A weekly round-up of news you may have missed – April 26, 2009.

Ahmadinejad. “The last of the truthsayers”

caboeor0cabigs5tcaqda0wocajzrav5cat0wbrhcat134c2calx9l2ncasga452ca3zecmdcadnx0fpcaf32mgccad65xwicay6nixtcateouljca6prac1caa24q7zcarweyt7ca799hdpca33jif0“I see in Ahmadinejad a man who is sincere, bright, keen witted and intelligent, who neglects his presentation, and leaves himself wide open to being repainted by Murdoch and turned into an image of the fool and the clown which George Bush actually was. Yes, the media deliberately distorts insults, spins his words, mistreats and tries to destroy him and his credibility in every way and at every opportunity possible. That is politics . . . and I think he would be the last to claim that the world is a fair place where people are treated fairly. He is probably the last of the truthsayers and straight shoe-throwers left in the game.” Debbie Menon, Payvand Iran News, April 23 2009.


 Canadian teacher’s group plans Israeli boycott resolution

A resolution from the floor calling on Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), a major Canadian outdoor equipment chain, to cease purchasing products from Israeli manufacturers is being proposed at the MEC Annual General Meeting on Thursday, April 30 in Vancouver. The resolution, which includes particularly odious characterizations of Israel as an apartheid state, is being proposed by a small but vocal group of MEC members led by Patrik Parkes, a spokesman for BC Teachers for Peace and Global Education. The resolution is contrary to MEC’s established environmental and ethical sourcing policies, with which these Israeli companies are in full compliance. It is important to note that the Mountain Equipment Coop is a responsible organization with well-established governance and business practices. MEC is not anti-Israel or anti-Jewish. They are a cooperative with a broad and diverse membership, and some of its members are seeking to advance a resolution harmful to Israeli businesses that exhibit the highest standards of environmental and ethical practices. – CJC, Ottawa, April 22, 2009.

 Editor’s note: The following statement by  BC Teachers for Peace and Global Education was issued during February 2009.

“Peace and Global Educators (PAGE) would like to express concern over the position of Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) with regard to Israel.

According to communications from Harvey Chan, Director of Ethical Sourcing, MEC ‘partners’ with factories in Israel. In PAGE’s view, this is incompatible with MEC’s promotion of itself as an ethical organization. MEC’s engagement with Israel is incompatible with its professed concern for both human rights and the environment.

Mr. Chan’s statement that MEC “will not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is a mischaracterization of the conflict as being between two equal sides. This simply is not the case. The kill ratio, since December 2008, has been roughly 100:1. Israel is the world’s 17th largest military spender. Gaza, under an Israeli blockade, is effectively the world’s largest prison. There is no comparison.

In the context of the aforementioned statement by MEC, PAGE understands MEC to be siding with the clearly more powerful actor. This interpretation of the MEC position seems born out by Mr. Chan’s statement that MEC will cease doing business with Israel only if guided by Canada and the United Nations. PAGE understands this as a strong commitment to continue doing business with Israel. As Mr. Chan is likely aware, Canada is the only country on a UN human rights panel to have voted against a ceasefire in Gaza, and UN sanctions against Israel are subject to an automatic US veto.

Apart from human rights issues in Israel, PAGE questions the need for MEC to have its seamless underwear manufactured halfway around the world. This unnecessarily increases MEC’s carbon footprint, and needlessly ships jobs offshore. PAGE questions MEC’s commitment not only to human rights, but also to the environment and the local economy.

PAGE is concerned that MEC’s members may not be aware of their organization’s disturbing lack of concern for the human rights of Palestinians. We call on MEC members to pressure the MEC Board of Directors to reverse its position on Israel. We also encourage MEC members to elect a Board of Directors that is sincere about ethical principles.”

 Leading Muslim scholars condemn racism and intolerance at the Durban II Conference

Responding to the Declaration of the Durban Review Conference, Zeyno Baran, Khaled Abu Toameh, Tarek Heggy, Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, Irfan al-Alawi, and Veli Sirin decry the failure to recognize and condemn rampant oppression in the name of Islam. Hudson Institute hosted a panel today during the Durban Review Conference with an eminent group of Muslim scholars from Egypt, Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. All were highly disappointed by the conference’s failure to address the bigotry and xenophobia in the name of religion itself and Islam in particular. “The conference reaffirms the perception that Islam has been hijacked by a dominant minority of thugs, extremists and antisemites who claim that they are speaking on behalf of a majority of Muslims,” said Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli-Arab journalist and filmmaker. “Ahmadinejad and his likes should be the last to talk about racism, human rights and tolerance.” Zeyno Baran, Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute, remarked that “it is time the silent majority of Muslims speak up in defense of universal human rights for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or gender.” She continued: “Humanity is one; labels have tragically divided us and Durban II sadly has missed another opportunity for an honest discussion.” – PRNewswire-USNewswire, April 23, 2009.

Syria says Ahmadinejad’s speech reflected Arab views

Syrian FM says large proportion of public opinion in Arab world supports Iranian president words. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at a UN conference on racism had widespread Arab support even if it stirred a walkout over his anti-Israeli stand, Syria said on Wednesday.”A large proportion of public opinion in the Arab world supports the words of the Iranian president,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a joint press conference with his Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn. The president used his podium in Geneva on Monday to criticise the creation of a “totally racist government in occupied Palestine” in 1948, branding the Israeli administration “the most cruel and repressive racist regime.” Ahmadinejad said the West “sent migrants from Europe, the United States … in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine.” – Syria Comment, April 23, 2009.

 Qatar: Transgendered people you say?

A leading academic has sounded an alarm against the growing trend of cross-dressers among boys and girls, saying that it is a “serious menace to society”. Speaking in the monthly Lakom Al Karar TV programme, telecast on Friday night by Qatar TV, Dr Saif al-Hajari, the deputy chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, described the emerging trend of “manly women” and “womanly men” as a “foreign trend” which, he said, had invaded the Qatari and Gulf communities as part of the “globalisation winds”. “This is an issue which can harm all our social and religious values. It needs some sort of bravery to address it. I have never imagined that one day I can see such behavioural deviations in our streets, schools or universities,” Dr al-Hajari said. The episode, which discussed behavioural deviances among youths, was part of the heated debate over the issue of “Boyat” (girls dressing and acting like boys). Transgendered people, who reportedly are seen in public places, were the subject of a heated debate during the past few weeks as clerics, educationists and sociologists cautioned against the new trend spreading among girls and boys. Dr al-Hajari said that the efforts of both the state and society are required to address the trend. “There is a lack of legislation organising the public code of ethics. There is a need to develop our legislations in this regard,” he said. However, he also blamed it on what he called “foreign fingers and groups” seeking to cause harm to youngsters. –  Gulf Times, Qatar, April 26, 2009.

Israel risks losing Arab support against Iran

Israel risks losing support from Arab nations against Iran if it does not make progress in Mideast peace talks with the Palestinians, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took office April 1, has refused to accept the two-state solution for peace in the region and shown little interest in talks with the Palestinians. Israel also considers Iran its main enemy, and is especially worried about Tehran’s nuclear program, which it fears is aimed at making a nuclear weapon. For Israel to get the kind of strong support it’s looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can’t stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts, “Clinton told legislators on the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. The two “go hand in hand,” Clinton said. Arab nations want “very much to support the strongest possible posture toward Iran,” Clinton said. “They believe that Israel’s willingness to re-enter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran,” she said.  – Kuwait Times, April 25, 2009.

Netherland’s Muslims want separate rooms in hospitals

Muslim organizations in Breda (Netherlands) insist on separate rooms for men and women at Amphia Hospital. “Many Muslim women don’t think it’s nice based on religious conviction to have a half-naked man in the bed next to them,” says Driss Siraji, who spoke with the hospital on behalf of the Immigrant Council and the Aarahman mosque. Separate rooms were common in Dutch hospitals until ten years ago. At Amphia they’re aware of the wish of the Muslim community, but keep to mixed rooms. “If people have a principle objection to mixed care, they can make it known at admission, we then try to take that wish it into account. But mixed care gives the possibility of making optimal use of the bed capacity and prevents unnecessary transfer of patients to other rooms,” says spokesperson Truus de Bruijn. – Islam in Europe, April 24, 2009.

The audacity of hope for Palestine

“There is now a near-universal consensus among virtually all the Arab states that a peace settlement is in their interest. Many, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are more concerned with the rise of Iran. An agreement with Israel could strengthen their hand in dealing with Iran and deprive the Iranian government of an opportunity to whip up Arab popular sentiment against Arab governments’ position on Palestine. The big question is whether Israel is ready. But, despite the difficult political situation in Israel, there seems to be a growing consensus among the Israeli elite that time is no longer on Israel’s side. It may also help that Israel’s foreign policy will now be run by two perceived hard-liners, Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman. Just as it took a Richard Nixon to go to China, it will take a Netanyahu to enforce a peace settlement that will require a withdrawal from most of the West Bank settlements. When I visited Israel in 1997, I called on then-Prime Minister Netanyahu, as he and I had been colleagues when we both served as ambassadors to the United Nations. I will never forget what he said to me: “Kishore, ignore the media stories. I am in favor of peace.” The broad coalition, including Lieberman and Ehud Barak, also makes peace more likely. Any good peace settlement requires a powerful mediator. Fortunately, a candidate has arrived in the person of United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her two predecessors, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, did not have the most important credential: trust from both sides. She does.” – Kishore Mahbubani, Today’s Zaman (Turkey), April 26, 2009.

And in conclusion. . .

The award for the best news service quote from Durban II goes to Reuters.  “Hate speech to be barred at racism conference.” 

(With thanks to: Stichting Magenta – Magenta Foundation, Amsterdam)


(Photo credit: Picsearch)


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