Monday, June 07, 2010
Anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders courted to attract Dutch voters
GEERT Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who wants to tax Muslim headscarves and ban mosque building, could join the next government, the leader of the country's biggest party said.
Mark Rutte, who is tipped to be the next Prime Minister after Wednesday's vote, told The Times that he was prepared to share power with the anti-Islamic MP in a new coalition.
Mr Rutte's right-wing Liberal Party (VVD) is expected to win the largest number of seats in the general election and polls suggest that it could form a majority with the Christian Democrats and Mr Wilders' Freedom Party.
Mr Wilders, 46, was prohibited from visiting Britain last year by Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, because of his inflammatory views but managed to overturn the ban. His party is in fourth place after briefly topping opinion polls this year.
Mr Rutte dismissed suggestions that his country could suffer an international backlash if he offered a Cabinet post to Mr Wilders. He said that he saw the Freedom Party as "just another party", and disagreed with its policies on headscarves and mosques. He and Mr Wilders agreed however that the Netherlands should restrict immigration and cut benefits to recent arrivals.
Speaking to The Times during a break in campaigning in The Hague, Mr Rutte, 43, said that he was open to forming a coalition with Mr Wilders, just as he was with the Labour Party led by Job Cohen, the former Mayor of Amsterdam, which is second in the polls. "For me, the Wilders party and the social democratic Labour Party - we do not rule out a coalition with any of the two," he said. "With both of them, we have many points of difference. But I am not distancing myself from Wilders on the basis of morality, like the Labour Party leader Job Cohen. He is saying Wilders' party is wrong.
"The problem with Wilders is that he is quite left-wing on the economy ... while at the same time we agree with some of the measures we could take on immigration in the Netherlands. We disagree on this issue of Islam."
Asked if he thought that the Netherlands would suffer from problems in the Islamic world if Mr Wilders were part of the government, he said: "I don't think so. For me it is just another party."
Latest polls for the 150-seat Parliament put the VVD on 36 seats, Labour on 29, the Christian Democrats on 24, the Freedom Party on 18 - double its current number of MPs - and the Socialist Party on 12.
Dutch commentators believe that Mr Rutte is keeping open the possibility of coalitions involving Mr Wilders and Mr Cohen to try to attract their voters.
Legal harassment of the middle class soon to be cut back in Britain
Bin taxes and planning laws to be ditched by Coalition.
A raft of Labour laws which have been criticised for penalising Middle England will be consigned to the scrap heap by the new Government this week. Bin taxes will be ditched, along with laws allowing developers to build on back gardens, as the Coalition embarks on a bonfire of "meddling" legislation.
Ministers will say they are scrapping controversial Labour proposals to allow local authorities to charge for household rubbish collections or fine those who fail to cut their waste.
And in a major review of planning law, back gardens will no longer be classified as "brownfield" land which can be built on.
The Government will also announce that it is getting rid of a requirement on builders to squeeze more smaller homes onto new housing developments, after complaints that the rule leads to overcrowding.
The shake-up follows years of campaigns, including one in this newspaper against proposed refuse taxes, and is clearly aimed at pacifying core Conservative voters.
In the first of the announcements tomorrow, Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, will say he is scrapping Labour plans to introduce pay-as-you-throw rubbish schemes. Local authorities will be told to end pilot schemes set up by the previous administration to penalise people for the amount of rubbish they throw away.
The new Government will adopt a "carrot" rather than a "stick" approach, seeking to encourage recycling through measures such as cuts in council tax bills or giving shopping vouchers to residents who meet recycling targets.
In a further attempt to reach out to middle class families, Greg Clark, the minister for decentralisation, will on Wednesday outline plans to end cluttering of leafy residential areas by abolishing Labour's "minimum density targets" for house building.
Rules currently stipulate that at least 30 homes are built on every hectare of developed land. This makes it almost impossible for large-scale developers to win planning permission to build bigger homes and gardens. In the same space that would have been allowed for one house in the 1980s, builders are now being required to build three.
Current rules also state that at least 25 per cent of the homes in each new luxury housing development must be "affordable", and proposed developments often do not get the go ahead unless a block of budget flats is added onto the site. The abolition of the density targets will end cluttering, ill-thought-out "affordable" high rises and homes which are too small, campaigners say.
But Opposition MPs, including some Liberal Democrat coalition members, are expected to criticise the changes because they say smaller and cheaper housing is needed for key workers and the less well off.
Mr Clark will also announce that planning law is to change so that gardens are no longer classified as brownfield sites. The aim is to bring an end to "garden grabbing" which has led to the concreting-over of thousands of green spaces by developers.
That began after John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, changed planning laws to make gardens brownfield sites in a deeply controversial move in 2000.
Labour's bin tax policies, meanwhile, have faced opposition from householders who risked being hit by hefty fines. There were also fears that charging householders for producing excess waste could bring a rise in fly tipping and "bin wars" among neighbours as people struggled to avoid paying.
The Liberal Democrats backed the idea of charges, but a source said the Coalition had now agreed to abandon measures that would fine householders.
Mr Pickles will say: "Bin taxes are not a green tax. They were simply another excuse by Labour to tax by stealth. "They will spark a surge in fly-tipping, leaving a blot on the landscape; fuel a rise in backyard burning, damaging the environment; and spark a flurry of neighbourhood bin wars as angry householders dump their rubbish in a neighbour's bin in an attempt to avoid being hammered by another stealth tax."
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, welcomed the move. He said: "It's good news that this rubbish idea is being consigned to the scrap-heap. "Householders already pay council tax to have their bins emptied, so charging them more for not sorting their rubbish, or discarding too much, would have been unfair.
"Not only would pay-as-you-throw have been unfair, but it would also have been almost unenforceable without local councils having to spy on their residents to see what they were putting in their bins. "The best way to encourage people to recycle is to offer them incentives to do it, not penalise them when they don't."
Documents seen by this newspaper and released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that local authorities, charities and groups representing the elderly expressed strong opposition to the schemes in an official consultation but were apparently ignored.
The Association of Charity Shops said it feared the last government's plans would result in large amounts of rubbish being dumped on their doorsteps in the guise of "donations" as householders attempted to reduce their household waste.
A mosque at Ground Zero? Moderate Muslims say no
by Jeff Jacoby
IS GROUND ZERO the right place for a major new mosque and Islamic cultural center? That is the question swirling around the proposed Cordoba House, a 15-story, $100 million Muslim development to be built just 600 feet from where the World Trade Center stood. The ambitious plans for Cordoba House include not only a mosque, but also a 500-seat auditorium, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and a bookstore.
The prospect of an Islamic center so close to Ground Zero is, not surprisingly, controversial. Many relatives of Sept. 11 victims are strongly opposed. One group, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America, calls Cordoba House "a gross insult to the memory of those who were killed on that terrible day." At the same time, the project has very strong political support. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer are among its backers, and Cordoba House was endorsed by lower Manhattan's Community Board No. 1 in a near-unanimous vote on May 25.
But perhaps most noteworthy are the views of leading Muslim moderates -- Muslims known for their commitment to tolerance and pluralism, and for their opposition to all forms of radical Islam.
One such individual is Zuhdi Jasser, a physician, US Navy veteran, and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
In a conversation with me last week, Jasser reminisced about his family's history of building mosques in the heartland communities where they lived. His parents, Syrian immigrants to the United States, helped create the Fox Valley Islamic Center in Neenah, Wis., in 1980. "This was during the Iranian hostage crisis," he recalled, "and some of the local residents wanted the Zoning Commission to prevent the mosque from going forward." But the commissioners gave their blessing to the project, and the modest mosque -- the construction budget was just $80,000 -- became part of the neighborhood. Later the family later moved to western Arkansas, where they joined with others to create the Islamic Center of Fort Smith. As recently as March, Jasser came out in support of Muslims in Sheboygan, Wis., whose plans for a new place of worship were meeting with vocal resistance.
But he adamantly opposes the Ground Zero mosque. "For us, a mosque was always a place to pray, to be together on holidays -- not a way to make an ostentatious architectural statement about the grandeur of Islam," Jasser says. "Ground Zero shouldn't be about promoting Islam. It's the place where war was declared on us as Americans." To appropriate that space for Muslim outreach, he argues, is "the worst form of misjudgment."
Equally opposed is Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, a devout Muslim and director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC. Schwartz notes that the spiritual leader of the Cordoba Initiative, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, describes himself as a Sufi -- a Muslim focused on Islamic mysticism and spiritual wisdom. But "building a 15-story Islamic center at Ground Zero isn't something a Sufi would do," says Schwartz, a practitioner of Sufism himself. "Sufism is supposed to be based on sensitivity toward others," yet Cordoba House comes across as "grossly insensitive." He rejects Rauf's insistence that a highly visible Muslim presence at Ground Zero is the way to make a statement against what happened on 9/11. Better, in his view, is the approach of many Muslims "who hate terrorism and who have gone privately to the site and recited prayers for the dead silently and unperceived by others."
Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi native who founded the Institute for Gulf Affairs and is an advocate for civil rights and religious freedom in the Middle East, hopes for the best from Cordoba House. "A mosque should be a good thing," he tells me. But he worries about the number of Americans who may be "hurt and upset" by the project, and wonders whether a mosque is really the best thing for Muslims to build so close to Ground Zero. Why not something less emotionally charged, he asks -- a social-service agency, perhaps, or an assisted living center for the elderly?
Muslims must take the feelings of other Americans into account Al-Ahmed contends. Even for the devout, healing and social cohesion should matter more than a new mosque. He quotes no less an Islamic authority than the Imam Ali, the influential son-in-law of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. "Reconciliation of your differences," says Imam Ali in the collection of teachings known as the Peak of Eloquence, "is more worthy than all prayers and fasting."
Will a mosque at Ground Zero make reconciliation more likely? Or will it needlessly rub salt in the unhealed wounds of 9/11?
The media war on Israel
by Pilar Rahola
This speech appears to have been originally delivered January 2009 in reference to the media coverage over the Gaza operation.
Pilar Rahola is a Spanish politician, journalist and activist aligned with the Left. She is a passionate defender of the United States and Israel and an indefatigable fighter against anti-Semitism. All these despite being ideologically from the left. Her articles are published in Spain and throughout some of the most important newspapers in Latin America. She is the recipient of major awards by Jewish organizations.
This article should be read together with another of hers "Jews with six arms".
"Why don't we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris, Barcelona ? Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship?
Why aren't there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection?
Why aren't there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs?
Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan?
Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel?
Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism?
Why don't they defend Israel 's right to exist?
Why confuse support of the Palestinian cause with the defense of Palestinian terrorism?
And finally, the million dollar question: Why is the left in Europe and around the world obsessed with the two most solid democracies, the United States and Israel, and not with the worst dictatorships on the planet? The two most solid democracies, who have suffered the bloodiest attacks of terrorism, and the left doesn't care.
And then, to the concept of freedom. In every pro Palestinian European forum I hear the left yelling with fervor: "We want freedom for the people!".
Not true. They are never concerned with freedom for the people of Syria, or Yemen, or Iran, or Sudan, or other such nations. And they are never preoccupied when Hammas destroys freedom for the Palestinians. They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom. The resulting consequence of these ideological pathologies is the manipulation of the press.
The international press does major damage when reporting on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On this topic they don't inform, they propagandize.
When reporting about Israel, the majority of journalists forget the reporter code of ethics. And so, any Israeli act of self-defense becomes a massacre, and any confrontation, genocide. So many stupid things have been written about Israel , that there aren't any accusations left to level against her.
At the same time, this press never discusses Syrian and Iranian interference in propagating violence against Israel ; the indoctrination of children and the corruption of the Palestinians. And when reporting about victims, every Palestinian casualty is reported as tragedy and every Israeli victim is camouflaged, hidden or reported about with disdain.
And let me add on the topic of the Spanish left. Many are the examples that illustrate the anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments that define the Spanish left. For example, one of the leftist parties in Spain has just expelled one of its members for creating a pro-Israel website. I quote from the expulsion document: "Our friends are the people of Iran , Libya and Venezuela, oppressed by imperialism, and not a Nazi state like Israel ."
In another example, the socialist mayor of Campozuelos changed Shoah Day, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, with Palestinian Nabka Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, thus showing contempt for the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
Or in my native city of Barcelona , the city council decided to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel , by having a week of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thus, they invited Leila Khaled, a noted terrorist from the 70's and current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization so described by the European Union, which promotes the use of bombs against Israel.
This politically correct way of thinking has even polluted the speeches of president Zapatero. His foreign policy falls within the lunatic left, and on issues of the Middle East , he is unequivocally pro Arab. I can assure you that in private, Zapatero places on Israel the blame for the conflict in the Middle East , and the policies of foreign minister Moratinos reflect this. The fact that Zapatero chose to wear a kafiah in the midst of the Lebanon conflict is no coincidence; it is a symbol.
Spain has suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe and it is in the crosshairs of every Islamic terrorist organization. As I wrote before, they kill us with cell phones hooked to satellites connected to the Middle Ages. And yet the Spanish left is the most anti Israeli in the world.
And then it says it is anti Israeli because of solidarity. This is the madness I want to denounce in this conference.
I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not anti- Israeli like my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel. To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews.
As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the left who loves progress, I am obligated to defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles.
Principles that Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say that as a non-Jew, journalist and lefty, I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too.
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 or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.