Ethnic tension surfaces in Germany
Immigrant crime is a central issue in the Hesse state election, stirring a backlash among younger voters
A retired school principal is attacked by two young toughs, an awful beating captured on surveillance cameras and aired on television for days in what has become Germany's equivalent of the Rodney King tape. But in a country that has seen all too many neo-Nazi racist attacks against immigrants over the years, this video turned ethnic violence on its head: It was a young German-born Turk and a Greek attacking a 76-year-old ethnic German who had advised them to stop smoking on the Munich subway. They threw him to the ground and kicked him, cracking his skull, excoriating him all the while, calling him a "pig" and a "German" with a particularly nasty adjective attached. The attack last month transfixed the country, and opened the lid on anti-immigrant tensions that have skulked under the nation's politically correct surface for some time.
Now, the issue of immigrant crime has become the center of elections scheduled for today here in the state of Hesse. Gov. Roland Koch, long seen as an heir apparent to Chancellor Angela Merkel, has played the anti-immigration card with vigor in his bid for reelection, and stirred up a backlash among many voters who see uncomfortable echoes of Germany's Nazi past.
Not far into the campaign, Koch called for deporting non-Germans convicted of serious crimes, even those who may have been born in Germany. He also called for a code of public conduct that would include "German" values such as good manners, punctuality, respect for the elderly and speaking German. "We have spent too long showing a strange sociological understanding for groups that consciously commit violence as ethnic minorities," he told the mass-circulation Bild Zeitung, which has embraced the issue with gusto.
That stance has bolstered Koch's popularity among the conservative Christian Democratic Union's older followers. But it has turned off many younger Germans deeply uncomfortable with the quasi-racist rhetoric, and has dragged Koch from a substantial lead to running neck-and-neck with his opponent, Andrea Ypsilanti of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party.
Around Frankfurt, many of Koch's campaign posters have had Hitler-like mustaches drawn on. "It has to do with our history that there is never open debate on this issue. It's still, in a way, the mortgage of national socialism. Roland Koch is expressing what ordinary people think, things they talk about perhaps with friends, but you don't talk about it openly in national discussions," said Juergen Falter, professor of political science at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. Yet the topic is becoming unavoidable in cities such as Frankfurt, the financial heart of the European continent, where a stunning 66% of children younger than 5 come from an immigrant family.
The first waves of migrants from Italy and Turkey who came to rebuild the country after World War II were referred to as "guest workers," and it was assumed they would one day go home. Many didn't, and today millions of immigrants, mainly Turks, Russians and Poles, live in Germany and have the right to apply for citizenship, but their children are not automatically entitled to it.
What few, save Koch, have wanted to talk about is that many youths from immigrant backgrounds, saddled with poor educations because they couldn't advance through the sharply tiered education system without a mastery of German from an early age, have become involved in crime. Elderly Germans often say they are afraid to take the subway after dark, fearful of a run-in with gangs of hoodlums, sometimes German, but often Turks or other minorities.
Although immigrants' share of crime is actually decreasing, it still is higher than their proportion of the population in many areas. In Hesse, about 27% of those arrested come from migrant backgrounds. But this reflects in part the fact that police often are quicker to arrest immigrant youths.
"Koch says the truth, he says what needs to be done: These criminals should be sent home," said Josef Schreiber, a 61-year-old carpenter who sat in the front row Thursday night at a rally here for the governor. "We aren't the masters of our own house anymore," said Doris Horch, 67, a retiree.
Many young immigrants describe a society whose chief advantages, from good schools to high-paying jobs, go to ethnic Germans. "I was actually not surprised about the campaign of Koch. What has surprised me is the intensity of humiliation that is brought on those who look different," said Fessum Ghirmazion, a 27-year old doctoral student in political science at Marburg's Philipps University, who sat listening quietly at a recent rally for the Social Democratic Party. "When I enter a room, people just look at me. It makes you feel like somebody who does not belong here."
Ghirmazion, who came to Germany from Eritrea at the age of 1, was allowed to enter the more advanced schools only against the vigorous opposition of his teachers, who advised him to remain with other immigrant students in the lower-standards schools.
Shifting the blame
Worried that Americans are on the brink of a recession -- or perhaps already in the middle of one -- the Bush administration and the House of Representatives have reached tentative agreement on an economic stimulus package. Glad to hear it. A stimulus may not work exactly as expected, but it's worth a try. Americans are overtaxed as it is, and anything that gets more of their tax dollars back into their hands is a good thing. And if they spend what they get, it'll be good for the economy.
There's just one thing. You hear about how voters are angry and holding Congress' feet to the fire until they get some sort of relief. But let's not get so caught up in asking what government can do for us that we forget what we can do for ourselves.
The No. 1 economic threat facing the United States today isn't globalization, stagnant wages, unfair trade policy or illegal immigration. And it certainly isn't what one cable TV demagogue glibly calls a "war on the middle class" by big media, big corporations and big special interests.
Rather, it's the sense of entitlement that many Americans take with them into the workplace and the eagerness with which they shift the blame when things don't go according to plan. The key is to never to take responsibility for the personal decisions you've made. Eventually, some opportunistic politician will come along and confirm what you've always suspected -- that you are at the mercy of forces beyond your control.
It wasn't always this way. Fifty years ago, Americans were a heartier bunch. They'd grown up in the Depression and defeated Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers during World War II, and they found honor in doing any kind of work. If they didn't earn enough money doing it, they took on another job, or another one after that. Most of all, they took pride in the idea that -- in this country -- our destiny is in our own hands.
Today, according to a survey of workers in their 20s and 30s, young Americans expect their jobs to provide not only a nice salary but also plenty of vacation time to enjoy it. And from research done by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, we know that many members of "Generation Me" walk into job interviews brimming with self-esteem and expecting to be put on a path to a corporate vice presidency.
Is that all? And what if they don't get everything that they think they're entitled to? That's when the blame comes in. Americans like to blame illegal immigrants for keeping wages low, or workers from India or China for taking high-skilled jobs. In either case, instead of accepting the challenge and trying to beat the competition, too many American workers will call out for protection. And again, some shameless politician will offer it.
Speaking of shameless politicians, what was Mitt Romney thinking when he told Michigan voters that all those lost jobs in the U.S. auto industry might just come back? Sure, and Ford might start making Edsels again.
It took John McCain to dish out some straight talk and tell Michigan voters what they need to hear -- that these jobs are gone because the world is changing and they have to change with it.
That was awfully brave. But McCain could have gone further. He could have explained that organized labor helped bring about this displacement by pricing autoworkers out of the market. He could have pointed out that many workers went along for the ride because they felt entitled to the same standard of living that their parents enjoyed but didn't want to get the extra schooling or training to achieve it. He could have said that the situation is complicated by the fact that there will always be those who won't move away from their hometowns -- even when the towns are on life support. And, finally, he could have reminded voters that they can't always blame their problems on others and that, sooner or later, they have to grow up and take control of their lives and their destiny.
As part of a stimulus package, the government wants to send out tax rebates to jump-start the economy. That's all well and good. But what some Americans really need isn't a check they take to the bank. It's a lecture they take to heart.
A view of Israel from a sympathetic outsider
Just a few excerpts from a "read it all" article
Jerusalem is an eternal city: the centre of Judaism, the fountainhead of Christianity and an important site for Islam. Visually it is stunning, its character maintained by the most enlightened civic ordinance on record: that all new buildings must be constructed of white Jerusalem stone. Like most Israeli cities it has several diverse communities: ultra-orthodox religious Jews who don't serve in the army and often don't work, Arab Muslims, Arab Christians (a small and diminishing minority), secular Jews, and national religious Jews who serve in the army and participate in the modern economy.
Tel Aviv, Israel's biggest city, is entirely different. It is a sensuous Mediterranean city that offers every decent amenity of any cosmopolitan European city. Its hedonism and its sensuousness are tempered by the strategic gravity of Israel's situation, by everyone doing their military service and by the cultural depth of Judaism, the traditions of the book. Tel Aviv is predominantly secular Jewish, with very few Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews.
Haifa, the port city to the north of Tel Aviv, is different again. It has the largest Arab minority of a big Israeli city and is where Arabs and Jews most easily and fully mix together, although such mixing occurs all across Israel. Haifa is also the world headquarters of the Bahai faith, which was founded in Iran and has suffered terrible persecution there and so has fled to two countries where religious minorities are not persecuted: Israel and India.
One night I dined at the home of a local Israeli Arab leader in the almost entirely Israeli Arab town of Abu Ghosh, just west of Jerusalem. It has always been identified with the Israeli state. My host had his complaints about the Israeli Government but he was also a proud Israeli. And every night his town, which has many restaurants, is full of Israeli Jews at the countless eateries because, and here I'll make a clear statement of cultural preference, Arab food is generally a little more interesting than Jewish food.
I spent days in the north of Israel and visited the town of Metulla, on the tiny tip of a finger of Israeli territory that juts into southern Lebanon. Until the 2006 war with Hezbollah, its people were repeatedly attacked by rockets from southern Lebanon. The municipality organised field trips away from the town for the children, but mostly the residents stayed. I visited the town's Canada Centre to try the odd practice of pistol shooting on the gun range. Here's another paradox of Israeli society. Many people have guns but it is not remotely a macho society. Its murder rate is low.
The status of Gush Etzion, a little distance to the southwest of Jerusalem, is also intriguing. It was a Jewish area before 1948, when the UN divided the land of Israel into Jewish and Palestinian states, which the Palestinians and their surrounding Arab neighbours declined to accept, so that several Arab nations launched a war on Israel. The Jordanian army took control of Gush Etzion at that time. After 1967 it was re-established as a Jewish settlement. Gush Etzion as a Jewish settlement has a 20th-century history long pre-dating 1967... And yet life in Gush Etzion is normal. Behind the gates people hitchhike routinely (as they do in much of Israel) because they all trust each other....
The most emphatic settlement I visited was Ariel. It's a Jewish town of about 30,000 people, deep in the West Bank. Ariel University College has about 10,000 students, 3000 of them doing pre-undergraduate courses. The student population is racially diverse, as is Israel. The Ethiopian presence is noticeable. But Ariel officials tell me some local Palestinians attend as well, although of course they are under pressure not to.
Ariel is a small but substantial city. It is a beautiful place, full of public gardens and garden homes, and it has a distinctly European air and style. People don't like to use the back road to Jerusalem because even in these relatively calm days there is the danger of attacks. Just a few days before I visit, a Jewish settler, not from Ariel but from nearby, was killed on the road, as it turns out by two Palestinian Authority policemen who simply waited for a victim to come along.
White Muslim terrorists from the former Yugoslavia
Dr Darko Trifunovic has been conducting research into the origins, ambitions and operating methods of what he calls "white Al Qaeda", the home grown branch of the terrorist franchise organization in the various areas of the Balkans. It first took foothold in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the Western powers in the 90's saw the influx of Afghan war veterans into the territory as an easy way to support the Bosnian Muslims. Since the Dayton Peace Accord Iranians as well as Saudi Wahhabis have flooded the statelet with funds, over-sized mosques and subversive organizations, one of which has members throughout the Bosniak diaspora in Europe, Canada and the US. CNAB appears to be the center of gravity of the present threats against Trifunovic.
Trifunovic has also found new links between Bosnia and the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the London and Madrid train bombings. Specifically mentioned are Mohammed Atta, who coordinated the 9/11 outrage, and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Bosnian citizenship holder and war veteran, former Al Qaeda 'Operations Chief', who - according to Dr Darko Trifunovic - took over the leadership of the Al Qaeda media campaign ('the Committee') during the planning of the 9/11. Atta's place of residence was a Bosnian hamlet before launching off to Hamburg and the US for his fatal mission. With the knowledge of the UN interim governors in Kosovo, Albanian-American radicals were actively recruiting terrorists for 'the war against America' prior to the 9/11 attack, of which they had foreknowledge. The UN however, did nothing.
The Foreign Area Officer Association FAOA posits that the Sarajevo based organization, AIO's (Aktivna Islamska Omladina) "(...) Islamic weekly magazine SAFF  and organization's website have been fronts of radical Islamic preaching, gaining notoriety for publishing interviews with terrorists who have fought against US forces in Iraq and expressing solidarity with the jihadists and suicide bombers in Israel." FAOA also links the AIO with members throughout the Bosniak diaspora in Europe and the US, one of which is CNAB.....
Up to now Dr Trifunovic has been able to conduct his investigations from the ivory tower of the University of Belgrade in relative tranquility. When it transpired however he was invited to speak during the upcoming 11th Police Congress and - as a consequence, the results of his research would reach the professional domain - no methods have been shunned to intimidate him, discredit him as a person and as a scholar.
With false accusations of 'Srebrenica denial' and 'hate mongering' - references to laws prohibiting Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred - attempts have been made to get him banned from the police convention; impersonations and cyber manipulation being but the least methods of choice to muzzle. But it is my understanding that, far from denying the deplorable events at Srebrenica, Trifunovic has been further investigating the matter.
Apart from the personal injury done here, the public damage of this terrorist saga is two-fold: researchers are being harassed to prevent them from doing their jobs, thus interfering with the right of enquiry. The consequences of such actions on the academic level could well be considerable. The second part is even worse: the intimidation of officials conducting criminal enquiries, subverting the rule of law, leading ultimately to mob rule.
Let me wrap this up with some thoughts of my own. In the past few decades one of the greater mysteries has been the question, how the Holocaust on six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis could have taken place without the entire continent raising up in protest. At present, a sizable majority of people in the West surprisingly seem to be sharing views with the people who have declared against us. However treacherous and hard to fathom this may be, it is kinder on the persons harbouring such views: it is after all easier to be a voluntary accomplice - silent or otherwise - than it is to be a coward.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.