Saturday, June 26, 2010

Turkey’s Two-Faced Aid For Gaza - Forbes

It looks like that Gaza is only an interesting topic for Turkish internal politics. In fact, it looks like that Turkey doesn't give a dime about the suffering of the people in Gaza, under siege by Hamas:

From Forbes:

From the fury with which Turkey’s leaders are demanding carte blanche access for aid to Gaza, you might suppose the Turkish government had exhausted every available route for pouring its own bounty into the Palestinian enclave. Think again. While Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan whips up passions about Israel stopping a blockade-busting “aid” flotilla, his own government has racked up a record as one of the cheapskates of Gaza relief.
United Nations records show that if Gaza has been lean on aid from Turkey in recent years, it’s not because Turkish relief donations have been blocked by the Israelis. It’s because Turkey, relative to its size as a rising economic power, and despite its claims of regional leadership, has been surprisingly stingy about sending aid via the already existing channels of the UN. Apparently, Turkey‘s leaders are glad to enlist the U.N. full force for punishing Israel and stripping Israel’s defenses against the Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists who control neighboring Gaza. But the Turks are far less interested in the U.N. when it comes to handing over Turkish goods and cash for U.N. aid efforts.
The chief U.N. agency in Gaza is the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA. Love or hate it–and I am no fan–UNRWA, according to its website, is “the main provider of basic services–education, health, relief and social services–to 4.7 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East.” Many of those Palestinians live in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. But Gaza is the core of this operation. UNRWA‘s headquarters are in Gaza, where 1.1 million Palestinians–the bulk of Gaza’s population–are registered on UNRWA’s refugee rolls and eligible for its services.
More herreeeee

Day Opening - June 26

Monkey business

Friday, June 25, 2010

Statement #39

A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

Day Opening - June 25

One day...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bollywood makes satire on Osama bin Laden

India's Bollywood cinema, known for its exuberant song-and-dance sequences and romantic plots, is to explore new territory with a satire on Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

The movie, "Tere bin Laden" (Without you, Laden), is a story set in Pakistan about a young reporter who seeks to migrate to the United States in search of fame and fortune.
The reporter, played by Pakistani actor-singer Ali Zafar, is denied entry and his visa rejected after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The farce follows a storyline in which the reporter makes a video with a bin Laden look-alike and becomes the centre of a major White House investigation.
"People want new concepts, not commercial films," director-writer Abhishek Sharma said.
Lead actor Zafar told the Press Trust of India news agency that "it is a satire and does not hurt anyone's ideology."
"The idea excited me and the script was hilarious," he said.
The Bollywood industry is struggling to shake off one of its worst box-office runs, and offbeat ideas are increasingly attracting producers who have been disenchanted formulaic love stories. A planned movie on Adolf Hitler has also caused controversy, with the lead actor pulling out of the project after protests from Jewish groups and condemnation from historians.
The small-budget "Tere bin Laden" is set for release next month.
I am just curious how many jihadists in neighboring Pakistan will like this movie.



Day Opening - June 24

Time for a cup of coffee, Amsterdam

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Funny Church Billboards

According to their Facebook page, St Matthew in the City is, “working to be a church Jesus would belong to without embarrassment: Inclusive, welcoming, compassionate and fearless.”

The progressive New Zealand church means it.
Just before Christmas 2009, the Auckland church posted an outdoor advertisement intended to lampoon literalism and get people thinking about the tenets of their faith, challenge stereotypes and and get people talking.
It worked.
The billboard is one of several of the progressive church’s humorous looks at religion. So, religion and humor can get together...

Day Opening - June 23

Where the streets have no name...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Anti-semitism and the Netherlands

Verbal and violent anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is probably greater today than it has been during any other time in the last four centuries except the Nazi occupation. And excessive Dutch tolerance has become an incentive for crime; due to the relatively high crime rate among the Dutch Moroccan community and international Arab anti-Semitic hate propaganda, Jews are above average targets for their racists' behavior. Easily recognizable Jews often try to hide their identity in public.

Immigration of large numbers of Muslims to The Netherlands over the past four decades has created major challenges for the Dutch Jewish community. These include, for instance, increased verbal and physical violence against Jews and the Jewish community, the need for greater security measures, a negative impact on the teaching of the Holocaust in Dutch schools, and changed attitudes on the part of the authorities and third parties toward the needs of the Jewish community.

During a major anti-Israel demonstration in April 2002 in Amsterdam, Israeli flags were burned by marching Muslims. Few Dutchmen if any would have thought then that in 2008, in a variety of Muslim countries, Dutch flags would be burned as a protest against the movie "Fitna" by Wilders.

Now the government is fed up with the growing antisemitism, mainly caused by the Dutch Moroccan youth and proposed a new method to counter aggression towards the Jewish community in the Netherlands: "Jewish decoys". In other words, law enforcers posing as members of the Jewish community in order to catch offenders red handed. A spokesperson for the City of Amsterdam says the method fits with the mayor's "aim to examine unorthodox approaches to stop violence involving discrimination".

In an editorial, a large Dutch newspaper speaks of "abhorrent violence" and a "climate of fear" in which "Jews in at least six Amsterdam neighbourhoods often cannot cross the street wearing a skullcap without being insulted, spat at or even attacked." It calls for the authorities to "take firm action" and argues that if there are problems gathering evidence, then the use of "Jewish decoys" should be considered.

On policy reports that the decoy method is becoming something of a trend: "over the past two years, decoy prostitutes, decoy gays and decoy grannies have all been pressed into service." The police in Gouda are particularly pleased with their decoy granny. A police spokeswoman states proudly "If we receive several reports of street robbery in a certain location, we send out the granny. That soon quietens things down."

There is also a lesson to be drawn for the autochthonous Dutch. If after 400 years of Jewish presence in The Netherlands, so many Dutch have such views about this small community, what is the likelihood that The Netherlands, within a foreseeable future, will integrate their ten percent of non-Western immigrants and their progeny? These people, who arrived at most a few decades ago, are much more remote from Dutch society than the Jews have been for a long time. Other important factors which can impede this integration include the unprecedented incitement of Muslims by Arab satellite television. Furthermore, radicals in the Muslim community are likely to cause frequent friction in The Netherlands. A sad situation.
In previous centuries the Jews played important roles in Dutch society. The Portuguese Jews did so in Dutch trade in the 17th century. In the 19th century the textile and diamond industries would not have flourished without the Jews. A number of the largest Dutch companies today were founded entirely or partially by Jews. Jews also played an important role in the inception of the trade unions. Nothing similar exists today.

However, the symbolic role of the Jews in The Netherlands is enormous. It is doubtful whether The Netherlands can do without them. It cannot be without Jews in the imaginary spheres, whether to reflect about the past and the Holocaust in society, as stereotypes which have become part of the Dutch language, as instruments for various purposes, or as sensors for the future. These roles have by now become embedded in Dutch culture. The Jews' symbolic role in The Netherlands is of great importance for the country.

Day Opening - June 22

That's relaxing...

Will Purple+ be the Dutch future?

The Dutch national elections resulted in a gap between left and right wing parties. Most of the Christian Democrat voters went to either the Liberals or to the Freedom Party (which name is a farce). Most of the Christian Democrat voters who voted for the Freedom party were from the southern provinces.

The queen decided to appoint an informer who had to investigate a coalition between the largest party, the Liberals, and the Freedom Party, which gained most extra seats in the parliament. Unfortunately this information round didn't work out, because the third potential coalition party, the Christian Democrats, refused to form a government together with Wilders (Freedom Party). Too bad, because now Wilders will be back in the opposition, which will result in more irrational babbling about Islamisation of The Netherlands and creating anti-Muslim sentiments among the brainless mass. I was sincerely hoping for a cabinet with Wilder c.s., so the illusion would collapse within a few months, just like what happened to the LPF in 2002 after a huge win. Now Wilders can profit of his free role to scream and shout whatever the ordinary man wants to hear. Let me be clear, it's a choice between two evils for me, but now the game of negotiation between the more settled political parties takes place.

Although... now the focus is on a so called Purple coalition. In the 90s there was also a combination of Liberals, Socialists and also the smaller Liberal Democrats. Now there's an extra party added, the Green Party. This is quite unique, because the Liberals and Greens are traditionally eachother's opposite. Hopefully durability and entrepreneurship will walk hand in hand, because it is really necessary in this world. If Purple Plus will become reality. And the other two partners of the negotiations? Well, the Socialist party, led by the verbally handicapped leader Cohen, and Liberal Democrats, led by prodigal son Alexander Pechtold seems minor. It is the role of the Greens that's decisive for a coalition that could work.

Conclusion? The Dutch political system is complicated, costing lots of time (since WW2 the total time of negiotiating has been about 6,5 years, based on 26 cabinets with an average time of 90 days!) and unstable cabinets.
Could this be a plea for a simplified two party system, like in the Anglo-Saxon countries? In my humble opinion we should give it a shot at least. It'll take two more cabinets to realise a constitutional change, so I'll have to be patient.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day Opening - June 21

Girl Praying Intently at Wailing Wall, Jerusalem Photo by Jenny White/Kamil Pasha

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What About Hamas's Siege of Gaza? (by Khaled Abu Toameh)

This article appeared in Hudson NY, a ThinkTank

As Israeli naval commandos raided the flotilla ship convoy that was on its way to the Gaza Strip, Hamas security officers stormed the offices of five non-governmental organizations, confiscated equipment and documents, and ordered them closed indefinitely.

Ever since it seized control over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, Hamas has imposed a reign of terror on the local population in general and its critics in particular. Hamas has brought nothing to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip other than death and disaster.
The raid on the NGOs in the Gaza Strip, which received little coverage in the media, is seen by many Palestinians as part of Hamas's ongoing crackdown on political opponents and human rights organizations.
Further, Hamas's recent decision to ban municipal elections in the Gaza Strip is yet another violation of one of the basic rights of its constituents.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Hamas's security forces for daring to speak out against the state of tyranny and intimidation in the Gaza Strip. Over the past three years, dozens of Fatah officials and members have either been thrown into prison or killed.
Under Hamas, the Gaza Strip is being transformed into a fundamentalist Islamic entity resembling the regimes of the Ayatollahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

While there is no ignoring the fact that Hamas originally came to power in a free and democratic election in January 2006, this does not give the movement the right to impose a social, intellectual, political and economic blockade on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Instead of searching for ways to improve the living conditions of the 1.5 million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, Hamas is busy enforcing strict Islamic rules on the population, such as Hamas policemen, for example, often stopping men and women who are seen together in public to inquire about the nature of their relationship.

Since the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006, more than 3,500 Palestinians have been killed, many of them during Operation Cast Lead which followed the firing of rockets at Israel.
The kidnapping of Schalit and the rocket attacks have made the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip pay a very heavy price.
If Hamas were really serious about ending the blockade on the Gaza Strip and helping the poor people living there, it would have accepted at least shown some pragmatism in dealing with the outside world.
Hamas could have, for instance, accepted the international community's demand to renounce terrorism and honor all previous agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel. Moreover, it could have allowed representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Schalit.

Hamas, however, is more interested in clinging to power than in serving its people; and in light of increased calls for lifting the blockade following the flotilla incident at sea, the movement's leaders in Syria and the Gaza Strip are now convinced that they are marching in the right direction.
The flotilla incident came at a time when Hamas appeared to be losing its popularity among Palestinians, largely due to the deteriorating economic situation in the Gaza Strip. It also came at a time when even some of Hamas's supporters were beginning to criticize the movement, especially over its decision to demolish scores of "illegal" houses in the southern Gaza Strip and the execution of criminals and "collaborators" with Israel.

It is one thing to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but it is another thing to help Hamas. Those who wish to deliver aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip can always find better and safer ways to do so - either through Israel or Egypt. But those who only seek confrontation with Israel in the sea are only emboldening Hamas and helping it tighten its grip on the people of Gaza Strip.

This piece is written by: Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.

He studied at Hebrew University and began his career as a reporter by working for a PLO-affiliated newspaper in Jerusalem.
Abu Toameh currently works for the international media, serving as the '€œeyes and ears' of foreign journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Abu Toameh's articles have appeared in numerous newspapers around the world, including The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report and The Sunday Times of London.
Since 2002 he has been writing on Palestinian affairs for The Jerusalem Post and has also been working as a producer and consultant for NBC News since 1989

Day Opening - June 20

Sandstone Symphony, by Marc Adamus

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Holland almost certain of last 16 - without our Bavaria Babes

The Netherlands is almost certain of qualification for the last 16 of the World Cup, after they beat Japan 1-0 in Durban today. The first group match against Denmark was overshadowed in terms of press coverage by the ambush marketing activities of a Dutch beer company (Bavaria and the BavariaBabes) and FIFA's overreaction of it..
Although Arjen Robben had declared himself fit to play, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, pressumably on the advice of his medical team, decided to put him on the bench against Japan. His time to shine in the World Cup will hopefully come later in the tournament. So we enjoyed the same starting eleven as our first game.

Japan coach Takeshi Okada was gushing in his praise for the Dutch prior to kickoff: "We will be playing against a wonderful team, which is one of the favourites for the title. We realise this is a sophisticated team but we believe we have a chance to win. We shouldn't feel small even though they have great name players in the team." The first half of the match can be summed up with the 'f' word – frustration! It soon became clear that Mr Okada had told his men to play a defensive game and prevent Ollanda from playing a normal game, in the hope of getting at least a draw. The Dutch had around 70 percent of the possession, and there were some neat passes, but every time they managed to get into the final third, they were crowded out by the Japanese. The few chances that the Japanese created were all from free kicks, but each time the ball floated high and wide over the crossbar and provided no threat to Stekelenburg’s goal.
The longer the first half went on, the more obvious it became that Ollanda needed either Elia or Robben, or both, to provide some width that would help them get behind the Japanese defenders. A Dutch goal would force the Japanese to adopt more positive tactics. From their point of view, the first half went just the way they had hoped it would. For the rest, it was a bore draw.
Fortunately for Ollanda and all the neutrals watching, the breakthrough came eight minutes after the re-start. A cross from the left wasn’t cleared properly by the Japanese, and Robin van Persie found Wesley Sneijder at the edge of the box. Sneijder hit a powerful shot, and the Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima put two hands out to push the ball away, but misjudged the flight of the the ball and it went beyond him into the net.
Coach Bert van Marwijk made the same two substitutions he had made in the first game, bringing on Elia for Van der Vaart about 20 minutes from the end, then Ibrahim Afellay for goalscorer Wesley Sneijder. The Japanese had a few short spells of pressure in the second half, but Ollanda weathered the storm. In the last minute of normal time, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar came on for Robin van Persie. Ibrahim Afellay could have scored twice in the closing minutes, but on both occasions he was denied by the onrushing Japanese keeper Kawashima.

So Ollanda have six points out of six in two opening matches, and are on the verge of qualification for the last 16. Like the first match against Denmark, this one will not live long in the memory, largely due to Japan’s negative tactics. But we have done enough, and will be much more relaxed in their next game than several of our near-neighbours in Europe who still have a lot of work to do. And we are not yet playing anywhere near their best! Even without Our Babes!
Ollanda Ole!!

Day Opening - June 19

Zurich, Switzerland

Friday, June 18, 2010

Erdogan looks East but Putin looks West

Putin was last week in Istanbul, attending the 3rd Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was there as well. And of course the host, Turkish PM Erdogan. The Turkish PM tried to use his street bully power to convince Putin not to vote in favor of the new resolutions imposed on Iran which the UN security council on that day would vote for. But Putin had other things on his mind; the Islamite threat within Russia and at his borders. And Russia voted along the other 4 permanent members of the UN Security Council together with Bosnia, Nigeria and Mexico. Only Turkey and Brazil, which wants to stand up against the USA - and show their happy independency - voted against. Be aware that Brazil has zero problems with the EU and zero problems with any other Latin American country while Turkey is really swamped in problems with neighboring countries. Brazil wanted to make a statement, that’s all. Turkey did do something different: it voted against its allies.

Back to Russia; there were already signals that Putin, who de facto is the leader of Russia, is looking to cooperate with the USA and the EU, not only for visa-free travel between EU and Russian citizens but also to ‘integrate Russia’s economy and culture with neighbors like the EU and China’ as Newsweek put it in their Cover story of 21 June 2010 so nicely.The USA is ready to push Russia into the WTO, where it wants to be a member of for a long time. Thanks to Obama policies, tides are turned. And Russia in the WTO will be the ultimate thaw!

What does this mean for Turkey, which is longing for other partners than the EU and the USA? There are not many left; China, India, the EU, USA, Russia, Indonesia, Mercasur countries…all are happy with the outcome of Turkey’s zero neighbor policies regarding the Arabs and one Persian country. And with Israel, they, Turkey, created an enemy which can act unpredictable. But Israel has the silent sympathy of most countries which are not ruled by and which interior is destroyed through despots and tyranny like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Pakistan etc.
Erdogan is maybe popular on some streets in the Arab world, he’s losing ground looking for help from the East e.g. Russia and China. And that he got moral support from a country as Pakistan, which lacks history, a soul, a national language and identity, only established because some Muslims didn’t wanted to be ruled by ‘non believers’ the Hindus, is worrisome.
Just buy Newsweek tomorrow...and make your own conclusion; Turkey wants to play chess while it doesn't know the rules of engagement, only of faith.

The Netherlands: the making of a new government (1)

The coalition talks between the pro-business liberal VVD, the anti-Islam Freedom Party and the Christian Democrats have failed before they even got started. The mediator Uri Rosenthal has informed Queen Beatrix that this combination seems impossible after Christian Democrat interim leader Maxime Verhagen refused several times to join the negotiations, until the other two parties had reached a general agreement on a number of issues. The Christen Democrats don't want to participate in a government with the PVV.
Its leader, Geert Wilders, gave yesterday the press his usual tirade of superlatives to voice his discontent. The Freedom Party leader, who describes Mr Verhagen’s behaviour as scandalous: “The Christian Democrats have just pulled out the plug.” A phrase that usually refers to a party after a cabinet has collapsed. Remarkably, he is wearing a purple tie, which in the Netherlands is the colour attributed to a cabinet without the Christian Democrats.
Mr Rosenthal is meeting the other party faction leaders today to hear their preferences. The Labour Party leader Cohen prefers the “purple plus” combination which includes the VVD, Labour Party, the democrat party D66 and the Green Left. While VVD leader Mark Rutte would prefer not to go quite so far to the left and wants a “national cabinet”, which includes his party with the Christian Democrats and the Labour Party. If he wants to meet his self-imposed deadline of 1 July, he’d better get his skates on. Ride on!

Day Opening - June 18

Paros, Greece