Blaming `Israeli insanity' for imprisoning Gazans overlooks the central role of the polite, Western peace process
I think the article below is a bit idealistic but it makes some good points about the status of Gaza etc. Arab attacks on Jews long predate the statehood of modern Israel -- they go back to Mohammed himself in fact -- so keeping the two groups apart is an understandable strategy
Many people are profoundly angry with Israel for its air assaults and ground invasion of Gaza. It is unquestionable that the war, now in its thirteenth day, has in the short term caused terrible suffering and in the long term will intensify divisions in the region. And yet, in the widespread condemnation of Israel for attacking Gazan territory, one key question has gone unasked: why does the Gaza Strip exist as a separate entity in the first place?
Liberal commentators in America and Europe, alongside European leaders such as Nicolas Sarkozy and to a lesser extent Gordon Brown, have slated Israel over its recent airstrikes. They have called on the Israelis to `respect Gaza's integrity' or to keep their `Hands off Gaza!' (1). This may come off as radical: standing up to the powerful Israeli military on behalf of the beleaguered 1.5million Palestinians who live in Gaza. But, in truth, there is a deeply uncritical and even conformist streak to this supposed solidarity with Gazans. The outraged critics of Israel accept the Western-imposed idea that Gaza, in effect a glorified refugee camp, should be a distinct pseudo-statelet for Palestinians, separate from Israel and even from the Jews. And yet this separation is the very condition that keeps Gaza impoverished, unfree and in a state of permanent conflict with its bigger, more powerful neighbour.
Critics attack Israel for its use of force in Gaza. Yet they implicitly support the partitionist and sectarian underpinnings of the Middle Eastern `peace process', which has upped the ante between Israel and Gaza. Facilitated by Washington and Brussels over the past 15 years, the peace process has been based on the idea that Israelis and Palestinians must be permanently separated - that is, the Middle East must be partitioned. The Oslo Accords of 1993, overseen by then US President Bill Clinton, called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and affirmed `a Palestinian right of self-government within those areas through the creation of a Palestinian Authority'. The Roadmap for Peace of 2003 - drawn up by the US, the UN, the EU and Russia - called for a `permanent two-state solution' and demanded `clear, unambiguous acceptance' of this solution from both Israel and the Palestinians (2).
The central theme of the peace process is always that Israelis and Palestinians cannot possibly live together in a democratic federal state, and thus there must be a `permanent' separation which must be kept in check by `formal monitoring mechanisms' overseen by the international community (in the words of the Roadmap for Peace) (3). This divisive dynamic, far from ushering in a new era of peace, has heightened sectarian tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. And nowhere is this clearer than in Gaza.
Life in Gaza has never been pleasant. Around 25 miles long and six miles wide, this tiny piece of land, about twice the size of Washington DC, is home to 1.5million Palestinians. The borders of the Gaza Strip were defined by the armistice lines between Egypt and Israel after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War that followed the dissolution of the British mandate of Palestine and the creation of Israel. The Gaza Strip was never intended to be a legitimate state or independent territory: rather it became home to thousands of Palestinian refugees who fled their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war. The vast majority of the 1.5million Palestinians who live in Gaza today are direct descendants of those refugees. Gaza was occupied by Egypt from 1948 until 1967, when it was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War; it was occupied by Israel from 1967 until 1993, when the Oslo Accords handed authority to the newly-formed Palestinian Authority. Under both Egypt and Israel, the Palestinians of Gaza suffered political repression. But, remarkably, the situation in the Strip has worsened under the peace process.
The peace process, with its demand for a `permanent' separation between Israel and the Palestinian territories, has had a dire impact both economically and politically on Gaza. In economic terms it has led to greater impoverishment in the Strip; in political terms it has further entrenched divisions between Arabs and Jews.
One of the first consequences of the implementation of the Oslo Accords in 1993/1994 was the sealing of the borders between Israel and Gaza. Where Gaza had once been considered a hopefully temporary grouping of refugee settlements created by the war of 1948, with Oslo it was suddenly elevated to the status of a semi-sovereign territory under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. What had previously been seen as a ghetto for refugees was now heralded as a distinct cultural entity worthy of `respect' and `celebration'. Nothing better captured the cynical nature of the peace process, its effective transformation of Palestinian defeat into something positive, than this transformation of Gaza from a territory created by default to house displaced Palestinians into part of a new `Palestinian homeland'.
After Oslo, the borders between Israel and this newly defined territory were immediately strengthened. In 1994, the first year of Oslo implementation, Israel began building a 60km-long barrier between itself and the Gaza Strip. The barrier, completed in 1996, consisted of wire fencing with posts, sensors and buffer zones (4). This separation fence can be seen as a physical manifestation of the peace process and of Oslo: the brute expression of the idea that underpinned the peace negotiations, which was that Israel and the Palestinians must be partitioned off, separated by `monitoring mechanisms'.
The economic impact on Gaza was disastrous. The raising of new and stronger borders between Israel and Gaza deprived the Strip of its main source of income, which came from Palestinian day labourers who had previously crossed the `green line' to work in Israel. As part of its post-Oslo fencing off of Gaza, Israel began to impose `generalised border closures' which prevented Gazans from moving from the Strip to work in southern Israel. As one account notes, these closures `disrupted previously established labour and commodity market relationships between Israel and the Strip' (5). As a result, between 1992 and 1996, after the First Intifada of 1987 to 1993 had died down and the new structures of the peace process took over, economic output in the Gaza Strip declined by one-third. This led to high unemployment in Gaza. According to one American study, in 2001 GDP in Gaza had declined 35 per cent to a per capita income of $625, and 60 per cent of the population were living below the poverty line (6). Today, Gaza is on an economic par with sub-Saharan Africa.
Alongside economic impoverishment, the peace process deepened the political divide between Israelis and Palestinians. With its focus on separation, the Western-sponsored process gave rise to new and more brutal forms of sectarianism. Thus in the 1990s, the presence of Jewish settlements in Gaza became an explosive political issue. Gazans frequently protested against the settlements, and Palestinian militants launched attacks against them. In 2005, the Israeli military, following a plan drawn up by Ariel Sharon, used force to dismantle all the settlements and to remove every Jew - 9,000 in total - from Gaza. Scenes of distraught Jewish families being dragged from Gaza, while Palestinian onlookers cheered, captured the deep sectarianism that had been unleashed by the peace process.
Again, such actions were a logical consequence of the Oslo Accords and later the Roadmap for Peace, which was built on the notion that there could be no progress until both sides `clearly and unambiguously' accepted the need for a `permanent two-state solution' (7). The result of an all-Arab Gaza is that, in that small corner of the Middle East, Palestinians and Jews are more hermetically sealed from one another than at any other time in modern history. Such a state of affairs can only have contributed to the sense that Gaza and Israel are two totally opposed blocs: different, cut off, forever conflictual. To borrow a phrase from history, Gaza under the peace process has been turned into a `bloody trap' for Palestinians.
In recent days, Israel has been criticised for transforming Gaza into a `jailed state'. In truth, it is 15 years of international intervention under the guise of enforcing a `peace process' that has imprisoned Gaza. Washington and Brussels have effectively imposed a multicultural solution on to the Middle East, where the emphasis is on preserving both sides' sense of national identity through separation and constant monitoring. And if divisive multicultural policies can be explosive in cities in the West, imagine the impact they can have on a volatile part of the world like Israel/Palestine. Israel should be strongly criticised for its recent attacks, but only criticising Israel, without interrogating the role played by Western powers in legitimising new forms of partition and storing up the potential for violence, is intellectually irresponsible. More than that, it leaves unchallenged the idea that the ghetto of Gaza is a fit place for 1.5million people to live in, and the notion that Arabs and Jews must be separated into their own statelets.
The international community's meddling has further divided the people of the Middle East. And in many ways, such meddling has also inflamed Israel's attacks on Gaza: feeling itself losing control of affairs in the Middle East, Israel is lashing out in an out-of-control fashion in an attempt to assert its authority and keep the fenced-off and volatile Gaza in check. A genuine peace can surely only emerge if the people of the region are free to mix and work together, and possibly even to come up with their own political solutions, free from the cynical intervention of the international community and the shallow solidarity of Western activists. The widespread demand to `Free Gaza' overlooks the fact that such an entity, created by default, surrounded by hasty borders, monitored by UN officials and around 300 Western NGOs, and increasingly treated as a permanently separate semi-official state, can never be free. [I think the egg is now permanently scrambled, however -- JR]
British police can't object to gipsy camp...because it's "racist" to do so
Police have been told they cannot object to a planned gipsy camp in a picturesque village - because to do so would be 'racist'. Council chiefs have ruled that the local force's professional opinion 'breaches the Race Relations Act'. The decision meant that councillors considering the planning application were not told how officers had been called to another local camp 109 times in just two years.
The row centres on the tiny village of Bletsoe (population 281) in North Bedfordshire. Early last year residents learned that the owner of a farm on the edge of the village had applied for permission to build four 'gipsy and traveller' pitches on his land. They formed an association to combat the plans and were delighted when Bedfordshire police joined them by writing a letter of objection to the council.
The police's hard-hitting letter detailed their dealings with three other gipsy sites in the county. Over a two-year period to January 2008, officers visited the three sites a total of 210 times. One site was visited 109 times. The police were called out to deal with reports of fights, arson, assaults, stolen vehicles, violent disorder, anti-social behaviour, theft, child abduction and use of weapons. Chief Superintendent Andy Street wrote: 'The numbers, and nature, of incidents are not atypical for traveller sites. The likelihood of such sites causing problems for those living in close proximity is highly probable.'
However, Bedford Borough Council refused to take the letter into consideration when deciding whether to approve the site. Officials claimed that including it in the summary given to councillors would leave the authority open to a prosecution for racial discrimination. So they returned the letter to the police and refused to let councillors see it. As a result, the police were forced to withdraw their objection.
Bletsoe resident Colin Deas, 72, a retired businessman who grew up in the village, said: 'It seems to me that there are some things you simply cannot say if you are talking about travellers. 'I am sure that the police would be allowed to say there was fear of increased crime if they were talking about a new housing estate. So what's the difference?' Bedford's act of censorship is the latest illustration of how politically- correct councils appear to be appointing themselves as our 'thought police'.
Only last week the Mail revealed how nearby Mid-Bedfordshire council labelled more than 3,000 local residents of the village of Stotfold as racists when they objected to a gipsy site. They had simply expressed worries that the site could increase traffic, cause property prices to fall or increase noise levels.
Although councillors rejected the Bletsoe traveller camp plans last year, the landowner has now appealed and the case will be heard again next month. A spokesman for Bedford council said: 'The police objection was treated very seriously. 'Legal advice indicated that the objection was not a material planning consideration and should not be reported to committee. In the light of such clear advice it was considered appropriate to return the correspondence to the police.'
More fraudulent official statistics from the acolytes of Stalin in socialist Britain
True scale of juvenile offending masked with "creative maths"
The true scale of juvenile offending is being masked with "creative maths" by the Government, it's own former head of youth offending has warned. Rod Morgan, the former chairman of the Youth Justice Board, said up to 20,000 fines handed to youngsters are "inextricably" excluded from official statistics. He accused ministers of a "smoke and mirrors" exercise to portray a positive image that the number of children entering the justice system had fallen.
It comes as the Conservatives pledge to strip the control of crime statistics from the Home Office in a radical shake-up, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. Writing in this newspaper, Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said ministers and officials would also lose the ability to see the figures in advance in a bid to end accusations of political influence and boost public confidence.
In another blow over the Government's reputation on handling statistics, Mr Morgan said a boast that it has hit a target of cutting the number of juveniles entering the justice system for the first time failed to include thousands of youngsters handed fines.
In November, the Youth Justice Board, which oversees the management of youth offenders for the Government, announced there had been a 10.2 per cent cut in such number since 2005/06 - twice the target of five per cent - down to 87,367. But Mr Morgan said the figure excluded juveniles handed an out-of-court fixed penalty - of which there were up to 20,000 in 2007/08. Conversely the fines figure was included in the larger statistics of Offences Brought to Justice, including both juveniles and adults, which presents a picture of more people being punished for their crimes. He said were the figures added in to the first time statistics, the "trumpeted" 10 per cent reduction would be "wholly or largely wiped out".
Mr Morgan, who chaired the YJB between 2004 and 2007, accused the Government of "creative maths", adding: "It does no credit to our criminal justice statistics to perpetrate smoke and mirror exercises of this nature."
The Home Office faced intense criticism in an ongoing row with the UK Statistics Authority this week, which accused it of making "unsubstantiated" claims and "inappropriate" conclusions over knife crime figures released last year. It has led to the watchdog announcing official figures on childhood obesity, NHS waiting times and house prices will now also be investigated. Control over crime figures would be removed from the department and handed to the Office for National Statistics, under a Tory Government.
He said: "Labour have proved themselves serial manipulators of official statistics. Their obsession with covering up, rather than facing up to, problems has meant serious violent crime has only got worse. "A new approach is required. We propose two radical reforms of crime statistics. "We will remove responsibility for compiling and publishing recorded crime statistics and the British Crime Survey from the Home Office and place it with the Office for National Statistics. "We will abolish pre-release access that Ministers, officials and special advisors have to crime statistics, so that they will no longer get more advance notice of the contents of statistical publications than the public, the press or Opposition MPs."
Mr Grieve also revealed that a claim by Gordon Brown last summer that CCTV in Newcastle had cut crime by 60 per cent was based on a study from 1995.
A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "The First Time Entrants data shows the numbers of young people entering the formal criminal justice system. "Penalty notices for disorder can be issued when there is no admission of guilt for minor offences - therefore receiving one does not make a young person a 'First Time Entrant' to the criminal justice system. "The distinct nature of penalty notices for disorder is to prevent young people from being criminalised too early - yet being a serious enough measure to deter them from offending. "Penalty notices for disorder offer an opportunity to provide swift justice to avoid drawing a young person further than necessary into the Criminal Justice System for low level offences and anti-social Behaviour."
Canadian Law Prohibiting Polygamy Faces Challenge
It had to happen
Canada's anti-polygamy law will likely be facing a legal challenge now that the leaders of the controversial polygamous sect in Bountiful, near Cranbrook, British Columbia, have been arrested. Winston Blackmore, the "bishop" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and James Oler are facing criminal charges for practicing polygamy.
Wally Oppal, BC's Attorney General, announced at a press conference that Blackmore and Oler were arrested yesterday by eight plainclothes RCMP officers. The two men were later released on their own cognizance after being charged. The two cooperated with the arrest and agreed to the release conditions that they surrender their passports, stay in British Columbia and not enter into or perform any "plural marriages." The two men are scheduled to make their first court appearance January 21. They are the first men to be charged with polygamy since the 1800s, even though police have known of the situation in Bountiful for more than 60 years.
Up until now law-enforcement officials have been hesitant to arrest practitioners of polygamy under fears that the law would not survive a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On at least two previous occasions the RCMP have recommended that arrests be made, but the Crown denied the recommendation, saying that the ban on polygamy would likely be struck down.
The estimated population of Bountiful in 1998 was 600 and has since grown to about 800. Most of the residents are descended from only half a dozen men who practice what is called in the breakaway Mormon sect "multiple marriage" or "celestial marriage." Blackmore claims to have had 26 wives and more than 108 children. The mainstream Mormon church formally renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
In 2006, the Vancouver Sun released information stating that Utah's Attorney General is collaborating with British Columbia's Attorney General in attempting to deal with polygamy and the alleged abuse in Bountiful. But pressure has been growing in Parliament, especially since the institution of homosexual "marriage," to change the law to allow for polygamy.
In 2007, Richard Peck, a criminal lawyer and BC special prosecutor reviewed the results of a police investigation and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge the group with sexual abuse or exploitation. He warned that the defendants would likely claim religious freedom as a defense. Peck recommended that the BC Attorney General petition the courts to determine if Canada's ban on polygamy is constitutional.
Pro-family advocates have long warned that the erosion of legal marriage in Canada, as well as in other western countries, starting with no-fault divorce and most recently with the institution of homosexual "marriage" and civil unions, would lead to the legalisation of polygamy. Indeed, following the invention of same-sex "marriage" in Canadian law, the federal Justice Department under the Liberal government produced a report suggesting the legalisation of polygamy.
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.
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