Monthly Archives: June 2008

Hamas And Fatah Moving Towards Reconciliation

Events in the Middle East are slowly but surely moving toward changes which either will result in attainment of some form of peacefully resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict or an escalation of violence. Hamas and Fatah are in the early stages of efforts to end their year long dispute and result in a possible coalition government which is united on basic goals of achieving peace with Israel. On June 6, President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority indicated a willingness to work with Hamas and his words were welcomed in the Gaza Strip which is the center of Hamas power. A few dozen Hamas activists held in Fatah jails have been released and names of all those held by Hamas and Fatah are being gathered in order to work out their release from jail.

There is some talk of a national coalition government composed of technocrats and independents who would run things until elections were held for a new legislature and president of the Palestinian Authority. These changes raise issues for Israel which has refused to recognize Hamas, but, apparently is willing to hammer out a cease fire in Gaza with the group. Most experts believe a Palestinian government wants Israel to accept its 1967 border, allow East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine, and work out some resolution of the refugee question. The good news is there are fewer demands for return of all refugees.

Off With Their Heads, Says Indonesian Drug Leader

Indonesian National Police chief, General Satanto, chairman of the National Narcotics Agency(BNN) says execution of traffickers on death row should be speeded up because the only thing that will teach drug offenders of the folly of engaging in drugs is to be killed. Of course, if they are killed, they really can’t change their behavior.
General Satanto said: “Drug traffickers must be executed immediately as a warning. That is why the BNN is coordinating closely with the Attorney General’s office which is responsible for the executions.” According to the general, putting them in prison doesn’t do much good because all they do is transform a nice pleasant jail into a center of drugs. “International drug trafficking syndicates have been controlled from jails. Imprisonment has failed to stop drug cases.”

There are now 72 people on death row awaiting execution and only 3 drug traffickers have been killed. Drug cases rose from 17, 355 in 2006 to 22,630 in 2007. If the history of prisons and crime has any relevance to the general, there is absolutely no evidence that crime goes down if more are executed. Has he considered legalizing drugs or education as alternatives?

Khodorkovsky Release Urged By Human Rights Groups

Today marks the 45th birthday of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of Yukos, who had the audacity to politically challenge former president Putin, and, in so doing, was deprived of his company and sentenced to an eight year term on trumped up charges of tax-evasion and fraud. He has now reached the half way point of his prison sentence and according to Russian law, a prisoner can appeal for early release based on his good behavior. Prison guards have tried on several occasions to claim Khodorkovsky had caused problems but all of their charges were discounted by courts of law.

Many human rights groups hope President Medvedev will order the release of the former head of Yukos, both in the name of justice, and in the hope by so doing he establishes himself as an independent leader not under the control of Putin. There were rallies in several parts of Russia to celebrate the birthday of one whom many consider an individual who was fighting for a more democratic Russia.

Turkey Slammed For Human Rights Violations

A European Commission is meeting with Turkish officials to discuss the presence of extensive torture and abuse of people in prisons as well as the general population. The EU commission was told there had been a significant increase in reports of violations of human rights and people being subject to torture. A major factor is the lack of reform of the judicial process as well as insufficient supervision of police. A law passed in 2007 gave police leeway in having the power to stop and search people and there is limited impartial supervision of police abuses. It was noted during demonstrations police are known to use rough tactics including beating and torturing suspects. Of the 96,000 people in prison, only 40% have been tried and found guilty which suggests the need for extensive reform of the judicial system.

A survey undertaken by the Turkish Daily News reveals only 36% of Turks are completely against any form of torture while half agree with moderate torture of terrorist suspects. About 18% police do not believe any bars should be placed in an interrogation of terrorists.

It would be interesting to find out what people mean by “limited torture.”

Jews, Muslims, Christians Unite Against Common Enemy

In the genre of science fiction a common theme is the presence of a foreign entity which compels people of the world to unite because only by forgetting what separates them will they be able to halt the invasion from outer space. The city of Jerusalem is now the scene of Muslims, Jews, and Christians working together in order to stem the tide of a common enemy– gays and lesbians. The annual gay parade next week has aroused the fury of religious right wing fundamentalists who regard the very thought of gays and lesbians as an abomination and anathema to core Biblical beliefs. The High Court of Justice ruled gays and lesbians have a right to march and this event will be guarded by 2,000 police who hope to ensure there is no violence along the four city block march.

Gays and lesbians insist they have the right of free speech and the march is a symbol of tolerance and pluralism. Ariel Atla, a resident told the Jerusalem Post, “there is no reason to make problems–there are enough problems without them.” However, Olga Biyudin, who works in a bank, argued, “Jerusalem is for all the people in the world.”

The anti-gay parade organization proves that Jews and Muslims can cooperate and work together since all they need is a common enemy. The trick is creating a common good that would bring together these diverse groups. Anyone have one?

What’s New In The World Of Smuggling?

Smugglers are undoubtedly among the world’s most innovative thinkers as they device intricate ways of getting their goods to market. The latest idea to emerge from Colombia is the use of fiberglass submarines which carry up to ten tons of cocaine and have been rather successful at eluding Colombian police and military. A recent TV clip showed images of m en emerging from their fiberglass sub, opening hatches designed to let in water, and jump off as the sub sank to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and police had no evidence they had broken the law. The subs carry a load of about 10 tons of cocaine and take up to two weeks to reach their destination, at which time the sub is scuttled.

The TV clip shows Colombian navy personnel picking up the men who are in lifeboats after the fiberglass vessel sank into the Pacific Ocean. Captain Gustavo Angel is quoted as saying, “we kept the cargo from being distributed in the international market which is our main goal.” An observer might wonder if the Colombian nation might benefit by tapping into the creative thinking of its smugglers who apparently now use planes in the air, ships on the surface of the ocean, and fiberglass subs plying under the water. What next-balloons?

Mugabe Isolation Increases-Does He Care?

The growing disgust toward Zimbabwean President Mugabe continues to rise, but there is scant evidence this meglomaniac leader is he least concerned. Tomorrow, he will beam with joy at obtaining a victory in the presidential run-off since his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, has withdrawn due to terror tactics employed by the nation’s leader against his own people. South African leader, Nelson Mandela, finally broke his silence and condemned the tragic events in Zimbabwe. “We watch with sadness,” said Mandela, “the continuing tragedy of Darfur, nearer to home, we have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country, and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighboring Zimbabwe.” Many observers believe Mandela has hesitated to condemn Mugabe because President Mbeki has refused to take strong action against an old comrade in arms, and Mandela has been careful never to criticize his successor.

Great Britain has been a fierce opponent of Mugabe’s reign of terror, and Queen Elizabeth supported her government’s position by revoking Mugabe’s knighthood. According to the Foreign Office, “the action has been taken as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which President Mugabe presides.”

Mugabe does not care what the world thinks since power is the only concern in his mind.

Berlin Conference For Palestinians Does Little

The Berlin Conference of Palestinian Civil Security was attended by 40 nations meeting in Berlin for the ostensible purpose of raising money to assist in development of the justice and police infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority. There were the usual speeches, promises made, complaints, charges, and counter-charges, and, in the end, about $242 million was raised to be used over a three year period. In other words, in simple English, this means about $80 to develop an effective police and judicial structure in a nation that as of yet does not exist. Chancellor Merkel was present as was Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livini and Condi Rice and former prime minister Tony Blair who is doing something to bring about peace in the Middle East. Exactly what he is doing is rather unclear at this moment.

The Berliner Zeitung summed up the real issues, ones that were never addressed at this conference by noting, “that building Palestinian state structure can only occur.. when a border with Israel has been determined, and when the refugee problem has been resolved.”

These meetings undoubtedly are needed. They are least demonstrate there is some concern about the Palestine-Israel conflict, but after a half century, it ca n also produce cynicism.

British Police In Turmoil Over Discrimination Charges

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is running about 20 points behind his Conservative opponents and now he must face a police force that is being divided over charges of racial discrimination. Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, is preparing to sue his superior, the Met Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, on charges that he has discriminated against him because he is a Muslim. Ghaffur recently engaged in a dispute the with Blair and the Brown administration because he opposed extending to 42 days the time limit of holding people without charges who are suspected of being terrorists. Sources claim Ghaffur increasingly feels sidelined and undermined by Blair and believes it is due to racial discrimination. He is presently consulting with representatives of the National Black Police Association in order to obtain their support for a case of discrimination.

Ghaffur was the creator and director of the innovative Specialist Crime Directorate until 2006 when he was removed and placed in another position. He has mentored many Muslim police officers and is highly regarded and respected in the Muslim community so a case of discrimination involving him will have a serious impact on fostering good community relations with Muslims.

His supposed law suit comes at a time when Commander Shabar Hussain has brought charges of discrimination because he is a Muslim. Sir Ian Blair is being placed in an awkward situation having top aides charge him with being prejudiced.

Japanese Teacher Keeps Alive Anti-War Spirit

The Japanese government has been negligent in its presentation of World War II, particularly as it relates to actions of Japanese military forces and their brutality. Chie Miyagi, an English teacher in Okinawa has written, “A Letter From Okinawa” which depicts the battle of Okinawa during which the Japanese military ordered civilians to kill themselves rather than surrender to the Americans. Ms. Myiyagi’s story is really that of her mother who happened to be serving as a nurse and escaped the Okinawa events. However, her own parents died in this manner. Ms. Miyagi is endeavoring to assist her students deal with their nation’s past even as World War II events disappear from their memories.

Ms. Myigai was assisted in writing the English language picture book by Professor Peter Simpson of Okinawa International University. Professor Simpson notes that “in Okinawa, the memory of the war, especially among young people is fading. Even the antiwar kind of culture is under threat.

For those interested in securing a copy of her book, please contact: Okinawa Jiji Publishing Co. phone: 098 854-1622