Category: Michael Curtis

France and Israel: They'll Be Together Again


On April 13, 2010, when chestnuts were in blossom amid the charm of spring, the Israeli politician Shimon Peres, accompanied by the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, unveiled the David Ben-Gurion Promenade in the 7th arrondissement of Paris in front of the Musee du Quai Branly on the bank of the Seine near the Eiffel Tower. The Promenade is dedicated to the memory of Ben-Gurion, who was, according to the mayor, a true friend of France as well as being a man who worked for peace and the primary founder and the proclaimer of the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, and the first prime minister of the state.

At the ceremony, Peres, the lifelong associate and disciple of Ben Gurion, who had appointed him at age 29 Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in 1953, naturally praised his mentor for the contribution to the creation of Israel, but he also praised France, which he considered not only a country but also a culture, and one that was crucial for Israel. Peres expressed gratitude that France, right after the Holocaust, did not adhere to the embargo of arms to Israel but sent aid in the form of tanks and weapons, and saved the State of Israel from destruction by Arab forces.

It is timely that in his last book, No Room for Small Dreams, completed a short time before his death on September 28, 2016 at the age of 93, Peres reminded readers not only of this valuable aid given by France to Israel in its early years but also of France’s role in building the Israeli nuclear reactor, and of the close relationship between the two countries.

Shimon Peres in 1934 came from a shtetl in Poland to the land of Israel at age 11 and with large dreams held all the Israei major political offices, president, prime minister twice, foreign minister and many other ministries, and was amember of the Knesset 1959-2007. He was a Francophile who appreciated many aspects of French life and culture. In November 2013 near the end of his life, he was delighted to meet Charles Aznavour, the famous French singer dubbed France’s Frank Sinatra, in Tel Aviv and sang the words of the star’s song “She” during Aznavour’s performance.

Shimon Peres was a complex human being, in both personal and political terms, whose major achievement was to link Israel and France and to make a major contribution to the Israeli military strength, defense, aviation, and nuclear industries.

Peres was a curious mixture, dreamer and pragmatist, poet and art lover, political intriguer and statesman. He was an early hawk and nuclear pioneer who became, if not a dove, a man of peace, chief architect of the Oslo Accords and advocate of peace with Palestinians. Peres was brilliant, a knowledgeable, cultured, well-read man of the world, but also self-centered, obsessed with himself, sometimes vindictive, a man who sought and wanted power.  Many admired him but he was seen by some, as insincere and by his rival Yitzhak Rabin as a “tireless schemer.”  If he favored Israeli settlements in the West Bank, he was also friendly with Palestinian leaders.

The rendezvous of Peres with France began in the 1950s. In the early 1950s France was selling light weapons and then tanks to Israel. He and Prime Minister Ben Gurion realized that Israeli security could only be obtained by nuclear technology. In 1954 they understood that the arms Israel had been previously getting from Czechoslovakia were insufficient to ensure that security, and that aid was not forthcoming from Britain or from the U.S. under President Dwight Eisenhower. Peres understood there was an “emotional connection with the French.”

Three factors drove the relationship between the two countries. One was the mutual dislike of the threatening policies of Colonel Abdel Nasser, directly against Israel. and indirectly against France because of his support of the Algerian FLN (Algerian National Liberation Front) at war with France since 1954.

The second was the fact that this was the moment in France when the Radical Party was in power, some of whose leaders had been members of the Resistance during the Vichy era or been in concentration camps.  French and Israeli scars and the anguish both sides suffered were caused by the same evil.

The third was the secret alliance between Britain, France, and Israel over Suez. For various reasons the countries wanted to regain control of the Suez Canal, to reopen the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, to stop terrorist raids from Egypt, and to remove then-Colonel Nasser, who had nationalized the Canal on July 26, 1956, from power.

France had been supplying Israel with long-range cannons, then other arms, and with fighter aircraft, including the Mirage, France’s best combat aircraft. The initial step towards nuclear agreement was agreed on Sevres in October 1956 following the Protocol, the secret agreement between France, UK and Israel reached on October 22-24, 1956.  At the same time, Shimon Peres approached French foreign minister Christian Pineau and Maurice Bourges-Manoury, then defense minister, for help in building a nuclear capability, a reactor.

Peres was able to persuade the two French politicians, particularly Bourges-Manoury, who had become prime minister, to approve, and get the French Atomic Energy Commission to agree to the nuclear deal, though Bourges-Manoury resorted to a trick to do so the day after he fell from office. Construction began that led to Dimona, the Negev Nuclear Research Center, supposedly to obtain water desalination, since Israel lacked access to fresh water, and to make up for Israel’s lack of oil.

This was Peres’s moment of glory, his most important achievement. France, at the time Europe’s most advanced country in nuclear research, agreed to supply uranium and technical help to build the nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes at Dimona. For Peres followed Ben-Gurion in holding that Israel’s existence was guaranteed only by a deterrent: nuclear material is the first step to deterrence which was the first step on the path to peace. If Israel produces fissile materials, uranium and plutonium, for nuclear purposes, it is Peres who should get credit.

The entente between France and Israel has not always been cordial, with political changes and developments in international affairs.  Perhaps the lowest point was the policy of President Charles de Gaulle on November 27, 1967, and in March 1968 who wanted to free France from the “very special and very close ties to Israel.” For a variety of policy concerns, his desire to increase closer relations with Arab countries with the end of the Algerian war, and personal pique at Israel’s ignoring his advice not to attack Egypt, he imposed an arms embargo on June 2, 1967, stopped selling supplies of uranium to Israel, then called for international monitoring of Israel’s nuclear facilities. Paradoxically, this then led to a closer alignment of Israel with the U.S., and the decision of President Lyndon Johnson to sell Phantom fighter jets to Israel.

Differences between France and Israel still exist, especially on West Bank settlements, and France is still interested in hosting a peace conference on certain conditions. But Gaullist animosity is over. It is well to remember that former prime minister Nicholas Sarkozy has said,” France will never compromise on Israel’s security.”

On April 13, 2010, when chestnuts were in blossom amid the charm of spring, the Israeli politician Shimon Peres, accompanied by the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, unveiled the David Ben-Gurion Promenade in the 7th arrondissement of Paris in front of the Musee du Quai Branly on the bank of the Seine near the Eiffel Tower. The Promenade is dedicated to the memory of Ben-Gurion, who was, according to the mayor, a true friend of France as well as being a man who worked for peace and the primary founder and the proclaimer of the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, and the first prime minister of the state.

At the ceremony, Peres, the lifelong associate and disciple of Ben Gurion, who had appointed him at age 29 Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in 1953, naturally praised his mentor for the contribution to the creation of Israel, but he also praised France, which he considered not only a country but also a culture, and one that was crucial for Israel. Peres expressed gratitude that France, right after the Holocaust, did not adhere to the embargo of arms to Israel but sent aid in the form of tanks and weapons, and saved the State of Israel from destruction by Arab forces.

It is timely that in his last book, No Room for Small Dreams, completed a short time before his death on September 28, 2016 at the age of 93, Peres reminded readers not only of this valuable aid given by France to Israel in its early years but also of France’s role in building the Israeli nuclear reactor, and of the close relationship between the two countries.

Shimon Peres in 1934 came from a shtetl in Poland to the land of Israel at age 11 and with large dreams held all the Israei major political offices, president, prime minister twice, foreign minister and many other ministries, and was amember of the Knesset 1959-2007. He was a Francophile who appreciated many aspects of French life and culture. In November 2013 near the end of his life, he was delighted to meet Charles Aznavour, the famous French singer dubbed France’s Frank Sinatra, in Tel Aviv and sang the words of the star’s song “She” during Aznavour’s performance.

Shimon Peres was a complex human being, in both personal and political terms, whose major achievement was to link Israel and France and to make a major contribution to the Israeli military strength, defense, aviation, and nuclear industries.

Peres was a curious mixture, dreamer and pragmatist, poet and art lover, political intriguer and statesman. He was an early hawk and nuclear pioneer who became, if not a dove, a man of peace, chief architect of the Oslo Accords and advocate of peace with Palestinians. Peres was brilliant, a knowledgeable, cultured, well-read man of the world, but also self-centered, obsessed with himself, sometimes vindictive, a man who sought and wanted power.  Many admired him but he was seen by some, as insincere and by his rival Yitzhak Rabin as a “tireless schemer.”  If he favored Israeli settlements in the West Bank, he was also friendly with Palestinian leaders.

The rendezvous of Peres with France began in the 1950s. In the early 1950s France was selling light weapons and then tanks to Israel. He and Prime Minister Ben Gurion realized that Israeli security could only be obtained by nuclear technology. In 1954 they understood that the arms Israel had been previously getting from Czechoslovakia were insufficient to ensure that security, and that aid was not forthcoming from Britain or from the U.S. under President Dwight Eisenhower. Peres understood there was an “emotional connection with the French.”

Three factors drove the relationship between the two countries. One was the mutual dislike of the threatening policies of Colonel Abdel Nasser, directly against Israel. and indirectly against France because of his support of the Algerian FLN (Algerian National Liberation Front) at war with France since 1954.

The second was the fact that this was the moment in France when the Radical Party was in power, some of whose leaders had been members of the Resistance during the Vichy era or been in concentration camps.  French and Israeli scars and the anguish both sides suffered were caused by the same evil.

The third was the secret alliance between Britain, France, and Israel over Suez. For various reasons the countries wanted to regain control of the Suez Canal, to reopen the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, to stop terrorist raids from Egypt, and to remove then-Colonel Nasser, who had nationalized the Canal on July 26, 1956, from power.

France had been supplying Israel with long-range cannons, then other arms, and with fighter aircraft, including the Mirage, France’s best combat aircraft. The initial step towards nuclear agreement was agreed on Sevres in October 1956 following the Protocol, the secret agreement between France, UK and Israel reached on October 22-24, 1956.  At the same time, Shimon Peres approached French foreign minister Christian Pineau and Maurice Bourges-Manoury, then defense minister, for help in building a nuclear capability, a reactor.

Peres was able to persuade the two French politicians, particularly Bourges-Manoury, who had become prime minister, to approve, and get the French Atomic Energy Commission to agree to the nuclear deal, though Bourges-Manoury resorted to a trick to do so the day after he fell from office. Construction began that led to Dimona, the Negev Nuclear Research Center, supposedly to obtain water desalination, since Israel lacked access to fresh water, and to make up for Israel’s lack of oil.

This was Peres’s moment of glory, his most important achievement. France, at the time Europe’s most advanced country in nuclear research, agreed to supply uranium and technical help to build the nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes at Dimona. For Peres followed Ben-Gurion in holding that Israel’s existence was guaranteed only by a deterrent: nuclear material is the first step to deterrence which was the first step on the path to peace. If Israel produces fissile materials, uranium and plutonium, for nuclear purposes, it is Peres who should get credit.

The entente between France and Israel has not always been cordial, with political changes and developments in international affairs.  Perhaps the lowest point was the policy of President Charles de Gaulle on November 27, 1967, and in March 1968 who wanted to free France from the “very special and very close ties to Israel.” For a variety of policy concerns, his desire to increase closer relations with Arab countries with the end of the Algerian war, and personal pique at Israel’s ignoring his advice not to attack Egypt, he imposed an arms embargo on June 2, 1967, stopped selling supplies of uranium to Israel, then called for international monitoring of Israel’s nuclear facilities. Paradoxically, this then led to a closer alignment of Israel with the U.S., and the decision of President Lyndon Johnson to sell Phantom fighter jets to Israel.

Differences between France and Israel still exist, especially on West Bank settlements, and France is still interested in hosting a peace conference on certain conditions. But Gaullist animosity is over. It is well to remember that former prime minister Nicholas Sarkozy has said,” France will never compromise on Israel’s security.”



Source link

The United States Must Meet the North Korean Threat


On October 6, 2017, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).  The text of the award stated, “We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time[.] … [T]here is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.”

The world, most of all President Donald Trump but even China, is well aware of that particular danger.  Trump has declared that “we cannot allow [Kim’s] dictatorship to threaten our nation or our allies with unimaginable loss of life[.] … [T]he goal is denuclearization.”  But would the United States totally destroy North Korea to defend itself and allies?  U.S. policymakers are divided on the issue.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson speaks of direct lines, a couple of direct channels, and of communication with North Korea, while President Trump appears to believe that it is a waste of time to try negotiating.  This war of words may be undesirable, but both sides acknowledge that the use of a nuclear weapon by North Korea would start a war it could not win and would lead to Kim’s destruction.  All would suffer.

Similarly, the world is aware that the North Korean nuclear arsenal is growing and that its ballistic missile force is now a real danger.  The country has conducted six ballistic nuclear tests, has a hydrogen bomb, and has intercontinental ballistic capability that can hit the western part of the U.S. and perhaps also Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Though there are legitimate differences of opinion on how to respond to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, there are no differences about the dictator Kim Jong-un, the ruler since he took power in 2011.  He is a ruthless killer who has acted to consolidate power, murdering his uncle Jang Song-thaek, “a traitor for all ages,” and ordering the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, in Malaysia.  He acts to maintain his grip on power as well as to create a nuclear state.  By one estimate, he has executed 340, including 140 senior political and military officials. 

Kim has used barbarous language, a substitute for physical execution, about American leaders.  Most recently, Donald Trump is “mentally deranged and is a dotard” (September 22, 2017); Barack Obama was “reminiscent of a wicked black monkey,” (2014); Hillary Clinton “sometimes looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping” (July 23, 2009); and George W. Bush was a “hooligan, bereft of any personality as a human being” (May 2005).

Others might disagree, but U.S. CIA sources hold that Kim is not crazy, but a “rational actor” concerned with the survival of his regime.  More likely, the unpredictable Kim wants to make North Korea a relevant player in international affairs, respected for its military strength and especially its nuclear strength, assert his equivalence with Donald Trump, and make North Korea a prominent issue at the U.N. General Assembly and other international meetings.

The present ruler’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, on becoming the ruler in 1972, wanted nuclear weapons from the start and built a nuclear research reactor in Yongbyon that could be a source of plutonium.  At the time, both Russia and China denied him help in nuclear weapons.  However, his nuclear program continued.  In October 1994, North Korea signed an Agreed Framework (A.F.) by which it would freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for receiving from the U.S. energy assistance in the form of heavy fuel oil and light water reactors.  George W. Bush referred to it as “a mistake.”  The Agreed Framework broke down in 2002, when it was found that North Korea had a highly enriched secret nuclear program, had bought technology and equipment abroad, and had made secret deals with Pakistan.  In January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the A.F.

Russia got Kim to sign a nuclear proliferation treaty in 1985, but North Korea didn’t give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to Yongbyon and was slow to fulfill the treaty.  Again, in December 1991, North and South Korea agreed to a declaration for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and the North said it would agree to an inspections regime.  But North Korea again cheated regarding its plutonium and refused to comply.  It was hiding its nuclear program; it had bought technology and equipment abroad and had made deals with Pakistan.

In response, sanctions were imposed by the U.S. in the belief that only strong economic pressure can lead to a change in N.K. policy on nuclear weapons and other programs.  This is being done in spite of the fact that the N.K. 1972 constitution, amended in 2012, identifies the regime as socialist and revolutionary, a dictatorship of people’s democracy, and as a “nuclear armed state.”

It is too late and absurd to suggest that the problem of the Korean peninsula would be solved if it were given back to Japan.  Another factor is that the 1953 armistice between the two Koreas that suspended the Korean civil war has lasted for 64 years, though Kim has renounced it and declared that N.K. has a right to a pre-emptive nuclear weapon.

The international community sees N.K. as dangerous and provocative.  What is to be done?  There are four alternatives, if not real possibilities.

One is the removal of Kim, peacefully or not.  Political peaceful procedures are not of course yet available in the country.  But the use of force by the U.S. is unlikely for two reasons.  The first is that assassination is not normal U.S. procedure.  The other realistic factor is that Kim is well protected and spends much time in underground facilities.

Second is the elimination of nuclear facilities – again, difficult, because much of N.K. facilities, and its important military infrastructure, is underground.  Moreover, N.K. has considerable military assets, especially artillery along the border with South Korea.  In the event of hostilities, N.K. could strike the 24,000 U.S. troops in South Korea.

In any case, is the U.S. missile defense system, a mixture of the Patriot missiles, the terminal high-altitude area defense system (THAAD), and the Aegis defense system, and the ground -based midcourse defense system (GMD), able to destroy a N.K. nuclear warhead?

Third is strengthening of sanctions by other states as well as the U.S.  Sanctions have targeted institutions and people involved in developing and financing the weapons programs, arms trade, human rights abuses, oil imports, violations of cyber-security, limiting access to the international finance system, and entities that contribute to the country’s export earnings.  These institutions and people cannot do business with the U.S. and American companies.  U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley wanted the strongest possible sanctions, especially a complete oil embargo, and punitive measures against Kim.  The U.N. resolution on the issue calls for a limit of imports of refined and crude oil to 8.5 million barrels a year.  Also, textiles, accounting for a quarter of N.K. export income, are banned.

China has been helpful to an extent: already it has up a system of inspectors and checkpoints, including the use of military dogs in an effort to close down N.K. smuggling routes.  China has also been admitting N.K. defectors.

Finally and fourth, what is left is diplomacy between N.K. and the U.S. and rest of the world.  Here Russia and especially China which must play a role, as the latter has begun in imposing sanctions.  Everyone knows that nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity.  The U.S. has a prominent role in meeting that threat.  Whether Kim is crazy or not, U.S. actions should be doing the difficult thing right now.  The impossible will take a little longer.

On October 6, 2017, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).  The text of the award stated, “We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time[.] … [T]here is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.”

The world, most of all President Donald Trump but even China, is well aware of that particular danger.  Trump has declared that “we cannot allow [Kim’s] dictatorship to threaten our nation or our allies with unimaginable loss of life[.] … [T]he goal is denuclearization.”  But would the United States totally destroy North Korea to defend itself and allies?  U.S. policymakers are divided on the issue.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson speaks of direct lines, a couple of direct channels, and of communication with North Korea, while President Trump appears to believe that it is a waste of time to try negotiating.  This war of words may be undesirable, but both sides acknowledge that the use of a nuclear weapon by North Korea would start a war it could not win and would lead to Kim’s destruction.  All would suffer.

Similarly, the world is aware that the North Korean nuclear arsenal is growing and that its ballistic missile force is now a real danger.  The country has conducted six ballistic nuclear tests, has a hydrogen bomb, and has intercontinental ballistic capability that can hit the western part of the U.S. and perhaps also Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Though there are legitimate differences of opinion on how to respond to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, there are no differences about the dictator Kim Jong-un, the ruler since he took power in 2011.  He is a ruthless killer who has acted to consolidate power, murdering his uncle Jang Song-thaek, “a traitor for all ages,” and ordering the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, in Malaysia.  He acts to maintain his grip on power as well as to create a nuclear state.  By one estimate, he has executed 340, including 140 senior political and military officials. 

Kim has used barbarous language, a substitute for physical execution, about American leaders.  Most recently, Donald Trump is “mentally deranged and is a dotard” (September 22, 2017); Barack Obama was “reminiscent of a wicked black monkey,” (2014); Hillary Clinton “sometimes looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping” (July 23, 2009); and George W. Bush was a “hooligan, bereft of any personality as a human being” (May 2005).

Others might disagree, but U.S. CIA sources hold that Kim is not crazy, but a “rational actor” concerned with the survival of his regime.  More likely, the unpredictable Kim wants to make North Korea a relevant player in international affairs, respected for its military strength and especially its nuclear strength, assert his equivalence with Donald Trump, and make North Korea a prominent issue at the U.N. General Assembly and other international meetings.

The present ruler’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, on becoming the ruler in 1972, wanted nuclear weapons from the start and built a nuclear research reactor in Yongbyon that could be a source of plutonium.  At the time, both Russia and China denied him help in nuclear weapons.  However, his nuclear program continued.  In October 1994, North Korea signed an Agreed Framework (A.F.) by which it would freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for receiving from the U.S. energy assistance in the form of heavy fuel oil and light water reactors.  George W. Bush referred to it as “a mistake.”  The Agreed Framework broke down in 2002, when it was found that North Korea had a highly enriched secret nuclear program, had bought technology and equipment abroad, and had made secret deals with Pakistan.  In January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the A.F.

Russia got Kim to sign a nuclear proliferation treaty in 1985, but North Korea didn’t give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to Yongbyon and was slow to fulfill the treaty.  Again, in December 1991, North and South Korea agreed to a declaration for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and the North said it would agree to an inspections regime.  But North Korea again cheated regarding its plutonium and refused to comply.  It was hiding its nuclear program; it had bought technology and equipment abroad and had made deals with Pakistan.

In response, sanctions were imposed by the U.S. in the belief that only strong economic pressure can lead to a change in N.K. policy on nuclear weapons and other programs.  This is being done in spite of the fact that the N.K. 1972 constitution, amended in 2012, identifies the regime as socialist and revolutionary, a dictatorship of people’s democracy, and as a “nuclear armed state.”

It is too late and absurd to suggest that the problem of the Korean peninsula would be solved if it were given back to Japan.  Another factor is that the 1953 armistice between the two Koreas that suspended the Korean civil war has lasted for 64 years, though Kim has renounced it and declared that N.K. has a right to a pre-emptive nuclear weapon.

The international community sees N.K. as dangerous and provocative.  What is to be done?  There are four alternatives, if not real possibilities.

One is the removal of Kim, peacefully or not.  Political peaceful procedures are not of course yet available in the country.  But the use of force by the U.S. is unlikely for two reasons.  The first is that assassination is not normal U.S. procedure.  The other realistic factor is that Kim is well protected and spends much time in underground facilities.

Second is the elimination of nuclear facilities – again, difficult, because much of N.K. facilities, and its important military infrastructure, is underground.  Moreover, N.K. has considerable military assets, especially artillery along the border with South Korea.  In the event of hostilities, N.K. could strike the 24,000 U.S. troops in South Korea.

In any case, is the U.S. missile defense system, a mixture of the Patriot missiles, the terminal high-altitude area defense system (THAAD), and the Aegis defense system, and the ground -based midcourse defense system (GMD), able to destroy a N.K. nuclear warhead?

Third is strengthening of sanctions by other states as well as the U.S.  Sanctions have targeted institutions and people involved in developing and financing the weapons programs, arms trade, human rights abuses, oil imports, violations of cyber-security, limiting access to the international finance system, and entities that contribute to the country’s export earnings.  These institutions and people cannot do business with the U.S. and American companies.  U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley wanted the strongest possible sanctions, especially a complete oil embargo, and punitive measures against Kim.  The U.N. resolution on the issue calls for a limit of imports of refined and crude oil to 8.5 million barrels a year.  Also, textiles, accounting for a quarter of N.K. export income, are banned.

China has been helpful to an extent: already it has up a system of inspectors and checkpoints, including the use of military dogs in an effort to close down N.K. smuggling routes.  China has also been admitting N.K. defectors.

Finally and fourth, what is left is diplomacy between N.K. and the U.S. and rest of the world.  Here Russia and especially China which must play a role, as the latter has begun in imposing sanctions.  Everyone knows that nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity.  The U.S. has a prominent role in meeting that threat.  Whether Kim is crazy or not, U.S. actions should be doing the difficult thing right now.  The impossible will take a little longer.



Source link

Courageous American Feminist: Phyllis Chesler


Anything men can do women can do as well, maybe better was the declaration of the British writer Mary Wollstonecraft, whose “Vindication of the Rights of Women” was published in 1792.  She denied the prevailing attitude that women are naturally inferior to men and insisted that women and men should be equally educated and that equality of men and women should exist in political, social, and economic life.  It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that the effort to establish the struggle for the emancipation of women emerged in the United States and Britain.

Since what is called the First Wave of Feminism in the U.S., the feminist movement has articulated a variety of arguments concerning the nature of female emancipation, equal rights for women, gender discrimination, the identity of women, equal pay, the social construction of gender roles, and the political and cultural role of women throughout the societies in which they live. 

Like all other social and political movements, the feminist movement has been divided , full of factions and strong personalities presenting a different and changing focus on the issues of women.  Among American feminists, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Kate Millett, Barbara Seaman, Gloria Steinem, and others played prominent competing, sometimes rival roles concerning those issues.

Some issues such as whether gender roles are due to social conditioning remain relevant and controversial.  Others, once thought central to feminist theory and the subject of heated debate such as the question of “essentialism,” whether biology determines women’s capacities, and what this entails, have been largely dismissed.

Among the most courageous of modern America feminists is Phyllis Chesler, whose voluminous writings are infused with her singular and colorful personal life.  Her story is unusual in that , starting as an unsophisticated young Jewish girl in New York, she ran away from home and religion to marry a Western-educated Afghani and went with him to Kabul, where she discovered he was not a knight in shining armor.  She suffered abuse as his Muslim family enforced the cruel traditional gender rules of Afghanistan and the Islamic faith.  She was a virtual prisoner in the family home.  She was fortunate to escape from Afghanistan, from where she returned to the United States and eventually became a well known professor of psychology, a psychologist, and a public intellectual.

Chesler’s dominant quality is courage – the willingness to speak the truth to fellow feminists, even if it opposes conventional feminist principles, as well as to the world in general.  She is no shrinking violet; she does not express herself in a still, small voice.  She holds definite opinions but is not an imperious dogmatist.  There is no mistaking her point of view, expressed in a loud, commanding, direct way, about political and social affairs.  If her views are striking and controversial, she is eager to debate them.  But she is forthright about the way that women may hurt each other and even more about what she sees as the wrong direction of contemporary feminists, especially those she sees as “left-wing post-colonial” writers whose main target is white Western men.

Her new book, Islamic Gender Apartheid: Exposing the Veiled War against Women, is made up of articles written over a 14-year period, from 2003 to 2016.  Some of them are the outcome of speeches at conferences and government hearings.  Many are related to specific issues.  During her career, Chesler has dealt with most of the problems familiar to other feminists: sexual objectification of women, economic parity, abortion rights, pornography, prostitution, and violence such as rape and sexual harassment.

Here, her main thrust, as the title indicates, is Islamic gender apartheid, which she regards as a violation of women’s and human rights, including child marriage, polygamy, girls being forced to marry against their will, girls being forced to wear the veil, female genital mutilations, honor violence, and murder by their own families.

Chesler, in sorrow and in anger, points out that these are subjects many other feminist scholars have ignored or refused to discuss until recently.  These feminists ground their refusal in multicultural relativism and perhaps redress of past racism.  As a result of the tragic silence and lack of concern of feminists on this issue, as one concerned with the subordination and humiliation of Muslim women in their own countries and those who have escaped to the U.S., as well as for her support of the State of Israel, Chesler has experienced censorship; been marginalized; and been sent, as she puts it, to the American Gulag.  Chesler is in the same league as other courageous writers, among them Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who herself survived female genital mutilation in Somalia; Nonie Darwish; and Asra Nomani, all concerned with promoting women’s rights in Islamic countries.

Chesler alerts her fellow feminists: American women must oppose the gender apartheid of Muslim women, or they will lose their freedom, too.  American women must stand up for the rights of all women, including Muslim, tribal, and immigrant women.

Chesler believes in a universal standard of human rights and values, such as separation of religion and state and the right to dissent, and she is critical of Islamic behavior that contradicts these values.  Again and again, she censures aspects of that behavior.  The Islamic veil or burqa cannot be praised; it is what she calls a sensory deprivation chamber, violating a woman’s dignity and restricting her mobility.

Chesler defines herself not only as a feminist , American patriot, and internationalist, but also as a religious Jew.  As such, she makes another important point: she is unhappy with feminists, influenced by post-colonialism and postmodernism, who concentrate on a purportedly anti-colonial feminism, which is primarily an attack on the State of Israel, and a call for the “decolonization of Palestine.”

Such feminists see Israel as a country practicing apartheid, ignoring two fundamental factors: Israel has active feminist and gay rights movements, and the reality is that Islam is the largest practitioner of both gender and religious apartheid.  These feminists say nothing about the atrocities perpetrated by Muslims, slavery, anti-black racism, conversion by the sword, persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities, and the most barbaric abuse of women.  They are more concerned with the so-called occupation of Palestine than with the occupation of women’s bodies. 

Chesler’s message is important for U.S. policymakers as well as for fellow feminists.  It is disgraceful that what she calls “faux feminism” is more interested in alleged Israeli “occupation” than the Muslim honor killings in the same region.

Anything men can do women can do as well, maybe better was the declaration of the British writer Mary Wollstonecraft, whose “Vindication of the Rights of Women” was published in 1792.  She denied the prevailing attitude that women are naturally inferior to men and insisted that women and men should be equally educated and that equality of men and women should exist in political, social, and economic life.  It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that the effort to establish the struggle for the emancipation of women emerged in the United States and Britain.

Since what is called the First Wave of Feminism in the U.S., the feminist movement has articulated a variety of arguments concerning the nature of female emancipation, equal rights for women, gender discrimination, the identity of women, equal pay, the social construction of gender roles, and the political and cultural role of women throughout the societies in which they live. 

Like all other social and political movements, the feminist movement has been divided , full of factions and strong personalities presenting a different and changing focus on the issues of women.  Among American feminists, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Kate Millett, Barbara Seaman, Gloria Steinem, and others played prominent competing, sometimes rival roles concerning those issues.

Some issues such as whether gender roles are due to social conditioning remain relevant and controversial.  Others, once thought central to feminist theory and the subject of heated debate such as the question of “essentialism,” whether biology determines women’s capacities, and what this entails, have been largely dismissed.

Among the most courageous of modern America feminists is Phyllis Chesler, whose voluminous writings are infused with her singular and colorful personal life.  Her story is unusual in that , starting as an unsophisticated young Jewish girl in New York, she ran away from home and religion to marry a Western-educated Afghani and went with him to Kabul, where she discovered he was not a knight in shining armor.  She suffered abuse as his Muslim family enforced the cruel traditional gender rules of Afghanistan and the Islamic faith.  She was a virtual prisoner in the family home.  She was fortunate to escape from Afghanistan, from where she returned to the United States and eventually became a well known professor of psychology, a psychologist, and a public intellectual.

Chesler’s dominant quality is courage – the willingness to speak the truth to fellow feminists, even if it opposes conventional feminist principles, as well as to the world in general.  She is no shrinking violet; she does not express herself in a still, small voice.  She holds definite opinions but is not an imperious dogmatist.  There is no mistaking her point of view, expressed in a loud, commanding, direct way, about political and social affairs.  If her views are striking and controversial, she is eager to debate them.  But she is forthright about the way that women may hurt each other and even more about what she sees as the wrong direction of contemporary feminists, especially those she sees as “left-wing post-colonial” writers whose main target is white Western men.

Her new book, Islamic Gender Apartheid: Exposing the Veiled War against Women, is made up of articles written over a 14-year period, from 2003 to 2016.  Some of them are the outcome of speeches at conferences and government hearings.  Many are related to specific issues.  During her career, Chesler has dealt with most of the problems familiar to other feminists: sexual objectification of women, economic parity, abortion rights, pornography, prostitution, and violence such as rape and sexual harassment.

Here, her main thrust, as the title indicates, is Islamic gender apartheid, which she regards as a violation of women’s and human rights, including child marriage, polygamy, girls being forced to marry against their will, girls being forced to wear the veil, female genital mutilations, honor violence, and murder by their own families.

Chesler, in sorrow and in anger, points out that these are subjects many other feminist scholars have ignored or refused to discuss until recently.  These feminists ground their refusal in multicultural relativism and perhaps redress of past racism.  As a result of the tragic silence and lack of concern of feminists on this issue, as one concerned with the subordination and humiliation of Muslim women in their own countries and those who have escaped to the U.S., as well as for her support of the State of Israel, Chesler has experienced censorship; been marginalized; and been sent, as she puts it, to the American Gulag.  Chesler is in the same league as other courageous writers, among them Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who herself survived female genital mutilation in Somalia; Nonie Darwish; and Asra Nomani, all concerned with promoting women’s rights in Islamic countries.

Chesler alerts her fellow feminists: American women must oppose the gender apartheid of Muslim women, or they will lose their freedom, too.  American women must stand up for the rights of all women, including Muslim, tribal, and immigrant women.

Chesler believes in a universal standard of human rights and values, such as separation of religion and state and the right to dissent, and she is critical of Islamic behavior that contradicts these values.  Again and again, she censures aspects of that behavior.  The Islamic veil or burqa cannot be praised; it is what she calls a sensory deprivation chamber, violating a woman’s dignity and restricting her mobility.

Chesler defines herself not only as a feminist , American patriot, and internationalist, but also as a religious Jew.  As such, she makes another important point: she is unhappy with feminists, influenced by post-colonialism and postmodernism, who concentrate on a purportedly anti-colonial feminism, which is primarily an attack on the State of Israel, and a call for the “decolonization of Palestine.”

Such feminists see Israel as a country practicing apartheid, ignoring two fundamental factors: Israel has active feminist and gay rights movements, and the reality is that Islam is the largest practitioner of both gender and religious apartheid.  These feminists say nothing about the atrocities perpetrated by Muslims, slavery, anti-black racism, conversion by the sword, persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities, and the most barbaric abuse of women.  They are more concerned with the so-called occupation of Palestine than with the occupation of women’s bodies. 

Chesler’s message is important for U.S. policymakers as well as for fellow feminists.  It is disgraceful that what she calls “faux feminism” is more interested in alleged Israeli “occupation” than the Muslim honor killings in the same region.



Source link

Homage to Catalonia


No one is likely is mistake Trump for Thomas Hobbes or for a formulator of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia that ended the European wars of religion, and called for the creation of nation states, based on territory, population, accepted central authority, and international recognition. Nevertheless, Trump’s remarks follow the lines of classical concepts of sovereignty, states that result from independence of nations that are rooted in their histories and invested in their destinies.

The Trump administration is now faced with two issues, Catalonia in Spain and the Kurds in the Middle East, that challenge the sovereignty of the states in which regions exist by their call for independence or secession from an existing state in order to create a new state. The Catalonia issue is the more immediate and pressing one, and one that may affect the behavior of regions in other countries such as Scotland in the UK, Flanders in Belgium, Quebec in Canada, the Faroe Islands under Denmark, Chechnya in Russia, “Padania” in Italy, Texas in the U.S., and even Brooklyn, allegedly the country’s fourth largest town, in New York City.

Spain is a diverse country including people with different languages and cultures, and embracing 17 provinces that have autonomy and some devolution of power. It has long been troubled by regionalist demands. The immediate problem is whether Madrid, the capital of Spain, which won the football World Cup in 2010, and has a red, yellow, red flag, will allow the secession of Catalonia, based in Barcelona, the host for the Summer Olympic Games in 1992, with its unofficial striped blue, red, yellow Estelada flag, as an independent state. If not, will Spain be faced with continuing violence and perhaps even civil war?

This kind of issue is not new in three senses. One is that a number of countries, for example Belgium, the Baltic Republics, and the Czech Republic, have emerged out of larger ones. The second is the reality that the region desiring independence may be more developed than the rest of the country, as in the case of the Czechs living under the rule of the Empire in Vienna. A third factor is that minorities in a number of countries, Lega Nord in Italy, Alsace in France, may call for some form of devolution if not absolute independence.

Relations between Catalonia and the Spanish ruler have been strained since Barcelona, its main city, fell in 1714 to Philip V, grandson of Louis XIV, and the area of Catalonia was subjected to the institutions and laws of the Crown of Castile. The problem was that Catalonia had supported the losing side, Archduke Charles of the House of Habsburg, Austria, in the war, 1701-14, against Philip of the House of Bourbon, for the Spanish throne. The region’s national holiday, the Diada, on September 11 commemorates the 1714 defeat.

In 1901, a Catalonian nationalist party was founded, based on the view that Catalonia was the most economically and culturally advanced part of the country, that its people spoke a different language and had a civil law distinct from the rest of the country, and constituted a nation of its own.

There was indeed a short-lived Catalan Republic, 1931-39, that was ended with the victory of General Francisco Franco against the Republican regime in the Spanish civil war. The Catalonian slogan, ”No pasarán” (they shall not pass) was to made famous by the Communist Dolores Ibarruri Gomez in the siege of Madrid in July 1936 during the Civil War.

In 1934, a Catalonian state in the Spanish Federal Republic was proclaimed, but this regional government, the Generalitat, headed by a president, Lluis Companys, was abolished by Franco, who also banned the official use of the Catalan language. Many Catalonians fled to France, including Companys, who was arrested by the Nazis, sent back to Spain, and executed, a martyr president.

The core problem is whether the Catalans constitute a nation. Catalonia, a wealthy region, is one of the 17 autonomous regions with considerable self-government, but it has long wanted more. The region, centered on Barcelona, has 7.5 million population, 16% of the Spanish population, accounts for 20% of Spain’s GDP, and 30% of foreign trade, is self-governing in certain areas, police, health and education, while Madrid still controls taxes, foreign policy, and infrastructures. Catalonia has its own widely admired regional police force, the 17,000 Mossos d’Esquadra, one that is responsible to the Catalan minister of the interior, in addition to the 5,000 state police.

Barcelona is now one of the world’s favorite tourist areas. It is the home of FC Barcelona, perhaps the most popular soccer team in the world, a nationalist symbol with the motto, “more than a club,” and potent rival of Real Madrid. It is also the locale of a more controversial inhabitant, the La Sagrada Familia Temple, the large unfinished Roman Catholic Church, about the structure of which there are strong mixed opinions.

For a decade, the relationship between region and state has become complex, resembling a political and constitutional crisis. In 2010, the Spanish Constitutional Court declared invalid some of the provisions for Catalan autonomy outlined in a 2006 statute, as well as in the 1978 Constitution. The Spanish courts and the central government hold that the 1978 Constitution, which was approved by 91% of voters in a turnout of 67%, is indivisible, and that the separatists are breaking the law.  Article 155 of the Constitution allows the government to suspend Catalan autonomy.

However, an unofficial non-binding vote in Catalonia in November 2014 registered 81% favoring independence, though the turnout was only 35%. In the regional election in September, 2015 the separatist parties won. In November 2015 the Catalan legislature approved, 72 to 63, a plan for secession by 2017, but the Constitutional Court suspended the plan.

Then the 54-year-old president of Catalonia, former journalist Carles Puigdemont in June 2017, a fervent advocate of Catalonia as an independent republic, announced that a binding resolution on independence would be held on October 1, 2017. The question is simple: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic, Yes or No?” If the vote was positive, he would declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of the vote.

Political systems differ. In 2014, a referendum on independence for Scotland was held with legal consent of the central government in London. In contrast, the central Spanish government in Madrid, headed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, head of the conservative Popular Party, denies the legality of the Catalonian referendum of October 1st. Rajoy spoke of the “indivisible unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards.”

The Spanish government got rulings from Constitutional Tribunals that it is unconstitutional for a region to call a referendum.  The powers of the Constitutional Court were increased in 2015 so it can enforce its decisions. The Court has struck down a number of laws enacted by the Catalan parliament, and in September 2017 imposed fines on members of the Catalan election board.

The national government argues, and the majority of Spaniards and the media agree, it is upholding the rule of law that must be respected; the Catalans, however, speak of “authoritarian repression” and compare the actions by Madrid to prevent independence to the brutality of Francisco Franco in attacks on the Catalan language, culture, and political aspirations.

About 5.3 million Catalans are eligible to vote. In preparation, on September 23, 2017 Madrid put all police forces temporally under a single chain of command reporting to Madrid. Four thousand more police were sent into the area. Separatist websites were blocked, material and ten million ballots were seized, and police were told to stop public buildings from being used as polling stations. At least 14 officials working on arrangements for the referendum were arrested.

Nevertheless, most of the mayors in the 940 Catalan municipalities were proreferendum. The Catalan regional police, numbering 17,000, did not obey the court order to prevent voting if it inflamed local tensions. At the referendum on October 1, 2017 in which 2.2 million participated, 42.3% of the electorate, 90% voted for independence and 8% voted no. Yet, the violence in which about 850 Catalans were injured by the national police attempting to prevent the voting escalated the conflict over Catalonia, as well as hardening political positions in the country.

Logically, now that the official result has been announced  the next step is for it to go to the Catalan parliament, which could then adopt a motion of independence, a real possibility since separatists have a majority, 72 of 135 in the parliament. But all sides in the country are toiling with the problem, What price victory?

In a context of scenes of violence and disproportionate use of force by National police against citizens asserting their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the country of Spain is divided between a national government calling for respect for law and the constitution and national unity, and the authorities and people of Catalonia declaring the right to become an independent political entity. The case is still open between Spanisn nationalists believing we’ll be together again, and secessionists responding, we get along without you very well.

In his speech on September 19, 2017 at the UN General Assembly, President Donald Trump somewhat surprisingly made some political philosophical remarks about the nation state, the best vehicle for elevating the human condition. He urged the need for “strong, independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.”

No one is likely is mistake Trump for Thomas Hobbes or for a formulator of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia that ended the European wars of religion, and called for the creation of nation states, based on territory, population, accepted central authority, and international recognition. Nevertheless, Trump’s remarks follow the lines of classical concepts of sovereignty, states that result from independence of nations that are rooted in their histories and invested in their destinies.

The Trump administration is now faced with two issues, Catalonia in Spain and the Kurds in the Middle East, that challenge the sovereignty of the states in which regions exist by their call for independence or secession from an existing state in order to create a new state. The Catalonia issue is the more immediate and pressing one, and one that may affect the behavior of regions in other countries such as Scotland in the UK, Flanders in Belgium, Quebec in Canada, the Faroe Islands under Denmark, Chechnya in Russia, “Padania” in Italy, Texas in the U.S., and even Brooklyn, allegedly the country’s fourth largest town, in New York City.

Spain is a diverse country including people with different languages and cultures, and embracing 17 provinces that have autonomy and some devolution of power. It has long been troubled by regionalist demands. The immediate problem is whether Madrid, the capital of Spain, which won the football World Cup in 2010, and has a red, yellow, red flag, will allow the secession of Catalonia, based in Barcelona, the host for the Summer Olympic Games in 1992, with its unofficial striped blue, red, yellow Estelada flag, as an independent state. If not, will Spain be faced with continuing violence and perhaps even civil war?

This kind of issue is not new in three senses. One is that a number of countries, for example Belgium, the Baltic Republics, and the Czech Republic, have emerged out of larger ones. The second is the reality that the region desiring independence may be more developed than the rest of the country, as in the case of the Czechs living under the rule of the Empire in Vienna. A third factor is that minorities in a number of countries, Lega Nord in Italy, Alsace in France, may call for some form of devolution if not absolute independence.

Relations between Catalonia and the Spanish ruler have been strained since Barcelona, its main city, fell in 1714 to Philip V, grandson of Louis XIV, and the area of Catalonia was subjected to the institutions and laws of the Crown of Castile. The problem was that Catalonia had supported the losing side, Archduke Charles of the House of Habsburg, Austria, in the war, 1701-14, against Philip of the House of Bourbon, for the Spanish throne. The region’s national holiday, the Diada, on September 11 commemorates the 1714 defeat.

In 1901, a Catalonian nationalist party was founded, based on the view that Catalonia was the most economically and culturally advanced part of the country, that its people spoke a different language and had a civil law distinct from the rest of the country, and constituted a nation of its own.

There was indeed a short-lived Catalan Republic, 1931-39, that was ended with the victory of General Francisco Franco against the Republican regime in the Spanish civil war. The Catalonian slogan, ”No pasarán” (they shall not pass) was to made famous by the Communist Dolores Ibarruri Gomez in the siege of Madrid in July 1936 during the Civil War.

In 1934, a Catalonian state in the Spanish Federal Republic was proclaimed, but this regional government, the Generalitat, headed by a president, Lluis Companys, was abolished by Franco, who also banned the official use of the Catalan language. Many Catalonians fled to France, including Companys, who was arrested by the Nazis, sent back to Spain, and executed, a martyr president.

The core problem is whether the Catalans constitute a nation. Catalonia, a wealthy region, is one of the 17 autonomous regions with considerable self-government, but it has long wanted more. The region, centered on Barcelona, has 7.5 million population, 16% of the Spanish population, accounts for 20% of Spain’s GDP, and 30% of foreign trade, is self-governing in certain areas, police, health and education, while Madrid still controls taxes, foreign policy, and infrastructures. Catalonia has its own widely admired regional police force, the 17,000 Mossos d’Esquadra, one that is responsible to the Catalan minister of the interior, in addition to the 5,000 state police.

Barcelona is now one of the world’s favorite tourist areas. It is the home of FC Barcelona, perhaps the most popular soccer team in the world, a nationalist symbol with the motto, “more than a club,” and potent rival of Real Madrid. It is also the locale of a more controversial inhabitant, the La Sagrada Familia Temple, the large unfinished Roman Catholic Church, about the structure of which there are strong mixed opinions.

For a decade, the relationship between region and state has become complex, resembling a political and constitutional crisis. In 2010, the Spanish Constitutional Court declared invalid some of the provisions for Catalan autonomy outlined in a 2006 statute, as well as in the 1978 Constitution. The Spanish courts and the central government hold that the 1978 Constitution, which was approved by 91% of voters in a turnout of 67%, is indivisible, and that the separatists are breaking the law.  Article 155 of the Constitution allows the government to suspend Catalan autonomy.

However, an unofficial non-binding vote in Catalonia in November 2014 registered 81% favoring independence, though the turnout was only 35%. In the regional election in September, 2015 the separatist parties won. In November 2015 the Catalan legislature approved, 72 to 63, a plan for secession by 2017, but the Constitutional Court suspended the plan.

Then the 54-year-old president of Catalonia, former journalist Carles Puigdemont in June 2017, a fervent advocate of Catalonia as an independent republic, announced that a binding resolution on independence would be held on October 1, 2017. The question is simple: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic, Yes or No?” If the vote was positive, he would declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of the vote.

Political systems differ. In 2014, a referendum on independence for Scotland was held with legal consent of the central government in London. In contrast, the central Spanish government in Madrid, headed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, head of the conservative Popular Party, denies the legality of the Catalonian referendum of October 1st. Rajoy spoke of the “indivisible unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards.”

The Spanish government got rulings from Constitutional Tribunals that it is unconstitutional for a region to call a referendum.  The powers of the Constitutional Court were increased in 2015 so it can enforce its decisions. The Court has struck down a number of laws enacted by the Catalan parliament, and in September 2017 imposed fines on members of the Catalan election board.

The national government argues, and the majority of Spaniards and the media agree, it is upholding the rule of law that must be respected; the Catalans, however, speak of “authoritarian repression” and compare the actions by Madrid to prevent independence to the brutality of Francisco Franco in attacks on the Catalan language, culture, and political aspirations.

About 5.3 million Catalans are eligible to vote. In preparation, on September 23, 2017 Madrid put all police forces temporally under a single chain of command reporting to Madrid. Four thousand more police were sent into the area. Separatist websites were blocked, material and ten million ballots were seized, and police were told to stop public buildings from being used as polling stations. At least 14 officials working on arrangements for the referendum were arrested.

Nevertheless, most of the mayors in the 940 Catalan municipalities were proreferendum. The Catalan regional police, numbering 17,000, did not obey the court order to prevent voting if it inflamed local tensions. At the referendum on October 1, 2017 in which 2.2 million participated, 42.3% of the electorate, 90% voted for independence and 8% voted no. Yet, the violence in which about 850 Catalans were injured by the national police attempting to prevent the voting escalated the conflict over Catalonia, as well as hardening political positions in the country.

Logically, now that the official result has been announced  the next step is for it to go to the Catalan parliament, which could then adopt a motion of independence, a real possibility since separatists have a majority, 72 of 135 in the parliament. But all sides in the country are toiling with the problem, What price victory?



Source link

Hamas Looking for Friends


Personal rivalries in political organizations sometimes are akin to civil war. The story is told of the vicious remark by the prominent British Labour Party politiciam Ernest Bevin of his fellow politician Aneurin Bevan, creator of the British National Health Service. Someone remarked of Bevan that he was his own worst enemy to which Bevin in his Cockney accent replied, “Not while I’m alive he ain’t.” A similar temperament of antipathy has existed for more than twenty years between the leaders of two rival Palestinian organizations, Fatah and Hamas, two groups within the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the PLO.

Unexpectedly, on September 17, 2017, Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, unleashed what can be considered either a political earthquake or simply a shock. At a moment of economic and humanitarian problems in Gaza, Hamas has made a bid for reconciliation with its Palestinian rivals, as well as making overtures to Iran, which is presently supplying it with $15 million a month, and also to Egypt, which it wants to open the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip.

Hamas announced it had agreed to disband its Administrative Committee for Gaza, a body set up in May 2017 that acted as a virtual government. Further, it suggested that Fatah send its officials to help govern Gaza, called for a nationwide election, the last of which was in 2006, and expressed a desire for unification with Fatah and a Palestinian government of national unity. Hamas had already issued a new statement of general principles and policies and appeared to be softening its normal extreme political positions.

The immediate question is whether the two formerly hostile groups will be cooperating with no tears and no fears. The present Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, insists there is no disagreement between Fatah and Hamas on belief, on policy, or resistance against Israel. But internal and external factors suggest other problems. Memories are still bitter of the military defeat by Hamas of Fatah in fighting that led to Hamas taking control of Gaza, first militarily and then politically when Hamas won a plurality in the parliamentary election in January 2006. Internationally, Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other countries, while Fatah is not.

Fatah, founded by Yasser Arafat in 1959 in Cairo, where he was born, as a political movement and in 1965 as a political party, is the largest group in the multiparty PLO.  Until his death in 2004, Arafat was chair of the PLO, chair of Fatah, and president of the Palestinian Authority.  He was succeeded in these positions by Mahmoud Abbas, who like Gilbert and Sullivan’s character Pooh Bah holds numerous exalted offices.

Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was created to liberate Palestine, end the State of Israel and the Jewish presence, and establish an Islamic state. It always challenged the mainstream PLO organization, as well as continuing to attack Israel by rockets and by fighting three wars against Israel since 2008.  

Not surprisingly, Abbas’ rhetoric is multivoiced, depending on his audience. An example of this is that as head of Fatah he embodied the policy of rejection of Israel and its right to exist, yet he also from time to time appears as a moderate, and publicly recalls the letter of September 9, 1993 sent by Yasser Arafat, as “chair of the PLO”, to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  Arafat had written, “The PLO recognized the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security… it declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.”  However, though Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles for Peace between Palestinians and Israel, he organized two Intifadas, in 1987 and 2000, uprisings and attacks on Israeli civilians.

The change in Hamas rhetoric in September 2017 results from a number of factors:  pressure by Egypt which has given some aid to Hamas which agreed in early 2017 to set up a buffer zone on its Gaza border to limit movements of jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula; a poor, deteriorating economy with insufficient  health and water supplies; high unemployment rates and 6,000 taking early retirement. Abbas reduced funding to Gaza to pay electricity bills, stopped or cut salaries for government workers and former prisoners in Gaza, and cut payment for prisoners in Israeli jails and reduced medical border crossings for Gazans. Help to Gaza from Qatar was cut; a formidable politician, former security chief Mohammed Dahlan, the organizer of the Fatah campaign against Hamas twenty years ago, reappeared; the unexpected large street protests, one of which numbered 10,000 people;  the  stronger action by Saudi Arabia against Islamist groups, especially those with ties to terrorists; and  the Israeli decision to build an underground wall that stretches along the 37-mile line with Gaza, using sensors, drones, sky balloons, and radar, to prevent Hamas digging tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.

Perhaps above all, the new direction results from the change in Hamas leadership in 2017 with the election of Ismail Haniyeh, former prime minister, as the head of its political bureau, and Yahya Sinwar, an extremist leader of the military wing of Hamas and a man who was personally responsible for killing alleged collaborators.  Leadership has passed from the exiled political class living abroad to the military leaders based in Gaza. Haniiyah, replacing the former leader Qatar-based Khaled Meshaal, is known for his approval of terrorism, emphasis on jihad as a religious duty, anti-Americanism, and condemnation of the U.S. for killing Osama bin Laden, liberation of Palestine, “from the river to the sea,” and refusal to recognize Israel.

Can Hamas bridge the existing differences and move to reconciliation with Fatah, and will any changes lead to peace with Israel?  It still remains true that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. It has not renounced terrorism, but then neither has Fatah, according to its spokesman Osama al-Qawasmi. In a broadcast on August 23, 2017, that spokesman proclaimed that armed resistance, popular resistance was legitimate. Nevertheless, agreement on this hostility against Israel does not necessarily mean any further definite steps to reconciliation with Fatah. Indeed, rebuilding bridges to Iran and dependence on it for financial and military support, and for training of its military wing, suggest a more independent attitude.

The Biblical question, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” remained unanswered. In spite of the softening of the rhetoric of Hamas it is difficult to believe that a terrorist organization can change its spots and become peaceful and statesmanlike.

Personal rivalries in political organizations sometimes are akin to civil war. The story is told of the vicious remark by the prominent British Labour Party politiciam Ernest Bevin of his fellow politician Aneurin Bevan, creator of the British National Health Service. Someone remarked of Bevan that he was his own worst enemy to which Bevin in his Cockney accent replied, “Not while I’m alive he ain’t.” A similar temperament of antipathy has existed for more than twenty years between the leaders of two rival Palestinian organizations, Fatah and Hamas, two groups within the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the PLO.

Unexpectedly, on September 17, 2017, Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, unleashed what can be considered either a political earthquake or simply a shock. At a moment of economic and humanitarian problems in Gaza, Hamas has made a bid for reconciliation with its Palestinian rivals, as well as making overtures to Iran, which is presently supplying it with $15 million a month, and also to Egypt, which it wants to open the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip.

Hamas announced it had agreed to disband its Administrative Committee for Gaza, a body set up in May 2017 that acted as a virtual government. Further, it suggested that Fatah send its officials to help govern Gaza, called for a nationwide election, the last of which was in 2006, and expressed a desire for unification with Fatah and a Palestinian government of national unity. Hamas had already issued a new statement of general principles and policies and appeared to be softening its normal extreme political positions.

The immediate question is whether the two formerly hostile groups will be cooperating with no tears and no fears. The present Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, insists there is no disagreement between Fatah and Hamas on belief, on policy, or resistance against Israel. But internal and external factors suggest other problems. Memories are still bitter of the military defeat by Hamas of Fatah in fighting that led to Hamas taking control of Gaza, first militarily and then politically when Hamas won a plurality in the parliamentary election in January 2006. Internationally, Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other countries, while Fatah is not.

Fatah, founded by Yasser Arafat in 1959 in Cairo, where he was born, as a political movement and in 1965 as a political party, is the largest group in the multiparty PLO.  Until his death in 2004, Arafat was chair of the PLO, chair of Fatah, and president of the Palestinian Authority.  He was succeeded in these positions by Mahmoud Abbas, who like Gilbert and Sullivan’s character Pooh Bah holds numerous exalted offices.

Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was created to liberate Palestine, end the State of Israel and the Jewish presence, and establish an Islamic state. It always challenged the mainstream PLO organization, as well as continuing to attack Israel by rockets and by fighting three wars against Israel since 2008.  

Not surprisingly, Abbas’ rhetoric is multivoiced, depending on his audience. An example of this is that as head of Fatah he embodied the policy of rejection of Israel and its right to exist, yet he also from time to time appears as a moderate, and publicly recalls the letter of September 9, 1993 sent by Yasser Arafat, as “chair of the PLO”, to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  Arafat had written, “The PLO recognized the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security… it declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.”  However, though Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles for Peace between Palestinians and Israel, he organized two Intifadas, in 1987 and 2000, uprisings and attacks on Israeli civilians.

The change in Hamas rhetoric in September 2017 results from a number of factors:  pressure by Egypt which has given some aid to Hamas which agreed in early 2017 to set up a buffer zone on its Gaza border to limit movements of jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula; a poor, deteriorating economy with insufficient  health and water supplies; high unemployment rates and 6,000 taking early retirement. Abbas reduced funding to Gaza to pay electricity bills, stopped or cut salaries for government workers and former prisoners in Gaza, and cut payment for prisoners in Israeli jails and reduced medical border crossings for Gazans. Help to Gaza from Qatar was cut; a formidable politician, former security chief Mohammed Dahlan, the organizer of the Fatah campaign against Hamas twenty years ago, reappeared; the unexpected large street protests, one of which numbered 10,000 people;  the  stronger action by Saudi Arabia against Islamist groups, especially those with ties to terrorists; and  the Israeli decision to build an underground wall that stretches along the 37-mile line with Gaza, using sensors, drones, sky balloons, and radar, to prevent Hamas digging tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.

Perhaps above all, the new direction results from the change in Hamas leadership in 2017 with the election of Ismail Haniyeh, former prime minister, as the head of its political bureau, and Yahya Sinwar, an extremist leader of the military wing of Hamas and a man who was personally responsible for killing alleged collaborators.  Leadership has passed from the exiled political class living abroad to the military leaders based in Gaza. Haniiyah, replacing the former leader Qatar-based Khaled Meshaal, is known for his approval of terrorism, emphasis on jihad as a religious duty, anti-Americanism, and condemnation of the U.S. for killing Osama bin Laden, liberation of Palestine, “from the river to the sea,” and refusal to recognize Israel.

Can Hamas bridge the existing differences and move to reconciliation with Fatah, and will any changes lead to peace with Israel?  It still remains true that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. It has not renounced terrorism, but then neither has Fatah, according to its spokesman Osama al-Qawasmi. In a broadcast on August 23, 2017, that spokesman proclaimed that armed resistance, popular resistance was legitimate. Nevertheless, agreement on this hostility against Israel does not necessarily mean any further definite steps to reconciliation with Fatah. Indeed, rebuilding bridges to Iran and dependence on it for financial and military support, and for training of its military wing, suggest a more independent attitude.

The Biblical question, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” remained unanswered. In spite of the softening of the rhetoric of Hamas it is difficult to believe that a terrorist organization can change its spots and become peaceful and statesmanlike.



Source link

The Threat Is Still Iran


During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, President Donald Trump might as well have been muttering to himself, “Is it for all time or simply a lark, is it a deal not worth thinking of, or is it at long last friendship?”  A week before, on September 14, 2017, President Trump had renewed an exemption to imposing sanctions on Iran that were suspended under the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) deal signed in Vienna by the P5+1 countries and Iran in July 2015.  In October, Trump has to certify to Congress , according to congressional law, that Iran is in compliance with the deal.

By the agreement, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.  Have there been any infractions?  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Iran is complying with its commitments under the arrangements, including inspections.  Indeed , the IAEA has said that at present, Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium is a good deal less than the maximum allowed under the JCPOA.  The same is true of the stockpile of heavy water.  Nevertheless, Iran’s nuclear behavior has been described by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies as “problematic.”  The institute pointed out that Iran was testing its most advanced centrifuge, the IR8 model, which can facilitate the enrichment process.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has urged the IAEA to be more aggressive in its inspections and to concentrate on Iran’s military sites, which Iran has declared off limits to inspectors.  Iran calls this campaign for such inspection a “dream.”  The IAEA is reluctant to inspect the military facilities, unwilling to engage in a fishing expedition, though it has the right to request and have access to them.  The U.S. Institute for Science and International Security calls for access to military sites and the sharing of relevant information.  Nevertheless, Iran has limited any access to its Parchin facility, near Tehran.

A key problem of the nuclear deal has always been that Iran will be able to restart uranium enrichment quickly, get nuclear facilities in the future, and enrich uranium on a large scale.  The so-called “sunset clause” sets expiration dates on the limits of the nuclear program.  Iran can extend its centrifuges beyond the present limit of 6,000 after ten years and later will be able to increase its nuclear stockpile and heavy water reactors, which can generate weapons-grade plutonium.  It is almost certain that Iran will continue its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Donald Trump as candidate and as president remains critical of the nuclear Iran deal, even if he is hesitant to abandon all of it, as Ambassador Haley has suggested.  Trump during the electoral campaign talked of the nuclear deal as “the worst deal ever negotiated.”  Like Haley, he believes that technical compliance by Iran is insufficient.  Iran has violated not only different parts of the deal, but also the spirit of it.

Iran has a history of deception.  It continues its development of ballistic missiles.  What is important that in addition to this active ballistic missile development are also Iran’s cyber-activities; its destabilizing actions, such as its sponsorship of missile attacks on Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels in Yemen, to whom Iran ships weapons; its support for President Assad in Syria; its supply of arms to Hezb’allah; its increasing participation in conflicts in the Middle East; and its weapons-smuggling.

The Trump administration has responded.  In July 2017, the U.S. responded to the Iranian provocative launch of a rocket into space, a rocket capable of carrying a satellite weighing 550 pounds, and using technology capable of carrying a nuclear payload.  On July 28, the U.S. put sanctions on six Iranian organizations involved in the project.  It imposed sanctions on a industrial group, Shahid Hemmat, that is central to the ballistic missile program by producing the medium-range Shabab-3, based on a North Korean missile, and imposed tighter sanctions against individuals associated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps (Quds Force), known for their support of terror and hijacking activities.

The real issue involved is not merely the nuclear ambition of Iran, but three factors: its desire for political expansion, its role in state-sponsored terrorism, and its ability to obtain nuclear facilities in the future

A significant factor is Russia’s defense of Iran in the international arena.  Russia is allowing Iran, which has been almost isolated since 1979, to play a growing role in political and security affairs, though the two nations differ on some issues.  One is that Russia and Iran are both supporting Assad and favor the existence of Syria within present borders, but Russia is less interested than is Iran in keeping Assad in power.

Another point of disagreement is that Moscow does not approve of Iran’s animosity toward Israel.  Vital in this regard is the difference over Iran’s support for Hezb’allah.  Yet Russia did put an advanced S-400 air defense system near the Iranian weapons factories in Syria, factories that produce long-range guidance missiles for Hezb’allah.  Israel has used missiles to target Iranian-sponsored weapons convoys in the area.

Nor does Russia approve the continuing U.N. bias against Israel or the BDS movement, now recently illustrated by the UNHRC blacklist concerning Teva; Egged; Coca-Cola Israel; and Israel’s two largest banks, Bank Hapoalim and Leumi, plus U.S. firms Caterpillar, Trip Advisor, and Priceline.  Compliance with this program violates US law.

In this complex international game, there have been secret visits by officials of the Saudi government, deadly rivals of Iran, to Israel in recent days.  The most meaningful is the reported visit in September 2017 by a royal prince, believed to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  This is not surprising because of the common enemy: Iran.  Noticeably, Arab countries have allowed Israeli businesses to operate in the Gulf Countries and allowed Israel’s El Al to fly over Saudi airspace.

What is necessary is a more enlightened European policy.  The E.U. supports the nuclear deal because the E.U. holds that it is not an agreement between two countries, but one by the whole international community and Iran and is supported by the U.N. Security Council.  But the E.U. is also concerned with economic issues.  On July 3, 2017, the French energy company Total signed a $5-billion deal with Iran, arguing that economic development is also a way of building peace.  European hotel chains Melia and Accor are interested in projects in Iran.

The great British political philosopher Ringo Starr, the drummer of the Beatles, gave unsolicited advice to Prime Minister Theresa May about Brexit.  “It is a great move,” he said.  “Get on with it.”  In dealing with the growing threat of Iran, the U.S. Congress and President Trump should take Starr’s advice and get on with it.

During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, President Donald Trump might as well have been muttering to himself, “Is it for all time or simply a lark, is it a deal not worth thinking of, or is it at long last friendship?”  A week before, on September 14, 2017, President Trump had renewed an exemption to imposing sanctions on Iran that were suspended under the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) deal signed in Vienna by the P5+1 countries and Iran in July 2015.  In October, Trump has to certify to Congress , according to congressional law, that Iran is in compliance with the deal.

By the agreement, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.  Have there been any infractions?  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Iran is complying with its commitments under the arrangements, including inspections.  Indeed , the IAEA has said that at present, Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium is a good deal less than the maximum allowed under the JCPOA.  The same is true of the stockpile of heavy water.  Nevertheless, Iran’s nuclear behavior has been described by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies as “problematic.”  The institute pointed out that Iran was testing its most advanced centrifuge, the IR8 model, which can facilitate the enrichment process.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has urged the IAEA to be more aggressive in its inspections and to concentrate on Iran’s military sites, which Iran has declared off limits to inspectors.  Iran calls this campaign for such inspection a “dream.”  The IAEA is reluctant to inspect the military facilities, unwilling to engage in a fishing expedition, though it has the right to request and have access to them.  The U.S. Institute for Science and International Security calls for access to military sites and the sharing of relevant information.  Nevertheless, Iran has limited any access to its Parchin facility, near Tehran.

A key problem of the nuclear deal has always been that Iran will be able to restart uranium enrichment quickly, get nuclear facilities in the future, and enrich uranium on a large scale.  The so-called “sunset clause” sets expiration dates on the limits of the nuclear program.  Iran can extend its centrifuges beyond the present limit of 6,000 after ten years and later will be able to increase its nuclear stockpile and heavy water reactors, which can generate weapons-grade plutonium.  It is almost certain that Iran will continue its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Donald Trump as candidate and as president remains critical of the nuclear Iran deal, even if he is hesitant to abandon all of it, as Ambassador Haley has suggested.  Trump during the electoral campaign talked of the nuclear deal as “the worst deal ever negotiated.”  Like Haley, he believes that technical compliance by Iran is insufficient.  Iran has violated not only different parts of the deal, but also the spirit of it.

Iran has a history of deception.  It continues its development of ballistic missiles.  What is important that in addition to this active ballistic missile development are also Iran’s cyber-activities; its destabilizing actions, such as its sponsorship of missile attacks on Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels in Yemen, to whom Iran ships weapons; its support for President Assad in Syria; its supply of arms to Hezb’allah; its increasing participation in conflicts in the Middle East; and its weapons-smuggling.

The Trump administration has responded.  In July 2017, the U.S. responded to the Iranian provocative launch of a rocket into space, a rocket capable of carrying a satellite weighing 550 pounds, and using technology capable of carrying a nuclear payload.  On July 28, the U.S. put sanctions on six Iranian organizations involved in the project.  It imposed sanctions on a industrial group, Shahid Hemmat, that is central to the ballistic missile program by producing the medium-range Shabab-3, based on a North Korean missile, and imposed tighter sanctions against individuals associated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps (Quds Force), known for their support of terror and hijacking activities.

The real issue involved is not merely the nuclear ambition of Iran, but three factors: its desire for political expansion, its role in state-sponsored terrorism, and its ability to obtain nuclear facilities in the future

A significant factor is Russia’s defense of Iran in the international arena.  Russia is allowing Iran, which has been almost isolated since 1979, to play a growing role in political and security affairs, though the two nations differ on some issues.  One is that Russia and Iran are both supporting Assad and favor the existence of Syria within present borders, but Russia is less interested than is Iran in keeping Assad in power.

Another point of disagreement is that Moscow does not approve of Iran’s animosity toward Israel.  Vital in this regard is the difference over Iran’s support for Hezb’allah.  Yet Russia did put an advanced S-400 air defense system near the Iranian weapons factories in Syria, factories that produce long-range guidance missiles for Hezb’allah.  Israel has used missiles to target Iranian-sponsored weapons convoys in the area.

Nor does Russia approve the continuing U.N. bias against Israel or the BDS movement, now recently illustrated by the UNHRC blacklist concerning Teva; Egged; Coca-Cola Israel; and Israel’s two largest banks, Bank Hapoalim and Leumi, plus U.S. firms Caterpillar, Trip Advisor, and Priceline.  Compliance with this program violates US law.

In this complex international game, there have been secret visits by officials of the Saudi government, deadly rivals of Iran, to Israel in recent days.  The most meaningful is the reported visit in September 2017 by a royal prince, believed to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  This is not surprising because of the common enemy: Iran.  Noticeably, Arab countries have allowed Israeli businesses to operate in the Gulf Countries and allowed Israel’s El Al to fly over Saudi airspace.

What is necessary is a more enlightened European policy.  The E.U. supports the nuclear deal because the E.U. holds that it is not an agreement between two countries, but one by the whole international community and Iran and is supported by the U.N. Security Council.  But the E.U. is also concerned with economic issues.  On July 3, 2017, the French energy company Total signed a $5-billion deal with Iran, arguing that economic development is also a way of building peace.  European hotel chains Melia and Accor are interested in projects in Iran.

The great British political philosopher Ringo Starr, the drummer of the Beatles, gave unsolicited advice to Prime Minister Theresa May about Brexit.  “It is a great move,” he said.  “Get on with it.”  In dealing with the growing threat of Iran, the U.S. Congress and President Trump should take Starr’s advice and get on with it.



Source link

Steering the Ship of State in Russia


One of the best known moments in the great Greek mythological legends is the story of the decision by the Greek hero Odysseus on how to sail his ship safely without considerable loss of life between two hazards, the equally dangerous sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis, threatening all who seek to pass.  Today, Russian president Vladimir Putin is in a similar perilous situation, navigating between two political hazards in deciding how to commemorate the Russian revolutions of 1917.  What is to be celebrated: fervor for revolutionary change or stability?  The decision, important for internal and external reasons, is important within the country and also for those trying to understand Russia today.

President Putin has proudly asserted that “we are a single people, a united people.  We have only one Russia.”  The problem is that not everyone in the population agrees with this view.  The disagreement was symbolized at an art exhibition in St. Petersburg in November 2016, when a picture was shown with a dual canvas, Tsar Nicholas II on one side and Vladimir Lenin on the other, the old and the new.

The issue has again come to the fore with the controversy over the showing of a film that was cleared for public exhibition by the Russian culture minister.  The film, Matilda, directed by Alexei Uchitel, is the story of a passionate love affair between the last tsar, Nicholas II, and a ballet dancer named Matilda Kshesinskaya, the half-Polish teenage ballerina at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, a lady who was also the mistress of three grand dukes.

Banning of the film was suggested by conservative and religious critics, especially the Christian State-Holy Rus because it would offend the feelings of religious believers.  Insults of this kind were made a criminal offense in 2013.  Russia’s largest cinema chain has decided not to show the film for fear of attacks on cinemagoers.  President Vladimir Putin, however, has said that no official is trying to ban the movie.  On the contrary, he called for dialogue about it, though a dialogue conducted within the framework of decency and within the law.  He is political president, but he is also the defender of traditional Orthodox Christian values.

The problem is compounded by two facts. One is that Tsar Nicholas, who was murdered with his family in July 1918, was canonized by the Orthodox Church in 2000.  The other is that favorable sentiments toward the old tsarist regime have been increasing.  Monuments to the tsar have been going up.  On the 99th anniversary of the murder of the tsar and his family, thousands of pilgrims, carrying icons, crosses, and portraits of Nicholas, walked 13 miles to the place of execution near Ekaterinburg.  Lenin did not organize the executions but approved them after they occurred.

Somewhat surprisingly to outsiders, a certain number of Russians favor the restoration of monarchy.  A special school, named St. Basil the Great School, has been established in a Moscow suburb to teach tsarist history.

This is interesting not only in itself, but also because the school was founded by Konstantin Malofeyev, a multimillionaire, an “Orthodox oligarch” close to the Kremlin and Putin’s associates and sometimes called “Putin’s Soros.”  He funded the rebels in East Ukraine, has an Orthodox TV channel, and asserts that he is preparing a “new elite.”  His own office in Moscow contains Orthodox icons and a large portrait of Tsar Alexander III, a fierce opponent of representative government and supporter of Russian nationalism and of Orthodoxy.  Malofeyev’s St. Basil the Great Foundation is Russia’s largest Orthodox charity, and his aim is to restore Orthodoxy not only in Russia, but in the world.  Equally, he has pointed out that seven of the ten wealthiest countries in the world are monarchies.

Malofeyev is supported by like-minded individuals.  Probably the most significant are Leonid Peshetnikov and Vladimir Yakunin.

Peshetnikov is an ex-general of the KGB and SVR and head of the foreign intelligence service, the Institute of Strategic Studies, and now head of a group in Moscow called the Double-Headed Eagle Society.  He is anti-American and asserts that it was the U.S., not Stalin, who was responsible for the Iron Curtain and that a strong Russia is a guarantor of justice.  In unusual fashion, he compares the two countries.  In the Russian civilization, unlike the American, the spiritual has always predominated over the material.

Yakunin, head of Russian Railways until recently and a close friend of Putin, is a significant figure in the Orthodox fraternity, as well as a believer in the return of the Russian Empire.

More significant is Malofeyev’s fulsome praise of Putin: “Who would have guessed that Putin would come to us and Russia would start becoming Russia again?”  Other praise is more surprising.  In the U.S., every child up to age 70 has seen the film Lord of the Rings based on JRR Tolkien’s novel, which, though a fantasy adventure tale, has affected modern culture.  Malofeyev says he is influenced by it, perhaps by the spectacle of unequivocal protagonists preparing for One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power. 

Putin has been careful in not adhering to a particular position, not lauding the tsarists and not endorsing the Soviet Union.  Like Scylla and Charybdis, his choice is whether the Bolshevik Revolution was a great historic event or a tragedy for Russia.  For him indeed, the memories and echoes of the revolutionary years remain.  Perhaps Putin does not travel by subway, but stations in Moscow ‘s metro system are named after October and after Pyotr Voikov, who arranged the execution of the tsar.  Putin must ponder his path now that in a recent survey of the population, a majority of respondents had a favorable view of Lenin.

One of the best known moments in the great Greek mythological legends is the story of the decision by the Greek hero Odysseus on how to sail his ship safely without considerable loss of life between two hazards, the equally dangerous sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis, threatening all who seek to pass.  Today, Russian president Vladimir Putin is in a similar perilous situation, navigating between two political hazards in deciding how to commemorate the Russian revolutions of 1917.  What is to be celebrated: fervor for revolutionary change or stability?  The decision, important for internal and external reasons, is important within the country and also for those trying to understand Russia today.

President Putin has proudly asserted that “we are a single people, a united people.  We have only one Russia.”  The problem is that not everyone in the population agrees with this view.  The disagreement was symbolized at an art exhibition in St. Petersburg in November 2016, when a picture was shown with a dual canvas, Tsar Nicholas II on one side and Vladimir Lenin on the other, the old and the new.

The issue has again come to the fore with the controversy over the showing of a film that was cleared for public exhibition by the Russian culture minister.  The film, Matilda, directed by Alexei Uchitel, is the story of a passionate love affair between the last tsar, Nicholas II, and a ballet dancer named Matilda Kshesinskaya, the half-Polish teenage ballerina at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, a lady who was also the mistress of three grand dukes.

Banning of the film was suggested by conservative and religious critics, especially the Christian State-Holy Rus because it would offend the feelings of religious believers.  Insults of this kind were made a criminal offense in 2013.  Russia’s largest cinema chain has decided not to show the film for fear of attacks on cinemagoers.  President Vladimir Putin, however, has said that no official is trying to ban the movie.  On the contrary, he called for dialogue about it, though a dialogue conducted within the framework of decency and within the law.  He is political president, but he is also the defender of traditional Orthodox Christian values.

The problem is compounded by two facts. One is that Tsar Nicholas, who was murdered with his family in July 1918, was canonized by the Orthodox Church in 2000.  The other is that favorable sentiments toward the old tsarist regime have been increasing.  Monuments to the tsar have been going up.  On the 99th anniversary of the murder of the tsar and his family, thousands of pilgrims, carrying icons, crosses, and portraits of Nicholas, walked 13 miles to the place of execution near Ekaterinburg.  Lenin did not organize the executions but approved them after they occurred.

Somewhat surprisingly to outsiders, a certain number of Russians favor the restoration of monarchy.  A special school, named St. Basil the Great School, has been established in a Moscow suburb to teach tsarist history.

This is interesting not only in itself, but also because the school was founded by Konstantin Malofeyev, a multimillionaire, an “Orthodox oligarch” close to the Kremlin and Putin’s associates and sometimes called “Putin’s Soros.”  He funded the rebels in East Ukraine, has an Orthodox TV channel, and asserts that he is preparing a “new elite.”  His own office in Moscow contains Orthodox icons and a large portrait of Tsar Alexander III, a fierce opponent of representative government and supporter of Russian nationalism and of Orthodoxy.  Malofeyev’s St. Basil the Great Foundation is Russia’s largest Orthodox charity, and his aim is to restore Orthodoxy not only in Russia, but in the world.  Equally, he has pointed out that seven of the ten wealthiest countries in the world are monarchies.

Malofeyev is supported by like-minded individuals.  Probably the most significant are Leonid Peshetnikov and Vladimir Yakunin.

Peshetnikov is an ex-general of the KGB and SVR and head of the foreign intelligence service, the Institute of Strategic Studies, and now head of a group in Moscow called the Double-Headed Eagle Society.  He is anti-American and asserts that it was the U.S., not Stalin, who was responsible for the Iron Curtain and that a strong Russia is a guarantor of justice.  In unusual fashion, he compares the two countries.  In the Russian civilization, unlike the American, the spiritual has always predominated over the material.

Yakunin, head of Russian Railways until recently and a close friend of Putin, is a significant figure in the Orthodox fraternity, as well as a believer in the return of the Russian Empire.

More significant is Malofeyev’s fulsome praise of Putin: “Who would have guessed that Putin would come to us and Russia would start becoming Russia again?”  Other praise is more surprising.  In the U.S., every child up to age 70 has seen the film Lord of the Rings based on JRR Tolkien’s novel, which, though a fantasy adventure tale, has affected modern culture.  Malofeyev says he is influenced by it, perhaps by the spectacle of unequivocal protagonists preparing for One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power. 

Putin has been careful in not adhering to a particular position, not lauding the tsarists and not endorsing the Soviet Union.  Like Scylla and Charybdis, his choice is whether the Bolshevik Revolution was a great historic event or a tragedy for Russia.  For him indeed, the memories and echoes of the revolutionary years remain.  Perhaps Putin does not travel by subway, but stations in Moscow ‘s metro system are named after October and after Pyotr Voikov, who arranged the execution of the tsar.  Putin must ponder his path now that in a recent survey of the population, a majority of respondents had a favorable view of Lenin.



Source link

Moral Icons and Hypocrisy: The Case of Aung San Suu Kyi


Putting power above principle is a customary occurrence in the political world. So is the emergence of the lost leader, who as Robert Browning wrote in criticism of Wordsworth’s change of political views after accepting a public office, “just for a handful of silver he left us, just for a ribbon to stick in his coat.”

Nevertheless, it is surprising that this censorious comment should now be made of Aung San Suu Kyi, a lady until recently universally admired and compared in an equivalent way to Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, symbols of defiance against oppression and fighters for independence. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese heroine, is the intelligent, articulate, photogenic daughter of an independence hero who was assassinated in 1947, who was educated at Christian schools and at Oxford, long married to a British academic now deceased, has been a familiar sight with her sarong and jasmine flower in her hair.

For her courage and bravery, she was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1991, and given the Elie Wiesel award, its highest honor, by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012. Today, her reputation is less impressive now after a short honeymoon as a wielder of governmental power, forced to face internal crises to which her response has been inadequate.  

Strong criticism of her recent behavior has come from many quarters — the United Nations, Turkey, Indonesia, and the Dalai Lama — but unexpectedly forceful from another highly respected and revered individual. The 85-year-old Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke strongly to his “dear beloved younger sister,” the 72-year-old Kyi, commenting on the unfolding horror, slow genocide, and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, the Muslim minority living in the Rahkine region of Burma, and called on her to criticized and to end the military operations against that community. Hitherto, by her courageous stand and personal sacrifice against the forces of injustice in her country Burma she had symbolized righteousness.

Indeed, Kyi was renowned for that courageous stand against the dictator General Ne Win, and the military junta that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011. As a result of her opposition to the regime that suppressed all dissent, she was put under house arrest for 15 years, and was regarded as the symbol of opposition to military rule and oppression. 

Archbishop Tutu’s comment is devastating, arguing that it is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness, now that she has power, to lead a country, if the political price of her ascension to the highest office in Burma is silence: the price is surely too steep. 

The Rohingya community, numbering 1.1 million, live in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar. A group within it, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a group that began operating in October 2016, using knives and bombs, attacked 30 border posts and an army base on August 25, 2017, killing 12 police and leading to severe retaliation, a clearance operation by the military forces of Myanmar. The military attacked and burned villages and targeted civilians. The result so far has been the killing of hundreds but also “ethnic cleansing” and the exodus of more than 270,000 refugees from the Rohingya Muslim community fleeing to Bangladesh.  This can be considered as a crime against humanity.

For outsiders, this prompts the question, are government authorities encouraging this flight? It does appear that they are, in order to rid the Rakhine state of as many Rohingya as possible. It is unlikely that they will be allowed back into Burma. Already, after fighting in October 2016, nearly 100,000 Rohingya were forced to flee into Bangladesh, where there are more than 400,000 refugees.

In the 2015 election, the first openly contested election in 25 years, Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, won enough seats to form a government.

Kyi is unable to be president of the country for technical reasons. By the constitution she is barred from that position because she has children who are foreign nationals and hold British passports. Ki, “the Lady'”, as she is popularly known, has the role of State Counsellor, in a sense above the official president, Htin Kyaw, the first civilian president of the country.

What is surprising is the silence or mild apologetics of the renowned Aung San Suu Kyi, who has not exercised sufficient influence to restrain the military which claims it was getting rid of terrorists among the ethnic Muslim population. The government, Kyi says, still needs to decide how to differentiate terrorists from innocent people. The existing problem is whether ARSA is protecting the minority, or is a terrorist organization, The leader of ARSA. a man named Ata Ullah, was born in Pakistan, was raised in Saudi Arabia, and claims not to be linked to jihadist groups.

Kyi said it was unreasonable to expect her to solve the issue in 18 months. The problem, she explained, goes back to pre-colonial times. She defended her inaction, “our resources are not as complete and adequate as we would like them to be but still we try our best and we want to make sure that everyone is entitled to the protection of the law.” This is disingenuous. The Rohingya, who speak a language similar to Bengalis in Bangladesh, are not regarded as citizens, but as illegal immigrants, nor are they recognized as an official ethnic group, but are restricted in freedom of movement, medical assistance, education, and basic services.

Somewhat surprisingly, Kyi also condemned the international news coverage of the crisis, especially the “fake news and fake photos,” and the “huge iceberg of misinformation.” Amusingly, one of the “fake photos” is one of Sylvester Stallone dressed as Rambo in the film Last Blood, fighting his way, not as Rocky in the ring in Philadelphia, but through the jungle.

Kyi’s refusal to condemn the military has led the disenchanted to ask, “Should she return her Nobel Prize?” Already more than 400,000 have signed a petition that it should be taken away. She certainly has not spoken out for justice, human rights, and the unity of her people, as Nobel laureates are supposed to do.  

The conclusion must be that Kyi had and still has a moral duty to speak up for justice and righteousness as she did in the past. The middle course and equivocal language is not appropriate. For the moment, at least, she has lost her pinnacle as a moral icon.

Putting power above principle is a customary occurrence in the political world. So is the emergence of the lost leader, who as Robert Browning wrote in criticism of Wordsworth’s change of political views after accepting a public office, “just for a handful of silver he left us, just for a ribbon to stick in his coat.”

Nevertheless, it is surprising that this censorious comment should now be made of Aung San Suu Kyi, a lady until recently universally admired and compared in an equivalent way to Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, symbols of defiance against oppression and fighters for independence. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese heroine, is the intelligent, articulate, photogenic daughter of an independence hero who was assassinated in 1947, who was educated at Christian schools and at Oxford, long married to a British academic now deceased, has been a familiar sight with her sarong and jasmine flower in her hair.

For her courage and bravery, she was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1991, and given the Elie Wiesel award, its highest honor, by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012. Today, her reputation is less impressive now after a short honeymoon as a wielder of governmental power, forced to face internal crises to which her response has been inadequate.  

Strong criticism of her recent behavior has come from many quarters — the United Nations, Turkey, Indonesia, and the Dalai Lama — but unexpectedly forceful from another highly respected and revered individual. The 85-year-old Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke strongly to his “dear beloved younger sister,” the 72-year-old Kyi, commenting on the unfolding horror, slow genocide, and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, the Muslim minority living in the Rahkine region of Burma, and called on her to criticized and to end the military operations against that community. Hitherto, by her courageous stand and personal sacrifice against the forces of injustice in her country Burma she had symbolized righteousness.

Indeed, Kyi was renowned for that courageous stand against the dictator General Ne Win, and the military junta that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011. As a result of her opposition to the regime that suppressed all dissent, she was put under house arrest for 15 years, and was regarded as the symbol of opposition to military rule and oppression. 

Archbishop Tutu’s comment is devastating, arguing that it is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness, now that she has power, to lead a country, if the political price of her ascension to the highest office in Burma is silence: the price is surely too steep. 

The Rohingya community, numbering 1.1 million, live in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar. A group within it, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a group that began operating in October 2016, using knives and bombs, attacked 30 border posts and an army base on August 25, 2017, killing 12 police and leading to severe retaliation, a clearance operation by the military forces of Myanmar. The military attacked and burned villages and targeted civilians. The result so far has been the killing of hundreds but also “ethnic cleansing” and the exodus of more than 270,000 refugees from the Rohingya Muslim community fleeing to Bangladesh.  This can be considered as a crime against humanity.

For outsiders, this prompts the question, are government authorities encouraging this flight? It does appear that they are, in order to rid the Rakhine state of as many Rohingya as possible. It is unlikely that they will be allowed back into Burma. Already, after fighting in October 2016, nearly 100,000 Rohingya were forced to flee into Bangladesh, where there are more than 400,000 refugees.

In the 2015 election, the first openly contested election in 25 years, Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, won enough seats to form a government.

Kyi is unable to be president of the country for technical reasons. By the constitution she is barred from that position because she has children who are foreign nationals and hold British passports. Ki, “the Lady'”, as she is popularly known, has the role of State Counsellor, in a sense above the official president, Htin Kyaw, the first civilian president of the country.

What is surprising is the silence or mild apologetics of the renowned Aung San Suu Kyi, who has not exercised sufficient influence to restrain the military which claims it was getting rid of terrorists among the ethnic Muslim population. The government, Kyi says, still needs to decide how to differentiate terrorists from innocent people. The existing problem is whether ARSA is protecting the minority, or is a terrorist organization, The leader of ARSA. a man named Ata Ullah, was born in Pakistan, was raised in Saudi Arabia, and claims not to be linked to jihadist groups.

Kyi said it was unreasonable to expect her to solve the issue in 18 months. The problem, she explained, goes back to pre-colonial times. She defended her inaction, “our resources are not as complete and adequate as we would like them to be but still we try our best and we want to make sure that everyone is entitled to the protection of the law.” This is disingenuous. The Rohingya, who speak a language similar to Bengalis in Bangladesh, are not regarded as citizens, but as illegal immigrants, nor are they recognized as an official ethnic group, but are restricted in freedom of movement, medical assistance, education, and basic services.

Somewhat surprisingly, Kyi also condemned the international news coverage of the crisis, especially the “fake news and fake photos,” and the “huge iceberg of misinformation.” Amusingly, one of the “fake photos” is one of Sylvester Stallone dressed as Rambo in the film Last Blood, fighting his way, not as Rocky in the ring in Philadelphia, but through the jungle.

Kyi’s refusal to condemn the military has led the disenchanted to ask, “Should she return her Nobel Prize?” Already more than 400,000 have signed a petition that it should be taken away. She certainly has not spoken out for justice, human rights, and the unity of her people, as Nobel laureates are supposed to do.  

The conclusion must be that Kyi had and still has a moral duty to speak up for justice and righteousness as she did in the past. The middle course and equivocal language is not appropriate. For the moment, at least, she has lost her pinnacle as a moral icon.



Source link

Who Handles Controversial Statues Better: Russia or the USA?


In his unfinished book The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald made the acerbic remark that there are no second acts in American life.  The remark was falsified by his own career, particularly after the success of The Great Gatsby.  Now the pertinence of the remark can be assessed in relation to the phenomenon happening in both the United States and Russia: the destruction or maintenance of images of controversial or discredited figures in the history of the two countries.  The fate of the images is an indication of real or potential changes in the political climate – second acts in the political theater of the nations.

In the U.S. in recent months, the removal or destruction of monuments and statues symbolizing controversial figures of the Confederacy has divided the country.  In contrast, authorities in Russia are considering restoring the symbols of disliked figures with notorious records in the Soviet Union.  Both countries are considering how best to deal with unpleasant memories of the past. 

Statues and memorials are indicative of the important role individuals have played or are thought to have played, or else they illustrate past importance in the history of the country.  Russia illustrated this latter concept with the erection in 2016 of a 50-foot statue in central Moscow of Vladimir the Great, the 10th- to 11th-century prince and ruler of Kiev who consolidated a considerable area of territory and brought Orthodox Christianity to it. 

A better known figure for Russians and Americans is now being resurrected.  On September 5, 2017, in the city of Kirov (once named Vyatka), some 500 miles east of Moscow, a large, majestic-looking statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky was unveiled.  Roses were left at the foot of the statue together with a statement that he was a splendid revolutionary who neutralized the enemies of the revolution in the hard struggle that followed the 1917 revolution.  Others may well disagree.  There are more than 1,300 people in the Kirov area whose families were targeted in the terror of the Soviet Union that began with the man being honored.

There are, in fact, a number of monuments to Dzerzhinsky in other cities in Russia, such as the large bronze statue erected in May 2006 on the grounds of the military academy in Minsk, Belarus, his hometown area.  But this one in Kirov is significant because it raises the question of whether a similar memorial to him will follow in Moscow, a reminder in the capital of the dark years of the Soviet Union.

Felix Dzerzhinsky was born in 1877 of aristocratic background in the Minsk region, now Belarus.  After brief consideration of becoming a Jesuit priest, he became a revolutionary in his youth, was expelled from school, was arrested a number of times, and spent 11 years in tsarist prisons and in Siberian exile.  He joined the Bolshevik wing of the Marxist organizations and endorsed Vladimir Lenin’s point of view of the need for revolution.  With the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917, Dzerzhinsky at the age of 40 was put in charge of security arrangements.

He became the head of the secret police, “the lion of the revolution” for some, but for many more the most feared and hated man in the country.  Virtually living in his office, which curiously had a photo of Rosa Luxemburg on the wall, he lead a Spartan life.  His own motto was to have a cold head, hot heart, and clean hands.  But in practice, he was ruthless and fanatical.  It was he who organized the embalming of Lenin’s body.

Dzerzhinsky died after a two-hour speech, in which, in characteristic fashion, he denounced major political opponents Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev – by coincidence, or not, all born of Jewish ancestry – to the Bolshevik Central Committee on July 20, 1926, supposedly of a heart attack, though some suggest he was murdered.  His funeral was a significant event, taking on a Hollywood aspect since among the attendees were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who were visiting the Soviet Union at that time.  At that moment, Josef Stalin called Dzerzhinsky “a devout knight of the people,” but in 1937, Stalin criticized him as a person who openly supported Trotsky against Lenin.  One surprising factor is that one of the rare photos in existence of Trotsky and Stalin together is of both carrying Dzerzhinsky’s coffin.  Mourners lauded him for his integrity and incorruptibility.

A number of towns were named after Dzerzhinsky, as was the museum in his birthplace.  Most significant was the 15-ton iron large statue, popularly known as Iron Felix, erected in 1958 in Lubyanka Square, the location of the KGB.  After the attempted coup by Communist hardliners against President Mikhail Gorbachev, the statue was removed on August 22, 1991.  It was not destroyed, but moved to the Muzeon (Fallen Monument) park in Moscow, the largest open-air sculpture museum in Russia, close to the new Tretyakov art gallery.  The museum, which contains images of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Sakharov, asserts that the works displayed are historically and culturally significant, including those relating to the Soviet era.

The changing political climate meant revising attitudes toward former heroes.  A large monument in Dzerzhinsky Square in central Warsaw was removed in 1989, and the name of the square was changed to its original, Bank Square.  Ukraine removed more than 1,300 statues of Lenin and in 2015 banned all communist symbols in the country.

Like Lenin , Felix Dzerzhinshy died young, but his activity penetrated into almost all aspects of Soviet life: food, schools, military, industries, and factory organization.  Above all, he was head of CHEKA (All Russian Extraordinary Commission), founded on December 19, 1917, to combat counterrevolution, sabotage, and enemy agents.  It became one of the largest agencies of the state, growing and employing more than 100,000 and deploying paramilitary units of more than 20,000 men.

In 1922, CHEKA was renamed GPU (State Political Directorate), which continued the operations for the arrests, interrogations, and executions of thousands of political opponents and others, some for “economic crimes” who were shot without trial or approval of any outside authority or any kind of adherence to rule of law or to due process.  It acted as judge, jury, and executioner.  It was responsible by some estimates of murdering at least 150,000 and perhaps as many as 500,000 innocent people.

Notices of the arrests or executions were given to state authorities only after they happened, not before.  Dzerzhinsky unabashedly explained his role: “we stand for organized terror, terror being absolutely indispensable in the current revolutionary conditions.”  He could not “crush counterrevolution with legal niceties.”  He was responsible for the creation of gulags, labor camps purportedly to re-educate people but really for use for slave profit as well as intimidation, and the use of torture and psychological torment.  Though CHEKA and its successors were the “secret police,” their activities were widely known.  They can be see now as the model for the Gestapo and the Stasi in East Germany.

One paradox in this situation is that in October 1990, a monument was erected in “memory of the victims of the totalitarian regime.”  It is a large stone brought from the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, the area of what is said to have been the first gulag, established by Dzerzhinsky.  It was erected and remains on Lubyanka Square, next to the physical headquarters of those organizations, CHEKA, the NKVD, and the KGB.

In the United States, Genreral Robert E. Lee is being erased from history.  In Russia, a recent public opinion poll indicated that almost a majority favor the restoration of Dzerzhinsky to his former position in Lybanka Square.  President Putin appears to be ambivalent on the issue.  It is revealing that on December 25, 2014, Putin renamed the elite Moscow police unit the Dzerzhinsky Division, responsible for maintaining public order in Moscow.  And in November.

In 2015, a bust of Dzerzhinsky was placed in the courtyard of the Moscow police headquarters.  Putin’s decision on Dzerzhinsky in Moscow will be of considerable usefulness to President Donald Trump and the White House in assessing Russian policies and intentions.

In his unfinished book The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald made the acerbic remark that there are no second acts in American life.  The remark was falsified by his own career, particularly after the success of The Great Gatsby.  Now the pertinence of the remark can be assessed in relation to the phenomenon happening in both the United States and Russia: the destruction or maintenance of images of controversial or discredited figures in the history of the two countries.  The fate of the images is an indication of real or potential changes in the political climate – second acts in the political theater of the nations.

In the U.S. in recent months, the removal or destruction of monuments and statues symbolizing controversial figures of the Confederacy has divided the country.  In contrast, authorities in Russia are considering restoring the symbols of disliked figures with notorious records in the Soviet Union.  Both countries are considering how best to deal with unpleasant memories of the past. 

Statues and memorials are indicative of the important role individuals have played or are thought to have played, or else they illustrate past importance in the history of the country.  Russia illustrated this latter concept with the erection in 2016 of a 50-foot statue in central Moscow of Vladimir the Great, the 10th- to 11th-century prince and ruler of Kiev who consolidated a considerable area of territory and brought Orthodox Christianity to it. 

A better known figure for Russians and Americans is now being resurrected.  On September 5, 2017, in the city of Kirov (once named Vyatka), some 500 miles east of Moscow, a large, majestic-looking statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky was unveiled.  Roses were left at the foot of the statue together with a statement that he was a splendid revolutionary who neutralized the enemies of the revolution in the hard struggle that followed the 1917 revolution.  Others may well disagree.  There are more than 1,300 people in the Kirov area whose families were targeted in the terror of the Soviet Union that began with the man being honored.

There are, in fact, a number of monuments to Dzerzhinsky in other cities in Russia, such as the large bronze statue erected in May 2006 on the grounds of the military academy in Minsk, Belarus, his hometown area.  But this one in Kirov is significant because it raises the question of whether a similar memorial to him will follow in Moscow, a reminder in the capital of the dark years of the Soviet Union.

Felix Dzerzhinsky was born in 1877 of aristocratic background in the Minsk region, now Belarus.  After brief consideration of becoming a Jesuit priest, he became a revolutionary in his youth, was expelled from school, was arrested a number of times, and spent 11 years in tsarist prisons and in Siberian exile.  He joined the Bolshevik wing of the Marxist organizations and endorsed Vladimir Lenin’s point of view of the need for revolution.  With the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917, Dzerzhinsky at the age of 40 was put in charge of security arrangements.

He became the head of the secret police, “the lion of the revolution” for some, but for many more the most feared and hated man in the country.  Virtually living in his office, which curiously had a photo of Rosa Luxemburg on the wall, he lead a Spartan life.  His own motto was to have a cold head, hot heart, and clean hands.  But in practice, he was ruthless and fanatical.  It was he who organized the embalming of Lenin’s body.

Dzerzhinsky died after a two-hour speech, in which, in characteristic fashion, he denounced major political opponents Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev – by coincidence, or not, all born of Jewish ancestry – to the Bolshevik Central Committee on July 20, 1926, supposedly of a heart attack, though some suggest he was murdered.  His funeral was a significant event, taking on a Hollywood aspect since among the attendees were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who were visiting the Soviet Union at that time.  At that moment, Josef Stalin called Dzerzhinsky “a devout knight of the people,” but in 1937, Stalin criticized him as a person who openly supported Trotsky against Lenin.  One surprising factor is that one of the rare photos in existence of Trotsky and Stalin together is of both carrying Dzerzhinsky’s coffin.  Mourners lauded him for his integrity and incorruptibility.

A number of towns were named after Dzerzhinsky, as was the museum in his birthplace.  Most significant was the 15-ton iron large statue, popularly known as Iron Felix, erected in 1958 in Lubyanka Square, the location of the KGB.  After the attempted coup by Communist hardliners against President Mikhail Gorbachev, the statue was removed on August 22, 1991.  It was not destroyed, but moved to the Muzeon (Fallen Monument) park in Moscow, the largest open-air sculpture museum in Russia, close to the new Tretyakov art gallery.  The museum, which contains images of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Sakharov, asserts that the works displayed are historically and culturally significant, including those relating to the Soviet era.

The changing political climate meant revising attitudes toward former heroes.  A large monument in Dzerzhinsky Square in central Warsaw was removed in 1989, and the name of the square was changed to its original, Bank Square.  Ukraine removed more than 1,300 statues of Lenin and in 2015 banned all communist symbols in the country.

Like Lenin , Felix Dzerzhinshy died young, but his activity penetrated into almost all aspects of Soviet life: food, schools, military, industries, and factory organization.  Above all, he was head of CHEKA (All Russian Extraordinary Commission), founded on December 19, 1917, to combat counterrevolution, sabotage, and enemy agents.  It became one of the largest agencies of the state, growing and employing more than 100,000 and deploying paramilitary units of more than 20,000 men.

In 1922, CHEKA was renamed GPU (State Political Directorate), which continued the operations for the arrests, interrogations, and executions of thousands of political opponents and others, some for “economic crimes” who were shot without trial or approval of any outside authority or any kind of adherence to rule of law or to due process.  It acted as judge, jury, and executioner.  It was responsible by some estimates of murdering at least 150,000 and perhaps as many as 500,000 innocent people.

Notices of the arrests or executions were given to state authorities only after they happened, not before.  Dzerzhinsky unabashedly explained his role: “we stand for organized terror, terror being absolutely indispensable in the current revolutionary conditions.”  He could not “crush counterrevolution with legal niceties.”  He was responsible for the creation of gulags, labor camps purportedly to re-educate people but really for use for slave profit as well as intimidation, and the use of torture and psychological torment.  Though CHEKA and its successors were the “secret police,” their activities were widely known.  They can be see now as the model for the Gestapo and the Stasi in East Germany.

One paradox in this situation is that in October 1990, a monument was erected in “memory of the victims of the totalitarian regime.”  It is a large stone brought from the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, the area of what is said to have been the first gulag, established by Dzerzhinsky.  It was erected and remains on Lubyanka Square, next to the physical headquarters of those organizations, CHEKA, the NKVD, and the KGB.

In the United States, Genreral Robert E. Lee is being erased from history.  In Russia, a recent public opinion poll indicated that almost a majority favor the restoration of Dzerzhinsky to his former position in Lybanka Square.  President Putin appears to be ambivalent on the issue.  It is revealing that on December 25, 2014, Putin renamed the elite Moscow police unit the Dzerzhinsky Division, responsible for maintaining public order in Moscow.  And in November.

In 2015, a bust of Dzerzhinsky was placed in the courtyard of the Moscow police headquarters.  Putin’s decision on Dzerzhinsky in Moscow will be of considerable usefulness to President Donald Trump and the White House in assessing Russian policies and intentions.



Source link

Russia, NATO, and the United States


We’re having a political heat wave, it isn’t surprising the temperature’s rising with the escalation of tensions, diplomaticall and politically with even a threat of military issues between the United States and Russia. In retaliation for Russia’s expulsion of 755 U.S. diplomats, President Donald Trump on August 31, 2017 announced Russia will have to close a number of its posts in U.S. cities, Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco. Fear of further retaliation on both sides is the beginning of wisdom.

That fear is understandable, because of imminent military activity. In September 2017 Russia is holding a large military exercise, code name Zapad 2017, a joint Russian-Belarussian exercise, partly on the border with Lithuania and Poland, and which it announces as a purely defensive operation. The official Russian statement is that about 12,000 service members would be involved, of whom 7,200 would come from Belarus. They would be accompanied by 70 aircraft and helicopters, and combat vehicles, including 250 tanks, and 10 warships.

There is no resumption of the Cold War, but a crisis could occur as a result of misunderstanding. NATO is not responding to the Russian exercise by deploying more troops along its border. NATO has four multinational battle groups in Eastern Europe. But by coincidence the U.S. is playing a larger than usual role this year, for the first time since it was started in 2014, the U.S. is taking on the role of NATO Baltic air policing mission to ensure the security of Baltic airspace, a mission rotated yearly among NATO members to cover the eastern flank of NATO. This involves the deploying by the U.S. of certain assets: a tank brigade to Central and Eastern Europe; and a number of F-15C Eagle fighter planes and 140 airmen from the U.S. base Lakenheath in UK to Lithuania.

The vital question is whether there is a danger of confrontation between Russia and NATO? In view of the increase in Russian military activity is there in reality a “Russian threat”? President Putin has shown his image of physical toughness in a variety of ways, riding shirtless on horseback, diving into a deep lake, performing judo, and even underwater fishing. Equally, he has made it clear that Russia wants to play a more prominent role on the international stage than in recent years, to be a geopolitical power in the Middle East as elsewhere.

The attempt to influence events has been demonstrated politically and militarily.  In 1999, Russia opposed the NATO air strikes and bombing of Belgrade and other Serbian military positions during the Kosovo war after Serbian forces has brutally attacked Kosovo Albanians. In March 2003, Putin condemned the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a “great political error,” though he did not criticize the purpose of the operation, the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Russian aid to Iran is more troubling. By providing instructions on how to construct them Russia helped Iran develop what is now a formidable Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 intercontinental ballistic missile system with a range of 800 miles. After some hesitation, Russia supplied Iran with the anti-aircraft S-300 system with a range of 200 miles, which it regards as a defensive weapon.

Russia is helping Iran build a new nuclear power plant, a ten-year project expected to be launched before 2025. Iran already has a Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr, the country’s first nuclear energy project. Russia has also signed a deal with Iran to build up to eight more reactors in the country. In partial response, Iran allowed Russia to fire cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea over its territory into Syria.

Relations between the two countries have a cultural dimension of a kind. Russia was chosen guest of honor at the Teheran International Book Fair in August 2017, and President Putin has listed a work by the 11-12th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam as one of his ten favorite books. In an interview in April 2008, Putin said, “In my free time I study works by Khayyam,” and recommended that people buy his poems.

Russia has become a player in Middle Eastern affairs, in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, the dispute between Israel and Palestinians, and in fighting Islamic terrorism.

Putin is not ideological, but pragmatic, prepared to make deals as his envoy to the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, has shown. Russia is not a superpower, and is prepared to cooperate with all sides, perhaps to divert attention from Ukraine, and to insist on justification of annexing Crimea.

But overall, Putin appears to have four main objectives: checking any advance of NATO in East Europe; obtaining the removal of sanctions against it; stability in the Middle East; and fighting Islamic terrorism.

Sanctions, starting in March 2014, have led to travel bans, freezing of assets, restricting credit to a number of energy and defense firms and banks. They have affected business, but they have not prevented Putin from supporting separatist republics in Ukraine.

In his policy of stability in the Middle East, Putin has been critical of the West for supporting and aiding the Arab Spring and the attempt to overthrow Arab rulers. He criticized President Barack Obama for abandoning Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. His claim is to play a role focusing on political-diplomatic settlements of conflicts in Libya and Syria, where his policy differs from that of the U.S., and with Israel and the Palestinians.

Putin has been concerned to fight terrorists, especially ISIS, and to prevent the spread of terrorism from Syria through Turkey to the Caucasus. Russia is still conscious of the conflict in Chechnya, where foreign jihadists, including al-Qaeda, appeared in the late 1990s. It is noticeable that Putin has good relations with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now that Turkey apologized for shooting down the Russian Su-24 fighter jet in Syria, and after Russian warning of the military coup in Turkey in July 2016.

Differences between Russia and the U.S. remain. The fate of Syrian President Bashir Assad is a significant point of difference, though there are hopeful signs. During the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, agreement was reached on July 7, 2017, between Trump and Putin on setting up a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria, though it is confined to one area of the country, and also allows the maintenance of Iranian-backed forces in areas controlled by Assad, which is a potential threat to Israel.

Nevertheless, Russia is on friendly terms with Arab countries and with Israel, with which there are regular phone calls and visits, common interests in trade, economic and investment cooperation, nanotechnology, and elimination terrorism. Israel has one million people who came from Russia, and Russian is the third largest spoken language in Israel. But one major problem needs to be solved. Russia does not consider Hizb’allah a terrorist organization, arguing that it has never committed any terrorist acts on Russian territory. Russia considers it a legitimate sociopolitical force.

Cordial relations with Israel include regular phone calls and visits, common interest in trade, economic and investment cooperation, nanotechnology, and above all concern about terrorism. Israel has 1 million people who came from Russia, and Russian is third largest spoken language in Israel.

Russia in August 2017 appointed a new ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, 62-year-old hardliner, former deputy foreign minister and former defense minister. His role should not be as a participant in the seemingly interminable Congressional hearings about alleged Russian activity, but to make clear that Russia has no aggressive intentions against NATO or the U.S. Perhaps his song should be “We’ll be together again.”

We’re having a political heat wave, it isn’t surprising the temperature’s rising with the escalation of tensions, diplomaticall and politically with even a threat of military issues between the United States and Russia. In retaliation for Russia’s expulsion of 755 U.S. diplomats, President Donald Trump on August 31, 2017 announced Russia will have to close a number of its posts in U.S. cities, Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco. Fear of further retaliation on both sides is the beginning of wisdom.

That fear is understandable, because of imminent military activity. In September 2017 Russia is holding a large military exercise, code name Zapad 2017, a joint Russian-Belarussian exercise, partly on the border with Lithuania and Poland, and which it announces as a purely defensive operation. The official Russian statement is that about 12,000 service members would be involved, of whom 7,200 would come from Belarus. They would be accompanied by 70 aircraft and helicopters, and combat vehicles, including 250 tanks, and 10 warships.

There is no resumption of the Cold War, but a crisis could occur as a result of misunderstanding. NATO is not responding to the Russian exercise by deploying more troops along its border. NATO has four multinational battle groups in Eastern Europe. But by coincidence the U.S. is playing a larger than usual role this year, for the first time since it was started in 2014, the U.S. is taking on the role of NATO Baltic air policing mission to ensure the security of Baltic airspace, a mission rotated yearly among NATO members to cover the eastern flank of NATO. This involves the deploying by the U.S. of certain assets: a tank brigade to Central and Eastern Europe; and a number of F-15C Eagle fighter planes and 140 airmen from the U.S. base Lakenheath in UK to Lithuania.

The vital question is whether there is a danger of confrontation between Russia and NATO? In view of the increase in Russian military activity is there in reality a “Russian threat”? President Putin has shown his image of physical toughness in a variety of ways, riding shirtless on horseback, diving into a deep lake, performing judo, and even underwater fishing. Equally, he has made it clear that Russia wants to play a more prominent role on the international stage than in recent years, to be a geopolitical power in the Middle East as elsewhere.

The attempt to influence events has been demonstrated politically and militarily.  In 1999, Russia opposed the NATO air strikes and bombing of Belgrade and other Serbian military positions during the Kosovo war after Serbian forces has brutally attacked Kosovo Albanians. In March 2003, Putin condemned the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a “great political error,” though he did not criticize the purpose of the operation, the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Russian aid to Iran is more troubling. By providing instructions on how to construct them Russia helped Iran develop what is now a formidable Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 intercontinental ballistic missile system with a range of 800 miles. After some hesitation, Russia supplied Iran with the anti-aircraft S-300 system with a range of 200 miles, which it regards as a defensive weapon.

Russia is helping Iran build a new nuclear power plant, a ten-year project expected to be launched before 2025. Iran already has a Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr, the country’s first nuclear energy project. Russia has also signed a deal with Iran to build up to eight more reactors in the country. In partial response, Iran allowed Russia to fire cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea over its territory into Syria.

Relations between the two countries have a cultural dimension of a kind. Russia was chosen guest of honor at the Teheran International Book Fair in August 2017, and President Putin has listed a work by the 11-12th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam as one of his ten favorite books. In an interview in April 2008, Putin said, “In my free time I study works by Khayyam,” and recommended that people buy his poems.

Russia has become a player in Middle Eastern affairs, in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, the dispute between Israel and Palestinians, and in fighting Islamic terrorism.

Putin is not ideological, but pragmatic, prepared to make deals as his envoy to the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, has shown. Russia is not a superpower, and is prepared to cooperate with all sides, perhaps to divert attention from Ukraine, and to insist on justification of annexing Crimea.

But overall, Putin appears to have four main objectives: checking any advance of NATO in East Europe; obtaining the removal of sanctions against it; stability in the Middle East; and fighting Islamic terrorism.

Sanctions, starting in March 2014, have led to travel bans, freezing of assets, restricting credit to a number of energy and defense firms and banks. They have affected business, but they have not prevented Putin from supporting separatist republics in Ukraine.

In his policy of stability in the Middle East, Putin has been critical of the West for supporting and aiding the Arab Spring and the attempt to overthrow Arab rulers. He criticized President Barack Obama for abandoning Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. His claim is to play a role focusing on political-diplomatic settlements of conflicts in Libya and Syria, where his policy differs from that of the U.S., and with Israel and the Palestinians.

Putin has been concerned to fight terrorists, especially ISIS, and to prevent the spread of terrorism from Syria through Turkey to the Caucasus. Russia is still conscious of the conflict in Chechnya, where foreign jihadists, including al-Qaeda, appeared in the late 1990s. It is noticeable that Putin has good relations with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now that Turkey apologized for shooting down the Russian Su-24 fighter jet in Syria, and after Russian warning of the military coup in Turkey in July 2016.

Differences between Russia and the U.S. remain. The fate of Syrian President Bashir Assad is a significant point of difference, though there are hopeful signs. During the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, agreement was reached on July 7, 2017, between Trump and Putin on setting up a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria, though it is confined to one area of the country, and also allows the maintenance of Iranian-backed forces in areas controlled by Assad, which is a potential threat to Israel.

Nevertheless, Russia is on friendly terms with Arab countries and with Israel, with which there are regular phone calls and visits, common interests in trade, economic and investment cooperation, nanotechnology, and elimination terrorism. Israel has one million people who came from Russia, and Russian is the third largest spoken language in Israel. But one major problem needs to be solved. Russia does not consider Hizb’allah a terrorist organization, arguing that it has never committed any terrorist acts on Russian territory. Russia considers it a legitimate sociopolitical force.

Cordial relations with Israel include regular phone calls and visits, common interest in trade, economic and investment cooperation, nanotechnology, and above all concern about terrorism. Israel has 1 million people who came from Russia, and Russian is third largest spoken language in Israel.

Russia in August 2017 appointed a new ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, 62-year-old hardliner, former deputy foreign minister and former defense minister. His role should not be as a participant in the seemingly interminable Congressional hearings about alleged Russian activity, but to make clear that Russia has no aggressive intentions against NATO or the U.S. Perhaps his song should be “We’ll be together again.”



Source link