Two Britons are being questioned by an anti-terror unit in Kenya after they were arrested near the border with Somalia, police said. The pair are believed to be from Cardiff and are UK citizens, although police said one is of Somali descent and the other Pakistani.
Charles Owino, deputy spokesman for the Kenyan police, said: "They were arrested crossing into Somalia. They are under investigation by the anti-terrorism unit of the Kenyan police."
South Wales Police have been in contact with officers in the African country to try to get more information about why the pair were detained. I expect they were attending a cousin's wedding.
Earlier Al Shabab made threats of retailiation against Kenya for daring to challenge their incursions onto Kenyan soil.
Al-Shabab lashed out in a news conference and an eloquent English statement on Monday, saying that the "bloody battles that will ensue as a result of this incursion will most likely disrupt the social equilibrium and imperil the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians."
The statement urged Kenyans to tell their "saber-rattling politicians" to not let the "flames of war" spill over into Kenya, destroying the East African nation's sense of stability."Your skyscrapers will be destroyed, your tourism will disappear. We shall inflict on you the same damage you inflicted on us," Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for the Islamist militia al-Shabab, said at a Mogadishu news conference.
Kenya on Sunday moved two battalions of about 800 troops each across the border in two locations, a Nairobi-based official said. Tanks, helicopters and artillery have also been deployed. The invasion is the most significant foreign deployment of the Kenyan military since independence from Britain in 1963.
The official asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Kenya says the invasion is retaliation for the kidnappings of four Europeans — two aid workers and two tourists — from Kenyan soil.
Analysts also say it is "highly unlikely" that Kenya could organize such a complex military operation so quickly. "The kidnaps could be a catalyst for something in the works for a long time," said Lauren Gelfand, the Africa and Middle East editor of Jane's Defense Weekly.
The Kenyans had already been conducting air strikes in Somalia for the past two weeks, a Nairobi-based diplomat said. He asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Al-Shabab itself dismissed the kidnappings as a motivation. The threat to Kenya, both internal and external, is indeed far more substantial than two criminal acts.
Last year al-Shabab suicide bombers killed 76 people in Kampala, Uganda as they watched the World Cup final. The group said it was retaliation for Uganda sending troops to the African Union force supporting the weak U.N.-backed government. Rage, the al-Shabab spokesman, raised the image of the bombings Monday."Remember what happened in Uganda's capital," he said.
So far al-Shabab has put up little resistance to the Kenyan forces, melting away into the thorny scrub. A militia supported by the Kenyans took control of Qoqani, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Kenyan border, late on Sunday, residents said.
Kenya's final objective remains unclear. It has spent the last two years pushing for a buffer zone between itself and troubled Somalia. Kenyan forces trained and equipped the so-called Jubaland militia of more than 2,000 Somalis and have frequently said they want to take Kismayo, a port city whose customs revenues are the insurgency's biggest cash cow.
Al-Shabab's key line of defense for Kismayo is in front of the Juba river. There are only three bridges across it strong enough to take the movement of vehicles. On Monday, bearded men wearing masks drove around Kismayo, using megaphones to urge residents to join the fight, residents said. The insurgents have a history of kidnapping children to use as child soldiers. Families in Kismayo said they were already fleeing, fearing forced recruitment.
First videos and pictures of Gilad Shalit in the company of Egyptian security personnel flickered across the TV sets of the world this morning, after the first stage of the over one thousand Palestinian terrorist prisoners in Israeli hands (477) were exchanged for him. Many of these were serving life sentences. The most famous of these still in captivity is Marwan Baghouti who is serving five consecutive life sentences for his role in multiple terrorist attacks and deaths of innocent Israelis. When Shalit enters Israel he will be taken to a base at Tel Nof for a physical and mental checkup and then flown to meet his parents, Prime Minister Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gantz. Initial reports are that he is good shape after a long incarceration.
After five and a half years he has the Rank of a Sgt-Major in the IDF and back pay coming to him. The videos of released Palestinian and other terrorist prisoners show gratitude for the Egyptians who brokered the complex deal. Jihadis in Gaza expressed what Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told us in our broadcast and article, last Tuesday, that kidnapping IDF soldiers pays - gaining releases of the remaining roughly five thousand terrorist prisoners still in Israeli hands. Schanzer noted:
Hamas is going to look like a champion of the Palestinian cause. For the Israelis, it has always been a matter of getting their boys back whether they are injured or killed soldier on the battlefield or like Shalit someone who has been kidnapped. In the Israelis’ view saving one life is worth a million. Most important, it looks like Netanyahu is able to deliver on that promise.
[. . .]
Unfortunately, there is something that is more important to underscore here. The message is that abduction and terrorism pays. That is something that Hamas has certainly taken away from this situation.
Since Gilad’s kidnapping in 2006, Shin Bet has foiled multiple kidnapping attempts. IDF doctrine in the wake of Gilad’s kidnapping has emphasized active resistance against abductors. As noted in this Ha’aretz report, this can include firing on your comrades:
The Israel Defense Forces is telling its combat units that soldiers should make sure not to become "another Gilad Shalit" and be abducted.
"I deliver this message in any discussion in which the topic of Gilad Shalit or other POWs comes up," an infantry battalion commander said. "Under no circumstances should a soldier be taken hostage. Our soldiers do their utmost to prevent this from happening - they [are ordered] to fire at a group of abductors even if that means their IDF comrade would be killed. And the soldiers understand this fully: They cannot become another Gilad Shalit."
After Shalit’s capture, the IDF instituted less draconian measures to prevent that from reoccurring including designating areas where soldiers on leave can pick up rides and positioning military policemen to check vehicles that pick up IDF soldiers, traditional in Israel. While virtually every Israeli has a cell phone, many equipped with GPS locators; those are usually taken away from IDF soldiers prior to going on combat patrols. Instead they are given pagers for communicating messages, equipped with GPS locators. A newer version is said to be under joint development with the Pentagon. Some suggest that every IDF soldier be equipped with a microchip for the duration of active and reserve service until age 52. Some observers I queried about this technical solution in the US and Israel quipped that might satisfy Israeli wives and enhance morality. The reality is that you are talking about millions of such micro- miniaturized high -tech transponders that would require vast amounts of digital capacity to keep track potentially millions of IDF service members, both active and reserve.
Yesterday, the Israel high court heard arguments from four petitioners representing 25 parents and survivors of terrorist attacks, requesting that the prisoner swap be stopped. Noam Shalit, father of Sgt. Major Gilad was present with a lawyer opposing the petitions. The proceedings were interrupted by aggrieved surviving relatives who objected to the massive prisoner exchange as being too high a price to pay. Nevertheless, the high court ruled against the petitioners and the first stage of the prisoner swap then began to move forward.
Overall, Israelis are jubilant about this outcome, but not without misgivings. A CNN report noted:
About eight out of 10 Israelis favor the deal, according to the poll of 500 people conducted by the Dahaf Polling Institute for the Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper.
Israelis are equally split on whether "the release of terrorists" will harm Israeli security, with 50% saying "yes" and 48% saying "no" -- a statistical tie given the number of people polled.
When I asked Rabbi Gerson at B’nai Israel Synagogue in Pensacola, Florida what the religious tradition was on such an occasion, he indicated it was to say Hallel or Halleluiah prayers praising Ha Shem for Shalit’s release.
Was this exchange worth it? Despite misgivings, Israelis did the right thing to get back one of their own ‘boys’. Certainly Gilad’s parents and neighbors in the village of Mitzpe Hila are overjoyed to welcome him back.
Watch this Euro News You Tube video of Israeli views on Gilad’s return.
Israel has made a deal to rescue Gilad Shalit not because it is pragmatic, but because it is right, says Daniel Taub. From The Telegraph:
For five years, the national concern for Gilad (in Israel no surname is necessary) has found expression in mass vigils, marches and a permanent tent gathering outside the Prime Minister’s home, all proclaiming the slogan “Gilad is still alive”.
The Israeli insistence, almost obsession, with saving a life at any cost, has powerful roots in both the Jewish and Israeli psyche. He who saves one life, states the Talmud, it is as if he saved an entire world. And of course, no two Jews can raise a glass without the traditional toast Lechaim! – To life!
Hence the Israeli concern to save any life at any cost, and Israel’s anguish when it has been unable to bring its sons home – like Ron Arad the Israeli air force officer captured in Lebanon in 1986.
So the joy of seeing a lost son return to his family is deep indeed. But it is also pained and conflicted. As much as all Israelis know and identify with the young men and women who serve in defence of their country, so do they also know a victim of a terrorist atrocity. And many of those involved in perpetrating such atrocities are among those who will be released as part of the Shalit deal. Israelis cannot help but wonder whether we are saving one life, the face we know, at the cost of other unknown faces in future terrorist attacks.
Is it possible to overvalue life? Have our tradition and national psyche clouded our judgment and created an Achilles heel?
Disturbingly, the terrorist groups we confront seem to think so. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah once declared “We shall win because the Jews are weak and love life.” Fathi Hammad, a leading Hamas figure echoed this credo as he defended the strategy of sending women and children to shield terrorist bases: “We desire death as you desire life!”
More than 400 allegations of physical abuse against young people at British Islamic schools were made in the last three years, figures show. However, only 10 of these cases ever made it to court, with just two leading to convictions, a report into abuse at madrassas warns.
Muslim campaigners have warned that insufficient regulation is leading to some madrassas "destroying the lives of young people" and urged the Government to take action against offending institutions.
The figures, obtained by BBC Radio 4's File on 4 under freedom of information laws, showed tighter regulation of the schools, which take up to 500,000 students a day in England, Scotland and Wales, was needed, a Muslim think-tank said.
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, founder of the Muslim Institute, said: "Some kind of system must be put in place to ensure that only teaching takes place there, not sexual or physical abuse.
The figures from 180 local authorities showed there were 420 cases of physical abuse in the last three years. Among those councils which broke down the figures by year, there were 89 abuse allegations in 2008, rising to 178 in 2010 and 146 in the first nine months of this year.
A report by Sir Roger Singleton, the chief adviser on child safety, last year recommended that corporal punishment should be banned, but so far no action has been taken.
A Department for Education spokesman added: "The Government does not support the use of physical punishment in schools and other children's settings. Abuse and harm to children is unacceptable and any allegations should be reported to the police".
"Leonardo! Strange Diseases Strike At Madders Mixed With Red"
Lost da Vinci: Priceless da Vinci portrait sold for $21,000[the self-assured title does not reflect the tentative text]
Lost da Vinci: Art historian Martin Kemp, of the University of Oxford, believes the mystery painting, which appeared in 1998, is a portrait of the duke's daughter, created by da Vinci for her wedding book.
By Jennifer Welsh, October 17, 2011
'La Bella Principessa,' late 15th century
Leonardo da Vinci
Christie's auction house may have sold a priceless piece of art by Leonardo da Vinci for a little more than $21,000, according to researchers who claim to have identified the origins of the hotly debated painting.
The painting appears to have come from a 500-year-old book containing the family history of the Duke of Milan. Art historian Martin Kemp,, of the University of Oxford, believes the mystery painting, which appeared in 1998, is a portrait of the duke's daughter, created by da Vinci for her wedding book.
"We knew it came from a book, you have the stitch holes and can see the knife cut. Finding it is a miracle in a way. I was amazed," Kemp told Live Science, "When doing historical research on 500-year-old objects … you hardly get the circle completed in this way."
In 2010, Kemp first suggested that da Vinci painted the portrait,, and since then, art historians have debated over both its origin and the painter. In fact, several art historians contacted by LiveScience said they wouldn't comment on the piece or didn't return emails. An earlier examination of the artwork by a gallery in Vienna led the director there to say it was not a da Vinci, and they are unswayed by the new evidence.
The portrait was sent to Christie's in 1998, with art historians there suggesting the piece came from 19th-century German artists called the Nazarenes, who mimicked the Renaissance style. (This was disproved after carbon dating estimated the portrait's creation between 1440 and 1650.) It was titled "Head of a Young Girl in Profile to the Left in Renaissance Dress."
Kemp wasn't convinced and started looking into the painting's history. He first saw the portrait as an attachment to an email in 2008, and immediately recognized da Vinci's left-handed style. He went to see it in Zurich and his co-author, Pascal Cottle, engineer and founder of art analysis start-up Lumiere Technology, examined it in Paris.
Kemp and Cotte then published "La Bella Principessa: The Story of the New Masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci," (Hodder Hb, 2010) claiming the work might be a da Vinci, a claim that many respected historians have disagreed with, some vehemently.
The portrait is made on vellum, a specially prepared skin normally used for writing and printing. No work by da Vinci has been found on vellum before, though it was frequently used in books. Researchers believe the portrait came from a book, because three stitch holes are visible on the portrait's left margin. It is also made of chalks and ink, not paint.
"The chance of identifying the vellum book it came from was pretty small, a needle in the haystack, one would say," Kemp told LiveScience. That was, until American art historian D. R. Edward Wright of the University of California at Berkeley, suggested that Kemp look at a set of books titled the "Sforziad."
There were at most four copies made, Kemp said. Aside from the copy in the National Library in Warsaw, there is a copy in London and one in Paris. Each book was custom-made and had different art and cover pages; evidence that this portrait had been "ripped" out was only found in the Warsaw book. The image was probably removed during the 18th century when the book was rebound, Kemp said.
Da Vinci was an artist in the duke's residence for several years between 1481 and 1499. He was the only left-handed artist in the court at that time, the researchers said.
Upon examination, Kemp saw that the stitch holes from the page match up with the stitching on the book, but they aren't the only evidence Kemp puts forward. Because vellum is made from processed skins, each sheet has different qualities. The thickness and composition of this sheet matches up perfectly with the vellum from the book, Kemp said. There are also cut marks on the edge of the book.
"It was apparent from the evidence we got about the vellum and the missing sheets, within reasonable margins of doubt, that's where it comes from," Kemp said. "At 500 years old, you never have as much confirmation as you like, but this is as good as it gets."
Kemp and Cotte have published a short version of their examination of the book and the portrait's cut marks and binding, along with their analysis of the vellum online. The painting has been renamed "La Bella Principessa," though its true origins are still debated.
The Albertina art gallery in Vienna decided not to exhibit the drawing, because when examined by their institution, "no one is convinced that it is a Leonardo," art gallery director Klaus Albrecht Schroder told ArtNEWS.
LiveScience asked spokesperson Verena Dahlitz what the gallery thought of the new data; she replied in an email, "We still believe that it is not an authentic drawing by Leonardo." When asked who could have painted it, if it had come from the Sforziad, she said: "We think that the drawing is from the 19th century."
Art blogger Hasan Niyazi, on his blog The Three Pipe Problem, updated his article on the La Bella Principessa controversy in reaction to Kemp's find, writing that, in his opinion, "Critics of the piece must now re-orient their approach — an argument that it is by a Leonardo contemporary may still arise from some. Although any allegation that it is a later piece is less likely to stand up against the body of evidence amassing for this work."
Many of the historians contacted by LiveScience refused to comment on the piece. William Wallace, an art historian at Washington University in St. Louis,wouldn't comment on the piece, but said: "I think because few, like me, wish to pronounce on an unlikely attribution, especially without having seen the original," Wallace told LiveScience in an email. "Egos are easily bruised in a small field, and Kemp, after all, is a well-respected scholar."
Kemp will be publishing his findings in an updated edition of his book, "Leonardo" (Oxford University Press 2011). A grant from National Geographic, funded his search for the book, and the network will be producing a documentary on the search for the portrait's true origins to air in early 2012.
Use In Your Classes On English Composition -- Have Your Students Edit It As An Exercise
[just forwarded to me by someone who apparently enjoys eliciting my predictable disgust]
Dear Members of the Harvard Community:
I am delighted to share with you the news that Rita and Gustave Hauser have made an exceptionally generous gift to support innovation in learning and teaching across Harvard University. This gift will serve as a catalyst for transforming students’ educational experiences University-wide, as well as expand Harvard’s leadership in the research, application, and extension of innovative pedagogy—both in Cambridge and around the world.
This is an important moment for learning and teaching, with an expanded understanding of how human beings acquire knowledge, rapid changes in technology, and flexible means to engage students and faculty in new ways. Inquiry and experimentation are at the heart of what we do as a research university, and I am deeply grateful to the Hausers for giving us the means to apply these values to the education of our students.
Please see the Gazette for more information about this wonderful gift.
Classically British - the red-brick chimney (Photo: Claire Lim)
The Italians have the Renaissance, the Americans have the skyscraper, and we have the chimney.
Isn't that a sweeping generalisation?
That’s the pleasing conclusion of a new book, The English Castle, by John Goodall, the architectural editor of Country Life (also, I must admit, a pal of mine).
Dr Goodall's thesis is conclusive. The earliest decorated chimney he could find anywhere in the world is at Old Sarum, just outside Salisbury. The castle there has extremely ornate chimneys, built some time between 1120 and 1140.
Throughout the Middle Ages, chimneys got more and more complex, reaching staggering levels of sophistication on the skylines of our great Tudor palaces, with corkscrew-shaped chimneys made of red brick. Under Elizabeth I, those Tudor corkscrew columns untwisted into rectangular classical columns grouped in twos and threes. Burghley House (1577), Lincolnshire, has the bristliest skyline in the country: chimneys disguised as classical columns jostle with pepperpot towers and stone pyramids.
An Elizabethan and Jacobean agricultural boom led to a chimney explosion – Hampton Court alone has 571 chimneys. In his Description of England , published in the year Burghley sprouted its chimneys, William Harrison noticed them not just on palaces, but all over the humble houses of Radwinter, Essex. A generation before, you’d be lucky to get three chimneys in a village full of cottages. By 1577 there was a "multitude of chimneys lately erected".
Meanwhile on the Continent, even though they indulged in the heights of the baroque and the rococo – all frothing, wedding-cake plasterwork and stone – their chimneys remained austere and unadorned.
Trying to nail down the Englishness of English buildings is a slippery task. So much of our architecture is shaped by Continental – and particularly Italian – influences. But the ornamental chimney, at least, is ours. And it’s somehow fitting – it chimes with our taste for the homespun, the unflashy, the slightly jokey, and with the need to keep the chill off in our damp northern climes.
In 2003, Pakistan's then President Pervez Musharaff sought to re-examine his country's relationship, or lack thereof, with Israel. He asked: "Do we have to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves?"
With their new "Liberation" campaign, it seems that the Union Of Jewish Students has decided to answer that question with a resounding "yes".
Rather than being a brave move forwards for UJS, it is a hollow and cynical campaign that smacks of extreme cowardice.
The reality is that there is real anti-Israel and antisemitic feeling on British university campuses. How do I know this? Because until recently I was antisemitic and anti-Israel. Until recently, I was the one doing the hating.
Growing up in a Muslim community in the UK I was exposed to materials condemning Israel, painting Jews as usurpers and murderers. My views were reinforced when I attended Nakba Day rallies where speakers predicted Israel's demise.
My hate for Israel and for the Jews was fuelled by images of death and destruction, set to the backdrop of Arabic melodies about Jihad and speeches of Hizbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah or Osama Bin Laden.
There was also constant, casual antisemitism around me. My father would boast of how Adolf Hitler was a hero, his only failing being that he didn't kill enough Jews. Even the most moderate clerics I came across refused to condemn terrorism against Israel as unjustified.
What changed? In Waterstones one day I found myself in the Israel and Palestine section. To this day I don't know why I actually pulled it off the shelf, but I picked up a copy of Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel.
In my world view the Jews and the Americans controlled the media, so after a brief look at the back, I scoffed thinking "vile Zionist propaganda".
But I decided to buy it, eagerly awaiting the chance to deconstruct it so I could show why Israel had no case and claim my findings as a personal victory for the Palestinian cause.
As I read Dershowitz's systematic deconstruction of the lies I had been told, I felt a real crisis of conscience. I couldn't disprove his arguments or find facts to respond to them with. I didn't know what to believe. I'd blindly followed for so long, yet here I was questioning whether I had been wrong?
I decided to visit Israel to find the truth. I was confronted by synagogues, mosques and churches, by Jews and Arabs living together, by minorities playing huge parts in all areas of Israeli life, from the military to the judiciary. It was shocking and eye-opening. This wasn't the evil Zionist Israel that I had been told about.
After much soul searching, I knew what I had once believed was wrong. I had to stand with Israel, with this tiny nation, free, democratic, making huge strides in medicine, research and development, yet the victim of the same lies and hatred that nearly consumed me.
As an outsider, I ask why so many in the Jewish community are closing their eyes to the constant stream of anti-Israel hated spewed out from all facets of British society.
And while pro-Palestinian organisations burn Israeli flags, urge boycotts of Israel and protest against appearances by Israeli politicians or artists, UJS's response is shameful. It is not the time for UJS or any other group to engage in hollow flag-waving to show their "progressiveness". Let Israel's democratic history speak for itself.
Instead of meekly trying to avoid coming across as too pro-Israeli or too Zionist, it is time to make the facts known, to defend Israel against delegitimisation. It is time to stem the tide of Israel bashing before it becomes even more mainstream and consumes even more people like me.
Australian relatives of Sheikh Naser Zuway, the president of the Australian Union of Africa and Arab Associations, has reportedly been killed while supporting the rebel uprising in the city of Sirte.
Islamic Friendship Association spokesman Keysar Trad, a long-time friend of Sheikh Zuway, said the family of the Sydney cleric had been informed of his death yesterday morning.
"The information that I have is that one of his uncles contacted his cousins in Sydney to say that he had been killed and the body was being sent to their town in the precinct of Benghazi," Mr Trad said.
He said the family accepted the information as being true, but had no further details.
It is unclear whether his wife and three children are safe.
His Australian relatives were yet to confirm whether Sheikh Zuway's body had arrived as planned after a seven hour journey from Sirte.
Mr Trad said Sheikh Zuway, who he met in 1999 after he was released from immigration detention in Australia, had travelled to Libya to be with his family who had been trapped in the country while on holiday.
He decided to stay on and help the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, arranging for medicine shipments from Turkey, Mr Trad said.
He said a condolence ceremony would be held at the Lakemba community centre which had been home to Sheikh Zuway's Union of Africa and Arab Associations.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was investigating reports an Australian man had been killed in Libya.
"Consular officials are in contact with the man's family in Australia," a spokesman said.
Former Vice Chair of the NY Merc Finances The Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Occupy Wall Street Poster Robert S Halper OSW Financier
Robert S. Halper is a successful retired multi-millionaire oil trader. He was the former Vice Chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NY Merc) - the US commodity-trading market place located in Lower Manhattan. Profiled in the New York Times because of the contributions Halper made to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, he has also made token contributions to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a front runner in the GOP Presidential nomination race. The Times quoted him as saying:
“My giving is a little A.D.D. — like me,” he said, referring to what he described as his hyperactivity and wandering attention.
Brooklyn-born Halper came from modest economic circumstances. His father ran a liquor store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Reared in the East New York section of Brooklyn, the family ultimately settled in Woodmere, a heavily Jewish community in Long Island’s Nassau County. Halper, a graduate of the State University of New York went to work in the trading pits at the NY Merc in 1983 and rose to the top of the oil trading game. He retired in 2007 and lives with his wife and family on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Halper is the epitome of what many of the protesters camped out in squalid Zucotti Park in lower Manhattan rail against. He is one of their hated One Per Centers. However Halper has felt their pain. The Times indicated that Halper comes down to Zucotti Park in lower Manhattan every day to contemplate what many of us deem the madness of this disparate crowd. A crowd allegedly composed of both extreme leftist and right wing elements. The Times quotes him as saying:
“The whole thing is very surreal to me — the fact that I spent my whole career right across the street,” he said in an interview last week on a marble bench near the park. “It makes me a little anxious, to tell you the truth. It could go anywhere. I just pray that it ends peaceful.”
Halper is a bit feckless. Note this comment about a poll taken of OWS protesters from a Contentions blog post by Alana Goodman:
Democratic pollster Douglas Schoenâ€‹finally gives us some statistical insight into what OWS actually believes, with a must-read column today in the Wall Street Journal.
Schoen’s polling firm interviewed 200 activists in Zuccotti Park last week:
Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn’t represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52 percent) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98 percent) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31 percent) would support violence to advance their agenda.
According to the Times profile, Halper had contributed $20,000 to the Canadian anti-consumerist and pro-ecological magazine Adbusters founded by Kalle Lasn. Note this Washington Post interview with Lasn. That money helped to kick start the OWS movement. Lasn pitched him on the OWS at a dinner two months ago likening it to a revolution modeled on the Arab Spring. Apparently, Halper has had a long term relationship with Lasn, as he has given Adbusters more than $75,000 over two decades. Adbusters founder, Kalle Lasn, an Estonian German Refugee as a child during WWII who eventually made his way to Canada from Australia, is not above engaging in some of the classic antisemitic Jewish conspiracy rhetoric. Lasn has a history of perpetuating conspiracy theories that say the Jews control America's foreign policies.
Israel Today reported disturbing Antisemitic canards captured on videos of protesters in New York, Los Angeles and on Neo-Nazi websites:
Last week, we reported on a lone protestor at the Wall Street sit-in who insisted that America's economic woes could all be traced back to "the Jews."
Since then that message has been picked up by others at "Occupy Wall St." demonstrations around the country.
In Los Angeles, California, protestor Patricia McAllister, who identified herself as an employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District (we can only hope she is not an educator), had this to say:
"I think that the Zionist Jews, who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve, which is not run by the federal government… they need to be run out of this country."
On the American Nazi Party website, leader Rocky Suhayda voiced support for "Occupy Wall St." and asked, "Who hold the wealth and power in this country? The Judeo-Capitalists. Who is therefore the #1 enemy who makes this filth happen? The Judeo-Capitalists.".
Back in New York, another protestor insisted that "a small ethnic group constitutes almost all of the hedge fund managers and bankers on Wall St. They are all Jewish. There is a conspiracy in this country where Jews control the media, finances… They have pooled their money together in order to take control of America."
What is most disturbing is that Halper hasn’t been outraged by elements of antisemitism captured in several videos taken of protesters in both New York and Los Angeles. Videos that now have been compiled by a conservative group the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) seeking funds to put ads up on cable TV. Watch the ECI video ad.
While we believe that these expressions are not representative of the larger views of the OWS movement, it is still critical for organizers, participants and supporters of these rallies to condemn such bigoted statements clearly and forcefully.
There is no evidence that these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are representative of the larger movement or that they are gaining traction with other participants. However, history demonstrates time and again how economic downturns can embolden anti-Semites to spread malicious conspiracy theories and promote stereotypes about Jews and money. As a consequence, these statements must not be left unchallenged.
Problem is the OWS movement is leaderless. Alana Goodman of the Contentions blog commented:
. . . if there are no leaders of the movement, who is even in the position to condemn the anti-Semitism at the rallies? The movement claims to have no official leaders, no official platform, no official aims. In an environment like that, it may not even make a difference if a few members speak out against the anti-Semites – they have no “legitimacy” as leaders in the eyes of the protesters.
“In light of the accelerated and vociferous anti-Semitic and anti-Israel pronouncements emanating from the Occupied Wall Street groups – at times urging the expulsion of Zionists and Jews from the United States – we urge President Obama to publicly denounce these remarks.
“Furthermore, we ask David Axelrod and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, and other fellow Jews enthusiastically tied to the protests, to remember that the scape-goating that results from class warfare rhetoric has historically made Jews a target and endangered our community.
Will any of this weigh in on Robert S. Halper? He is a target of those roiling protesters in Zuccotti Park across the way from the NY Merc that was the engine of his personal financial success and wealth. Probably not. Pity. His estimated annual $100,000 giving might be put to better use, underwriting the ECI’s video ad campaign combating OWS antisemitism.
Shea was appointed as a Commissioner to the USCRIF in 1999 by Rep. Wolf. She has been instrumental in the USCRIF prodding of the Saudi Ministry of Education to reform the hate filled Wahhabist religious studies texts used in Saudi Arabia and abroad in both private schools and Mosques. The most prominent example of that was Shea involvement in review of texts used by Islamic Saudi Academy of Fairfax, Virginia. The USCIRF was instrumental to pushing the Bush Administration to understand the Jihad genocide perpetrated by Arabized Northern Islamists against Christian and Animists in Southern Sudan that lead to the Comprehensive Peace Act of 2005 providing the basis of secession in July, 2011 of the 193rd member of the UN, the Republic of Southern Sudan. Shea and CRF colleague Paul Marshall are co-authors of Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide. We will bring you both an interview with Shea and a review of the new book in the November Edition of The New English Review.
In this NRO article, Shea points out that the USCIRF has become a role model for similar religious persecution monitoring programs Canada, The Netherlands, Germany and the Philippines. She notes that the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the renewal legislation. The problem is in the US Senate, where the measure has been called back for review and could expire on November 18th, unless the review is lifted and renewal unanimously passed. Shea outlines the USCIRF achievements and the importance of continuing its programs.
Religious persecution around the world threatens many minority groups — Egyptian Copts, Pakistani Ahmadiyas, Saudi Ismaili Shiites, Baha’is in Iran, and Chinese Sunni Uighurs, Catholics, and Tibetan Buddhists. Despite the presence of American troops, Iraq is in its seventh year of a “religious cleansing” against its native Christian, Yizidi, and Mandean populations, while its handful of remaining Jews are now desperately trying to flee after being identified by Wikileaks. Those who do not confirm to prevailing religious orthodoxies are also targeted individually: For example, in Iran, apostasy charges threaten the life of a Christian pastor. This year, Pakistan’s minister of minorities and the governor of Punjab were separately gunned down for defending those imprisoned under a harsh blasphemy law.
It is this moment that the U.S. Senate has chosen to quietly shut down the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
USCIRF’s mandate was to expire at the end of last month, but it was given a short reprieve through the continuing resolution on the budget. Meanwhile, on September 15, the House of Representatives, in a 391–21 vote, overwhelmingly passed H.R. 2867 to reauthorize USCIRF for two more years. In the Senate, H.R. 2867 was poised to pass under a unanimous consent agreement when a single senator anonymously called it back for undisclosed reasons. If that secret hold is not lifted by November 18, the Senate will not be able to act and USCIRF will go out of existence.
USCIRF was created in 1998 under the International Religious Freedom Act, an initiative of Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.). It was overwhelmingly adopted by both chambers and signed into law by Pres. Bill Clinton. Its mandate was born of the concern that, when it comes to religion issues in foreign affairs, the foreign-policy establishment, the media, and secular human-rights groups have been inattentive at best. In contrast to the State Department’s own religious freedom office, USCIRF is an independent agency. It names the world’s worst religious persecutors and makes non-binding foreign-policy recommendations to the government. Its inter-faith group of nine commissioners (full disclosure: I am one of them) are appointed on a bipartisan basis.
At $4 million, its budget is a fraction of the U.S. Institute for Peace’s; it rents a modest suite of offices for its staff, and its commissioners receive no remuneration for their time. Nevertheless, USCIRF is distinguished as a bold voice within the government and has seen important accomplishments. It pushed the Bush administration to understand the north–south conflict in Sudan as primarily a religious one, and not merely a fight over resources; this led to specific policies that resulted in the secession of South Sudan this past July and political independence and religious freedom for its people. It got the State Department to designate as “egregious” persecutors China, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan. It keeps the focus on religious atrocities in places like Vietnam, Pakistan, Iraq, and Egypt, even when the State Department does not.
USCIRF was the first official body to recognize the terrible plight of Iraq’s minorities, and to speak up for the Copts; it is now pushing for some of America’s aid to Egypt to be used to protect this endangered group. Five years ago, it was the first to take official notice of Saudi textbooks inciting religious violence; influenced by USCIRF prodding, the State Department has decided this year to take a look for itself inside these texts. Recently, USCIRF identified key Iranian authorities responsible for religious persecution and succeeded in having those denied visas. In Nigeria, its insistent appeals to end legal impunity, impressed on its leaders in repeated visits by USCIRF delegations headed by chair Leonard Leo, led this year to the first convictions in sectarian strife that has killed thousands over the past decade.
When we recently traveled to Riyadh to meet with Saudi ministers of education, justice and Islamic affairs, we found that every other American there on official business represented the oil industry, the military, or counterterrorism interests. Those are all important things, of course, but it occurred to me: USCIRF’s biggest contribution may simply be representing in the darkest, most closed corners of the world America’s bedrock belief — the individual’s inalienable right to religious freedom. USCIRF is one reliable voice within the government that does not find the issue of religious freedom too sensitive to bring up with foreign potentates.
In this, USCIRF is unique. Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and the Philippines are now examining its model. Other world democracies may soon follow America’s lead — this month, the European Union called for its member states to adopt specific guidelines on the defense of freedom of religion and belief abroad, citing in particular the repression of religious minorities and persecution from apostasy laws. It would be ironic indeed if the U.S. Senate were to unilaterally give up a key American instrument in the global contest of ideas, just as other parts of the free world are starting to catch on to the importance of religious freedom.
In establishing USCIRF, a broad inter-faith coalition prevailed over a well-padded trade lobby and influential establishment figures such as then–Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (who has since recanted her opposition). The American people need to remind their senators of the importance of religious freedom in foreign policy and of USCIRF’s key role in this.
— Nina Shea is director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. The views expressed here are her own.