Saturday 31 January 2015

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Languages & Culture

 

Speech on Anti-Semitism at the Council of Europe by European Union of Jewish Students President

Posted by on 27/01/15

During her speech at the Council of Europe, in commemoration of the Holocaust, Mrs. Braden Golay, president of the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS), reiterated the promise many of us make on this date each year: “Never again!”

Watching her, I realized how little we know about keeping the Holocaust from reoccurring. The wave of anti-Semitism sweeping over Europe and permeating every college campus in the US is indicative of our inefficiency at curbing, much less reversing anti-Semitism.

Mrs, Braden-Golay promised to “remember, understand, recognize, and act.” But she never as much as implied what that action might be. I believe she means well. It felt as though she really wanted her final words to come true. She ended her speech declaring that “the most meaningful way, we as a society can honor all those lives destroyed, is to remain resilient against the divisive forces of fear and hate. …And let us take together, first thing tomorrow, action.”

But what action would that be? Not a word was said.

I would therefore like to make a suggestion as to the action we must take in order to combat anti-Semitism. Let us take her final words of the speech and put an emphasis on two words: “together” and “divisive.”

Indeed, the forces at play are dividing us. They are causing our people to divide and splinter us into factions and fragments. This disunity is precisely what causes our predicament.

When we are together, we are strong. We are strong not because we join our forces against a common enemy. It is rather that when we are together, our very unity strengthens us. We became a nation when we united at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and in a sense, we stopped being a nation when we were exiled two millennia ago, due to our unfounded hatred of each other.

But there is more. Today it is not enough to unite in the face of anti-Semitism. As the world is crumbling under the divisive forces of power struggles among superpowers on the global level, and as people are growing increasingly alienated from each other on the personal level, the remedy of unity is imperative to our survival. People seem to have lost their ability to connect. They find refuge on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, but a screen cannot compensate for the loss of human connection.

The remedy the world needs is to be able to unite, feel close, connected. Without human solidarity our society is doomed.

Before the Temple was ruined, this solidarity held us together. It is what enabled us to maintain the humane society we had developed when the world around us was utterly barbaric.

Now that the world is regressing once again into barbarity, it needs the remedy of unity more than ever. The only ones who can offer it are we, Jews, provided that we reawaken it within us in order to convey it to the world.

We often contemplate our role as Jews. We debate on the meaning of being “a light for the nations,” and try to figure out what that light might be. It isn’t all that complicated. All we need is to unite among us, without any oppression and without forcing anyone to become someone else. We should simply unite above our differences. By that, we will set an example of unity and solidarity to the world, and they will do the same. By so doing, we will become “a light for the nations.”

We are already being watched much more closely than we’d like to be. So we must leverage on that intensive scrutiny and offer something valuable to the world. We’ve offered numerous brilliant scientists, authors, economists, and physicians to the world. Have we ever been thanked for it? We haven’t. But have we ever asked ourselves why we are not winning gratitude? Is it because the entire world is ungrateful, or because it is simply not what they want from us? I think it is the latter.

What we can and must do now is unite, establish solidarity and mutual guarantee (a.k.a. mutual responsibility), and show it as an example to the world. They cannot find the way to unity without us, and they will not leave us alone until we learn how to unite among us, and promptly after, if not during, show them how to do it, too.

 

Michael Laitman is a Professor of Ontology, a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah, and an MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. He was the prime disciple of Kabbalist, Rav Baruch Ashlag (the RABASH). Prof. Laitman has written over 40 books, translated into dozens of languages; he is the founder and president of the ARI Institute, and a sought after speaker. His latest book, Like A Bundle of Reeds: why unity and mutual guarantee are today’s call of the hour, explains the root, cause and solution to anti-Semitism.

He can be reached through: www.michaellaitman.com.

Twitter: @laitman

 

The Catholic Church should review its Encyclica of Human Life

Posted by on 23/01/15

It is 50 years since Pope Paul VI proclaimed the famous Encyclica of human life asking the 1.2 billion Catholics living today on earth to regulate births exclusively by “natural means”, i.e. abstaining from sexual intercourse during the periods of ovulation.

This appeal has failed. The Church has vastly over-estimated the intelligence and discipline of the believers to regulate births in a way, which contradicts Nature calling for sexual activity during the fertile days of the cycle.

The Catholic Church therefore has to acknowledge its responsibility for the ultra-rapid global demographic growth, with more than doubling of the population from 3.4 to 7.3 billion people during the last 50 years.

Countries with Catholic populations have seen their population grow faster than non-Catholic countries. In South-East Asia, Catholic Philippines continues to be the country with the highest fertility, three children per woman, though fertility more than halved since the mid-1960s.

Thanks to legislation introduced since 2012 against the frantic opposition from the Catholic Church the Philippine government has been enabled to offer all women free access to the public family planning service, which gives a fair chance to the country to reduce fertility rates to the replacement level of two within less than two decades.

But this is not good enough for Humanity. The Church wields big influence in many sub-Sahara African countries where fertility rates continue to be excessively high.

If it were to preach its African disciples that 2-3 children are enough and encourage governments and international donors to introduce education for all girls and the beginnings of old -age pension systems, it would help global population stabilise below the 10 billion that are being projected by the UN for the middle of the 21st century.

This would help reduce misery and poverty in Africa, Latin America and Asia and make a big numbers of human beings healthier and happier.

Pope Francis would have the power to introduce such a reform. He has openly declared that Catholics should “not breed like rabbits”; he knows more about the misery in slums than any of his predecessors. Hopefully, he might realise during his forthcoming visit to Africa that the message of “Human Life” is too demanding for the masses of uneducated women and therefore cannot work.

In one or two years the time might be ripe for revising the “Encyclica of Human Life” which however brilliantly written has put some dust on since 1968!

Brussels 20.01.2015 Eberhard Rhein

 

Iohannis of Romania/Luxembourg

Posted by on 19/01/15
Romania has surprised Europe by electing Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German, as president of the country. There has been much speculation about an imminent powerful link of Romania to Berlin. It seems that Mr. Iohannis is also perfect in relating with the European Commission. Jean Claude Juncker, the ex-Luxembourg prime minister, has recently said that [...]

France’s excessive laïcité

Posted by on 18/01/15

In the wake of the tragic massacre of cartoonists from Paris on the 7th of January, most major news services around the Western world, from The New York Times to The Guardian and Deutsche Welle, have highlighted in editorials the dire living conditions in which many French Muslims are forced to live.

 

To be sure, poverty, exclusion, lack of employment prospects or the harshness of ghetto life in the suburbs surrounding major French cities cannot excuse the killings that have taken place, nor any other terrorist action for that matter. They do, however, help explain them and at the same time they highlight the decades-old neglect displayed by French officials when dealing with the plight of citizens of Arab origin.

 

A closely related issue is that of intolerant secularism, which over the last few years has prompted actions such as legislative measures directed against the Islamic dress code and has condoned – through the Charlie Hebdo cartoons –  repeated attacks against core Islamic religious values or symbols. Alas, the Catholic foe had been vanquished at horrendous human cost during the French Revolution: the republicans’ search for new religious scapegoats should relent before it is going to be too late.

 

Born in a European capital…

Posted by on 16/01/15
Many have asked me if the title of “European Youth Capital 2015” is important to Cluj (Romania). Concrete benefits can still be seen from the period in which Sibiu (also in Romania) carried the title of “Cultural Capital” in 2007, but what matters is the great European symbolism for Cluj. Although I live in the [...]

‘Grace of Monaco’, Charles de Gaulle and Vladimir Putin

Posted by on 30/12/14

Recently, on a transatlantic flight, for lack of better ideas, I watched a new film “Grace of Monaco”, released in May 2014. I expected a romantic melodrama about a famous actress who gave up her professional career after a marriage to a prince. And, considering that the role of Grace Kelly is played by Nicol Kidman, inevitably, also a certain number of risque scenes.

However, it became apparent fairly quickly that the producers and scenarists of this film were guided by very different, cleverly constructed, essentially geopolitical ideas, far from the slogan “make love” and much closer to the slogan “make war”. As the film progressed, it became clear to me that the key aspect of the film was not the question of romantic entanglements and individual crises of conscience as I had expected, but that it was an attempt to re-write one period of Cold War European history in accordance with the needs of contemporary Anglo-American foreign policy. The main message of the movie, in fact, had very little to do with the fate of the unhappy beauty Grace Kelly, but much more with the political attitudes and actions of the French president at the time Charles de Gaulle. The story about Grace was nothing more than a convenient instrument to demonize de Gaulle and blacken his political reputation before not only the American, but also the global film audiences.

In the film, De Gaulle is presented as a brooding tyrant, almost a Hitler’s twin brother, who, as a proof of his irrational Nietzschean will-to-power, wants to occupy and, in the long run, destroy the peace-loving and prosperous Monaco. But, right then, on the scene appear considerate and well-meaning American advisors and intelligence operatives who successfully assist Grace and her husband prince Rainier to prevail over the terror of the French. And so, the good guys (plus a girl) win over the bad guys. De Gaulle’s intentions are frustrated and blocked, his allies within Monaco publicly humiliated, and all the rest can now live happily ever after.

The real story, however, that at the time Rainier ruled Monaco in the manner of an authoritarian medieval monarch, that for a long time he did not recognize even the basic democratic principles of the ordinary citizens, and that the statelet was a gamblers’ and smugglers’ paradise was swept under the rug. The film viewers are served an aestheticized caricature in line with the existing Anglo-American hegemonic interests, instead of being shown a complicated geopolitical reality where, very often, behind the dignified words and humanistic discourse lurk the forces of evil and death.

It is very important to note that, in light of the current political and economic processes in Europe, the demonization of de Gaulle is not at all accidental. Ever since the end of the World War II, he was seen as a formidable political obstacle by those circles who wanted to make a yet another Anglo-American colony out of Western Europe. He famously talked about Europe “from the Atlantic to the Urals” in his 1959 Strasbourg address, that is to say, Europe, which includes Russia, but perhaps not Great Britain. Because of such authentically integrative (continentalist) political ideas, which de Gaulle advocated with no less courage and determination than he had when he fought Nazis during the WWII, he was a frequent target of planned violence. Certain experts have counted more than thirty assassination attempts. After one such attempt in 1966 for which there is credible evidence that it was related to the activies of Anglo-American intelligence agencies (whose networks often included former Nazis) and coordinated by certain clandestine structures within NATO, de Gaulle ordered the withdrawal of France from the NATO command and control mechanisms as well as the expulsion of NATO headquarters from Paris. The NATO leadership then moved to Brussells where it is located to this day. A few years ago, though, they have started building a new headquarters complex, the financing of which led to a scandal in which, among others, the former NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen was also implicated. Nothing in NATO can pass without a scandal (which, however, is soon enough swept under the rug).

The last act of resistance of the French foreign policy against the “Atlantic” vision of Europe was offered by the president Jacques Chirac in 2003 when he refused to agree with the participation of French troops in the invasion of Iraq. This led to such an anti-French hysteria in the dominant American political circles that even certain common terms of English language were changed. For instance, two Republican Congressmen, one of which chaired a committee who had oversight over the work of the Congress cafeteria, initiated the re-naming of “French fries” to “Freedom fries” and of “French toast” to “Freedom toast”. But, when Chirac’s successor Nicholas Sarkozy brought France back into NATO, there was nothing to impede the French fries being triumphantly restored in the cafeteria menu.

The biggest problem with the “Atlantic” vision of Europe which de Gaulle and Chirac both resisted is that it is, in essence, impossible to realize. For this reason, it is the incubator of permanent political and economic instability on the European soil. This vision demands the subordination to the Anglo-American interests not only the dominant European economies, the economies of Germany, France, Italy and others, but also of Russia. While Russia was led by the president Boris Yeltsin, the Russian elite accepted this inferior geopolitical status which led to the horrific abuses of ordinary citizens by domestic and foreign predators and criminals. However, things began to change already towards the end of the 1990s, when the prime minister became Yevgeniy Primakov, but they reached a full geopolitical turn (that is, a revolution in the astronomical sense of the term) during the third mandate of the president Vladimir Putin.

That the “Atlantists” will neither tolerate nor forgive Russia these acts of resistance is shown by the flare-up of war in Ukraine, the ring of sanctions which is getting tigher and tigher and which led to the 25 percent fall in the value of the ruble since the beginning of the year, and the sudden, artifically engineered fall of the price of oil, one of Russia’s key exports.

At the end of October, Putin delivered an important address at the meeting of the Valdai International Forum organized by some of the best known European politicians and intellectuals. In many ways, it resembled de Gaulle’s Strasbourg speech. Putin’s proposals, it seems to me, represent one of the last chances for the peaceful settlement of global problems before the possible onset of a nuclear Apocalypse.

I wonder whether the Montenegrin ruling political elite and their media amplifiers undestand that Europe is one step from the abyss. Instead of parroting the ten points from NATO propanda leaflets, by choosing the policy of military neutrality, they could give an authentic contribution to the calming of passions and the reaching of reasonable agreement among the Big Powers.

This article was originally published in the Montenegrin daily newspaper Vijesti on November 13, 2014. It was translated into English by the author.

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To hell with ethnic purity

Posted by on 18/12/14

The French, who for so long talked about ‘nos ancêtres, les Gaulois’, may have felt justified in not looking too closely at their antecedence. The Germanic element is in fact more important: according to Luigi Barzini, the Italian author and politician, almost half the inhabitants of present-day France are the descendants of Germanic tribes.

As Graham Robb points out in his book The Discovery of France, “The Celtic and Germanic tribes who invaded ancient Gaul and the Frankish tribes who attacked the ailing Roman province had almost as many different origins as the population of modern France. The only coherent, indigenous group that a historically sound National Front party could claim to represent would be the very first wandering band of pre-human primates that occupied this section of the Western European isthmus” (what Norman Davis calls “the European Peninsula”).

Even 500 years ago, there were few communities in Europe that could reasonably claim, had they wanted to, to be ethnically homogeneous. In fact, they had better things to do with their time. In the intervening half-millennium, those communities that could have made this assertion have seen their claims made even more tenuous by migration and miscegenation. Italy, for example, saw the settlement of the Germanic Langobardi - the ‘long-bearded people’, today’s Lombards – and the short-lived incursions of the Visigoths and Ostrogoths who sacked Rome.

The Iberian peninsula provided the setting for a series of Germanic civilisations: first and fleetingly the Vandals, who gave their name to Andalusia, later the Suevi (the Swabians again) and the Visigoths. Spain was a very cosmopolitan place. Other settlers in that particular piece of God’s Earth, some temporary but most of them permanent, included the Iberians, Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Arabs, English and French.

In fact there is genetic evidence of a population movement through Spain that brought Stone Age man up the Atlantic coast to the British Isles (except that at that time these islands were still land-linked to the Continent, which made matters easier for the migrants). The genetic marker in question is particularly prominent in the Irish county of Connaught (98.3% of all men, according to a recent study by Trinity College scientists) – a phenomenon that may also owe something to the land clearances imposed on the Irish by their English masters later on.

The Celts, because they ended up in the most inaccessible corners of Western Europe – Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, Galicia and northern Portugal – have managed to maintain some sort of ethnic identity. Yet even the most idiosyncratic of the Celts, the Irish, cannot evoke their Celtishness much beyond the limits of their cultural traditions. Historian E Esteyn Evans believed that the genes coming from English settlers there exceed those deriving from the Celts, and that “those coming from older stocks would constitute the largest proportion” (a reference to the earlier Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic settlers).

In his book The Language Instinct, Stephen Pinker observes that “race and ethnicity are the most minor differences of all.” The human geniticists Walter Bodmer and Luca Cavalli-Sforza have noted a paradox about race. “Among laypeople, race is lamentably salient, but for biologists it is virtually invisible. Eighty-five percent of human genetic variation consists of the differences between one person and another within the same ethnic group, tribe or nation.”

Many communities arrive at apparent homogeneity through a gradual process of miscegenation combined, in some cases, with their relative isolation. Portugal is a good example, but in its case as in many others the brew is like a minestrone soup, where one spoonful looks just like another, yet each spoonful contains enough ingredients to confound any claims to homogeneity.

Maybe the Swabians again – descendants of the Suevi, one of the Alemanni tribes that crossed the frozen Rhine in AD 406 – have a case for some degree of genetic continuity. Poachers turned gamekeepers, they won the right from an enfeebled Roman Empire to guard its frontiers. The consequence today is a community of common origin that extends along both banks of the Rhine through four countries from France’s Alsace to include Germany, Switzerland and the Austrian Vorarlberg.

Do national hymns matter?

Posted by on 14/12/14

Countries have national hymns which are singed at celebrations, solemn occasions and sport events. Less known is that the Council of Europe and the European Union have the same anthem – “Ode to Joy” with words written in 1785 by the German poet Friedrich Schiller and music composed by Beethoven in 1823 (his 9th symphony).

The anthem isn’t supposed to replace the national anthems of the Member States. But no doubt the lyric of the European Anthem sounds more peaceful than most national anthems. It pays tribute to joy which unites all human beings and celebrates their brotherhood.

National anthems vary greatly in wording and usually pay tribute to the history, nature or government of the country. Countries which have been independent for centuries highlight the glory of their history. Countries which lost their independence express longings to become independent again.

This was illustrated when the Museum of the Polish-Jewish History was recently inaugurated in Warsaw. It stands in what was the heart of Jewish Warsaw before WWII. Its core exhibition is a journey through 1000 years of Polish-Jewish history.

It’s partly a conflict-ridden history where Jews and Poles lived in a kind of symbiosis with intertwined economies for hundreds of years. In many smaller places Jews were in majority. Churches and synagogues were often built close to each-other.

Jews were welcomed by the catholic kings of Poland in the 13th century or even earlier. The first coins in Poland have Hebrew letters. No expulsions took ever place from Poland. Religious tolerance was legislated.

Poland became the center of the Jewish world in Europe with a unique form of self-government during the commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In the period between the two world wars the Jews in Poland had developed a multi-facetted civil society with their own schools, media, political parties and cultural organizations.

Journalist and historian Anne Applebaum – well-known for her history of the Gulag in Soviet Union – attended the inauguration of the museum and wrote a moving article. Poles and Jews share a common history that is shown in Warsaw’s new museum.

Both Poles and Jews lost their independence in the past and were dreaming about national liberation. That is also reflected in their national hymns.

”For those who live in larger nations, I’m not sure that this emotion is even comprehensible. But those who live in small nations can perhaps empathize with one another somewhat better,” Applebaum writes.

She quotes the Polish anthem, written during the Napoleon wars, which starts with the words: “Poland has not yet perished, so long as we still live.”

The Ukrainian anthem, with words originally written in 1862, from an era when Ukraine did not figure on any maps of Europe, starts with similar words: “Ukraine has not yet perished, nor her glory, nor her freedom.”

In this context, she could of course also have mentioned the Israeli anthem, Hatikva (= Hope), written in the same period when so many nations yearned for freedom. “Our hope is not yet lost, the hope of two thousand years, to be a free people in our land.”

Pegida-Demonstrationen

Posted by on 09/12/14

Ganz gleich, was der einzelne von den “Pegida”-Demonstrationen in Dresden und andernorts halten mag – eines zeigen sie exemplarisch: Immer mehr Bürger lassen sich offenbar schnell für ganz große Themen und Anliegen mobilisieren, weniger jedoch für die konkrete politische Arbeit vor Ort. Denn es ist ja nicht weniger als die Sorge vor der Islamisierung des Abendlandes, die die selbst ernannten europäischen Patrioten jeden Montag auf die Straße treibt. Das Feindbild Islamismus stiftet Identität. Hinzu kommen bei vielen Demonstranten Ängste, Deutschland könne womöglich die zuletzt stark gestiegene Zahl von Flüchtlingen und Asylsuchenden nicht aufnehmen, ohne dass entweder die einheimische Bevölkerung benachteiligt werde oder aber religiöse Konflikte derart zunähmen, dass der einzelne Bürger um die Sicherheit auf den Straßen fürchten müsse.

Doch simple Sichtweisen und lautstarke Parolen haben selten dabei geholfen, einen nüchternen Blick auf die Realität zu werfen. Gerade einmal 0,4 Prozent Muslime – gemessen an der Gesamtbevölkerung – leben in Sachsen, der Ausländeranteil beträgt etwas mehr als zwei Prozent. Die sächsische Landeshauptstadt ist von einer Islamisierung in etwa so weit entfernt wie Dynamo Dresden vom Gewinn der Fußball-Champions-League. Und auch das angeblich christliche Menschenbild, auf das sich viele Demonstranten im vermeintlichen Kampf gegen die Islamisierung berufen, wäre ein ziemlich krudes. Nein, es liegt nicht daran, dass in Dresden nur jeder Fünfte überhaupt noch einer christlichen Kirche angehört. Das Verhältnis von Mehrheit und Minderheit ist ein schwieriges an der Elbe.

Vielmehr ist es generell ziemlich unchristlich, in dem Fremden erst einmal eine Bedrohung zu sehen, es ist ziemlich unchristlich, mit seinen Positionen vor allem unter sich bleiben zu wollen, und es ist ziemlich unchristlich, statt der Nächstenliebe die Karte der Abgrenzung beziehungsweise der Abschiebung auszuspielen. Und sind wirklich die Muslime schuld, wenn in Deutschland immer mehr Menschen aus der Kirche austreten, wenn Gotteshäuser geschlossen und christliche Glaubenstraditionen verdunsten? Wenn es den “Pegida”-Demonstranten in dieser Hinsicht ernst wäre, böten sich ihnen fantastische Betätigungsfelder.

Das direkte Gespräch, der Streit, das Ringen um die Wahrheit ist aber offenbar nicht die Stärke vieler “Pegida”-Anhänger. Denn wer zum Beispiel die Politik ständig auffordert, die Sorgen der Bevölkerung ernst zu nehmen und zuzuhören, zugleich aber den Diskurs meidet wie der Teufel das Weihwasser, macht sich unglaubwürdig in der politischen Arena. Die “Pegida”-Bewegung mag für einen Montagabend lang das Bedürfnis befriedigen, sich unter Gleichen zu fühlen – auch Ängste können dort artikuliert werden. Eine realistische Auseinandersetzung mit der politischen Situation in Europa ist das aber noch lange nicht.

Die Sorgen der Demonstranten gilt es gleichwohl ernst zu nehmen. Denn wer eine Stimmung politisch zu lange ignoriert, wird erleben, wie sich ein Problem verselbstständigt, schlimmstenfalls in Aktionen, die weder europäisch kultiviert noch christlich zu nennen sind.

Europäische Sprach- und Kulturarbeit auf der Krim

Posted by on 12/11/14

Die Bundesregierung hat ihre Förderung der auf der Krim lebenden deutschen Minderheit eingestellt. Das bestätigte das zuständige Bundesinnenministerium der “Neuen Osnabrücker Zeitung” (Donnerstag). Grund sei, dass der Geldfluss über den in Kiew ansässigen “Rat der Deutschen in der Ukraine” mittlerweile “faktisch nicht mehr möglich” sei. “Ein weiteres Problem ist, dass Zahlungen in Rubel als Anerkennung der Legitimität des Anschlusses der Halbinsel an Russland gesehen werden könnten”, erklärte ein Sprecher.

Die Gelder aus Deutschland flossen bis zur Jahresmitte für Sprach- und Kulturarbeit, aber auch für soziale Unterstützung. Zur deutschen Minderheit zählen sich offiziell rund 2500 Bewohner der Krim. Real sind es vermutlich deutlich mehr. Nach dem Anschluss der Halbinsel hatte Russlands Präsident Wladimir Putin die deutsche wie auch tartarische Minderheit offiziell rehabilitiert. Russland sicherte beiden Gruppen im Sommer auch Rechte zu wie etwa die Schulbildung in eigener Sprache.

Das Bundesinnenministerium betonte, es prüfe, wie die Förderung der Krim-Deutschen fortgesetzt werden könne. Allerdings werde mit Russland nicht darüber verhandelt, da Deutschland die russischen Behörden dafür nicht als legitimen Ansprechpartner betrachte. Anders als der “Rat der Deutschen in der Ukraine” hatten sich die Krim-Deutschen im Frühjahr klar für einen Anschluss der Halbinsel an Russland ausgesprochen und die neue Regierung in Kiew kritisiert.

Sermons on Jewish holidays

Posted by on 16/10/14

In his article “The community of expulsion” (INYT, 7 Oct), Roger Cohen complains that he did not hear any sermon about Israel and the Palestinians when he visited his reform synagogue in London during the recent Jewish high holidays. Although he understands that these holidays “are days to look inward”, he thinks that the rabbis should have addressed the recent Gaza war in their sermons.

We should be happy that they did not. Most people follow the news from Israel. They are not interested in listening to political sermons in the synagogue – whether pro- or anti-Israeli government – and to be told what to think. During Rosh Hashana and Jom Kippur they want to come closer to their religious sources and listen to sermons on spiritual and moral topics.

Cohen’s quote from Stefan Zweig on how all Jews, irrespective of belief, origin and age, became a “community of expulsion” during the Nazi regime is touching. He could however have added that the Jews became a defenseless community of people condemned to death by the Nazis. Surely Cohen does not claim that the Palestinians, though many of them in exile, face the same situation.

Roma integration: when civil society is active, good things happen

Posted by on 13/10/14

Roma inclusion is of major concern for EU and it represents a great challenge in the area of fundamental rights. The EU has made great efforts in this field and demanded to Member States to tackle the poor living conditions of Roma and social exclusion within their societies. Good results are to be reached only if there is a multi-level cooperation between the EU, Member States, local authorities and civil society. Roma people are also present in the enlargement countries and their living conditions are not better that those experienced in the EU countries, therefore the European Commission decided to award NGOs from Western Balkans and Turkey for their programs which support Roma inclusion.

 The awarding ceremony took place the 1st October in Brussels and the aim of this competition was that of raising visibility over the problems faced by Roma people in the enlargement countries. During the ceremony Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, pointed out how important the work of civil society is and how the inclusion of Roma people is not only a matter of equality, but also represents an “investment to the benefit of society”.

The projects awarded are primarily addressed to women and children and the aim is that of building bridges between Roma and civil society. The means used are different but they all offer training to Roma women and education to children, since the lack of these represent two of the major obstacles for their inclusion in the relative societies and into the job market. Without education and training it is impossible to improve their working conditions and also their access to health care and housing.

But how are structured these projects and what makes them more successful than others? Here there is a short description of the selected projects by the Commission:

- Albania: Roma Active Albania with the project “Empowerment Campaign for Roma Women”. This project is addressed to Roma women and it has the aim to empower them to advocate for their own problems and also to build the capacity of dealing with decision-making authorities, by articulating their concerns in an effective matter.

- Bosnia and Herzegovina: Citizens Association for the Promotion of Education of Roma-Otharian with the project “Enhacing Basic Education for Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. The project promotes education of Roma children by addressing Roma parents and institutions on the importance of education and promoting directly formal and informal education for these children. Their Roma Youth and Culture Centre represents a place where Roma and non-Roma children can meet and interact with the result of developing social skills. They also have a Mobile Intervention Team formed by an outreach officer, a municipal representative, teachers and social workers which makes home visits to Roma children who experience difficulties at school.

-Kossovo: The Ideas Partnership with the project “From Handouts to Hands-up through Handicrafts: the former beggar-women of Fushe Kosove who’ve now got their kids to school and taken their place in the labour market”. In those communities Roma children work as beggars and rubbish-pickers and do not go to school normally. This association offered Roma women training and work opportunities but they were asked to send their children to school. There are also other benefits for those involved in this project, such as: literacy and parenting classes, medical care, including contraception and antenatal care and advice. This association created also asocial enterprise “SaPune” which sells the handicrafts made by these women.

-Macedonia: Centre for Integration Ambrela with the project “A Good Start- Increased Participation in Early Childhood Development In Suto Orizari”. The activities of this project have the aim of informing Romani parents on the importance of health-care check-ups and of education for their children, starting from kindergarten. They also help them to obtain personal documents and have access to these services to preschool services and Early Child Development Services. The project was implemented by a team consisting of community mediators regarding education, healthcare, IDs mediation, special educators and also a speech therapist.

-Montenegro: Center for Roma Initiatives with the project “Action Against Forced and Early Marriages in Roma and Egyptian Community”. Early marriages are still a widespread practice among Roma in Montenegro. This project denounced cases of abuse and also raised awareness in these communities by encouraging women to tell their stories and by using a Travelling Caravan to tell real stories to the several communities. The result was that of other women who reported cases of abuse. In order to raise awareness, they organised street protests, advocacy and lobbying activities. This organization also implemented Forum Theatre shows which allowed the audience to participate and find solutions to the problems presented.

-Serbia: Hands of Friendship with the project “Mother-Child Educational Project”. This project also was focused on improving access to early childhood education for Roma children. They used a multi-level approach to the issue which consists in lobbying local authorities for a higher level of inclusion and by encouraging and supporting Roma parents to enroll their children. They also created an alternative early childhood program in the form of Toy Library and they addressed mothers in order to empower them to decide what is best for them and for their children.

-Turkey: Sulukule Roma Culture Development and Solidarity Association with the project “Sulukule Childrens Art Atelier”. This Atelier is based in a Roma neighbourhood and wants to help children to be proud of their identity and culture, it provides them with education, music and art classes and also organises culture workshops for the communities. They have a Roma Youth Orchestra and a hip hop theatre group. The hip hop band Tahribad-ɪ Ysian, well-known in Turkey, emerged from that Atelier and their children also perform in international concerts and TV series.

These are all projects which could be implemented also elsewhere, with small variations in order to take into consideration different contexts, and they really can make the difference for Roma communities and build a bridge between them and the rest of the society.

(Ana Daniela Sanda)

To know more:

Štefan Füle’s speech at the Conference http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-14-649_en.htm?locale=en

Report on the implementation of the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/files/roma_implement_strategies2014_en.pdf


Classé dans:DROITS FONDAMENTAUX, Non discrimination, Protection des minorités

European Schools (EURSC) Is VP Sefkovic unwilling to answer to the European Parliament?

Posted by on 30/09/14

European Parliament rules allow MEP’s to ask written questions of Commissioners, who ought reply in writing within 6 weeks,

An MEP asked the question below of VP Sefkovic on 24th July 2014, after the repeated problems with the 2014 BAC and particular the Chemistry paper. To date the European Commission have refused to answer.

One has to wonder why?

Do they wish to wait until VP Sefckovic’s Parliamentary hearing is over before admitting his previous answer to Parliament was wrong?
 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getD…

 

Subject:  European Schools
The Commission previously informed Parliament (in response to Written Question E‐010390/2013) that a thorough, independent, external expert report had been produced regarding the Baccalaureate 2012 chemistry exam and that it made recommendations which were being closely followed up.

1. Can the Commission confirm that the only report produced was a six-paragraph internal report written by the Inspector, Edouard Ries, which denied the existence of any problem and made no recommendations?

2. Does the Commission accept the existence of problems in the Baccalaureate 2012 chemistry exam, and the subsequent lack of action, both of which must be contributory factors in the latest problems with the 2014 European Baccalaureate? These recent problems included off-syllabus questions and questions that were unclear, ambiguous or flawed.

3. Does the Commission agree that the latest issues with the European Baccalaureate (including the alteration of results by increasing all pupils’ marks by 5%) significantly harm the credibility of the European Baccalaureate and call into question the competence of those entrusted to manage the European Schools system? Does it also agree that there must now be a full, external and transparent public enquiry into the European Schools system (EURSC) and its handling of BAC 2012 chemistry and BAC 2014, as well as the question of providing redress for those impacted?

 

Roma health conditions in Europe: a worrisome picture emerged from the new report

Posted by on 22/09/14

On the 4th of September 2014 the European Commission published a report on the state of health of Roma populations in Europe which points out that discrimination towards Roma has direct consequences on their accession to housing, health care and education. The outcome of the report is that Roma manifest some worrying characteristics when it comes to health, such as shorter life expectancy, higher rates of infant mortality and higher risks of infectious diseases than the non-Roma people.

Data were collected in the 28 EU countries plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland by Matrix Knowledge in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Democracy, the European Public Health Alliance and individual national researchers on behalf of the Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency (Chafea) and DG SANCO. The main obstacles to this huge research, which covers the period 2008-2013, were the non-homogeneity of Roma populations and the insufficient data at the national level on their health situation. Notwithstanding the obstacles, common patterns among Member States and among different Roma groups emerged. Unfortunately they disclose a worrisome picture which asks for a more integrated approach among Member States in order to deal with this problem.

The life expectancy of Roma is 10 to 20 years less than the rest of the population. In Croatia the difference is around 10 years (66,6 years compared to 77), in Hungary is also 10 years less for men but around 18 years less for women. In Belgium, the Brussels municipal Social Services estimate that Roma have a life expectancy of 55 years and their health is even poorer than that of refugees. Roma populations also present higher rates of infant mortality observed in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic. In addition, they are also more vulnerable to outbreaks of measles and hepatitis A, B and C. The 2009 outbreak of measles occurred in Bulgaria concerned primarily Roma, since the 89,3 of the infected people were of Roma origin.

All these problems derive from difficulties they face in accessing health care systems in the Member States. The existing barriers are of several nature and they all need to be addressed in an efficient way.

One problem is administrative in nature and regards the lack of registration of these people in national population registers, which prevents them to have access to primary care services in many States. This is aggravated by social exclusion and lack of health care education of Roma. In many cases they are not aware of the possibilities available or they simply do not understand the information given. Linguistic and literacy barriers play an important role in the reduced use of the available services. Therefore States need to address these issues by providing interprets for appointments and simply written and translated material regarding health problems.

What contributes to the existing situation is also a discriminating attitude of the health care professionals combined with a lack of trust by Roma towards them. There is also a cultural element which plays against prevention. The report discovered a high level of use of acute hospital services, but very little use of preventive care, such as vaccination, adopting of healthy diet or doing physical activity. A first solution to this would be that of using health mediation programmes and providing training for health care professionals and reading material on Roma culture and, in particular, on relations between men and women inside this culture.

A special attention regarding gender issues is necessary since the report pointed out the severe condition of Roma women who are more disadvantaged than Roma men and other women because of traditional gender roles. They receive a more limited education than men, which leads to even less employment opportunities, and experiment physical and social isolation and poorer living conditions if compared to Roma men. All these factors lead to maternal health risks such as early and late pregnancies and poor access to antenatal care. They are also subjected to higher risk of domestic violence and mental health risks due to the subordinate role in Roma communities.

What can be done?

        In the end, the report calls both for a coordination among Member States, and also for tailored responses to the particular needs of each Roma group, or population, present on the territory of every State.

The EU has made considerable efforts to better Roma populations’ conditions. Among those we remember the organization, in 2008, of European Roma Summit on Roma Inclusion with the aim of discussing these issues at the highest decision-making levels, including national and regional authorities and involving civil society. This Summit was followed by the creation of the European Platform for Roma Inclusion. In 2011 the European Commission adopted the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) up to 2020. Member States were asked to prepare NRIS in order to deal with the challenges of Roma integration. Again, in 2013, the Commission made a proposal for a Council Recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in Member states with the aim of improving the effectiveness of their measures to achieve Roma integration and to coordinate the NRIS. Also the European Parliament deals with Roma issues, in particular LIBE Commission is responsible for EU strategy on Roma inclusion. In addition there are some EU agencies, such as European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and CHAFEA which are working on the same issues.

The point is that all the instruments adopted at EU level are non-binding, so it is up to Member States to implement these recommendations. The idea is that national governments should make efforts in order to improve the literacy and skills of Roma people and combat the discrimination they are exposed to through campaigns which bring together civil society and Roma populations. The critiques made to the Member States were that of lack of political will for real commitment in this field, manifested by the retards in using the available European funds allocated to Roma inclusion.

(Ana Daniela Sanda)

To know more:

Roma Health Report: Health status of the Roma population. Data collection in the Member States of the European Union: http://ec.europa.eu/health/social_determinants/docs/2014_roma_health_report_en.pdf

The situation of Roma women: FRA data analysis: http://fra.europa.eu/en/news/2013/situation-roma-women-fra-data-analysis

Report on the implementation of the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/files/roma_implement_strategies2014_en.pdf

Nea say files: http://www.eu-logos.org/eu-logos_nea-say.php?idr=4&idnl=3222&nea=148&lang=fra&arch=0&term=0

 


Classé dans:NON-DISCRIMINATION, Protection des minorité

Folklore in Europa?

Posted by on 18/09/14

Bis vor wenigen Wochen war alles Folklore. Aber was außerhalb Schottlands wie Folklore aussieht, ist innerhalb Schottlands ein gewissermaßen nur folkloristischer Ausdruck sehr viel tieferer Empfindungen. Man darf das nicht unterschätzen. Aber genau das haben die Engländer getan. Es war wohl ein alter imperialer Reflex; London hat noch nie verstanden, warum sich die abhängigen Gebiete unter seiner Herrschaft unzufrieden zeigen könnten.

Dann kam der Schock, als vor etwa drei Wochen die erste Umfrage eine mögliche Mehrheit für ein Yes signalisierte. Die politische und wirtschaftliche Elite beschloss daraufhin unisono, aus dem Wachkoma zu erwachen und augenblicklich in Panik auszubrechen. Die Schotten wurden seitdem mit Drohungen und Verlockungen überschüttet… Zu den Merkwürdigkeiten des Referendums gehört, dass die Schotten ausgerechnet das Pfund unter allen Umständen behalten wollen – und dass London ihnen das verbieten will.

Das United Kingdom ist kulturell nicht wirklich vereint, und die Größe Großbritanniens ist recht bröckelig. Die Zeiten der verbindenden Erzählungen ist vorbei. Erster und Zweiter Weltkrieg, der Aufbau eines gemeinsamen Gesundheitssystems, die Kämpfe der industriellen Arbeiterschaft – das ist Vergangenheit. Seit Margaret Thatcher werden die Bande brüchig.

Wenn Schottland mit Yes stimmt, werden die Nachbeben in Europa und der Welt zu spüren sein. Der traurige Rest des UK wird seine Atom-U-Boote nicht mehr bezahlen können, seinen ständigen Sitz im UN-Sicherheitsrat wohl verlieren und seinen Einfluss auf die Geschicke der EU. Das Pfund wird billiger und der Urlaub auf der Insel wieder bezahlbar.

Stimmt Schottland heute mit No, wird das Vereinigte Königreich Großbritannien und Nordirland aus Gründen der Gerechtigkeit auch seinen Engländern, Walisern und Iren mehr Rechte und Mächte geben müssen, denn die Schotten werden all die Wahlgeschenke einkassieren, die ihnen London inzwischen versprochen hat.

Der Prozess, das zerrissene Königreich wieder zu einem Ganzen zu verbinden, wird ein Werk für Jahrzehnte. Ein gängiges Wort unter den britischen Kommentatoren lautet: Der Geist ist aus der Flasche.

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