Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A recipe for change...

The taste of history and its repair   Although this may seem old enough to be an outdated article (published in 2005), it’s not. But for its topic, slavery in Niger in 2005, it might be. (The Shackles of Slavery in Niger - ABC NewsSlavery may seem like a historical relic, but in many parts of the world servitude remains prevalent...

Most pertinent is this comment:

One Muslim holy man explains Niger's slave policy as a religious phenomena. "According to the Koran, a slave is a person who refuses to become a Muslim," said Al-aji Idriss Abandaba, Imam of Niamey." [my emphasis] This means that if you are a Muslim you cannot be a slave."
Another article mentions an aspect of that same culture that is so troubling it makes rocket launchers in Gaza’s civilian neighborhoods seem playthings by comparison:

'Fifth wives'
Islam allows a man to take a maximum of four wives. However, in Niger, the practice exists of taking a fifth wife. These women are known as wahiya among the Tuareg and sadaka among the Hausa.
Sometimes men take several fifth wives. The fifth wife does not receive any of the status benefits of being a wife, as there is no actual marriage. She is, in effect, a slave to her "husband".
In 2006, Timidria helped release 34 women known to have been sold as fifth wives in the Canton of Douguerawa. A further 12 were released in 2007.
Anti-Slavery International was able to interview 10 of the women, who complained they had been subjugated to forced and unpaid labour, rape and daily insults.
(Niger slavery: Background | World news | guardian.co.uk
[Oct 27, 2008] What follows is a background document on slavery in Niger compiled by Anti- Slavery International. It assisted Hadijatou Mani in bringing her landmark court ...
www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/27/humanrights1 -)

Of course, since this passage has been borrowed from an article that is a little more than four years old, it may be just dusty evidence of an unfortunate, though recent, past. Nonetheless, the impact of the incidents in Niger may be long lasting.

Last night, I thought of that as I spoke with and listened to a 58-year-old woman, B., a gentle and black CNA.

“It didn’t matter that there were seats in the front of the bus. We were forced to sit in the back,” she said, when asked to share some of her personal history. “I was a child then. It was scary.”

Unlike details of memories from Niger, B.’s are 40-45 years old. Still, at times, she told us with her stories, they feel like fresh wounds.

“Sometimes,” she said, in a soft voice with her head held high, “I think about those days and I cry.”

As she must, I believe, since trauma etches so deeply. Its pain must be sanded away gradually, with retellings that impart meaning to the emotional content of history, to its torment and outrage. By reliving such causal moments, old fears are integrated into a continuum of experiences that allows an enhanced awareness to grow from painful roots.
I thought about that as I listened to B., an angel of kindness.

“You might want to come to my class next Friday,” I told her, “December 7th.”

I mentioned to her that my brother, who had just arrived from Colorado, had been in my class one of the times I had discussed slavery. “Well do that again, on the seventh.” My brother appeared excited by that announcement.

“We’ll have a guest, T.R., the same man my brother met in my classroom, a remarkable person with an incredible story. His ancestors were slaves. He’ll tell what he’s learned of their story. One thing he’ll mention is the special barbecue slaves made and the way they had to make it. The last time he visited, he explained why the recipe was never written down. It’s been passed on in secret from one generation to the next.”

B.’s eyes widened and glistened. She seemed interested; perhaps she would come. I wanted to say that the public is invited, that she and her husband could attend.

But I didn’t. Instead, I mentioned something I’ll never forget when T.R. first spoke to my class. It was the sumptuous taste of his barbecue. He’d brought enough for each of us to sample.

Something very good happened that day.

                                                          B. Koplen 11/27/12
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The Shackles of Slavery in Niger
June 3, 2005 —

Saturday, November 24, 2012

About the Gaza War, another view...

On second thought               On the first Friday in December, I’d decided to show my class the PBS documentary from its Secrets of the Dead series, “Mumbai Massacre,” about the killing spree that began in India on November 26, 2008---almost four years before the latest war in Gaza.

But, for a reason that may surprise you, I won’t.

The reason? Its images didn’t match ones I’d seen shortly after it happened. PBS’ were almost sanguine; they interviewed survivors, especially one Muslim couple spared because he remembered one surah of the Koran. Although they witnessed a number of the senseless shooting murders of infidel non-Muslims, they didn’t see the psychopathic hacking and slicing deaths of a young Jewish Rabbi and his pregnant wife at the Chabad House. [Warning: Graphic Photos of Mumbai Chabad House Massacre  Images inside the Mumbai Chabad House after the Nov. 26 massacre. Warning: Some of the photos contained on this page are explicit and graphic.
www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/128630 -]

That wasn’t part of the script. Near the end of “Mumbai Massacre” were a few comments that almost suggested that the killers were really misguided youths who weren’t all that bad. Such compassion smacked of Stockholm Syndrome; it wasn’t what I wanted my class to see.

Snipping out the cold and demonic truth about the anti-Semitic jihadists served only to make their brutality palatable. That creates an unreliable image.

I’ve had a similar feeling about the UNWRA, a UN group that supports Palestinian refugees the same way an absent parent supports their offspring: badly. What I hadn’t understood about UNWRA is why America pays about 35% of its annual budget. [please see: UNRWA  The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East - UNRWA - provides assistance, protection and advocacy for registered Palestine ...www.unrwa.org -]

When I had a chance to ask an executive of a large American Christian organization with strong ties to Israel’s leadership about continued support for UNWRA, I received an answer that appeared to be strikingly candid.

“Why do we continue to fund people who are committed to destroying Israel?” I’d asked.

“Because the Israelis want us to,” he answered.

“But why?” I asked in disbelief.

“They’re concerned about alienating the Palestinians who like them.” He shrugged in commiseration.

That was almost two years ago, two years after the Cast Lead operation (2008-2009). Cast Lead had ended with a treaty that was meant to serve to make that the last skirmish between Gazans and Israel. It didn’t work any better than Ariel Sharon’s forced evacuation of all Jews from Gaza. (A sign of that erroneous price paid for peace came immediately after the forced evacuation when the Gazans destroyed millions of dollars worth of hothouses left for them to use to create their own export business. Please see: USATODAY.com - Despite funds and protection, Gaza greenhouses ...  Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on ... Sharon has said one reason for the Gaza pullout... usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-09-13-mideast_x.htm -)

During the recent eight day long skirmish, a sense of déjà vu was irrepressible; many joined me in thinking it would end badly. Most felt that the poorly made truce would only serve to promote another attack and more missiles from Gaza.
Almost all of my Israeli correspondents expressed that same feeling.

One didn’t. He is a dear and respected friend, a Holocaust survivor. In a message that shook my certainty, he wrote:

On the subject of the war, thank God that this war is over for a while. It made no sense to continue it. We achieved what we set out to do and Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, has learned a lesson and we will have some quiet for a while. This war also opened the gates to some kind of understanding between Israel, the US, Egypt and Hamas. The biggest loser in this war is Iran which had a strong foothold in Gaza representing the Shiites. Between the two evils, Sunnis and Shiites, it is more practical for Israel to prefer the Sunnis. Iran is our deadliest enemy as they base their hatred for us on religious grounds. The new Egyptian ruler Mursi, is much more practical. Egypt is in ruins and depends on American financial help to keep afloat. Mursi didn't have to be pressed too hard by Obama to practically impose a ceasefire on Hamas. After the hammering Gaza got from our air force, they were ready for it anyway. Mursi wants to be the leader in the Arab world and considers Shiite Iran as the biggest threat to him. Ironically, Israel finds itself having the same interest as Mursi.
Mursi got us out of the necessity to invade Gaza with a million and a half Arabs to be fed. Even if we defeated Hamas, this would only play into the Iranian branches of Jihad Islami who were only waiting for Hamas to fall. Most Israelis were for going in and finishing Hamas, but this was an emotional reaction where reason was required. Of course, in the Middle East, like in the Middle East, reason is in short supply. 

                             B. Koplen 11/24/12

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

In line behind the turkeys...

Nothing but the truth?              In case you missed this article from the algemeiner, I’ll share a few of its main points:

During a “victory” celebration today in Gaza Hamas terror leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Palestinians in the West Bank to launch a third Intifada...
…Crowds took to the streets in Gaza Thursday to celebrate what Hamas declared as a victory against Israel’s military campaign, Operation Pillar of Defense...
“This historic victory is the beginning of the liberation of all of Palestine and the liberation of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the release of all Palestinian prisoners,” he cried. “Gaza will not return to what it was. The siege and political and economic isolation of the Gaza Strip has ended and will not come back. The Occupation will think again before starting a war against the opposition and against another Arab country.”
…On Wednesday Hamas terror chief Khaled Meshaal spoke with Christiane Amanpour in an interview on CNN. When pressed as to whether or not he would recognize Israel he said, according to a translation provided by CNN, “I accept a state of the 1967.  How can I accept Israel?  They have occupied my land.  I need recognition, not the Israelis.  This is a reversed question.”
He also said that an agreement would have to come based “according to the border of 1967 with the right to return.”

A Palestinian victory? Did I miss something? Although Israel stopped far short of scorching Gaza, for eight days Hamas was punished for its misdeeds. But they weren’t punished enough. Their leader, Ismail Haniyeh, should be imprisoned for calling for a third intifada. Perhaps because he wasn’t, that’s what constitutes a victory.

Or could it be that the impunity with which Haniyeh is treated is like a permanent pardon. Why aren’t he and Khaled Meshaal regarded as war criminals? Isn’t it time that, instead of photo ops with the Palestinian Abbas, Hilary Clinton should be showing the world that blatant attacks on civilian populations merit dire consequences?

Apparently, she’s not following President Obama’s lead. He’s setting a record for NOT issuing Presidential pardons! Although that’s great for the prison industry, more than a few people worthy of release are festering in jail cells. Obama could fix that. [please see: President Obama's poor pardoning record - The Week
... President Obama is on track to free fewer prisoners than almost every other president in American ...  theweek.com/.../president-obamas-poor-pardoning-record]

Has he bothered to consider the case of 1st Lt. Michael Behenna? Behenna deserves a hero’s welcome rather than imprisonment. [please see for yourself: DefendMichael.com Please sign this Pardon Petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/pardon-1st-lt-michael-behenna/VfMdVBwr . GE Stokes. Infuriating ... www.defendmichael.com]

Also, something is seriously wrong when Jonathan Pollard begins his 28th year in a North Carolina federal prison for a crime that never carries more than an eight-year sentence. [Please see: Justice for Jonathan Pollard
The official web site for Jonathan Pollard www.jonathanpollard.org ]

He was a Jewish spy for Israel! No one was harmed due to his espionage, if it deserves to be called that. In fact, President Bill Clinton agreed to pardon Pollard, but reneged in favor of pardoning Marc Rich, a donor to Clinton’s re-election campaign.

That would seem to be old news but for the fact that President Obama is very familiar with the case and the injustice that continues:

Judge Abner Mikva, an early mentor of the president who served as Clinton's first White House counsel, said that before the 2008 election he and Obama had discussed Clinton's pardon of financier Marc Rich. [my emphasis] The pardon for Rich, whose ex-wife was a major donor to Democrats, was seen as a damaging political favor, even by many Clinton supporters.
"I do remember a lengthy discussion about Marc Rich and it wasn't so much about the power as it was about how even a good president can be corrupted by the pardons process," Mikva recalled. "I think Marc Rich looms larger with Barack Obama than with other presidents because I think he was very, very dismayed by the Marc Rich pardon and the basis on which it appears to have been granted."  [my emphasis]

To make sense of this, it’s necessary to see who guides our President to make pardons. After all, when his record is compared to former leaders, the issue seems to be one that has gone unnoticed:

“…But Obama has parceled out forgiveness far more rarely than his recent predecessors, pardoning just 22 individuals while denying 1,019.
He has given pardons to roughly 1 of every 50 individuals whose applications were processed by the Justice Department. At this point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan had pardoned 1 of every 3 such applicants. George H.W. Bush had pardoned 1 in 16. Bill Clinton had pardoned 1 in 8. George W. Bush had pardoned 1 in 33.
Obama also has been stingy with commutations, applications for early release by those still serving federal prison sentences.
Under Reagan and Clinton, applicants for commutations had a 1 in 100 chance of success. Under George W. Bush, that fell to a little less than 1 in 1,000. Under Obama, an applicant's chance is slightly less than 1 in 5,000...”  http://www.enterprisenews.com/archive/x255964160/Obamas-clemency-record#ixzz2D0kL4JJb

One man may hold the answers. And it’s not President Obama:

To determine who receives clemency, Obama, like his predecessors, relies on recommendations from the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the arm of the Justice Department that reviews applications. The office — led by Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers, a former military judge and federal prosecutor — rarely dispenses endorsements, however. [my emphasis]

Attorney Rodgers may be the wrong man for the job. The following site raises some important questions. All of them relate to our leader’s ability to competently delegate responsibility. As you will see from the article, it’s long past time to examine that:

Following a disturbing investigation last month, law professors urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

In it, you’ll find this telling quote: “These legal experts [from Harvard Law, Stanford Law, George Washington University Law School, New York University School of Law, among others] see exactly what we see: a pardon attorney’s office that is failing to provide the president with the unbiased information he needs to fulfill his constitutional clemency power fully and fairly…and all taxpayers---should demand answers from OPA before continuing to subsidize this incompetent, if not corrupt, office.”

                                        B. Koplen  11/22/12

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why it's important to understand HUDNA...

Palpress Website referendum response: 64%:36% oppose long-term
Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA  22 November 2012

Palpress Website referendum response: 64%:36%  oppose long-term
Do you support the long-term truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip?
Yes (36%) - 834
No  (64%) - 1451

[This is not a "poll" - it is an internet referendum - and as an internet 
referendum the results are not associated with a particular physical 

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
Website: www.imra.org.il

Weekly Commentary Looking At The Text Of The Ceasefire Understanding – Just 
The Facts

Dr. Aaron Lerner Date: 22 November 2012

I want to take this opportunity to review the actual text of the Ceasefire 
Understanding announced yesterday in Cairo and leave speculation as to the 
efficacy of alternatives to PM Netanyahu's decision to accept this 
understanding to other commentators for today.

I do this because it is vitally important to understand what is in fact 
written and not written in the text.

[The text follows this commentary]

#1. The obligation of each party not to engage in "hostilities" is not 
linked to the compliance of the other party.

#2. In point of fact, the agreement explicitly and specifically prohibits 
Israel from the "targeting of individuals" - so that Israel cannot dispatch 
to Paradise a specific terrorist either before, during or after they have 
engaged in an activity against Israel.

#3. The only relief available to a party in the event that the other party 
violates the understanding is to inform Egypt of the violation, with Egypt 
following up on the violation.

#4. While the understanding places no restriction on the importation or 
local manufacture of weapons in the Gaza Strip, it prohibits any Israeli 
activity inside the Gaza Strip against this activity. (Take note:  Prime 
Minister Netanyahu said last night that "the United States and Israel would 
work together to fight the smuggling of weapons to the terror 
organizations".  Mr. Netanyahu did not mention Egypt and in the case of the 
Americans, this relates only to the smuggling of weapons – not their 
manufacture in the Gaza Strip).

I want to make it clear that I am not speculating if Israel will opt to 
violate the understanding and return fire.  I am also not going to 
speculate if Israel will opt to violate the understanding and demolish 
weapons manufacturing and storage facilities.  My point is only that such 
activities are not sanctioned by the understanding.

Which brings us to a disturbing element of the entire concept:

Israel's peace treaty with Egypt is one of the most critical strategic 
assets that Israel has.

Egypt is both the official sponsor of this understanding and, as already 
mentioned above, the party assigned the responsibility to follow up on 
violations of the understanding.

From this point onwards, every decision Israel makes regarding the Gaza 
Strip will have to give considerable weight to the possible impact of that 
decision on the future of the Jewish State's relations with Egypt.

I will leave for others to speculate if Hamas has been deterred or if, 
instead, they will exploit this understanding to prepare in earnest for the 
next round of conflict.

I will also leave for others to speculate if Israel will opt to exercise its 
fundamental sovereign right to defend itself.

I will only reiterate that the text of the understanding that Israel 
accepted last night has no provision for Israel to do anything beyond 
informing Egypt in the event of Palestinian violations and that there is 
absolutely no restriction of any kind on Palestinian military preparations.

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730
INTERNET ADDRESS: imra@netvision.net.il
Website: http://www.imra.org.il