Friday, February 27, 2009


People usually have always clear ideas about other people and are able to judge others before they judge themselves. This might be just a typical human habit and some opinions might even be somewhat substantiated by personal experiences. Although not all people are the same, however, we usually tend to generalize behaviours and characteristics and quickly draw general conclusions from one or a few to the whole lot.

Having lived in the Persian Gulf (or the Arabian Gulf as the Arabs call it since Jamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt) for quite a while now, I've heard a lot about Arab opinions on Europeans. Although, as a European, I might not agree with all of them, I'm still content with the way they judge European work and professional ethics, which refelct a mostly very positive picture. On the other hand, the Arab Gulf States' image is very different with regard to work and professional ethics. Again, I have met some people who might fit the picture that is summarized in this cartoon, but I also have met those, who work hard alongside the many foreign workers that keep flocking the rich Golf region.

Criticism is not something people can take easily here and they certainly wouldn't like to be labelled as slave keepers, but to be honest, with regard to the hundred of thousands of cheap labour workers, this cartoon is not an unfair portrayal. May be it's true, what they say about money, which is accused of spoiling man's character. For many people I met, this is equally a fair judgement.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Asia's Switzerland

This picture looks very much like a beautiful valley from Switzerland, but it is not. This is a picture from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. It sure remindes the viewer of ski slopes and winter fun. But you wouldn't want to go there if you love skiing and fun, because this is where the Taliban, whose name we might mainly associate with Afghanistan, have been bombing girls' schools (report). According to their ruling girls are not allowed to go to school and to make sure they don't, they destroy the schools and threaten to kill the girls who defy their rulings. These people don't care if the whole world condemns them. According to their view they have a correct understanding of the holy scriptures, that are in Arabic, a language they don't speak; and despite the fact, that their equally strict brothers in Saudi Arabia do allow their girls to go to school and university.

But logic doesn't seem a valid argument for the Taliban, whose name by the way means 'students.' The forceful removal of their movement seems as ineffective as logic argumentations, as they seem to regain power not only in Afghanistan. There is no quick solution to this problem and the only chance is to keep educating people to the last valley, so that one day knowledge and reason will hopefully enlighten the inhabitants of those underdeveloped areas so they can rid themselves of people who claim they know better.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Disobedient Wife

This is a reflection experiment.

When there is a conflict like the one between Palestinians and Israel, it is difficult to have an objective look at the problem, without being emotionally drawn to one side or the other due to whatever factors you may think of.

So, let’s make a reflection experiment, that doesn’t claim to be scientifically correct, but it might be helpful to take a different look at a very complicated and emotionally loaded conflict.

Imagine this. As traditional practice has it in the Middle East, there is a woman and a man arranged to be married by her guardian and his family. Although a free choice approach is nowadays more desired by many of the young people in the region, it is still the custom, and in general people accept it as such. Hence, the groom has agreed to marry this pretty girl for a number of reasons, not only to please his family, and you happen to belong to one of the groom’s best friends since some special events in the past have closely connected you to his family. Unfortunately, the bride is not happy with this turn of fate for her life at all, but has little choice, because her guardian has taken this irrevocable decision and her family is poor, so they haven’t got the means to do anything about it.

After the wedding the woman cries and cries but to no avail, so she begins to rebel against her husband and he thinks it is best to show her who is in control in their marriage from the start, because he is quite content with the arrangement despite the refusal of his wife to submit to him. With time she becomes more rebellious and insists on a divorce, but this is out of question. Her guardian wouldn’t allow it and neither would her husband or his family, who insist that their son should have the upper hand. As time passes the wife tries to increasingly revolt against her husband in order to make his life as miserable as possible and he reacts with physical punishment as she doesn’t want to accept his rules and superiority as a husband. His wife’s behaviour also stresses him out as he had such big hopes for his future, like any young man has when he gets married. But instead the wife makes his life difficult and wouldn’t accept his authority that he thought would automatically happen after they got to know each other better.

As the years pass, the woman refuses to be a good wife to him, because she feels imprisoned and very oppressed in her marriage. She cannot accept the restrictions her husband has placed on her and she feels her life to be a nightmare. His frustration with the situation makes him hit her more and more, bruising her body and face, but she recovers somehow every time and still refuses to keep still. During the years his reaction to her disobedience has turned into constant physical abuse. As a friend of the husband you arranged marriage counselling many times, but the unhappy couple find it difficult to agree on anything, because the husband keeps insisting on his superior authority as a husband, showing off his bruises that his wife was able to inflict on him while he disciplined her. On the other hand, she keeps on reminding him that she had never wanted to marry him and accuses him of serious physical abuse from which she tries to defend herself.

As mentioned before, because of certain circumstances, a divorce is impossible, so the couple is stuck together, and the man becomes madder and more abusive as the wife becomes more disobedient. The violence increases. The wife is even being admitted to hospital many times with serious injuries. You want to try to help your friend, but he doesn’t see any other solution but breaking his wife’s will. You look on as he keeps beating her up with his fists or belt, even stabbing her, locking her in a cupboard, or not feeding her while she keeps kicking and shouting at him, as she is obviously not as strong as him. Meanwhile her guardian and his family keep negotiating, trying to find a solution to the couple’s problems, but neither side is prepared to accept the other side’s arguments, so they keep quarrelling while the marriage misery goes on.

What would you, the best friend, do? Would you keep on watching, supporting your friend’s actions as a loyal ally? Or would you separate them within their marriage and suggest psychotherapy for your friend and some rehabilitation treatment for his wife’s maltreated body? I think no one in their right mind would blame the wife for her marriage misery, even though she might have done things that were unfair to her husband (whom you know as a nice guy)and you feel sorry for them both. Likewise, the justification from the husband to treat her so harshly because she keeps being so difficult is completely unacceptable and lacks the justice she deserves.

As a true friend you must have come to the conclusion that you cannot help the husband and his family by loyally supporting his behaviour. But if you want to prevent one killing the other, you must step in to change that behaviour. For this change to happen you need to tackle the causes of their problems instead of treating only the symptoms. Any expert would tell you that delicate and painful psychotherapy is definitely the only chance for such a difficult relationship - not more violence and hardline positions. Wouldn’t you agree?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We Will Not Go Down

Two thirds of the over one thousand casualties in Gaza are children according to BBC Radio this morning. In the program an expert expressed his astonishment about the fact that such a war strategy is still being used in the 21st century, namely that civilians are locked in the region of war action without a chance to escape.

Furthermore, AlJazeera.Net English reported last night that three of the prominent Palestinian football players are among the victims. It was also mentioned that the football stadium had been badly damaged. Day after day the infrastructure in Gaza is being bombed to pieces. It will take years to rebuild all of that, if there will be enough money to do that. Meanwhile Gaza is bombed from a self-run refugee camp to a miserable ghetto in which the Palestinians will keep suffering even if the fighting stops.

The American songwriter and musician, Michael Heart, upon seeing the pictures from Gaza on TV wrote this song, which says more than a million words. It's hard to see how the Israeli government hasn't already lost this fight although winning the battle. There are opinions being voiced linking the decision of attacking Gaza to the objective of increasing the involved politicians' chances in the upcoming Israeli elections.

So, where were the diplomatic masters and experts in the run-up to this disaster? The UN for one (which had been established by the international community in order to prevent war attrocities after the last world war) has failed yet again, despite their many organizations involved. It looks as if the Palestinians have to rely on themselves while the world discusses who is to be blamed. Maybe the words of Mahatma Gandhi offer some comfort to them: "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." (Source)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't say "We didn't know"

As the death toll in Gaza is close to 1000 people, it is worrying what a little research about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict reveals. Back in September 2007 Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist, wrote for the Haaretz newspaper about the crimes committed by the Israeli army in Gaza in an article called "No one is guilty in Israel."

It is very disturbing to discover for how long people have been aware of what is going on and that this war on Gaza is still happening. The uncritical support for Israel's bombardment of Gaza by Western governments with their luke-warm regrets about its humanitarian crisis will not help solve Israel's problems. Many people know that, but too few dare to speak out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Unheard Voices

There is no other subject but Gaza that I can think of these days in which the Israeli onslaught continues and the death toll in Gaza is steadily marching towards the 1000 mark. Although I knew that there were a number of Israelis who were against the brutal oppression of Palestinans by the state of Israel, I never knew their names or had read in full what they had to say, until today after I heard the latest news from Israel.

The BBC reported this morning that two Arab parties in Israel were banned from taking part in the upcoming elections because of voicing their opposition to the Israeli offensive against Gaza. The Israeli spokesman didn't think that this was part of democratic principles but a direct support of Palestinian terrorists and his argumentation left me baffled. However, searching the internet on these issues I quickly came across some Israeli writers who accuse their government of "insane brutality" (Michel Warschawski) or finding their society in a state of "coma" (Uri Avnery) or in "moral collapse" (Gideon Levy).

What is shocking to read is that their worrying articles were written long before the current war on Gaza and their awareness that not many Israelis want to hear what they have to say. And I am sure that they wouldn't want to read what Ms. Kathleen Christison, a former CIA analyst, wrote back in July 2006 either (Dossier). She accuses those who continue to support and make excuses for Israel of having "lost their moral compass." The question is, who can stop this madness?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Truth Is Not Unknown

The clean-slate explanations of the Israeli spokesman on Al-Jazeera TV are sickening. The Israeli journalist Uri Avnery expressed Israel's intentions for Gaza very clearly more than a year ago, saying that "THE ISRAELI strategic aim in Gaza is not to put an end to the Qassams (rockets). It would still be the same if not a single Qassam fell on Israel. The real aim is to break the Palestinians, which means breaking Hamas". (in "Help A Cease Fire!")

As a former Irgun fighter and Knesset member, this man knows what he is talking about! The question is, how many more innocent civilians will have to die before the Western Governments are willing to pressure Israel to stop her criminal actions in Gaza?