These are all the Blogs posted on Tuesday, 22, 2013.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Terror in North Africa: are Westerners pulling the strings?
From the Independent; English-speaking jihadis seen in Mali, as a Canadian is reported to have co-ordinated Algeria attack
Canada is investigating an allegation by the Algerian Prime Minister that one of its citizens co-ordinated the terror raid at the Saharan gas plant in which dozens of hostages were killed. Westerners, including a man with blond hair and blue eyes, are believed to have been among the Islamist militants who launched last week’s attack on the Tigantourine complex near Algeria’s border with Libya.
A French jihadist, previously unknown to authorities, and two Canadians are suspected to have been involved in the hostage-taking, and reports also claim that a man with a Western accent was among the extremists who lured terrified gas workers from their rooms during the hostage crisis.
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal told reporters that a man, judged “by his English accent” to have been Canadian, was among the 32 Islamists whose raid on the Algerian refinery prompted a global crisis. One of the Canadians, identified only as “Shaddad”, is alleged to have played a leading role in the attack . . . “A Canadian was among the militants,” Mr Sellal said. “He was co-ordinating the attack.”
The militant group also included men from Tunisia, Egypt, Mauritania and Niger, Mr Sellal said. At least 29 Islamists from eight nationalities were killed in the operation to end the siege, with the remaining three captured alive. The make up of the attacking group – an al-Qa’ida splinter brigade who call themselves “Those Who Signed in Blood” - will be carefully examined as security experts try to assess the scale of the terror threat across North and West Africa.
Concern at the international composition of the Algerian kidnap brigade will be compounded by reports from residents in Diabaly, Mali, that Islamists who overran the town last week contained English-speakers and militants of European appearance. Speaking to The Independent yesterday after French and Malian forces had retaken the town, student Amadu Dumbia said: “I definitely heard them and there’s no chance that I made a mistake with another language. They spoke like they were from England, but had darker skins.”
The Algerian authorities have declined to confirm whether the alleged Canadian co-ordinator was among the 29 militants who died.
One of the hostage takers was a North American who took part in the killing of numerous Japanese workers, the AFP agency reported. An Algerian employee of a Japanese engineering firm working at the site, identified as Riad said the Islamist attackers shot three Japanese who were in a bus, then went straight to the rooms occupied by the Japanese.
“One terrorist shouted ‘Open the door’ with a North American accent, then fired,” he told AFP. “Two other Japanese died and we found four other Japanese bodies inside the base.”
One of the kidnappers was tall, blond with blue or green eyes and spoke English, an Algerian military source told the Norwegian daily Aftenposten. Norway’s Statoil energy company was one of the two foreign firms operating at the gas complex.
I do believe that these witnesses are able to distinguish accents of a foreign tongue accurately. During a brief stay in Cairo in the 80s I was identified several times by Egyptians as not just English but a Londoner. The old man who guided inside the Great Pyramid not only identified my accent but distinguished it from the party of lively Australian girls who were next in line. He said he learn his English and the different accents of English guiding British and Commonwealth troops on leave during the North Africa Campaign. I didn't ask him how his German was.
What Happens In Yemen Threatens Saudi Arabia -- Let Saudi Arabia Pay
Here's one more of those stories about an Arab or a Muslim country that needs another billion or so, or more. It could be Libya, where the cost of NATO's five thousand sorties was borne by -- NATO, with no payback from Libya save arms that are now wandering all over North Africa and even sub-Saharan Africa. It could be Egypt, whose Muslim Brotherhood ruler wants to keep the American billions, and especially the billions in military aid from America, flowing in. It could be the "Palestine Authority," that lives almost entirely on aid, and almost all of that aid, until this year, came from North America and Western Europe. It could be the governments of Turkey and Jordan who want Western aid to pay for those Muslim refugees in Muslim countries. It could be Afghanistan, whose corrupt rulers want that American aid -- hundreds of billions of dollars from America have already been spent in that hopelessly tribal, violent, meretricious place -- to keep coming, so they can keep pocketing it, for as long as possible. And it's the same with violent, meretricious, not quite-as-tribal Pakistan, whose sole reason for being is Islam and Jihad. It could be Iraq, which keeps developing its oil fields, and has tens of billions already flowing in, but has angrily rejected the very idea of payiing back even a cent to the American government, as one California congressman mildly suggested, for a tiny bit of the two trillion dollars spent to bring "freedom" to Iraqis and "rebuild" -- that is, build -- their country.
In this case the country is godforsaken Yemen. Another day, another goddam demand or plea or something for aid, which always ends up being American or Canadian or European or Japanese aid, when the fantastically rich fellow Muslims of the Gulf, getting every day, almost every hour, enough to supply that aid, either promise a ludicrously tiny amount (which amount is hardly ever actually sent - it's only the Western donor governments that actually honor their commitments).
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – U.N. agencies and other aid organizations are appealing for $716 million in donations to help Yemen deal with ...
Look, Yemen -- the Yemenis -- threaten Saudi Arabia's stability. Let Saudi Arabia, with its trillions, pay for Yemen. If it wishes. And if it doesn't, apparently the crisis in Yemen is not such a crisis after all.
Let the Umma -- the Community of Muslims -- pay for itself. Let the rich Arabs pay, or not pay as they see fit, for fellow members of the Umma. The continuation of Western, that is non-Muslim aid, for Muslims, even as Muslims have caused, through their violent and other forms of Jihad, huge new security expenses and never-ending worries in the entire West, makes no sense.
Can't our rulers start making even a modicum of sense? Can't they try to save, after the trillions that have been squandered so idiotically in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and in aid to Egypt, Jordan, the "Palestinians," and to Libya (with those sorties), and to Yemen, and to... oh, god, you fill up the page. I'm sick of it.
Lance Armstrong and James Savile have something in common, namely than both took advantage of the habitual sentimentality of the Anglo-Saxon public, the first to cheat his way to a large fortune and the second to obscure his sexual predation.
Armstrong was a man who overcame cancer to continue his lucrative athletic career, using some of the proceeds to set up a charity to help victims of cancer; Savile used his fame to raise money for hospitals such as St James in Leeds and Stoke Mandeville Hospital for spinal injuries. How could a man who helped cancer victims or who was the friend of paraplegics be anything other than good? We repeatedly forget that some of the worst dictators genuinely loved their dogs.
All is not lost for Armstrong, despite his assertion that being banned for life from competing in international sporting competitions is ‘a death sentence.’ Having read some of the transcription of his partial conviction on television, I am convinced that a glorious new career beckons him.
For example, when asked whether he was frightened of being caught, he replied:
My ruthless desire to win at all costs served me well on the bike but the level it went to, for whatever reason, is a flaw.
Or again, when asked whether he was a bully:
I was a bully in the sense that I tried to control the narrative.
Or yet again when asked whether a woman called Betsy Andreu had told the truth in claiming that he had confessed to a doctor that he was taking forbidden performance-enhancing drugs:
I’m not going to take that on. I’m laying down on that one. I’m going to put that one down. She asked me, and I asked her not to talk about it.
It is obvious from these answers that the man is a natural and talented speaker of managerialese. He should at once apply for a senior position in the NHS, for example on the Care Quality Commission. His ability to distance himself from his own thoughts and decisions by turning them semantically into an impersonal force – ‘The level it [that is to say, his ambition] went to’ – and his ability to transform a plain refusal to answer into a smokescreen of verbiage are precisely the skills most desperately needed in the NHS, and no doubt in the rest of the British public administration. He should emigrate to Britain, where a second career awaits him.
BEIRUT — It was on a bus ride home from college that Ahmed lost his faith in the Syrian revolution.
The trip was long, about 400 miles across the desert from Damascus. As Ahmed swayed in his seat next to another man, the bus slowed and then stopped. Ahmed looked out the window. There were about 50 black-clad militiamen at a checkpoint, rebel fighters whose cause he had passionately supported.
Several entered the bus, gripping their rifles. They told the women on board, some without head coverings, to hide their faces. They told the men to take out their IDs and fold their hands behind their heads.
"We won't joke about this anymore," one warned. "This time, it's not a problem, but next time, women should cover their hair and behave like good Muslims."
Until that moment, Ahmed, a journalism student at Damascus University, had believed in the revolution. But as he watched the rebel soldiers, he saw his dreams of a democratic Syria being hijacked by extremists.
For Ahmed, at least for now, the revolution was over.
Many Syrian young people have followed a similar path in recent months. Excitement about the uprising that began in the spring of 2011 has turned to skepticism and fear as violence has grown and opposition militias, some funded by foreign extremists, have become increasingly influenced by Islamic fundamentalism.
As much as they may hate the violent, repressive regime of President Bashar Assad, these young people — largely educated and middle class — are horrified by the opposition's alliances with radical groups such as Al Nusra Front, which has ties to Al Qaeda.
They, along with many of their elders among Syria's educated urban class, feel caught between two unacceptable extremes. The opposition movement once offered hope of a more democratic future. Now, in much the same way that many "Arab Spring" sympathizers in Egypt feel betrayed by their revolution, many Syrians worry that they could be trading one repressive regime for another.
"We won't be with the regime, but neither are we with the opposition," said Ahmed. Like other Syrians in this article, he was interviewed from Damascus, the capital, through an Internet audio connection and asked not to be identified by his last name for fear of retribution.
"People like me are still here," he said, "but who listens to the voice of reason when guns are shooting all the time?"
Many Syrians still support the uprising, and some welcome the shift toward religious fundamentalism. Activists close to the opposition's umbrella military group, the Free Syrian Army, reject the notion that the population is losing faith in the revolution.
"The regime kills more people, so the people support the FSA," activist spokesman Abu Hamza said by phone from Dariya, a contested Damascus suburb.
Weapons looted from Libya were among the arms that Islamist terrorists used in their attack at an Algerian gas facility, according to Algerian officials and weapons experts examining evidence in the aftermath of the hostage crisis.
The four-day siege at the remote natural-gas complex in Algeria's southern desert showed how resurgent al Qaeda-linked militants can use limited amounts of conventional arms to wreak havoc across North Africa
Algerian officials said that some of the assault rifles and hand-held rocket launchers used in the assault likely came from Libyan weapons caches amassed by Moammar Gadhafi before his fall. Those stockpiles were looted by Libyan militias and arms traffickers in the chaos that followed his overthrow in 2011.
The officials, speaking to Algerian media, didn't provide specifics as to their deductions. However, two weapons experts with knowledge of the Gadhafi-era arsenals said that assault rifles shown on Algerian state television as belonging to the militant cell were likely the same variation of Kalashnikov assault rifle used by Gadhafi's special forces.
Belgian-made antitank land mines recovered from the militants by the Algerian forces appear to match the same model of mine found in Gadhafi's military stockpiles, according to these experts, who studied the displays of weaponry assembled by Algerian forces and broadcast on Algerian TV on Monday.
The antitank mines aren't common in the arsenals of any other North African government, the experts said.
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Monday that the militants used C5 missile launchers to attack the oil facility, which is near the Libyan border. Such C5s were used by Libyan rebels, who mounted them on the backs of pickup trucks, according to French and Algerian military experts.
While Libya has managed to transform itself into a faltering democracy in the wake of its revolution, it has also become an "ammunition supermarket" feeding the al Qaeda-linked militants who reside in the lawless North African deserts linking Libya, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Mali, according to Max Dyck, the head of the United Nations Mine Action Program in Libya.
Algerian officials have long complained that the hundreds of miles of largely unguarded border with Libya have been rife with arms traffickers and criminal smugglers since the fall of Gadhafi.
The new Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan declared the border a closed military zone in December 2012, in efforts to stanch the flow of weapons. This month he met with his Algerian counterpart to work on a strategy of stepped-up border surveillance.
A senior Obama administration official called the outflow of fighters and weapons from Libya the game changer that empowered rebels in Mali and "tipped the balance" there. Officials said the U.S. could do little to stop the passage of arms and fighters crisscrossing porous borders en route to Mali's north.
Algerian officials blamed the attack there on Mali-based terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar and his militia, al Mouthalimin, or Those Who Sign with Blood, the group that claimed responsibility for the attack.
The group is an affiliate of al Qaeda in the Maghreb, which is now fighting French and African forces in Mali. Mr. Belmokhtar and AQIM have filled their arsenals with weapons pillaged from Libya, residents of the region and State Department officials said.
By November 2011, members of AQIM were boasting to African journalists that weapons from Libya would give them an advantage in their insurgencies. "It's totally natural we benefited from Libyan arms in such conditions," Mr. Belmokhtar told a Mauritanian newspaper in 2011.
A tip of the hat to Fjordman who brought this Deutsche Welle article on thet remnant of less than 1,500 Tunisia's Jews facing the Arab winter in North Africa. Tunisia's Jews have lived in the country before the onset of Christianity and Islam. Last January, a Ynet.com article quoted a few Tunisian Jews putting on a brave face defying calls from Israel's Vice Premier Silvan Shalom entreating them to make aliyah to safety in Israel:
Me, I'm a Tunisian Jew," said Atun Khalifa, a senior figure in the community. "I know my country well and I'm against the proposition to leave because no-one here is afraid. I don't tell him (Shalom) where to go!"
Now with the Islamist Ennahda party in control, we wonder if those Tunisian Jews still harbor the same defiance about making aliyah to the 'freest country in the Middle East', according to the annual Freedom in the World report of Freedom House. The vast bulk of Tunisian Jews who once numbered 110,000 emigrated to Europe and Israel following the June 1967 Six Days of War. The Grand synagogue in Tunis, built in 1938, now stands empty. Most of Tunisia's remaining Jews live on the Island of Djerba, the scene of a devastating attack at the ancient El Ghriba synagogue that killed 21 tourists, among them 14 Germans and Four French, in April 2002, the first al Qaida action in North Africa after 9/11.
Jews lived in North Africa before the arrival of Christianity or Islam. On the eve of Tunisia's independence from France, there were more than 100,000 of them in the country. Half a century later, as few as 1,500 remain.
Two years ago, Tunisians took to the streets and overthrew President Ben Ali, triggering the protests across the Arab world that became known as the Arab Spring. The revolution promised freedom and democracy. That same freedom has also brought instability however, and Tunisia's minority Jewish population is vulnerable.
Jamel Bettaieb comes from Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution. The young language teacher and activist was at the heart of the protests that led to the downfall of the Tunisian president and triggered the Arab Spring. Bettaieb is now concerned that freedom of speech is providing a platform for extremists to voice hate campaigns against Tunisia's Jews.
"In the last few months an imam went on television and spent an hour speaking negatively about the Jews. Where was the reaction of the government? There was nothing. I criticize society. Civil society should say this is unacceptable. People should care," said Bettaieb.
Rise of Islamist politics
Under President Ben Ali, Islamists were arrested and political parties banned. Now, however, the country is experiencing a religious revival. Tunisians chose the moderate Islamist party, Ennahda, to lead their first democratically elected government after the revolution.
Ennahda's leadership has promised to protect Tunisia's Jewish community but many grassroots supporters are hostile to the Jews. The country's growing ultra-conservative Salafist movement are thought to number 10,000. Eyewitnesses say the group has been chanting anti-Jewish slogans at protests in Tunis, the Tunisian capital.
The Great Synagogue of Tunis, built in 1938, now stands basically empty
Salafists have a strict interpretation of the Koran and believe in creating an Islamic state governed by sharia law. Thousands of Salafists who had been imprisoned by Ben Ali were released after the revolution. Many in the Jewish community quietly admit that they felt safer under Ben Ali. "Now we live in fear of the Salafists," one woman told DW.
For the moment, much of the anti-Semitism has remained rhetoric. But the potential for violence remains very real. Tunis' central synagogue on Liberty Avenue is surrounded by barbed wire and protected by armed soldiers. Built in the 1930s, the synagogue stands as a symbol of the community's confidence. Today, only a shadow of that thriving community lives on.
A tiny community remains
In a hall backing onto the synagogue, a gathering of Jews celebrate a rare occasion: a bar mitzvah. The celebration marks the coming of age of a Jewish boy. Tunisian Jews have travelled from France and the Tunisian island of Djerba, home to the country's largest Jewish community, to take part in what has now become a rare celebration in the capital. There are only a small number of young Jews among the guests. Even their parents' generation is scarce. The Jewish community is ageing.
Roland Sa'adon is the cantor, or singer of prayers, at a synagogue in La Goulette, a seaside suburb of Tunis. He has spent all his life in Tunisia and wants to remain in the country of his birth. Like many Jews here, his children live abroad, and soon he will be forced to leave Tunisia to be with his family.
Since the revolution, Sa'adon has come to believe that the future of the Jewish community is at risk. "The Islamists have taken over the revolution, a revolution that was led by young people," he told DW. "If the Salafists win support then it will be difficult - not just for us, but for many Muslims as well. I don't think most Tunisians are extremists, but if they are and that's what they choose, then there will be no place for us in Tunisia."
A small group of Jews celebrate a bar mitzvah in central Tunis
One of the few younger guests at the bar mitzvah, Isaac Hayoun, says that while he feels safe in Tunisia, he too will leave. “I am practically the only young practising Jewish teenager in the capital," he told DW. "After high school I will move to France."
He adds, that if he wants to marry a Jewish woman, he is very unlikely to find one in Tunisia. "It's a shame because it's a beautiful country, but ours is a community that lives in the past.”
Jews have been gradually leaving the country since its independence in 1956. Many moved to France and Israel. Some left for financial reasons; there were more opportunities abroad. Others left after the rise in anti-Semitism that followed Israel's conflicts with the Arab world.
Remembering Jewish history
Habib Kazdaghli is a professor of contemporary history at the University of Tunis who specializes in Jewish history. It is important that all Tunisians learn about the country's Jewish community, he says.
"Our country lost part of itself. We must now teach students about our past. I now have many students who are not Jews," he explains. "It is not a Jewish past, it is a Tunisian past."
Seeking to preserve that past, a new museum and website called Dar El Dhekra (meaning "House of Memory") has been founded. It's dedicated solely to Jewish history and culture in Tunisia. For the moment at least, this tiny community appears to be hanging on to see what post-revolution Tunisia has in store for them.
Hillary Clinton has returned to work. And her faithful staff gave her a football helmet (obliquely commenting on the need to cushion her head) and a football jersey, with the number 112 on it.
Here was the scene:
"Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides handed Clinton a box, saying, "As you know, Washington is a contact sport."
"Inside was a football helmet with a State Department seal, lots of good padding and also a football jersey that said Clinton on the back and on the front it says #112 which symbolizes the number of countries she visited as secretary of state," Nuland said.
"She loved it. She thought it was cool. But then being Hillary Clinton she wanted to get right to business."
All of this frantic plane-taking, these airport greetings, the trip to the hotel, the talk with local bigshots -- it wears one down, and it also gives the allusion that one is exempt from the kind of study of a place that matters. How much, after all, can a Western diplomat learn about what is going on in the minds of his Muslim interlocutors in Saudi Arabia, or Qatar, or Libya, or Iraq, or Syria, or three or four dozen other places, by meeting them? Wouldn't it be much better to spend time studying what is in the minds of such people, by learning something, anything, about the texts and tenets of islam, and the atmospherics of Muslim lands, and the attitudes to which those texts and tenets naturally give rise?
What is to be learned by shaking hands with this or that Pakistani general or zamindar, or even engaging in an hour, or three hours, of deep "and sincere" exchanges of views? It obscures, in most cases, reality, for the blague and nonsense they offer has to be listened to politely, and in some cases it may even be taken seriously.
In 19th century Great Britain, the man who dealt most successfully (and forcefully) with foreign lands was Palmerston. And Palmerston never left England. But he read, he studied, he could not be bamboozled. American officials have been letting themselves be bamboozled, especially by Muslim leaders, for decades now. They might better study --that is read, and then think about what they have read, and allow it to sink in, allow it to fully sink in, right at home. There's entirely too much frantic to-ing and fro-ing by all sorts of bigshots. The habit of reading, the lamplit perlustration, not all these bullet-riddled executive summaries presented to the boss for her exhausted reading as she sits on some airplane, travelling from one area of ignorance to another.
Noisy Jubilation, Or Brooke Critchley High And Dry
From To Be A Printer by Brooke Critchley, recalling what was imbued at his public school, Shrewsbury:
"Indeed, ostentation or any display of pride was taboo; if you had carried off a form prize or scored a century in a house match, you must behave as though nothing had happened. And you must on no account show any signs of emotion, not even if your mother had died. The natural feelings stifled in these ways could be released in organised games, either by participation or vociferous support from the touch-line, or in collective demonstrations. For instance, the house's winning of a cup would be celebrated by 'hall cheering'; for exactly two minutes the boys assembled in hall would make as much noise as yelling voices, stamping of feet and slapping of the table could produce. Old boys captured in the Zulu wars, their last minutes an occasion for noisy jubilation, must have had a curious experience of déjà vu."
VIDEO: Homophobic Muslim vigilante footage shot in East London
This video emerged shortly after this one. The target this time is not a young man drinking beer or a woman wearing a skirt above her knee but a man who apparently " looks like a fag". And not just any common or garden 'fag' - a 'dirty' one.
The local paper the East London Advertiser is aware of the 'Muslim Patrol', but we have heard nothing about how the police investigation is proceeding.
Another shocking video of self-styled Muslim vigilantes shouting homophobic abuse at a man on the streets of East London has surfaced online, attracting condemnation from gay rights charity Stonewall. (Pink News is ignoring it however - wasting column inches instead on Peter Tachell's desire that the age of consent be lowered to 14 years.)
The footage, thought to be taken in Commercial Street, Whitechapel, shows members of a ‘Muslim patrol’ harassing a man who appears to be wearing make-up, calling him a “bloody fag”.
In a similar video to one posted online last week, the passer-by is told he is “walking through a Muslim area dressed like a fag”. “What’s wrong with your face?” they ask. “You need to get out of here, mate.”
The man is approached while walking through a dark street, and remonstrates with his harassers. “Why are you bothering me?” he asks. “Who do you think you are, seriously?”
After a similar video was posted online last week, the police announced they would be investigating the patrols further, and increasing their presence in areas affected. “We have also been speaking to local community leaders and influential people, local businesses and the local authority about the issue and what is being done, and can be done, to address it,” a spokesperson added.
The East London Mosque has already publicly condemned the patrols.
Police are appealing for anyone with further information to contact them on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
I have since heard that before the piece of footage uploaded the young gay man was actually assaulted. I hope he goes to the police.
Muslim community condemns East End vigilante patrols
The reaction one would expect. At least by condeming it, albeit as an interference to the slow jihad of da'wa and sharia creep they are acknowledging it as a Muslim action and not, as I have seen alleged on Facebook, a far right undercover lie to discredit Muslims. As fast as Mohammed Hasnath was being convicted for putting up Gay Free Zone stickers and painting black burqas on swimsuit models some lefties (Stella Creasey, MP for Walthamstow was one such) still insist that it was all the fault of the 'far right'. From the East London Advertiser (again)
The East London Mosque was quick to issue a statement distancing itself from the actions of what it describes as a “tiny minority” who filmed themselves harassing passers-by under cover of darkness. Local Imams have also used sermons to condemn the actions of the patrol, which has been filmed pouring away people’s alcoholic drinks and hurling homophobic abuse.
Imam Shyakh Shams Ad-Duha, a principle at Islamic education centre Ebrahim College in Whitechapel, used a sermon last week - which was later uploaded to Youtube - to tackle the issue.
“I want to address very specifically and directly something we’ve all seen on social media”, he said. “What these brothers need to understand is they will be accountable before Allah for doing these things, for damaging the image of Islam, and for misrepresenting the Sharia.
“These people must have thought ‘what in the world is going on here’. Some bloke comes up and goes ‘this is a Muslim area, you can’t drink’. I can’t even imagine – the guy’s completely stunned. What are the chances that this guy is gonna want to have anything to do with Islam in the future? That’s his chances of ever being interested in Islam, gone.”
The East London Mosque has also acted promptly to distance itself from the group’s actions.
A statement released last week read "Earlier this week we contacted the Police and the local authorities to alert them to the presence of these individuals and video. We advise anyone who has been harassed by these individuals to contact the Police.”
And now for something completely different. How to promote the Year of Natural Scotland using some of those things for which the Shetland Isles are noted. Things like sheep, Fair Isle knitting, the Shetland pony . . .
Jo Tonkinson, co-owner of Thordale Shetland Driving Centre, which provided the ponies, said: ‘It was quite simple – we sent the ponies’ measurements to the knitter, who sent back two jumpers. We just had to put their two front legs in and they buttoned under the stomach. It was perhaps an odd request, to get the ponies in Fair Isle, and a bit silly, but they were perfectly happy. Hopefully these pictures will make people smile.’
The jumpers were made by Shetland designer Doreen Brown – a little longer in length and shorter in the arm than she is used to. They are hand-knitted using wool from native Shetland sheep.
The ponies, named Fivla of Finnister and Millhouse Vitamin . . . got their jumpers rather a lot more muddy and had to take them off for washing. Fivla and Millhouse are used to wearing harnesses so were completely comfortable in their new clothes.
The international media often stands accused of ignoring Palestinian incitement against Israel and the Jewish people, and rightly so. For example, there was no reportage of Abbas praising Nazi propagandist and collaborator Hajj Amin al-Husseini.
Similarly, the international media ignores the many good news stories from Israel, including those that demonstrate good will toward the Arab-Palestinian populace because it does not fit the narrative of a bullying state causing great harm to hapless victims. Despite the fact that Gaza features substantially in the news, few are aware that Israel has provided assistance to Gazan populace in numerous ways, and attempts to maintain its utilities despite a belligerent group ruling the territory. Here is a report of another Israeli initiative to help Gaza’s farmers.
Dozens of farmers from the Gaza Strip have taken part in an agricultural exhibition organised by the Israeli agriculture ministry. Israel's coordinator for government activities in the Palestinian Territories invited the farmers to learn about innovative agricultural production methods and new fruits and vegetables developed in Israel.
Gazan farmer Ramadan Abu Naja:
"We came here to learn about Israeli agriculture, to see if they have new types of produce. We will take some of the types of produce that we like back with us into Gaza. We are here to see the differences between our agriculture and the agriculture in Israel."
This wasn't the first time Gaza farmers have visited Israel since "Operation Pillar Defence", Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip aiming to put a stop to Hamas rocket fire on Israeli civilians which ended last November, and Israeli farmers expressed their desire to see cooperation continue.
Israeli farmer Ada Cohen:
"Everyone needs help, we are all human beings, leave all wars behind, we will always stick to the peace and support peace."
The exhibition visit comes at the peak of the agricultural export season when Gaza farmers are harvesting strawberries, peppers and spices, which are shipped to the Israeli and European markets.
Interesting that the Belfast Telegraph, the Northern Echo and (to their credit, at last) Pink News have news of these arrests before any of the London papers, and not long after the London papers finally take an interest in the Muslim vigilantes.
Two men have been arrested by police investigating reports a gang claiming to be Islamic vigilantes have been confronting people in the street demanding they throw away alcohol and cover their bare skin. It has been reported that another video shows the group shouting homophobic abuse at a man and tell him "get out of here you fag... don't stay around here any more".
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Officers investigating a series of incidents that took place over the course of the weekend of 12/13 January in east London, whereby a small group of individuals were seen to approach and harass members of the public at various locations, have arrested two men. Videos of the incidents were uploaded onto YouTube."
A 22-year-old man was arrested in Acton, west London on Sunday, and a 19-year-old man was arrested on Monday after going to an east London police station.
The pair were arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and public order offences and were bailed to return to an east London police station in February and March pending further inquiries.