Thursday, December 9, 2010

Human Rights Day 2010

It is a few months since I have blogged and I hope you all enjoyed the respite. Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day and I think this is a good time to return to the blogosphere
The little candle and the barbed wire symbolize the Amnesty International philosophy best summed up in the Chinese proverb "better to light a small candle than to curse the darkness."

There are so many issues that it is hard to know where to start. On the world front we can look at the
Wikileaks disclosures about torture and the complicity of so-called civilized nations including EU
members and the United States in unspeakable acts all in the name of a "war on terror." I do not claim
that international terror does not exist and I am quite willing to be patted down at an airport, but the
fight against terror must be carried out in a just manner.

Amnesty International has an ongoing campaign on this issue and I suggest you all take a look at the page.

Witch Burnings in 2010 Not all
human rights violations are carried out by governments. Here is a ghastly event of
burning of a suspected witch. that took place in Ghana this year. An evangelical pastor was involved in this beastly action. It is depressing to think that modern people are functioning in a manner reminiscent of what happened centuries ago in Europe and New England. Religion as a cover for pernicious superstition has much to answer for. We might note that both Christianity and Judaism call for respect for the rule of law, as may be noted by these
two references:

The New Testament:"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4"

The Talmud:"Pray for the welfare of the [ruling] kingdom, for were it not for the fear of it men would swallow one another alive." Pirke Avot 3:2

Despite this, we too often see that religious leaders are not immune to racism and vile disregard for
human values. An egregious example is this case of rape and incest by a
New York rabbi and his son who abused their female family members. The prophet Amos (II,7)
7 That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor,
and turn aside the way of the meek:
and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid,
to profane my holy name: 

had something to say about such matters. More on this below when we deal with rabbis in Israel.

Mexico: Human rights violations both by the government and the drug cartels continue unabated in Mexico. This country that prides itself on its First World status and membership in NAFTA has failed its citizens badly in defense of their rights and in its pitiful efforts to control drug traffickers and
hoodlums who prey on migrant workers. Here is an example of what goes on there.

China: The repression of dissidents of all kinds is increasing as China becomes more and more paranoid.  We can see this in their repression of all debate about Tibet.. Please go to the link and sign the petition. It also is apparent in their reaction to the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to the
imprisoned human rights activist Lin Xiaobo It is disgraceful and unconscionable
that 18 countries are boycotting the ceremony because of Chinese.pressure.

Press Freedom: Reporters without Borders has published its annual index of press freedom around the world. It is worthy
of attention to note that the EU countries which once headed the good guy list have dropped a bit.
 Press freedom is a fairly good parameter for
judging the level of democracy in a country, although in Israel it is deceptive. Our press can rant
about whatever it wishes, but the really mass media are quite tame and follow the nationalistic line
laid down by the government without being forced to do so. It is quite depressing.


The main issue here for the past few weeks has been the devastating forest fire that killed 41 people,
destroyed huge amounts of property and took out a huge area of natural forest. It also showed the
glaring inadequacy and incompetence of our fire fighting services. This is not meant to denigrate the
brave and devoted people who worked on controlling the blaze, but to point out that their leaders did
not train them properly in forest fire fighting and the equipment needed simply was not there.
Politicians are now busy pointing fingers at one another and the real accountable figure, the Interior
Minister Eli Yishai will probably be sacked. He does not have the decency to resign on his own, but that is an Israeli norm. No one here ever takes responsibility for anything and the country shows it. Now the question of  rehabilitation of the forest will require thought and planning.

Jim Crow in Israel: The next cause celebre was an edict signed by 39 Orthodox rabbis forbidding the sale or rental of property in Israel to non-Jews. This has raised a firestorm of its own. Several rabbis have refused to
sign it or support it and it is most controversial even in the Orthodox community. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have condemned the letter as being discriminatory and racist. The justice minister has yet to come out against the edict and he
has the authority to sanction the rebbis. He himself is Orthodox, so the chances are slim. The Prime Minister has come out against it as have several ministers.

Discrimination and repression of Israeli Arabs goes on apace. The Bedouin communities of the Negev(Southern Region) are particularly abused and their so-called unrecognized villages are destroyed again and again in a program of what can only be called ethnic cleansing. It is unconscionable that religious Christian organizations in the United states participate in this nefarious activity.

Since we have discussed religion and the actions of religious leaders today, it is only right to get
Gene Weingarten in Below the Beltway explain what religion is really

about. while Andy Borowitz explains what is happening in Washington these days.

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