Canadian film director Atom Egoyan on the Armenian Genocide:
One hundred years ago, my grandparents could never have imagined the calamity that would befall them. They watched in horror as their lives were ripped away, as their families were murdered before their eyes.
The next hundred years would see an unfurling of atrocities the likes of which humankind had never before experienced — state-orchestrated murder on a scale unimaginable before the toxic combination of modern science, sophisticated weaponry, and twisted ideology. We can now understand that the Armenian Genocide should have been a warning call.
It should have served as a crystal clear example of the tragic consequences of unencumbered racism. It should have served as a model of what happens when this racism is allowed to grow within a state bureaucracy, when a government decides that there is such a thing as a Final Solution.
And for a few years after the extent of this horror was revealed — when it was understood that the Armenian race had been eradicated from their ancestral homeland, when it was understood that what the world had read in its newspapers was indeed the first widely reported example of genocide in history — it seemed that this atrocity had some bearing.
Then, as the monumental reserves of oil in the former Ottoman Empire were suddenly made available, the Western powers abandoned the issue of justice in their race to find favour with Ataturk and the Kemalist regime. The lessons of the Armenian Genocide were soon forgotten.
It was the fact that these massive crimes were committed without punishment that helped inspire the Nazis to think it was possible, under the cover of war, to exterminate an entire race — to commit an act of genocide with impunity.
Let’s remember that the Germans were wartime allies of the Turks. Let’s remember that the Germans had consular heads in each of the major Turkish centres who were reporting back to their Reichskanzler with reports that were properly horrified by what was taking place.
We now understand that many of these German officers who observed the Genocide were later key members of the monstrous team that aided in the design of Hitler’s Final Solution. We know that Hitler himself made reference to the Armenians — to the disappearance of the Armenian Question — in justifying his own barbarities.
A report from the German consul in Aleppo to his Reichskanzler at that time would conclude by stating that the Turkish government would never “be able to deny responsibility for all that has happened.”
And yet it did. And yet it still does.
As Armenians, we are often quick to point out that the Genocide was committed by the Ottoman Turks. A century after this virulent denial, why are we so careful about this nomenclature? I believe that we have been careful not to mention Turkey because we want the current state to have a way out. To say that the decision to eliminate our ancestors was confined to this moment of history.
Today, 100 years after the horrible events of April 24, 1915, let us no longer obfuscate. When the invitation comes from the Turkish Prime Minister, as it did earlier this year, to “contribute to a new beginning” and to believe that “Turkey shares the suffering of Armenians,” let us be clear.
Turkey cannot share the suffering of Armenians — nothing it has experienced can compare to this catastrophic loss. It can try to understand it. It can feel sorry about it. It can apologize for it. But that nagging little word — “IT” — is precisely what Turkey has refused to acknowledge.
No Turk alive today can be held directly responsible for the crime of Genocide committed by the Ottoman Regime. But with each passing day that the current Turkish state denies this atrocity, it is committing its own catalogue of horrors.
This has exacerbated the pain of Armenians and — in its own way — created a different kind of pain for Turks today. The pain of not being able to express a true and complete sense of compassion. The pain of seeing a fellow human being suffer, and not fully understanding — at some deep level — how actions are contributing to that suffering.
True compassion — true healing — can lead to the revelation and disclosure of truth and humanity. But we must also understand that compassion cannot exist if one’s energies are used in any way to conceal and deny.
This is certainly at the heart of the Turkish pain....
Armenia was the first country to accept Christianity as a state religion. But this defining ethos — our Christian faith — has placed on us a heavy responsibility to forgive. But in order to properly forgive we need to sense a genuine remorse in those we are asked to forgive. We need a clear and unequivocal apology. And while many of us here today have encountered the honest and very human sense of solidarity with certain individual Turks, we are caught in a strange bind.
How can we move forward, how can we embrace these righteous individuals when they are such solitary voices against the distorted and richly embroidered tapestry of entrenched state denial? What do we get out of acknowledging their pain? Don’t we somehow make ourselves more vulnerable in the process?
There is absolutely no doubt about the irrefutable fact of the Armenian Genocide. But today, a century after this event, we are still asking what has been the inheritance of those tortured and murdered a century ago....
Adapted from a speech delivered outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto, marking the centenary of the start of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 1915.
After that picture earlier in the week, here's the song:
Released in 1968. A seemingly anodyne middle-of-the-road song in those heady psychedelic days, it's survived and prospered since, acquiring the status of a classic. It was Glen Campbell's finest hour. And songwriter Jimmy Webb's.
Heading westward on a straight road (arguably Country Road 152) into the setting sun, Webb drove past a seemingly endless line of telephone poles, each looking exactly the same as the last. Then, in the distance, he noticed the silhouette of a solitary lineman atop a pole. He described it as "the picture of loneliness".
For some it "just might be the best song ever written".
Campbell, diagnosed with Alzheimer's, made his final recording last year.
Much sense in this piece by Craig Urquhart...American soldiers need to leave South Korea:
South Korea has been allowed to act like an overgrown child for decades. The U.S. exercised exclusive military command because South Korea could not be trusted not to start a world war, and now resists the American push to transfer operational command. It relies on U.S. protection when it flubs its own diplomatic efforts. It carved out a state-sponsored industrial policy that flouted fair trade rules, but was given a generous pass, and now pretends that this was entirely a South Korean achievement. It received aid from the IMF during the Asian Currency crisis, but has made little headway in financial reform.
The United States has been bailing South Korea out militarily, politically and diplomatically since UN troops landed at Incheon.
The “Miracle on the Han” is indeed miraculous, but it came prepackaged with serious design flaws that South Korea is too smug to address. South Korea was allowed access to foreign markets without reciprocating; sheltering industries breeds inefficiency and creates justified resentment overseas. “Get-rich-quick” economic policies artificially concentrate wealth and power into the hands of a tiny class of fratricidal, laughably dysfunctional and incompetent elites. Favoritism and collusion enables society-wide institutional corruption. “Bbali bbali” (“speed first!”) development encourages a culture of shoddy workmanship and corner-cutting, which, when combined with corruption, actively endangers South Korean society. Rigid, military-inspired corporate cultures stymie the development of creative and knowledge industries, while heavy regulation drowns out domestic and foreign competition, allowing gargantuan family combines, the infamous chaebol like Samsung and LG, to treat South Koreans like indentured laborers and captive consumers. Government interference in the economy makes South Korea more like a nation-sized “company town” than a modern state.
South Koreans are both proud of and enraged by their chaebol. This schizophrenia is a direct result of the economic model spearheaded by South Korea’s 1960s and 1970s dictator, Park Chung-hee. While ostensibly successful, this model was also deeply flawed, yet few will openly admit that the rot was built-in and does not come from pernicious outsiders. Political actors blame vague and sinister-sounding foreign forces for manifestly domestic economic and social issues. They can do this because Korea abdicates responsibility for its own mistakes.
He's not suggesting that South Korea should suddenly be dropped as a key US ally in the region....simply that the presence of American troops no longer serves any useful purpose, and is now in fact detrimental to the development of a mature South Korean political culture.
There are also some stern words about relations with Japan:
Few other colonized nations were as tractable and easily controlled as Korea under the Japanese, and few colonial enterprises had so many enthusiastic collaborators. And while both South and North Korea adopted variations of Imperial Japanese social norms, Japan has largely moved on.
South Korea was not unique in its acquiescence. After 1944, France overflowed with a comically large number of retroactive resistance fighters. The difference is that France has to handle its current relationship with Germany on its own. South Korea doesn’t have to take responsibility for its poor relations with Japan, its only real regional ally, because it’s free to take cheap potshots from behind America’s broad shoulders, safe in the knowledge that Uncle Sam will smooth it all out.
That seems a little unfair, given the new Japanese nationalism under Shinzo Abe, and the thorny issue of the comfort women. Still, the large-scale indifference of so many South Koreans to the plight of their fellow nationals in the North has always seemed to me something of a puzzle. Perhaps some forced growing-up might be no bad thing.
The penalties for failing to keep copies of books by the Great Leader and the Dear Leader in pristine condition are now more severe than the penalties for not having the books at all. The result - furnaces ablaze!
Some households in North Korea are reportedly incinerating literature and books written by the two former leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, to evade potential punishment for failure to take adequate care of material deemed sacred under state doctrine.
“In accordance with mandates recently issued by the Provincial Party Committee, county and district officials with the Propaganda and Agitation Department have been inspecting Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il-authored books owned by individual households,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Tuesday. “These inspections are aimed at ensuring that the images of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in the books remain in good condition. The inspection team also confiscates any ‘impure’ books [such as foreign literature]."
She added, “Prior to the year 2000, it was compulsory to own a large number of books or writings by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. But recent inspections revealed that whereas in the past households used to have dozens of books by both father and son, most now have a scant few--or none at all."
Residents failing to posses Kim family works were once subjected to rather severe punishments--fears of which made the literature a staple in every household across the country. Currently, however, all that generally awaits someone without the works is relatively light reprimanding.
Those still in possession of this literature, however, face a host of consequences if they fail to keep the book in pristine condition. “Every book or document about Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il contains images of these two men and there is always a high chance that the image-imposed pages could become discolored or dirty,” the source explained. “In that case, the owner of the book is summoned by the relevant Party Committee and punished for ‘damaging the highest authority,' and in severe cases, branded a 'secessionist.'"...
Most North Koreans use portable wood-burning stoves and furnaces instead of electric rice cookers to make rice, so it is common for households to use these books as kindling. While it would be easier to simply use the pages for scrap paper, tissue, and kindling as needed--avoiding those with images of the former leaders--it is ill-advised for fears of being caught with the book in an unsuitable state. These concerns compel people to just burn the entire book to be safe, according to the source.
Meanwhile, back in the UK:
The only motion that Amnesty International U.K. rejected in its annual human rights meeting on Sunday was one that would have tackled a growing antisemitic trend in Great Britain.
“It was the only resolution to be defeated during the whole conference,” said Amnesty member Andrew Thorpe-Apps, who tabled the resolution at an international Amnesty conference in March. Thorpe-Apps is a non-Jew, but said he was “appalled” by what he has “seen in the press facing the Jewish community.”
The motion was narrowly defeated by a 468 to 461 on Sunday.
“Amnesty International-UK’s (AIUK) decision on antisemitism highlights the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of what was once a leading human rights group,” NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg told the Algemeiner on Monday.
“At a time of murderous antisemitic attacks in Europe, Amnesty’s moral blindness is a core indictment of the organization,” he said.
“I can’t say that I’m shocked,” Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said. Cooper said that you would have to be “blind, deaf or dumb in Europe” not to see a growing trend of antisemitism.
Amnesty U.K., meanwhile, put out a statement saying that the resolution was rejected because of its “single focus.”
Some kinds of "single focus" issues are acceptable, however:
In April 2012 the charity published a report into discrimination against Muslims.
The report titled Choice and Prejudice Discrimination against Muslims in Europe said:
“The aim of this report is to focus on discrimination on grounds of religion or belief and to illustrate some of its consequences on Muslims in Europe.”
The Israelis, as we are of course aware, have absolutely no reason for concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Rescued from Bush's "axis of evil" slur and welcomed into the community of nations by the Obama administration, Iran has nothing but peaceful feelings towards its neighbours. Still, this is just a teeny bit worrying - The Classic Blood Libel Against Jews Goes Mainstream in Iran:
On April 18, the prominent Iranian website Alef published an article whose title roughly translates to "Who Are Human History's Most Bloodthirsty People?" The long, detailed essay, complete with footnotes, pictures, and video clips, accuses Jews of killing non-Jews to use their blood for ritual purposes.
Alef is owned and supervised by Ahmad Tavakkoli, a member of Iran's parliament who formerly served as minister of labor and social affairs and president of the parliamentary research center. A prominent conservative figure who received his PhD in economics from Nottingham University in Britain, Tavakkoli is also cousin to the Larijani bothers -- Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the human rights council in the judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, chief of the judiciary, and Ali Larijani, speaker of the parliament. Soon after the article appeared in Alef, other hardliner websites such as Mashregh News (mashreghnews.ir) republished it.
The essay, bylined as the product of "Alef's foreign affairs section," makes its anti-Semitic intentions clear from the start: "Blood shedding by Jews is not a new theme. By looking at what is happening in occupied territories, one can know the rapacious and savage spirit of this people [qowm, meaning ethnicity or race], but by examining Jewish history in past centuries, it becomes evident that they insist on blood shedding and even bloodthirstiness based on their altered religion and teachings." The word "altered" refers to the Islamic belief that parts of the Bible's Old and New Testaments were falsified.
The article claims to be based on the "Encyclopedia of Judaism" (no further reference information is provided on this source) and four books in Arabic by Egyptian writers. It also quotes an anti-Semitic German orientalist and linguist named Erich Bischoff, as well as Richard Burton, the well-known and notoriously anti-Semitic British orientalist and diplomat....
The article goes on to quote Rafat Mustafa, a member of the Syrian Baath Party and a prolific anti-Semitic writer. According to Alef, he wrote the following in a December 1 essay in the Egyptian newspaper El Shaab: "Jews are human history's most bloodthirsty people...Yes, these are Jews, those whose religion asks them to 'offer those who do not believe in Jewish religion as a sacrifice to our God Jehovah'...Research shows that following the falsified teachings of Judaism was the main factor behind all the miseries and misfortunes that Jews suffered from in their history. In the past, Jewish witches were using human blood in their conjurer ceremonies."
The Alef article then provides a long description of several occasions in which Jews use and drink human blood with religious justification. It also mentions several examples of Jews stealing children, killing them, and using them for Passover rituals. According to Alef, such incidents have taken place in Port Said, Aleppo, Damascus, Tripoli (Lebanon), and numerous places in Europe.
The export of its workers as what amount to slave labour abroad has long been a lucrative source of funds for the North Korea regime. Now, with extra sensitivity over human rights following last year's devastating UN report, instructions have been issued to these workers as to how they should respond to any inquisitive journalists snooping around. Basically, with violence:
North Korean authorities have ordered North Korean workers and supervisors sent to work in foreign countries to earn hard currency for Pyongyang to comply with new guidelines to prevent reporting of human rights abuse in workplaces, according to a human rights worker.
Authorities in the isolated country recently issued an updated special action guide after the United Nations passed a resolution on North Korean human rights at the end of last year.
North Korea’s security department already has sent the new guidelines to workers in many countries, said Hee Yoon Do, representative of the Citizens’ Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees (CHNK), who received the information from sources inside North Korea....
The action guide that authorities issued orders North Koreans working abroad to prevent foreigners from filming their workplaces and their work methods to document human rights abuses, Do said.
The action guide includes instructions as to what the workers should do if such a situation arises.
“Particularly, when a foreign reporter or human rights activists tries to take a picture or film you, take the camera, camcorder or cell phone from them and smash it,” the document said, according to Do.
“They [North Korean workers] must physically smash them, but also they must pull out internal memory cards such as SD cards and then return the broken cameras or camcorders to their owners,” he said.
The action guide also instructs workers not to hesitate to respond with violence and to gang up on those trying to video or photograph them, he said.
“The action guide even includes a series of details: Do not kill, but inflict a blow or fracture until the person’s body is physically damaged,” Do said.
If a person apologizes while a North Korean is beating him, the North Korean must record his words with a video camera or cellphone and give the recording to the supervisor or manager of the work unit to which they belong, Do said.
“If North Korean workers block activities by preventing or beating a South Korean who is reporter or human rights activist, they will be evaluated according to their actions,” he said. “But if they don’t [follow the guidelines] and pictures or videos appear on the Internet or TV, they’ll be punished.”
Do did not indicate the types of punishments the workers would receive.
North Korea has sent tens of thousands its citizens abroad to work in various factories since the 1980s to raise money for its regime, according to a recent report by Arirang News, an international English-language network based in Seoul.
Many of them endure long hours of physically grueling labor sometimes under the watchful eyes of North Korean minders in Russian logging camps, Chinese factories or Middle Eastern construction sites, where they often tolerate poor work conditions and inhumane treatment. Some workers lack heat and water in sparse and crowded sleeping facilities.
Via One Free Korea:
A caution is in order on the sourcing of the story: it’s attributed to an NGO, the Citizens’ Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees (CHNK), citing “sources inside North Korea.” Although CHNK itself is a respected NGO, we’re in no position to evaluate the reliability and basis of knowledge of CHNK’s own anonymous sources.
If the report can be confirmed, it could have significant policy implications. It would amount to an order by the North Korean government to subnational groups to commit politically motivated violence against non-combatant citizens of other nations on foreign soil. In this case, Pyongyang’s political motivation is to suppress the work of journalists and NGOs, and to preempt policy discussions among governments. It’s far from the most egregious example of North Korean sponsorship of international terrorism — the direction to refrain from murder may even count as progress — but if these orders are attempted or carried out, they could meet the legal standard for the hate that dare not speak its name (at least in Foggy Bottom).
Are migrants really stealing jobs in South Africa? the Guardian asks - apparently in earnest. It's these xenophobic attacks, you see - which are very similar to racist attacks, but perhaps not quite as bad. After all, these are black Africans attacking other black Africans. Can that be racist? Aren't all Africans (black Africans, that is) the same really, at least in Guardian/BBC land?
One puzzled commentator tries to make some sense of it all:
I wonder how this could ever occur in the country that suffered most from racism?! It's an interesting case study from a psychiatric point of view. Just like how it is with some Jews whose ancestors were tremendously persecuted in the west and yet practise the same horror against the Palestinians.
Update. That was quick. "This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn't abide by our community standards...." I'd have thought it was very much in line with the Guardian's usual community standards, but there you go.
Update 2: on the subject of the Guardian, this from a review in yesterday's Sunday Times [£] of If This Is A Woman: Inside Ravensbruck: Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women:
One of the most feared Kapos at Ravensbrück (where they were known as “Blockovas”) was Carmen Mory, nicknamed the “Black Angel” and the “Witch”. Sentenced to death after the war, she killed herself in 1947 to escape the hangman. Yet there had been nothing beforehand to suggest that she was a violent woman: far from it. Wealthy and well-educated, she had been a journalist for the Manchester Guardian.