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May 28, 2015 / 10 Sivan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘protests’

Seventy Years Later, White Rose Anti-Nazi Resistance Still Resonates

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Though Sophie Scholl and the students of the White Rose resistance were executed by the Nazis seventy years ago last month, the example they set of courage in the face of authoritarian repression is as relevant today as it was seven decades ago.

Their crime: Daring to rouse the consciousness of their countrymen in the face of Nazi Germany’s destruction of all civil rights and its mass murder of European Jews.

In 1933, when Sophie was twelve and her brother, Hans, was fifteen, the Scholl siblings rejected their Lutheran upbringing and their parents’ Christian humanism and instead embraced Hitler’s philosophy of racial superiority, becoming leaders in the Hitler Youth.

But when Hans was arrested and convicted in 1938 for a same-sex relationship he had had three years earlier, when he was sixteen, their admiration for Hitler quickly ended. Gradually they became activists against the Nazi cause. By 1942, the siblings were engaging in daring forms of nonviolent resistance.

Newborn-030113In May 1942, they dubbed themselves the White Rose and joined with a handful of friends at the University of Munich to produce what became a staccato burst of six impassioned anti-Nazi leaflets. Reproducing thousands in their secret headquarters over a nine-month period – ages before the push-button efficiency of the Internet – they made dangerous train trips to distribute the leaflets throughout Germany. They mailed them to sixteen cities – Stuttgart, Vienna, Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg among them – in a bid to mislead the Gestapo into thinking theirs was a broad-based movement and not just a handful of students.

“Since the beginning of the war,” they declared in their second leaflet in June 1942, “300,000 Jews have been murdered in the most bestial manner. This is a crime unparalleled in human history – a crime against the dignity of Man. But why do we tell you these things when you already know them? Everyone wants to be exonerated, but you cannot be, because everyone is guilty, guilty, guilty.”

In their fourth leaflet, they wrote: “We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!”

On Feb. 18, 1943, Sophie and Hans climbed a high gallery at the University of Munich’s vast atrium. From there they scattered hundreds of their sixth leaflet down upon the heads of astonished students below in what was called the only public protest by Germans against Nazism ever to be staged.

Spotted almost immediately, they were arrested by the Gestapo and subjected to grueling interrogation. Sophie, Hans and their comrade Christoph Probst were tried in a show trial in Munich by Hitler’s “hanging judge,” Roland Freisler. They were condemned to death. Just four days after their arrest, the three were beheaded by guillotine. Hans was twenty-four, Sophie twenty-one.

But their message lived on. Their last leaflet, smuggled out to the West, was dropped by the tons over Germany. Nobel laureate Thomas Mann broadcast back to Germany from American exile, praising the “splendid young people” who “at the time when Germany and Europe were still enveloped in the dark of night, knew and publicly declared” the ugly truth about Nazism in an attempt to bring about the “dawning” of a “new faith in freedom and honor.”

Today, the White Rose students are icons in Germany. In a nationwide TV competition to choose the top ten most important Germans of all time, German voters chose Sophie and Hans Scholl for fourth place – beating out Goethe, Gutenberg, Bach, Bismarck, Willy Brandt and Albert Einstein.

A German film, “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,” was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006, the same time that “Sophie Scholl and the White Rose” was published. Its Hebrew edition just appeared in Israel in time for the seventieth anniversary of their extraordinary protest and executions.

Despite all this, the story of the White Rose resistance remains barely known by the general public outside Germany.

But heroism like theirs is being replicated in countries around the world. There is Malala Yousafazai, the now-thirteen-year-old Pakistani children’s rights activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban last October and now says she’s ready to fight on. There are Chinese dissidents like Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010 but is languishing in a Chinese prison.

Egypt Democratically Adopts an Anti-Western Dictatorship

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The victory in the referendum on the Constitution is the fourth straight Muslim Brotherhood success—including the overthrow of President Husni Mubarak’s regime with army assistance, the parliamentary election and the presidential election–in the process of taking over Egypt for the long-term and fundamentally transforming it into a radical Islamist state. This last one should be sufficient to go all the way.

This event is also producing a new stage of Western rationalizations that whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood and rationalize support for Islamists being in power.

It isn’t that the constitution, as many Salafists would have liked, explicitly mandates a revolutionary Sharia state. Rather, the constitution sets up a framework that will allow the Brotherhood to do so. Between the president and the constitution, the Brotherhood will now march through every institution and remake it. Judges will be appointed; school curricula rewritten; army generals appointed; and so on. As the Brotherhood shows patience in carrying out this process of gaining total, permanent control, many in the West will interpret that as moderation.

“The problem with [President] Morsi isn’t whether he is Islamist or not, it is whether he is authoritarian,” said a Western diplomat in Cairo. Wow, talk about Western misunderstanding of the importance of ideology. Perhaps whether or not he is an Islamist—and of course he is–has something to do with his being authoritarian? Since his goal is a Sharia state then that is an authoritarian destination for which authoritarian means are considered acceptable and are in fact a necessity. One might as well insert the words Communist, fascist, or radical Arab nationalist for Islamist.

There are three factors involved here in setting Western policy: ignorance, a desire to avoid crises, and a foolish belief that having a radical regime in Egypt will moderate the extremists.

To add insult to injury—literally—the New York Times, which has continually portrayed the Brotherhood in glowing terms, now explains to its readers that the opposition has nothing to offer:

“The leading opposition alternatives appeared no less authoritarian [than the Brotherhood]: Ahmed Shafik, who lost the presidential runoff, was a former Mubarak prime minister campaigning as a new strongman, and Hamdeen Sabahi, who narrowly missed the runoff, is a Nasserite who has talked of intervention by the military to unseat Mr. Morsi despite his election as president.

“’The problem with ‘I told you so’ is the assumption that if things had turned out differently the outcome would be better, and I don’t see that,’ the diplomat said, noting that the opposition to the draft constitution had hardly shown more respect than Mr. Morsi has for the norms of democracy or the rule of law. ‘There are no black hats and white hats here, there are no heroes and villains. Both sides are using underhanded tactics and both sides are using violence.’”

This is disgraceful, a rationalization for either failure or worse. The idea is that it really didn’t matter who won because they are all the same so why not a Muslim Brotherhood government with a powerful Salafist influence? Any leader of Egypt is going to be a strongman. The question is a strongman for what causes? And if people were talking about unseating the democratically elected Mursi that’s because they view him as the equivalent for Egypt of some new Khomeini, a man who will drag Egypt into decades of repressive dictatorship and war.

I’ve often written of the weakness and political incompetence of the anti-Islamist forces but these are courageous people fighting for a good cause. True, their side includes leftist and nationalist extremists but should that be used to discredit them all when the Islamists are constantly whitewashed?

And for U.S. interests it certainly does matter who wins. Extend this wrong-headed analogy: the Iranian Islamists are no worse than the shah; Saddam Hussein was no worse than the oligarchs who ran Iraq before it went radical in 1958; the current Islamist regime in Turkey is no worse than the high-handed Kemal Ataturk? One might have well had Communist regimes in South America rather than military dictatorships?

It might not sound nice to some people but the main task of Western diplomats is not to worship democracy but to try to promote behavior in other governments favorable to their own country’s interests. In those terms, Mubarak or Shafik is better than Mursi. And since Mursi doesn’t even stand for real democracy the choice is even more obvious.

And there is a dire implication here: If there is no real democratic opposition then the United States doesn’t have to help it. Is this principle thus extended to Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia? Are Islamists the only alternative or, to put it in a slightly less obviously objectionable way, should we accept and even help Islamists because everyone is the same?

Wow, has the Western elite lost its way. There is so little sense of who is a friend and who is an enemy; the lesser of two evils; the strategic interests of their own country that one can only despair of any lessons being learned from experience.

It’s ironic that Obama has spent so much time talking about how past U.S. support for pro-American dictators has been a mistake that led to a legacy of crisis when he is now supporting an anti-American dictator.

The argument presented by U.S. officials that compromise is in the Brotherhood’s interest is laughable. Do people in Washington know what the Brotherhood wants and conditions in Egypt better than the Brotherhood leadership? We have seen this same mistake made many times before by Western governments and editorial writers, lecturing a radical regime that it would accomplish more by being totally different.

What is most disturbing is not that the Obama Administration is supporting this regime–which is bad enough–but that its not even suspicious of the Egyptian government’s intentions and behavior. It thinks the Brotherhood is going to curb the Salafists while it actually uses them as storm troops. And so in the coming months we will see more obfuscations and apologies about Cairo’s behavior.

The sad truth is that it is too late for U.S. leverage—which the Obama Administration doesn’t want to use any way—to have an impact. The Brotherhood is already in power. If the United States gives it money and support, the Brotherhood will use that to consolidate its rule while mobilizing the people against the United States; if Washington doesn’t, the Brotherhood will then mobilize the people even more effectively in that way. A U.S. policy coddling the regime will be seen as the weak and stupid response of enemies; a tougher policy will be portrayed as hostile.

True, if Obama doles out money and military equipment to the regime with conditions and slowly, Morsi has an incentive to go slower and more carefully yet it also strengthens the regime’s ability to fulfill its goals and entrench itself in power. But the army isn’t going to do anything against the regime even though, at this point, it will not repress the opposition for Morsi. The Islamists aren’t going to be won over by the United States. And Obama isn’t going to be serious about using pressure except for meaningless statements and phone calls. The administration will speak nice language about protecting women’s and minority (Christian) rights while it looks the other way when these are violated.

Understandably, the democratic opposition—like its counterparts in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Iran—has learned that the United States will not help them. As one sign at a demonstration put it: Obama: Our dictator is your bitch. One day, decades in the future, an American president might be apologizing to Egyptians for a U.S. policy that backed a repressive Islamist regime in their country.

What are the next steps for Morsi? To out-wait the opposition demonstrations, which might well diminish since the constitution is now an established fact, begin the transformation of Egypt’s institutions, and figure out how to handle the problem of parliament. Can he reinstate the results of the earlier election—with a 75 percent Islamist majority—or will he have to hold a new vote next year that might yield a much smaller majority?

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Constitutional Confusion and Contusions in Egypt

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

In a democratic state, a constitution is supposed to express in words the basic values of its citizens and state the foundational principles that will guide the conduct of the government in a way that reflects the values that most of the citizens believe in, led by the value of freedom. The constitution is intended to limit the powers of government and to defend the citizen from the whims of those in positions of power.

Even in dictatorial states there are laws, however they are mostly not effective; they do not defend the citizen from the power of the government, and the recent situation in Syria is a convincing proof of this fact. In dictatorial states the constitution is the tool that is used to carry out the will of the dictator, as well as his intentions and sometimes even his excesses, while he shuts the mouths of his opposition with the usual claim that everything he’s doing is in accordance with the constitution and the laws that are based on it.

Egypt, after the revolution of January 25th 2011, is a state that has freed itself from the burden of a dictator, Husni Mubarak, who, together with his cronies and predecessors, the officers, ruled Egypt since July 1952 in accordance with a constitution that served as a fig leaf to cover up the fact that the government was entirely in his hands, and the whole country revolved around him as if he were a god.

Now the Egyptians want a different constitution, a “democratic” one, which on one hand will promise that the government will not become a dictatorship again, and on the other hand will express the basic values of the society and defend them. This is the reason that Egypt needs a new constitution, because the previous one was nothing more than a tool to serve Mubarak.

The reality of recent days is that certain groups are not pleased by the way that President Muhammad Morsi is trying to secure the constitution by referendum, so they go out into the streets to express their opinion with demonstrations that sometimes deteriorate into acts of mass violence, injuries and deaths. In order to simplify the discussion for the purpose of this article, we will say that the population in Egypt is divided into three main groups: the Secular, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.

The secular group wants to turn Egypt into a modern, liberal, open, Western style state, that is neither religious nor traditional in character, where the status of citizenship is equal for everyone, and takes the place of all of the other ethnic, tribal, religious, and sectarian affiliations.

The Muslim Brotherhood wants a religious state, in which Shari’a rules but does not prevent the state from adopting modern tools that exist in the world. They are in favor of women’s participation in public activities, with limitations for modesty, and believe that it is important to integrate the Coptic citizens – who are Christians – into the society, economy and the various governmental systems. But equality among citizens is seen as problematic, because according to Islam a Muslim and a Christian can never be equal, since the Christian is a “ward of the state” (dhimmi) who, according to the Qur’an (Sura 9, Verse 29) must exist in the shadow of Islam and under humiliating conditions. The statement that women are equal to men is problematic for them too, because of traditional concepts that say that “the men are responsible for the women” (Sura 4, Verse 34).

The Salafis want to see the implementation of Islamic Shari’a in all areas of life, and do not accept the adoption of any Western, modern characteristic. They insist on regarding Copts as class B citizens, and do not accept the idea that women should have public positions. They take literally the saying attributed to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam: “The best hijab for a woman is her home.”

The main problem with the constitution in Egypt today is that every one of these three sectors sees the revolution as his own revolution, defines “democracy” according to his own concepts and values, and if the new constitution goes in a different direction then he will claim that “they stole the revolution,” he will go out to the streets and will raise hell. The only common factor to all of the sectors is their avowed refusal to allow a dictator to take control of the state, even though each one of them would agree that whoever represents their world view should rule with broad powers. In other words: each sector would agree to a “soft dictator” if he would represent that particular sector’s world view.

Morsi Cancels Constitutional Decrees

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Following days of violent protests in Egypt, Egyptian President Morsi cancelled the constitutional decrees he issued for himself last month that gave him more power. Despite the declaration, it is unclear though if Morsi is actually gave up the new powers he took for himself.

The December 15th referendum on the constitution will go ahead as planned, despite the massive protests against it.

Morsi Back After Massive Protests Threaten Palace

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

After a night of protests threatening the presidential palace, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has returned home, despite national outrage over his attempts at constitutional reform.

Police held back tens of thousands of protests around the perimeter of the residence, citizens who came out to protest reforms which will strongly increase the powers of the president and severely restrict any judicial oversight.

A referendum on the new measures is expected to be supported by the MuslimBrotherhood in the parliament.

King Abdullah in Trouble with Jordan’s Palestinians

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Last week, protests broke out in Jordan after a government decision to raise fuel prices. While protests have been taking place in Jordan for almost two years now, for the first time there is major involvement from Jordan’s Palestinians, with open calls for toppling the regime. With the future of Jordan’s King Abdullah in jeopardy, so is regional stability as well as Jordan’s peace with Israel. Pro-Western forces have critical options to consider.

The protesters, last week, started openly to call for the king to step down. The Independent noted that previously the protests had been “peaceful and rarely targeted King Abdullah II himself,” and reported that this time crowds “chanted slogans against the king and threw stones at riot police as they protested in several cities.”

Al Jazeera, as well, reported that protests have been taking place “across the width and the length of the country,” with “most chanting for toppling the regime.” Several of the king’s photographs – regularly displayed in public places in Jordan – were set on fire.

What came as a surprise in the recent protests, according to Al Jazeera, is that Palestinian refugee camps have been also participating to the fullest. These protests apparently broke out in the Al-Hussein refugee camp, close to Jordan’s capital, Amman. Protesters were seen calling for toppling the regime.

In another protest, Al-Hussein refugee camp protesters chanted: “Our god, may you take away our oppressor. Our country Jordan has existed before the Arab Revolution,” referring to the revolt against the Turks by which Jordan’s king’s great grandfather established the Hashemite kingdom.. Al-Hussein refugee camp protesters eventually marched into lively Douar Firas area near central Amman, where they were attacked by the fearsome Jordanian gendarmerie.

The gendarmerie officers were even harsher in the Al-Baqaa refugee camp, Jordan’s largest, where protests broke out for the first time, and slogans targeted the king with demands that he step down. Protesters reportedly burned tires, blocking the highway which borders the camp and connects Amman to Northern Jordan.

The Jordanian news website Ammon published a video showing an al-Baqaa refugee camp leader calling for “calm” within camps in Jordan, while admitting that the refugee camp’s leaders, usually favored by the regime over the Palestinian public, were not able to form a public committee to reach out to protesting youths. The Palestinian-dominated Jabal Al-Nuzha camp has also been the site of regular protests, with demonstrators also calling for toppling the king.

Other Palestinian-dominated areas are witnessing first-time protests as well, including Al-Ashrafiah, the Hiteen refugee camp and the broader East Amman.

It is not the Palestinians alone who are protesting against the king. “East Bankers” in Northern Jordan had generally kept away from the protest movements until last week, when the residents of Irbid, the biggest city in Northern Jordan, started calling for toppling the regime.

Other major protests have been taking place in several parts of the country. Tensions ran high in the southern city of Kerak, an East Banker-dominated city. A known opposition leader in Kerak, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he was expecting serious escalation from the regime, and alleged that Jordanian police were cracking down on protesters and arresting their leaders. His claim was consistent with footage that appeared on YouTube, exhibiting parts of the unrest. He also claimed that southern Jordanians “have made up their minds, they will not tolerate the king any longer …it is too late for him to make any reforms.”

The Muslim Brotherhood too organized a protest, in the city of Rusifay, east of Amman. Their demonstration, critical of Abdullah’s Prime Minister, Al-Nosuor, but with no criticism of the king or calls for toppling his regime, simply demanded that fuel prices be reduced.

On November 18, the popular Jordanian news website, Al-Sawt, published an article entitled: “Will the Muslim Brotherhood get the price for its realism and positivity during the fuel-prices protest?” In the article, editor in chief, Tarek Dilawani (also a seasoned journalist for the Jordanian daily, Ad-Dustor), claims that the Jordanian regime had “an arrangement with the Muslim Brotherhood not to surf the tide of the protests, and to keep their demands fixed on peaceful reform of the regime.”

Nonetheless, the supposed arrangement between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Hashemite regime has not worked. It has not stopped protests by either Palestinians or East Bankers. As The Independent recently wrote: “The protesters…were led by activists that included the secular Hirak Shebabi youth movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and various nationalist and left-wing groups.” It is therefore possible that the Muslim Brotherhood is only a part of the opposition, and not “the opposition.”

In New York, Protesters Voice Support For Israel

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Pro-Israel activists and concerned Jewish New Yorkers have been holding vigils and protests since Israel began striking Hamas missile launchers and terrorist operatives in Gaza last week.

Amcha, the Jewish activist organization led by Rabbi Avi Weiss, has been holding rallies in Manhattan on a daily basis supporting Israel.

At am Amcha protest last week near the Israeli consulate at 2nd Avenue and 42nd Street, a demonstrator waving an Israeli flag noted of pro-Palestinian protesters close by, “The Pro-Gaza mob is calling for the destruction of Israel. We on the other hand are simply calling for a stop to the Hamas missile barrage.”

“This is a battle for Israel’s survival,” another protester told The Jewish Press. “They, the Arabs of Gaza, now have rockets that can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel’s major population centers are now targets of these terrorists. They have to be stopped.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/in-new-york-protesters-voice-support-for-israel/2012/11/21/

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