Tag Archives: Kremlin

GERMANY UPS FIGHT AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM

HALLE, Germany (AP) — A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, then shot two people to death nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet passed new measures Wednesday aimed at helping fight far-right extremism and anti-Semitism following an attack on a synagogue earlier this month.

The proposals include tightening gun laws, stepping up prosecution of online hate, and boosting financial support for projects fighting anti-Semitism and far-right extremism.

“The horrible attack on the Jewish community in Halle showed again what the unleashing of hatred online can lead to,” Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a news conference in Berlin when she introduced the bundle of measures alongside Germany’s interior and family ministers.

“We will fight far-right terrorism and anti-Semitism with all the power of the law,” Lambrecht added.

Germany is still reeling from the attempted attack on a synagogue by a 27-year-old German in the eastern city of Halle on Oct. 9, who later killed two passers-by before being arrested.   The man posted an anti-Semitic screed before the attack and broadcast the shooting live on a popular video game streaming site.   (Kirsten Grieshaber, US News & World Report, 10/30)

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The Far Right Is Taking On Cultural Institutions

Theaters, museums, and other venues in Germany are facing pressure from the AfD, raising questions about the extent of artistic freedoms.

ELIZA APPERLY, OCT 28, 2019, The Atlantic

BERLIN – Protests against public artworks in Dresden and Kassel.    A ban on political discussions at the city theater in Freiberg.            And a criminal investigation against a performance art collective.

Germany’s far right is fighting a culture war—and at the forefront is the country’s largest opposition party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).   Founded only six years ago, the group has transitioned from a platform of opposing the euro to far-right nationalism.   Fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped the group gain sizable sway in regional parliaments, with significant victories in three regional elections this fall.

Yet beyond its focus on immigration, the issue for which it is best known, the AfD has another important target – culture.   At both the federal and the regional level, the party devotes significant attention to cultural matters:   Its main manifesto includes more pages on culture, language, and identity than on employment, national security and justice, and foreign policy.   In Dresden, the AfD municipal program extends to suggested background music for a specific tram line.

“Culture is integral to the AfD’s strategy and ideology,” Julian Göpffarth, a researcher on the far right at the London School of Economics, told me.   “The party is using its powers to curb cultural productions and spaces that ‘undermine national pride,’ and to impose instead a dominant German culture that celebrates, rather than critically engages with, German identity.”          (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/10/germany-far-right-culture-war/598978/)

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FAR RIGHT AFD BEATS MERKEL IN GERMAN ELECTION

Voters in the eastern German state of Thuringia boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in regional elections on Sunday, according to preliminary results, but the Left party will remain the dominant political force in the state.

With all districts reporting, results showed the Left party winning 31% of votes in the state that was once part of the communist former East Germany.   (DW, 10/28)

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GERMAN INTERVENTION IN LIBYA

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is intervening in Libya, calling for an “end to foreign intervention.”   On the occasion of his trip to Turkey and North Africa he arrived last Sunday for a brief visit in the country, to prepare an international conference on Libya, which the German government intends to convene soon.   With this conference the German government seeks to possibly pacify the country and distinguish itself as a “regulatory force” in North Africa. Maas then traveled on to Egypt, which also is involved in the Libyan war.   While the German minister is declaring that the Egyptians should be able “to breathe the air of liberty,” Cairo is continuing its brutal repression.   Since the military coup in July 2013, more than 1,500 people have disappeared from state custody.   While seeking to pacify Libya, Berlin is increasing its “regulatory” activities in an “arch of crisis” extending from North Africa and the Middle East to Central Asia.   However, until now, without success.   (German Foreign Policy, 10/30)

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VISEGRAD COUNTRIES GROWING

“Fifteen years after they joined the EU, the four “Visegrad” states of central Europe (the V4) can be prouder of their economic achievements than of their patchy record on political reform.   The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have increased their levels of GDP per head dramatically, and are converging with their mighty neighbor Germany.   The Czechs are the richest, with a GDP per head that is 73% of Germany’s, followed by Slovakia with 63% and Hungary and Poland with around 57% each – and the gap continues to close, as their growth outpaces that of the behemoth.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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UK BECOMING MORE EUROPEAN

“Before the referendum in 2016 European Union flags were as rare as golden eagles in Britain.   Today they are as common as sparrows.   Parliament Square is permanently festooned with them.   Activist Remainers flaunt flag-themed berets and T-shirts.   On October 19th a million-strong army of People’s Vote supporters marched on Westminster beneath a sea of gold and blue standards . . .

“This is part of a bigger paradox:   the more Britain struggles to leave the EU, the more it embraces European style politics.   Since the dawn of the democratic era Britain has practiced two or two and a bit party politics compared with the continent’s multiparty system.   That is changing, accelerated by Brexit.

The Scottish National Party controls Scotland.   The ruling Conservative Party is 45 MPs short of a majority.   The European Research Group of hard-line Brexiteers acts as a party within the Tory party.   The Liberal Democrats could make big gains in the forthcoming general election, especially if Brexit seems reversible.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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CATHOLIC SYNOD IN ROME RECOGNIZES DIVIDED CHURCH

“The synod represents the biggest step yet towards recognizing something many Catholics in the West, especially church leaders, have been reluctant to acknowledge:   Just as economic and Diplomatic power in the secular world is sleeping away from the North Atlantic region, a similar process is taking place in Catholicism.   In the secular world, the shift is to Asia.   Within the Catholic church it is towards not only Asia, but Africa and Latin America, too.   That is forcing the church to consider how far it is willing to adapt to the practices and beliefs of cultures with their own spiritual traditions.   The synod has added to fears of a new schism within the church.”   (The Economist, 10/26)

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TO THE POINT

  • Warren not a socialist:  “Some Republicans and Wall Street critics claim that Ms. Warren is a socialist. She is not.   She does not support the public ownership of firms or political control of the flow of credit.   Instead she favors regulations that force the private sector to pass her test of what it is to be fair.”   (“A plan for American capitalism,” The Economist, 10/26)
  • Russia in Africa “… over the past decade, and especially after America and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia related to its annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin has viewed Africa as an increasingly important arena.   Since 2015 a dozen African leaders have visited Russia.   From 2006 to 2018 Russia’s total trade with sub-Saharan Africa increased by 336%.   It is the largest arms exporter to the continent, accounting for 39% of deliveries in 2013-17 (many from Russia to Algeria”. (The Economist, 10/26)
  • Farage’s gamble  — EU ministers are taking a breather from Brexit as the action moves firmly back to London, where MPs are preparing for a general election. In a possible game-changer for Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is considering whether to pull out of hundreds of seats.   This would be a major boost to the UK prime minister, given the risks that the Brexit party could split the vote among leavers. (FT)   As James Blitz writes, the prime minister is taking a massive gamble by engineering the vote before the UK is out of the EU.   Farage’s Brexit party poses one possible risk.   Another is that Labour will hammer home the message that a victorious Tory party would use Brexit as an opportunity to pursue a hard-right social and economic agenda.    (Financial Times 10/31)
  • Refreshing view on Israel:   Egyptian Coptic patriarch Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said in an October 14, 2019 interview on France 24 Arabic TV that he encourages Copts to visit Jerusalem because getting closer to others increases mutual understanding.   He said that Israel is a country like any other country and expressed support for an agreement that would make Jerusalem an international capital, though he said that this is not possible given the current reality.   Pope Tawadros II expressed concern for Christian holy places in Jerusalem and said that many parties are collectively responsible for the complexity of the current realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   He praised efforts to resolve the conflict.   (MEMRI, 10/30)
  • The worst patients in the world:   “Americans are hypochondriacs, yet we skip our checkups.   We demand drugs we don’t need, and fail to take the ones we do.   No wonder the US leads the world in health spending.”   (David H. Freedman, The Atlantic, July 2019).

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWO SIGNIFICANT ELECTIONS

Candidates

I thought readers might appreciate the following from a friend in Australia:

“Your presidential race is fascinating yet depressing.  Away from America, nobody, and I mean just about no one, can believe that Americans would support such a demagogue as Trump and all he stands for.   To say they like him because he speaks his mind and refuses to be PC is just inane.  Look at the type of person he is.  I would really fear for America, and more so the world, with a clown like him in charge.   It is positively sickening.

Bernie Sanders sounds like maybe a nice guy but a bit out of touch. I don’t think America could work his way. So Hilary . . .  there are skeletons in the closet so to speak but at least she has experience and did quite a reasonable job of it.  I think much of America still lives in the Teddy Roosevelt era in outlook . . . with little knowledge of the outside world and sort of contempt for it.”

Similar comments are also being made in newspapers in other parts of the world.

It’s difficult to imagine the Atlantic alliance holding together if Trump wins the election; having said that, the Democrats have not done any better.   Bret Stephens in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled:   “Barack Obama checks out.”   With 311 days left until he hands over to his successor, the president seems to be insulting America’s friends while embracing her enemies (visits to Vietnam and Cuba are going to follow last year’s treaty with Iran).

Mr. Stephens’ article follows on from one in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.   Mr. Goldberg interviewed President Obama, who seemed to forget he is still president and spent quite some time criticizing US allies, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and former President Sarkozy of France who may be re-elected. He even made it clear that if Russia invades Moldova, the US will do nothing, giving the Russian president the go-ahead to annex another neighbor.   Even Israel is set to suffer another blow from the US president, who is treating Saudi Arabia equally in arms sales.

Historian Niall Ferguson also commented on the Goldberg article in today’s Boston Globe:

“At the top of the list of scapegoats are America’s traditional allies: not only Britain and France (Libya’s descent in chaos was all their fault) but also Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.   Then comes the Washington “foreign policy establishment” and the US military, who are always trying to “jam” him into going to war.   Next in line are the members of his own cabinet — among them former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who urged him to intervene in Syria in 2012.

“The president says he is “very proud” of his decision in 2013 not to follow through on his earlier threat to take military action if the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria.   He seems not to understand that by asking President Putin to “force Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons,” he opened the door to Russian intervention in the Middle East, a region the Kremlin was effectively shut out of by Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s.   Wondering why the death toll in Syria has leapt upwards in recent months?   Step forward President Putin, whose air campaign against every anti-Assad force except ISIS has been a horror show.

“The Mosul dam symbolizes the critical state of an entire region. Like a huge wall of water, barely held in check by a crumbling dam, the combined forces of Islamic extremism, vicious sectarianism, networked terrorism, and Arab-Iranian rivalry have yet to wreak all the havoc of which they are capable.  But why worry?  The president has stuck to his foreign policy doctrine:   “Don’t do stupid sh–.”   As for ISIS, according to Goldberg, the president likens them to the Joker in the Batman movies.” (“A Catastrophe of Epic Proportions,” Niall Ferguson, Boston Globe).

As a President, Hillary Clinton seems likely to continue Mr. Obama’s policies and Europe is apprehensive of a Trump presidency, the Atlantic alliance could have some serious problems a few months from now.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once observed: “it is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president.   This is something we are going to have to learn to live with!”   That was said over sixty years ago.   The problem has since doubled as every girl can now also aspire to be president.

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The United States isn’t the only country experiencing an interesting and potentially nation-changing election.   Germany had one, too. Last Sunday three of Germany’s states voted.  The result was significant gains for the AfD, the Alternative for Germany, an anti-immigrant party.   Trump is not the only western politician who wants to do something about immigration.

As Reuters put it:   “Voters punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in three German regional elections on Sunday, giving a thumbs-down to her open-door refugee policy and turning in droves to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“The result is a big setback for Merkel, who has led Europe’s biggest economy for a decade, and could narrow her room for manoeuvre as she tries to convince her European Union partners to seal a deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants.

“Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost ground in all three states – Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east – which were together widely seen as offering a verdict on Merkel’s liberal migrant policy.”

Following the election we see this report from the New York Times today:

BERLIN — German authorities banned a neo-Nazi group known as the White Wolves Terror Crew after the police conducted early morning raids on Wednesday in 10 of the country’s 16 states, confiscating weapons but making no arrests, the Interior Ministry said.

Far-right parties have gained strength as Germany struggles to integrate more than one million migrants, and the ban is intended to demonstrate that the authorities will not tolerate agitation against foreigners and migrants “and certainly no violence,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said.

“This group is an association of neo-Nazis who openly and aggressively agitate against our state, against our society, against people who think differently, against migrants and against the police,” he said.

Mr. de Maizière said that the group wanted to build a dictatorship, and that its aim “is supposed to be realized with all means available,” including violence. He added that the core of the group was made up of approximately 25 people, with the leaders coming from Hamburg.

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Staying in Europe, the Prime Minister of Iceland, a European country that is not a member of the EU, has warned the United Kingdom to recognize a European reality.   The Daily Telegraph carried the following headline on March 9th:

“Britain warned it wields no power in German dominated EU.”

It’s even losing control of its own stock market. Deutsche Bourse and the London Stock Exchange are to merge, with Deutsche Bourse holding a 54.4% stake in the London Stock Exchange, giving it effective control of one of the most important stock markets in the world.

Whether the British vote to leave the EU or remain a member on June 23rd may not make much difference. They will still be under the dominance of Berlin, whatever the outcome.

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Another March 9th headline from the UK’s Daily Mail:

London is more Islamic than most cities in Muslim countries, says Pakistan-born Islamic scholar.”