Posts Tagged Egypt

Gaza: if the current strategy isn’t working that well, why not try something stupid?

 

Israel has been hit with hundreds of rockets over the past couple of weeks. There is nothing new about this — Israel has been hit with thousands upon thousands of rockets for the past decade or so — except that the situation is becoming untenable.  The people of southern Israel are tired of living in bomb shelters, periodically closing schools, and having to make a decision every night about whether or not it’s safe to sleep in the second story of their homes and put the bomb shelter too far away to reach should a rocket land overnight.

Before anyone says anything, I am not trying to downplay what the Palestinians in Gaza are going through. I am trying to explain how Israelis are feeling and how they are thinking. Whatever else may be said about the rocket fire, it is not ‘harmless’ at all, it is terrifying for the people who have to live through it on a daily basis. The casualty rate is low only because of the insane precautions that the population has to go through, but being under constant threat is no way for 1/5 of the country to live.

The entire Israeli public are demanding that something be done. This crosses any kind of partisan and factional lines that you could imagine. Even those who are generally in the peacenik camp have been amping-up their rhetoric. Holding an outstretched hand does not seem like a great idea when you’re being shot at. Wheat we are looking at, potentially, is a repeat of 2008/09’s Operation Cast-lead. It’s an outcome that nobody wants, but if it’s the only way to stop these attacks, it may be needed.

Well, there have been a couple of alternatives floated. Take Nervana Mahmoud, for example:

The End Of Deterrence – The Daily Beast.

Going to war, however, is not the only option. There is potential for a political out, as some analysts advocate, including Khalid Elgindy of Brookings. A smart move would address both elements of the problem: the lack of a state that Israel can deal with and the non-state players. The solution for Gaza is two-fold, a conditional acceptance of Mahmoud Abbas’s U.N. bid in return for demanding that the Egyptians reinstate the U.N.-recognized Abbas government in Gaza and empower his security team to run the Rafah border. In addition, Israel announces its willingness to engage with the emerging Sunni alliance—Turkey, Qatar, and Egypt—to formulate a plan to dismantle Gaza militants’ military capabilities in return for lifting the siege. Such a gambit could snooker Hamas supporters into either accepting the deal, offering alternatives, or a rejection, which would make them appear to be the opponents of a political solution.

Clearly, among the different schools of foreign policy, Mahmoud falls into the ‘remedial class’. Let’s break this down item-by-item. First, Mahmoud wants Israel to offer to the Egyptians — who are led by the Muslim Brotherhood, let me remind you — that Israel will provisionally accept a UN bid that Egypt has not really expressed much investment in, in return for Egypt forcibly expelling the MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD-offshoot Hamas regime and instead installing a secular-nationalist Palestinian regime led by corrupt officials whose relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood could be best described as ‘sworn enemies who have been killing each other for years’. Do I have that right? Just checking we’re on the same page.

And then part two of this genius plan is for Israel to show that it is ‘willing to engage’ with Egypt, Turkey and Qatar. That would be the Egypt that has just decided to stop supplying Israel with natural gas, the Turkey that has just suspended all formal relations with Israel, and the Qatar that never had formal relations with Israel. Leaving Qatar to one side for a second, Mahmoud is suggesting that Israel engage with its two former allies, both of which have become increasingly belligerent towards Israel as a result of Islamist parties taking over.

Right.

I like this idea better:

State of Gaza – JPost – Opinion – Editorials.

Today, Hamas functions as the official political leadership of the entire Gaza Strip. The party sets both domestic policies – such as the institution of Shari’a law – and foreign policy. Just last month, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh represented the entire Gaza population when he welcomed the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. And the emir effectively recognized Hamas as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians living in Gaza.

Recognizing Hamas as responsible for what happens inside Gaza – which has clear geographical borders – would serve Israel’s interests. Instead of struggling to distinguish among a myriad of players – Hamas, Salafis and international jihad-affiliated terrorist groups, as well as the Gaza civilian population – Israel should view the “state of Gaza” and its Hamas government as directly responsible for any act of aggression emanating from the territory under its control. Israel’s response to such attacks would, therefore, be directed against the territory of Gaza as a whole.

It makes no sense for Israel to provide an enemy state with electricity, fuel and other goods as it currently does. This makes sense only if a fabricated distinction is made between those in Gaza who fire at Israel and the wider “innocent” population. In reality, however, the majority of Gaza’s population continues to support Hamas, which rules the entire Gaza Strip domestically and represents it internationally.

In contrast, if Hamas provides stability and prevents smaller terrorist groups operating inside Gaza from firing on Israeli civilians, Israel could reciprocate by providing fuel and electricity and keeping trade borders open.

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Shameless propaganda hurts pro-Israel cause

I am often a spokesperson for the pro-Israel community in Australia. I do deliberately put-forward a line that is favourable of Israel and I admit that, from time to time, I will downplay information that runs contradictory to that line.

It is not an attempt to deny or whitewash anything, more a necessary aspect of being a part of a public debate. Ceding ground can have severe consequences, so must be done very carefully. It is made especially difficult for people like me to give honest criticisms of Israel when faced with opponents who are unrelenting, intolerant and even genocidal.

Any small criticism of Israel made by someone in my position is taken to be vindication for views that I find abhorrent. A common and very prominent example can be seen in comments made by now Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak a few years ago that Israel could become an apartheid state if action was not taken on the peace protest.

Barak was playing domestic politics — trying to malign his right wing rivals for not taking enough action on the peace process. However, I cannot count the number of times I have heard that Barak quote followed by something like ‘I agree with Mr Barak, I just think that Israel already is apartheid’, as though this were a perfectly natural conclusion to come to and there was just a minor disagreement between the speaker and Barak.

And of course, as a certain Jordanian BDS group reminded us recently, many of my opponents have some kind of racial prejudice thinly masked by their adopted rhetoric. In a charming Facebook discussion, several Jordanian Palestinians made it perfectly clear that, to them, any Jewish presence in ‘historic Palestine’ is illegitimate and the Jews should all ‘go home’. No, none of them could answer where exactly ‘home’ is.

Anti-normalization and the Israeli Left – a Facebook debate | +972 Magazine.

ALL CITIZENS OF THE ILLEGAL STATES OF “ISRAEL” ARE A PART OF THE ZIONIST COLONIAL PROJECT, EXCEPT THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE OF PALESTINE, AND SO, ALL THOSE WHO SERVE THE ZIONIST PROJECT ARE ZIONISTS FOR US, REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE, RELIGIOUS BELIEVES OR DISBELIEVES OR POLITICAL VIEWS, FOR DISAMBIGUATION, ANY NON-ISRAELI JEW IS NOT A ZIONIST, ANY PALESTINIAN JEW IS NOT ZIONIST, AS LONG AS THEY ARE NOT SERVE THE ZIONIST COLONIAL PROJECT BY OTHER MEANS THAN CITIZENSHIP

That said, I think it is extremely important to be credible when speaking on these issues. Using ‘their’ tactics against them is not a strategy that I can follow in good conscience.

While I may write carefully in order to give a certain impression, I am not dishonest, I do not lie, and I do not manipulate the truth for convenience’s sake. This is why I am extremely bothered by people like Maurice Ostroff, who has done all of the above in an op-ed in today’s Jerusalem Post regarding a group of African asylum-seekers who were trapped between Israel and Egypt for the past week.

Setting the record straight: Migrants… JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

Contrary to the claim that the Convention obligates Israel to permit these refugees to enter the country, there is no provision at all in the Convention requiring a contracting state to allow entry of refugees who are not already in its territory. Article 33 refers only to refugees who have already entered, whether legally or illegally.

This omission of a requirement to admit refugees not already in the territory was evidently deliberate, as described in the judgment in the matter of Regina v. Immigration Officer at Prague Airport [2004].

The judgment refers to the important backdrop to the Convention as described in “Refugees under International Law with a Reference to the Concept of Asylum” (1986), as follows: “States the world over consistently have exhibited great reluctance to give up their sovereign right to decide which persons will, and which will not, be admitted to their territory and given a right to settle there. They have refused to agree to international instruments which would impose on them duties to make grants of asylum.”

As regular readers will be aware, I make a habit of checking sources.

Here is the UK House of Lords case to which Ostroff was referring (European Roma Rights Centre and others v Immigration Officer at Prague Airport [2005] 1 All ER 527). The passage that he quoted was not a ruling by the Court, it was one judge quoting an Australian case that the court had been referred to by counsel for the appellants.

In fact, referring to that case at all is disingenuous to say the least. The case concerned Czech citizens who were trying to claim asylum without leaving the Czech Republic — meaning they could not possibly be considered ‘refugees’ as they were not ‘outside their last country of habitual residence’. This was also at a time when the UK was being flooded with asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, the majority of whom were not valid refugees.

There is not really any comparison to a group of African asylum seekers fleeing from Egypt, which is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and which has some rather unnerving practises like shooting asylum seekers as they try to reach Israel.

In fact, the Prague Airport case was brought by Roma who claimed to have been discriminated against when British immigration officials would not let them board planes to the UK — and they won! The Court ruled that British authorities could not refuse to allow Roma into the country on the premise that they might claim asylum once there.

Meanwhile, this was just sickening:

In terms of Article 33, a refugee (as defined in Article 1) may not be expelled or returned (“refouler”) to territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Clearly this does not include threats by common criminals. If this were the case it would apply to citizens of all countries suffering from a high crime rate like Colombia, Mexico and South Africa, which was plainly not the intention.

It is therefore obvious that the Convention does not cover the circumstances of refugees seeking admission to Israel from Egypt.

‘Common criminal’ is a broad and meaningless phrase. Let’s look at the actual situation and see if it fits.

Ostroff was referring to these comments by the UNHCR representative in the region:

UN refugee envoy: Eritreans trapped at Israel-Egypt border must be allowed in – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

“The most worrying thing to me is the discussion of pushing them back into Egypt, which is highly irresponsible, because if they go back to Egypt there is a high risk these people will fall in the hands of human smugglers, and it is well known, it is all documented, that many of these people have been abused, there are cases of torture or rape, and if you send them back you are sending them to a situation with a very high degree of insecurity.”

The Sinai is a largely ungoverned and chaotic region of Egypt. Its local population is mostly Bedoin and they make their money through organised crime, exploiting their convenient location on the land-bridge between Africa and Europe/Asia.

They also like to dabble in things like the human slave trade and kidnapping for ransom. They particularly like to target the vulnerable Africans trying to escape the continent as they know that these people have no real protection.

The Egyptian authorities have struggled to control this at the best of times and right now is probably the worst of times in this regard.

There is no ambiguity for Ostroff to hide behind, sending the asylum seekers back to Egypt would have meant that their “life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership”.

Attacking Egypt for turning a blind eye to inhumane treatment is entirely valid, however it is completely unjust to try and pretend that Egypt is an acceptable place for these people and Israel is under no obligation to take them in.

The worst part of Ostroff’s polemic, however, was this:

The lack of credible information from the Foreign Ministry and the IDF spokesperson is a sad reflection on Israel’s public diplomacy. While admiring the valuable humanitarian work performed by Israeli groups like “We Are Refugees” that filed a petition in support of the migrants, I am disturbed by the ill-founded criticism which has been disseminated worldwide by them and by William Tall, the UNHCR representative in Israel.

Clearly, Ostroff does not admire the petitioners who managed to convince the High Court that Israel had to let the refugees in. He is essentially advocating that the Government of Israel do everything it can to oppose them and then take credit for their work when it loses.

That is dishonest and contemptuous. It does the pro-Israel cause no favours at all.

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World’s gone mad and it don’t seem right

I sleep in a little on one Sunday morning and everything’s gone crazy.

1. Vandalising in the name of “social justice”

From what I gather, some of the “social justice protesters” in Tel Aviv from last year tried to put up tents in Rothschild Blvd again, but were arrested as the government didn’t want the whole of central Tel Aviv to shut down for a second year in a row. This sparked a whole new protest, which blocked Ibn Gvirol and marched south, joining-up with some kind of anti-homophobia protest.

At some point, the whole thing went out of control and the protesters started just smashing things. The police responded with what has been alleged to have been “police brutality”. It’s hard to tell either way, but I can say this: breaking into and smashing-up banks is not a good way to defend “social justice” or to get any kind of point across.

Haaretz report HERE, more photos HERE.

2. Flare-up around Gaza

There has been another of what are becoming routine flare-ups in violence around the border between Gaza and Israel. Jerusalem Post reporter Yaakov Katz even argues that this one is half-hearted compared to the last ones.

It is a very sad state-of-affairs that this kind of language can be used about an incident that has killed 14 Palestinians so far and has forced a million Israelis to be living in bomb shelters for a week, with rockets seriously damaging a school in Sderot, amongst other things.

However, I have heard reports privately that the IDF General Staff has been pulling all-night meetings and could be planning another large-scale Gaza incursion. That is not going to be fun for anyone, but may be necessary in order to stop these perpetual flare-ups. I’m not sure which is the bigger evil, in all honesty.

That brings me to…

3. Third Intifada

Nathan Thrall argued in the New York Times Sunday Review that a third intifada is inevitable. For some reason, this was released online on Friday, but it has caused a stir amongst a lot of analysts who accuse Thrall of actually supporting the idea.

One point that has been repeatedly made is that another intifada would pose little real threat to Israel, but could well unseat the current Palestinian leadership (not a bad outcome IMO). Fatah and Hamas know this, so they have been doing everything they can to avoid it and to keep their peoples’ attention on Israel.

There also seems to be a threat from within that is coming to unseat Mahmoud Abbas – Salaam Fayyad has just announced that he may challenge the Palestinian Authority presidency in the event that elections ever actually happen.

4. Egypt: the tale of two presidents

The results of Egypt’s presidential elections are rumoured to be coming any minute. This has not prevented both candidates announcing victory and the supporters of both holding huge, angry riots against each other.

Essentially, the country is polarised. Half hate the old regime candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, and half hate the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed  Moursi. Whoever wins, there will be mass dissatisfaction and possibly violence.

5. And the rest

I’m getting a little tired of writing out these short summaries, so to conclude: Sudan is exploding and Turkey is about to go to war with Syria over what was probably a stunt to prevent further Syrian airforce pilots defecting (shooting down a plane is a good way to do it).

Gotta love the Middle East.

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The cancer that is eroding the Jewish character of Israel

Source: Activestills.org

Source: Activestills.org

It is hard to put into words what I feel about the events in the South Tel Aviv suburb yesterday with the bitterly ironic name of Hatikvah. That said, putting things into words is what I do. So here goes.

I’ll begin with someone else’s words: Ha’aretz journalist Ilan Lior, who was actually there and watched the whole thing play out. Here is how he described it:

How a Tel Aviv anti-migrant protest spiraled out of control – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

I have been a journalist for ten years. I’ve covered terror attacks, funerals, car accidents, and protests. I’ve seen fury, frustration, despair, and sadness in a variety of places and forms. But I’ve never seen such hatred as it was displayed on Wednesday night in the Hatikva neighborhood. If it weren’t for the police presence, it would have ended in lynching. I have no doubt. Perhaps a migrant worker would have been murdered, perhaps an asylum seeker, or maybe just a passerby in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Israel’s asylum seeker problem

I have written in the past on how Israel provides its African asylum seekers with a safe haven that is unmatched by any other country that side of Europe, but also that they still face difficulties. The situation that they find themselves in is depicted very well in this piece by Daniella Cheslow and I recommend clicking through and reading it, but in essence: Israel has no policy.

Tens of thousands of people have been fleeing for Israel over the past decade, primarily from Sudan and Eritrea. The horrors that they face at home and during the journey do not bear thinking about. Amongst other things, they are hunted for their ethnicity, quite literally shot on sight by Egyptian forces, and often abducted by Sinai Bedoins, held to ransom and then tortured to death when they can’t pay (African refugees do not tend to have a lot of money).

After weeks of travelling through harsh deserts, often on foot, they cross the border into Israel – where they are greeted by the Israeli border guards, given food and medical attention, taken to a detention centre in South Israel so that Israel can figure out who they are, and then given a one-way bus ticket to Tel Aviv.

That is the end of Israel’s plan for them. They arrive in Tel Aviv with absolutely nothing – no working visa, no knowledge of Hebrew, no friends, no family, no support network. There are now 60,000 of them – almost 1% of Israel’s entire population – and the Israeli government has had no policy at all to deal with the issue. For reasons outlined here by Shallya Scher-Ehrlich, this is in breach of international law.

What happens next is quite obvious: they serve the same functions as large groups of illegal migrants anywhere else. They work in below-minimum-wage jobs for people unscrupulous enough to employ them in these conditions, they live in crowded accommodation in the poorest neighbourhoods and, out of desperation and because criminal gangs are one group that do not exclude them for the colour of their skin, they often become involved in crime (although reports of them massively increasing crime rates are highly exaggerated).

The areas that they moved into were previously (and in some cases still are) the ones predominantly inhabited by Israel’s other marginalised groups – Jewish immigrants from Arab countries and from Ethiopia, or ‘Mizrachim‘. How the old residents have reacted was captured quite well in a profile by Ben Hartman on Sophie Menashe, a Mizrachi Jew who found herself to be the last Jew in a building now inhabited by African migrants:

Jpost | African influx to TA worries elderly Jewish holdout

Despite the descriptions of a gilded past, these neighborhoods were never upscale and had a persistent reputation for being crime-infested. However, the influx of Africans has added racial conflict to the already troubled social dynamic and has left many veteran residents feeling foreign and outnumbered. …

The apartment was once a source of pride for Menashe. …

Over the years, her neighbors grew older and died or moved out, and more and more foreigners moved in; first foreign workers, mainly from West Africa and East Asia, and over the past five or six years, East African migrants and asylum- seekers.

The sentiments that Menashe expressed toward the African migrants left little room for nuance: They carry AIDS and other diseases, are violent drunks and might be part of a plot hatched by the Jewish state’s enemies to flood Israel with African Muslims, creating a demographic threat to bring down the country from within.

Although such views would offend a wide swath of polite Israeli society, they come from a place of fear and frustration, and from long days spent cooped up in her apartment, afraid to step out into a world that has shifted beneath her feet – where Menashe now feels like a stranger.

These tensions have recently started coming to a head, and the government is finally reacting as a result – building a fence along the border to Egypt and building a massive detention centre to house the asylum seekers. In many ways, it seems as though they are taking a leaf out of Australia’s book.

Whatever your views on mandatory detention, one particular leaf that Israel has now taken is unambiguously disgusting, hateful and unjustifiable. That “leaf” is the 2005 Cronulla riots, which in many ways were mirrored by yesterday’s events in Tel Aviv.

This car with an African driver was attacked by the mob. Photo: Ha’aretz

I began the post with Ilan Lior’s eyewitness report of the incident and another, by Hagai Matar, can be read here. The worst part is undoubtedly the fact that the crowd was fuelled mostly by Members of the Knesset.

Hatikvah was a riot

Let’s be clear though, while some of these were government MKs, the protest was against the government’s policy. The protesters and the speakers were complaining that the government has not been harsh enough on the refugees. What the parliamentarians said, however, was disgraceful. Lior quotes Michael Ben-Ari, a Kahannist, saying, “there are rapists and harassers here. The time for talk is over.”

Wore still was the quote from Likkud MK Miri Regev, which I feel the need to emphasise in bold:

“The Sudanese are a cancer in our body. All the left-wingers that filed petitions in the Supreme court should be embarrassed – they stopped the expulsion.”

As a few have pointed out, this is precisely the kind of abhorrent, racist rhetoric that Iranian leaders use to refer to Israel and Jews, rightly drawing condemnation from most of the world.

Even worse, it is the kind of language that Sudanese President Omar Bashir uses when he’s busy inciting genocide against the black Africans in his Arab-ruled country. This is precisely what these people fled in the first instance, hoping for a haven in Israel, yet they are met with the same revulsion. It’s sickening.

Even this was not quite the evening’s the low point.

Ben-Ari, Regev and Major Karnage favourite Danny Danon  managed to rile the crowd enough that they transformed into a mob and began attacking the journalists mentioned above for being “traitors” and allegedly “throwing rocks at checkpoints” (which, needless to say, both of them deny ever doing).

The mob started chanting “Sudanese to Sudan!” and making their way towards the largely African neighbourhoods. What ensued was beyond harrowing. The mob went around South Tel Aviv, smashing the windows of African-owned businesses, looting African-run shops and attacking passers-by who happened to be black.

I cannot think of any epithets that even approach how repulsive this is. Jews Sans Frontiers, a group with whom I do not often agree, compared it — not unjustifiably — to Kristallnacht. Watching some of the footage, this is exactly what comes to mind:

Danon’s response? Well, he figured that he’d pen an op-ed. This was published in the Jerusalem Post the morning after the riot:

Deportation Now! – JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

We are at a critical crossroads with a strategic demographic threat developing within our borders that may upend our country’s very character as a Jewish and democratic state. It is nonsensical that such large numbers of illegal infiltrators from Africa are settling permanently in our country and so little is being done to rectify this problem. This is especially highlighted when taking into account that the crime rate among the infiltrators is almost double the rate of that in the general population. The desperately necessary solution is a three-pronged program to end this dangerous phenomenon: stop, arrest and deport.

A threat to Israel’s “character as a Jewish and democratic state”.

No.

The rhetoric that Danon was supporting and that pogrom he incited is exactly the sort of persecution that Israel was created to prevent. The Zionist dream was formed when Jews had to regularly endure this kind of treatment and longed for a place where they would be away from it, where they would be able to live without fear — not a place to import the violent prejudice that plagued the countries from which they fled.

The concept of a “Jewish state” may be difficult to define, but it was definitely not meant in the same way that the Nazis spoke of a “German state”. Whatever some anti-Zionists may choose to believe, Israel was never intended to be a land “cleansed” of non-Jews. It is supposed to be a homeland for the Jewish people, that to some extent embodies Jewish values.

This riot was about as far from Jewish values as anyone can possibly stray. Where is the “light unto the nations” now? Who is “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

It is not the African migrants that are eroding Israel’s Jewish character, it is Danon, Regev and Ben-Ari. They are the cancer that is eating away at Israeli society, propagating this vile racism — not to mention trying to unravel the Constitutional basis for Israel’s democracy.

National unity

If there is some hope left to find in Hatikvah, it is in the fact that these MKs did manage to unite the Jewish people — against them. Jewish organisations around the world condemned what happened. Similar for everyone in Israel beyond a handful of extremists.

Even someone like Neil Lazarus — who has literally made his career out of defending everything Israel does — has come out strongly against Israeli racism as a result.

Moreover, the critical voices include members of the Government who are much more important than Danon:

Netanyahu condemns southern Tel Aviv violence – Israel News, Ynetnews.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on Wednesday’s violent protests in southern Tel Aviv and made it clear that “there is no room for the actions and expressions witnessed (in Tel Aviv). I’m saying these things to the general population and the residents of southern Tel Aviv, whose pain I understand.”

Rivlin: ‘Lawmakers Must Guard Their Words!’ – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News.

[Knesset Speaker Reuben Rivlin said that t]he people “may demonstrate and protest and demand the government formulate a solution, but there should be no incitement – and it is forbidden to use the same tactics anti-Semites used against us [in the Exile].”

“We suffered greatly from incitement and harassment,” Rivlin said. “We must be committed to sensitivity and finding just solutions. The main problem is not the infiltrators and refugees, but the lack of a clear policy from the government of Israel.”

It is important to maintain perspective. As Michael Koplow pointed out, there were only about 1,000 people who attended the rally, and fewer still who actually rioted.

Also, while I did use the word “pogrom”, this is not like the state-sanctioned pogroms that the Jews of Eastern Europe were subjected to. Happily, no one was killed or seriously injured on the night – thanks in no small part to the heroic actions of the Israeli police. Israeli society has overwhelmingly condemned what went on and it has been made clear by the Prime Minister and the President that this kind of thing has no place in Israel.

In that spirit, I strongly believe that the Members of Knesset who were involved in the affair should be forced to resign. What they said and did is absolutely unacceptable and their parties should not countenance that behaviour.

Also, I will be donating money to the African Refugee Development Centre in Tel Aviv, I suggest that you do the same.

I will leave you with some words from Adam Ibrahim, a leader of Israel’s African migrant community:

An African migrant’s plea for a few basic rights – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

If you don’t want us here, don’t turn your rage at us, because we have no choice. I have nowhere to go. I just want to live in safety. I agree to be deported to any African country, other than Sudan. I just want to live with dignity, without people talking about the color of my skin, and I want to stop feeling hostility on the streets.

It is important for me to say that we are not a burden on society. We work for less than minimum wage in jobs that Israelis wouldn’t want to do themselves anyway. We pay rent, and make do with organizations that we established ourselves. It is hard for me to hear Eli Yishai’s statements in the media. Their impact on Israelis is tremendous, since in Israel everyone listens to the news.

The state is spreading negative propaganda against us – they say it is unsafe here because of us. I feel that the Jews are doing to us the exact same thing the Germans did to them. Don’t talk nonsense – we are in the 21st century. Don’t talk about skin color, don’t talk about slaves and don’t say that I stink. We want to see a real democracy – not only words.

I know that I will never have equal rights here. I just want to receive the few rights that I do deserve as a refugee.

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Why do they hate Mona Eltahawy for speaking about Arab women?

Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy has a piece in this month’s Foreign Policy on the problems faced by women in the Arab world. This is a very important article and I would encourage you all to read it, but I want to highlight the central point in her thesis — which has been proven overwhelmingly by the response that has exploded literally hours since her article went online (the print edition is not even out yet).

Eltahawy begins her essay with the point that when anyone normally brings up the issue of Arab women, they are shouted-down with problems women face in the West. As if this is a reason not to speak about something far, far worse.

This is the third-worldist cultural relativism that I have highlighted a few times. It is the insipid prejudice of low expectations — using “cultural differences” to justify holding others to a lower standard. It’s hard to even imagine the outcry that would follow a white, American pastor coming out in support of female genital mutilation — yet one of the leading clerical celebrities in the Arab world does so unashamedly and no one blinks. He even gets invited to hang out with London Mayoral candidate and career antisemite Ken Livingstone.

If no one says anything, nothing will ever get done about this. Good on Eltahawy for standing up to the cultural pressures trying to crush her into silence. Elections in Egypt will not bring democracy so long as female candidates cannot even have their faces on electoral material.

Why Do They Hate Us? – By Mona Eltahawy | Foreign Policy.

So: Yes, women all over the world have problems; yes, the United States has yet to elect a female president; and yes, women continue to be objectified in many “Western” countries (I live in one of them). That’s where the conversation usually ends when you try to discuss why Arab societies hate women.

But let’s put aside what the United States does or doesn’t do to women. Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” merely for speaking out, it’s no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are “good intentions”? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is “not severe” or “directed at the face.” What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it’s not better than you think. It’s much, much worse. Even after these “revolutions,” all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian’s blessing — or divorce either. …

First we stop pretending. Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips. You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our “culture” and “religion” to do X, Y, or Z to women.

Understand that whoever deemed it as such was never a woman. The Arab uprisings may have been sparked by an Arab man — Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in desperation — but they will be finished by Arab women.

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The line between NGO and Government

Good point by Robert Merry regarding American Government-funded NGOs working to “spread democracy” throughout the world:

Commentary: Unmasking the Democracy Promoters | The National Interest.

The Times reports that the United Arab Emirates has shut down the offices of the National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit U.S. agency whose mission is to promote democracy around the globe. The NDI is often called an NGO, short for nongovernmental organization, which might leave some people a bit quizzical given that this particular NGO is funded to a significant extent by the U.S. government. But Wikipedia helpfully explains: “In cases in which NGOs are funded totally or partially by governments, the NGO maintains its non-governmental status by excluding governmental representatives from membership in the organization.”

… For anyone trying to understand why this anger is welling up in those countries, it might be helpful to contemplate how Americans would feel if similar organizations from China or Russia or India were to pop up in Washington, with hundreds of millions of dollars given to them by those governments, bent on influencing our politics. One supposes it would generate substantial anger among Americans if these groups tried to tilt our elections toward one party or another. But suppose they were trying to upend our very system of government, as U.S.-financed NGOs are trying to do these days in various countries—and have done in recent years in numerous locations.

Well… that actually does happen — hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by foreign governments on lobbying the US government every year — but that’s beside the point.

This is a problem that Israel is also dealing with — foreign governments fund organisations that operate within the country and have the express goal of bringing-down the current system. This is not to say that I disagree at all with what the organisations in Egypt are doing (I disagree completely with the ones in Israel), but if they are funded by the US government, the argument that they do not answer to the government directly does not hold much weight.

Whether or not the government actually has a representative on the board is not particularly important. Any organisation is beholden to its funders. The organisations in Egypt are in a position where they can only operate because of the US government and therefore the US government can shut them if it so chooses. That means that they pretty much have to do what the government tells them, it also means that the government is effectively sending them to Egypt. It is understandable, then, that the Egyptian authorities would be a little upset that the organisations are actively working against them.

Again, I completely support trying to bring democracy to Egypt, I just don’t like this “secret” diplomacy. It’s like the US give a wink and a smile to the Egyptians and say “don’t worry, we’re still friends, they aren’t really acting on our behalf. We’re just paying them to be there, that’s all.” It’s not fooling anyone.

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The Middle East trust deficit

Don’t you love it when someone succinctly puts exactly what you feel? Gershon Baskin using the “both sides” equivalency, but being right:

Encountering Peace: Q&A on the fu… JPost – Opinion – Columnists.

Q: The Palestinians breached every agreement they ever signed with Israel, how can we trust them?

A: Israel and the PLO, representing the Palestinian people, signed five agreements. Every one of those agreements was breached by both sides. Neither side fulfilled its obligations, and the breaches were substantive in all of the agreements.

…Breaches upon breaches piled up and created a total breakdown. The failure of both sides to implement in good faith and to repair the damage in real time led to a total collapse of trust between the parties. The basic idea of an interim period (of five years) was to develop the trust that would be required to negotiate the main issues in conflict.

That trust never developed – quite the opposite. Today, objectively speaking, there is absolutely no reason why Israel and Palestine should trust each other – they have completely earned the mistrust that exists between them.

… There is no possibility for progress without negotiations, yet while both sides recognize this truth it seems that the complete absence of trust, what I call the “trust deficiency,” is more powerful than the desire to reach an agreement at this time. This is enhanced by the complete belief on both sides of the conflict that there is no partner for peace on the other side. Both sides say that they want peace, and both sides blame the other for lack of any progress.

Yup, that’s pretty much the situation. Abbas doesn’t trust Bibi; Bibi doesn’t trust Abbas; neither of them trust Obama; Obama is sick of them both; Obama, Abbas and Bibi all don’t trust Hamas and Hamas’ leaders don’t even trust each other, let alone anyone else.

The Israelis don’t trust the Palestinians because Israeli concessions are just met with violence and condemnations; the Palestinians don’t trust the Israelis because no one in Israel can agree on anything and the same government seems to have 5 different policies; the Palestinians don’t trust each other because every second person is an informant for Israel or secretly working for whichever of Hamas/Fatah the first person is worried about; the Jordanians don’t trust the Palestinians because Arafat tried to overthrow King Hussein in the ’70s; the secular Egyptians don’t trust the Palestinians because Hamas is too close to the Muslim Brotherhood; the Israelis don’t trust the Egyptians because they think they’re all Muslim Brotherhood; The Muslim Brotherhood don’t trust Fatah because they’re against Hamas…

I’m going to stop here, you get the picture. Anyone see a way out?

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Human Rights Watch and letting Muslim states have the rulers they want but don’t deserve

A whole long list of NGO officials have come out in criticism of Human Rights Watch and its CEO Kenneth Roth, slamming Roth for his hypocrisy in supporting Islamist regimes that are serial abusers of human rights. As usual, my bold:

Women and Islam: A Debate with Human Rights Watch | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

You say, “It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name,” but you fail to call for the most basic guarantee of rights—the separation of religion from the state. Salafi mobs have caned women in Tunisian cafes and Egyptian shops; attacked churches in Egypt; taken over whole villages in Tunisia and shut down Manouba University for two months in an effort to exert social pressure on veiling. And while “moderate Islamist” leaders say they will protect the rights of women (if not gays), they have done very little to bring these mobs under control. You, however, are so unconcerned with the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities that you mention them only once, as follows: “Many Islamic parties have indeed embraced disturbing positions that would subjugate the rights of women and restrict religious, personal, and political freedoms. But so have many of the autocratic regimes that the West props up.” Are we really going to set the bar that low? This is the voice of an apologist, not a senior human rights advocate.

Nor do you point to the one of the clearest threats to rights—particularly to women and religious and sexual minorities—the threat to introduce so-called “shari’a law.” It is simply not good enough to say we do not know what kind of Islamic law, if any, will result, when it is already clear that freedom of expression and freedom of religion—not to mention the choice not to veil—are under threat. And while it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood has not been in power for very long, we can get some idea of what to expect by looking at their track record. In the UK, where they were in exile for decades, unfettered by political persecution, the exigencies of government, or the demands of popular pressure, the Muslim Brotherhood systematically promoted gender apartheid and parallel legal systems enshrining the most regressive version of “shari’a law”. Yusef al-Qaradawi, a leading scholar associated with them, publicly maintains that homosexuality should be punished by death. They supported deniers of the Holocaust and the Bangladesh genocide of 1971, and shared platforms with salafi-jihadis, spreading their calls for militant jihad. But, rather than examine the record of Muslim fundamentalists in the West, you keep demanding that Western governments “engage.”

A side note, but the term “sharia law” is a tautology – Sharia means “Islamic law”.

Meanwhile, the parts in bold are very important. All across the Muslim world, horrible acts like honour killings become the norm not necessarily because they are official state policy, but because regimes will publicly condemn these acts whenever they are criticised while not actually taking any steps to prevent them.

In fact, they often condemn with one arm while encouraging with the other – as the letter above pointed out.  Qaradawi is not a fringe radical, he is a celebrity cleric with his own show on Al Jazeera Arabic and one of the most prominent spiritual leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood; yet he encourages violence, terror and intolerance with impunity.

This is another example of the “third-worldism” that I wrote about recently. HRW are refusing to listen to the Muslim Brotherhood when they say that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death, Jews are a plague on humanity and should all be killed, Christians should be expelled from Egypt and women should be not seen and most definitely not heard. All it takes is for Muslim Brotherhood members to say “we are committed to the rights of women” and HRW believes that they must be “moderate”. Remember that the “rights” that they speak of are not what our Western minds think when we hear “women’s rights”.

HRW replies

The HRW response is also very revealing:

In the introduction to Human Rights Watch’s most recent World Report, released on January 22, Kenneth Roth wrote that Western governments cannot credibly maintain a commitment to democracy if they reject electoral results when an Islamic party does well. That was the hypocritical stance of the West when, for example, it acquiesced in the Algerian military’s interruption of free elections that the Islamist Salvation Front was poised to win and then in the brutal suppression of that party in the early 1990s, or when President George W. Bush cut short his “democracy agenda” after Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and the Muslim Brotherhood did better than expected in Egyptian parliamentary elections in 2005.

Western governments should reject this inconsistent and unprincipled approach to democracy. Human Rights Watch called on Western governments to come to terms with the rise of Islamic political parties and press them to respect rights. As rights activists, we are acutely aware of the possible tension between the right to choose one’s leaders and the rights of potentially disfavored groups such as women, gays and lesbians, and religious minorities. Anyone familiar with the history of Iran or Afghanistan knows the serious risks involved. However, in the two Arab Spring nations that have had free and fair elections so far, a solid majority voted for socially conservative political parties in Egypt, and a solid plurality did so in Tunisia. The sole democratic option is to accept the results of those elections and to press the governments that emerge to respect the rights of all rather than to ostracize these governments from the outset.

Notice that they pulled the “Bush card”. This is an argument reminiscent of the Reduction ad Hitlerum fallacy, a corollary of Godwin’s Law, whereby anything that George W Bush did is considered to be wrong by virtue of the fact that he did it. It’s an argument used by the kind of idiots who genuinely think Bush was comparable to Hitler, not to mention the kind of idiots who would assume that something must be bad just because someone they don’t like did it. That said, Bush was wrong – HRW just don’t understand why.

Bush was not wrong to reject Hamas after they were elected, he was wrong to let them stand for election in the first place. Hamas was always very open about what it was: an organisation that opposed democracy, advocated Medieval morality, called for genocide and committed violence – hell, you can learn all that by just watching their TV channel:

What Bush and HRW do not understand is that the mere fact that a government is “elected” does not make a for a democracy. This is a historical fact that actually can be proven by a Hitler comparison: the Nazis were elected into power in Germany. A measure of whether a government is democratic is not how it comes into power initially, but how it stays in power.

Elections are the last step in forming a democracy, not the first. The single most important component of a democracy is the rule of law – the rulers must be under the law, there must be some kind of peaceful mechanism for removing them from office. In order for that to happen, the society needs a separation of powers – the rulers must be accountable to the legal system and not the other way around; the use of physical force (i.e. army and police) must be separate from both. There also has to be some kind of mechanism for the legal system to find information about the rulers’ activities to see if they must be removed from power and the rulers must be unable to stop this information from getting out: you need freedom of political communication.

Even a society with: the rule of law; free speech; and an independent judiciary, army and government; is not ready for popular elections. For the people to elect their leaders, they need to be informed enough about the different options to make a decision; there needs to be a well-established media and at least two realistic options to vote for who can scrutinise each other, otherwise any election will automatically go to whoever has the most widespread networks (i.e. the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood).

Also, it is perfectly acceptable to exclude parties who are openly anti-democratic. Israel has banned “Jewish terrorist” Meir Kahane’s party from running in the Knesset for that exact reason.

Finally, the most important thing to realise is that democracy does not happen overnight. Rushing into elections is stupid, it will only put revolutionaries into power and if there is anything to be learned from post-colonial Africa, it’s that revolutionaries do not generally make great rulers.

Let Islamists be Islamists and treat them like Islamists

Tragically, while HRW are (I believe genuinely) trying to avoid imposing Western morality onto the Arab people, they are in fact doing something arguably worse. Rather than openly trying to change Arab societies into something resembling Western ones, they are approaching the Arab peoples with an entirely Western mindset and just treating them as though they are Western, no matter how much they themselves reject Western values. This attitude is extremely destructive, it will result in more Afghanistans and less Indonesias.

We must be honest with ourselves and we must be willing to take Arab parties at their word. We want an Egypt that does not oppress women, homosexuals, Jews and Christians; we want an Egypt with democratic institutions where people are not persecuted for anti-government or “un-Islamic” activities. The Muslim Brotherhood do not want this Egypt and they say that openly – why do we refuse to believe them?

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A warning for Arab women, hope from Palestinians but in spite of everything, Israel still way out in front

In an article that I will probably discuss later, Israeli academic Eyal Gross rebuts a theory by another academic that, in his words, “what he calls the ‘racist’ narrative of gay-friendly Israel versus homophobic Palestine confirms Israeli perceptions of the collective others by representing the queer Palestinian as a helpless victim of Palestinian homophobia in need of the benevolence and protection of the Israeli state.” As Gross notes, the reality is that this is true: there are a lot of persecuted gay Palestinians who would find some kind of solace in Israel. Of course, Israel does harbour some intolerance and it is not fair to stereotype all Palestinians as homophobes, but it is equally true that mainstream Israeli society is against homophobia, whereas Palestinian society is a very difficult place to be gay – openly gay Palestinians are quite literally risking their lives.

The reason I am relating this is to illustrate the unfortunate tendency in some parts of the Western “left” to reject as “racist” any criticism of non-Western (and especially Middle Eastern) societies. In their well-meaning eyes, they see all people as basically “good” and do not want to accept that, for instance, Arab society tends to be extremely sexist, homophobic and racist. Ironically, they attribute the belief that this is, in fact, the case to a “colonialist” attitude – white people thinking that non-whites are barbaric savages. Ironically, it is these “third-worldists” who are in fact taking a patronising/colonialist attitude. Even worse than stereotyping Arabs as “backwards”, they are taking their own interpretation of “good values” and imputing it onto the Arabs.

This patronising attitude has been showing-up everywhere since the “Arab Spring” began last year. As “the people” of Egypt, Libya and Syria were protesting dictators, the third-worldist wisdom was that they must want a more democratic society. Then suddenly, after decrying everyone who was worried about an Islamist takeover as “racists”, they are shocked when the Libyan National Transitional Council announce that they plan to implement Shariah. The reality is that the Libyan revolutionaries were always open about where they stood on Islamic law, the third-worldists just refused to listen to them when they criticised Qaddafi for discouraging women from wearing the veil and for being accepting of Jews and Christians.

How short everyone’s memory is. Even if you can’t think back to Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, remember what happened when the Afghans became free from Russian oppression? Well if your memory could use some jogging, Morwari Zafar has written an amazing obituary for her grandmother, Massouma Esmatey-Wardak, an Afghan leader and politician who was hit as hard as the rest of Afghanistan when the once relatively prosperous and modern nation was taken over by Islamists.

Determination Defined: Remembering an Afghan Pioneer – by Morwari Zafar | The AfPak Channel.

In the wake of her successes at the helm of AWC, President Najibullah Ahmadzai appointed Massouma as Minister of Education in 1990, though she was not a part of his contentious political party. Her appointment at a post formerly held by her husband, who supported her, was part and parcel of the political reformations in the country at that time. Under the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), the country was progressing socially in a way that seemed incongruous with Islam. And more than ever, Massouma was determined to secure access to education and promote literacy for women. The efforts were condemned by most Mujahideen [holy warriors] leaders, who perceived the developments as a communist endeavor destined to obliterate Islam from the country’s core values, and promote sexual anarchy.

Women’s rights disintegrated in the chaos of the civil war … After the Soviet withdrawal, President Najibullah agreed to transfer power to the Mujahideen in an effort brokered by the United Nations. Headed by President Mojadeddi, the former Jihadists took key ministerial positions in the new Islamic Afghan Government … The Taliban dealt the final blow to the social development and women’s rights of my grandmother’s generation. The current Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan maintains a sketchy record of human and women’s rights, and yet 50 years ago, even women in some rural areas had access to education and healthcare. Neither my grandmother nor my grandfather was born to wealthy families with vast social capital. They came from modest families that understood the value of education — especially for women — as a part of Islam, not divorced from it.

Afghanistan was starting from a better position than any of the “Arab Spring” countries: Wardak was the Minister for Education there, no “Arab Spring” country ever had a woman in a prominent leadership role. The only one that genuinely seems to be showing progress towards a more free and open society is Tunisia, where the Islamist al-Nahda was forced to join in a coalition government with secular parties. Egypt and Libya do not look so lucky, and by refusing to acknowledge how serious the situation there is, the third-worldist West is damning the women, Christians and other groups to some very unpleasant circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians seem to be actually making some progress against their retrenched prejudices. Jillian Kestler-D’Amours has reported on a Palestinian female-run radio station that could signify something extremely important (my bold):

FM Radio Spells Change, Success for Mideast Women – IPS ipsnews.net.

Launched in June 2010, Nisaa FM is an almost entirely female-run Palestinian radio station based in Ramallah, West Bank and the only radio station in the Middle East devoted solely to women’s issues. Its director Maysoun Odeh Gangat says that the station aims to inform, inspire and empower local women.

“Through the positive role that the women are playing in the society that we portray, we believe that we can empower women economically and then socially and politically. It could be any woman from the rural areas or the refugee camp, or a woman parliamentarian or minister,” Gangat told IPS.

In addition to suffering from a myriad of human rights abuses stemming from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, Palestinian women face challenges from within their own society.

According to a 2009 report released by the Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Centre (PWIC) in Gaza, 77 percent of the women in Gaza had experienced some form of violence; 53 percent had been exposed to physical violence and 15 percent to sexual abuse.

The bolded paragraph is key: this fact is almost never admitted by anyone on the “pro-Palestinian” side. The Palestinian people have for decades remained in a self-perpetuated misery by blaming everything wrong with their lives on Israel and refusing to look within their own community. In a way, they have been simply believing what the third-worldists tell them; amazingly I have actually heard people blaming Palestinian oppression of women/homosexuals on Israel, in spite of the fact that the Palestinians are no different in that regard from all of the neighbouring Arab countries.

If the Palestinian Authority is now allowing a voice like Nisaa FM to start accepting some culpability and criticising their own culture for its flaws, maybe we will actually start to see progress in peace talks.  Addressing domestic violence and sexual abuse is a start, but a lot can potentially follow. That said, there is still a long way to go until they are even close to Israeli society, as was demonstrated recently. Despite all of the many issues with the ultra-orthodox and gender segregation, all three centre-left parties in the Knesset now have female leaders; this means that if anyone can unseat Netanyahu, Israel will have its second female Prime Minister by next year. Recognising the difference between the two societies is neither racist nor colonial, it is simply allowing yourself to see.

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Students with no occupation



What began as “Occupy Wall Street” has been spreading. People are forming occupations around the world to protest against greed and inequality. Sydney has not been spared these outcries, with around 2000 people descending on Martin Place on Saturday but not hanging around for long. Most left by nightfall and most of the remaining 200 went home the next day, leaving just a hardcore group of a few seasoned protesters camping out for the long haul.

These occupiers are not to be scoffed at. They may not look like much, but each individual is a whole committee. Curious, your intrepid blogger decided to take a brief walk through the part of town that these 30-or-so assorted liberal arts majors with no occupation to speak of (at least, not one that pays real money or contributes anything to anyone) and what I discovered may shock you, confuse you, or make you laugh out loud at your desk.

Democracy looks like a pile of crap

I think this one speaks for itself.

Sydney is more dangerous than we think

Apparently we’re ruled by a despotic regime that could fall any moment. Also, something about Wall St.

Sydney is rife with rape, blinding and assholes.

As any self-respecting Daily Telegraph reader will know, there are SHARKS out there. What the Tele didn’t tell us is that they are in cahoots with Marx and the Monopoly guy! Terrifying stuff.

For love nor money

Apparently we have decided to replace hard cash with something a little less tangible.

Ah, but the occupiers have made some astute observations about our currency.

So if love is the new money and you can’t eat money, where does quantitative easing come into it? And can the Reserve Bank print love? This is all rather confusing.

Maybe the next lesson will explain things.

What’s right is right and education is optional

I will admit that a few of these rights surprise me a little. I assumed that these occupiers would be pro universal healthcare, public housing and free education. Apparently, all these things must be earned.

So if education must be sought, then this one saying “Occupy childhood. Birth free. Live free. School free” would, I suppose, be encouraging a “school free” life. This would also imply that it is possible to be enrolled in an arts degree without actually attending an educational institution. Intriguing.

The “school-free” lifestyle would also explain the occupiers’ lack of proficiency in mathematics. Had I not realised this, I would have questioned how 30-odd people constitute “the 99%”.

Apparently, the 99% also has a right to other things – like free wifi, parking spots in the CBD, electricity and other luxuries. This is a movement that I can see myself supporting. All together now!

EDUCATION FOR SOME, BUT PARKING SPACES FOR ALL!!!!!

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