This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Surfeit of German Penance

"Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital."
"This laughable policy of coming to terms with the past is crippling us."
"There were no German victims [e.g. Dresden firebombing by Allies] any more, only German perpetrators."
"[Any suggestion of criticism of the Holocaust memorial is] a malicious and deliberately denigratory interpretation of what I actually said."
"In my Dresden speech I wanted to ask how we Germans look at our history."
Björn Höcke, AfD state leader in Thuringia
Björn Höcke (centre) marches with AfD members in Raguhn (Getty)
"Everybody knows our historical burden. The never-ending shame, not a day on which the shame is not presented to us."
"[The Holocaust Memorial turned] the centre of the capital [Berlin] into concrete with a nightmare the size of a football pitch. Turning shame into monument."
Martin Walser, German author

"Anyone who views Auschwitz as 'our shame' is more interested in the image others have of us than in the image German citizen retrospectively form of themselves ... in order to be able to look each other in the face and show each other respect."
Jugen Habermas, 87, German philosopher

"The social climate has changed."
"Much of what was long considered to be accepted is now being questioned."
Peter Eisenman, Holocaust architect
Close to the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of Berlin, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is also found. It is a memorial that is a stele-field which can be approached      © Stiftung Denkmal

Germany is once again polarized between the left and the right. The social conservatives who want no more immigrants welcomed into Germany, and the social progressives who more or less are willing to continue inviting migrants and haven seekers to make their home away from persecution, oppression and conflict, in a free and democratic Germany. This is a Germany distinctly poles apart from how it had presented itself before mid-20th Century when the Third Reich came to power, a nationalist dictatorship of fascists.

Then, the target of hatred and dehumanization was anyone who was not pure Aryan; leaving Jews, Gypsies, Gays, the physically and mentally deficient, and political dissenters vulnerable to being rounded up and sent to concentration and work camps, with their final destination an early and brutal death. Nazi Germany's march toward totalitarian conquest of the free world cost the world that it occupied throughout its quest, millions of lives of Innocent children, men and women, young and old.

The current Germany, under Chancellor Angela Merkel, cannot take in too many migrants and refugees from the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa, as eager to sacrifice its culture, heritage, religion and social values to foreigners with their very own social structure and religious devotion, as they once were to reign supreme as supervolk, in the process slaughtering all those who failed to conform to the 'normalcy' of Aryan perfection.

At the same time, Germany is wearying of its admissions of guilt for imposing grievous harm on the world body, on helpless civilians, on dispossessing millions of human beings of their most basic human right; survival, while looting their possessions and destroying the hope that lives eternal in the beating hearts of the living. Berliners may have become accustomed to Germany's badge of shame in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe situated a block from the Brandenburg Gate, but they bear no pride as its host.

Germans, in a mass paroxysm of shame and penance, initially took pride in their fortitude in baring themselves to bearing such an ignominious cross that they bore, of guilt for a crime too horrendous to assimilate into one's consciousness. Now they seem to think they have suffered sufficient shame for the genocidal extermination they perpetrated. Germany's currently most revered philosopher believed in the Holocaust representing a unique event of huge significance that must be acknowledged into perpetuity.

At a post-war time of Germans hoping to put everything behind them, to 'forget' what they had wrought, Jugen Habermas stressed the need to own what they had perpetrated. And that as part of the process it would be necessary and fitting to ensure that all Germans be aware of their history of mass human extermination, that school curricula teach its reality and memorials be erected so that no German could ever evade that reality their nation had been capable of producing.

Many in the Alternative for Germany (AfD) anti-immigrant party gaining popularity under its head, Bjorn Uwe Hocke, go against that particular grain. And many members of the AfD state that Germany's "self-imposed low self-esteem" is not acceptable to them. "We are a succeeding generation that has never committed any crimes", they emphasize. "Everyone from other nations is proud of their country, why not us?" they rationalize.

And Peter Eisenman, the architect of the Holocuast memorial which presence engenders social bitterness in the hearts of those Germans who feel they have served sufficient penance for past sins, gravely stated his opinion that such a monument to the past could never find social consensus within Germany to build it at the present day. He expressed his view in an interview with Die Zeit that growing xenophobia and anti-Semitism now permeating the German body politic would never now allow such a public admission of guilt and shame.

Jewish Museum
JEwish Museum -- Photograph: Bitter and Bredt

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Crass Opportunism of Unfettered Greed

"As a president who successfully passed health insurance reform, it's an issue of great importance to him. President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time. Some of these speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid, and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision and his record."
"I'd just point out that in 2008, Barack Obama raised more money from Wall Street than any candidate in history -- and still went on to successfully pass and implement the toughest reforms on Wall Street since FDR."
Eric Schultz, Obama senior adviser

Well, that's all right, then, isn't it? Having raised funding out of Wall Street, and then in turn as president of the United States of America, passed legislation that continued to enrich Wall Street at the expense of the have-nots within his society, this former social worker and passionate black activist leftist is entitled to extract munificent sums from corporations more than willing to have the man who was once in the position of the most powerful human on Earth, anoint their enterprise with the blessing of his presence.

Well worth paying for in prestigious ego-stroking.

Of course the former president is not staking out new ground in signing up for those executive-level speech deliveries to those who can afford his luminous presence. A former Grade B actor who also made president took $2-million in payment for two speeches he delivered on request in Japan after he stepped down. At that time he was, of course, in the still-early stages of Alzheimer's Disease.

And it is not only Barack Obama who has qualified for speaking rounds of high-dollar intake, but his wife, as well, the estimable former First Lady Michelle Obama, who has just recently announced she will not, after all, make her own run for high political office. "Hi, everybody, it's good to get out of the house", she quipped gracefully, sitting for a politics-free round of questions at the American Institute of Architecture annual conference.

As former First Lady she would, needless to say, have much to say of interest to that professional group.

The very same day that Michelle Obama graced that profession's annual conference with her elegant and svelte presence, her husband addressed a closed-door session to employees of the A&E cable network, alongside historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. There is money to be made, and this power couple means to own as much of the stage and the profits from occupying that world stage, as they can manage.

A speech to a health-care conference scheduled for September, and sponsored by investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald, will gain the former president $400,000. Word on how much the couple charges for private speaking engagements is held tightly, not to be divulged to the nosy public. They performed their public duty in leading the free world to the best interests of the United States, and they deserve the fallout of their sacrifice; respect and admiration and cold, hard cash.
"As private citizens [the Obamas] are pretty much free to give speeches in their personal capacity [but at a potential cost to their popularity and future political influence]."
"It’s not a question of whether it’s legal. It’s a question of whether someone in a political environment can make an argument that it was unethical."
Richard Painter, law professor, University of Minnesota, former chief White House ethics lawyer

Obama secures $800,000 for two speaking engagements
Former U.S. President Barack Obama © Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters 

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Oops! Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

"On my first deployment to Kandahar [Afghanistan] in 2006, I was the architect of Operation Medusa where we removed 1,500 Taliban fighters off the battlefield ... and I was proudly on the main assault." (April 18, New Delhi)
"What I should have said was that our military successes are the result of the leadership, service and sacrifice of the many dedicated women and men in the Canadian Forces. I regret that I didn't say this then, but I want to do so now." (April 28, Ottawa)
"Every military operation our Forces undertook in Afghanistan, including Operation Medusa, relied on the courage and dedication of many individuals across the Canadian Forces. My comments were in no way intended to diminish the role that my fellow soldiers and my superiors played in Op Medusa."
Canadian Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan inspects a Guard of Honour prior to meeting with his Indian counterpart earlier this month in New Delhi. A speech Sajjan gave in India has stirred anger in military circles from those who thought the former soldier had overstated his role in Afghanistan.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan inspects a Guard of Honour prior to meeting with his Indian counterpart earlier this month in New Delhi. A speech Sajjan gave in India has stirred anger in military circles from those who thought the former soldier had overstated his role in Afghanistan.  (MONEY SHARMA / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The first sentence above relates to how the Honourable Member of Parliament of Canada and Minister of National Defence portrayed himself to an admiring audience in India when he visited  New Delhi on April 18 and spoke before a group of security experts. Minister Sajjan obviously got carried away and let fly statements that he deliberately embroidered to portray himself in a heroic light to impress his audience. That he is Minister of Defence in the Liberal Cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau obviously didn't burnish his credentials sufficiently.

His statement of ownership of the military plans designed to meet Taliban in combat and defeat them in the process went beyond inflated; obviously the boasting of a needful ego to elevate the esteem showered on him by proud Indians in the country of his heritage; a Sikh from India, running for parliament in Canada, and subsequently in brief order being named to the cabinet as Minister of Defence. Minister Sajjan, in fact, had a professional role as a Vancouver policeman. And he was a member of Canada's military reserves, called to duty in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer.

A post in which he distinguished himself, and was well liked and respected by enlisted men and officers alike. All of whom now have an opinion of this man at variance with their original; a situation that he has himself skewed and certainly not in his favour, since many are now calling for his resignation. "Making a statement like that (of being solely responsible as the architect of the battle plans of Operation Medusa in the summer and fall of 2006) is completely contrary to our military ethos", explained the former soldier who had initially characterized Minister Sajjan's remarks in New Delhi as "a bald-faced lie".

It is the retired military officers who have spoken loudly in disappointed condemnation of the govenrment's Minister of Defence, still preferring not to have their names released in public since they remain involved in a number of military projects. Yet Afghanistan veterans who had fought during Op Medusa claim to be completely astonished that this man who had been held in great esteem would now claim to have been the fulcrum that supported and designed that combat mission. Characterizing his statements in India as being "really quite outrageous".

He never had been involved in the command's decision-making process, according to the former officers now criticizing the Minister. He was a major in a liaison capacity with Task Force Kandahar. Then-brigadier-general David Fraser, Canada's task force commander, the International Security and Assistance (ISAF) commander for Regional Command South, along with his planning staff and his battalion commanders in Panjwaii were those who represented the battle architects of Op Medusa. That particular battle was the first and only occasion when Taliban forces faced off in their thousands for a battle against ISAF forces.

Minister Sajjan might be forgiven for his lapse in integrity and truthfulness. Cabinet ministers usually take their signals from the Prime Minister. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is inordinately fond of burnishing himself in whatever way he can, to portray himself as extraordinary and entitled and entirely admirable, a selfie-taking, applause-seeking narcissist out to impress at any cost. No one has yet suggested that Justin Trudeau step away from office in reflection of his unremitting self-promotion, but calls certainly have gone forward for Harjit Sajjan to do so.

After all, if the Minister of Defence chose to soil his reputation in such a tawdry fashion, how can he expect to retain the loyalty of the military his political position places him in the position to represent?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Baha'i Persecuted in the Islamic Republic of Iran

"One reason clerics in Iran have targeted the group with such zeal is the fact devout Muslims see the Baha’i faith as heresy and an insult to the teachings of Islam. The religion started in 1844 in the southern city of Shiraz when a man named Bab announced the coming of a messenger of God. In 1863, one of Bab’s followers named Baha’ullah declared himself to be the messenger and began preaching a message of unity among faiths. His followers were attacked and he spent years in exile, dying in the city of Acre, in what was then Palestine, in 1892."
"The Islamic Republic’s 34-year rule has hurt many religious and political groups in Iran, but one community has borne an especially heavy burden: the Baha’is, a religious minority viewed as heretics by some Muslims."
"Dozens of Baha’is were killed or jailed in the years immediately following the Islamic revolution in 1979. Billions of dollars worth of land, houses, shops and other Baha’i belongings were seized in subsequent years by various Iranian organizations, including Setad, the organization overseen by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."
Reuters Staff
(Multiple pictures of Baha’i religious leaders arrested in Iran are seen during a protest at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro June 19, 2011. Picture taken June 19, 2011. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

The Baha'i assemble seven of their faithful as leading members of their religious community; they are called the Yaran, the "Friends" and represent the needs of Baha'is in Iran, for in their tradition there is no clergy and the Friends serve as a kind  of administrative group to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Iran. All seven of the current Friends are languishing in Iranian prisons. Previous groups were "disappeared" during the 1979 Iranian revolution under the Khomeinist regime. And in 1981 the last eight members of the Spiritual Assembly were executed by firing squad.

The current seven Friends were charged and tried singly for espionage, insulting religious sanctity, collaboration with Israel, propaganda against the regime and "spreading corruption on Earth". Convicted, they were sentenced to twenty years in prison, and have now been incarcerated for ten years. Baha'i originated out of a schism with Shia Islam and unlike Islam the Baha'i religion places its emphasis on human unity, equality between men and women, the alleviation of poverty, and respect for science.

They preach world peace, and unlike most other religions, including Islam that do likewise, world peace is their actual goal which they work assiduously toward achieving. As for religious devotion, it is meditation, teaching and good works that spur them to honour their religious dedication. An estimated six million faithful live around the world, half of whom live in India. Canada has 35,000 Baha'i faithful. Although Baha'i faithful originally came from Iran, an estimated 300,000 are left there and remain persecuted and despised.

Baha'i are considered under Iranian law to be "unclean". They are not permitted to work in specific employment categories and nor are they within the Islamic Republic of Iran legally persons; there their legal protections have been severely attenuated. Government services are withheld from them, marriages in the Baha'i religion are unrecognized in law, and their progeny are considered to be illegitimate. They may not enrol in post-secondary education. In short, these beleaguered people of peace live with unrelenting fear.

They are arrested and placed in jail for being Baha'i. Baha'i owned businesses such as toy stores, optometrist offices auto-body repair shops, stationery stores, etc., were shut down after it was noted by authorities that they were not open for business on Baha'i holy days. When Baha'i are picked up by police, their families are given no notice of their whereabouts, and tend to know nothing of their fate. Baha'i men are sentenced to prison for the crime of "acting against national security" through teaching the Baha'i faith.

The "moderate" president Hassan Rouhani's administration has overseen a worsening situation for Iranian Baha'i, along with Iranian journalists, gays, reformists and dissidents. The Baha'i World Centre is located in Haifa, Israel. There the faithful live in peace and serenity and security. They find haven in Israel, their centre located there where their holy figures lived and died. Perhaps because of the presence of the centre in Israel, Iranian authorities accuse them of collaboration with Israel.

Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr)
Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International 
Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr) 

"The Baha’i Faith is entirely non-political and we neither take sides in the present tragic dispute going on over the future of the Holy Land and its peoples nor have we any statement to make or advice to give as to what the nature of the political future of this country should be."
"Our aim is the establishment of universal peace in this world and our desire to see justice prevail in every domain of human society, including the domain of politics."
"As many of the adherents of our Faith are of Jewish and Moslem extraction we have no prejudice towards either of these groups and are most anxious to reconcile them for their mutual benefit and for the good of the country."
 Shoghi Effendi, head of the Faith from 1921-1957

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Holding Out Hope for a Syria Accounting

"This is not some abstract human rights issue. This lies at the core of this conflict and of any possible solution or reconciliation. Hundreds of thousands of victims and their families need justice, remedy and assurance that the future will be free from such violations."
Laila Alodaat, lawyer, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

"Countries don't need this evidence -- they already know what's happening."
"There is no justice. And because there is no justice, there is no hope."
Abu Ali al-Hamwi, Syrian detained and tortured by the Syrian regime

"The problem as I see it is not so much what mechanism one can use to bring accountability, but how you actually get your hands on the people you want to prosecute."
Kevin Jon Heller, law professor, SOAS, University of London
Report title page
Syrian Accountability Project
Evidence abounds, of the human rights violations perpetrated by President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite-led regime in Syria. The level of sustained cruelty this regime has engaged in has few parallels in today's world, of a government committing to persecute, torture and slaughter its population representing a majority sectarian religion ruled by a minority sect fearful of losing its grip on power, using all the tools in its advanced military arsenal against rebel groups unequally armed to defend themselves, marks this conflict as a modern-day aberration.

Yet tribal and religious conflicts between national groups competing for influence and power are not that unusual; what sets this one apart is the level of barbaric viciousness displayed by a government against its people. This is a situation that the United Nations recognizes as threatening a segment of humanity at any given time, and which it took steps to guard against by committing itself to intervention through an obligatory protocol called 'Responsibility to Protect' (R2P). A theoretical invention which was incapable of venturing beyond theory.

Mostly because of the need for the UN Security Council comprised of permanent members, Britain, France, United States, China and Russia to full agreement in the imposition of sanctions and action to be taken to interrupt the slaughter. Russia, sometimes alongside China, casts the dissenting vote. Although figures range between 400,000 to 600,000 deaths so far in the Syrian Civil war displacing half of its 23-million population the carnage continues unabated with the regime using treaty-forbidden methods of mass murder.

In the six years the war has raged, no path to peace has yet presented itself. Syrian human rights groups claim over 200,000 people are missing, while tens of thousands remain in government custody where prisons are geared to torture and kill opponents of the regime. Others who are eventually released speak of torture, fear, hunger, deprivation, health declines, filth, disease and overcrowded conditions where humanity is totally absent.
Destruction at a hospital room in Khan Sheikhoun. April 4, 2017
Getty Images : Witnesses said clinics treating the wounded were subject to air strikes
As for evidence: an estimated three tons of Syrian government documents sketching out a gruesome catalogue of of war crimes committed by the state are being held in Europe, provided by a Syrian police photographer who had photographic evidence of 6,000 dead Syrians, tortured and slaughtered by the state; documentation which he had fled Syria with, with a view to sharing them with the world, hoping to see justice done.

Instant communication through the use of smartphones and the Internet have provided more than sufficient evidence from direct, on-site accounts by survivors of the perpetrators of state barbarism. Yet only one war crimes case against Syrian officials filed in Spain exists and no prospective cases have been sent on to the International Criminal Court, since Syria was never a signatory. And while the United Nations Security Council has the capacity to refer a case to the court, Russia's veto power ensures it will not.
A Syrian victim receives treatment after an alleged chemical attack at a field hospital in Idlib province, 4 April 2017
Russia clashes with other world powers over chemical gas deaths in Syria : BBC

The Syrian government and Bashar al-Assad are adamant that the conflict has resulted from an international conspiracy to destroy his country; all opposition represents a coalition with foreign-backed terrorism, and nor had his regime committed atrocities. In March of 2011 a dozen boys wrote on the wall of their village school "It's your turn, Doctor"; that Assad would represent the next Arab leader to fall in the Arab Spring. The boys were speedily arrested, imprisoned, tortured and signed 'confessions'.

Arrests, torture, killings began in earnest thereafter, as did aerial bombardments and chemical attacks.

A United Nations Commission of Enquiry, along with human rights groups, described the regime's assault against its civilian populations as representing an industrial scale massacre. In one prison facility alone, thousands of prisoners have been executed, according to Amnesty International studying Saydnaya prison close to Damascus. People disappear and are never again seen. People have no hope left.

Still, activists, lawyers and others within Syria document atrocities taking place there, in the hope that one day justice will be seen. Among them are experienced war-crimes prosecutors building cases against the president and his government officials. The non-profit group Commission for International Justice and Accountability has been acquiring captured government documents, with over 750,000 government documents holding hundreds of thousands of names of regime enablers.

The look of this father carrying his two children after the chemical attack in Syria encompasses all of the injustice of this world ... Kareem Shaheen/Twitter

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Nameless Ciphers in Genocide

Hungarian Jews arrive in Auschwitz, 1944
Yad Vashem, Israel
"These people [Holocaust survivors] are dying out. We won't be able to access the information they have in their minds."
"Members of the family [of those who were murdered] don't remember the names of small children. Cousins who lived 60 kilometres away never knew those newborns [whose young lives were obliterated]."
"[Children or grandchildren call Yad Vashem to ask] 'Maybe you can talk to my grandfather and convince them [to recall]'."                                                       "The difficulty is compounded by the fact that sources can be in 30-40 different languages, most are handwritten and can be in different scripts, such as Latin, Hebrew and Cyrillic. Our staff not only need to be linguists but they need to know calligraphy,"
Alexander Avram, director, Yad Vashem, Hall of Names
A visitor pauses under photographs of Jewish victims of the Nazis in the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial  in 2005.
David Silverman / Getty Images   A visitor pauses under photographs of Jewish victims of the Nazis in the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in 2005.
"I thought I should leave this evidence behind. For me they are not just names, there are faces behind these names."
"It's all etched into your memory: their faces, they will always be there."
Vera Schiff, author, Holocaust survivor, Toronto
The World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem's staff has managed through patient effort to identify most of the six million victims of the Holocaust; their names, ages, genders, where they lived, who their relatives were who died alongside them. Anything relevant about each of these victims of genocide that would help to put a human face, a life, an existence to a dead memory. To ensure that their presence is not lost in a dead zone of forgetfulness. They lived, and their lives should be documented as much as can be possible.

The researchers in Jerusalem have an estimated 1.3-million dead whose backgrounds, whose family names have yet to be revealed, for lack of testimony that would identify them and bring them back to life through recognizing their identities. They hope yet to be able to persuade reluctant survivors to document whatever little they may know of extended family members to enable the researchers to make that vital identification of individuals. Understandably, Holocaust survivors would prefer not to remember the horrors that marked those traumatizing years of suffering and death.

The Center has so far recorded 4.7-million names of Jews whose lives were extinguished in the Final Solution of Nazi Germany's death camps. That gigantic task was initiated in 1950 and has been carried on ever since, but is still far from completion. And it will not be completed until every last Jew who was murdered by order of the Third Reich is documented properly. Archives containing victims' names through a collection of over 2.5 million "pages of testimony", single-page forms containing whatever is available of the personal details identifying a person represents the last-stage resource.

Each was completed by a survivor of the Holocaust, by a descendant of the dead, or by a friend whose memory of the dead has been invaluable in the documentation process. Where the person was born, lived, married, how they made their livelihood. Holocaust survivors are declining steadily in numbers after the passage of so much time. And those who are left may or may not wish to divulge what they are reluctant to recall of painful times and memories that torment them still.

The issue of child victims who died while other family members managed to survive is another complicating factor. There were one-and-a-half million Jewish children alone murdered during the Holocaust, and of that number an estimated half have been named. "It's one of the saddest things, we have reports where parents are named with say three or four children, unnamed. They were little children and people just don't remember", says Dr Avram

"Filling out this page of information saying this was my father, mother, grandfather, nephews and nieces - you cannot bury your relatives who perished but you can remember them in a way that will commemorate them forever, so this is very important and also therapeutic for many survivors", explained Dr. Martin Auerback, at Amcha, a support service for Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem.

Beyond the death camps that gassed Jews to death with Zyklon B, then moved their bodies into giant crematoria where dense black clouds of smoke covered the skies and rained down particles on the land below, the stench of burning flesh and bones making no secret to nearby residents in various Nazi-occupied countries of Europe of what was occurring, there were other methods employed by the Third Reich to rid Europe of its Jews.

Mobile killing squads called Einsatzgruppen shot an estimated 1.5-million Jews to death after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. And in Ukraine, at Babi Yar, 33,000 Jews from the capital Kiev alone were shot to death and toppled into a ravine in 1941, half of whom are awaiting identification. Yet other Jews died from starvation, disease, or slave-labour-related exhaustion in ghettos and in labour camps, or killed in the extermination camps with which the work camps were twinned.

They were seen by their killers, and treated as sub-human ciphers to each of whom a number was assigned as their identification, the infamous branding of human beings as a means of keeping records. Naming them, elaborating as much as possible on their identities with details of their existence can be viewed as a gesture to restore a modicum of dignity to them in their appalling deaths, a restoration of sorts denied them by their murderers.

Bar chart of number of identified victims

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Monday, April 24, 2017

I Am A Jew

"Not all Jews practise Judaism. Traditionally, anyone whose mother is Jewish has been identified as Jewish, but that condition is not necessary for Jewish identity, either. Presently, many Jews are citizens of the modern state of Israel, but a majority of the world's Jews do not fit that description. Who is a Jew? It's a complex question."
The Holocaust Chronicle; A History in Words and Pictures

Who is a Jew? Me. I am a secular Jew. The history, the heritage, not particularly the culture, but most certainly an indefinable sense of being, view of the world, feeling for humanity, knowledge of right and of wrong, all elements that I acknowledge to be Jewish in origin and in being, are mine. To greater or lesser degree I share all this and more -- and less as well -- with millions of other human beings around the globe.

Had I been born elsewhere than in North America I might not have lived to see eighty years of age, which I now am. Had my parents not left Russia and Poland they would have perished as the extended members of their family had, and I would have been born, in 1936, in Poland or in Russia. My fate would have been sealed.

Instead, I can recall as a child whose family's poverty denied me childhood toys yet somehow managed to find me books, being aware of something monumental and evil happening, something that gripped my parents' perceptions, something that was mentioned often in hushed discussions with friends, but not neighbours. I can recall reading bleak, black accounts, of a type much too dismal and frightening to be shared with a child. I can remember navigating my own search for reading material unsupervised by my parents, at a time when a heightened awareness existed which no one in my hearing gave a name to.

I remember the shocking mumblings of my parents, after the war had ended and the "Greenies" began to enter Canada where we lived and a special, quiet regard of sensitive horror, of gratitude and of empathy was borne in the presence of survivors, that not only did refugees enter Canada, but those who walked the streets of Toronto whom the survivors recognized from another place where humanity was totally absent. That is what I remember.

What I have no need to remember is the stark awareness that has stalked my life, that the lives of Jews and their ill fortune was a curiosity to those not Jewish; sometimes an irritation, sometimes an embarrassment, something to be avoided in polite company. The knowledge of that desolation, of that muffling death through suffocation when a pesticide became the extermination tool of a deaths head regime that gloried in solving the problem of a worldwide pestilence with a solution no one else had yet devised because it had awaited the precise time and bureaucratic finesse of an ideology so well fitted to the task.
"Jews trace their origins to the biblical patriarch Abraham, who lived almost four thousand years ago. Judaism, a distinctively monotheistic religion is rooted in the exodus of the ancient Hebrew people from Egyptian slavery and in experiences they shared under Moses' leadership at Mount Sinai. The early Jews' ritual laws and ethical rules distinguished them from other groups."
"Eventually occupying the Mediterranean coastal land of Canaan, the Jews established the kingdom of Israel. Unable to sustain the unity and autonomy it enjoyed from about 1000 to 922 B.C.E., the kingdom was split by internal divisions, besieged, and occupied by a variety of conquerors. In 70 C.E., the Romans ruthlessly put down a sustained Jewish rebellion. Most of the surviving Jews were dispersed to various parts of the Roman Empire. Exiled Jews have lived in European lands for more than 2000 years."
"Whether their outlooks are secular or religious, their homes in Israel, Europe, the United States, or anywhere else in the world, Jews are not a race but a people unified by memory and history, culture, tradition and religious observances that are widely, if not identically, shared."

1934: "Twenty-Five Points of the German Religion" are issued in Germany by Professor Ernst Bergmann. It holds that Christ was not a Jew but a Nordic warrior put to death by Jews, and whose death spared the world from Jewish domination; Adolf Hitler is the new messiah sent to Earth to save the world from Jews. Heinrich Himmler is given responsibility for police in Prussia, making him the chief of police forces throughout the Reich. The Institut fur Erbbiologie und Rassenforschung (Institute of Hereditary Biology and Race Research) is founded at the University of Frankfort am Main by Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Versechuer to study racial and hereditary issues."

The Holocaust Chronicle; A History in Words and Pictures

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Turkish Armenian Genocide

"Until recently, the smoking gun was missing. This is the smoking gun; an earthquake in our field [historical genocide. The discovery of which should remove] the last brick in the denialist wall."
"My firm belief as a Turk is that democracy and human rights in Turkey can only be established by facing history and acknowledging historic wrong-doings."
"The past is not the past in the Middle East. This is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East."
Taner Akcam, Turkish historian, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts
Picture of the crumbling Surp (Saint) Garabed Church in Çüngüş, eastern Turkey
The archways of the crumbling Surp (Saint) Garabed Church in Çüngüş, eastern Turkey, hint at the former heights of Armenian culture here. Many old churches have fallen to ruins or been converted into mosques in the former Armenian heartland. But grassroots attempts at reconciliation, often led by Turkey’s minority Kurds, have also helped rebuild one of the largest Armenian churches in the Middle East, in the city of Diyarbakır.

As a prelude to the Armenian genocide, hundreds of thousands of Armenian men, women and children were murdered between the two years of 1893 to 1896 by the military of the Ottoman Empire tasked by their leaders to rid the world of Armenians who would not accept Turkish demands that they must integrate themselves completely into all aspects of Turkish life and identity, surrendering their entire heritage; geography, language, religion, social customs and aspirations for an independent Armenia.

There is a startling resemblance between the Turkish-Armenian polarization of over a century earlier to that which now faces Kurds living in Turkey whom the government of Turkey has for generations insisted they surrender their identity, culture, heritage, geography, language to that of Turkey. The current Islamist government of Turkey following in the tradition of an earlier era arrests, charges and imprisons political Kurds as enemies of Turkey, while attacking and killing militant Kurds who return deadly fire. And in the tradition of the Ottoman war on civilian Armenians, the Turkish military targets civilian Kurds.

When Turkey committed in the First World War alongside Germany it was with a declaration that they were engaged in jihad against the infidel and mass arrests of the Armenian intelligentsia and professionals took place with many being hanged. Systematic death marches were carried out killing Armenian men, woman and children, marched into the Syrian desert to die of exhaustion and starvation and disease. An estimated one and a half million Armenians died during these death marches or were executed en route.

Turkish historian Taner Akcam published The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, in 2012. Accessing Turkish archives he was able to prove the deliberate, planned, coordinated genocide of the Armenian people for which the government and military of Turkey were responsible. Over the decades since, Turkey has always denied anything remotely resembling a deliberate genocide took place, insisting that during the war years, unfortunate deaths on a wide scale, simply occurred.

Turkey may have joined Germany in its conflict against Allied nations, but Turkey's exploit in slaughtering a million and a half of Europe's Armenians, killing children, raping women, executing their men, and generally leading them toward certain, excruciating death by whatever means were possible, most certainly must have impressed Adolf Hitler who had his own extermination plans for the near future in the elimination of European Jewry. Building on Turkey's exploit, Germany ambidextrously waged a massive war effort and launched an equally massive genocide.
Armenian orphans evacuating from Turkey, 1922
A group of Armenian orphans evacuating from Turkey, 1922 - See more at: http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_18.php#sthash.LMWEOylL.dpuf

Historian Akcam has studied the Armenian genocide for decades, patiently putting together a damning jigsaw of documents sourced from around the world to prove state complicity in the killings. An original telegram that came out of an archive held by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem from the post WWI trials came into his possession recently. Which elaborated on a Ottoman Empire official in the Turkish city of Erzurum sending a telegram in secret code to a colleague.

Details were asked relating to the deportation and slaughter of Armenians in eastern Anatolia. Eventually a copy of the telegram, deciphered, helped in the conviction of the official, Behaeddin Shakir, who was involved in planning what historians have acknowledged and Turkey continues to deny, as the well organized extermination of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Empire leaders, representing the first 20th Century genocide.

Mr. Akcam, diligent scholar and historian that he is, argues that attribution for a great deal of the chaotic misery roiling the Middle East of today resulted from distrust between the various communities relating to historical wrongs no one is interested in admitting to, much less to confront, discuss and understand. Which is certainly a refreshing change from the usual claims made by self-interested Middle East entities who trot out continually the accusation that the existence of Israel is to blame for all that goes awry in the Middle East.

"He has piled clue upon clue upon clue", stated Eric D. Weitz, history professor at City College of New York. Naming Mr. Akcam as "the Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide". Turkey will never, certainly never under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accede to an admission of responsibility. Genocide is not a word nor a concept that Turkey is prepared to admit to; for as they insist, the chaos of a world war produced the Armenian deaths, and the Turks suffered difficulties, as well.
Near East Relief Society Armenian Orphans
Children taken in by Near East Relief
Collection of Near East Relief Society
Maria Jacobsen, DIARY 1907-1919, KHARPUT, TURKEY
Tessa Hofmann & Gerayer Koutcharian
Armenian Review, Spring/Summer, 1992, Vol. 45, No. 1-2/177-178, p. 119, Fig. 56
- See more at: http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_3.php#sthash.aYj0TVVa.dpuf

The Armenians were traitors, as Turkey would have it, planning to fight Turkey in concert with Russia. This is a version that Turkish culture values, long a standard explanation published in Turkish school curricula, supported by a vast majority of the Turkish population. "My approach is that as much proof as you put in front of denialists, denialists will remain denialists", stated historian Bedross Der Matossian, at the University of Nebraska, author of Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire.

Picture of villagers picnicking at the border town of Bagaran, Armenia
Picnicking at night beneath apricot trees—and a giant cross shining defiantly into Turkey—villagers in the border town of Bagaran, Armenia, belt out songs of memory, cultural endurance, and survival. The bitter dispute between Armenia and Turkey dating back four generations has paralyzed economic, diplomatic, and political progress in the region. The ancient crossroads between Turkey’s eastern highlands and the Caucasus remains in the thrall of ghosts.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Refugee Sponsorship in Canada : Mutual Obligations

"Unlike any other refugee populations, social media and mobile applications are very commonly used by the Syrian refugees and the population who are actively connected to each other via mobile devices, specifically WhatsApp."
"Refugees were comparing what Syrian friends received in terms of services in other cities and provinces and requested equivalent services and support."
"Many partners and stakeholders were concerned about the [Syrian] youth group [which had experienced a lapse in their education and might find it a future challenge to both fit in to Canadian society and find employment]."
"The perception was that given the integration challenges mentioned above, this group could become disenfranchised and have a harder time developing a sense of belonging to their communities."
Government of Canada report
Syrian refugees line up at the processing centre in Amman, Jordan, where they will meet with Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) employees on Dec. 13, 2015.
Syrian refugees line up at the processing centre in Amman, Jordan, where they will meet with Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) employees on Dec. 13, 2015.  MCpl Bernie Kuhn / Canadian Forces

"If instances of sponsors asking refugees to pay for their own sponsorship come to our attention, we will investigate."
"However, we will not comment on any investigations which may be underway."
Remi Lariviere, Immigration Department spokesman

"Large-scale refugee movements place pressure on health-care systems, both in their immediate response and as part of long-term resettlement efforts."
"As Syrians integrate into Canada, meeting their longer-term, health-care needs will call for a seamless network of health-care providers, supported by community partners."
"[Some children arrived with illnesses including cancers, seizures and developmental disorders. Malnutrition and children with intellectual disabilities were also observed at a rate higher than in the general Canadian population]."
"[In Toronto, more than 500 dental emergencies were addressed. Patients of all ages had severe mouth diseases, unable to sleep or eat because of pain.]"  
Canadian Communicable Disease Report study

A recently published government study began with an evaluation by the Immigration Department of the refugee program to settle Syrians through privately sponsored programs which saw 8,918 refugees arriving in Canada between November 2014 and March of 2017, of whom 581 wee interviewed. Twenty-three of those surveyed stated they had paid for the completion of their sponsorship application or for the provision of their personal support in Canada; in some instances being asked to give payment.

This is an illegal situation since private sponsorship groups are not meant to accept or to require that any funds be supplied by a refugee for submitting a sponsorship. It is not just Syrians, according to the report, who have ended up paying sponsors. Privately sponsored refugees arriving from elsewhere in the world surveyed for a previously-undertaken study had divulged that 19 of 451 refugees that paid for their sponsorship, as well. On the other hand, on a private note, it seems entirely reasonable if the refugees have the financial wherewithal, that they be expected to help support themselves.

In the evaluation of the first wave of Syrians documentation comparable with other refugee groups, it was divulged that some Syrians are less educated and are possessed of a more meagre proficiency of one of the two Canadian official languages, both indices which are meant to identify ideal characteristics for welcoming immigrants and refugees to Canada. Syrians, through this enquiry, were also revealed to have larger families and a lower state of awareness of Canadian rights and freedoms than refugees from other groups.

All of which might mark them as less than ideal candidates for migration to and absorption into Canadian society. These are also recognized factors that contribute to additional settlement challenges, (as, for example, a greater financial investment in supporting larger families) which, when added to the popularity among Syrian refugees of social media, has resulted in an additional complication; the expectation among Syrian refugees to Canada of certain services that they feel they are entitled to.

It was also established that only ten percent of adult government-assisted Syrian refugees had found employment, a number which government officials feel to be comparable with other refugee population groups assisted by government for settlement in Canada. September marked the 13th month of the initial group of refugees being situated in Canada, significant since refugees can expect financial support from the federal government or private sponsors for a twelve-month period before they are expected to become independent.

Those not yet self-supporting theoretically can ask for provincial social assistance, to receive welfare  benefits. The estimate is that from March 2017 approximately 1,890 to 2,005 Syrian adults would be eligible to access provincial welfare. The burden on the Canadian taxpayer, from the moment the estimated 40,000 Syrian refugees entered Canada and received financial support for housing, food, medical care, language and job training and education, straining all public welfare systems in the process, now extends to funding in some of the same spheres through provincial welfare.

But it is the future trajectory of the capacity of the Syrian refugees to accept Canadian cultural and social values, to join the mainstream of self-sufficient and law-abiding citizenry that will represent the true test of the wisdom of bringing in to a country dedicated to equality, fundamental human rights entitlements, protection of rights and freedoms, a pluralistic society and economic opportunities having succeeded or failed.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Seriously?! Trump Contemplating Tearing Up the Iran Nuclear Agreement? Oh, Maybe Not: "On Notice"

a)"Today I’d like to address Iran’s alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence, destabilizing more than one country at a time."
b)"This letter certifies that the conditions of Section 135(d)(6) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (AEA), as amended, including as amended by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (Public Law 114-17), enacted May 22, 2015, are met as of April 18, 2017."
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

"Iran could follow the Syrian and North Korean examples and cheat. Or, while enjoying hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it can adhere to the agreement and deactivate parts of its nuclear facilities rather than dismantle them. It can develop new technologies for producing atomic bombs while testing intercontinental ballistic missiles."
"It can continue massacring Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis, and bankrolling Hamas and Hezbollah. The [Joint comprehensive Plan of Action] enables Iran to do all that merely by complying."
"The remaining American sanctions on Iran must stay staunchly in place and Congress must pass further punitive legislation. Above all, a strong link must be established between the JCPOA and Iran's support for terror, its pledges to annihilate Israel and overthrow pro-American Arab governments, and its complicity in massacres."
Michel Oren, historian, former Israeli ambassador to the United States
Zarif addressed reporters alongside his visiting French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault [Atta Kenare/AFP]

Mr. Oren's statements and recommendations can be understood fully in the context of both recent history and even more recent events that continue to take place on the world stage and the Middle East. The agreement that Mr. Oren makes reference to focused solely on Iran's nuclear ambitions; it failed, deliberately and for various reasons, to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran to account for its support of Islamist terror and terrorist groups and its own intercontinental ballistic missiles program whose progress Iran ostentatiously highlights.

The Republic continues to be a threat to the stabilization of the Middle East through its enabling sponsorship of Bashar al-Assad's Syrian civil war against the Syrian Sunni rebels whose initial protests were limited to seeking equality with the country's minority Shiite Alawite population. By dispatching its Al-Quds division of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps to Syria and calling on its surrogate militia Hezbollah to fight alongside Assad, Iran has helped to slaughter hundreds of thousands of Syrians and make homeless millions more among whom are millions of refugees flooding Europe.

Iran's plan of conquest for the Middle East, where it leads a Shiite minority to threaten the majority command of the Sunni Arabs, along with its determination to keep experimenting until it succeeds in emulating its flamboyant North Korean counterpart keeps the Middle East in a tinderbox state of suspense and suspicion. Former President Obama's self-congratulatory "win" in spearheading an agreement that the Security Council members plus Germany supported in the fiction that it would significantly delay Iran's nuclear ambitions coming to fruition found great disfavour with the new U.S. President.
Still from Video: Rouhani says Iran won't allow Trump to tear up nuclear deal

Secretary of State Tillerson's polarizing message of recognizing the malevolent threat Iran represents while at the same time overstating the Republic's compliance with the risibly fictitious constraints represented by the agreement enabling Iran to see the crippling financial sanctions lifted and international conglomerates slavering at the bit to re-enter Iran's lucrative energy market has privileged Iran while creating an even greater destabilization in the Middle East with Yemen another proxy battleground between Shiite Aryan Iran and Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia.

President Trump may have spoken impetuously and grandiosely of his plans to reverse the Obama administration's capitulation to Iranian demands, but the man has the focus of a mosquito and the memory of a gnat to match the determination of an amoeba. His penchant for quixotic turn-abouts from one position to another puzzles and confounds both friend and foe. He exercises his option to abuse friends and befriend foes, and no one knows where they stand with this man, much less does he himself fully appreciate that consistency is a desirable attribute as much as is thoughtful intelligence.

"Boeing Co. landed its second jetliner sale to an Iranian airline since the 1970s, a $3-billion deal that sets up a test of the planemaker's ties with President Donald Trump. The pact with Iran Aseman Airlines to purchase thirty of Boeing's 737 Max planes adds to a separate $16.6-billion agreement with Iran Air, which the Chicago-based manufacturer is still finalizing. If completed, the transactions would be the first U.S. aircraft exports to Iran since the Shah era", reported Bloomberg.

A bill to block the sale has been entered in the House, but under current law the deal is perfectly legal, illustrating clearly what the next move by the American President should be; altering the sanctions regimen, reinstituting sanctions and bolstering them considerably. It is the Republic of Iran that represents the greatest threat to world stability at the present time, although North Korea's careening narcissistic boy wonder comes a close second.

This photo, released by the Iranian Defense Ministry in March 2014, purports to show the Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missile and the Persian Gulf anti-ship ballistic missile. (AP Photo/Iranian Defense Ministry)
This photo, released by the Iranian Defense Ministry in March 2014, purports to show the Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missile and the Persian Gulf anti-ship ballistic missile. (AP Photo/Iranian Defense Ministry)

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Desperately Seeking Israeli Medical Treatment

"To our regret, it has been proven again that Gaza Strip-based terrorists are continuing their efforts to exploit the humanitarian channel in order to carry out attacks in Israel. The security inspectors acted exactly as expected, with exemplary professionalism."
Defense Ministry Crossings Authority Director Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Kamil Abu Rokon

"The foregoing [preliminary investigation] attests to the ongoing efforts by terrorist organizations based in the Gaza Strip, especially Hamas, to exploit Israel’s humanitarian initiatives and the medical assistance that it provides to residents of the Gaza Strip, in order to perpetrate attacks in Israel."
Israel Security Agency/Ministry of Defense statement

 Gazan women protest Israel's travel ban which prevents them access to cancer treatment, Jan 2016.
Hope & Aid Organization for Cancer Patients     Gazan women protest Israel's travel ban which prevents them access to cancer treatment, January 2016.

Back in January of last year, there was a protest and a hunger strike by Gazan Palestinian women who were suffering from cancer and who were striking against what they said was the decision by Israeli authorities to no longer allow Gazans in to Israel for medical treatment. The strike of dozens of women was led by 47-year-old Iman Shanan, a Palestinian activist who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and who had more recently been referred to the Assuta Hospital in Tel Aviv to undergo an examination for the purpose of determining whether her remission had given way to a cancer recurrence.

She also heads the NGO Aid and Hope Program for Cancer Patient Care in Gaza. It was not that all such requests have been denied, since the fact is many patients seeking treatment outside Gaza are given permission to enter Israel for treatment at Israeli hospitals. Ms. Shanan had claimed she had made three separate requests for permission and all had been denied. On the other hand, Israeli officials had said she had sought permission to attend a medical conference; they had no record of any requests from her to attend hospital for her in-remission cancer.

Twenty-seven-year-old Majar Naizi, one of the demonstrators and a former breast cancer patient, had been referred to Assuta Hospital for the very same tests as Ms. Shanan. Ms. Naizi had been  treated in 2014 and 2015 in East Jerusalem. Her latest request for an examination had been denied. "My condition is deteriorating and I have to understand how to proceed. I can’t take medication without understanding my condition, the doctors are thinking of giving me medicines without the examination because I can’t get a permit to have it, but it could cause me serious damage". she complained.

In defence of Israeli policy respecting the treatment of Gazans in Israel, the coordinator of  government activities stated the the "civilian policy" underwritten by Israel has not changed. That hundreds of Gazans have been free by permission to enter Israel to receive medical treatment, and the numbers permitted to cross has grown year by year. And then there was an added explication of the reason that greater caution in giving permits had arisen, when a statement was released by the Shin Bet.

 Israel's internal security agency stated that it "allows residents of the Gaza Strip to enter Israel for medical treatment in accordance with the policies determining the movement of people between the State of Israel and the Gaza Strip and in the absence of any security impediment. Of late, we have witnessed repeated attempted by terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, which take advantage of Israel's willingness to grant entry to some patients for humanitarian reasons, to carry out terror attacks in Israel."

"In this context, it is worth remembering that there have been a number of recent cases in which terror organization cynically took advantage of patients seeking medical treatment outside of Gaza, were given entry permits to Israel and in whose possessions we found utensils and money designed for use in terror attacks. Therefore, the requests that we receive from Gaza for entry permits into Israel are thoroughly vetted before any such permit is issued."

Bear in mind, that was January of 2016. Fast-forward to 2017. Now, a repeat has occurred. It was revealed on April 20 that two women from Gaza who had received permission to enter Israel from the Eretz crossing to seek medical treatment for one of the women suffering from cancer, replayed that tired old tune. At the crossing, security inspectors discovered the sisters in possession of explosives used in the production of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), which they speedily confiscated.

The explosives had been hidden in containers labelled 'medical materials'.The two women were detained for questioning, after the explosives were disposed of by police sappers.

What these  women have done, in attempting to smuggle explosives in to Israel on behalf of Hamas, is to make future crossing permission more difficult for women in Gaza genuinely needing to be able to undergo examination for cancer and  subsequent treatment in Israel. Yet the consequences of such actions don't appear to trouble too greatly those who engage in these enterprises.

Despite knowing that their actions, if successful in smuggling the explosives, could lead at one end, to the deaths of innocent civilians in Israel, and at the other end, loss of hope for women facing the rigours and uncertainty of fighting cancer being denied access to the  help they desperately seek.

Illustrative: Palestinians at the Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel on September 3, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinians at the Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel on September 3, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Holocaust - Prosecution of Nazi Criminals

"It was unknown that the Allies prepared prosecutions of Adolf Hitler and the rest of the Nazis for the death camps in Europe while the Nazis were still in power and while they were still running occupied Europe."
"There are many such dossiers [in the files of the UN War Crimes Commission] of legally prepared indictments of Hitler and other Nazis for many of their crimes, including the extermination of the Jews, and these were drawn up long before D-Day."
"You  can't say that people didn't know. They did know and still didn't act."
"There was a great deal more evidence and a great deal more that could have been done to prosecute than was done."
"The commission's files contained indictments against thousands of Nazis who were then allowed to go free."
"[The UN files contain evidence of war crimes which] provides a whole hardware store of nails to hammer in the coffin of Holocaust denial. This is a huge trove of prosecutions of the Holocaust from during World War II, legally authorized documentation."
"They [the UN War Crimes Commission] had a very effective, low-cost system for prosecuting low-level perpetrators, and we badly need something like that today."
"If they could be taking evidence from people escaping from under the jackboot of the SS, why aren't we doing the same when it comes to people escaping from Syria?'
Dan Plesch, historian, Human Rights After Hitler
A group of children at the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp on Jan. 27, 1945, just after the liberation by the Soviet army.
A group of children at the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp on Jan. 27, 1945, just after the liberation by the Soviet army. The Associated Press

For one thing, what would come of the scrupulous accumulation of damning anecdotal evidence that interlocutors could obtain by questioning Syrians escaping from the death-clutches of Syrian dictator Assad? The United Nations, from its earliest years when in 1945 it inherited the mantle of the League of Nations to the present, has acted as a nonchalant conscience to the world. The United Nations acts as witness to world events, lauding itself as a force for peace in the world, but because its member-states act always in their own interests, and a majority of the members give short shrift to human rights, the institution is feeble and incapable.

The civilized world's heart bleeds at the prospect of children suffering, facing deadly harm, tortured and mutilated, and slaughtered. A great uproar of indignation is heard, but nothing of any real significance beyond the rhetoric of politicians making speeches to impress listeners with the mistaken belief that help and rescue are all possible. A process that soothes the public. And then the plight of the helpless and the vulnerable is soon forgotten, placed high on a shelf too troublesome to reach for to re-ignite resolve should frustrating new indications of such abuses recur.
Photos of Jewish children in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Photos of Jewish children in the Auschwitz concentration camp. (Credit: De Agostini/G. P. Cavallero/De Agostini Picture Library /Getty Images)
It is not as though this historian discovered something absolutely never before known. Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews, and the steps taken to carry it forward were no secret. Even before the infamous Kristallnacht took place the Third Reich and its propaganda machine had formulated the pattern whereby Europe's Jews were marginalized, dispossessed, dehumanized, ghettoized, then sent to work camps and to death camps. As for what happened in the death camps, escapees and survivors spread the word.

Disbelief met their claims, but that soon enough turned to grim acceptance of what was occurring. Still, the Allies decided they couldn't spare the ammunition it would take to bomb the transport mechanism whereby Europe gave up its Jews to collection points from which they could be gassed and their bodies incinerated, although the German military felt it could spare the rolling stock, the fighting men and the vital reserves to pursue its genocidal goal. Even before the League turned into the UN the institution had fairly full knowledge of what was happening.
The United Nations War Crimes Commission meets on May 6, 1945, in the Royal Court of Justice in London with members of a U.S. Congressional Committee that had just completed a tour of German concentration camps.
The United Nations War Crimes Commission meets on May 6, 1945, in the Royal Court of Justice in London with members of a U.S. Congressional Committee that had just completed a tour of German concentration camps. (Credit: Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)

What is new is that though Mr. Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at University of London discovered that the Allied leadership and the United Nations was set to undertake a wide prosecution of those who aided and abetted and made possible the extermination of six million Jews, the determination to follow through was lacking, other than for the formalities of the Nuremberg Trials to set an example for the world that evil has its payback consequences.

The world gasped in collective horror at the liberation of Auschwitz and Treblinka and all the other countless death camps where living corpses were freed from their fate and a wide distribution of the news of what had taken place was released worldwide. But the victors made their accommodations with the vandals of humanity. Not only did work to regenerate Germany take place, but Nazi scientists, war criminals themselves, were given haven in the United States where those like Wernher von Braun helped America design rocketry munitions that Hitler had instructed them to create for Germany.

The West knew very well long before the war came to its end that there was a window before the Final Solution went into overtime whereby they could rescue Jews from fascist death agonies planned for them. The SS.St.Louis whose German captain did his utmost to help save close to a thousand German Jewish men, women and children, was met with refusals from a cross-section of the free world, from Cuba to the United States to Canada and Great Britain. No Jews need apply for haven, and so the ship limped back whence it had come.

But Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States worked feverishly to see that justice would prevail in the creation of the UN War Crimes Commission (UNWCC), co-operating to investigate 36,000 international criminal cases -- until an American decision to turn its attention from punishing Nazis to fighting communism ended up shuttering the UNWCC; a low priority, after all. Leading to American intelligence officials urging the UNWCC files to be prohibited from public access.

It was a UNWCC form whereby Canada outlined charges against SS commander Kurt Meyer, convicted of ordering the murders of 20 Canadian prisoners of war in 1944 that led Mr. Plesch to the vast archive and a subsequent effort on his part to persuade UN authorities that the secret material should be released.

Microfilmed documents, part of the UN War Crimes Commission Records (1943 – 1949), at the United Nations Archives in New York.
Microfilmed documents, part of the UN War Crimes Commission Records (1943 – 1949), at the United Nations Archives in New York. (Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

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