Amnesty International, Intellectual Bankruptcy and Moral Oblivion

I was floored by this piece on slaw.ca this morning by Amnesty International Canada’s Alex Neve criticizing Canada’s alleged unwillingness to condemn Israeli human rights abuses during this summer’s Gaza war.  You can make of it what you like, but what struck me was how it so perfectly demonstrates Amnesty International’s intellectual bankruptcy and moral obliviousness.  It also demonstrates, no doubt unintentionally, the almost obsessive fixation that many human rights activists have with Israel.

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Jeffrey Goldberg Asks a Damned Good Question About the Response to the Gaza War

Jeffrey Goldberg has a great piece in the Atlantic today about the coverage of, and the response to, the Gaza war.  Why is it, he asks, that the war in Gaza is covered in exquisite detail by news agencies around the world while a far bloodier war, right next door to Israel in Syria, rages on.

“I was struck, over the weekend, by the lack of coverage of the Syrian civil war, in which the death count recently passed 170,000. By Sunday night, it had become clear that the weekend in toll in Syria would stand at roughly 700 dead—a larger number, obviously, than the weekend toll in Gaza (and more than the total number of deaths in this latest iteration of the Gaza war to date.) I tweeted the following in response to this news out of Syria: “I sincerely hope the @nytimes covers the slaughter in Syria – 700 dead in 48 hours – in tomorrow’s paper. Very important story as well.”

This was my sincere hope, and it was to my sincere surprise that Monday’s newspaper contained no information whatsoever about the weekend slaughter in Syria.”

Ouch, the Gray Lady had that coming.

Continue reading “Jeffrey Goldberg Asks a Damned Good Question About the Response to the Gaza War”

A Question for Israel’s Critics – What Number of Dead Palestinians is Proportionate?

So the Israelis and the Palestinians are at it again.  Here it is, a nice sunny summer, and they’ve got nothing better to do than try (none too successfully, in the case of the Palestinians) to kill one another.  Somethings never change.  Another thing that never changes is the chorus of critics of Israel lamenting it “disproportionate” attacks on Palestinians.  Anytime Israel goes to war with its neighbours, it’s accused of inflicting “disproportionate” casualties on their civilian populations or, and it amounts to the same thing, of a “disproportionate” response, most notably by the British Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.    Continue reading “A Question for Israel’s Critics – What Number of Dead Palestinians is Proportionate?”

The Trouble with Islam? Or the Trouble with Muslims?

Sheema Khan had an interesting article in the Globe today, on the need for Islam to reform to reflect the 21st century in light of the recent incident in Sudan where a young pregnant woman, Meriam Yahya Ibrahim,  was sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy, allegedly for abandoning her Islamic faith to become a Christian.  Ms. Ibrahim has since been released, no doubt due to the massive international backlash her sentence triggered. In her piece, Ms. Khan tries to make the case that sentencing Mr. Ibrahim to death for apostacy is not in accordance with “true” Islam, and only by returning to the true roots of Islam can Muslims advance into the 21st century.    In doing so, however, she (unintentionally, no doubt) makes a damning critique both of modern Islam and modern Muslims. Continue reading “The Trouble with Islam? Or the Trouble with Muslims?”

Why are Egypt’s Crimes Stephen Harper’s Fault?

This morning we learned that an Egyptian court – a kangaroo court, if ever there was one – after what can only be characterized as a farce of a trial, had convicted  Mohammed Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian Al-Jazeera reporter, on “terrorism-related” charges and sentenced him to 7 years in prison.  That the conviction was preordained is undeniable.   This can probably be taken for granted anywhere in the Arab world, but even by the low standards of the region, this trial was a joke.   Apparently, Egypt defines “terrorism” as saying unflattering, if accurate, things about its shit-hole government (that the current shit-hole government isn’t much worse (or better) than its predecessor shit-hole government, is really neither here nor there).  Still, Mr. Fahmy’s conviction  in itself, isn’t all that interesting – after all, did anyone really expect a fair trial? 

What’s more interesting has been the response of some of Mr. Fahmy’s family and supporters, who have been harshly critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Mr. Fahmy’s brother’s, Sherif, tweeted Stephen Harper:

I hold you responsible for leaving my brother to rotten in Egyptian prison. Was a call or a public statement that difficult?

Or Tony Burman, columnist for the Toronto Star who said:

The absence of the highest level of intervention, on behalf of the Canadian government has been lamentable. But, there is a chance for reversal…It’s now time for Canada’s prime minister to indicate to Egypt that enough is enough.

More in this vein can be seen here.

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What the Hell is Obama Doing? Why hasn’t Assad been bombed yet?

Reasonable people can disagree about the merits of intervening in the Syrian conflict.  As I said before, I’m not all that keen on helping the Syrian opposition win, since it’s not obvious that they’re better than the Assad government.  Frankly, if either side wins outright, the likely outcome is the mass slaughter and exodus of the losers, meaning that the “best” result is that both sides slug it out for a few more years before negotiating a peace agreement that slices up Syria like a Christmas goose along religious and ethnic lines (i.e., the Yugoslavia solution).  That’s not a good result, since in the meantime tens of thousands (or more) Syrians (mostly civilians) will die, but in this fight there are no “good” outcomes, just better or worse outcomes.

But when it comes to punishing the Assad government for its use of chemical weapons, that’s a whole different story, which makes the fact that the Obama administration is waiting until, at least, next week, to unleash the hounds all the more baffling. Continue reading “What the Hell is Obama Doing? Why hasn’t Assad been bombed yet?”

The REAL reason why the West shouldn’t intervene in Syria

I had a nice long, serious, moderately thoughtful piece prepared on why the West shouldn’t intervene in Syria.  It was going to talk about how, despite my view that Western armies (principally American, but be fair, Canada has punched above its weight in the last century) are one of the great forces for peace and civilization in the modern era (in particular, how, notwithstanding the conceits of the Euro-philes, the secret to peace in Europe for the past 7+ decades was the presence of Anglo-sphere armies in Germany – just remember Germans, we defended you from the commies for four decades, but we weren’t invited there), I couldn’t get over the sense that any intervention in Syria is just going to be a complete and total clusterfuck.  It would probably end up with the West propping up an opposition government that differed from the Assad government only in the target of its human rights violations, but only if the whole thing didn’t degenerate into a Lebanon-style schmozzle of ethnic and religious cleansing in a country jammed pack with Russian weapons and chemical munitions.    Continue reading “The REAL reason why the West shouldn’t intervene in Syria”

Iran, Canada and the Alleged VIA Bombers

Yesterday, the RCMP arrested two alleged terrorists for attempting to to attack a VIA train travelling between Toronto and New York.  Details of the plot are still sketchy, but according to at least one account, the two alleged terrorists intended to derail VIA train 97 as it crossed the Whirlpool Bridge, near Niagara Falls – plunging the train and its passengers into the Niagara Gorge.  Interestingly, in light of Canada’s recent diplomatic history with that country, the RCMP also alleges that the two alleged terrorists  received support from “Al Qaeda elements in Iran“.

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What colour is the sky in Thomas Walkom’s world?

Did anyone else catch this seriously weird piece by Thomas Walkom in the weekend’s Star? Titled “It’s time to end the Korean War” it offers Walkom’s penetrating insight that the only way to defuse the tensions on the Korean Peninsula is to “negotiate and sign a real peace treaty with Pyongyang”.  Isn’t that brilliant? Thank Christ we have Thomas Walkom arround to give us such pearls of wisdom.  Do you think the Nobel Prize committee is accepting nominations yet, because surely Walkom is a contender? (Although, given some of the past winners, that isn’t saying much).

Continue reading “What colour is the sky in Thomas Walkom’s world?”

Israel, India and the Double Standard.

I stumbled across a couple of articles in today’s papers which inadvertently highlighted the double standard that the world community, and in particular, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (the BDS movement, which sounds an awful lot like an intestinal ailment) has towards Israel.

On the one hand, there was Vivian Bercovici’s piece in the Star highlighting the distortions of reality employed by proponents of the BDS Movementin their campaign to delegitimize Israel.    As Ms. Bercovici chronicles, proponents of the BDS movement routinely accuse Israel of being guilty of apartheid, genocide and, generally, crimes against humanity as a result of its treatment of the Palestinians.

OK, but then we have Tairah Firdous and Brett House’s piece in the National Post, chronicling the mistreatment of Kashmiri civilians at the hands of the Indian Army.  According to them:

India’s grip on Kashmir is literally overkill: Some 70,000 Kashmiri civilians have died at the hands of India’s security forces since 1989. Their excesses go broadly unpunished. India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act gives the forces extraordinary powers to arrest people without obtaining a warrant, and to shoot first and ask questions later, all under immunity from prosecution. All of which goes largely unnoticed in the West.

Continue reading “Israel, India and the Double Standard.”