
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"Egypt is now a real civil state. It is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional, lawful and modern." — Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, after his election.
Democracy is unfathomable because it allows the doctrine of Islam, and its followers, to co-exist equally with other religions and doctrines -- a societal demotion. That outcome cannot possibly be the one desired by those now drafting Egypt's constitution.
As Egyptians wait for the constituent assembly to produce the country's new foundational document, the world can only speculate as to how well the new draft will distinguish Egypt's future from its past. Article 2 of Sadat's 1971 constitution is the controversial point today. If its wording is written into the draft of Egypt's new constitution, all hope is lost for a modern renaissance sought by the uprising of January 2011. Article 2 spells out two critical foundational points which clash with the formation of democracy. Even if these Islamic measures are accompanied by words promoting liberty, equality and human rights elsewhere in the same writing, the use of Article 2 will present a huge problem for the liberal, secular, pro-democracy freedom movement.
Egypt is likely to receive a draft of the constitution, due before the end of this year, comprised of both liberal elements and Article 2 (or its essence). The explicit language of Article 2 states, since 1980, that the religion of the state is Islam and Sharia (Islamic religious law) is the source of state legislation. This substantiates a religious state. If Article 2 is transferred to the current draft, it will mean that the draft of the constitution draft is unsuccessful for the third time since Egyptians rebelled against authoritarianism and religious supremacy. Would this be a signal for the continuance of Egypt's already two-year old revolt against a political class using religion to accrue power?
The greatest contributor to the making of Article 2 and its formation of the deeply rooted Islamic state was former President Anwar Sadat. While Sadat's constitution promised free markets, individual freedom, democratic procedures and safeguards for an independent judiciary; other buried clauses granted his presidency complete power, and he used it to appropriate exclusive ownership of the state for Islam. In 1971Sadat replaced Egypt's 1954 constitution, moving the country away from the policies of socialism enacted by his predecessor, Nasser. Sadat used the help of Islamists who influenced the populace against socialism in accordance with Islamic beliefs. In return, Sadat added pro-Islam clauses to Egypt's constitution, making Islam the state religion, Arabic the official language and Sharia a source of Egyptian law (later changing "a source" to "the source"). As such, Sadat encouraged Islamists to lay claim to Egypt.
The key to Sadat's success was "Islamic duality" -- a political doctrine of deception based upon the Hadith [tales of the life of Muhammed] and the Sira [Mohamed's biography] in which the Prophet teaches that to advance Islam, it is permissible to lie in three cases: to a wife, to a friend and to an enemy. We shall likely see this again with the forthcoming constitution. Envision the following scenario. Upon receiving the draft, Egyptians will wait for constitutional experts in the media to fully explain and challenge it in the period of time between its issuance and the popular referendum vote to approve it. The populace will be incapable of comprehending the full implications of the extensive fine print inside the sugar coating of human rights and freedom-sounding words. Meanwhile, assembly committee members assigned to write separate draft sections will hawk their special wares to the country, selling Sharia and selling democracy.
Egyptians have no reason to believe that democratic words written into their constitution will not as readily be written out or abrogated by articles within the same text. But dissatisfaction will be delayed; the draft will come to a vote and be approved. Disillusionment will set in sometime after the draft becomes official and the new constitution is in use. The reality of another wave of civilization jihad will hit Egyptians when they face serious roadblocks to equality and human rights. The populace, no longer illiterate and trusting as in the time of Sadat but now fearless and determined, will fill the streets and squares; clashes will continue to keep the revolution alive. This is the real miracle for Egypt -- the transformation taking place in the hearts and minds of the people sustaining an ongoing rebellion. Egyptians are no longer infected with the indoctrination of "democracy equals evil" transmitted by the policies and propaganda of past dictators which bonded the populace to the rise of the Egyptian Islamic state. Nor will Egyptians any longer be dragged along by the stick and carrot – this barrier has been broken.
Over decades Egypt's presidents – Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak – systematically created today's culture of Islam's embedded power and privilege. Egypt's interim government and constituent assembly is derived from the permanent and prosperous institutional state. Democracy is unfathomable because it allows the doctrine of Islam, and its followers, to co-exist equally with other religions and ideologies -- a societal demotion. That cannot possibly be the desired outcome of those now crafting Egypt's constitution. The two extreme viewpoints of the assembly's 50 appointees are provided by ultra-conservative clerics and pro-democracy liberals. But the majority of members will aim for the status-quo and to salvage and sanitize the face of Islam ruined by the Morsi regime's push toward Sharia.
Islam's image is damaged due to the regressive religious politics of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] and Morsi's terrorist administration which left a sour taste. Ousting Morsi and his regime, the masses spoke loud and clear regarding the Islamiists' experiment in Egypt. Intolerance will not be tolerated.
Representatives from the Coptic Church make up about five percent of the constituent assembly and include bishops. The invitation from the interim government to the church illustrates that Egypt continues to play up the importance of religion as opposed to equality and freedom of religion. In a country where religious identity cards are carried by every citizen and double standards and discrimination throughout society are based on it, it is disappointing to see the same game being played now at the critical moment of laying the foundation for expunging these prejudices. So far, the bishops in the assembly have been concentrating on protecting church doctrine, sensing that Islam will remain supreme at the completion of this "democratic" constitution.
The cultural mindset is inescapable. The system and its corruption must also be defeated. Freedom fighters must be vigilant for years to come, develop a strong leadership and continually stage protests to keep the momentum. Gradualism, at best, will be the method of democracy-building in Egypt for generations to come.
The major achievement of the January 2011 freedom uprising has been to force the writing of Egypt's constitution before presidential and parliamentary elections take place – a huge feat for the Egyptian freedom movement. After more than two years of sacrifice, bloodshed, various false starts, and a surprising alliance with Egypt's military, a coalition of 30 million individuals in the name of freedom matures daily in the process -- equipping themselves with ever greater courage and the tenacity required for the long-term.
Related Topics:  Egypt  |  Ashraf Ramelah

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