And party politics become as irrelevant as…

December 29, 2012

… oh, I dunno.  Think of the most irrelevant thing you can imagine.  UK party politics is even more irrelevant.   Tory, Labour, Lib Dumb (sorry, that should have been “Lib Damn”… wasn’t it?) are all the bloody same.  The only party that is actually attracting new members is that bunch of crazy Nazis called Ukip.  And please, please, don’t even think of them as a serious party, they’re like the Monster Raving Loony Party being led by Mussolini!

Funny comment on this in the Guardian: “It increasingly seems like making the decision between the mainstream parties is like judging the merits of dog crap vs cat crap”.  What, you don’t think it’s funny?  Bloody heck, I’m doing my best!


 
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Is Turkey a modern democracy?

December 3, 2012

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Turkey claims to be a modern democracy, with ambitions to join the European Union.  But is Turkey really that democratic, or that modern?  I wonder if any country is anything like nice to live in when it has laws that criminalize insulting historical figures or religions, especially when the “insult” is portrayed for satire – or even just a joke.

Look, for instance, at the recent case where the Turkish radio and television watchdog RTUK has fined TV channel CNBC-e 52,951 lira (£18,600) for airing an episode of The Simpsons, whose scenes included God taking orders from Satan (the devil tells God to make him some coffee) – apparently this silly joke is insulting religious beliefs.  Also, last week the Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan attacked a hit soap opera about the Ottoman Empire’s longest-reigning Sultan, while RTUK has warned the show’s makers about “insulting a historical figure”.  And insulting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, is a heinous crime that can get you seven years imprisonmentMustafa Akyol, Turkish himself, writes that Turkey is “one of the world’s last remaining regimes based on a cult of personality. It is outdone only by North Korea”.  He says it is impossible to write anything about Ataturk that represents him as a normal human being with normal frailties without risking prosecution for “insulting” the guy.  Turkish law 5816 criminalises “insulting the legacy of Ataturk”.

And then there’s the Armenian genocide (this’ll get me extradited to Turkey for sure!).  During and after World War 1, the Ottoman government carried out a systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in the territory constituting the present-day country of Turkey.  Able-bodied Armenian men were either murdered immediately or killed slowly through means of forced labour; women, children, the elderly and the infirm were dealt with by deportation and death marches to the Syrian desert.  There were also extermination camps established, near Turkey’s moderm Iraqi and Syrian borders.  The term “genocide” was coined to describe these events; it’s thought to be the first historical example of a deliberate policy to exterminate a single people.

Modern day Turkey denies that the Armenian genocide ever took place – there might have been a few unfortunate incidents down to over-zealous soldiers or officials, but there was no policy of genocide.  Honest.  Turkey has some really weak arguments on this.  For instance (from Wikipedia):

“Turkish governmental sources have asserted that the historically demonstrated ‘tolerance of Turkish people’ itself renders the Armenian Genocide an impossibility. One military document leverages 11th century history to cast doubt on the Armenian Genocide: ‘It was the Seljuq Turks who saved the Armenians that came under the Turkish domination in 1071 from the Byzantine persecution and granted them the right to live as a man should’.”

In other words, Turks saved the Armenians from Byzantine persecution in 1071 so there’s no way they would have changed their minds and tried to wipe the Armenians from the face of the earth a thousand years later.  Yeah, real compelling evidence.

Anyway, suggesting that the Turks carried out genocidal policies is, surprise surprise, considered as “insulting Turkey, the Turkish ethnicity, or Turkish government institutions”, a crime under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.  And this isn’t some archaic law that the government just haven’t got round to repealing yet – this law was passed in 2005!

It would seem that Turkey is getting more authoritarian by the day.  And this is a country that would claim to be a modern democracy?  The Turkish government needs to look at the statute books and do away with some of its ridiculous laws if it wants to be seen abroad as anything other than a petty, ridiculous “democratic” dictatorship. Oh, and it needs to stop persecuting the Kurds – an exclusive club whose other members are Iran and Iraq is a club you do not want to join.

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UN votes to recognize Palestine as an “independent state”… and?

December 1, 2012

So, the United Nations voted to recognize Palestine as an “independent state”. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the motion. As the Guardian says:

The 193-member assembly voted 138 in favour of the plan, with only nine against and 41 abstentions. The scale of the defeat represented a strong and public repudiation for Israel and the US, who find themselves out of step with the rest of the world

But this is very much just a symbolic gesture. Palestine still isn’t a full member state of the UN with voting privileges. It is now a “non-member observer state”, on a par with the Vatican; but its new status gives Palestine more rights, such as acceding to the International Criminal Court. And the word “state” means a lot to the Palestinians, who see this as support from all round the world for its ambitions to become a fully independent nation.

Of course, the vote has not led to any changes on the ground. Israel is still right in the face of the Palestinian authority, and authorising the illegal building of settlements in occupied territory. In fact, Israel just authorised the building of new housing for Jews in occupied East Jerusalem, where Europe and the US have long called on Israel not to build, and where Israel wants to diminish the Palestinian percentage of population. “New housing for Jews”… that phrase makes my blood run cold. This is bare-faced apartheid, for which most of the world shunned South Africa for many years. How can anyone support such a fascist Israel? Yes, Israel has genuine security issues – but so does the rest of the world. That can’t be used as a just reason for such belligerence.

And it gets worse. Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, told the BBC that the Palestinian move was a “massive violation” of the Oslo peace accords, and that if the Palestinian Authority attempted to use the new status to declare an independent state then Israel would have to act and may go so far as “annexing territory” – ie invasion and waging war. It’s obvious that Israel has no wish to make peace with the Palestinian people; it wants to wipe them out, like a gardener might destroy a troublesome ants nest. When will the US stop supporting this belligerent, fascistic Israel?

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