Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Palestinians: Victims of Arab Apartheid

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are now living in a Lebanese ghetto called Ain Al-Hilweh, and the world seems to be fine with that

Lebanon is one of several Arab countries where Palestinians are subjected to discriminatory and apartheid laws and measures. The plight of Palestinians in Arab countries, however, is apparently of no interest to the international community, and pro-Palestinian activists and groups around the world.

Recently, the Lebanese authorities placed electronic screening gates at all entrances to Ain Al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. The move has sparked a wave of protests in Ain Al-Hilweh and among Palestinians living in other refugee camps in Lebanon, who are describing the installation of the electronic gates as collective punishment.

Until a few years ago, Ain Al-Hilweh had a population of 75,000. However, with the influx of refugees from Syria, which began in 2011, the camp's population is now estimated at more than 160,000.

About two years ago, the Lebanese army began building a security fence around Ain Al-Hilweh as part of an effort to combat jihadi terror groups that were reported to have infiltrated the camp. With the completion of the fence, the Lebanese authorities, in a move that has surprised the Palestinians, decided to install electronic gates to screen all those entering and leaving the camp. The Lebanese authorities say the gates are critical to discovering explosives and other types of weapons.

The installation of the electronic gates came during the holy month of Ramadan -- a move that has further exacerbated tensions inside Ain Al-Hilweh and drawn strong condemnations from the camp residents and other Palestinians.

Leaders of several Palestinian factions in Lebanon who held an emergency meeting earlier this week to discuss the installation of the electronic gates called on the Lebanese government to ease security restrictions on the camp residents. Some of the leaders claimed that the new gates were part of a US-led "conspiracy" targeting Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

"We fear that the recent Lebanese measures are in compliance with US pressure on the Lebanese government to impose punitive measures against the Palestinian camps [in Lebanon]," said a Palestinian official who attended the emergency meeting. He claimed that most of the terrorists wanted by the Lebanese authorities had left Ain Al-Hilweh in spite of the tough security measures surrounding the camp, and as such there was no justification for the electronic gates.

According to residents of Ain Al-Hilweh, the electronic gates have turned their lives into misery, resulting in long lines and delays as Lebanese soldiers conduct thorough searches on Palestinians leaving and entering the camp. They claim that the gates were placed at all the entrances to the camp, although only after the security situation inside the camp had relatively improved and recently been calm. "Such security measures are unjustified and serve to only increase anger and frustration," argued Yasser Ali, an official with a group that represents Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. "Why are they dealing with Ain Al-Hilweh as if it were an island full of diseases?"

In the past few days, residents of the camp have staged a number of protests against the electronic gates, and demanded an end to the Lebanese authorities' harsh measures against Palestinians in Ain Al-Hilweh in particular and Lebanon in general. "We prefer to die than to be humiliated," and "The people in the camp challenge the gates," the protesters chanted.

A Palestinian human rights organization condemned the Lebanese army's decision to place electronic gates at the entrances to the camp. He said the measure turns all the residents of Ain Al-Hilweh into suspected terrorists. "This measure is an insult and humiliation to the camp residents and an assault on their dignity," the organization said in a statement.

"Such electronic gates are used at airports and international borders, and it is hard to understand why they are being used to screen residents of a camp. Clearly, this is collective punishment that affects tens of thousands of people. The security measures, including the electronic gates and the concrete fence have turned the camp into a real prison. The residents have become prisoners who are permitted to enter and leave only with the permission of the military, which is standing at the entrances."

Some Palestinians have called out Lebanon's leaders for their hypocrisy. "In whose interest is it to humiliate the Palestinians in Lebanon?" asked Palestinian political commentator Ahmed Al-Haj Ali. "How can Lebanese officials experience schizophrenia when they talk about liberating Palestine while they are imposing strict measures against the Palestinians?"

On June 13, a delegation representing Palestinian factions met with Bahia Hariri, a Lebanese parliament member who happens to be the aunt of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and appealed to her to intervene to have the gates removed from the entrances to Ain Al-Hilweh. The delegation complained to her that the gates have had a negative impact on the lives of the camp residents and urged her to use her influence with the Lebanese authorities to ease restrictions imposed on Palestinians in Lebanon.

Here it is worth noting that the 450,000 Palestinians in Lebanon have long been suffering from a policy of systematic discrimination and marginalization by the Lebanese authorities in all aspects.

Until 2005, Palestinians were barred from 70 different categories of qualified professions, such as medicine, law and engineering. Although the Lebanese Minister of Labor issued a memorandum in 2005 permitting Palestinians to work legally in manual and clerical jobs, the ban on Palestinians seeking professional employment has remained in place. In 2001, the Lebanese parliament passed a law that prevents Palestinians from owning and inheriting property. In addition, Palestinian refugees have no access to Lebanese government hospitals. As one Palestinian pointed out:

"The Palestinians in Lebanon and other Arab countries are treated as if they are not human beings. The Arabs hold us in ghettoes and deny us basic human rights. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugee camps are like a zoo or a prison. This is shameful that Arabs are capable of treating their fellow Arabs in such a manner. Even more shameful is the silence of the international community and the UN."

As if that were not enough, in 2007 the Lebanese army launched a large military operation against another refugee camp, Nahr Al-Bared, killing hundreds of people and destroying most of the houses there. Most of the 32,000 camp residents were forced to flee their homes. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), "the effects of this displacement have compounded the already severe socioeconomic conditions facing these refugees and constitute a chronic humanitarian crisis."

The residents of Ain Al-Hilweh now fear that the tough security measures around their camp, including the placement of the electronic gates, mean that they could meet the same fate.

That is why they are planning to step up their protests in the coming days and weeks. However, the Palestinians in Lebanon would be mistaken to pin high hopes on the international community or Palestinian leaders.

The international community pays attention to the Palestinians only when it is possible to blame Israel. The only Palestinians who seem to win the attention of the international community and media are those living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and who are in direct conflict with Israel. Palestinians living in ghettos in the Arab world and who are being killed and displaced by Arab armies do not attract any attention from the international community or mainstream media.

No one cares when an Arab country mistreats and discriminates and kills Palestinians. But when something happens in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, the international media and community suddenly wake up. Why? Because they do not want to miss an opportunity to condemn Israel.

The residents of Ain Al-Hilweh would have been fortunate had Israel placed the electronic gates at the entrances to their camp. Then, dozens of foreign journalists and human rights activists would have converged on the camp to document an Israeli "violation of Palestinian human rights." One can only imagine the uproar in the world were Israel to pass a law denying Arabs jobs or the right to inherit property.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are now living in a ghetto called Ain Al-Hilweh, and the world seems to be fine with that. In fact, most Palestinians in Lebanon have long been living in ghettos surrounded by the Lebanese army.

There are no protests on the streets of London or Paris. The UN Security Council has not -- and will not -- hold an emergency session to condemn Lebanon. Of course, the mainstream media in the West is not going to report about Arab apartheid and repressive measures against Palestinians. As for the leaders of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they do not have time to address the problems of the camp residents. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are too busy fighting each other and the last thing they have on their minds are the interests and well-being of their people.


Great writers are found with an open mind

Racism at Penguin books

Lionel Shriver

I’d been suffering under the misguided illusion that the purpose of mainstream publishers like Penguin Random House was to sell and promote fine writing. A colleague’s forwarded email has set me straight. Sent to a literary agent, presumably this letter was also fired off to the agents of the entire Penguin Random House stable. The email cites the publisher’s ‘new company-wide goal’: for ‘both our new hires and the authors we acquire to reflect UK society by 2025.’ (Gotta love that shouty boldface.) ‘This means we want our authors and new colleagues to reflect the UK population taking into account ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility and disability.’ The email proudly proclaims that the company has removed ‘the need for a university degree from nearly all our jobs’ — which, if my manuscript were being copy-edited and proof-read by folks whose university-educated predecessors already exhibited horrifyingly weak grammar and punctuation, I would find alarming.

The accompanying questionnaire for PRH authors is by turns fascinating, comical and depressing. Gender and ethnicity questions provide the coy ‘prefer not to say’ option, ensuring that being female or Japanese can remain your deep dark secret. As the old chocolate-or-vanilla sexes have multiplied into Baskin Robbins, responders to ‘How would you define your gender?’ may tick, ‘Prefer to use my own term’. In the pull-down menu under ‘How would you define your sexual orientation?’, ‘Bi’ and ‘Bisexual’ are listed as two completely different answers (what do these publishing worthies imagine ‘bi’ means?). Not subsumed by that mere ‘gender’ enquiry, out of only ten questions, ‘Do you identify as trans?’ merits a whole separate query — for 0.1 per cent of the population. (Thus with a staff of about 2,000, PRH will need to hire exactly two). You can self-classify as disabled, and three sequential questions obviously hope to elicit that you’ve been as badly educated as humanly possible.

And check out the ethnicity pull-down. ‘Asian or Asian British’ may specify ‘Indian,’ ‘Bangladeshi, ‘Chinese’, or ‘Pakistan’; the correct adjectival form of the latter nationality seems to be mysteriously unprintable. ‘Black or Black British’ may identify as ‘Caribbean’ or ‘African’. ‘Mixed’ allows for the options ‘White and Black African’, ‘White and Black Caribbean’, and ‘White and Asian’, but any other combo is merely ‘Mixed: Other’. As for us crackers, there’s ‘White: British’, ‘White: Irish’, and ‘White: Gypsy or Irish Traveller’, but the rest can only tick ‘White: Other’.

Let’s unpack that pull-down. If your office is chocka with Italians, Greeks, Spaniards, Germans, Danes, Finns, Bosnians, Hungarians, Czechs, Russians, Americans, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, Argentines, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Romanians who aren’t travellers and South African Jews — I could go on — together speaking dozens of languages and bringing to their workplace a richly various historical and cultural legacy, the entire workforce could be categorised as ‘White: Other’. Your office is not diverse.

I see two issues here. First: diversity, both the word and the concept, has crimped. It serves a strict, narrow agenda that has little or nothing to do with the productive dynamism of living and working alongside people with widely different upbringings and beliefs. Only particular and, if you will, privileged backgrounds count. Which is why Apple’s African-American diversity tsar, Denise Young Smith, got hammered last October after submitting, ‘There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.’ She hadn’t bowed to the newly shackled definition of the word, which has now been effectively removed from the language as a general-purpose noun.

Second: dazzled by this very highest of social goods, many of our institutions have ceased to understand what they are for. Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’ĂȘtre as the acquisition and dissemination of good books. Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision. Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes.

We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling. Good luck with that business model. Publishers may eschew standards, but readers will still have some.

In the news last week, we find the ultimate example of this fatal confusion over what is your actual job. Will Norman, London’s ‘walking and cycling commissioner’, bemoaned the fact that too many cyclists in the city are white, male and middle-class. ‘The real challenge for London cycling,’ he declared, ‘is diversity.’ As opposed to building more cycle lanes for everybody, or fixing potholes lethal to everybody’s wheel rims, Norman regards his principal function as increasing black and minority ethnic ridership.

I’ll be fascinated how he accomplishes this noble mission. Will he resort to stereotypes — broadcasting gangsta rap from lampposts alongside cycling superhighways, where pop-up snack stands hand out free chapattis? For a cycling commissioner to define his primary remit as ‘diversity’ is no less ludicrous than for Transport for London to turn a blind eye to the chronic tailbacks along the Embankment, just so long as the requisite number of Koreans is stuck in them.

With rare guts, the softball conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks recently decried the ‘misplaced idolisation of diversity’. Although a laudable penultimate aim, he wrote, ‘diversity is a midpoint, not an endpoint.… [An] organisation has to be diverse so that different perspectives can serve some end. Diversity for its own sake, without a common telos, is infinitely centri-fugal and leads to social fragmentation.’ Just as Brooks sees diversity as no substitute for ‘a common national purpose’ in the US, private and public institutions alike need to keep their eyes on the prize: good books. Safe cycling. For everybody.


Are you easily offended? If so, this column was written especially for you

Transport for London (TfL) has apologised unreservedly — and not before time — after staff cruelly humiliated passengers by chasing them along the platform with sticks, shouting: “Put your big, sweaty bum-cracks away.” Counselling is available to those affected.

Oh. It seems I’ve got that wrong. What actually happened was that a member of staff wrote on a whiteboard for its inspirational quote of the day these words: “During this heatwave please dress for the body you have. Not the body you want!” To which some people promptly burst into Twitter tears, accusing TfL of “body-shaming”.

In a normal, well-adjusted world TfL would have told those people to shut up and get a life, then returned to the business of keeping London moving. But we do not live in such a world. So a familiar snivelling script was followed. It released a statement saying, “We apologise unreservedly to customers who were offended by the insensitive message on the whiteboard at Blackhorse Road station,” then promised an investigation. Into what, exactly? Having a sense of humour? Stating the blindingly obvious truth?

I’m sure you don’t want to sit on a public seat marinated in buttock juice because someone was spilling out of skimpy shorts any more than I do. It’s no fun either staring at someone’s fungally infected toenails because they are wearing sandals for the first time since August 2017. But I suppose to turn away and retch is “toe-shaming”? Fungi have feelings too.

How do you body-shame eight million people simultaneously, by the way? This message never promoted an ideal body size nor mentioned weight. There was no picture. It was a light-hearted plea not to let perspiring bare flesh drench the upholstery, or put people off their Soleros. It was a call for consideration and self-awareness via a regular message-board designed to make people laugh and remember for one fleeting moment in rush hour that they’re not ants, but human beings. (Apologies if that sounds ant-ist or if any ants reading are offended. Ants are, of course, part of a hardworking community and, for the record, I have never seen a fat ant. Not that there would be anything wrong with that. No, no. No thorax-shaming here.) But what about the people who are offended by a builder’s bum-style crack in their face on the Tube? What about them, eh?

These perpetual offence-takers now rule the world, forcing people to make apologies for nothing, fainting if a friendly shopkeeper calls them “love” and claiming that their feelings are hurt by absolutely everything. Last year some students in Dallas actually wanted an annual display of flags commemorating the victims of 9/11 to be moved because it was “triggering”. I loathe the term “snowflake” — which is just as well because last year most young people in a poll said that being called one affected their mental health.

If tonight you watch Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s TV documentary Britain’s Fat Fight, which confronts our national obesity crisis, you will see members of Newcastle city council, which is discussing a city-wide weight loss campaign, tiptoeing in terror around the f-word. “Fat” carries a lot of “blame” and “negativity”, frets one woman. Another man dislikes the word “diet” lest it suggest eliminating food groups. Yes, yes — don’t worry that the UK’s annual expenditure on the treatment of obesity and diabetes is greater than the amount spent on the police, fire service and judicial system combined. Let’s focus on the priority: not making anyone “upset”.

I would guess that the number of people genuinely offended by that TfL whiteboard is about three. Yet there must be a time-wasting “investigation”. The humourless are taking over the asylum.*

*no offence.


African vibrancy in London

UK drill music gang banned from making violent music

THE music videos often feature gangs, weapons, violence and threats of revenge attacks — and now the artists have been banned from even making them.

The unprecedented move against west London “drill” group 1011 comes as the United Kingdom deals with a rising knife crime problem, that has seen almost 50 fatal stabbings in the capital alone this year, and daily attacks.

The rappers — who specialise in a genre of rap music that originated on the south side of Chicago — must now obtain permission from Scotland Yard before making or performing music after a court order banned them from mentioning rival gangs in their music.

The group’s five members — Yonas Girma, 21, Micah Bedeau, 19, Isaac Marshall, 18, Jordan Bedeau, 17, and Rhys Herbert, 17 — were jailed last week after being found guilty of planning a machete attack on a rival gang. They have previously rapped about stabbing the gang.

They have also been banned from encouraging violence and mentioning postcodes in a gang context, a popular way of inflaming tensions. Any future videos will also have to do without gang-related hand gestures, and they are forbidden from wearing bandana in public.

The 1011 members were convicted of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. Police said they were planning a revenge attack on rival gang 12-World, also from west London, who had filmed themselves harassing and threatening the Bedeau brothers’ grandmother.

Drill is a dark and confrontational style of rap that first began in Chicago. Artists have had only minor success, but their videos have been viewed on YouTube millions of times. Police have repeatedly blamed drill for the rise in knife crime and have ordered YouTube to remove dozens of videos.

They were arrested last November while they were on their way to confront 12-World and were found to be armed with machetes, knives and bats.

The order means when they are released they will not be allowed to reference violence in their music.

Detective Superintendent Mike West said the number of videos that “incite violence” have been increasing for three years.

“The gangs try to outrival each other with the filming and content — what looks like a music video can actually contain explicit language with gangs threatening each other,” he told The Independent. “There are gestures of violence, with hand signals suggesting they are firing weapons and graphic descriptions of what they would do to each other.”

The 1011 videos played in court included lyrics like “back out the spinner [gun] and burst [shoot] him. I put bullets in numerous guys like how come the opps [rivals] ain’t learning?”

Others referred to shooting a rival dead “Clock me an opp, wind down the window...”

Another: “OT [out of town] trip trying to get some funds [money]. We get bread and invest in guns. Dem boy run when we tapped **** ching, splash aim for his lungs.”

It continued with a reference to the notorious moped gangs terrorising London: “Four men on two peds [mopeds] jump off with my shank [knife] leave an opp boy splattered.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Southworth, head of the Met Police’s Trident gang unit, said the landmark order was an important case.

“[They] take detailed and firm measures to restrict the actions of a gang who blatantly glorified violence through the music they created. Their lyrics referenced real events that had happened and made threats that further violence would take place. If they break the conditions of the CBOs they will be back before the courts.”

He claimed police were not being killjoys. “We’re not in the business of killing anyone’s fun, we’re not in the business of killing anyone’s artistic expression — we are in the business of stopping people being killed. When in this instance you see a particular genre of music being used specifically to goad, to incite, to provoke, to inflame, that can only lead to acts of very serious violence being committed, that’s when it becomes a matter for the police.”

He said the move wasn’t about regulation or censorship and denied “demonising any one type of music”.

Youth worker Colin James, 48, is helping rehabilitate young gang members at his Gangs Unite charity in South London. He told the ban did nothing to address the “underlying issues”.

“It [the music] is an expression but it is not really the issue. They are always going about drill music this, drill music that — it just doesn’t make sense. They have to look at why they are wanting to do that in the first place.”

In many ways, it was a sign of the times, he explained.

“In previous times with punk rock they have [sung] about killing the Queen — but there were no decisions to ban.”

Freedom of expression campaigners also criticised the move. Index on Censorship chief executive Jodie Ginsberg said: “Banning a kind of music is not the way to handle ideas or opinions that are distasteful or disturbing.

“This isn’t going to address the issues that lead to the creation of this kind of music, nor should we be creating a precedent in which certain forms of art which include violent images or ideas are banned. We need to tackle actual violence, not ideas and opinions.”

Mic, a rapper and producer form north London, told the BBC the order “sets an ugly precedent”.

He said: “There is a censorship problem in the country. There are a lot of young musicians in this country whose only outlet for expressing themselves is music.

“It might be violent but what do you expect in the Britain we’re in right now?”



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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