Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has been at it again. After the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, and the Unit 731 business, not to mention the ongoing saga of the comfort women (still justified by some leading Japanese politicians keen to play the populist card), comes this:
Japanese war criminals, executed for their misdeeds during the Second World War, are “martyrs who staked their souls to become the foundation of their nation”, said Shinzo Abe, the country’s nationalist prime minister.
Mr Abe made the comments, which will further inflame Japan’s increasingly tense relations with its Asian neighbours, in a message read out at a monument to the executed war criminals — known as the Showa Era martyrs, in reference to the reign of the wartime emperor, Hirohito.
The message, given at a memorial service in April, said: “I would like to sincerely express my feelings of remembrance to the spirit of the Showa Era martyrs who staked their souls to become the foundation of their nation so that Japan could achieve the peace and prosperity of today.”
The remarks, which were reported in Wednesday’s Asahi newspaper [here - MH], are the latest in a series of annual messages sent by Mr Abe to the monument on Mt Koya, a mountain in southwest Japan, holy to the Shingon sect of Buddhism.
Last December, Mr Abe outraged China, South Korea and many liberal Japanese, by praying at Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo where the country’s war dead, including executed war criminals, are worshipped as Shinto deities. He has not made a visit so far this year, apparently in the hope of securing a conciliatory summit meeting with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. But the latest revelations are sure to stir up new anger in the countries invaded and occupied by the Japanese imperial army. The Mt Koya monument in Wakayama prefecture contains the names of 1,180 war criminals who were either executed, committed suicide or who died of illness while in detention. They include Japan’s wartime prime minister, Hideki Tojo.
Mr Abe has made no secret of his view that Japanese should be proud of their history, and cast doubt on the existence of “comfort women”, forcibly recruited into military brothels.
The Chinese are indeed not best pleased:
China has urged Japan to “make a clean break with militarism” and build trust with its neighbours after it emerged that the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, had honoured more than 1,000 convicted war criminals as “martyrs” who laid the foundations for modern Japan.
Reports of the tribute, made in April in a message Abe sent to an annual ceremony honouring war criminals at a Buddhist temple, only emerged this week and add to the strains on ties between Tokyo and Beijing.
“The Japanese government needs to sincerely reflect on its history of aggression and make a clean break with militarism, that provides an important foundation for Japan to rebuild and develop relations with its Asian neighbours after the war,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
“We urge Japan to abide to its commitment to post-war non-aggression and take practical action to win the trust of its Asian neighbours and the international community.”
Abe’s message is expected to frustrate attempts to arrange a bilateral meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Apec summit in Beijing in November.
Messages from China telling another country to make a clean break with militarism and build trust with its neighbours should normally be dismissed as grotesque hypocrisy, but with the history of Japanese imperialism in China, and horrors such as the Rape of Nanking still within living memory, I think we can make some kind of exception here.
In a Friday sermon at Azuqueca De Henares, near Madrid, Sheik Saleheoldine El Moussaoui expresses himself with exemplary clarity:
Dear brothers, what is being done to the Muslims in Palestine, in Gaza, as well as in the other Muslim countries – we would have been surprised if it were done by anyone other than the Jews.
But that is their nature. The Jews are by nature treacherous and war-mongering. There can be no peace with the Jews. What peace are you talking about?! [...]
This is their way of life. The Jews and the Zionists have treachery and killing as their way of life. They are a people of enmity and jealousy, the masters of treachery and betrayal. As Allah described them in the Quran: They want to spread corruption in the land.
The Zionists do not feel alive if they don't spread corruption. They spread corruption in the land. They cannot live without corruption, treachery, and betrayal. [...]
[Allah] described them as killers, so their killing of our brothers in Gaza and in Palestine should come as no surprise. They killed the prophets, the best among mankind. The best people in the eyes of Allah are the prophets and messengers. Yet they killed them, showing no regard for pacts of protection. Allah said [to the Jews]: "Taste the punishment of the burning fire." This is what awaits them: the torments of the burning fire. [...]
Oh Allah, support Islam and the Muslims everywhere, and humiliate polytheism, heresy, and the infidels everywhere. Oh Allah, destroy the plundering Jews. Oh Allah, the Most Merciful, count them one by one, and do not spare a single one of them.
An excellent piece from Matti Friedman, a former AP correspondent, about western reporters and Israel:
There are...many different ways to see what is happening here. Jerusalem is less than a day’s drive from Aleppo or Baghdad, and it should be clear to everyone that peace is pretty elusive in the Middle East even in places where Jews are absent. But reporters generally cannot see the Israel story in relation to anything else. Instead of describing Israel as one of the villages abutting the volcano, they describe Israel as the volcano.
The Israel story is framed to seem as if it has nothing to do with events nearby because the “Israel” of international journalism does not exist in the same geo-political universe as Iraq, Syria, or Egypt. The Israel story is not a story about current events. It is about something else.
For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew. It was their role in Christian tradition—the only reason European society knew or cared about them in the first place.
Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned—and I’m not alone this summer—is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.
When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain.
Some readers might remember that Britain participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fallout from which has now killed more than three times the number of people ever killed in the Israel-Arab conflict; yet in Britain, protesters furiously condemn Jewish militarism. White people in London and Paris whose parents not long ago had themselves fanned by dark people in the sitting rooms of Rangoon or Algiers condemn Jewish “colonialism.” Americans who live in places called “Manhattan” or “Seattle” condemn Jews for displacing the native people of Palestine. Russian reporters condemn Israel’s brutal military tactics. Belgian reporters condemn Israel’s treatment of Africans. When Israel opened a transportation service for Palestinian workers in the occupied West Bank a few years ago, American news consumers could read about Israel “segregating buses.” And there are a lot of people in Europe, and not just in Germany, who enjoy hearing the Jews accused of genocide.
You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.
North Korean traders staying in Dandong in Liaoning Province have orders from Kim Jong Eun to procure specific skin and hair care products to send back to Pyongyang.
A source in China reported to the Daily NK on August 25th, “A few days ago traders came from Pyongyang and were asking around about markets where they could purchase high-quality personal grooming supplies. They’ve been looking in Shenyang, Dandong, and Beijing and inquiring about the products and the quality standards applied to them.”
Despite a preference for superior quality European products, internationally imposed sanctions on North Korea can in some cases prove arduous to circumvent, leaving people to seek out products from China, deemed inferior in quality but relatively easy to access.
In addition to personal grooming kits and cosmetics, the traders have been purchasing barber chairs, large mirrors, washbasins, and facial massagers. The traders are under a great deal of pressure to purchase the right products, “More than anything else the traders pay particular attention to the combs they purchase,” he said. “They have been directed to find combs made from the finest water buffalo bone and are good for the hair; it can be a bit of a struggle to find the perfect match.”
30 barber stations and complementing grooming products are to be transported back to the capital. The source went on to say that most of these materials will be utilized at Changkwangwon in Pyongyang. Established in 1980, Changkwangwon is a spa and bathhouse that also offers massage and beauty services among its many amenities, and is the largest facility of its kind in North Korea.
“The price for the barber shop station and cosmetics Kim Jong Eun requested for his personal use comes to approximately $30,000 USD,” the source noted, adding that of this amount, $10,000 USD worth of skincare products for the face are included. The other, less expensive sets, cost roughly $1,500-2,000 USD, which “suggests a high probability that the cosmetics and salon instruments will be enjoyed by officials and Party cadres rather than by general residents at the Changkwangwon.” While the facility is open to the general public, most could not afford to pay such exorbitant prices for grooming.
A senior defector confirmed that the barbershop frequented by Kim Jong Il, located inside the Sinam Gymnasium near Changgwang Street in Pyongyang, is now patronized by his son. The establishment is very exclusive, he noted, “Only the most trusted of Kim Jong Il’s high-ranking officials could attend the salon in his company. In many cases, one of them was sent as a test subject for perm treatments to ascertain possible adverse side effects before the leader could receive one himself.”
The tale of ISIS and the Dutch official:
On Tuesday last week, Yasmina Haifi, an official at the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism in the Netherlands, tweeted: "ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It is a preconceived plan of Zionists who want to deliberately make Islam look bad."
For the past ten years, Ms. Haifi has been a senior staff member at the human resources department of the Ministry of Security and Justice. For the past two years she has also worked as a project leader at two of the Ministry's subsidiaries, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism and the National Cyber Security Center.
The outcry from the general public that followed her remarks initially did little to make her take back her words. The next day, however, she deleted the tweet, saying: "Realise the political sensitivity in relation to my work. This was never my intention." The same day, Haifi told national broadcast Radio 1 that she had no idea her comments would cause such an upheaval. "I assumed I was living in a democratic country," she said. "Apparently freedom of speech in the Netherlands applies to particular groups and not to others."
Haifi said she had based the information on "multiple sources from the internet." These consisted of a supposed statement by Edward Snowden, that the Mossad and the U.S. created ISIS. A simple background search would have shown this to be a firmly debunked hoax which was created by Iranian authorities. Even Snowden himself vehemently denies ever having said anything about ISIS.
Nevertheless, when confronted by journalists with the true nature of the spurious Snowden report, Haifi persisted and maintained that there was ample evidence to prove that the link between ISIS and Zionists did exist....
The truly shocking part of this story is not that Ms. Haifi faithfully regurgitates all too familiar Islamist anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, but that someone with such radical, conspiratorial and anti-Semitic views can be employed by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism. Something is evidently seriously wrong there with the screening of employees. There is widespread concern that many others with equally radical views were employed there and elsewhere in the security apparatus.
The defiant and self-assured tone of Haifi suggests that she was in no way apprehensive about the backlash from her words and the effect that could have on her career, and that she felt comfortable in her decision to utter them.
What is worrisome is what remarks such as those reveal about the social and professional climate at the Ministry. It is hard to believe that Haifi's conspiratorial and anti-Semitic views were not to some degree common knowledge among her co-workers, and possibly shared by many.
In addition to her career within the executive, Haifi is also a prominent member of the Labor Party. She was a member of the city council of The Hague from 1994 to 1998, and since 2011 has served as a talent recruiter and talent coach for the party's branch at The Hague. The city, which is also the seat of government in the Netherlands, has the country's most sizeable population of immigrants from Islamic countries; and Haifi functioned as one of its most vocal representatives. It is not clear how many people of a similar mindset she recruited into the Dutch Labor Party.
As co-founder of the action committee "Herstel het Vertrouwen" ["Restore Trust"] against "ethnic profiling" by the police in The Hague, Haifi enjoys sizeable backing from the Islamic immigrant community there: within a matter of days 5,600 people "liked" a Facebook page supporting Haifi. Not surprisingly, this page too is filled with conspiratorial and anti-Semitic views while at the same time bemoaning the unfair and discriminatory treatment meted out to Haifi for speaking "the truth."
Haifi's comments come at a time when widespread anti-Semitism among Muslims has become painfully visible. In the past months in The Hague, three pro-Gaza rallies have taken place, all of which have featuring ISIS flags, along with signs in Arabic calling to "Kill all Jews," and a quote from the hadith [the acts and sayings of Muhammad] that, "There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." The police were remarkably reluctant to arrest the protesters.
Despite the discriminatory and conspiratorial nature of Haifi's statements, the leadership of the Labor party, which has always presented itself as the champion of the victims of discrimination, has not ousted or suspended her. They have only announced they will "talk with Ms. Haifi" about her tweet...
Dorothea Lange, July 1939:
From the top:
Siler City - "Appliqued embroideries for sale on street in front of ten cent store. Saturday afternoon."
Granville County - "Country filling station owned and operated by tobacco farmer. Such small independent stations have become meeting places and loafing spots for neighborhood farmers in their off times."
[All photos Shorpy/Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration]
Edinburgh City Council has decided to fly the Palestinian flag above the city chambers, to send a message to the world "that Edinburgh stands with the people of Palestine", thus continuing "its proud tradition of supporting the oppressed peoples of the world”. They also passed a motion agreeing to send a letter of condolence to "the President of the State of Palestine", and another letter to the Israeli consulate "condemning in the strongest possible terms, the killing of hundreds of innocent civilian men, women and children".
Ray Cook, in an open letter to Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of Edinburgh Council, says all that needs to be said.
The great Bettye Lavette, 1990, does the old Velvelettes classic:
Posted on YouTube by Ian Levine, producer and Northern Soul impresario. Here's what the man says:
Miss B. sings the Marvelettes classic Sixties hit, and totally, overwhelmingly, makes it her own. Although she was indeed signed to Motown, and therefore was an obvious contender to become a part of Motorcity, the sassy Miss B. was far more well known for her work prior to Motown, on Atlantic, Calla, Big Wheel, West End, Atco, and on so many other labels. I adore her voice. Amy Winehouse has just made a major pop career by sounding like Bettye Lavette. Not only did Bettye sound fabulous, and still does, but she was drop dead gorgeous too, as her pictures will attest. She was a privilege to have on Motorcity, and to record more than an album's worth of material with her, and, in fact, only recently, her old Motorcity recording of "Right Out Of Time" has just gone massive with a brand new version that we cut, a version that's attracted all the acclaim that the original production never had, and even got played on Radio Two. Bettye's biggest ever hit was "Let Me Down Easy", a record on the Calla label that the late Dave Godin revered as if it were a religious experience. We were fortunate enough in Detroit in 1990 to not only re-record it, but to shoot some wonderful footage of the lady singing her heart and soul out like no one else can. At the same time, we cut this, along with loads of other wonderful performances, in Sylvia Moy's Masterpiece Studios.
Here's the Velvelettes original.
Her other great early hit, from 1969, He Made a Woman Out Of Me.
And, giving Elton John's Talking Old Soldiers some real power.