Archive for June, 2011
Saudi women are slowly starting to fight back. This is great to see!
Women who have driving licences obtained abroad are urged to get behind the wheel and use their cars themselves, without relying on male drivers as required by Saudi fatwa.
The campaign’s Facebook page, Women2Drive, said the action was due to start yesterday and would keep going “until a royal decree allowing women to drive is issued”.
There is no secular law banning women from driving in the oil-rich kingdom, but the Interior Ministry imposes regulations based on fatwa, or religious edict, that women should not be permitted to drive.
Note the last sentence there. That is why there needs to be a separation of mosque and state…
Last year, when the iPad launched, everyone was praising Apple as the saviour of the publishing industry. Well, that was until, being Apple, they announced that they would be charging 30% of every purchase of a newspaper, ebook, magazine or subscription on an iPad and they would not share subscriber data with publishers. Not surprisingly, this sparked a significant backlash – the 30% was higher than the profit margin that many publishers made from their products and it drove a few ebook stores out of business, or at least off the iPad. It has also created huge difficulties for publishers in transferring subscribers to their iPads apps, meaning that, for instance, my New Yorker subscription is currently worthless as far as my iPad is concerned, meaning that I am required to pay $6 per issue if I want it on my iPad, even though the print version will arrive in my mailbox a few days later.
Luckily, it looks like the publishing industry Is fighting back. Hopefully, this will force Apple to re-think their ridiculous policy, otherwise the iPad will simply not be able to live-up to it’s full potential, since publishers won’t allow their products on it.
The app is downloaded from a web browser – side-stepping Apple’s rigid controls on crucial subscriber information as well as its hefty 30 per cent commission.
…The FT’s chief executive, John Ridding, said: ”This is not about Apple. It’s about our readers and making sure they have a consistent experience.”
The pricing in News Ltd’s recently announced pay wall will favour its website over apps sold through Apple’s iTunes, which takes $2.70 a month from every subscription to The Australian app, leaving just $6.29 for the company that makes it.
News said app subscriptions ”will not give full access” to the new web and mobile sites, while those who paid News directly would. Given the price for each will be similar, readers will get more if they pay News instead of Apple.
UPDATE: It seems Apple have already caved. Serves me right for trusting Fairfax for up-to-date news, no wonder they’re going under…
An Apple spokesman confirmed today that the company revised its policies, loosening the rule requiring media app developers to only offer content for purchase through iTunes. Also, Apple dropped language that required media companies to offer paid content on the same or better terms than what they offer elsewhere.
The changes come as media owners resist the restrictions posed by Apple’s guidelines and some, like Pearson’s Financial Times, have experimented with ways to get around the guidelines but still make their content available on Apple’s popular devices.
Thanks News Ltd for giving today’s news, I will now buy your product and not Fairfax’s. Isn’t capitalism a beautiful thing?
Continuing a long-standing tradition of escalating the hardship of Palestinians and exacerbating tensions with Israel in order to distract from problems at home, it looks like Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has been behind the recent riots on the Syrian border in which Palestinians haves been killed whilst trying to break into Israel. There were reports quite soon after that the Syrian regime had been paying the protesters, however it seems that the Palestinian terror groups that Syria harbours have now been clamping down on any opposition.
According to WAFA and other reports, the fighters from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which is backed by Syria, clashed with mourners in the Yarmouk refugee camp after funerals for Palestinian protesters who were killed on Sunday at the border between Syria and the Israeli-held Golan Heights.
The shootings on Monday took place after mourners accused the organization of sacrificing Palestinian lives by encouraging protesters to demonstrate at the Golan Heights, Reuters reported. Reports also referred to divisions in the camp between those who support the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and those who sympathize with the Syrian opposition, which is seeking expanded democratic rights.
I remain hopeful that 60 years later, the Arab world will finally see through these charades and realise that Israel is not the sole cause of the Palestinians’ plight (or, for that matter, of every other problem that the Arabs face). I’m still amazed that no one focuses on the horrible treatment that Palestinians receive in Arab states, why isn’t the so-called “Palestine solidarity” movement going to Lebanon to demand that Palestinians are allowed to work, own property and live outside of designated areas? That is Apartheid if I ever saw it…
Christopher Hitchens in The Australian this weekend, speaking about the recent arrest of Serbian commander Ratko Mladic for genocide:
But the monstrous nature of his power and reach was paradoxically and enormously exaggerated not by those who wanted to confront it, but by those who did not. This meant that the whole nightmare was needlessly prolonged. On whatever basis the post-Tito Yugoslavia was to be reconstituted, there was one that was utterly impossible as well as unthinkable: a “Greater Serbia”, whereby smaller republics and their populations were forcibly cut to fit the requirements of a dictatorial tailoring.
It will one day seem incredible that NATO powers did not see this right away and continued to treat Milosevic as a “partner in peace”, opening the road that led straight to Srebrenica and the murder of people ostensibly under our protection.
Srebrenica is one of the best-documented atrocities in modern history. We have everything, from real-time satellite surveillance (shamefully available to the US even as the butchery was going on) to film and video taken by the perpetrators, including of Mladic. The production of this material in court will, one hopes, wipe any potential grin from his face and destroy the propaganda image of the simple patriotic man-at-arms. Whatever our policy on monsters abroad may be, we should be able to recognise one when we see one.
This is an extremely pertinent point today. It shows how Western naiveté and a desire To find people who want to work for peace can cause us to overlook glaringly obvious flaws in people and appease people like Mladic, in the hope that they will “see the light”, or so to speak. It also shows the consequences of this – Srebrenica happened because a genocidal maniac talking about peace was able to exploit Western sentiment to be given free reign to extinguish all of the ethnic minorities in Serbia.
The lesson here is that we cannot let a desire for peace cloud our judgment. Peace partners must be judged on the basis of their actions, not our hopes. And so (bet you saw this one coming) no unity government that includes Hamas will ever be able to truly make peace. Not when just one year ago, their leaders were saying things like this:
They want to present themselves to the world as if they have rights, but, in fact, they are foreign bacteria – a microbe unparalleled in the world. It’s not me who says this. The Koran itself says that they have no parallel: “You shall find the strongest men in enmity to the believers to be the Jews.”
May He annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience. I condemn whoever believes in normalizing relations with them, whoever supports sitting down with them, and whoever believes that they are human beings. They are not human beings. They are not people. They have no religion, no conscience, and no moral values.
Today is the 4th of June, 2011. 44 years ago, on this day, Palestinians in the West Bank stood cheering as Egyptian fighter jets flew overhead, on their way to destroy the Zionist enemy and allow the Palestinians to return after Gamal Abdul Nasser fulfilled his promise to “drive the Jews into the sea”.
What they didn’t know is that the planes they were cheering were actually Israeli – they had just returned from destroying Egypt’s airforce, allowing Israel to defeat the combined armies of Jordan Egypt and Syria, all of which had been amassing for a final drive to wipe-out Israel, and capture the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank of the Jordan river – which included the holy city of Jerusalem. This is definitely one of my all-time favourite stories.
That said, the Israeli soldiers entering Jerusalem, the first Jews permitted to do so for 20 years, found that in the course of their 20-year occupation of the city, the Jordanians had attempted to destroy any evidence of the 3,000-year Jewish history in the city – all Jewish holy sites had been destroyed or vandilised. This is why Israel is now so tentative about dividing Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Sinai was returned to Egypt in the peace treaty of 1979, which created a lasting, if somewhat cold, cessation of hostilities between the two nations. Gaza was returned to the Palestinians in 2005 unilaterally. The Golan is still under Israeli control and will remain so in all likelihood – they will only ever be returned if there is an assured peace deal with Syria and that does not look likely in the next century at least. However, since 1973 there has been a sustained cessation of overt hostilities and so long as there is peace with Egypt and peace with Jordan, this is likely to continue.
Unfortunately, the Israelis have since built a number of cities, towns and villages throughout the West Bank – making any kind of withdrawal very difficult. Even more unfortunate, however, has been the absolute refusal of its residents to take any action necessary to facilitate an Israeli withdrawal and the pece deal that this would require.
So that’s the thought for the day – the momentous war of 1967 and its current fallout, summarised in a few short paragraphs.
There are still too many people talking about Israeli intransigence. In the best rebuke that I have seen of Netanyahu’s various statements in the US last week (as in, the only one that didn’t read as if the author had presupposed that Bibi was wrong and then gone about finding reasons why), former mayor of Jerusalem Jeff Barak writes on why Bibi’s statements made negotiations and a peace deal look further off than ever. And to an extent, he’s not wrong.
This is inevitable, and it’s also the right move for those who wish to maintain Israel’s capital as a Jewish city. There is no escaping it.
As Jerusalem’s former mayor, I know this well, and it’s possible. Those who refuse to discuss it terminate the chances for a peace process. One can speak nicely, stir up rightist radicals and draw applause from the settlers, yet this will not bring peace, genuine negotiations or global understanding [of Israel’s position].”
INDEED, NETANYAHU’S remarks on Jerusalem slammed the door shut on any hope that his government had the slightest intention of entering into negotiations with the Palestinians. His stirring phrases might have boosted his standing in the opinion polls, but opinion polls do not change reality.
That said, there have been a lot of events spurring this supposed intransigence – there are some very good reasons why Israelis are giving up on peace. Elliot Abrahams, a prolific Middle East analyst from the Council on Foreign relations, has outlined all these, shedding light on exactly how far weak Palestinian leadership and confused policy from the Obama administration have allowed the situation to deteriorate.
The incoherence of U.S. policy is summed up in this passage from Obama’s AIPAC speech: “We know that peace demands a partner—which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist. . . . But the march to isolate Israel internationally—and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations—will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative.” So Israel cannot be expected to negotiate and it must start negotiating.
That is where the president stands after two years of involvement in Middle East peacemaking, and his problems are largely of his own making…We would not be where we are had all three men—Abbas, Netanyahu, Obama—not given up on each other, a striking failure in American diplomacy.
As Abraham points out, this is causing the Israeli public to feel increasingly isolated and jaded, rallying them around those who seem to be taking a principled stand against the pressure that they are receiving from all sides.
British novelist Howard Jacobson summed this up well on Australian TV recently, observing that everyone points fingers at Israelis without trying to understand exactly how they feel and why they do what they do.
The Israeli Government has to deal with the problem that the people with whom it must negotiate – some of the people with whom it must negotiate say you’ve got no right to exist. You do not have any. So they’re frightened. Well, blow me the Israelis are frightened. It’s not often understood how frightened Israelis are. They are there surrounded on all sides by people who would like them not to be there.
As Larry Derfner wrote in the the Jerusalem Post, this sense of fear and isolation leads to exactly the policies that then spark further condemnation, which continues the spiral toward further fear.
Remember the hysteria over the coriander menace? Until a year ago, we were stopping coriander and God knows how many other edibles from entering Gaza – in the name of national security! Then the Mavi Marmara sails for Gaza, we shoot it up, the pressure’s on again, and suddenly a long list of previously banned foods – yes, even coriander – is moving into Gaza, and suddenly no one wants to remember how mindless and sheep-like they were to take the army’s and government’s word that this insane policy was necessary to keep Israel safe.
This is the problem with all of the pressure on Israel and the relentless condemnation of everything Netanyahu does – ironically, rather than forcing Israel to make concessions and advancing whatever vestige of hope there may be for a resumption of negotiations, it only increases the Israeli public’s sense of helplessness and drives public opinion to the right. As Abrahams points out, Israelis have made concessions in the past not under fierce condemnation, but rather when they feel that whoever is asking for concessions is on their side and that they are not the only side being forced to do so.
All of this makes life harder for Israel and in a way easier for Prime Minister Netanyahu. When a deeply sympathetic American president asks for concessions and compromises and appears able to cajole some from the Palestinians, which was the Clinton/Rabin and Bush/Sharon combination, Israel must respond. When a president most Israelis regard as hostile pushes them while the PLO leadership turns to Hamas, most Israelis will back Netanyahu’s tough response.
It is absurd to suggest that peace is ebbing away because of Netanyahu. He may have been a factor, but there has been a dramatic failure from the Palestinian Authority and the US to do anything conducive to a dialogue or compromise. At the moment, it looks like the best idea would be to top trying to make peace…and rather, start trying to prevent a war from breaking-out.