These are all the Blogs posted on Tuesday, 19, 2012.
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Commonwealth War Cemetery vandalised in Benghazi again
From The Telegraph and Reuters
Suspected Islamic extremists have vandalised the main Commonwealth War Cemetery in Benghazi, Libya's second city, for the second time in four months.A number of headstones were desecrated in the attacked, believed to have been carried out on Thursday. Authorities in Benghazi said they were trying to track down those responsible.
"We are co-operating with the security committee to ascertain the identity of the assailants and bring them to justice as quickly as possible," Khaled al-Jazawi, the spokesman for the city's civilian council, said
Libya's transitional government apologised for the February incident and promised to arrest those responsible. No detentions have been reported, however, and many of Libya's militias remain too powerful to be challenged by the central government.
Islamist groups in Benghazi have mounted a series of attacks on Western targets in recent weeks, raising fears of their mounting influence in the city from where the rebellion that toppled Col Muammar Gaddafi last year first began. Militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a convoy carrying Britain's ambassador to Libya, Sir Dominic Asquith, into the city, wounding two of his guards.
(Reuters) - A group of armed gunmen stormed the Tunisian consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Monday to protest against an art exhibition in Tunisia which they said insulted Islam, a security guard who works inside the building said. Kamal al-Gehani said the group of about 20 young men carrying Kalashnikovs forced their way into the building and burned the Tunisian flag inside.
Suleiman al-Gehani, an official with the foreign ministry who was called to help defuse the situation, said security officers had to negotiate with the group until they were convinced to leave. He said no shots were fired and no one was injured.
"We had to convince them this wasn't the civilised way to protest. They were very angry over the art work from Tunisia," he said. Thousands of hard-line Muslim Salafis rioted in Tunis this week to protest against the art exhibition which features a work that spells out the name of God using insects.
The fragile transitional government is still struggling to restore stability after the revolt and arms and explosives looted from former leader Muammar Gaddafi's arsenals are easily available.
More than 8,000 allied dead from Montgomery's Western Desert Campaign during the Second World War are buried in Libya, and could prove tempting targets for other Islamists.
Posted on 06/19/2012 5:29 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Marseille mega-mosque gets go-ahead
AFP - A French appeals court granted permission Tuesday for the building of a mega-mosque in the southern city of Marseille that has been touted as a symbol of Islam's growing place in France. The court overturned an October ruling by Marseille's administrative tribunal that cancelled the project's construction permit for supposed failures to meet urban-planning requirements.
A community association led by a local butcher had filed a complaint against the building permit, saying the mosque project did not fit with the surrounding urban environment. The project was granted a permit in September 2009 but construction was suspended following complaints from local residents and businesses.
The 22-million-euro ($28-million) project would see the Grand Mosque, boasting a minaret soaring 25-metres (82-feet) high and room for up to 7,000 worshippers, built in the city's northern Saint-Louis area.
Muslim leaders in the Mediterranean city had hailed the approval of the project as a key step in recognising the importance of Marseille's large Muslim community. France's second city is home to an estimated 250,000 Muslims
The appeals court in December also rejected complaints against the mosque project filed by France's National Front (FN) party and another far-right group
Posted on 06/19/2012 5:41 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Unhappiness, Grief and Depression
The word “unhappy” has been virtually abolished from the English language. For every person who says “I’m unhappy” there must now be a thousand who say “I’m depressed.” The change in semantics is important: the person who says he is unhappy knows that there is something wrong with his life that he should try to alter if he can; whereas the person who says “I’m depressed” is ill, and it is therefore the responsibility of someone else — the doctor — to make him better.
It cannot be said that doctors are altogether unwilling to shoulder this heavy and important burden — quite the contrary. An editorial in the May 17 New England Journal of Medicine by a psychiatrist at Cornell points out that the new Diagnostic and Statistician Manual of the American Psychiatric Association proposes that people who are grieving after the death of a loved one should quickly be diagnosed as suffering from depression.
The symptoms of grief and depression are similar, of course. Apart from depressed mood, they include loss of appetite, poor concentration, insomnia, tiredness, slowed movements or agitation, loss of purpose, and ruminations on death or thoughts of suicide. The APA proposes that if these last longer than two weeks, the person who has four or more of the above in addition to depressed mood — that is to say sadness or misery — should be considered seriously depressed, whether or not they have been bereaved shortly before.
Has no one in the APA read Hamlet? Can no one there recall his first soliloquy?
… and yet with a month –
Let me not think on’t — Frailty, thy name is woman! –
A little month; or ere those shoes were cold
With which she followed my poor father’s body
Like Niobe, all tears; why she, even she –
O God! A beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer …
Frailty, thy name is doctor!
For the psychiatrists of the APA, the healthy thing after someone’s death is for his close relatives or friends simply to “move on” and to resume normal life as if nothing much had happened.
One may legitimately wonder what kind of human relationships the APA expects people to have: certainly not very deep ones. Indeed, the APA probably would count having deep and lasting relationships as pathological, as a risk factor for “depression” later on when the objects of these morbid relationships die. Better to keep everything on an even, superficial level; then there will be no cause for grief. Sorry: depression.
The APA seems to view loving relationships as the British working class used to view teeth: better not to have any, since they only give you trouble in the end. In response to criticism, however, the APA has — according to the editorial — conceded the following:
A footnote will be added [to its criteria for the diagnosis of depression] indicating that sadness with some mild depressive symptoms in the face of loss should not necessarily be viewed as major depression.
The tone of regret in this concession, of having been wrung unwillingly from those who have made it, would be comical were there not just a hint of tragedy about it. Psychiatrists, after all, spend their lives observing people: it obviously takes years of study, training, thought, discussion, reading, and reflection to know so little about them. Such ignorance does not come naturally:
O God! A beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have known better!
When I finished reading the editorial, I felt thoroughly depressed — or do I mean unhappy? At any rate, one thing is certain: I need help.
First published in PJMedia.
Posted on 06/19/2012 9:05 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Erdogan On The Rights Of Women
From Spiegel Online:
Erdogan the Misogynist
Turkish Prime Minister Assaults Women's Rights
By Daniel Steinvorth in Istanbul
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has never been much of a feminist, but women in Turkey are enraged by his latest comments on abortion. Critics say he is trying to distract attention from a scandal involving a massacre of Kurdish civilians last year.
Six letters, each a few centimeters tall, written onto her naked skin -- that was Madonna's contribution to Turkey's culture wars. Anyone who saw the words "No fear" written on her back during her June 7 concert in Istanbul understood her message, which was to encourage the Turkish people to have no fear of the enemies of freedom, and of patriarchs, philistines and the morality police. The singer also exposed one of her breasts on stage, apparently as a gesture of solidarity.
For weeks, thousands of women have been protesting against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 58, after he announced his intention to crack down on abortions and Caesarean section births. Since then, a debate on the role of women in Turkey has erupted -- but not for the first time.
'I Don't Believe in Equality'
It's hard to say when exactly Erdogan threw away his opportunity to gain the support of the women's movement.
In 2008, he gave a speech in the provincial city of Usak to commemorate International Women's Day, in which he advised his "dear sisters" to have at least three, preferably five, children. After the speech, a Turkish daily suggested that perhaps Erdogan would like to see International Women's Day renamed "International Childbirth Day."
In 2010, he invited representatives of women's organizations to the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul and confessed: "I don't believe in equality between men and women."
A year later, on International Women's Day in 2011, Erdogan talked about violence against women and statistics stating that so-called honor killings had increased 14-fold in Turkey from 2002 to 2009. But that, said the premier, was only because more murders were being reported, and that there are basically few acts of violence against women.
A member of the audience says that she was "incredulous." Erdogan's speech was "simply misogynistic" and "intolerable window dressing," she says.
There is no doubt that the Turkish premier is a deeply conservative man. His view of women is traditional and his notions about family policy are patriarchal. The employment rate among women in Turkey is currently at 29 percent, the lowest among all 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Turks, who voted Erdogan into office for a third term last year, knew what they were letting themselves in for. Hadn't Erdogan, when he was mayor of Istanbul in 1994, told a female employee that women should never be allowed to enter the innermost circles of political leadership, because this was "against human nature?"
A politician who dismisses female self-determination as "feminist propaganda" is nothing special in Turkey, and enjoys support among broad segments of the voting public, not just among conservative Muslims. Nevertheless, Turkey is still the most modern country among majority Muslim nations. It's a country where GDP has increased by more than half, and per-capita income by more than a third, since Erdogan came into office. And it's a country that has become a motor for growth and a regional power -- and all of that since a supposedly reformed Islamist took power in March 2003.
At the time, many liberal Turks entered into a pact with Erdogan, because they had a common enemy: the fossilized establishment consisting of the military, the judiciary and the government bureaucracy. In return for their support, Erdogan promised to respect the liberals' lifestyle.
Changing Social Structures
But now there are growing signs that the prime minister hasn't kept up his end of the bargain. "It isn't a matter of Erdogan wanting to transform Turkey into a theocracy," says Istanbul-based sociologist Binnaz Toprak. "It's about what the Americans call social engineering, the modification of social structures."
Take, for example, education. "We will raise a religious generation," the prime minister said in the spring, just as his government was approving a new education reform. It increases compulsory school attendance from eight to 12 years, but this only seems progressive at first glance. Under the reform, parents can move their children to vocational schools, a category which also includes the religious Imam Hatip schools, after only four years. In fact, the last four years of compulsory education can even be completed in the form of correspondence courses.
Erdogan's "religious generation" can already be pleased about a well-established infrastructure of faith today. His party, the AKP, has transformed the Presidency of Religious Affairs, the Diyanet, into a massive agency. Its €1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) budget is larger than the combined budgets of Turkey's European Union, foreign, energy and environment ministries combined. There is now one mosque for every 350 people in Turkey -- and one hospital for every 60,000.
Art is another example. At the end of April, Erdogan had another of his notorious outbursts, this time raging against the "despotic arrogance" of the intellectuals. "What gives you the right to express an opinion on everyone and everything? Do you have a monopoly on theater in this country? Is art your monopoly? Those days are gone."
Actors had demonstrated against an order to remove a play from a theater's season schedule that the authorities felt was "too vulgar." Erdogan then announced that all government-owned theaters were to be privatized.
The prime minister already had a score to settle with the actors. His daughter Sümeyye had tangled with an actor in April 2011, after the man had winked to her from the stage and imitated the way she chews gum. The young Erdogan stormed out of the theater and promptly complained to her father. The actor was later subpoenaed.
Erdogan's authoritarian treatment of artists has almost sultanesque overtones, so much so that one false word can spell an artist's demise.
"It's becoming increasingly difficult to think and live the way one wishes in Turkey," says the world-famous pianist Fazil Say. "Turkey is getting more and more religious," says author Nedim Gürsel. "This policy is leading the country toward totalitarianism," says sculptor Mehmet Aksoy, whose sculpture "The Statue of Humanity," dedicated to peace among Turks and Armenians, was torn down because the premier didn't like it.
The government is also settling a score with pianist Say. An avowed atheist, he had quoted a verse from a poem by the medieval Persian poet Omar Khayyam in a tweet: "You say wine will flow from its rivers. Is heaven a pub? You say two women per believer. Is heaven a brothel?"
The pianist was eventually prosecuted for "insulting religious values." It didn't surprise him, says Say. In fact, he adds, nothing surprises him any more in a country whose prime minister, Erdogan, once wanted to abolish the ballet.
And now the premier has discovered the abortion debate. This was unexpected, given that abortion has not been a subject of significant public discussion until now. A relatively liberal rule that permits abortions until the 10th week of pregnancy didn't offend anyone, not even Islamic scholars. The prime minister shouldn't behave as if he were the "guardian of the vagina," angry female protesters shouted.
What prompted Erdogan to take on abortion? Was it to deflect attention away from perhaps the biggest scandal of his term in office? In December, the Turkish Air Force killed 34 innocent civilians during an attack on presumed fighters with the PKK Kurdish separatist organization. Many media outlets pretended that the massacre, which took place near the town of Uludere, never happened.
When Erdogan's critics rebuked him for the air strike, the prime minister defended himself in his own way, saying: "You always talk about Uludere. Every abortion is like an Uludere." But many would argue that one aborted fetus can not be compared to 34 dead Kurds.
Posted on 06/19/2012 12:42 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Awad Family Offers Contradictory Stories About Death of Family Patriarch
The tragic death of Elias Awad on May 24, 1948 was a central event in the life of the Awads, a prominent family of Palestinian Christians from the West Bank who advocate for the Palestinian cause.
Elias' death, which took place during Israel's War of Independence, was a huge tragedy for his wife, Huda, and his seven children. After Elias' death, Huda was forced to send her children to orphanages and boarding schools in the region. This tragedy remains a narrative centerpiece of the Awad family history decades after his death. Family members, who are pillars of Christian pro-Palestinian activism regularly invoke the story to give their family's work legitimacy and credibility.
In recounting the story, the Awads have told starkly conflicting stories surrounding the death of their patriarch, Elias.
Alex Awad's Long Version
In his book Palestinian Memories: The Story of a Palestinian Mother and Her People, first published in 2008 and reprinted in 2012, Rev. Alex Awad, a Baptist minister affiliated with the United Methodist Church, tells the story as follows:
On May 24, 1948 my father, noticing that there had been much less shooting the previous two days, decided to step outside the shelter [in Musrara, a neighborhood near the Old City of Jerusalem] to see if it was safe and if the war was over. Mother escorted him as he went out, but saw that he had forgotten to put on his Red Cross armband which identified him as a hospital worker and a non-combatant. Mother looked behind her and realized that Nicola [a sister] was following behind them so she called Nicola to fetch Dad's armband. When Nicola returned with the armband he saw Dad on the ground and mother screaming over him, placing her hand on his head where he was wounded. Mother yelled to Nicola to get help and [she] returned immediately with some men who carried the body inside the shelter. Mother desperately tried to perform first aid to revive Elias. But it was already too late, her husband was dead. Dad was hit in the head with a bullet and killed instantly. (Page 39)
On page 47, Rev. Awad describes Huda speaking with an Jordanian official who asked her who killed her husband:
At that time Huda was uncertain. So she simply said, “I don't know. “Did the Jews kill him?” He asked. “I don't know,” she said. “Did the Iraqi soldiers kill him?” “I don't know,” she said again. “Finally the officer asked, “Did the Jordanian troops kill him?” “I'm not sure,” she said. The officer put his hand into his desk drawer and took out fifty Jordanian dinars. “Take this to compensate you your loss.” Huda started at the fifty dinars (at that time of equivalent to an employee salary for a year) but could not bring herself to take the money.
Eventually, after getting advice from a family friend, Huda did accept the money. Alex Awad continues:
Who killed Father remains a mystery to the family. Nicola believes that the direction from which the bullet was fired and the type of bullet that took his life were evidence that the Zionist troops had killed him. The bullet aimed at Elias was fired from a Hagana fighter who was stationed near the Notre Dame de France compound, the church which is directly across Jerusalem's New Gate.
Mother was never ready or willing to discuss our father's death with us. She refused to point a finger of blame on anyone. She wanted to shield her children not only from hunger and poverty, but also from the spirit of hate and revenge.
Another Awad brother, Bishara has also stated that the identity of the person who killed Elias is a mystery. In 2003, a blogger reported that “[Bishara] does not know to this day whether an Israeli or Arab soldier triggered the weapon.”
Alex Awad's Short Version
More recently, Rev. Alex Awad told a much briefer version. In a narrative included in a report recently published by the Monitoring Group of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Awad wrote: “My father, who was a civilian was shot and killed in crossfire between the Hagana militia fighters and the Jordanian army.”
This version differs from the narrative recounted above in two crucial ways.
First, Alex states as fact that his father was killed by the Hagana even though in his book, he writes that “Who killed Father remains a mystery to the family.”
Secondly, Alex Awad writes of “crossfire” between both the Israelis and the Jordanians. In the story recounted in Awad's book there is no crossfire mentioned. In fact, the shooting has apparently subsided so much that Elias thought the war had come to an end.
Here we have two different versions of the story coming from the same source – Rev. Alex Awad.
Which one is accurate?
Sami Awad's Version
More troubling discrepancies appear in the version of events provided by Sami Awad, founder and director of The Holy Land Trust, a pro-Palestinian organization headquartered in Bethlehem and organizer of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conferences that took place in 2010 and 2012. Sami recounted the story of Elias' death at the National Leadership Conference for the Vineyard Church held in Galveston, Texas.
During his presentation in which he was interviewed by Vineyard Pastor Rich Nathan, Sami gave the following account of his grandfather's death:
In the war in 1948, that neighborhood was right in the middle of a battlefield between the Israeli forces on one side and the Arab forces on the other. My grandfather wanting to protect his family and save it, had only one choice – to make it clear that there were unarmed civilians living in this home and the way he did it was by trying and succeeding in raising a white flag and putting it on top of the roof.
But as he put the white flag on top of the roof, he was shot by a sniper bullet from the Israeli side and it killed him. In his death he was able to save the whole family. (This story can be heard at about 14:30 into the audio.)
On a symbolic level, the story is very powerful. Elias Awad climbs to the roof of his home, located outside of Jerusalem, to proclaim his peaceful intentions during a time of conflict – in the Holy Land, no less – and is killed, probably by a Jewish soldier.
It is important to note that Sami Awad does not explicitly state who killed his grandfather, but the implication is clear that it was a Jew who was responsible for Elias' death.
Sami's implication was turned into a straight out assertion of fact in this blog entry by a Vineyard Pastor attending the conference, who summarized Sami Awad's talk as follows: “[Sami Awad] shared much of his story which goes back to the death of his grandfather at the hands of an Israeli sniper, while trying to raise a white flag over his home to protect his family, during the war of 1948.”
There are some troubling discrepancies between the version offered by Sami, and the longer version offered his uncle Alex about the tragic death of Elias Awad. Alex states explicitly that there is a mystery surrounding the identity of the person who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed his father and reports that while Nicola believes a Zionist is responsible for her father's death, a Jordanian official compensates the family for his death.
Sami acknowledges none of the uncertainty, but merely implicates the Israelis and leaves it at that.
Sami provides two other details that are not in Alex's version of events. He says that at the time of his death, Elias was (1) climbing atop a roof (2) to plant a white flag. With these details, Sami's version portrays Israel in a much harsher light than the long version presented by his uncle Alex. It is one thing to shoot someone, a potential enemy, a time of war; it is entirely another matter to shoot someone carrying a white flag and planting it atop his home.
Given the discrepancies between the different versions, it seems reasonable to ask if Sami Awad put some “spin” on the story to portray Israel in a harsher light for his audience in Gavelston.
This is a reasonable question because there is another problem with Sami's 2009 appearance at the Vineyard Leadership Conference. During his talk, Awad the audience “Bethlehem now is completely surrounded actually by walls and fences.” This is a complete and utter falsehood.
Why would Sami Awad, who founded and leads the Holy Land Trust, which is headquartered in the city of Bethlehem, repeat this falsehood? It is not as if he is ignorant of the barrier's actual route.
He works in the city.
Most of his audience in Galveston, however, has never been in the city and would rely on his testimony about the barrier. Consequently, most reasonable people would conclude that Sami's inaccurate depiction of the barrier “completely” surrounding Bethlehem is a bit of dishonest propaganda intended to cast Israel in a harsh light.
Sami is not the only member of the Awad family to traffic in this falsehood. His father, Bishara, who serves as president of the Bethlehem Bible College, offered the same falsehood in a fund-raising video for the Bethlehem Bible College a few years ago. And Alex, has falsely mischaracterized the First Intifada as non-violent and has used a fake Ben-Gurion quote in presentations about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
First published at CAMERA
Posted on 06/19/2012 7:14 PM by Dexter Van Zile