Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110411

Financial Crisis
»Financial Times Says Spain Will be Next to Fall
»Iceland Voters Reject Icesave Deal for a Second Time
»Spain: We Will Make it, We Are Not Portugal
»The Never-Ending Greek Debt Restructuring Looks Inevitable
»Chester Community Tries to Make Sense of Tragedy
»Deadly Party Shootings Spark Outrage in Chester
»FBI: Suspect in Calif. Explosion Arrested in Cleveland Hts.
»Texas May Ban Courts From Considering Foreign Laws
»The Constitution Doesn’t Mention Czars
»U.S. Muslim Group ‘Attacks Free Speech’
Europe and the EU
»Arrests in France During Protests Against Burqa Ban
»Belgian Parliamentarian Embraces Wolpo
»Burqa Ban: 2 Arrested for Unauthorized Protest
»Denmark: “Extremist” To Preach to Nørrebro Muslim Youths
»France: Ban on Full Veil Comes Into Force Today
»France: Burqa Ban: Paris Police Arrest Dozens of Veiled Women
»Islam in Europe — A Real Problem
»‘Italy Using Dirty Trick to Force EU to Help With Refugees’
»Italy: Berlusconi Blasts Magistrates at Milan Trial
»Italy: Marcegaglia — “Business People Feel Abandoned”
»Italy: Fiat ‘May Not Get 51% of Chrysler This Year’
»Learning From Swiss Integration Failings
»Muslim Population in Western Europe Rising
»Netherlands: Amsterdam, Rotterdam to Work Together to Boost Integration
»Ruby: Premier: I Gave Her Money to Avoid Prostitution
»Sweden Democrat MP in Racist Blog Post
»UK: ‘Islamophobia: The Prophetic Response’
»UK: So Why Can’t We Do This Here? Just Two Arrests as France Brings in Burka Ban (And the Only Real Demo is in London)
»What’s Belgium? Split by Language and Culture, The Seat of the EU Has Had No Government Since June
»Serbia: Ruling Coalition Approval Drops as Opposition Calls for Early Elections
North Africa
»Algeria: Govt Denies Ties With Algerian Mercenaries in Libya
»Belarus Denies UN Claims of Mercenaries in Libya
»Ben Jelloun: Rebirth of Maghreb and Defeat of Islamism
»Egypt: Mubarak and Sons Summoned, Ex-Leader Defends Himself
»Egypt: Pacifist Blogger Gets Jail for Criticizing Army
»Ground Forces in Libya ‘Impossible’ Says Frattini
»Libya: Gaddafi for AU Road Map, Mediators to Talk to Rebels
»Libya: Russian Journalists Held on Suspicion of Being Mercenaries
»Libya: Renewed Attack on Misrata by Gaddafi Loyalists
»Libya’s War Costs the US 608 Million Dollars
»Libya: State Bombing on Air in the Country
Israel and the Palestinians
»Condolences for Fogels From Around the World
»‘Iron Dome’ Military Milestone for Israel
»Professor Hillel Weiss: Speech to the Flemish Parliament
»The Third Intifada is Alive and Well on Facebook
»Yesha Strengthens Ties With European Nationalists
Middle East
»Bahrain: Lebanese Shiites Deported, Reaction to Nasrallah
»Iraq: “Our Sky: Our Land, “ A Film About Kurdish Awareness After Saddam Hussein Massacres
»Jordan: Largest Companies Targeted by Anti-Corruption Law
»Niall Ferguson: the Mash of Civilizations
»Syria: Assad’s Militias Lay Siege to Banias, Opposition
»Syria: Army Deployed in Baniyas Following Weekend Bloodshed
»Syria: Protest at Damascus University, Banias Under Siege
»UAE: Uprisings: 3 Bloggers and Activists Arrested
»US Annual Reports Track Decline in Turkish Press Freedom
»Yemen: Saleh Ready to Leave, Opposition Disagrees
»At Least 5 Dead, Dozens Injured in Belarus Subway Blast (Video)
»Ivanov Says Russia Wants ‘Red-Button’ Rights on U.S. Missile-Defense Plan
South Asia
»CIA Has Slashed Its Terrorism Interrogation Role
»Indonesia: Islamist Lawmaker Resigns After After Filmed Watching Porn Video
»Pakistan: Accused of Blasphemy, Arif Masih is Safe, As 90 Per Cent of Muslims Believes He is Innocent
»U.S. Won’t Interrogate Top Al Qaeda Terrorist
Far East
»Japan: No End in Sight for Fukushima Disaster as Bureaucrats Battle the Laws of Physics
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Clinton: “Gbagbo’s Capture Sends Signal to All Dictators”
»Former Leader of Ivory Coast is Captured
»HMS Nursemaid: Shame as Navy Seizes 17 Armed Somalis, Gives Them Halal Meat and Nicotine Patches… Then Sets Them Free!
»Ivory Coast: Shocking! Muslims Rape, Burn Christians Alive
»Ivory Coast: Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo Captured
»Lessons From the Ivory Coast
»2 More Boats Land on Lampedusa, 1,500 on Island
»Barroso Expects Full Cooperation From Tunis
»Berlin Unwilling to Accept Refugees
»Calderoli: Naval Blockade if EU Deserts US
»EU Confirms Too Soon for Temporary Protection
»EU Split Over African Migration Tsunami
»France Confirms Strict Controls for Immigrants From Italy
»Italian Minister Questions Value of EU Membership
»Legality of Swiss Marriage Law Questioned
»Maroni Dismayed at Lack of EU Migrant Response
»Migrant Visas ‘In Line With Schengen’ Says Frattini
»Migrants: Germany: Italy Should Comply With Its Duties
»Migrants: Spain: No Temporary Protection to Irregulars
»Netherlands: Rules for Labour Migration Tightened Up
»Refugees Are ‘Italy’s Problem, ‘ Minister Says
»Repatriation Flight Takes Off From Lampedusa
»Reports: Fire Breaks Out in Immigrant Centre on Italian Island
»Students With Danish as a Second Language Score Lower Than Classmates With Danish Heritage
»Tunisian Boat People Riot on Italian Migrant Island
»Is Space Tourism the New Space Race?

Financial Crisis

Financial Times Says Spain Will be Next to Fall

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 11 — Considerable foreign debt together with the fragility of the financial sector and the risk of a new fall in income are increasing the risk of a serious shrinking of funds, which in turn would make Spain the next Euro-zone country to be forced to ask for assistance from the International Monetary Fund. This is according to a leading article by Wolfgang Munchau in today’s Financial Times.

Munchau says that the tendency towards stability of the European Central Bank’s monetary policy prices, which could take interest rates up to 2% in 2012 and 3% in 2013, “could have negative consequences for Spain”, due to the direct impact on growth, but also on the country’s property market. The FT believes that Spain “demonstrated an extreme property bubble before the crisis and, unlike other countries such as the United States and Ireland, prices have only decreased moderately”. Munchau predicts that house prices will fall by a further 40% and that this, together with the rise in mortgage prices caused by the jump in interest rates, could have negative repercussions on the rate of default in the budgets of savings banks. Munchau considers the forecasts from the Madrid governing to be “not very convincing”, especially with regards to recapitalisation in the sector. The government says that the amount will be less than 20 billion euros, while other estimates put the figure at between 50 and 100 billion euros. The columnist says that Spanish credit institutions have an exposure of close to 100 billion euros in Portugal, as well as a property risk of 439 million euros in budgets at the end of 2010.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iceland Voters Reject Icesave Deal for a Second Time

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Iceland’s bitter row with the Netherlands and the UK over the loss of billions of depositors’ money in a collapsed online bank has reached a new stage after Icelandic voters on Saturday rejected for the second time a deal to resolve the issue.

Icelanders voted by 60 percent against a deal that reduced the interest rate demanded by the Hague and London from 5.5 percent down to 3.2 percent.

However, a majority of voters felt that even this was unfair, and have flatly refused to use any public cash to pay for the mistakes of the financial sector.

After the Icelandic Icesave internet bank collapsed in the wake of the global economic crisis in 2008, depositers in the UK and the Netherlands were compensated by their governments to the tune of €3.8 billion. The Hague and London then demanded Reykjavik pay them back.

The government had agreed to do so in an earlier deal, but the terms were considered onerous by a majority of the population. Under the terms of the original agreement, the loan would have been paid back over 15 years with high rates of interest. Estimates had suggested every household would have to contribute around €45,000.

The president of the country had refused to sign the government bill that approved a schedule of payments to the two governments, provoking a referendum on the matter in March 2010 that saw the earlier deal rejected by 91 percent of Icelanders.

President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson also refused to sign the second agreement, again triggering a referendum.

He hailed the outcome, saying: “The leaders of other states and international institutions will have to respect this expression of the national will.”

But ministers from the Netherlands and Britain were in a less celebratory mood, saying they will conclude the dispute via the courts.

“The time for negotiations is over,” said the Dutch finance minister, Jan Kees de Jager.

The UK’s secretary to the treasury, Danny Alexander, told the BBC: “There is a legal process going on and we will carry on through these processes to try and make sure we do get back the money that the British government paid out in past years.”

The European Free Trade Area Surveillance Authority, an organisation with a similar role to that of the European Commission, but for those EFTA countries in the European Economic Area, has already launched legal action against Reykjavik.

“I fear a court case very much,” Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said after the result became known.

However, the government, currently in the middle of an application to join the European Union, also reckons it can pay some 90 percent of the money owed from the sale of assets of Icesave’s collapsed parent bank, Landsbanki.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: We Will Make it, We Are Not Portugal

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 11 — “As Portugal goes k.o., Spain is going ok”, the Financial Times wrote on Thursday, a few hours after the Portuguese government announced that it had asked the IMF and its European partners for assistance. Today, the same newspaper publishes an analysis in which it guarantees that the Spanish economy will be the next to come down in the eurozone, and that house prices will fall by 40%, with serious repercussions for credit in savings banks. The slogan that is repeated over and over on all levels these weeks is that Spain is not Portugal. “Our economy is much larger, much more diversified and has a much better track record than the Portuguese economy”, economists, analysts and politicians keep saying, first of all Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Elena Salgado. El Mundo writes today that French President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted during talks behind closed doors held this weekend with European partners on that fact that “Spain is the euro’s red line, which cannot be crossed for the survival of the euro itself”. Therefore France and Germany, he promised, will try to keep market tensions from reaching Madrid. The data do in fact show differences between Portugal and Spain. Spain’s GDP of 1,062,591 million euros, is more than six times higher than the Portuguese GDP of 162,123 million, and almost twice as high as Greece, Ireland and Portugal together, the three countries that have been bailed out so far. It is the fourth-largest of the eurozone after Germany, France and Italy and the fifth of the entire EU, larger than the UK’s GDP.

Spain’s GDP represents 11.76% of the eurozone’s GDP, Portugal’s only 1.87%. “This economy is too large to allow it to fall and too expensive to be rescued, particularly after spending 300,000 million euros to bail out other countries”, the Barcelona Business School claims. However, the Spanish economy has also an increased growth potential to settle its public debt thanks to its size. Spain’s public debt is much lower than Portugal’s and the debt of many other eurozone countries: 61% of GDP by the end of 2010, against Portugal’s 92.4%, Italy’s 116%, France’s 78.1% and Germany’s 73.4%. Another difference is the higher modernisation of Spanish firms, making them more productive than companies in Portugal. The Spanish economy is already recovering, though slowly. The government expects to see a 1% growth of GDP in 2011. Portugal’s economy rose by 1.3% in 2010 but is expected to shrink by 0.9% this year. Today the IMF raised Spain’s 2011 growth forecasts to 0.8% of GDP, half the eurozone average, and to 1.6% in 2012, a tenth higher than the forecasts made in January.

“Our problem is growth, that is our challenge: letting the economy recover its potential”, said former IMF director and current Bankia chairman Rodriguo Rato today in a press statement. He stressed that Spain is currently not at risk of a bailout by the European Union. This risk was there “in the autumn” of 2010, but not now that “the crisis is over”. The former Economy Minister pointed out that Spain had an economic growth potential between 2.5 and 3% annually before the crisis.

Now the European Commission believes it will not be higher than 1.5% until next year, and that “it could in fact be lower”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Never-Ending Greek Debt Restructuring Looks Inevitable

Europe’s sovereign debt crisis is threatening to take on new dimensions as Portugal becomes the third euro-zone member to ask the EU for a bailout. Germany is opposed to giving Greece any more financial aid, meaning that Athens will have little choice but to restructure its debt.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Chester Community Tries to Make Sense of Tragedy

CHESTER — The family of Robel Laboy gathered solemnly Sunday near Minaret Temple No. 174, where a memorial comprised of flowers, stuffed animals and a portrait photo recognized the life of the slain 18-year-old.

Laboy and David Johnson, 17, were killed after sustaining injuries from a shooting Friday night at Minaret Temple, located at Fourth and Ward streets. Eight others were wounded in the shooting, which took place during a teenage party.

Police have a juvenile suspect — a 17-year-old male — in custody on weapons charges, Chester Police Chief Darren Alston said Sunday. The investigation is ongoing.

Alston added that the 19-year-old woman who threw the party at the Temple was arrested. Alston said the woman reportedly fought with city police officers and resisted arrest.

The woman, Carlisha Coleman, of Claymont, Del., was charged with resisting arrest, causing a catastrophe and related offenses, according to online court records.

She was arraigned and taken to Delaware County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $300,000 bail, records state. Her preliminary hearing is set for April 27.

Though the police investigation may bring justice, nothing can bring back Laboy or Johnson.

“My son was my inspiration,” said Israel Laboy, who lost the first of his three children. “If I could trade places with him, I would.”

With family members by his side, Israel Laboy stood at the memorial, remembering Robel as an aspiring writer who had a knack for poetry. Those poems often helped Robel impress girls, Laboy recalled with a smile.

Laboy spoke proudly of Robel’s plans to attend college for journalism in the fall.

He also laughed lightly at memories of Robel as an energetic young boy, who occasionally suffered from clumsiness. One spill, Laboy said, required Robel to receive seven stitches.

“Robel, when you read this, I love you,” Laboy said. “You’re never gone. You’re still here with us. My heart bleeds Robel all day, every day. My son for life.”

William “Rocky” Brown III, deputy senior chaplain for the Chester Police Department, said he has met with the families of both victims. Brown said he knew Johnson personally.

“David was a nice kid,” Brown said. “He was very friendly. He had struggles in his life, but he was turning his life around. He was doing well. He was a very jovial kid and very respectful.”

Brown said the Johnson family was asking for prayers.

“They’re just asking people for their prayers,” Brown said. “They just lost his grandfather. They’re dealing with a double tragedy.”

Both Johnson and Laboy were Chester Upland students enrolled in the district’s Ombudsman Program, an alternative education program, acting Superintendent Dr. Joyce Wells said Sunday.

Wells expressed her “deepest sympathy and condolences” to their respective families. She sent the same sympathy to the families of the wounded victims, too.

“We care deeply for our children,” Wells said. “It’s just sad to us when anything happens to them, whether it’s during their personal time or anytime in the community. Our plan moving forward is to lend support to the families, as we always do, and lend support to other student body members who are friends of these children, as well.”

Support staff will be on hand throughout the district today to help students cope with the losses, Wells said.

Eight other victims were taken to area hospitals for injuries sustained during the shooting. All but three victims were released as of late Sunday afternoon.

The three remaining victims — two males and a female — were listed in stable condition, according to Grant Gegwich, a spokesman for Crozer-Keystone Health System.

Brown, who also serves as a spokesman for the Minaret Temple, said the organization is “remorseful” and continually praying for the victims.

“We do not condone violence or support any negative behavior,” Brown said. “We’re very apologetic that this happened at our place. … We’re doing all we can and we’re going to fully cooperate with law enforcement and their investigation to find out who did this.”

The shooting has shaken Chester. About 200 residents attended a candlelight vigil for the victims Saturday night.

The city suffered its second and third homicides of the year.

Since April began, there have been at least four shootings.

Last year, the city’s struggle with violence was well documented. Chester had 24 homicides, including four in an eight-day span in June. That forced Mayor Wendell N. Butler Jr. to enact a state of emergency.

At the vigil Saturday, Alston said there were no plans to do so again this year, saying the shooting was “an isolated incident.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Deadly Party Shootings Spark Outrage in Chester

At a press conference Friday morning, Chester police announced some good news: They’d solved a homicide from last summer’s crime surge, which threw the city into a monthlong state of emergency.

But before the day was out, there was a new crisis: Nine teens were shot at a birthday party attended by about 100 kids at Minaret Temple No. 174. The shooting prompted the all-too-familiar accusations and recriminations that plague the riverfront city of 37,000 — even as the local economy shows signs of life.

“We need an army out here!” said Vanessa Melendez, cousin of Robel Laboy, 18, who was shot at the party late Friday night and died in the emergency room at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

A second teenage boy was later pronounced dead, and three other victims were still in the hospital yesterday.

“Oh, my God . . . oh, my God . . . “ Laboy’s father, Israel, repeated yesterday as he crumpled beside a memorial of stuffed animals and candles outside the social hall at 4th and Ward streets.

“My son, my firstborn,” he said. “He was about to graduate and go to the prom. All that just got X’d out.”

Some Chester residents say they’d actually prefer a return to last summer’s state of emergency, which included an all-ages nighttime curfew in five high-crime sections of the city. If not that, they say, at least a stricter curfew that would apply to young adults.

“I’m not going to live in fear sitting on my own porch,” said Bernadette Thomas, who had just returned from a party Friday night when a bleeding teenager emerged from the party and sat on her porch.

Mayor Wendell Butler Jr. said yesterday that he would not declare a crime emergency in response to Friday’s shooting. The city had recorded only one prior homicide this year.

“It was just one incident,” Butler said. “It started indoors and because of the panic and all, it went outside.”

Three partygoers were arrested over the weekend, but none had been charged in the shooting. Police are examining the guns to determine who fired the shots.

“It appears at this time, it might have been multiple shooters, based on shell casings and weapons that were recovered,” Police Chief Darren Alston said.

Alston said the kids at Minaret Temple No. 174, some as young as 12 or 13, were not properly supervised, and the security was inadequate. He’s pleading with Chester parents to take an active role in their children’s lives.

“Some of the parents might not have even known their children were there. We have to do a better job, and it starts at home,” Alston said.. “It’s about showing them some love. Right now, they believe they’re invincible and they’re not going to die. I’m tired of seeing these young folks dying in the streets.”

Robel Laboy didn’t have a mother while was growing up because his mother left when he was an infant. He met her for the first time a couple of months ago and he didn’t hold a grudge, his father said.

“He’s not that type of person. He accepted her as flesh and blood,” Israel Laboy said, as relatives consoled him at the memorial on Ward Street.

Moments later, two Chester police cruisers went blazing down Route 291, on their way to the next call.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

FBI: Suspect in Calif. Explosion Arrested in Cleveland Hts.

Cleveland Heights, Ohio:

An FBI spokesperson confirmed to Fox 8 News that a suspect in the explosion outside of a Santa Monica, Calif., synagogue was arrested in Cleveland Heights Monday.

Ron Hirsch, 60, is in the custody of the Cleveland Heights Police Department, Laura Eimiller, media coordinator for the Los Angeles FBI, said.

Specific details, including the time and location of the arrest, were not immediately released.

Hirsch, a transient, is accused of causing an explosion outside of the Chabad House Lubavitch of Santa Monica last week. No one was hurt, but the blast shattered windows and blew a hole in the building. A nearby home was also damaged heavy debris.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Texas May Ban Courts From Considering Foreign Laws

Texas lawmakers are considering whether to ban state courts from considering foreign religious or cultural laws, such as the Islamic law of Shariah.

The goal “is to require a Texas court to uphold and apply only the laws ordained by the constitutions of (Texas and the United States), prohibiting any other interpretation,” said Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, a former Arlington mayor pro tem. “This is now happening all over Europe … and in Dearborn, Mich. … and it could spread throughout the United States.

“We all know what Shariah law does to women — women must wear burqas, women are subject to humiliation and into controlled marriages under Shariah law,” he said. “We want to prevent it from ever happening in Texas.”

A bill by Berman to prevent foreign laws from being recognized in Texas courts, as well as a twin proposal by Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, went before the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence last week. Both bills were left pending.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Constitution Doesn’t Mention Czars

Unaccountable White House aides are a product of a broken cabinet-nomination process. This is not the form of government the Founders intended.

A pattern of governance has emerged in Washington that departs substantially from that envisaged in our Constitution. Under our basic concept of governance: (1) a president and vice president are elected; and (2) the departments of government are staffed by constitutional officers including secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and others who are nominated by the president and confirmed for service by the consent of the Senate. They are publicly accountable and may be called to testify under oath about their activities.

Over time, this form of governance has changed. Presidents sometimes assume that the bureaucracy will try to capture a secretary and his or her immediate staff so that they will develop a departmental, rather than a White House, point of view. So presidents will name someone in the White House to oversee the department and keep a tight rein on its activities.

In national security and foreign policy, the National Security Council (NSC) was established after World War II by the National Security Act of 1947. As late as 1961, under President Dwight Eisenhower, the NSC was supported by a small staff headed by an executive secretary with a “passion for anonymity” and limited to a coordinating role. In subsequent administrations, that passion disappeared and staff members took on operational duties that formerly were the responsibility of constitutionally confirmed cabinet officials. This aggrandizement of the staff function then spread into fields far beyond national security.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Muslim Group ‘Attacks Free Speech’

CAIR in new move to squelch book, ‘Muslim Mafia’, that exposed them

A Washington-based Islamic group named by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism-funding plot has launched another volley in its lawsuit against the co-author of a WND Books blockbuster that exposes its hidden agenda as a U.S. front for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations alleges it suffered damage after former federal agent David Gaubatz and his son, Chris Gaubatz, obtained access to CAIR internal documents under false pretenses and made recordings of officials and employees without consent.


Federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C., is considering a motion by CAIR to file an amended complaint after the first one failed to gain traction. The Gaubatzes’ legal team, meanwhile, has filed a motion to dismiss the case, pending Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling.

Now, before the judge has decided on the second complaint, CAIR attorney Nadhira Al-Khalili has informed the Gaubatzes’ lawyers that CAIR plans to file yet another amended complaint that allegedly will add causes of action based on “newly discovered information.”

“This is their third threatened iteration of the same groundless attack,” Horowitz told WND. “Like the other attacks, this dressed up version will fail. As my friend from Georgia says, ‘You can’t put perfume on a pig.’“

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Arrests in France During Protests Against Burqa Ban

(AGI) Paris — Two women have been arrested following the enforcement of the law forbidding the use of the Islamic veil in public in France. In Paris tension rose when the police arrested at least two women, three according to some sources, with one wearing a burqa, one a niqab and another a jihab. The women were outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the centre of the city. The women were arrested for taking part in a non-authorized protest march .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Belgian Parliamentarian Embraces Wolpo

A delegation of land of Israel faithful set out on a tour of Europe to garner support for Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria and opposition to a Palestinian State.

The delegation included Rabbi Sholom Ber Wolpo, head of SOS Israel, David Ha’ivri, the director of the Shomron Liaison Office, and professor Hillel Weiss, a professor of literature at Bar Ilan University.

The trip began in Germany where they made stops in Berlin and cologne.

Next they moved on to Belguim where they were warmly greeted by Filip Dewinter, a Belgian Parliamentarian and leading members of the Vlaams Belang political party.

The delegation spoke at the Belgium parliament, in front of both MPs and senators.

Professor Weiss spoke of the Jewish right to the land not as a UN resolution but as a G-d given one.

He went on to emphasize that if radical Islam is let to foster in the Middle East, it will quickly take hold in the rest of the wold as well, something many in the audience were able to relate to.

Ha’ivri spoke about the Jewish history in the Land of Israel, captivating the crowd with his oratory skills.

Rabbi Wolpo related a more personal account of how his ancestors were butchered by the Arabs, including his great-grandfather in Chevron in 1909, then many of his relatives in the 1929 Hebron Massacre. But the trail of blood didn’t end there. Rabbi Wolpo also lost his father-in-law to Arab brutality in 1953. All this, explained Wolpo, years before the establishment of any so-called “settlement.”

The group were also formally greeted at Antwerp’s City Hall.

The trip concluded at the house of Rabbi Shabtai Slavititzky, Shliach to Antwerp.

Before parting way, Parliamentarian Filip Dewinter signed on a declaration calling for the furtherance of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria and opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian State.

He also pledged to get fellow right-wing European politicians to follow suit.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Burqa Ban: 2 Arrested for Unauthorized Protest

(AGI) Paris — The first day of the implementation of France’s controversial law banning the use of headscarves in public places ended with only 2 arrests. Two women covered by the niqab were stopped by police in front of the cathedral of Notre-Dame for participating in an unauthorized protest rally, rather than wearing the veil. “We were detained three and a half hours in the police station while prosecutors decided what to do. At the end we were told that we could go.” said 32 year-old Kenza Drider, specifying that she lifted the veil only briefly in front of policewomen .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Denmark: “Extremist” To Preach to Nørrebro Muslim Youths

This coming Sunday the youth department of the Danish Islamic Community will host a conference with controversial preacher Bilal Philips as one of the main speakers.

Philips has previously been banned entry to the UK and Australia, where he is regarded as a potential threat to society.

A famous Muslim scholar who has written several books, Philips is featured in numerous YouTube videos in which he promotes Sharia law and condemns Shia Muslims and homosexuals. In one video he describes AIDS as “God’s punishment of homosexuals” and argues in favour of the death penalty for homosexuals. Another video shows Philips defending suicide bombings, arguing that such attacks should be viewed as “a legitimate form of warfare”.

“When people talk about the freedom of speech and democracy while shamelessly drawing cartoons of Mohammed, it is considered acceptable,” he said. “But when someone who has a slightly different attitude to yours wants to come to your country, I think it’s a bit extreme to deny them access.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Ban on Full Veil Comes Into Force Today

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 11 — The full Islamic veil, such as a burqa or niqab covering the face and identity of women, is prohibited today in France with the coming into force of a law on the matter — the first in of its type, approved on October 12 at the end of a difficult process. It is a law which drives a wedge into the heated debate underway on immigration, the relationship between Islam and Western society and Islam and the secular nature of the State in a country in which 4-6 million people of the “Muslim tradition” live, in the ‘squaring of the circle’ between religious freedoms and the freedom of women. The situation is also affected by the debate — during which the law began to be discussed two years ago — on “national identity” launched by the president at the time, Nicholas Sarkozy, and was the reason behind threats by Osama bin Laden of terrorist attacks in France in October.

The measure, which has been estimated to affect about 2,000 women, calls for fines of up to 150 euros for offenders, which may be accompanied by the obligation to attend a course of French citizenship. However, the fines can rise to a much higher figure for men forcing women to wear the full veil: up to 30,000 euros, which doubles to 60,000 with two years in jail if the woman is under age 18. Of course, the law does not only apply to the full Islamic veil but also prohibits in public places (streets, squares, parks, and shops) the hiding of one’s face with masks, veils, balaclavas or full helmets.

However, in the circular released on March 3 to ministries and prefect’s offices, Premier Francois Fillon insisted that the spirit of the law was to “reaffirm in a serious manner the values of the Republic and of coexistence”. According to Fillon, “hiding one’s face… puts one in a state of exclusion and inferiority incompatible with the principles of freedom, equality and human dignity established by the Republic”. These principles also provided a crutch for the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), the national body of the Islamic religion, which has said that the full veil “corresponds to an extremist, fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran not in line with religious obligations.” The entire issue got underway in June 2009 under the initiative of a Communist representative from a Lyon’s banlieue, Andre’ Gerin, who requested that an ad hoc parliamentary commission be set up due to concerns over the ever more widespread use of the full Islamic veil. A few days later Sarkozy took up the issue and transformed it into a larger one, saying that the niqab and burqa not only were not “welcome within the Republic”, but that they constituted a “sign of servitude” and not the expression of religious freedom. The debate quickly heated up, both from the theoretical and pragmatic points of view, and many fear that the imposition of the dogma of secularity over that of religious freedom in the name of the dignity of an individual may change only the outward appearance of the problem. That many women — out of personal choice or because forced to do so — will continue to wear it but will no longer leave their houses. Aya and Oum Isra, two women who wear full Islamic veils, have said that they have no intention of breaking the law but that they will leave their houses the least possible from now on.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Burqa Ban: Paris Police Arrest Dozens of Veiled Women

(AGI) Paris — Police in Paris have stopped twenty or so veiled women taking part in a demonstration outside Notre Dame Cathedral. The protest is against the new ban on wearing full-face veils in public places, which came into effect just a few hours ago. Altogether 59 people were had up, including 19 women in veils, as police attempted to break up the unauthorised demonstration.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Islam in Europe — A Real Problem

Rzeczpospolita Warsaw

The debate about secularism organised in France by the ruling right-wing UMP party has been decried by the Muslim community as a brutal attack on Islam, while the Left has seen it as a disguised attempt to curry favour with the supporters of the National Front. But no debate at all is a victory for extremism, argues a Polish editorialist

Marek Magierowski.

Abderrahmane Dahmane, President Sarkozy’s former diversity adviser, has announced that Islam in France has become the “object of stigmatisation” and, to voice his protest, has started to distribute green-star badges among his fellow believers, a reminiscence of the badges that European Jews were forced to wear during World War 2.

The green-star campaign is not so much a proof of the stupidity of its originator, as of his utter insolence, especially that it is rather the indigenous French that can feel uneasy in certain districts of their cities, faced with gangs of Algerian and Moroccan youth. And the claims of “stigmatisation” of Islam sound grotesque when we look at how Catholics of the Seine, and of many other West European countries, are ridiculed. It was not in the Great Mosque of Paris, but in Notre Dame Cathedral that a group of gay activists staged a homosexual “wedding ceremony” six years ago, during which words offensive to Pope Benedict XVI could be heard.

Indeed, the debate about secularism focuses on Islam. But this is also a debate over the future of Islam across Europe entire. Sarkozy’s party is mulling over concrete issues that also affect Italy, Holland, and Sweden. How to deal with the Muslims who hold mass prayers in the streets of cities? Should halal meals be introduced in school canteens? How to deal with the problem of students from North Africa who protest against lessons about the Holocaust, treating it as humbug invented by Zionists. Should public swimming pools reserve separate hours for Muslim girls?

For the European Left any discussion over these issues is an expression of racism, for the Muslim radicals — of stigmatisation. But no discussion at all will lead to one thing: in a dozen or so years the majority of countries of the Old Continent will be ruled by the clones of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

‘Italy Using Dirty Trick to Force EU to Help With Refugees’

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants the EU to help with the ‘human tsunami’ of refugees from North Africa.

Italy has angered its EU neighbors by planning to issue visas to thousands of North African refugees in a move that would allow them to travel freely around large parts of Europe. German commentators say the plan amounts to blackmail, but that northern European nations have a duty to help Italy deal with the problem.

Europe’s internal dispute about what to do with the thousands of immigrants from North Africa arriving on southern Italian islands is heating up. German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has sharply criticized the Italian government for planning to issue immigrants with temporary visas that would allow them to travel to other European nations.

“Italy must solve its refugee problem itself,” Friedrich, a member of the staunchly conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, told conservative newspaper Die Welt on Monday.

He said he would make clear at a meeting of European Union interior and justice ministers in Luxembourg on Monday that the plan was in breach of the Schengen agreement under which most EU member states have dropped border controls among each other.

Speaking on Monday in Luxembourg, Friedrich said Germany would respond by beefing up its border controls. France, Austria and Sweden have also criticized the Italian plan. The interior minister of Austria, Maria Fekter, said her country may not recognize Italian papers issued to immigrants from North Africa.

The German states of Bavaria and Hesse have already said they may introduce border checks if Italy grants the refugees visas for the Schengen area.

On Saturday, Berlusconi had called for European help in handling the “human tsunami” of refugees and illegal immigrants. “Europe cannot get out of this,” he said during a visit to Lampedusa, the island located midway between Sicily and Tunisia. “Either Europe is something that’s real and concrete or it isn’t and in that case it’s better to go back to each going our own way and letting everyone follow their own policies and egotism.”

Some 25,000 people have arrived on Lampedusa in overloaded fishing boats since the start of the year. They are fleeing from political unrest in North Africa and because they see little hope of a quick improvement in their economic prospects.

German commentators say Berlusconi’s threat to issue visas to the refugees amounts to blackmail — but they add that the northern European countries must show solidarity with Italy. In the longer term, the only solution to the refugee crisis can be generous economic aid to Arab nations, to persuade people to seek their fortunes at home rather than in Europe.

Meanwhile, Germany, which angered its Western allies by abstaining in last month’s UN Security Council vote on establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, has signalled that it may commit German troops to help protect international aid shipments to Libya. The move, which effectively could bring German forces much closer to the fighting than if they had joined the air and ship crews imposing the no-fly zones, is an attempt by Germany to rejoin the ranks of its Western allies, says one commentator…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Blasts Magistrates at Milan Trial

‘Incredible amount of mud’ says PM of Mediaset and Ruby trials

(ANSA) — Milan, April 11 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday took a fresh swipe at magistrates he sees as persecuting him by saying they were “working against the country” at a Milan tax fraud trial involving his Mediaset media empire.

He described the charges against him in the trial and another involving the alleged use of an underage prostitute called Ruby as “risible, unfounded and crazy”.

Striding into the courtroom to the soundtrack of his party anthem played by a gaggle of supporters, the premier was asked if he thought he might be convicted.

“No way, you must be dreaming,” he replied with a smile.

Reiterating that allegedly leftwing prosecutors were trying to bring him down, Berlusconi said an “incredible amount of mud” had been slung against him.

On the Ruby case, the premier again denied a second charge of abusing his power to get her out of police custody and reaffirmed that he had been trying to avoid a diplomatic incident because she was, as he wrongly believed at the time, a relative of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

“I’m always very courteous and I asked for some information (because I was) worried about a situation which could have given rise to a diplomatic incident,” he told reporters.

Berlusconi recalled that Ruby had said he “never laid a finger on her,” saying “the girl herself, who was supposedly the victim, has always said, has sworn, in written testimony, that I never even made a pass at her”.

Prosecutors claim, on the basis of wiretap evidence, that Berlusconi slept with Ruby, also known under her stage name of ‘Heartstealer’, 13 times when she was 17, a year below the age at which paying a prostitute is not a criminal offence.

As for the thousands of euros he gave the Moroccan belly dancer, he said it was “to meet her needs, to stop her from being forced into prostitution”.

He said he had been touched with pity by her hard-luck story and had decided to set her up in business by bankrolling a beauty salon for her and another young woman.

“The girl told me and everyone else a very sorrowful tale, which moved us…(so) I gave her a chance to open a beauty clinic with a friend of hers”.

The combined prison term for using an underage prostitute and abuse of office is 15 years.

The Ruby and Mediaset trials are two of four cases the premier is entangled in.

In another, which has yet to come to trial, he is accused of irregularities in the sale of film rights by a Mediaset unit, Mediatrade, while in the fourth he is accused of bribing British tax lawyer David Mills.

Berlusconi’s party is pushing through parliament a bill that would cut the statute of limitations for people without a criminal record, a move aimed, according to his detractors, at ensuring the Mills trial will be timed out.

The opposition Democratic Party (PD) described Berlusconi’s latest tirade against the magistrates as “verging on subversion”“.

“This war against magistrates is intolerable and dangerous for the country,” the PD said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Marcegaglia — “Business People Feel Abandoned”

Confindustria chair presents general assembly: “Italy today is a divided country”

MILAN — “Never has the business community felt so alone as it does at this moment. In a country that finds it increasingly difficult to grow, while Europe is increasingly divided over rigour between a few strong countries and many at risk”. This was how Emma Marcegaglia opened her video message on the Confindustria website, presenting the general assembly in Bergamo scheduled for 7 May.

ASSEMBLY — Ms Marcegaglia went on: “The assembly calls on each individual business person, and every association in our confederation, to speak out and say clearly what they see as the central priorities to include on the agendas of Italy and Confindustria. It is a great moment of mobilisation, an initiative that will take place with an organisational structure specially designed to allow all of you to speak your minds with clarity and freedom on all major company-related topics, from industrial relations, productivity, education, welfare, infrastructure, taxes and the south of Italy, to research and innovation”.

“DIVIDED COUNTRY” — “Italy today is a divided country”, Ms Marcegaglia went on, “and it is from the world of business an example for everyone must come. We have to get it across that there can be agreement on a few, shared decisions”. In conclusion, the Confindustria chair said: “I warmly invite you all to take part. This is a great opportunity to decide what kind of Italy we want. Let’s bring together our experience, passion, voices and minds. This is not the time to be shifting blame onto others”.

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat ‘May Not Get 51% of Chrysler This Year’

Goal depends on debt refinancing, Marchionne says

(ANSA) — Turin, April 11 — Fiat may not reach its goal of garnering a majority 51% stake in its US carmaker Chrysler by the end of this year, the CEO of both companies, Sergio Marchionne, said Monday.

“I don’t know if I can do it this year (although) that’s my intention. It depends on whether we manage to refinance the debt with the government,” he said at the presentation of two new Jeep models near the northern Italian city of Vercelli.

But Marchionne confirmed Fiat will up its 25% stake in Chrysler by 5% in a matter of days.

“Only a few details are lacking, it’s a question of days, we could even close the deal tomorrow,” he said.

Marchionne confirmed all of Fiat’s 2011 targets for Chrysler, which it took over in 2009, and denied reports that Alfa Romeo’s launch in the United States would be put back from 2012 to 2013.

Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi said: “the increase in synergy with Chrysler is part of what we have always wanted, that Fiat should reach much more significant economies of scale with its partners”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Learning From Swiss Integration Failings

Switzerland is lagging behind other nations when it comes to integrating immigrants — and it is a long way off from top performers, Sweden.

The two countries held policy debates on the issue on consecutive days this week, commiserating and celebrating in turn their results in a British Council-led ranking of immigration policy by 31 nations.

While Sweden ranked number one (again) of the Migration Integration Policy Index (Mipex), Switzerland dropped three places since the last survey in 2007 to position 23.

France, Italy and Germany all have a better record in integration than the Swiss, whose policies for the integration of immigrants often fail to meet the standards of the European Union and Council of Europe, the survey shows.

Carried out in 2010, the index tracked related legal changes in Switzerland from 2007 to May 2010, such as the planned referendum on deporting foreign criminals (accepted in November 2010).

In that time there has been “no major change” in Switzerland despite new laws coming into force, according to the survey. No policy is even “slightly favourable” to integration. Indeed migrants face restrictions when it comes to long-term residency, naturalisation and family reunification. There is limited access to the labour market or general support for non-EU residents.

And of the 31 countries included, Switzerland had the second-worst track record in anti-discrimination policies, with no dedicated laws for victims or enforcement, unlike nearly all other countries.

The Swiss federalist system does not help the situation either. The report notes that the “complex and burdensome” nationalisation conditions in cantons are “critically unfavourable” for integration, with only Switzerland scoring zero. A “national definition” of integration is missing, it says.

Federalism as stumbling block

Denise Efionayi-Mäder, of the Swiss Forum for Migration Studies at Neuchâtel University (which provided the policy data for the survey), agreed with the overall findings, saying it was a good benchmark.

“Of course there are some problems. With Switzerland being a federal state and having big differences between cantons it’s not always easy. You might think that’s also the case in Germany, Austria or the US but I think in Switzerland the difference is also between regions. Language regions are quite important,” she told

“At the federal level things are moving in the right direction. We are trying to introduce some standards but it’s true, it’s also a conflict between the manoeuvres of the cantons and the federal state. There are also some cantons that do really well.”

Recently the Senate passed a motion calling for the integration of foreigners to be standardised across the country, with general rules in place.

But, some cantons and towns are sceptical about the idea, with local politicians saying they do not want the federal government to regulate how they handle immigrants.

Heads in the sand

Where Switzerland really falls down is in discrimination. Efionayi-Mäder explains that until recently people were afraid to address the issue, refusing to accept that it was happening in the work force.

While it is now more accepted that discrimination exists, there is still a problem with how to have a debate on moving forward and fighting it, she notes.

“This is really a problem in Switzerland,” agreed Christina Hausammann, of the non-government organisation,

“We have no specific law in the field of discrimination of race or ethnicity. There is no effective means for complaining against discrimination by individuals in the field of work or housing. We only have very general laws but in reality they don’t work, because you have to prove your case and you risk paying all the court fees,” she told

An EU directive has already forced member states to develop such laws, she noted, adding that the Mipex at least provided one more piece of evidence that this is a problem.

“ Those countries that are doing well have symbolic integration laws, but these are more to present a better image of the country. “…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Muslim Population in Western Europe Rising

The population of Muslims in Western Europe has been steadily rising in recent decades, largely due to immigration from the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

In Southeastern Europe, much of which once formed part of the Ottoman Empire, Muslims have been present for many centuries, but they are a relatively new phenomenon in the western part of the continent.

On the whole, Muslim’s represent about 5 percent of the population of the EU 27. (50 mio*)

Far-right politicians in Europe have long warned that the Muslim numbers will continue to grow due to higher birth rates. Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s anti-immigrant National Front party, who openly discusses the rising number Muslims in France, could conceivably win next year’s presidential election, according to polls.

While the percentage of Muslims as part of the overall population of western European nations are in single digits, a 2009 study by the Telegraph newspaper in the UK estimated that by 2050, Muslims will account for 20 percent of the European Union’s populace. Long before that, Britain, Spain and The Netherlands will reach and surpass that figure.

In large urban cities, Muslims already account for a significant portion of the population For example, it is believed that one-fourth of the residents of Brussels, Belgium are Islamic. Moreover, at least three of Brussels’ 19 sections already have Muslim majorities.

Here are the nations of Western Europe with the largest Muslim populations (by percentage). Data comes from and are as of 2008, so they are likely to be somewhat conservative estimates:

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Amsterdam, Rotterdam to Work Together to Boost Integration

Amsterdam and Rotterdam are to work together in order to increase the integration of their ethnic minorities, the Volkskrant reports on Monday.

Amsterdam has 178 nationalities and Rotterdam 174 within their city boundaries.

In 2015, more than half the population of Rotterdam will be ‘bicultural’, city council executive Korrie Louwes told the paper. ‘When it is obvious that bicultural citizens fully participate in society, then the image of fear will lessen,’ Louwes said.

The aim of the project is to reduce the risk of divisions in society, the paper says. The government has cut the amount of money available for integration projects and courses.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Ruby: Premier: I Gave Her Money to Avoid Prostitution

(AGI)Milan -Silvio Berlusconi defends himself from allegations of minor prostitution saying that he gave money to Ruby to help her. He reiterated he meant to help her open a beautician’s parlor and keep her away from the prostitution rings. As to the allegations, the Prime Minister said, “I helped her and even gave her the possibility of setting up a beautician’s center with a friend if the hair removal laser amounted to 45,000 Euros. She, instead, declared that it cost 60,000 and I askd someone to give her that amount for any need she might have, and keep her away from prostitution, to take to the opposite direction.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Sweden Democrat MP in Racist Blog Post

A Sweden Democrat member of parliament has escaped censure from the party hierarchy despite linking the crime of group rape to men with foreign backgrounds.

Thoralf Alfsson, from Kalmar in southern Sweden, used his blog to write: “With regards to group rape, it almost exclusively refers to offenders with immigrant or foreign origin.” Alfsson’s blog post refers to the trial of three men suspected of aggravated rape in Västervik in June 2009. In his post Alfsson, who is one of 20 Sweden Democrat members of Sweden’s Riksdag, continues by way of explanation: “In order to commit these crimes the perpetrator’s view of humanity and attitudes to women must almost constitute an illness. This is found very rarely among ethnic Swedes, but is much more common in men from some other cultures where gender equality does not exist.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Islamophobia: The Prophetic Response’

Sun 10 Apr 2011

Muslim Association of Britain

MAB YOUTH presents…


Date: Sunday 24th April 2011

Time: 12pm — 6pm

Amanah Mosque, Birmingham, Henley Street, B11 1AR, UK — England

“ Have you been a victim of Islamophobia ? “

“ Are you aware of how the Prophet (pbuh) dealt with it … “

… Come along to engage in the solutions


Dr Jamal Badawi (Canada)

Jimaal Diwan (USA)

Muslema Purmul (USA)

Ahmed El Deif (Canada)

Abdel Rahman Mussa (UK)

Dr Omar El Hamdoon (UK)

Seyyed Ferjani (UK)

The aim of this particular conference is to raise the awareness of the Islamic approach to dealing with Islamophobia.

The subject matter of the conference will be comprised of a series of talks on the Prophet Muhammad (saws) dealing with Islamophobia in his time, challenges from the political and social hierarchy, challenges from the media, challenges from the violent fringe and unions formed between disparate groups to attack Islam.

Also: food, stalls & kids crèche service (3-10 years only)

For more information contact:

07920 882 685

Facebook — MAB Youth

[JP note: I would imagine the good prophet took the same steps as the good Elwood P. Dowd and summoned an imaginary friend — these beings often provide comfort in times of stress, particularly when you have the feeling that everyone is against you including the heinous ‘disparate groups’.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: So Why Can’t We Do This Here? Just Two Arrests as France Brings in Burka Ban (And the Only Real Demo is in London)

France’s controversial burka ban became law today sparking a protest in Paris during which two women wearing full face veils were arrested.

The demonstrations, however, were on a relatively small scale with the handful of protesters being outnumbered by police, reporters and tourists.

Ironically, the biggest protest was actually in London where a group of women in full black burkas gathered outside the French Embassy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

What’s Belgium? Split by Language and Culture, The Seat of the EU Has Had No Government Since June

Brussels might be the “capital of a united continent” but it is also the capital of a deeply divided nation. Belgium is split along linguistic and cultural fault-lines. Recently it became the holder of a world record of dubious merit — it’s the global-leader in political paralysis.

No other nation has gone so long without a government. The country’s political parties have been trying in vain to form a government since elections on Jun. 13, 2010. The way things look, it is not unlikely that they will manage a full year.

Last year’s elections further polarized differences between the north south divide. Many of the 6 million Dutch speaking Flemings in the north of the country voted for the rightwing separatists Vlaams Belang, meaning ‘Flemish Interest’, and Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, or ‘New Flemish Alliance’. The 4 million French speaking Walloons in the south voted largely for the left-wing pro-Belgium socialists. Since then there has been nothing but weak provisional governments without a mandate, a mutual recriminations. As the BBC’s Jonty Bloom puts it: the Flemings and Walloons seem to have stopped talking to each other, or at least stopped listening to each other.

The crisis developed from an extraordinary impasse to a record one on the 17th of February, when Belgium broke the previous record of 249 days without a government. The record was previously held by Iraq which has been ridden with sectarian-strife. For a country like Belgium, which has long prided itself on tolerance and compromise, this was a moment of huge embarrassment and was sarcastically celebrated by a fed-up population. In the midst of the northern European winter, 249 students stripped off to mark the day. This being Belgium, free chips were handed out in the streets. Meanwhile a quiz show called Belgotron, has been launched, testing contestants knowledge of their homeland and offering the job of prime minister to the winner.

It’s this mocking response and self-effacement that makes Belgium such a charming place to visit; in the words of writer Antony Mason “the Belgians are rather too ready to belittle themselves”. But on the sun-kissed terrace of a Brussels café I met two young Belgians, from each side of the supposed linguistic fault line, who said the political crisis was really no laughing matter.

Josephine, from Dutch-speaking Flanders, said the situation made her angry. She refuses to read the news about Belgium any more since. She said it’s just the same old politicians squabbling about the same old things. He friend Pascale, a French speaking Bruxelloise, said that although much of the country ran itself the paralysis was making life a misery for public workers who can’t get salary increases and face long delays when implementing projects that require a minister’s signature

Did either of them feel Belgian? There are still car sticks proclaiming that the driver is “Belge et fier de l’être” — or “Belgian and proud of it” — and there is a facebook page of the same title, but these seem to be an act of defiance against the pervasive currents of the time.

“There’s no ‘Belgiumness’ anymore,” laughed, Josephine, “There’s just chips and chocolate and beer.”

She blames the media and particularly television. Dutch-language television concentrates only on Flemish matters and Flemish culture. The French-language television does the reverse.

“I don’t know any famous Walloon singers or actors, and Pascale doesn’t know any famous Flemish people. Culturally we have just drifted apart.”

In the wake of the shared culture come stereotypes, the Walloons claim the Flemish, who are currently more successful economically, are mean and arrogant, the Flemish claim their southern neighbors are lazy and sucking up their taxes. It’s like Italy all over again. The worst thing is that populist politicians appear to be propagating these regional cliche’s to win support and this is proving a major obstacle to progress

The slur of being poor and lazy is traumatic for the Walloons, for whom the past few decades have been cruel. The francophone area, home to heavy industry such as coal and industry, used to be the economic powerhouse of the country and the French speakers dominated political life.

Now that era of is over, leaving depressing landscapes of industrial ruin in Wallonia and 25.5% unemployment in towns like Charleroi. Since the 1970’s the Flanders, once a rural backwater, has been enjoying a relative economic boom, having invested early and heavily in hi-tech industries. Now they have gained the ascendancy they are not keen in seeing their taxes go south.

Nicolas Buissart, a 30 year old Walloon, who showed me around the rusting ruins and abandoned coal pits of Charleroi, says the Flemings have short memories:

“It was this area that made Belgium rich and now they treat us like dirt.”

There is an irony in this strife that is much loved by Eurosceptics who choose to see Belgium’s linguistic and cultural divisions as a microcosm of Europe’s problems. Belgium is a country that hosts the European Union institutions which are working to create a continent of 500 million where linguistic and cultural divides as well as historical animosity are put aside in favor of mutual understanding and cooperation. And yet there the Belgians, the majority of whom are europhiles, can’t achieve that in their homeland of just 10 million people. What better example, ask the skeptics, of the futility of the dream of a harmonious Europe.

What is life like in a country without a government? Surprisingly normal, it seems. Around the Grand Place I met Nicolette who says that the impact has been minimal because Belgium is prosperous and well-run bureaucratically. Power is heavily decentralized anyway in Belgium, says Nicolette “You should keep in mind that about 80% of legislation comes from the European Union so there is not much left. And Belgium is divided into three regions which deal with the hardware like houses and railroads.”

Nonetheless the provisional government with no mandate struggles to deal with key decisions on foreign policy, defense, national budget and debt issues and Nicolette misses something else:

“All the debate in the public sphere is about these two communities — the north and the south. That means the normal debate about issues like abortion and euthanasia are not carried out. I think that is a backlash for the public.”

The decentralization might help Belgium rumble on without a government with a mandate but Josephine thinks the complexity of the system is one of the key roots of the country’s current woes. Each area has its own regional parliaments and parliaments for each language group as well. It is no wonder critics call the system “Balkanised.” There are seven separate parliaments in all — although, when quizzed, even experienced politicians seem unsure of the exact number. They have so much autonomy that they can function quite well while having almost nothing to do with each other. It is easier to ignore those who disagree with you than it is to find common ground, but many Belgians feel this means they all ultimately lose out in the end. Josephine would like to take a big pair of scissors to the whole system and leave the country with just one parliament.

But Pascale disagrees, saying that the regional autonomy, which allows cultural differences flourish within a greater united system, has been instrumental in keeping together a country that was “invented” in 1830.

What is the solution? Nicolette thinks that since the two leading parties — the Dutch-speaking New Flemish Alliance and the French speaking Socialist Party — can’t find common ground, the parties that did less well should be given a chance to form a government.

“It’s not really democratic,” she says, “but with so much of our legislation ceded to the European Union, it doesn’t really matter.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Ruling Coalition Approval Drops as Opposition Calls for Early Elections

(AKI) — Serbia’s pro-European president Boris Tadic’s ruling Democratic Party and its coalition partners are trailing nine percentage points behind the main opposition group, the latest survey on political approval published on Monday showed.

The survey, conducted by the Faktor Plus marketing research agency, gave the democrats 28.2 percent, while the opposition Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) stood at 37.3 per cent rating, one year before regular elections.

Tadic’s democrats have been suffering a constant downslide losing almost three percentage points in the last two months, as opposition intensifies demands for early elections.

Serbia is grappling with 20 percent unemployment, rampant corruption and organized crime, almost 30 billion euros of foreign debt and the lowest monthly wage in the region of slightly more than 300 euros.

SNS is planning a huge rally in Belgrade next Saturday, demanding early elections. But Tadic has said there would be no election until Serbia gets a status of official candidate for European Union membership, expected in October, which is believed to be his main election joker.

According to the survey, the reformed the Socialist Party of Serbia of former president Slobodan Milosevic, Tadic’s current coalition partner, would cross the 5 percent census with 6.6 per cent if the elections were held now.

Milosevic had been indicted by the Unite Nations war crimes tribunal of genocide and war crimes and died in the Hague jail cell in 2006, before sentencing.

In addition, another one of Tadic’s pro-European potential partners, the Liberal Democratic Party would, would get 6.4 percent.

Former prime minister Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia stood at 5.1 percent and ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party at 5 percent of potential votes.

According to the survey, Tadic was still the most popular politician, but only with 23.8 percent support, while his government got approval of only 10.7 percent.

Reflecting on general apathy and disappointment with politicians, the survey showed that of all institutions only the Serbian Orthodox Church enjoyed a substantial trust of 44.8 percent of those surveyed.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Govt Denies Ties With Algerian Mercenaries in Libya

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, APRIL 11 — Algeria is not in any way linked to the Algerian mercenaries hired by the Gaddafi regime. This statement was made by an Algerian Foreign Ministry spokesman, in answer to recent accusations made by the Libyan rebels. The rebels say that Algeria is involved in the activities of mercenaries in Libya. Algerian newspaper Al Khaber writes that yesterday, Libyan rebels said they had killed three mercenaries and captured another 15 Algerians in Ajdabiya. The fact that the captured mercenaries have an Algerian passport does not confirm the involvement of the Algerian government in their activities, the Algerian Foreign Ministry claims in a statement. Abdulhafeeth Ghoqa, spokesman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), said recently that he has proof Algerian pilots are involved in the transport of mercenaries hired by Gaddafi.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Belarus Denies UN Claims of Mercenaries in Libya

Belarus’ Foreign Ministry has denied claims made by the United Nations that mercenaries from the country are operating in Libya, calling the allegations “untrustworthy,” according to reports.

“In this respect, it is necessary to recall the unfounded accusations [against Belarus] of supplying military helicopters to Ivory Coast that ended with U.N. officials offering official apologies to Belarus,” Andrey Savinykh, a spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry told online news outlet BelaPAN. “We will demand an official investigation of the U.N. in connection with this new situation on Libya.”

Hundreds of foreign fighters, including some from Belarus, were “likely operating for both Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and the rebels in Libya, and many may be involved in serious human rights violations,” The Associated Press quoted Jose Luis Gomez Del Prado, the head of a U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries, as saying Friday.

Del Prado’s comments come after the U.N. claimed in late February that Belarus had delivered three attack helicopters to the Ivory Coast in violation of a U.N. arms embargo. The U.N. later retracted the claim and apologized to Minsk for the embarrassing incident.

Earlier this month, the Belarusian Foreign and Defense ministries denied another media report of Belarus’ military presence in strife-torn Libya.

“There are no Belarusian military experts in Libya and there cannot be any,” Savinykh said in a statement on April 6.

The Defense Ministry’s press office was also quick to deny the report, dismissing it as provocative and untrue. “Only one military serviceman is present in Libya and that is the Belarusian embassy’s military attaché,” the press office said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Ben Jelloun: Rebirth of Maghreb and Defeat of Islamism

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 11 — Tahar Ben Jelloun, the author of Moroccan origin, has spoken of the rebirth of the Maghreb and of “The Jasmine Revolution” (Bompiani), to which he has dedicated a book, during a packed and widely hailed meeting in Rome marking the end of the “Libri Come” festival of books and reading. Ben Jelloun spoke of the defeat of Islamism, which was “an alibi for Arab dictators and a phantom for the West,” uprisings not for bread but for values such as freedom and dignity, lessons learned by the West and immigration, which can only be resolved by helping Tunisians and Egyptians to “recover the funds taken away by their heads of state”.

“Europe can not take them all in. The way to fight uncontrolled arrivals is to invest in the countries of origin. Tunisians and Egyptians need to be helped to recover the funds taken away by their heads of state, then young people will no longer want to risk their lives in small boats,” said the author of “Racism Explained to My Daughter”, who also won the Prix Goncourt in 1987 for his book “The Sacred Night”.

Ben Jelloun also issued a warning to Europe and explained the lessons that it has now learned from the uprisings in North Africa. “The trouble has been made possible by the complicity stance of Europe. The wind of freedom that blows from West to East, from Tunisia to Bahrain, will affect Europe in some way. We have already seen this with the riots in the suburbs of Paris in 2005, which could occur again”. The writer also explained that, for the first time in the history of the Arab world, people took to the streets “spontaneously, demanding not bread but values. They were not protesting against the West or Israel but against their own dictators. This is a new phenomenon,” and one that Ben Jelloun believes should be termed an uprising and not a revolution.

A major victory, the author believes, is the “defeat of Islamism throughout the Arab world. Now the Muslim Brotherhood, which was created in 1928, is a party like any other. Democracy will be the best antidote against Islamism and this shows that analysts got it wrong”. The real novelty is that “the new weapon is Facebook, Twitter, the Internet. Young people have computers and mobile phones and with these they want to put and end to this situation”. Crucially, we will never again see “in the Arab world a dictatorship that crushes the individual”. In this context, the writer feels that he is “an active and not passive witness of his time”. The uprisings have also made it clear that there are huge differences between the various Arab countries and, in Libya’s case, it is clear that “how much Gaddafi has tricked the West,” Ben Jelloun claims. “Gaddafi will be a telling sign of poor Western policy in the Arab world”.

With regard to future balances, Ben Jelloun explains that “Israel is in a state of uncertainty, because we can no longer say that the Arab world is fanatical and does not want democracy. Yet it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen. Democracy certainly begins at home with a new family code and there will be real conflict with pure Islamists. Our fundamental problem has always been that we have always perceived ourselves not as individuals but as clans. And in the Arab world, it is women who have always allowed society to evolve. Corruption is the greatest scourge”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mubarak and Sons Summoned, Ex-Leader Defends Himself

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 11 — Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak has broken his silence after a two -month absence from the political scene in order to defend himself and strike back: in the 5-minute, 59-second audio message broadcast on the satellite TV channel Al Jazeera, he denied that he or his family had accumulated a fortune abroad and has accused those saying the contrary of a slander campaign aiming to sully his reputation. However, the wheels of justice continue turning and the prosecutor general announced — almost at the same time as the message — that he wanted to question Mubarak and his two sons Gamal and Alaa over the violence against demonstrators in Tahrir Square at the beginning of the uprising as well as over misappropriation of funds and abuse of position. In addition to Mubarak, the judiciary has issued arrest warrants as a precautionary measure for most of the political class of the previous regime. The latest was against former premier Ahmad Nazif, whose government was one of the first victims of the January uprising. In the message broadcast on satellite TV, which did not specify where it had been recorded, for the first time since he left power Mubarak explained the reasons behind his decision to resign after thirty years in power, and reiterated that he had “served” the country with “honesty”. “I left my role as president,” Mubarak said in his defense, “in the interests of the fatherland and the people. I suffered greatly due to unfair campaigns and mendacious insinuations which sought to strike at my reputation and my integrity, position and military and political background.” The former leader stressed these words and said that he had every legal right to take action against those attacking his reputation and that of his family, and defended his sons, saying that they had not taken advantage of power to enrich themselves, saying that he was willing to cooperate with judicial organs to show that he had neither funds nor real estate abroad, as the prosecutor’s office instead maintains, which has requested numerous countries to freeze assets belonging to the Mubarak family. The message gave rise to reactions within the streets and Tahrir Square as well as on the web. Many disdainful comments were heard, such as by Wael Ghonim, who asked why the former president said he had suffered over the campaign against him and not over deaths in jail or due to the poverty of his country.

Messages in support of Mubarak were also posted, while hundreds of protestors are still in Tahrir Square. Hundreds of thousands had gathered on Friday in the square to call for Mubarak and his family to be put on trial. Protestors are not giving in, and have said that “next Friday we will be going to Sharm” El Sheik, where the former president is under house arrest in his residence.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Pacifist Blogger Gets Jail for Criticizing Army

(AGI) Cairo — A pacifist blogger was sentenced to three years in prison for criticizing the Egyptian armed forces on his website, Al-Ahram newspaper reports. Conscientious objector Maikel Nabil Sanad, 20, was arrested March 28 for having insulted the military and, “disturbed public order.” He wrote on his blog that the army and the people, “have never been in tune with one another” and accused the army of colluding with the deposed president, Hosni Mubarak.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Ground Forces in Libya ‘Impossible’ Says Frattini

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 11 — Putting forces on the ground in Libya is impossible but anti-Gaddafi rebels can be given arms according to the United Nations resolution that authorised the international mission in the North African country, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday.

Speaking on French radio and stressing he was expressing a personal opinion, Frattini said “ground intervention is impossible, for me…but the UN resolution allows arms to be provided”.

Asked about the United States taking a step back from the front rank of the military operation, Frattini said it would now be “the right opportunity for Europe, the US and Arab countries to work together for the stabilisation of a key country in the region”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi for AU Road Map, Mediators to Talk to Rebels

(ANSAmed) — BENGHAZI (LIBYA), APRIL 11 — Almost two months after the beginning of the uprising in Libya on February 17, mediation by the African Union has seen an initial, much-expected success. While the days continue to be marked by a war which has fallen into a routine of one side gaining territory only to then lose it again to the other side, South African president Jacob Zuma yesterday evening announced in Tripoli that Muammar Gaddafi had agreed to the African Road Map brought before him yesterday by an AU delegation. “We have completed our mission with our ‘brother leader’, who has agreed to the route to peace that we proposed, and the time has come to give a ceasefire a chance,” he said after a talk lasting several hours in the Colonel’s bunker and residence of Bab Al-Aziziyah in Tripoli. The first step by the AU delegation had been widely expected to meet with success, and Gaddafi himself had said that he would agree to any decision made by the AU to exit the crisis.

Much less certain is instead the response by the rebels. The delegation is now on its way to Benghazi to speak to them, but few believe that the rebels will be willing to agree to the plan lying down: before any diplomatic solution they are demanding that Gaddafi leave power. Zuma will not be going to Benghazi due to previous commitments, but other members of the delegation will be continuing the mission: Amadou Toumani Toure’ (Mali), Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (Mauritania), and Denis Sassou Nguesso (Congo), accompanied by Uganda’s Foreign Minister Henry Oryem Okello. The AU plan hinges on an immediate ceasefire, a go-ahead to aid and the opening of dialogue between Tripoli and Benghazi.

Meanwhile the two factions continued to face off all yesterday in the two key cities of Misrata — between Tripoli and Sirte to the west — and Ajdabiya, the last frontline on the road to the capital of the uprising, Benghazi. Fighting over the weekend in the two cities resulted in at least 23 deaths, including both rebels and civilians.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Russian Journalists Held on Suspicion of Being Mercenaries

Tripoli, 11 April (AKI) — Libyan rebels who last week detained five Russian journalists after for 11 hours, held them on suspicion of being eastern European mercenaries, according to news reports.

The rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi’s forces freed the journalists on Friday after offering them a snack of cookies, The Moscow Times reported on Monday.

During their 11 hours in custody, the Russians were questioned by unidentified rebels who suspected them of being Belarussian mercenaries looking to join Gaddafi’s forces, the report said, citing official Russian newspaper Pravda.

The journalists were travelling to southern Libya to look into reports that Gaddafi’s military was bombing oil facilities in that part of the country.

The journalists were treated well, Russian state news agency Interfax said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Renewed Attack on Misrata by Gaddafi Loyalists

(AGI) Algiers — Troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have launched a new attack on Misrata, East of Tripoli. A rebel spokesman cited on Al Jazeera reported a violent explosion, followed by rockets and missiles being launched near a steel company that was shut down due to the war. The same spokesperson also reported that clashes between loyalists and rebels are still underway along Tripoli Street, the city’s main thoroughfare.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya’s War Costs the US 608 Million Dollars

(AGI) Washington — 608 million dollars is the cost of the air war in Libya for the US, according to the Pentagon. The updated estimate covers the period from the start of international air strikes on 19th March to 4th April.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: State Bombing on Air in the Country

(AGI) Tripoli — For the Libyan state television, air strikes would have struck “civil and military sites” of the municipalities of Giofra in the center of the country, belonging to the region of Fezzan, during the day. The issuer has attributed the raid to “crusaders, aggressors and colonialists”. The area extends about 460 kilometers southeast of Tripoli .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Condolences for Fogels From Around the World

by Maayana Miskin

Jews around the world are marking 30 days since the murder of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar on Sunday. A new Torah study hall was dedicated in Itamar in memory of Rabbi Udi Fogel, and thousands of people are expected to take part in ceremonies in the United States as well.

In addition to Jewish support, the mourning Fogel family has received condolences from Members of Parliament in Europe, and even from an Arab activist in Jordan.

Flemish Members of Parliament Filip Dewinter, Frank Creyelman and Tanguy Veys of Vlaams Belang, a right-wing Belgian political party, sent their “sincere condolences” to relatives of the Fogel family on Sunday. “This crime affects us deeply,” they said.

“It is clear that the Islamic hatred and terrorism spares nobody and knows no mercy,” they continued. “However, one must never bend for this terror, whether it appears here in Europe or in distant Israel. Knowing that throughout the world people struggle every day against the threats of Islam, one must draw the strength to persevere and to never give up.” Another European politician, Heinz-Christian Strache, Chairman of Austria’s Freedom Party, had previously sent condolences as well. Strache avoided political sentiment, saying, “It is very difficult for me to find the right words of condolence in the face of this crime… I am with you and the settler families in this difficult time.”

Perhaps the most unexpected show of support came from a Jordanian man identifying himself as “a Palestinian, writer, and political activist.” The man, Mudar Zahran, wrote to Udi Fogel’s father, Chaim Fogel, saying, “I am writing to you today to express my sincere apologies and condolences for the terrible crime that claimed the lives of your loved ones.

“No word of apologies or condolences could ever match the magnitude of the heinous crime committed; nonetheless I wish to tell you that there are Palestinians who would never deny you your right to live in peace on your own land. I also would love to assure you that my group and I, all Palestinian intellectuals, do strongly and passionately support your right to live and rule over your own soil undisturbed and un-terrorized.”

Zahran later said, “While no words can make up for your pain and suffering, one thing you should take in pride, is the fact that your loved ones have been killed because they loved their land and embodied their faith… We support you unconditionally.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

‘Iron Dome’ Military Milestone for Israel

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 11 — The “Iron Dome” anti-missile shield works, and the United States have decided to finance four more defence batteries. Last weekend the Israeli defence system Iron Dome intercepted and destroyed nine rockets launched on Israeli territory by Hamas militias. The Israeli newspapers welcomed this result as a “milestone in defence history” (Haaretz); it will certainly have important consequences on the field. Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out that the threat of rockets aimed at Israeli settlements in the south of the country has not been completely been removed, but substantially reduced. This is good news for the around 500,000 Israelis living in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderot and other places near the border, who had to take shelter several times in the past weeks from rockets fired from Gaza.

There are rumours of negotiations between Hamas and Israel on a ceasefire, which is reportedly already in place since yesterday but the news has not been officially confirmed. But at the same time Israeli intelligence services say that new weapons have arrived in the Gaza Strip from Iran, including a laser-guided rocket launcher. Is the Palestinian Islamic party, which ceased fire yesterday, preparing to resume its attacks? This is very likely. In any case, the defence of the centres in the south remains a priority for Israel. And thanks to the financial support of the White House four more Iron Dome batteries should be in place by 2012. Early next week the United States will pay the Israeli government an extra USD 205 million, apart from the more than USD 3 billion of traditional military assistance. This figure was promised some time ago by President Barack Obama but its payment had been postponed util today due to problems in the US Congress. Most resistance came unexpectedly from the Republicans, normally seen as Israel’s best friends in the USA. They are concerned however about what they called “uncontrolled spending of federal money”. These objections have been removed now, and Washington has already announced further financing to develop the anti-missile system. The system is a joint project of the Israeli State-controlled company Rafael — whose profits soared in the past year — and the Raytheon Company, an American firm and leader in the defence sector and the world’s largest producer of guided missiles. But there are more governments that are interested in the Iron Dome. The Israeli specialised press has already mentioned the possibility of Israel exporting the system, in agreement with its American partners.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Professor Hillel Weiss: Speech to the Flemish Parliament

The author was asked to address the Flemish Parliament on a visit to Europe of Judea and Samaria leaders. Here, in his clear and uncompromising fashion, he talks of Jews and Islam, Israel and the Arab Nations.

Distinguished Colleagues,

The various freedom-loving parties of Europe have rallied to rescue the West from the Islamic take-over of the continent by sword, a continent which in the past was threatened by barbarian invasions which were stopped in Spain and in Vienna. Today without the arrival of military force, conquest and occupation are taking place by means of the millions of immigrants whose actions make clear their ambition to impose the rule of Islam as a religion and as a political culture — on all of the countries of Europe by force, and not just by gradually changing the religion and culture.

We Jews were here in Europe once. We were exterminated by the millions in the nineteen forties. Despite that, by the mercy of the Almighty God who guards us, a national homeland for the Jewish people has been built in the Land of Israel, as prophesied in our Holy Scriptures where it says that God will restore us to the land of our forefathers, will gather in all of our exiles, and will re-build the Temple in His holy city of Jerusalem, which will be called a house of prayer for all the nations of the earth.

This last stage has not yet taken place, but with God’s mercy, it will also happen, and as every Jew hopes, it will happen very soon, because we know that not a single word of what God has said through His prophets has gone unfulfilled.

The continuing support of the governments of Europe for the establishment of an Arab state in the Land of Israel makes it impossible for Europe to have any success in its struggle against Islam with all of the attending consequences. European intervention against the barbarity of Qaddafi has perhaps succeeded in saving the lives of tens of thousands of human beings, but it has also fanned the flame of the conflict between Islam and the West, as Russia’s president Putin remarked. As to the resolution of this struggle — no one can foresee its end.

The almost-certain dread I have is that Europe’s way of providing compensation for offending Islam by intervening in Libya will be the usual victim, the lamb slaughtered as a sacrifice, the victim of all blood libels, namely, the Jewish people. This is what is known as the perpetual policy of appeasement.

Islam draws its strength from its dream of establishing a universal caliphate whose capital is Jerusalem. In doing this and in occupying Jerusalem, they strive to prove that the covenant between God and His people Israel — the Jewish people — has been cancelled. The Moslems are not the first people in history to express the idea that the God of Israel has abandoned His people. But in our Torah which is the basis of our faith it is written that “God will not cast off His people nor will He forsake His heritage.”

The unconcealed support and tremendous financial investment that the European Union is making in promoting an Arab state in the Land of Israel is an invitation to bring about a second Holocaust that will cause the people of Israel no less suffering than what they underwent during those terrible years in Europe.

We are confident that the God of Israel will save us, as He has saved us throughout history. Even if the price that we pay is great and terrible, “Our God is the God of faith and there is no injustice in Him, all of His paths are justice.”

But if you are genuine opposition parties who wish to help yourselves, your future, and your countries, and eradicate the Islam that is threatening you, you must declare now and forever your unqualified support for the exclusive rights of the Jewish people over the land of Israel in its Biblical borders.

This is the only country in the world whose borders were set forth forever in the Book that God gave His people at Mount Sinai, and in the language that God spoke with the forefathers of the nation .And you must loudly and vehemently oppose the idea of establishing an Arab state, or any other foreign state, in the Land of Israel other than the Jewish state.

The artificial Arab states which sprang up after World War I are revealing by the ferment overwhelming them now that they have no natural political collective fabric, but what unites them is their religion and their tribal loyalty. For all of them, democracy, human rights, pluralism, and liberalism are alien values and directly opposed to their culture.

Anyone who deludes himself into thinking that he is moving Islam and the Islamic countries towards democracy is making a grave error and fostering an illusion that will cause much blood to be spilled until the truth is acknowledged.

In Libya and Tunisia and in every Arab country where the previous dictatorial regime disappeared earlier than expected, chaos and turmoil will continue until a new dictatorship is established under the guise of a democracy of one kind or another. Egypt under Mubarak was also called a democracy.

The leaders of Europe and others spend much time claiming that Israel is infringing on the national rights of the Arabs mistakenly known as Palestinians. These claims are based on malice and ignorance.

On the subject of the rights of the Jewish people according to international law, we refer you to a letter written by our colleague, Attorney-at-Law, Mr. Howard Grief, which is attached here. The author states in detail in his letter to the former leaders of Europe what the clear-cut and unequivocal proofs of the proprietary rights of the Jewish people to the land of Israel are according to international law, and why these rights are irrevocable.

He further censures the deceit and malice, the ignorance and wickedness of the former leaders of Europe, who are constantly fermenting and inciting their governments against the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

The detailed letter written by Mr. Grief, an eminent jurist, is structured on the foundations of his highly acclaimed 700-page book which demands that the leaders of Europe retract their declaration so that they are not called before a court of justice. Such a trial will be held despite the opposition of the European leaders who are deceiving their people and their countries.

We do not know if you will help us in filing this lawsuit or even in disseminating the idea, nor do we know at present what unbiased court of international repute will entertain such a lawsuit. But we would be happy to clarify this subject in further conversation. There is a possibility that we would establish a court of impeccable repute to try criminals who intervene in the internal affairs of the State of Israel in order to exterminate it, under some self-righteous pretext that they are preserving the existing rights of the State of Israel.

In any case it is well known to anyone who has read the books of the prophets Joel, Ezekiel, Isaiah and the other prophets what will take place in the end of days, about justice being meted out to the nations of the world and what role is assigned to the holy city of Jerusalem in the end of days.

Let me cite one verse from the Prophets which is said by every Jew who prays daily:

“And liberators shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the Mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s. And God shall be king over all the world. On that day, God will be One and His name will be One.”

And in the Book of Joel it is written: “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there for My people and for My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and divided My land.”

We of the organization called ‘Eretz Israel Loyalists’ are holding the Land of Israel in trust for the Jewish people, since we live as Jewish citizens and residents within the borders of the Land of Israel, and we accept upon ourselves the authority of God and the Torah which He commanded us.

Most regrettably, the governments of the state of Israel have been willing to submit to extortion even following the horrors of the Holocaust and are prepared to negotiate over relinquishing territory that lies within the Land of Israel, and even perhaps to allow the establishment of a demilitarized “Palestinian” state.

No one, and that includes the governments of the State of Israel, can ignore the rights of the Jews in the Land of Israel and traffic in their basic rights over the land, rights which are eternally irrevocable. Therefore any activity that they carry out of this nature is legally null and void. The more they are involved in expelling Jews from their homes or abandoning them, the more they undermine the purpose for which the state of Israel was established: to inherit and settle the land of Israel as in the days of Joshua Bin Nun , the Judges and the Kings. In return for such maneuvers, Israel will receive only more terror and death.

Therefore, to bring about peace and joy and prosperity in Europe, and the redemption of the world, the children of Japhet must support the people of Israel and its state as being the Jewish state for Jews, which rules over all the expanses of the Biblically-mandated Land of Israel from the river of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.

And as in the days of King Solomon the son of David, Israel will be a state that symbolizes peace to all humanity, to all the nations and the dignity of man. In the words of the prophet “And the honor of God will appear upon us, forever and ever.

[Return to headlines]

The Third Intifada is Alive and Well on Facebook

One page has been removed, but many others have taken its place.

As reported on March 29 at the PJ Tatler by Pajamas Media editor Bryan Preston, Facebook has finally removed the “Third Palestinian Intifada” page — after weeks of users flagging it amid reports that its contents violated Facebook’s terms of service by calling for violent action against Israel and openly promoting racism. The many reports and complaints fell on unsympathetic ears; it was not until pressure had mounted over a period of weeks, including a formal complaint by the Anti-Defamation League and criticism from the Israeli government, that Facebook finally took action. The page had accumulated more than 300,000 devotees, who had been advocating violence against Israel from the beginning. But according to Facebook’s revised position,

We don’t typically take down content that speaks out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas. However, we monitor pages that are reported to us and when they degrade to direct calls for violence or expressions of hate — as occurred in this case — we have and will continue to take them down.

The removal of the page has been hailed as a victory by pro-Israel groups and activists. But, for a number of reasons, it is a hollow victory.

First, the primary goal of the group was to promote an uprising against Israel, scheduled to begin on May 15, 2011. It accomplished this task, and may have even been aided by the media attention that was generated by outrage over the page and the attempt to pressure Facebook to remove it.

Next, the page was designed to create a network of anti-Israeli activists among Facebook’s half-billion users — to organize them by directing them to certain websites and by collecting their names, along with email addresses and perhaps other information, enabling this network to survive even after the page was removed. Again, it had achieved this goal by the time Facebook got around to removing it.

But perhaps the most significant reason pro-Israeli activists should not consider the page’s removal a victory is the fact that it has accomplished one other goal: inspiring copycats.

Like the Hydra, new heads have already sprung into existence to replace the one that has been lopped off by Facebook. In fact, there are now several pages devoted to a new Intifada, in a variety of languages, and one of them boasts 3,292,265 fans at the time of this writing — roughly 10 times the number of the original.

The group at is in Arabic, and is listed as a non-profit organization. It sports the same graphical emblem of the original “Third Palestinian Intifada” page, and has many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of posted photos. It provides a link to direct users to a rudimentary Joomla website, which appears to have been created in 2006, and purports to show a “Real Picture of Mohammed” through a series of commentaries. On the Facebook landing page the visitor is greeted by name, and presented with links to other Facebook groups that also support a new Intifada against Israel:

There are 7,102 people that like, which states that “after the success of revolutions of Egypt and Tunisia” the Arab nations surrounding Israel should help the Palestinian “refugees” impose their “right of return” on May 15, 2011.

This page in turn links to Some 5,776 people like this page, which declares its purpose (in Arabic) as “returning to our land and our right to our home.” Its beneficiaries “will not go back to where we were all costs of blood or money.” Among the page’s fans is “Felesteeny Moslim,” who had this to say [sic]:

I am Begging everyone who is a truely muslim and likes his Holy Land Palestine to work on fighting against the JEWS and ZIONISTS thruogh Internet.. whatever skills you have make JIHAD on Internet and Facebook against the enemies of Humankind and Enemies of Muslim People…They stared the war by stealing Our Land Palestine and now depriving us from the least rights to express our thoughts and Ideas..Be a truely Muslim and Be the Internet Fighter for Islam and the Holy Land Palestine…

It also links to this page,, which boasts 8,069 fans. It proclaims that “our dream” to “return to historic Palestine has been achieved. It is time our appointment on Sunday 05.15.2011 anniversary [sic] Sixty-three years of displacement of the Palestinian people.”

Posted on these pages are links to still more groups devoted to a new Intifada, such as this one with 101,456 likes, or this one with 387 fans, this one with 145 fans, this one with 55 fans (and a lovely anti-Semitic cartoon), this page with 193 fans, this page with 203 “likes,” and this one with 1,581 and counting.

The significance of May 15 as the date for this uprising could not be any clearer. It is the day following the anniversary of Israel’s independence, a day known to the Palestinians (and throughout the Arab world) as “Yawm an-Nakbah,” which translates as “Day of the Catastrophe.” On May 15, 2011, the Palestinians seek to visit a catastrophe of their own making upon the Jewish state, and they are organizing it, among other means, through social media sites like Facebook.

As we’ve witnessed during the post-election “Green revolution” in Iran, the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and the current uprisings in Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and other Arab states, eliminating access to social media will not quell the unrest. Once networks are forged, they are very difficult to disrupt. The gratification felt by Israel’s supporters over Facebook’s eleventh-hour removal of a single page devoted to a third Intifada is sorely misplaced, and the danger it represents has not been nullified, or even effectively dispersed. The damage has already been done, and the anti-Israeli network forged on Facebook will continue to grow in the coming weeks, months, and years.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Yesha Strengthens Ties With European Nationalists

A delegation sponsored by officials in Samaria is strengthening ties with European nationalists who share a common link — the battle against Muslim radicals. A parliamentary delegation from Europe visited Samaria and the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem last Chanukah. The officials support Jewish sovereignty in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem as a condition for the success of the struggle against the increasing dominance of Islam extremists.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain: Lebanese Shiites Deported, Reaction to Nasrallah

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 11 — The authorities in Bahrain have deported six Shiite Lebanese nationals without specifying why, reports the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, which noted that ten other Lebanese nationals had been deported on Thursday by the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Questioned by the daily on the reasons behind the expulsions, Lebanese ambassador to Bahrain Aziz Qazi said that he did not know. The daily said that these latest developments are a reaction to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s taking of a stance, after the latter expressed his support for the Shiite opposition in Bahrain. The authorities in Manama consider this support as interference in the kingdom’s internal affairs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraq: “Our Sky: Our Land, “ A Film About Kurdish Awareness After Saddam Hussein Massacres

Testimonials on Anfal, a genocide ordered by the Iraqi dictator, and hopes for the future of the Kurdish people. Below the trailer for the film.

Rome (AsiaNews) — Entitled “Our Sky, Our Land”, this film on the memory of the Kurdish massacre carried out by Sadddam Hussein has the rhythm of a war documentary and yet the simple and profound elegance of a personal story.

The authors are four young filmmakers: Pietro Gualandi, Francesco and Edoardo Picciolo, Antonio Spano. With a dry and precise style, and great craftsmanship, they describe the phases of the Kurdish genocide: the deportations (of the 1970s), the mass graves in the aerial attacks with poison gas (Anfal, 1988), the slaughter of young children and women, gunned down by the Iraqi dictator’s army (1991). It is estimated that over 400 thousand Kurds were massacred or deported.

The film relies on documentation of the time, but especially the testimony of survivors, marked by suffering, but also by their desire to live and to continue the tradition of their people, dispersed by the international powers in four countries: Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran.

The memories and the most chilling sequences are punctuated by airy pictures of the Kurdish mountains, the sounds and the celebration of Nowruz, New Year, a new sign of life after the experience of death.

The film is an important tool for understanding the Iraq of today and an essential aid for each school.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Largest Companies Targeted by Anti-Corruption Law

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 11 — Last week Jordanian judicial authorities began anti-corruption investigations into five of the largest companies in the Hashemite Kingdom, according to Jordan’s prime minister Ma’arouf Al Bakheet , quoted by the daily paper Al Quds Al Arabi.

Well-informed sources have said that the investigations focus on dozens of very well-known individuals including former ministers and businessmen. On the basis of investigations carried out by a ministerial commission and a specialised agency, judicial authorities have issued the seizure of the assets held by those under investigation as a precautionary measure, according to the paper.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Niall Ferguson: the Mash of Civilizations

NEW YORK —Social networks might promote democracy, but they also empower the enemies of freedom. In this week’s Newsweek, Niall Ferguson looks at how the power of online networking is used by all sides in battles of democracy.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that information technology—in particular social networking through the Internet—is changing the global balance of power. The “Facebook Generation” has already been credited with the overthrow of the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. For a brief period, the darling of Tahrir Square was the young Google executive Wael Ghonim.

Yet there is another side to the story. It is not only proponents of democracy who know how to exploit the power of online networking. It is also the enemies of freedom.

Ask yourself: just how did the murderous mob in Mazar-e Sharif find out about the burning of a Quran in Florida? Look no further than the Internet and the mobile phone. Since 2001 cell-phone access in Afghanistan has leapt from zero to 30 percent.

Or consider the fact that, before Facebook took down a page called “Third Palestinian Intifada”—which proclaimed that “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews”—it had notched 350,000 “likes.”

It seems paradoxical. In Samuel Huntington’s version of the post—Cold War world, there was going to be a clash between an Islamic civilization that was stuck in a medieval time warp and a Western civilization that was essentially equivalent to modernity. What we’ve ended up with is something more like a mashup of civilizations, in which the most militantly antimodern strains of Islam are being channeled by the coolest technology the West has to offer.

No one should pretend that these messages do not find receptive ears. In May 2010 Roshonara Choudhry stabbed the British M.P. Stephen Timms after having watched 100 hours of extremist sermons by Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Where did she find these sermons? On YouTube, of course

Here’s a good example. According to the Jihadica website, there is now a special data package produced by the “Mobile Detachment” of the “al-Ansar al-Mujahideen Forum” especially for cell phones. Users can download encryption software, pictures, and 3GP-format video clips with titles like “A Martyr Eulogizing Another Martyr” by the Somalia-based Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen. Also available to users is the electronic magazine al-Sumud (“Resistance”) published by the Afghan branch of the Taliban, and edifying documents—available in both MS Word and Adobe formats—like “How to Prepare for Your Afterlife.” Killer apps, indeed.

Then there is Inspire, the online magazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and aimed at aspiring jihadists in the West. In addition to bomb-making instructions, it also publishes target lists of individuals against whom fatwas have been proclaimed. No one should pretend that these messages do not find receptive ears. In May 2010 Roshonara Choudhry stabbed the British M.P. Stephen Timms after having watched 100 hours of extremist sermons by Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Where did she find these sermons? On YouTube, of course. Al-Awlaki’s other followers include the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, the Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.

In short, Google’s pro-democracy Wael Ghonim is probably a less significant figure than Fouad X, the head of IT for Hizbullah in Lebanon, who tells Joshua Ramo (at the beginning of his superb book The Age of the Unthinkable) that “our email is flooded with CVs” from Islamist geeks wanting to “serve a sacred cause.”

So far, so bad. Now here’s the real problem. Many of these same Islamist geeks (among them Al-Awlaki) have hailed the so-called Arab Spring as a golden opportunity. The March 29 issue of Inspire declared: “The revolutions that are shaking the thrones of dictators are good for the Muslims, good for the mujahideen, and bad for the imperialists of the West and their henchmen in the Muslim world.” The clash of civilizations would have been easy for the West to win if it had simply pitted the ideas and institutions of the 21st century against those of the seventh. No such luck. In the new mash of civilizations, our most dangerous foes are the Islamists who understand how to post fatwas on Facebook, email the holy Quran, and tweet the call to jihad.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Syria: Assad’s Militias Lay Siege to Banias, Opposition

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 11 — Syria’s coastal city Banias is still being laid siege to by security forces and those of the army, where yesterday afternoon and evening the Alawite militias answering to President Bashar Al Assad opened fire on anti-regime protestors killing five, according to eyewitnesses and local humanitarian organizations.

The city, the population of which is mostly Sunni but surrounded by mountains inhabited mostly by Alawites, has two oil refineries and is the birthplace of former Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam (Sunni), who has been in exile in Europe since 2005 since being purged by the upper echelons of power dominated by the Assad family and the Alawite clans allied with it. Eyewitnesses quoted this morning by the monitoring sites Rassd and NowSyria have said that over 15 armoured tanks from the army have been deployed on the edges of Banias, and that checkpoints manned by plainclothes security forces are blocking all access points to the city. Landline and cell phone connections were cut off the entire night, as was electricity supply. According to the state-run news agency Sana, nine soldiers from the army have been killed in an ambush laid by not-better-identified “armed men” near Banias.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Army Deployed in Baniyas Following Weekend Bloodshed

(AGI) Damascus — The Syrian army surrounded the coastal town of Baniyas, where 13 people were killed last weekend. Dozens were also injured during protests against Bashar Assad’s regime.

Human rights activists raised the alarm after they saw at least 17 tanks surrounding the city, where electricity has been cut off.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Syria: Protest at Damascus University, Banias Under Siege

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 11 — For the first time since the start of the anti-regime protests in Syria about a month ago, dozens of students from the University of Damascus mobilised on a campus located in the heart of the capital, where unconfirmed news was spread about the slaying of a young protestor, while the army is still being heavily deployed inside and outside of the costal city of Banias, the site of the slaying of four civilians and nine soldiers on Saturday night. In a country where even the universities have been dominated by the Baath Party, which has been in power for the last half century, students from the Medical and Legal Departments in Damascus tried to gather today at their respective campuses in the crowded central area of Baramkeh, a short distance away from the Interior Ministry. According to witnesses, at least ten students were arrested by security forces, while one student was allegedly killed in clashes, on which no details have been given, with armed loyalists, who staged a counter-demonstration immediately after the start of the anti-regime protest. Ten Syrian humanitarian organisations called for an independent and transparent investigation to be opened this morning into the situation over the last 48 hours in Banias, a port city located northwest of Damascus, inhabited mainly by Sunnis, but surrounded by mountains inhabited mainly by Alawis, and which is the site of one of the country’s two major oil refineries.

Official Syrian press agency Sana reported that nine officers and non-commissioned officers in the army were killed in an “attack perpetrated by an armed group hiding among the plants and buildings”. Banias is the home of former Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, who has been in exile for six years. Pro-government daily al Watan has directly accused Khaddam and his followers of triggering “an all-out battle” with weapons “sent by sea from nearby Lebanon”. Residents in Banias say that the violence was triggered by teams of “shabbiha”, members of armed groups loyal to the regime who opened fire from the inside of a car with tinted windows, similar to the vehicles normally used by secret police agents and for years known as “shabah” (ghosts). According to Syrian humanitarian organisations, four civilians were killed in Banias.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UAE: Uprisings: 3 Bloggers and Activists Arrested

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, APRIL 11 — Two bloggers and human rights activists were arrested on Sunday, bringing the number of reform supporters in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) arrested on Friday to three in total, according to the website of pro-government daily Gulf News. The details and reasons for the arrests have not yet been communicated. Nasser Bin Gait is a financial analyst and university lecturer, while Fahad Salem Al Shehi is a well-known blogger, and was arrested in the emirate of Ajman, north of Dubai. On Friday Mohammad al Mansour was also arrested, one of the 130 scholars and activists who signed a petition addressed to Sheikh Khalifa calling for electoral suffrage and a Parliament with actual legislative powers. These have been the first signs of intolerance shown by the authorities against demands for more significant reforms in the UAE, which until now has not been subject to the internal turmoil experienced by many other countries in the region. Since the beginning of the general political and social disorder, the sheikhs of the seven emirates that make up the UAE made funding available for an economic development plan for the northern emirates, which are much poorer and lack the infrastructure present in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in order to prevent any pockets of discontent that could potentially transform into outright protests.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

US Annual Reports Track Decline in Turkish Press Freedom

Press freedom in Turkey has been on a constant decline in recent years, an in-depth look at the human-rights reports published annually by the U.S. State Department has revealed.

The first line of the 2010 report said that “the government continued to limit these [press] freedoms in significant numbers of cases.”

In the first years of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government, the reports focused on the role of restrictive laws in limiting press freedom, while later surveys drew attention to the role of government officials, including the prime minister.

Starting in 2005, the reports noted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s readiness to file lawsuits against cartoonists and columnists, as well as his later quarrels with prominent journalists and media owners over what was written about him and his party in the press.

The increase in such cases was followed by a spike in the number of critical journalists arrested in the Ergenekon case, an alleged gang purportedly formed to topple the government in 2003 and 2004.

One unchanged aspect of the State Department reports is the oppression of some pro-Kurdish media organizations, despite the fact that many laws have been amended to expand freedom of expression.

According to the State Department’s 2003 report, the number of jailed journalists in Turkey was between four and 34, with the different figures reflecting ongoing disagreement over which prisoners were legitimate journalists, and which were jailed for carrying out their journalistic duties.

After legal changes to expand press freedom were brought to the agenda in 2004, the government said no journalists were held on speech violations that year, but the U.S. report noted 43 prisoners claiming to be journalists who had been charged with a variety of crimes.

Self-censorship in the media

Crucially, in 2005, the government prepared a draft law that would allow prison sentences for a number of press-related crimes, overruling restrictions in the 2004 Press Law. Erdogan’s first reported lawsuit against the press also came this year, when the prime minister sued the satirical magazine Penguen for depicting him as an animal in a cartoon.

“The government intimidated journalists into practicing self-censorship,” read the first line of the 2006 report, which counted 26 jailed journalists, and noted an increasing number of lawsuits filed by Erdogan.

“Prime Minister Erdogan, through his attorneys, filed 59 cases on the grounds of defamation, of which 28 were pending at year’s end. Among the 31 cases decided, 21 rulings were in favor and 10 against Erdogan,” the report said.

In 2007, there were 21 jailed journalists, according to the report, which devoted significant space to the raid against weekly Nokta over an article on the relationship between unnamed civil-society groups and the military.

The same report noted the government’s efforts to place further restrictions on the media by adopting amendments to the Anti-terror Law.

Government officials harsh against media

The 2008 report broke with the earlier ones by emphasizing critical statements from senior government officials. “Senior government officials, including Prime Minister Erdogan, made statements during the year strongly criticizing the press and media business figures, particularly following the publishing of reports on alleged corruption in entities in Germany connected to the ruling party,” it read.

Also that year, the Prime Ministry did not renew the press licenses of six journalists, claiming they had reported inaccurate material.

Several large holding companies that own news agencies were reportedly concerned about losing business opportunities if their journalists wrote articles critical of the government, with one journalist claiming that his senior management discouraged such reporting.

Tax fine breaks record

The substantial tax fine against the Dogan Media Group came up in the 2009 report, which said, “Some observers considered [it] to be related to the political editorial line of the media conglomerate’s print and broadcast outlets.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Saleh Ready to Leave, Opposition Disagrees

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT/SANA’A, APRIL 11 — Yemen’s strongman, President Ali Abdullah Saleh is ready to leave based on a plan drawn up by the Gulf countries, “according to the Constitution”.

But the opposition is opposed to the idea, because they fear that the president would be guaranteed some form of immunity.

After over two months of fierce protesting in Sana’a and the main cities in the country, and after over 100 deaths and a large but undefined number of injuries in violent clashes with police and security forces, things seem to have taken a turn for the better.

“The president welcomes the efforts of our brothers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, formed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, editor’s note) to emerge from the crisis in Yemen,” explained a statement from Saleh’s office, which states that the president “has no hesitation regarding the peaceful transferral of power according to the Constitution”. Opposition spokesman Mohammed al Sabry provided a clear-cut rebuttal, asking argumentatively: “Who would be crazy enough to offer guarantees to a regime that kills peaceful protestors? Our main demand is for Saleh to leave,” he reiterated. Mohamad Qahtan, another spokesman, was more prudent, saying that the opposition in Parliament “is waiting to be officially informed about the initiative (of the GCC), and has several questions”. Following a meeting in Riyadh, the foreign ministers of the GCC, of which Yemen is not a member, made it clear yesterday in a statement that their plan calls for “the formation of a national unity government led by the opposition… which will have the power to form committees with the responsibility of changing the Constitution as well as calling and running elections”. Meanwhile, President Saleh should transfer his powers to Vice President Mansur Hadi (who has said that he is not interested), while all of the other parties should “cease with any forms of vengeance… and legal action, providing guarantees”. These words were not well received by the protestors who have been camped for weeks in front of the university in the capital city in a permanent sit-in, because were seen as a safe-conduct for Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, and for his son Ahmed, the head of the powerful presidential guard, and who has long been considered to be the heir apparent to the president. Fresh protests with thousands of people took place again today in Sana’a, as well as in two other cities, and their slogans were still the same: “Saleh must go” and “the people want the president to stand trial”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


At Least 5 Dead, Dozens Injured in Belarus Subway Blast (Video)

There was an explosion at a metro station in the Belarusian capital of Minsk today. The bomb reportedly was on escalator. Eyewitnesses say at least 5 are dead and more than 50 have been injured.

UPDATE: Israel National News reported that 11 are dead and 100 more wounded. Witnesses said the bomb was filled with nuts, bolts and other types of shrapnel. No word yet on the identity of the perpetrator(s). However, the official Interfax news agency quoted a security source that said the explosion was most probably due to an act of terror.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ivanov Says Russia Wants ‘Red-Button’ Rights on U.S. Missile-Defense Plan

Russia wants to join in the planned U.S. missile shield in Europe with “red-button” rights to launch strikes at incoming weapons, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

Russia, which is pursuing talks on the issue with the U.S., will only accept an agreement that allows it to have a joint role in operating the defense system, Ivanov said in an interview yesterday in Miami, two days after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

“We insist on only one thing: that we’re an equal part of it,” said Ivanov, a former KGB colleague of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and defense minister until 2007. “In practical terms, that means our office will sit, for example, in Brussels and agrees on a red-button push to start an anti-missile, regardless of whether it starts from Poland, Russia or the U.K.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

CIA Has Slashed Its Terrorism Interrogation Role

The agency has stopped trying to detain or interrogate suspects caught abroad, except those captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He’s considered one of world’s most dangerous terrorism suspects, and the U.S. offered a $1-million reward for his capture in 2005. Intelligence experts say he’s a master bomb maker and extremist leader who possesses a wealth of information about Al Qaeda-linked groups in Southeast Asia.

Yet the U.S. has made no move to interrogate or seek custody of Indonesian militant Umar Patek since he was apprehended this year by officials in Pakistan with the help of a CIA tip, U.S. and Pakistani officials say.

The little-known case highlights a sharp difference between President Obama’s counter-terrorism policy and that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Under Obama, the CIA has killed more people than it has captured, mainly through drone missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. At the same time, it has stopped trying to detain or interrogate suspects caught abroad, except those captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The CIA is out of the detention and interrogation business,” said a U.S. official who is familiar with intelligence operations but was not authorized to speak publicly.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Islamist Lawmaker Resigns After After Filmed Watching Porn Video

(AKI/Jakarta Post) — Islamist Indonesian lawmaker Arifinto on Monday announced he would resign from his seat after he was filmed watching a porn video on his tablet computer during a session of the parliament.

Arifinto, an MP from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) claimed the clip was not stored on his computer and had been a link he clicked on inside an anonymous email he had received.

But he said that in the circumstances he must tender his resignation “for the good of the party”.

“As a pioneer in my party, I am drawn to take responsibility [for my actions] for the sake of the continuity and good image of my party,” Arifinto, told journalists at a press conference.

“I would also like to apologize to all PKS cadres and lawmakers. My decision is made clearly on my own. It does not involve any intervention and pressure from anybody,” he said.

Arifinto was captured on camera, allegedly watching a pornographic video on his tablet computer during a heated plenary session on Friday.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Accused of Blasphemy, Arif Masih is Safe, As 90 Per Cent of Muslims Believes He is Innocent

The 40-year-old Christian is in police custody at an undisclosed location. He is being investigated but his name does not appear in the charges laid against person or persons unknown. For Justice and Peace coordinator, he is the victim of a personal vendetta, and most Muslims are on his side. His accuser is a Muslim man who just lost a court case against him.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — Arif Masih, the 40-year-old Christian arrested a few days ago on alleged blasphemy, “is in safe custody” at an undisclosed location, said Shahid Anwar, coordinator for the National Commission on Justice and Peace of the Pakistan Catholic Church in Faisalabad. He has closely followed the affair along with diocesan director Fr Nisar Barkat. He said that “90 per cent of the Muslim community” does not believe that he is guilty, but rather the victim of a personal vendetta over land.

On 5 April, Arif Masih, a 40-year-old Christian from Chak Jhumra village (Faisalabad Diocese), was arrested by police on blasphemy charges. He allegedly ripped some pages of the Qur’an, and sent threatening letters to local Muslims telling them to convert to Christianity.

First Information Report N. 133/2011 was registered at the Sahiyanwala police after Shahid Yousaf, one of Arif Masih’s Muslim neighbours, filed a complaint in accordance with Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The two men had been previously involved in a legal dispute.

However, the charges are against “person or persons unknown”, and Arif Masih’s is not officially listed as a defendant.

For Arif’s brother, Ejaz Masih, he is the victim of a scheme concocted by Shahid Yousaf and his two brothers, Zahid and Rashid Yousaf, who put pressure on police.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Shahid Anwar, Shahid Anwar, coordinator for the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Pakistan Catholic Church in Faisalabad, said that he was cautiously optimistic because the complaint is very general, based on Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which is generally known as the blasphemy law, whilst Arif’s “name is not mentioned as that of the offender.”

“We know that Arif is in safe hands and that he is totally innocent,” the Christian activist said. “However we would like to know what really happened.”

At present, the 40-year-old Christian man “is in safe custody” with the police at an undisclosed location.

The local branch of the NCJP remains “close to Arif and his family,” and is waiting to see “the outcome of the investigation before providing legal assistance.”

“We are certain that he did not defile the Qur’an and that he did not send any threatening letters. His name does not appear in the blasphemy complaint, which contains just a vague statement. He is not named as a defendant”.

“There are suspicions. He was detained waiting for further investigations but his name does not appear on the charges, which are against person or persons unknown.”

The activists said, “90 per cent of local Muslims believe that he is innocent,” the victim of a dispute over the ownership of some land. “The Muslim party lost a case, and is now trying to get back at the other party.”

In fact, Arif’s family recently won a court case over the ownership of a piece of land. His accuser belongs to the Muslim family that lost the case. He appears to be trying to take revenge by using the blasphemy law, which is often used to settle personal scores or legal disputes.

According to data collected by the Catholic Church’s NCJP, at least 964 people have been indicted for desecrating the Qur’an or defiling the name of the prophet Muhammad between 1986 and this year, including 479 Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis, 14 Hindus and 10 from other religions. Since its inception, the law has been used as a pretext for attacks, personal vendettas and extra-judicial murders, 33 in all by individuals or enraged mobs.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

U.S. Won’t Interrogate Top Al Qaeda Terrorist

Thomas Joscelyn

Late last month I asked, who will interrogate top al Qaeda terrorist Umar Patek? Patek, who was captured in Pakistan, is wanted for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, among other attacks and plots. He is easily one of the most important international terrorists captured in the past few years. Indeed, Marc Thiessen argued that Patek is the “biggest terrorist catch of the Obama era.”

The problem is that the U.S. has no clear policy for detaining and interrogating terrorists such as Patek. President Obama ordered Guantanamo shuttered as one of his first acts in office. That hasn’t happened, but the administration isn’t going to send any new detainees to Cuba any way. And Obama closed down the CIA’s interrogation program, with little concern for what would replace it.

Ken Dilanian of the Los Angeles Times reports on the result of Obama’s new detention and interrogation policies, or lack thereof (emphasis added):…

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

Far East

Japan: No End in Sight for Fukushima Disaster as Bureaucrats Battle the Laws of Physics

As the famous physicist Dr. Michio Kaku said on April 4th, “The situation at Fukushima is relatively stable now… in the same way that you are stable if you hang by your fingernails off a cliff, and your fingernails begin to break one by one.” ( That same article also refers to the Fukushima damage assessment by the NRC’s Nuclear Safety Team, which concluded that “cooling to the core of Unit 1 might be blocked by melted fuel and also by salt deposits left over from the use of sea water.”

That’s the same sea water, of course, that has been sprayed onto the fuel rods to prevent them from going Chernobyl. The unfortunate side effect of boiling off tens of thousands of gallons of sea water, however, is that is leaves behind a lot of salt. Japan now appears to have an abundance of radioactive sea salt that’s unfortunately caked on top of the spent fuel rods and actually preventing much more water from reaching those rods. In a sense, spraying salt water on spent nuclear fuel rods is sort of like spraying them with a slow-acting insulation. It’s only a matter of time, it seems, before that insulation make it impossible for water to keep the rods below meltdown temperatures.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry has mysteriously stopped reporting the dry well radiation reading in Reactor No. 1. Why would they do that? Because no readings are far more politically correct than extremely high readings, of course. It all happened right after an “off-the-charts” reading of radiation in the drywell of Reactor No. 1, which TEPCO officials quickly dismissed as a broken radiation gauge (link). Sure, it probably is broken by this point due to its exposure to massive doses of radiation!

The only way a drywell reading can attain such high readings, by the way, is if the nuclear fuel rods have breached their containment core.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Clinton: “Gbagbo’s Capture Sends Signal to All Dictators”

(AGI) Washington — According to Hillary Clinton, Laurent Gbagbo’s capture in the Ivory Coast sends a strong signal to all dictators, in Africa and elsewhere. Secretary of State Clinton also added that this means they cannot ignore the demands made by their people and she also invited citizens in the Ivory Coast to remain calm and build a peaceful future together.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Former Leader of Ivory Coast is Captured

The Ivory Coast strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, was captured on Monday after a week-long siege of his residence and placed under the control of his rival claimant to power, according to a senior American diplomat and news reports.

It remained uncertain whose forces had physically captured Mr. Gbagbo. Both French ground forces and troops loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of Ivory Coast’s election last year, had pressed into the city toward the residence where Mr. Gbagbo has been holed up.

[Return to headlines]

HMS Nursemaid: Shame as Navy Seizes 17 Armed Somalis, Gives Them Halal Meat and Nicotine Patches… Then Sets Them Free!

When a Royal Navy warship captured a crew of Somali pirates, it seemed like a rare chance to strike back at the ruthless sea gangsters.

The 17 outlaws were armed with an arsenal of AK 47s and rocket-propelled grenades, and had forced hostages on a hijacked fishing vessel to work as slaves for three months.

But instead of bringing them to justice, the British servicemen were ordered to provide the pirates halal meals, medical checks, cigarettes — and in one case even a nicotine patch — before releasing them in their own boats.

The extraordinary treatment — revealed in a Radio 4 documentary to be broadcast tonight — came at a time when Somali piracy is causing mayhem to shipping in the Indian Ocean.

More than £60million was paid in ransoms last year and pirates currently hold 30 ships and nearly 800 hostages.

HMS Cornwall is one of two Royal Navy frigates patrolling two and a half million square miles of ocean to try to capture pirate ships.

The apparent breakthrough came in February when the captain of a merchant ship crossing the ocean radioed to say he had seen something suspicious.

A helicopter was scrambled and spotted a Yemeni fishing vessel which had been hijacked by pirates and was being used as their ‘mother ship’ to attack other vessels.

Armed Royal Marines launched boats and swooped on the pirates, who were found with nine AK 47s plus rocket-propelled grenade launchers and boarding ladders.

The five slave crew from the fishing vessel were released and the 17 pirates initially detained on board the warship.

But after compiling the evidence against them and submitting it to his superiors he was ordered to ‘set up arrangements for putting them ashore in Somalia’.

Before being freed, the pirates were given a medical check-up in accordance with UK law and food which included a halal option to take into account religious needs.

After showing they were compliant, some were given cigarettes, and one was given a nicotine patch on medical advice because his tobacco withdrawal had caused his heart rate to soar.

Close to shore, the British servicemen set them free in two skiffs which they had earlier seized from the gangsters — with no food and just enough fuel to get them to land.

As they stepped off the warship, Commander Wilkinson told the head of the pirate gang: ‘If you are a leader, go back and lead for good.

‘If you are going to carry on in this trade, expect to find me and my colleagues waiting for you. And if I see you again, it’s not going to go well.’

Commander Wilkinson added that he believed the order to free the pirates was the ‘right decision’ because he was not convinced bringing them back to the UK would have been a deterrent.

He also said he was unconvinced that they had enough evidence to convict the pirates — even though they were heavily armed, were carrying hostages and had confessed.

The decision to release the pirates was made by the UK’s Maritime Component Commander based in Bahrain after considering UK policy and law.

Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham said the Government is reviewing the ‘catch and release’ approach to piracy.

‘It is not going to happen in the future unless there isn’t any other alternative.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Ivory Coast: Shocking! Muslims Rape, Burn Christians Alive

Obama directs U.S. policy to support radical Islam

[WARNING: Disturbing Content.]

In its most recent report, Human Rights Watch documented that forces loyal to Ouattara killed hundreds of civilians and raped more than 20 alleged Gbagbo supporters as they burned at least 10 villages in the Ivory Coast’s western region.

“People interviewed by Human Rights Watch described how, in village after village, pro-Ouattara forces, now called the Republican forces of Cote d’Ivoire (Forces Républicaines Cote d’Ivoire, FRCI) summarily executed and raped Gbagbo supporters in their homes, as they worked in the fields, as they fled, or as they tried to hide in the bush,” the report noted. “The fighters often targeted people by ethnicity, and the attacks disproportionately affected those too old or feeble to flee.”

Reports from the Ivory Coast published by the London Evening Standard indicated that more than 200 bodies, some of them burned alive, have been found in the country.


“What the Ivory Coast situation makes clear is that the consistency in the Obama administration’s policy regarding the turmoil in North Africa is that Obama directs U.S. policy to support radical Islam, even to the point of being hypocritical in arguing United States policy is motivated by a desire to protect human rights and prevent massacre in the various ongoing conflicts in countries including the Ivory Coast and Libya.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ivory Coast: Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo Captured

France, the country’s former colonial ruler, was involved in operation to oust him

After a week of heavy fighting, forces backing Ivory Coast’s internationally recognized leader on Monday arrested strongman Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to leave the presidency despite losing elections more than four months earlier.

The dispute over the presidency had pushed the world’s largest cocoa producer to the brink of a renewed civil war, with hundreds of civilians slain in post-election violence.

An eyewitness at the Golf Hotel where election winner Alassane Ouattara had been trying to run the presidency said he saw Gbagbo, his wife and son enter the hotel around midday Monday. The witness spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lessons From the Ivory Coast

The crisis in the Ivory Coast has important lessons for Europe, Israel and the United States. And none of these lessons is being conveyed by the Western media.

The most important aspects of the crisis in the Ivory Coast are being overlooked or deliberately disguised by the Western media. One can read media report after media report without discovering the basic fact that the Northern Ivory Coast “rebels” are Muslims. Indeed they are Muslims who by and large entered the Ivory Coast as infiltrators, through borders that are poorly patrolled, from neighboring countries. A better advertisement for stronger border control cannot be found. At least four million illegal immigrants, mostly Muslim, entered the Ivory Coast during the past two decades, tilting the demographic balance there.

And these Muslim infiltrators and interlopers, increasingly backed by African, French and Western powers, are challenging the control by Ivory Coast natives over their own country. The sufferings and violence in the Ivory Coast may well illustrate what awaits Europe if it continues its own demographic suicide and if it continues to flood itself with Muslim immigrants. The conflict also illustrates the extent to which the Western powers are willing to subvert their commitment to Wilsonian principles. Since Woodrow Wilson and the end of World War I, the West was nominally committed to erecting and defending nation states. We now see that the Western powers (and African regimes) are willing to abandon this set of principles whenever faced with a cheap way to curry favor with Muslims. Finally, it shows what awaits Israel if its seditious Left ever has its way and implements a Palestinian “Right of Return” that converts Israel into a “bi-national state.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


2 More Boats Land on Lampedusa, 1,500 on Island

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA, APRIL 11 — Two more boats carrying migrants landed over the night on Lampedusa. Escorted by patrol boats, two large boats came into port: one carrying 98 migrants and the other 128, bringing the total number on the island to 1,500. Of the latter, about 500 are Sub-Saharan refugees coming from Libya and the others are Tunisians, who are to begin to be repatriated today.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has spoken on the immigration issue, underscoring that if the EU were to “renounce its fundamental function of handling such an important issue, a true human ‘tsunami’ affecting tens and hundreds of people, as an issue which involves exclusively Italy, or Italy and France, or Italy and Spain”, this “would truly be the end to that sort of strong integration that we want in the European Union”. The issue of immigration, reiterated Frattini, is “European and not national”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Barroso Expects Full Cooperation From Tunis

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 11- The European Commission expects “complete cooperation” from Tunisia on the immigration front, said Pia Ahrenkilde, the spokesperson from the European Commission, speaking before the visit of European Commission President Jose’ Manuel Barroso to Tunis tomorrow. The objective of the visit is for “Europe to provide support to the country’s political and economic transition”, said Ahrenkilde. Regarding the immigration issue, “in all likelihood the president of the European Commission will actively touch upon the topic: it is clear that we expect full cooperation from the Tunisian authorities on this front and I am certain that Europe and Tunisia will deal with the issue with a constructive spirit of partnership”. Barroso will meet with Interim President, Foued Mebazaa, the President of the Political Reform Commission, Lyadh Ben Achour, as well as representatives from civil society. The focus of the meetings, explained the spokesperson, will mainly be to support the democratic transformation, as well as preparation for the elections and new cooperation, “which could include partnership regarding mobility in the medium term”. Another topic will involve “broad economic stimulus and the creation of jobs, with a focus on supporting SMEs, to which we will provide a special financial instrument”, added Ahrenkilde.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Berlin Unwilling to Accept Refugees

Die Welt, 11 April 2011

“Refugees ought not to come to Germany,” announces Die Welt. The position that Berlin is expected to adopt when European interior ministers meet to discuss immigration on 11 April is unlikely to be welcomed by Italy which has called for solidarity in the drive to cope with thousands of immigrants who have recently arrived from North Africa. “Italy’s dirty tricks amount to unacceptable blackmail,” remarks the conservative daily, which nonetheless acknowledges that “it is inadmissible that Italy and Malta pay the price for changes that are in all of Europe’s interest.” For Die Welt, Europe should come together to invest in Arab countries to bring about positive change and reinforce cooperation on the issue of migration flows: “What is a major problem for Italy and Malta could be considerably reduced if it was shared by the EU’s 27 member states.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Calderoli: Naval Blockade if EU Deserts US

(AGI) Roma — Roberto Calderoli said “a naval blockade” is needed following Europe’s “selfish and anti-EU” stance. “In the light of the selfish and anti-EU stance taken today by Europe towards a member state, we must urgently set up a naval blockade to defend our waters and boundaries, as provided for in the agreement signed by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and the Tunisian government” the Minister for Legislative Simplification said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

EU Confirms Too Soon for Temporary Protection

(AGI) Luxembourg- It’s “premature” to decide on executing directive 55 from 2001 with regards to refugees from North Africa. The directive lays down minimum standards on the reception of applicants for asylum. Italy’s proposal that the directive be applied to tackle the immigration crisis was rejected by the EU Council, as Internal Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom confirmed.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

EU Split Over African Migration Tsunami

Europe was divided Monday over how to deal with an exodus of migrants fleeing unrest in North Africa, as Rome clashed with neighbors refusing to take in boatpeople pouring into Italy.

Italy has urged its European Union neighbors to help it cope with a “human tsunami” that has overwhelmed the tiny island of Lampedusa since revolutions erupted in Tunisia and Libya earlier this year. “Today we will see if Europe can be united and show solidarity, or if it is merely a geographic space,” Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told reporters as he arrived for the talks.

Rome sparked a diplomatic row last week when it announced it would grant six-month residency permits to more than 20,000 Tunisian migrants, which could allow them to travel freely in Europe’s border-free Schengen area. Officials issued the first permits on Sunday despite French and German objections.

France tightened the control of documents at the border with Italy, while Germany and Austria warned they could follow suit. German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said it was up to Italy to deal with the wave of migrants and find a solution with Tunisian authorities to stop people from reaching Europe’s shores. “We cannot accept numerous economic migrants arriving in Europe through Italy. This is why we expect Italy to respect the existing legal rules and uphold its duty in discussions with the Tunisians, Friedrich said. “It cannot be in the interest of Europe for us to be forced to introduce new controls, so we hope the Italians will fulfill their duties,” he added.

Around 26,000 undocumented migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, including some 21,000 who said they were from Tunisia. They said they were fleeing the dire economic situation that had followed the political uprising in January.

Italian authorities transferred thousands of migrants from Lampedusa to other parts of Italy last week, but hundreds more have since landed on the island, including 226 on Monday, bringing their numbers to 1,500.

“Italy is a great nation that can still show a bit more goodwill to seriously resolve the situation,” said Austrian Interior Minister Maria Fekter. “We will see whether we can recognize the permits that Italy is delivering,” she said.

Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said most Tunisians arrive in Italy illegally. “They must return home and the Tunisians must accept them,” Rubalcaba said.

During a visit to Lampedusa over the weekend, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Europe “will not abe able to shirk” its responsibilities “This is not a problem for a single country but for the whole of Europe,” Berlusconi said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

France Confirms Strict Controls for Immigrants From Italy

(AGI) Luxembourg — French Interior Minister Claude Gueant has said that France has confirmed it will enforce frequent and strict checks in areas within 20 km of the Italian border, while respecting the Schengen agreement and holding immigrants for the 6 hour period established by the treaty. Speaking during a break at the Luxembourg Council meeting, Gueant specified that of the 2,800 people checked so far, 1,700 were returned to Italy.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italian Minister Questions Value of EU Membership

EUOBSERVER / LUXEMBOURG — A dozen EU states rallied behind France on Monday (11 April) in a dispute with Italy over Rome’s granting of temporary residence permits to Tunisian immigrants, warning of the “collapse” of the Schengen area and the re-introduction of borders.

Speaking after a meeting of interior ministers in Luxembourg, Italian minister Roberto Maroni from the anti-immigrant Lega Nord party, said his country had to “consider if it is still worth being part of the EU,” since nobody wanted to help shoulder the immigration burden.

“It’s fine when Italy contributes to euro bail-outs, to wars, but on this very specific issue of helping us out, EU states are absolutely not willing to show solidarity,” he said on his way out of the ministers’ meeting.

The Italian government last Thursday issued a decree granting temporary residence to the roughly 23,000 Tunisian migrants who arrived via the tiny island of Lampedusa. But the permits are seen as a free pass to France, with the French authorities having already sent back hundreds of Tunisians at the Italian border.

Germany, France and Austria, along with other countries such as the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium and Slovakia, view Schengen as a matter of trust among member states. Italy is “undermining this basic principle,” one diplomat present at the “heated debate” said.

Austria, which shares a land border with Italy, threatened to re-impose borders. Interior minister Maria Fekter warned of the “collapse of the Schengen system” if Italy’s behaviour is tolerated.

“What Italy is doing is using a national emergency law for temporary protection in order to politicise the whole Tunisian immigration issue so that everyone in the EU is affected by it. They’ve succeeded in doing that, but now we expect that they stick to the rules,” German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said during a press briefing in Luxembourg, at the end of a long debate over Mediterranean migration.

“The issuing of mass permits is a violation of the Schengen spirit. If tens of thousands were to be granted these permits, then it would not be only France, Germany and Austria to re-instate borders, but also countries further away. Then we would lose what we have achieved with Schengen,” Friedrich said.

The only country supporting Italy in the call for solidarity from other EU countries was Malta, in a similar situation with more than 800 refugees from Libya arriving to the island in the past week. Both Malta and Italy asked the European commission to trigger the activation of a special refugee directive — an EU 2001 law set up after the Kosovo war but never used — for people fleeing the war zone in Libya. The application of the directive would automatically give everyone escaping such an area refugee status right across the EU.

But they were isolated in their call.

“There was a very strong majority in favour of the fact that this directive can be used, but it is too premature at the moment. There would have to be a massive influx of refugees,” home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said during a press briefing. Later on, she insisted that “nobody wants Italy to leave the EU, it is a founding member and a great asset.”

Ministers did agree to alleviate Malta’s strained asylum capacities by prolonging a resettlement programme. Several member states offered to relocate some of the mostly sub-Saharan refugees who managed to escape Libya and cross the Mediterranean. Germany offered to take 100 people, Belgium, Hungary, Sweden, Portugal, Spain and Norway also expressed willingness to help.

“Ministers were very clear in separating the two issues. Malta’s plight with refugees from Libya is one thing — the island is tiny and for them, 800 people is a lot,” said one EU diplomat. “But they did not agree with Italy, a country of 60 million, to claim that it needs the special protection directive to deal with economic migrants, not refugees,” the source added.

“Maroni was the only one mixing up the two issues — irregular migration, for people with no right to claim asylum and who have to be returned to their home country — and refugees from Somalia, Eritrea and so one, who were stuck in Libya and have managed to escape, but cannot be sent to their home countries.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Legality of Swiss Marriage Law Questioned

A new law that requires foreign nationals have a valid visa before they can marry in Switzerland has been criticised as a breach of human rights.

The law, which came into effect on January 1, also requires registrars to inform migration authorities when a marriage applicant does not have a valid visa.

Initiated by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, the law was designed to restrict the possibility of marriages of “convenience” — people marrying to shore up their visa circumstances and subsequently apply to bring their families to Switzerland.

Of some 42,000 marriages celebrated in Switzerland in 2009, just under half — 20,380 — involved at least one foreign national, according to figures from the Federal Statistics Office.

In 2004 the Federal Civil Status Office estimated that between 500 and 1,000 marriages — three per cent — were false.

Secretary-general of the Swiss People’s Party, Martin Baltisser, told the party had felt it was necessary to adapt the marriage law to limit the possibility of abuse.

“There was a lot of abuses, a lot of ‘virtual marriages’ by people who only did it to obtain a Swiss visa,” Baltisser told


Critics of the Swiss law say that it breaches human rights because it excludes an entire category of people from the right to marry.

In a ruling in December, the European Court of Human Rights sanctioned Britain for legislation which it said “imposed a blanket prohibition on the exercise of the right to marry on all persons in a specified category regardless of whether the proposed marriage was one of convenience or not”.

Professor of law at Lausanne University Philippe Meier told that this ruling could also be applied to the Swiss marriage law.

“The new Swiss rule is based on the principal that all foreigners without a visa want to make a marriage of convenience,” Meier said.

“The European Court considers that such a rule… creates a discrimination against an entire category of foreigners, even though these people could very well want a real marriage.”

Michel Montini, a spokesman for the Civil Status Office said the ruling in the British case did not apply to the Swiss law.

He pointed out that the British were sanctioned because their law, which required the applicant have “a certificate of approval” to marry, imposed prohibitively high application fees and was discriminatory because it did not apply to couples wanting to marry in the Anglican Church.

“We have examined this decision and we think that our legislation is compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights, at least in terms of the application of the law that must be carried out by the authorities,” Montini told

“Liberal” application

The new Swiss law is “not a question of proving a marriage of convenience” but about establishing if a person had the legal right to be in Switzerland, Montini said.

Couples concerned are given the opportunity to regularise their visa situation before outright refusal to marry by the authorities, said Montini. Migration authorities have the ability to deliver an “ad hoc” attestation legalising the applicant’s stay in Switzerland until the date of marriage.

“The application of this measure should be done in a liberal manner to ensure that we avoid arriving at a position where we prohibit a marriage in itself, which could be a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights,” Montini said.

Meier said that liberal interpretation of the law could prevent breaches of human rights, but also noted that exceptions have “absolutely no basis in the law” which is “extremely strict” and should be changed to provide legal certainty.

“I don’t think that the new measure places too many limits on marrying although it’s clear that it has probably now become more difficult,” conceded Baltisser.

Right to marry?

A couple with direct experience of wanting to marry in Switzerland say authorities went out of their way to prevent them from going ahead.

Swiss national Sarah and John of the Ivory Coast (not their real names) had been seeing each other for about 18 months when they decided to marry. John’s visa, although nearly expired, was valid when they first approached marriage authorities in October last year.

“At first they refused to even give us an appointment, they obviously didn’t believe we were serious,” Sarah told “Finally the lawyer managed to get us an appointment on the last day of his visa.”

The couple say cantonal officials insisted John relinquish his passport — which has not been returned — before they would let them sign the marriage application papers.

Shortly afterwards, John was expelled from Switzerland and left for France in early December. When Sarah applied for the return of their documents she was told “that they wouldn’t have married us anyway because there was a new law coming into effect in January”.

Sarah dismisses the suggestion of a liberal interpretation as “lies in the first degree”.

“They play with the rules. They tell you something with a smile and next time they tell you something different,” she said.

John and Sarah married last month in France. According to the couple, Swiss authorities say John has to return to Ivory Coast to apply for a visa, which they say is impossible given current unrest in the country.

“You have the right to get married and live with whom you choose,” said Sarah. “When we got married it was because we wanted to live together, but how do we do that?”…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Maroni Dismayed at Lack of EU Migrant Response

‘Does it make sense to be part of EU?’ he asks

(ANSA) — Luxembourg, April 11 — Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni on Monday left a meeting with European Union counterparts saying he was dismayed at a general lack of response to Italy’s pleas for coordinated action on a migrant emergency that has seen thousands of asylum seekers wash up on Italy’s shores since the start of unrest in North Africa.

The minister’s disappointment was such that he even questioned the value of staying in the EU.

“It was a disappointing meeting,” Maroni said, complaining that Italy had been “left alone” to cope with the crisis.

The “one positive note”, he said, was that Italy’s partners had not contested the legal basis of Rome’s decision to issue migrants with three-month visas, invoking the EU’s ‘temporary protection’ clause.

However, France, Germany and other countries have said they will continue to block migrants carrying such papers and without sufficient money to live on.

Maroni said the meeting ended by approving “a document, on which I abstained, which contained no concrete measures”.

“When it was needed, we expressed our solidarity with Greece, Ireland ad Portugal. But now they said to us, in this situation of grave emergency, ‘dear Italy, it’s your business and you’ll have to cope with it on your own”.

“I wonder if it really makes sense to stay in this position, to be part of the European Union.” “The EU is an institution that goes into action immediately to save banks and declare war but when it comes to expressing concrete solidarity with a country in difficulty, as Italy is today, it goes into hiding”. Maroni said Italy would continue to issue the visas to migrants, arguing they were “valid” across the border-free Schengen Area.

Germany, after Monday’s meeting, accused Italy of “violating the spirit of Schengen”.

Maroni was however at pains to distinguish EU members states, which he said had been “absolutely opposed to enacting concrete measures of solidarity”, from the European Commission, which he praised as being “particularly active” in the crisis. Italy has been calling on the EU for months to share the burden of processing migrants and asylum seekers from North Africa, who have been spread around the country from their landing spot on the southern island of Lampedusa.

It has also asked for help with migrant patrols and repatriations, having forged deals with France and Tunisia on those two issues.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday he, too, was “deeply disappointed” by the lack of response from the EU and said Italy would find “other solutions” on its own.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Migrant Visas ‘In Line With Schengen’ Says Frattini

Ground troops in Libya ‘impossible’

(ANSA) — Paris, April 11 — Temporary visas Italy has given thousands of mainly Tunisian migrants are “absolutely in line” with the Schengen Treaty on a border-free Europe, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini claimed over French and German objections Monday.

Stressing that Italy wanted the European Union to “do more,” the foreign minister said there was no dispute with France, which has been repelling the migrants, but instead “a European case”.

Speaking on French radio, he recalled that when he was a European Commissioner, there was a “flight of Moroccan migrants towards the Canary Islands” and he himself mobilised EU countries through the Frontex border agency.

“It’s an EU problem,” he said of the exodus from Tunisia and now from Libya too.

“You can’t think of playing a role on the international scene if you can’t resolve this great problem which is a human tsunami coming from the south”.

Frattini said as many as “hundreds of thousands” might flee upheaval and war in North Africa.

The Italian visa move and the African migrant issue are set to be discussed at an EU interior ministers’ meeting later Monday, as well as the Libya crisis.


Putting forces on the ground in Libya is impossible but anti-Gaddafi rebels can be given arms according to the United Nations resolution that authorised the international mission in the North African country, Frattini added.

Stressing he was expressing a personal opinion, Frattini said “ground intervention is impossible, for me…but the UN resolution allows arms to be provided”.

Asked about the United States’ taking a step back from the front rank of the military operation, Frattini said it would now be “the right opportunity for Europe, the US and Arab countries to work together for the stabilisation of a key country in the region”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Migrants: Germany: Italy Should Comply With Its Duties

(AGI) Luxembourg — Germany “cannot accept that so many migrants reach Europe and Germany through Italy”, said Minister Friedrich. In a 27-countries meeting on Immigration, the German Interior Minister, Hans Pieter Friedrich, said upon his arrival to Luxembourg, “We take note that Italy grants stay permits allowing a large number of migrants to reach France and Germany. That is why France has enforced controls and Austria is following suit. “ Friedrich believes that, “it’s not Europe’s interest to perform borders controls. The situation must change in the countries of origin. There is a need for a common policy to improve the economic conditions in Northern Africa. We must make sure that controls between Tunisia and Italy are strict, and no migrants come to Europe.” Within this framework, Germany hopes that “Italy will comply with its duties in the relations with Tunisia.” .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Migrants: Spain: No Temporary Protection to Irregulars

(AGI) Brussels — The European Commission “is right”, says the Spanish Interior Minister, Alfredo Rubalcaba. The Minister says the Commission is correct in saying that Directive 55 of 2001 does not apply” to temporary protection of migrants in Italy, as “they are irregulars, and must return, and Tunisia must accept them back. The Minister believes it is correct for Europe to be “ a region for asylum, but illegals must return to their countries of origin.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Rules for Labour Migration Tightened Up

THE HAGUE, 12/04/11 — Employees from outside the EU and from Bulgaria and Romania will from 1 July only still receive a work permit in the Netherlands in exceptional cases. The cabinet has backed a proposal to this effect by Social Affairs Minister Henk Kamp.

Kamp wants employers in, for example, agriculture and horticulture to make more use of Dutch unemployed. This is in line with the government’s policy of putting the jobless under pressure to accept work.

Since the enlargement of the EU in 2004, on average some 165,000 people from Central and Eastern Europe have been working in agriculture and horticulture, construction, industry and the transport sector in the Netherlands. “Meanwhile, over one million people aged below 65 are without work and sidelined on social benefit,” said Kamp.

Although the Netherlands has the lowest unemployment in the EU, it has for years been stuck with an army of job-disabled. Of the approximately one million sidelined as disabled, “at least half are in fact able to work,” according to Kamp. He wants to activate them by “simply ensuring that there is no benefit for those who can work and for those for whom there is work.”

Regarding workers from outside the EU, Kamp takes a tough line: “I do not know why we should admit them. First help the unemployed in the Netherlands get work, then look in the EU, and only then, outside the EU.”

By “outside the EU,” Kamp also means Romania and Bulgaria. Both countries did join the EU in 2007, but the Netherlands has made use of the option of keeping the border for workers from these countries closed for now.

For workers from other EU member states (mainly Poland), nothing will change. “They have a fundamental right” to work in the Netherlands, the minister acknowledges.

Employers who claim to need Bulgarians and Romanians must apply for an employment licence from the UWV. Kamp wants the system via that government body to become more stringent. The demand that no suitable candidate can be found within the Netherlands or the rest of the EU will have to be complied with more strictly.

Fruit-tree, strawberry and vegetable growers in Noord-Brabant in particular often work with Romanian or Bulgarian employees. Farmers organisation LTO is angry with Kamp. “The Hague is unloading its own lack of capacity to recruit Dutch unemployed on employers,” complains chairman Albert Jan Maat.

Market gardeners do get Dutch unemployed now and again via the UWV, but their work morale is pathetic. They complain about back problems, and do not work on hard like the East Europeans, according to the LTO.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Refugees Are ‘Italy’s Problem, ‘ Minister Says

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich stepped up the war of words with Italy over asylum-seekers Monday, telling the Italian government the boatloads of people arriving in Lampedusa were their problem.

As European Union ministers prepared to meet in Luxembourg Monday, an open argument between the European neighbours broke out over the weekend regarding the thousands of African asylum seekers arriving on the tiny Italian island.

“Italy must sort out its refugee problem itself,” Friedrich, of the Bavarian conservatives the Christian Social Union, told Monday’s edition of daily Die Welt.

At least 22,000 asylum-seekers have arrived by boat on Lampedusa — which is Europe’s most southern point — since political upheavals began to rock North Africa in January, eventually engulfing Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Most of the asylum-seekers are from Tunisia.

Italy is arguing that the problem should be tackled by Europe as a whole and that it simply has the geographical misfortune of having the most southern-lying piece of territory. It has issued the asylum-seekers with temporary residency permits that allow them to travel to other EU countries.

On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the situation was “not an Italian problem but a European (problem),” and even hinted at separating from the union.

“Europe is either something real and concrete, or it doesn’t exist. In that case, it is better if we separate and each follows his own fears and selfish concerns,” he said.

But under EU law, the country in which asylum-seekers land must deal with their refugee applications and their temporary residence while their claims to asylum are being assessed. At the heart of the dispute between Italy and other countries, notably Germany, is whether or not the asylum-seekers should be able to travel to other countries while they wait for their applications to be processed.

Friedrich said he would make it clear at the Monday meeting in Brussels that Italy was breaching the spirit of the Schengen agreement that allows visa-free travel between many European states.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Repatriation Flight Takes Off From Lampedusa

(AGI) Agrigento — One of the Government’s two daily immigrant repatriation flights took off from Lampedusa shortly after 1pm.

The flight is taking thirty people who had arrived on the island back to Tunisia, accompanied by several members of the forces of law and order. The second flight of the day is expected to take off at 8pm tonight. . ..

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Reports: Fire Breaks Out in Immigrant Centre on Italian Island

LAMPEDUSA, Italy — Italian news reports say a fire has broken out in an immigrant shelter in Lampedusa, the tiny island close to North Africa where thousands of migrants have arrived in the past weeks.

The ANSA news agency said a column of smoke was rising from two buildings in the centre. SKY Italia said that Tunisians protesting repatriations set the building ablaze.

About 50 migrants managed to escape from the centre, while others were stopped by police patrolling the area, according to ANSA.

Some 26,000 illegal migrants have landed on Lampedusa since the beginning of the year, amid unrest across North Africa. Italy started repatriating Tunisians last week after striking a deal with Tunis.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Students With Danish as a Second Language Score Lower Than Classmates With Danish Heritage

Despite concerted efforts by the Education Ministry to improve its ‘Danish as a second language’ programme, the recently-released Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) Ethnic 2009 study shows that the academic gap between kids with immigrant backgrounds and kids with Danish heritage has remained roughly the same since the first Pisa Ethnic assessment in 2000.

“We were actually really surprised when we saw the results,” Niels Egelund, the chairman of the Pisa consortium and co-author of the Pisa Ethnic 2009 report told Politiken newspaper. “It is dreadful that there has not actually been any positive development when we look at averages in the three subject areas.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisian Boat People Riot on Italian Migrant Island

LAMPEDUSA, Italy — Tunisian boat people rioted Monday on the Italian island of Lampedusa in a protest against their imminent deportation under a controversial deal struck between Rome and Tunis last week.

“Freedom! Freedom!” shouted some of the migrants at a compound in which hundreds are being held. Some of them started a small fire at the centre which was quickly put out by the fire brigade, and dozens fled the enclosure.

Several of the escapees later returned to the immigrant detention centre.

Lampedusa measures just 20 square kilometres (7.7 square miles) and is closer to north Africa than to mainland Italy. More than 25,000 migrants have arrived in fishing boats from north Africa since the start of the year and most have been moved to detention centres on the Italian mainland.

Two planes carrying dozens of migrants flew out of Lampedusa to Tunis during the day despite protests by the deportees that delayed the second flight.

A first planeload of deportees left Italy for Tunisia on Sunday with around 30 migrants on board escorted by around 60 police officers.

Meanwhile two boats carrying 226 migrants arrived on the island on Monday, bringing to around 1,500 the number of boat people currently on Lampedusa.

Under a deal between Rome and Tunis last week, Italy agreed to grant six-month residence permits to migrants who arrived before April 5, while Tunisia agreed to the deportation of anyone arriving after that date.

Around 1,000 of the migrants on Lampedusa are believed to be Tunisians; the others are refugees from sub-Saharan Africa who have been fleeing Libya.

Italy has accused the European Union in general and France in particular of failing to help it deal with the wave of immigration. The issue topped the agenda of a heated meeting of interior ministers in Luxembourg.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said it was up to Italy to deal with the wave of migrants and find a solution with Tunisian authorities to stop people from reaching Europe’s shores.

“We cannot accept numerous economic migrants arriving in Europe through Italy. This is why we expect Italy to respect the existing legal rules and uphold its duty in discussions with the Tunisians,” Friedrich said.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Sunday said 80 percent of the more than 21,000 Tunisian migrants who have arrived since the start of the year wanted to join friends and relatives in France, Tunisia’s former colonial ruler.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]


Is Space Tourism the New Space Race?

Fifty years after the Soviet Union beat the United States to send the first human to space, a new space race is heating up. This time, the players are not nations — rather, they’re commercial companies that aim to send the first paying passengers to space on private spaceships. “It’s an exciting time for the industry,” said George Whitesides, president of suborbital spaceship company Virgin Galactic. “I really believe that we’re at the edge of an extraordinary period of innovation which will radically change our world.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]