Saturday, 27 October 2012

Peaceful Buddhists?

The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (Burma) are being horribly persecuted. The Tamil Hindus in Sri-Lanka have been horribly suppressed. The ordinary people of Cambodia were horribly massacred. Each of these things has happened in a country with a Buddhist majority (though of course the oppressors in Cambodia were acting in the name of Communism). I have no doubt that good Buddhists are peaceful people, as are good Christians, good Muslims and good Hindus. But a lot of bad things are done by people who imagine that they are good followers of their respective religions. Religious labels don't mean very much.

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Haaretz has just published the results of a survey of attitudes to Palestinians. Of the 503 Jewish Israelis interviewed, 58% consider that their country practises apartheid towards Palestinians, and nearly half would like still more of it. Nobody should be surprised; Zionism is based on the idea of a Jewish state, so non-Jews cannot properly be part of it. For immigration purposes, a Jew is anybody who satisfies the Nazi criteria, in other words it is a racial, not a religious definition. So the UN was quite right in 1975 to adopt resolution 3379, determining that "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination". The resolution was retracted in 1991 as part of the phony "Peace Process", which has given Israel another 21 years to cement its hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to turn Gaza into what David Cameron has called "an open-air prison camp". It is time to reinstate the UN resolution and to apply sanctions to Israel. But will most Americans ever accept that? I believe that what holds them back is their fear of accusations of being anti-Semites: "Hey, you guys, we don't hate Jews; look, our best friends are Israelis! And our best friends' enemies are our enemies." But how can the Religious Right, the inhabitants of Jesus-land, not have inherited the medieval hatred of the people who "killed their Saviour"?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Those of you who do not remember the Soviet Union may not know that it had an archipelago of terrible prison camps, the G.U.L.A.G., in which some of their greatest citizens languished or died. Well, thanks to the Pussy Riot we now know that Russia still has its gulag; it's just been announced that the two demonstrators who are in prison are being sent far away from Moscow, where their children are, to harsh prison camps in the East. Now that the Tories are in full retribution mode, perhaps they should consult Putin about how to run a gulag. Or perhaps we could remind them that the only civilized use of prison is for deterrence and rehabilitation.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Look back

It's so easy to stop blogging. There are lots of news stories around, but none looks of lasting importance, so I'll look back at something from the past. With Cameron pledging £50 million to commemorate the start of World War I, it's time to start thinking about the absurdity of it all. A particular point that interests me is how arbitrary it was that Turkey got involved at all and that it joined the Germans and Austrians. There was good reason for them to remain neutral, and there were Turks who wanted to join the British and French. Perhaps it all came down to the fact that Germany was building a railway from Berlin to Baghdad. Defeat very nearly destroyed Turkey. It certainly led directly to the disasters that have afflicted the Middle East since then.Imagine the world now if Israel had been established in East Prussia! The Turks would do well to remember their past now and to keep out of events in Syria.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Peace at last?

It looks like the end of a war that has been going on intermittently for 114 years - one year for every sura of the Koran. The Sulu Archipelago - the Muslim southern half of the Philippines - was never successfully occupied by the Spanish, but it was handed over to the United States (along with Cuba and Puerto Rico) by the Treaty of Paris of 1898, and it has been fighting control from Manila ever since. Now at last an outline agreement has been reached between the Philippines Government and the Moros resistance movement for the islands to achieve regional autonomy. This is the sort of sensible agreement which should be possible in other areas of the world, where a local majority is in conflict with a wider political unit, so why do we have so many little wars going on?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The right man?

I very much hope the police have charged the right man with the murder of April Jones, but it is less than two years since the arrest of Christopher Jefferies for the murder of Joanna Yeates. The papers quickly turned him into a hate figure and wrote as if he had already been found guilty. In fact he had nothing to do with the killing. Until there is a trial we shall not know what evidence the police have against Mark Bridger. Children said they saw April get into a van, at least that's what I remember from the first reports. If traces of her were found in Bridger's Land Rover that will prove nothing, as he had already taken her with his own children on an outing. But the press seem already to have decided he is guilty. It is very difficult for the police to do their job when hundreds of volunteer searchers and dozens of journalists are milling around. Innocent until proved guilty is an admirable principle. I hope that it will be applied too to the five extradited to America on terrorist charges.

Friday, 5 October 2012


I feel uneasy about the extradition of a batch of five men to the US. The five cases are very different. Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan are British citizens. Ahmad was picked up in 2003, when the Iraq war was raging. He was paid £60,000 compensation because police treatment was judged to have been tantamount to torture. He and Ahsan have been in prison without charge for 8 and 6 years respectively. Al-Fawwaz and Abdul Bari are Saudi and Egyptian respectively, and have been imprisoned without charge for 14 and 13 years. Abu Hamza, also Egyptian, is the only one of the five to have been convicted of a crime in Britain. He lost his hands defusing a mine in Afghanistan, when he was one of Britain and America's Mujahid allies fighting against the Soviet occupation. Now they are to go to the US under the infamous extradition treaty of 2003, which does not require the Americans to supply any evidence against them. What sort of treatment they will get there seems very uncertain, given that none of the people involved in torture during the Bush presidency has been charged with any offence, and given that there are still inmates of Guantanamo who have not had a proper trial.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


According to one website, 200,000 people are reported missing in Britain every year. Another says 250,000. Clearly so many that nobody knows for sure. I heard at a recent lecture that one percent of these - 2000 to 2500 are still missing after a year. A daily paper would have to publish five or six hundred names and photos every day to keep up. Yet for the past two weeks the headlines have been dominated by just two missing persons, with heart-wringing interviews and endless detail about searches. I am not saying that friends, relatives and police should not be concerned for every case, but the prominence given to a few of them suggests a desire to distract from issues that concern everybody. For example this morning, Ed Milliband's great speech was pushed down the agenda, and the remarkable election result in Georgia got hardly a mention. Still, I was glad to see that the (Conservative) Chairman of the parliamentary Select Committee on Education has called on Guvnor Gove to stop rushing into half-baked new policies.