Israeli troops should have been able to tell slain Gaza children not Hamas members, colonel says
An Israeli military spokesman says the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) should have been able to tell that four boys it killed on a Gaza beach last week were not Hamas operatives.
The four boys from the one extended family – Zacaria, Aahed Bakr Jr, Mohammed and Ismail – were killed by a rocket strike while they played.
“The IDF had a target, a Hamas terrorist target,” Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told the ABC’s 7.30 program.
“We had intelligence pointing specifically to that location and we had the indication that the perpetrators were on the beach. We had a specific target indicating that they were supposed to be there.
“We had visual surveillance, clearly, to an extent that we should have been able to determine who was on the beach.”
Lt Col Lerner did not provide detail about how long the boys were being observed or by what method.
“We need to determine what happened between the gathering of the intelligence and what happened that caused this unfortunate human tragedy,” he said.
While the Israeli military continues its official investigation, the extended family of the four boys is devastated.
Father shares heartbreak of loss
Aahed Bakr, the father of Zacaria, still cannot comprehend what happened.
“I found my kids dismembered. Innocent kids dismembered – it was carnage,” he told 7.30.
“I fainted. I couldn’t understand. It looked like a lie or a movie scene. Even now I can’t understand or believe they died.”
Mr Bakr’s wife, Um Ataf, is inconsolable and he admits that privately he, too, is struggling.
“I cry when I am on my own, but I don’t like my wife and daughters to see me. Overnight I just think and remember what happened to them, my kids and the rest.”
Mr Bakr is a fisherman and his family has a long and strong connection with the sea.
“Every day [the children] were going [to the beach] to play, to check the boats, to relax a bit, to see other fishermen, to play with other kids, to swim,” he said.
“This is the only place where you can relax. Every day they went to the sea from morning until late afternoon.”
Boys were playing hide and seek
His son, Muntaser, Zacaria’s brother, was at the beach that day with his four relatives.
They were among a line of small buildings and sheds on a break wall. It forms part of Gaza’s harbour which on previous days had been hit by Israeli fire. The boys were playing hide and seek.
Muntaser remembers a round of the game had begun and one of the boys was among the sheds when they came under attack.
“We started calling him until the rocket hit him,” Muntaser said.
“We ran away. I was running with them when they sent the second rocket.”
A photographer captured images of the boys running for their lives.
“I lost my friends,” Muntaser said. “I won’t be able to play with anybody and I can’t go to the port anymore.”
He is powerless, but is desperate to be powerful.
“I say to the resistance, ‘Don’t be afraid, don’t give up, don’t do anything before taking revenge for my brother and my nephew and my two other cousins and take the revenge for the whole country … and take revenge for the world and all the sad people with no home’.”
In Gaza, Israel and Hamas are doing battle in a territory where half the population are children. Officials say at least 145 children have now been killed in the current conflict.
“It’s a human tragedy,” Lt Col Lerner said. “Children are not our targets. We do not target civilians. It defeats the object of our mission.
“Our mission is against the bad people who are striking Israel, who are launching rockets indiscriminately at our population, at Tel Aviv, at Jerusalem, at Haifa, at Be’er Sheva.”
But that is cold comfort to Mr Bakr.
The Bakr boys were buried by the entrance to a simple cemetery near their home. Mr Bakr says the mourners were too afraid to dig the graves further into the cemetery, on a hill, in case they were seen by Israeli gunboats out at sea.
“No more,” he said. “We can’t understand what’s happening around us. Every day there’s a new massacre.
“It’s really something my brain can’t take anymore.”
Claims of war crimes
Meanwhile, an emergency session of the United Nations Human Rights Council has been told Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says there is a strong possibility the killing of civilians including children is a breach of the law.
Ms Pillay says 147 children have been killed in Gaza over the past 16 days.
“Their killing raises concerns about respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack,” she said.
“Israeli children and their parents and other civilians also have a right to live without the constant fear that a rocket fired from Gaza may land on their homes or their schools, killing and injuring them.
About 650 Palestinians and 29 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the past 16 days.
India MPs demand probe into ‘force-fed’ Muslim worker
Opposition MPs in India have demanded an investigation into reports that some Hindu MPs tried to forcibly feed a Muslim man fasting for Ramadan.
The MPs from the right-wing Shiv Sena party reportedly took their anger out on a government canteen worker because of the “poor quality of food”.
Opposition MPs said the incident was a violation of religious belief.
Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink from before dawn until dusk during the Islamic holy month.
On Monday, the opposition parties, led by the Congress, protested in parliament against the incident and demanded an apology from the Shiv Sena.
In a letter to the speaker of parliament, a group of opposition MPs urged her to direct the government to carry out an “immediate inquiry and appropriate action so that such wanton behaviour is no longer repeated,” the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
The MPs described the incident as “controversial and inhuman as the victim of this barbaric act is a Muslim who is fasting during Ramadan”.
Shiv Sena, a powerful regional party based in western Maharashtra state, has denied the incident took place.
A video was aired on several news channels apparently showing one of its MPs trying to force bread into the mouth of the restaurant worker.
The MP involved, Rajan Baburao Vichare, said he was only trying to protest against the quality of the food.
“The canteen management here is in a bad state. The chapatis (bread) they made didn’t even break, the quality of vegetables and pulses is bad. Making this a religious issue doesn’t make sense,” Mr Vichare told a news channel.
Shiv Sena has a history of inciting religious violence. It was blamed for inciting tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities during the 1993 Mumbai riots, in which about 900 people died.
The party was founded to keep south Indian migrants out of Maharashtra state and to halt the spread of Islam.
It is currently the sixth-largest in parliament, with 18 seats, and is an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Shocking scenes as 150 Jewish men go on rampage in Paris streets and clash with pro-Palestinian demonstrators
- About 150 men took to the streets armed with metal bars and sticks
- None were arrested despite going on the rampage in front of police
- Six pro-Palestinian demonstrators arrested over synagogue break in
A group of 150 Jewish men were seen brandishing iron bars and cans of pepper spray as they clashed with Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Paris.
Video footage of the clashes show the group chanting racist slogans as they roamed the streets.
It came as President Francois Hollande warned that he did not want to see ‘the Israeli-Palestinian conflict imported into France’.
Scroll down for video
A still taken from the video shows dozens of men in Paris walking down the streets armed with chairs and other weapons, before clashing with pro-Palestinian demonstrators
Around 150 mainly young men were seen carrying weapons, like chairs, and chanting racist slogans as they went on the rampage
French Jewish groups have complained about an increase in anti-Semitism in recent months, with many accusing Muslim youths of targeting them.
But a video shot close to the Place de la Bastille on Sunday, and verified by police before being posted on YouTube, appears to show pro-Israel groups are also actively involved in clashes.
In Paris, CRS riot police did not arrest any of the group, thought to be linked to the Jewish Defence League, despite them openly fighting in broad daylight.
In the video, those amongst the group can be heard chanting ‘**** you Palestine’ as they smash up chairs and metal tables to be used as missiles.
CRS riot police did not arrest any members of the rampaging group, thought to be linked to the extremist Jewish Defence League, despite them openly fighting in broad daylight
The group were carrying gas canisters, pepper spray, metal bars and wooden sticks, and some wore crash helmets while others simply covered their faces
The men are armed with gas canisters, pepper spray, metal bars and wooden sticks and some wear crash helmets.
The video shows the men running towards pro-Palestinian demonstrators, before skirmishes break out.
Six pro-Palestinian demonstrators were arrested on Sunday, accused of trying to break into two Paris synagogues. Two Jewish men were reportedly injured.
A protester wearing a gas mask holds a fake rocket during protests in Paris over the weekend
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators were said to have tried to break into two Paris synagogues on Sunday which resulted in six arrests and two Jewish men being injured
In the wake of the clashes Mr Hollande said the country will ‘redouble vigilance’.
He was due to meet the head of Jewish umbrella group CRIF today.
Alexis Bachelay, a Paris MP for the ruling Socialist party, said: ‘There has evidently been a media manipulation about who really got assaulted.
‘These are extremely serious facts that need to be investigated thoroughly by the police. It is not the first time that young French people of Muslim origin are stigmatised by the media.
‘French people of Muslim origin should be protected by the law when demonstrating. They should not be attacked by radical groups like the LDJ’.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2693423/Jewish-vigilantes-rampage-Paris-attack-pro-Palestinian-demonstrators.html#ixzz37r94syfV
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LONDON − Marine scientists have a better answer for why the deep ocean is blue while coastal waters are usually green, as well as a better handle on the more complex questions about the ocean’s role in the absorbing all the carbon dioxide we’re pumping into the atmosphere.
The insight comes as scientists measure levels of iron dissolved in the Atlantic ocean and trace the metal back to its source.
And in the course of settling these points, they have also answered questions about North Africa’s importance to the rest of the world. Turns out the Sahara keeps the world’s oceans and the Amazon supplied with valuable dust.
Tim Conway and Seth John of the University of South Carolina report in the journalNature that they devised a way to sample large volumes of seawater to identify the content of dissolved iron in the water, and then to distinguish the ratio between different isotopes of that iron.
An isotope is a natural variant of an element, and it often indicates a different source of origin. Coal from China, for instance, can be differentiated from Appalachian coal based on its isotopic signature.
Iron is a vital trace element: Without it, mammals cannot make hemoglobin to transport oxygen around the bloodstream, and plants cannot make chlorophyll to photosynthesize tissue from air and sunlight.
The deep oceans have everything needed for plant growth – sunlight, carbon, nitrogen and water – but they don’t have iron. That is one reason why they tend to be blue while nutrient-rich coastal waters are green. Estuaries and deltas are rich in iron and other nutrients and good for algal growth. Because ocean phytoplankton – microscopic plants sustaining the marine food web – cannot get enough iron, there is a limit to the carbon dioxide they can absorb from the atmosphere. So iron is an element in the global carbon cycle. And it doesn’t need to be available in huge quantities.
“I did a calculation once on a ton of sea water. The amount of iron in that ton of water would weigh about as much as a single eyelash,” John said. “The key reason that everybody cares about iron is because it limits the growth of phytoplankton such as algae in maybe a fifth of the ocean.”
The researchers collected 600 samples of sea water during a cruise across the North Atlantic on a research ship. Then they set to work trying to identify the origin of the few billionths of a gram of iron in every liter of the water collected.
A measurable proportion of oceanic iron seeped up from deep within the crust through hydrothermal vents along the mid-ocean ridge. Another fraction came from sediments on the African coast, and more than 10 percent came from oxygenated muds on the American coast.
But they also found that the answer had been blowing in the wind. Somewhere between 71 percent and 87 percent of the iron in their samples was delivered by dust storms from the Sahara desert. That is, life in the deep ocean depended on an annual delivery of fertilizer from one of the world’s emptiest and most parched regions.
The play between dust and life has fascinated scientists for more than a decade. In 2006, Israeli researchers found that more than half the dust needed to fertilize the Brazilian rainforest blew in from just one desiccated valley in Chad.
Two years later a team in Liverpool in the UK confirmed the role of Saharan dust as a mineral source for the Atlantic ocean and in 2007 Swiss and German microbiologists analyzed dust samples collected by Charles Darwin.
They found that wind-blown dust could transport microbes from West Africa all the way to the Caribbean. An estimated 50 million tons of Saharan dust is blown across the Atlantic to the Amazon every year.
So the South Carolina research is just another example of science in action: A painstaking increment to human knowledge rather than a breakthrough. It adds quantifiable figures to a picture already taking shape. It is a reminder that intercontinental migration is as old as life itself. And it also helps explain a little bit more about the global climate machine.
Researchers have already theorized that airborne dust must play a role in cloud formation – and therefore in rainfall and drought – and even that dust storms may play a role in damping down hurricanes.
If more dust in the oceans and the forests means more carbon uptake from the atmosphere, then cycles of superstorms of dust could also help tweak the global thermostat. “It could help us understand past climate change, like glacial-interglacial cycles,” John said.
“There would have been huge changes in dust fluxes to the ocean in glacial times, and so understanding how much iron comes from dust in the modern day helps us figure out whether that was an important driver of glacial-interglacial cycles.”
This article originally appeared at The Daily Climate, the climate change news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.
PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART
This past weekend marked the beginning of Ramadan. Nearly one-fourth of the world will observe the annual fast and 8 million Muslims in America will abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month. A grueling task at any time of the year, Ramadan this year will be especially daunting during the long and hot summer days.
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the nation, and the second-most-practiced faith in 20 of these united states. And these demographic shifts prompted a prominent Los Angeles-based imam to comment recently that “Ramadan is a new American tradition.” The cleric’s forward-looking pronouncement marks Islam’s recent arrival in the U.S. But this statement reveals a pathology afflicting a lot of Muslim Americans today—an inability to look back and embrace the opening chapters of Muslim-American history, one that was written by enslaved African Muslims.
Social scientists estimate that 15 to 30 percent, or “as many as 600,000 to 1.2 million,” slaves in antebellum America were Muslims. Forty-six percent of the slaves in the antebellum South were kidnapped from Africa’s western regions, which boasted “significant numbers of Muslims.”
These enslaved Muslims strove to meet the demands of their faith, most notably the Ramadan fast, prayers and community meals, in the face of comprehensive slave codes that linked religious activity to insubordination and rebellion. Marking Ramadan as a “new American tradition” not only overlooks the holy month observed by enslaved Muslims many years ago but also perpetuates their erasure from Muslim-American history.
Between Sunna and Slave Codes
Although the Quran “allows a believer to abstain from fasting if he or she is far from home or involved in strenuous work,” many enslaved Muslims demonstrated transcendent piety by choosing to fast while in bondage. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, enslaved Muslims held holy-month prayers in slave quarters and put together iftars—meals at sundown to break the fast—that brought observing Muslims together. These prayers and iftars violated slave codes restricting assembly of any kind.
For instance, the Virginia Slave Code of 1723 considered the assembly of five slaves an “unlawful and tumultuous meeting,” convened to plot rebellion attempts. Every state in the South codified similar laws barring slave assemblages, which disparately impacted enslaved African Muslims observing the holy month.
Practicing Islam, therefore, and observing Ramadan and its fundamental rituals, for enslaved Muslims in antebellum America, necessitated the violation of slave codes. This exposed them to barbaric punishment, injury and, oftentimes, even death. However, the courage to observe the holy month while bonded, and in the face of grave risk, highlights the supreme piety of many enslaved Muslims.
Ramadan was widely observed by enslaved Muslims. Yet this history is largely ignored by Muslim-American leaders and laypeople alike—and erased from the modern Muslim-American narrative.
Rewriting the History of Ramadan in the U.S.
Muslim America was almost entirely black during the antebellum era. Today it stands as the most diverse Muslim community in the world. Today African Americans make up a significant part of the community, along with Muslims of South Asian and Arab descent. Latin Americans are a rapidly growing demographic in the community, ensuring that Muslims in America are a microcosm of their home nation’s overall multiculturalism.
In the U.S. today, Ramadan dinner tables are sure to include staple Arab or Pakistani dishes. Yet many Muslim Americans will break the fast with tortas and tamales, halal meat loaf and greens. Muslim diversity in this country has reshaped Ramadan into a multicultural American tradition. The breadth of Muslim America’s racial and cultural diversity today is unprecedented, making this year’s Ramadan—and the Ramadans to follow—new in terms of how transcultural and multiracial the tradition has become.
This Muslim-American multiculturalism comes with many challenges: Namely, intraracism, Arab supremacy and anti-black racism prevent cohesion inside and outside American mosques. These deplorable trends perpetuate the erasure of the Muslim slave narrative. Integrating this history will not only mitigate racism and facilitate Muslim-American cohesion but also reveal the deep-rootedness of the faith, and its holiest month, on American soil.
This Ramadan, honoring the memory of the first Muslim Americans and their struggle for freedom—and sharing their story with loved ones at the iftar table—seems an ideal step toward rewriting this missing chapter of Muslim-American history into our collective consciousness.
Khaled A. Beydoun is the Critical Race Studies Teaching Fellow at the UCLA School of Law. Follow him on Twitter.
Editor’s note: A version of this article was previously published by Al-Jazeera and has been republished with permission.
A number of ancient health practices are proving to be effective in multiple ways. We recently posted an article about meditation,
and how neuroscience can now explain what happens to the brain when we meditate. Now, scientists have discovered the first
evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system. The study was published in the
June 5 issue of Cell Stem Cell by researchers from the University of Southern California. The research shows that cycles of
prolonged fasting protect against immune system damage and induce immune system regeneration. They concluded that fasting
shifts stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal. (1)
Human clinical trials were conducted using patients who were receiving chemotherapy. For long periods of time,
patients did not eat which significantly lowered their white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles “flipped a regenerative switch,
changing the signalling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems.” (1)
“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration
of the heatopoietic system. When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to
recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged. What we started noticing in both our
human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the
blood cells come back. ” – Valter Longo, corresponding author. (1)
Again, because fasting significantly lowers white blood cell counts, this triggers stem cell-based regeneration of new
immune system cells. More importantly, it reduces the PKA enzyme, which has been linked to aging, tumour progression and cancer.(1)
It’s also noteworthy to mention that fasting protected against toxicity in a pilot clinical trial where patients fasted for 72 hours prior to chemotherapy.
“Chemotherapy causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may
mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy.” Co-Author Tanya Dorff (1)
Fasting is a tradition that’s been incorporated into many ancient cultures, from Vedic to Buddhist and more, fasting should not be confused
with starvation. It’s the process of restrain and control from the sensorial experience of eating and at the same time making sure you are
doing it correctly. When I fast, I usually do water fasts and I have been doing them for almost eight years now and I always feel great and
full of energy after doing so.
1. Fasting helps protect against brain disease:
Researchers at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore have found evidence that fasting for one or two days a week can prevent
the effects of Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease. Research also found that cutting the daily intake to 500 calories a day for two days
out of the seven can show clear beneficial effects for the brain.
2. Fasting cuts your risk of heart disease and diabetes:
Regularly going a day without food reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Studies show that fasting releases a significant
surge in human growth hormone, which is associated with speeding up metabolism and burning off fat. Shedding fat is known to
cut the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Doctors are even starting to consider fasting as a treatment.
3. Fasting effectively treats cancer in human cells:
A study from the scientific journal of aging found that cancer patients who included fasting into their therapy perceived fewer side effects
from chemotherapy. All tests conducted so far show that fasting improves survival, slow tumor growth and limit the spread of tumors.
The National Institute on Aging has also studied one type of breast cancer in detail to further understand the effects of fasting on cancer.
As a result of fasting, the cancer cells tried to make new proteins and took other steps to keep growing and dividing. As a result of these steps,
which in turn led to a number of other steps, damaging free radical molecules were created which broke down the cancer cells own DNA
and caused their destruction! It’s cellular suicide, the cancer cell is trying to replace all of the stuff missing in the bloodstream that it needs
to survive after a period of fasting, but can’t. In turn, it tries to create them and this leads to its own destruction
Again, make sure you do your research before trying this out. Hopefully this can kickstart you further into looking into it if you are truly interested.
Boycott Israel Campaign
The boycott of Israeli products and companies supporting Israel is a peaceful means of putting international pressure on apartheid Israel and follows in the footsteps of the successful boycott against South African apartheid. Help end Palestinian suffering by boycotting Israel today!
Why are these companies on the boycott list?
Summary of how each company on the boycott list is supporting Israel:
Israels Keter Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of plastic consumer products. The Israeli plastics giant is privately owned by the Sagol family, and has a turnover of $1.1 billion, 90% of which is derived from overseas sales.
Its product range includes garden furniture, outdoor storage solutions and sheds, shelving systems and utility cabinets, tool boxes and storage products for the DIY market, household products, baby and toddler products.
Its brands, subsidiaries, and sister companies (all owned by the Sagol family) include ‘OutStanding Solutions’ (Keter garden storage), Lipski (plumbing accessories), Allibert (bathroom accessories), Curver (plastic home & food storage), Jardin (garden furniture), and Contico Europe (plastic storage boxes). Keter products are also sold under the Black & Decker, B&Q and Homebase brands.
Whilst the profits end up in Israel, not all the products are produced in Israel, for example Allibert has factories in France & Belgium, whilst Curver has factories in Poland & Hungary. Keter has 12 factories in Israel, 2 of which are in the illegal settlements.
Stanley toolboxes are also made in Israel by Israeli plastics company ZAG (90% owned by Stanley).
For more information see the Shopping Can Kill campaign.
FOOD & DRINK
The Straus Group is Israels second largest food company with a turnover $1.8 billion in 2010 and 13,500 employees operating twenty-five production sites in twenty-one countries around the world. Its brands in the USA include Sabra (hummus dips) and Max Brenner (chocolate cafes). Strauss Coffee is currently the fifth-largest coffee company in the world, dominating the central and eastern European markets (Doncafe) as well as Brazil.
The Strauss Group on its website, on the page on “Corporate Responsibility – Community Involvement” reveal their deep rooted support for the Israeli army, and in particular the infamous Golani platoon, known for its brutality, which the Strauss group has “adopted” for over 30 years.
In July 1998 Danone opened its R&D facility in Israel – the Danone Insitute, and later the same year in October 1998 Mr. Franck Riboud, on behalf of Danone received the Jubilee Award by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.[Jubilee Award]
Danone owns a 20% share of Israel’s second largest food company, the Strauss Group. Danaone Israel is the hub supplying Danone products to the whole Middle-East including Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Jordan.
Israeli food company Tivall is one of the world’s leading suppliers of meat-substitute products. It has a turnover of $74 million and has 451 employees It has a manufacturing base at Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot in Northern Israel, and a new facility in the Czech Republic.
Tivall brand products can mainly be found in health food stores – their website mentions Holland & Barrett, Fresh & Wild, and Planet Organic. But most of their sales are through the supermarkets who rebrand Tivall products as part of their own frozen “Meat-free” range. This includes Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s. Morrisons also stocks Tivall brand Frankfurter. Waitrose online site Ocado sells a full range of Tivall products.
Osem is Israels 4th largest food & beverages company (by turnover) after Tnuva, Strauss and Coca-Cola. It has a turnover of $712 million and nearly 5000 employees with 14 factories in Israel.
Its brands include Beit Hashitah (pickles), Of Tov (frozen meat products), Habait (ready made cakes) and Sabra Salads (ready-made salads and spreads). Osem also owns 58% of meat-substitute manufacturer Tivall Foods.
According to Osem’s website its products are sold in Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrison, with each store marketing them under their own label. Waitrose online site Ocado sells a range of Osem products from soups, crackers and croutons. Tesco online sells a range of Osem cakes.
In April 2009, Osem UK announced its acquisition of Yarden GB. Yarden GB’s product range includes chilled meats and Yarden wines from the Golan Heights Winery, located in Katzrin on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Golan Heights Winery exports 38% of all Israeli wines, its wine brands also include Gamla and Golan. According to Yarden GB’s website its products are available in Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, Morrisons, Budgens, Somerfield, Waitrose and Harrods. Waitrose online site Ocado sells a range of Yarden meat and houmous products.
Nestlé is the world’s largest food company, it owns 53.8% share of leading Israeli food manufacturer Osem, an investment worth over $850 million.
In 1998, Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe on behalf of Nestle, received the Jubilee Award by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu [Jubilee Award]. Following the award in June 2002 Nestle opened its Research & Development Centre in Israel, in Sderot. And since then it has steadily increased its investment in Israel, its initial 10% stake in Osem has now grown to a controlling 53.8%. Nestle also owns Nespresso Israel Ltd in Tel Aviv which supplies coffee brewing equipment. In 2010 Nestle acquired a 51% stake in Israeli babyfood company Materna Laboratories for $72 million.
Nestle has 9 factories in Israel, which after China(18) and Russia(11) is the highest number in any country in Asia – disproportionately high when one considers its size and population. And in May 2011, Nestle announced plans to build another factory in Israel, an ice cream plant worth $40 million.
Nestlé also owns 30% stake in L’Oréal, another company on the boycott list.
A detailed account of Coca-Cola’s links to Israel is provided here:
From 1966 Coca-Cola has been a staunch supporter of Israel. In 1997 the Government of Israel Economic Mission honored Coca-Cola at the Israel Trade Award Dinner for its continued support of Israel for the last 30 years and for refusing to abide by the Arab League boycott of Israel.
Every year Coca Cola bankrolls the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce Awards which honors companies that have contributed most to the Israeli economy. In 2009 a Coca-Cola sponsored award went to Israel’s Lobby AIPAC for its successful lobbying of the Senate to reject of the UN call for “immediate ceasefire” and endorse the continuation of the Israel military assault on Gaza.
In 2008 Coca-Cola tasked the Israeli venture capital Challenge Fund to locate suitable investments in Israel with a promise of “a blank cheque” . This agreement is exceptional in the Israeli venture capital industry.
In 2009 Coca-Cola hosted a special reception at the Coca-Cola world headquarters to honour Brigadier-General Ben-Eliezer. Ben-Eliezer is a wanted war criminal, during the Six-Day War his unit was responsible for the execution of over 300 Egyptian POWs. Under Sharon, Ben-Eliezer served as Defence Minister presiding over the massacre at Jenin.
For the past two decades, nearly every year, Coca-Cola has sponsored the JCC Maccabi Games whose stated aim is to cultivate Jewish youth in an informal setting to “encourage their identification with the state of Israel”. As part of this, Coca Cola has sponsored young children to visit Israeli military bases and spend time with war criminals in order to engender empathy, in their own words “visit an air force base.. talk with the pilots that are the elite Israel Defense Force units..meet fighters of the army.”.
Coca-Cola Israel, Israel’s third largest food & beverages company, owns dairy farms in the illegal Israeli settlements of Shadmot Mechola in the Jordan Valley and a plant in the industrial zone of Katzerin in the occupied Golan Heights.
Eden Springs is an Israeli water cooler company that in Israel steals water from the Salukia spring in the the illegally occupied Syrian Golan Heights. This is in violation of UN resolution 242 and Article 55 of the Hague Regulations which specify that you cannot acquire territory by war and that you cannot plunder the natural resources of occupied territory. To clarify, the water in Eden Springs Coolers found in the UK is sourced locally, but the profits go back to Israel to finance its illegal activities.
SodaStream is an Israeli company manufacturing and distributing home carbonating devices and flavorings for soft drinks. The company’s main plant is located in the industrial zone of Mishor Edomim which is an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Kav LaOved, the NGO committed to protecting the rights of disadvantaged workers in Israeli companies, has reported that SodaStream factory workers, in particular Palestinians, are paid less than half the minimum wage and has described the working conditions in the factory as “one of the worst”, with workers being fired if they complain of the conditions.
SodaStream brands include: SodaStream, Soda-Club, AlcoJet, Sprudelino, Aquabar, Gazoz, Aquafizz, Aquabubbler, Penguin, Sodamaker, Fountain Jet and Edition1. Its products are available in Argos, Asda, Comets, Currys, Harvey Nichols, Homebase, John Lewis, Robert Dyas, Selfridges and House of Fraser.
Howard Schultz, the founder, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks who also owns 31.6 million shares of Starbucks stock (worth around $1.4 billion in Nov 2011) is an active zionist.
In 1998 he was honoured by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah with “The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award” for his services to the zionist state in “playing a key role in promoting close alliance between the United States and Israel”. The ultra-right wing Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah funds Israeli arms fairs chaired by the butcher of Jenin, General Shaul Mofaz, and the zionist media pressure group honestreporting.com, they were also implicated in the production and distribution of the infamous islamophobic film ‘Obesession’. Starbucks proudly displayed the award on the company’s website under the section of ‘awarda and accolades’ the Starbucks company has won, however, once the boycott started to bite the award mysteriously disappeared from its website.
Howard Shultz work as a propagandist for Israel has been praised by the Israeli Foreign Ministry as being key to Israel’s long-term PR success. On April 4th 2002, whilst the Israeli army was slaughtering Palestinians in Jenin Howard Shultz made a provocative speech blaming the Palestinians, suggesting the intifada was a manifestation of anti- Semitism, and asked people to unite behind Israel. Starbucks also sponsors fund raisers for Israel.
At a time when other businesses were desperately pulling out of Israel, Starbucks decided to help Israel’s floundering economy and open Starbucks in Israel. The venture failed but Shultz has vowed Starbucks will “return to Israel in due course”.
Starbucks has opened outlets in US bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the illegal torture centre in Guantanamo Bay. Customer Relations say “Starbucks has the deepest respect and admiration for U.S. military.. who risk their lives to protect Americans and our values of freedom and democracy”. Petty Officer Barry Tate who is serving in Guantanamo Bay agrees that Starbucks is helping “lift the morale” of the guards and interrogator’s at Guantanamo Bay.
McDonald’s Corporation is a major corporate partner of the Jewish United Fund and Jewish Federation. According to the Jewish United Fund, through its Israel Commission it “works to maintain American military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel; monitors and, when necessary, responds to media coverage of Israel”. The Jewish United Fund also runs “Fun-filled Summer Family Missions to Israel” where families get to “visit an army base and meet with Israeli soldiers” and “visit our sister city, Kiryat Gat and see the important work we are doing there”. Kiryat Gat is built on stolen Palestinian land – the lands of the villages of Iraq Al Manshiya and Al-Faluja whose residents were ethnically cleansed in 1949 in contravention of International Law. Through its “Partnership to Israel” programme, the Jewish United Fund provides $1.3 million annually to help further settlement and development of Kiryat Gat. The Jewish Federation, through its Israel Action Network is tasked to fight “efforts to boycott Israeli products” and “campaigns, such as equating Israel with apartheid South Africa”.
Another way McDonald’s supports the Jewish United Fund is by running a partnership scheme whereby they will match any donation an employee make to the Jewish United Fund with its own equal size donation.
McDonald’s first restaurant in the Middle East was in Israel, opened in 1993, since then it has 160 restaurants in Israel (1996) with a 60% market share, employing around 4000 Israelis. Since April 2009 McDonald’s has also opened 15 branches of McCafe chain in Israel, with plans to open 10 new branches every year.
McDonalds discriminates against its Arab workers, in 2004 it sacked an Arab worker in Israel because she was caught speaking arabic to another Arab employee. Arabic, along with Hebrew, is the official language of Israel spoken by 20% of the population.
According to the American Jewish Committee (AJC), whose Executive Director “regularly meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu”, McDonald’s in July 2001 immediately pulled an advertising campaign in Egypt when the ADC contacted them to complaint that the singer featured in the advert had in the past performed a song critical of Israel. Within 24 hours of the complaint, the advert was cancelled and according to the Egyptian franchise of McDonald’s “all copies of the tapes were whisked ‘back to the main offices'”!
Israeli Fresh Produce
In 2010 exports of Israeli fresh agricultural produce was worth $1.41 billion and most of it, some 87% was exported to Europe (UN Commodity Trade Statistics). Fruit, vegetables and herbs grown in Israel and on its settlements in the West Bank can be seen on sale at all the major supermarkets and greengrocers. Always check the label – avoid Israel and West Bank.
Until recently the main player was Israeli state owned company Carmel Agrexco, responsible for about 60-70% of all Israel’s agricultural exports. But in September 2011 Agrexco went bankrupt. This was due in part to fact that Agrexco has been the target of a sustained international boycott campaign. It has been recently reported that the Israeli Bickel Export Group has acquired Agrexco with plans to revive it in 2012 (target sales 50 million euros).
With the privately owned Israeli company Mehadrin Tnuport Export (MTEX) set to take Agrexco’s place as Israel’s biggest agricultural exporter the focus of the international boycott campaign is now firmly on MTEX with actions already having taken place (Nov 2011) outside its UK headquarters in Borehamwood and its French headquarters in Chateaurenard.
MTEX is Israel’s largest grower and exporter of citrus fruit responsible for 65% of overseas sales of Israel’s most recognisable brand on the supermarket shelves – JAFFA. They supply most of the supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsburys. MTEX ownes 50% of Miriam Shoham Ltd whose mangoes and pomegranates are available in Tescos and Asda.
Hadiklaim, the Israeli Date Growers Cooperative, which includes illegal settler plantations in the Jordan Valley, sells 65% of all Israeli dates. Its dates have brand names King Solomon, Jordan River, Tamara, Karsten Farms / Kalahari and Bomaja. Agrexco date brands include Jordan Plains and Jordan Valley.
Most supermarkets sell fresh herbs sourced from the illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank. These include basil, sage, chives, rosemary, parsely, sorrel, marjoram, mint, thyme and tarragon. They are labelled ‘West Bank’ or ‘Israel’. ‘West Bank’ never refers to Palestinian goods as they don’t make it past the military checkpoints. Often settlements goods are labelled ‘Produce of Israel’ to avoid payment of tariffs when entering the EU – according to the EU-Israel Association Agreement goods produced outside the recognised borders of Israel (ie on the Israeli settlements on the Palestinian Occupied Territories) are not exhempt from import duties. A July 2008 Channel 4 news report revealed herbs grown on the illegal No’omi settlement on the West Bank, destined for the UK, were being mislabelled ‘produce of Israel’ in breach of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Other Israeli fresh produce brands to avoid include Edom (peppers, tomatoes and mangoes), Carmy (sweet potatoes), AdaFresh (herbs), Arava (peppers, Tomatoes, herbs) and Tali (table grapes).
..Information on other companies to follow shortly..
[Jubilee Award]On October 14, 1998, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu presented a select group of international business people with the highest tribute ever awarded by the “State of Israel”. The Jubilee Award, marking Israel’s fiftieth year of independence, recognizes those individuals and organizations, that through their investments and trade relationships, have done the most to strengthen the Israeli economy.
Frequently Asked Question
Why so many companies?
Our strategy is to have a focused campaign where individual Israeli companies are targeted wherever possible rather than wide boycotts of whole stores. This means that whilst there are more brands on the list, they are actually easier to boycott. So for example whilst B&Q and Homebase are major sellers of Israeli plastic giant Keter’s products we are calling for a focused boycott of each Keter related brand – OutStanding, Lipski, Jardin, Allibert, Curver and Contico, rather than a blanket boycott of these stores.
Why are some of the brands in the previous Boycott Israel Campaign missing from this campaign?
Over time many companies have reconsidered their support for Israel and some have divested from Israel due to many reasons including the accumulated pressure of the boycott. These changes are reflected in the new card.
Disney, working with the Israeli embassy, was given 1.8 million dollars by Israel to promote Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at a special exhibition at its Epcot centre in Florida, strategically positioned so that every visitor to the centre would have to walk through the exhibition in order to reach the exit. Jerusalem is an illegally occupied Palestinian city and under international law can NEVER be the capital of Israel. The exhibition has since been removed so Disney is no longer on the boycott list.
Sara Lee has divested its large stake in the Israeli textile giant Delta Galil so it along with its two dozen plus brands have all been removed from the boycott list.
Nokia Ventures Organization which had so heavily invested in Israel is no longer part of Nokia and is now called BlueRun Ventures and has many investors now. Note that Nokia is still one of its investors, but its stake in Israel is now no more prominent than countless other technology companies who are not on the boycott list, so Nokia has also been removed from the list.
Following a concerted campaign, Arsenal Football Club’s contract with the Israeli Tourism board to promote Israel as the teams “official and exclusive travel destination” on its digital perimeter boards (to an estimated 700 million viewers in 198 countries) was not renewed. Subsequently, Arsenal FC has been removed from the boycott list. Note that Arsenal still runs ‘Arsenal in the Galilee’ coaching project in Israel.
Selfridges flagship store in London was picketed for stocking a range of settlement products including Ahava and soon a boycott of the store followed. It no longer sells Ahava Dead Sea products on its website, although it does advertise Estee Lauder Origins ‘body scrubs’ which include Dead Sea salts. As part of our strategy of a more focused boycott campaign where individual Israeli brands like Ahava are targeted, Selfridges in no longer on the boycott list.
Whilst Danone is still on the boycott list, it has gone through some changes and lost some of its famous brands and these are no longer on the boycott list. Jacob biscuits is now owned by United Biscuits; HP foods and Lea & Perrins is now owned by H.J. Heinz; and similarly Galbani and LU Biscuits are also no longer owned by Danone.
China Bans Ramadan Fast in Muslim Northwest BEIJING — Jul 2, 2014, 6:38 AM ET By DIDI TANG Associated Press Students and civil servants in China’s Muslim northwest, where Beijing is enforcing a security crackdown following deadly unrest, have been ordered to avoid taking part in traditional fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Statements posted Wednesday on websites of schools, government agencies and local party organizations in the Xinjiang region said the ban was aimed at protecting students’ wellbeing and preventing use of schools and government offices to promote religion. Statements on the websites of local party organizations said members of the officially atheist ruling party also should avoid fasting. “No teacher can participate in religious activities, instill religious thoughts in students or coerce students into religious activities,” said a statement on the website of the No. 3 Grade School in Ruoqiang County in Xinjiang. Similar bans have been imposed in the past on fasting for Ramadan, which began at sundown Saturday. But this year is unusually sensitive because Xinjiang is under tight security following attacks that the government blames on Muslim extremists with foreign terrorist ties. Violence has escalated in recent years in Xinjiang. The ruling party blames violent extremists that it says want independence, while members of the region’s Uighur ethnic group complain that discrimination and restrictions on religion, such as a ban on taking children to mosques, are fueling anger at the ethnic Han Chinese majority. An attack on May 22 in the regional capital of Urumqi by four people who threw bombs in a vegetable market killed 43 people. On June 22, police in Kashgar in the far west said they killed 13 assailants who drove into a police building and set off explosives, injuring three officers. Authorities have blamed two other attacks at train stations in Urumqi and in China’s southwest on Muslim extremists. The government responded with a crackdown that resulted in more than 380 arrests in one month and public rallies to announce sentences. The ruling party is wary of religious activities it worries might serve as a rallying point for opposition to one-party rule. Controls on worship are especially sensitive in Xinjiang and in neighboring Tibet, where religious faith plays a large role in local cultures. On Tuesday, authorities in some communities in Xinjiang held celebrations of the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party and served food to test whether Muslim guests were fasting, according to Dilxat Raxit, spokesman in Germany for the rights group World Uyghur Congress. “This will lead to more conflicts if China uses coercive measures to rule and to challenge Uighur beliefs,” said Dilxat Raxit in an email. The ruling party says religion and education should be kept separate and students should not be subject to religious influences. That rule is rarely enforced for children of Han Chinese, who, if they have a religion, are mostly Buddhist, Daoist or Christian. “Students shall not participate in religious activities; they shall not study scripts or read poems at script and choir classes; they shall not wear any religious emblems; and no parent or others can force students to have religious beliefs or partake in religious activities,” said the statement on the website of the grade school in Ruoqiang County. A news portal run by the government of Yili in the northern reaches of Xinjiang said fasting is detrimental to the physical wellbeing of young students, who should eat regularly. In the city of Bole, retired teachers from the Wutubulage Middle School were called in to stand guard at mosques and prevent students from entering, according to a statement on the municipal party committee website. Also in Bole, the Bozhou University of Radio and Television said on its website it held a meeting with working and retired minority teachers on the first day of the Ramadan to remind them of the fasting ban. The forestry bureau in Xinjiang’s Zhaosu county held an event the day before Ramadan at which party cadres signed a pledge they and their relatives would “firmly resist fasting,” according to a statement on the website of the local party committee. The Moyu Weather Bureau in the Hotan area said on its website that Muslim employees, both active and retired, were required to sign a letter promising not to fast. The commercial bureau for Turpan, an oasis town in the Taklamakan Desert, said in a statement that civil servants are “strictly forbidden” to fast or perform the Salat prayer ritual in a mosque.
Anti-Muslim monk stokes Burmese religious tensions
This week, religious violence has once again flared in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Hundreds of Muslim homes have been burnt to the ground in Sagaing region after being attacked by Buddhist mobs.
In just over a year, more than 200 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed and many more displaced as unrest has spread from Rakhine state in the west to towns across the country.
Many are blaming a controversial monk and the nationalist organisation he helps lead for the rising tensions.
In a classroom at one of Mandalay’s most famous monasteries, a teacher is at work. Shin Wirathu is taking a class of young monks at Masoeyin through the five precepts or pillars of the Buddhist faith.
This morning, he is lecturing on the importance of avoiding sexual misconduct.
“Yes, venerable monk,” the young men chant in unison, as Wirathu softly delivers his advice on the need to avoid temptation.
When the class is over, he shows me outside. On the wall of the monastery courtyard are graphic posters of the Buddhist victims of recent religious and ethnic violence in Rakhine state in western Myanmar.
They are unpleasant viewing. The pictures from October last year show dead children with their heads cut open and the bodies of women with their internal organs spilling out of their torsos.
Wirathu said he put them up as a reminder to Buddhists that the country is under attack from Muslim “invaders”.
“Muslims are only well behaved when they are weak, ” he said. “When they become strong, they are like a wolf or a jackal; in large packs they hunt down other animals.”
Wirathu believes there is a Muslim “master plan” underway to turn Myanmar into an Islamic state.
If he is right, it is a long-term project. Latest estimates suggest that of Myanmar’s 60 million people, 90% are Buddhist and about 5% Muslim.
“Over the past 50 years, we have shopped at Muslim shops and then they became richer and wealthier than us and can buy and marry our girls,” Wirathu said. “In this way, they have destroyed and penetrated not only our nation but also our religion.”
Wirathu’s solution lies in a controversial nationalist organisation called 969. It calls on Buddhists to shop, sell property and marry within their own religion.
Small, brightly-coloured stickers have been distributed to clearly brand businesses as Buddhist-owned.
Supporters of 969 argue it is a purely defensive organisation, created to protect Buddhist culture and identity. Listening to the rhetoric of Wirathu and 969’s leaders, there is no doubt it is squarely aimed at Muslims.
“In the past, there was no discrimination based on religion and race. We all stayed together in a brotherly way,” Wirathu said. “But when their [Muslim] master plan has been revealed we can no longer stay quiet.”
From Rakhine state in the west, to more central towns like Meiktila and Okkan, the link is being made between heightened religious tensions and the preaching and activities of monks and 969.
The outbreaks of violence usually have a depressing symmetry.
A small flashpoint, often a crime or perceived insult, perpetrated by a Muslim against a Buddhist, triggers a disproportionate wave of reprisals against the entire Muslim community.
Ten years ago, under the military junta, Wirathu was jailed for his anti-Muslim views. Now in these times of change, his message is widely disseminated through social media and DVDs. Far from being condemned, Wirathu now has backing from the very top.
In June, as his infamy reached its peak, Wirathu appeared on the front cover of Time magazine labelled “The face of Buddhist terror”. Burmese monks were outraged and Myanmar’s President Thein Sein quickly leapt to Wirathu’s defence.
The Time issue was banned and a statement released with the president lauding Wirathu as a “son of Lord Buddha”.
‘Obstacle to reform’
There is no shortage of theories inside Myanmar as to why Wirathu is now flavour of the month.
One theory is that continuing ethnic and religious violence could be used by the military as a pretext for maintaining a dominant role in Burmese politics. It is certainly an argument Myanmar’s generals have made before.
“We are also wondering about this,” Kaylar Sa, a monk jailed for his part in the Saffron revolution of 2007, told me as he chain-smoked his way through a pack of Red Ruby cigarettes.
He pointed out that the government has acted decisively and violently to end monk-led demonstrations against an army-backed copper mine last year, and yet now was unwilling to tackle them over hate speech.
“At the moment, we firmly believe that the 969 movement is unnecessary,” he said. “If this movement continues to be taken seriously, it could become an obstacle to democratic reform.”
A short drive from Wirathu’s monastery, Muslim volunteers guard Joon Mosque, the biggest in Mandalay, each night. The men told me that in the event of a Buddhist attack, they expect no protection from the (Buddhist-dominated) police or the army.
Smar Nyi Nyi, a veteran of the 1988 student uprising and one of the elders at the mosque, took me to one side. He expressed views that many Burmese share, that shadowy elements within the establishment are stoking the unrest.
“Everybody is talking about the violence between Buddhists and Muslims,” he said. “Nobody is interested in the dam on the Irrawaddy River. No one is interested in the gas pipeline. If somebody is controlling things, he is a smart man!”
Some Muslims cling to the hope that there exists a silent majority of moderate Buddhists appalled by recent events, secretly rooting for them.
“Most of the Buddhists, they are just onlookers ” a retired Muslim doctor tells me with a shrug. “A few might pass a heartfelt regard and say they’re sorry, but that doesn’t come above the surface.”
For Wirathu, each fresh outbreak of religious conflict reinforces his view that Myanmar is part of a global war on militant Islam and that he is being badly misunderstood.
“We don’t use drones – we haven’t killed [Osama] Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or the Taliban,” he told me.
“We are just preaching and posting on the internet and Facebook for the safety and security of our nation. If we are all protecting our own nation who’s the bad guy – Wirathu or Barack Obama?”
Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?
Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?
This is happening in two countries separated by well over 1,000 miles of Indian Ocean – Burma and Sri Lanka. It is puzzling because neither country is facing an Islamist militant threat. Muslims in both places are a generally peaceable and small minority.
In Sri Lanka, the issue of halal slaughter has been a flashpoint. Led by monks, members of the Bodu Bala Sena – the Buddhist Brigade – hold rallies, call for direct action and the boycotting of Muslim businesses, and rail against the size of Muslim families.
While no Muslims have been killed in Sri Lanka, the Burmese situation is far more serious. Here the antagonism is spearheaded by the 969 group, led by a monk, Ashin Wirathu, who was jailed in 2003 for inciting religious hatred. Released in 2012, he has referred to himself bizarrely as “the Burmese Bin Laden”.
March saw an outbreak of mob violence directed against Muslims in the town of Meiktila, in central Burma, which left at least 40 dead.
Tellingly, the violence began in a gold shop. The movements in both countries exploit a sense of economic grievance – a religious minority is used as the scapegoat for the frustrated aspirations of the majority.
On Tuesday, Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and burned more than 70 homes in Oakkan, north of Rangoon, after a Muslim girl on a bicycle collided with a monk. One person died and nine were injured.
But aren’t Buddhist monks meant to be the good guys of religion?
Aggressive thoughts are inimical to all Buddhist teachings. Buddhism even comes equipped with a practical way to eliminate them. Through meditation the distinction between your feelings and those of others should begin to dissolve, while your compassion for all living things grows.
Of course, there is a strong strain of pacifism in Christian teachings too: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” were the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
But however any religion starts out, sooner or later it enters into a Faustian pact with state power. Buddhist monks looked to kings, the ultimate wielders of violence, for the support, patronage and order that only they could provide. Kings looked to monks to provide the popular legitimacy that only such a high moral vision can confer.
The result can seem ironic. If you have a strong sense of the overriding moral superiority of your worldview, then the need to protect and advance it can seem the most important duty of all.
Christian crusaders, Islamist militants, or the leaders of “freedom-loving nations”, all justify what they see as necessary violence in the name of a higher good. Buddhist rulers and monks have been no exception.
So, historically, Buddhism has been no more a religion of peace than Christianity.
One of the most famous kings in Sri Lankan history is Dutugamanu, whose unification of the island in the 2nd Century BC is related in an important chronicle, the Mahavamsa.
It says that he placed a Buddhist relic in his spear and took 500 monks with him along to war against a non-Buddhist king.
He destroyed his opponents. After the bloodshed, some enlightened ones consoled him that the slain “were like animals; you will make the Buddha’s faith shine”.
Burmese rulers, known as “kings of righteousness”, justified wars in the name of what they called true Buddhist doctrine.
In Japan, many samurai were devotees of Zen Buddhism and various arguments sustained them – killing a man about to commit a dreadful crime was an act of compassion, for example. Such reasoning surfaced again when Japan mobilised for World War II.
Buddhism took a leading role in the nationalist movements that emerged as Burma and Sri Lanka sought to throw off the yoke of the British Empire. Occasionally this spilled out into violence. In 1930s Rangoon, amid resorts to direct action, monks knifed four Europeans.
More importantly, many came to feel Buddhism was integral to their national identity – and the position of minorities in these newly independent nations was an uncomfortable one.
In 1983, Sri Lanka’s ethnic tensions broke out into civil war. Following anti-Tamil pogroms, separatist Tamil groups in the north and east of the island sought to break away from the Sinhalese majority government.
During the war, the worst violence against Sri Lankan Muslims came at the hands of the Tamil rebels. But after the fighting came to a bloody end with the defeat of the rebels in 2009, it seems that majority communal passions have found a new target in the Muslim minority.
In Burma, monks wielded their moral authority to challenge the military junta and argue for democracy in the Saffron Revolution of 2007. Peaceful protest was the main weapon of choice this time, and monks paid with their lives.
Now some monks are using their moral authority to serve a quite different end. They may be a minority, but the 500,000-strong monkhood, which includes many deposited in monasteries as children to escape poverty or as orphans, certainly has its fair share of angry young men.
The exact nature of the relationship between the Buddhist extremists and the ruling parties in both countries is unclear.
Sri Lanka’s powerful Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was guest of honour at the opening of a Buddhist Brigade training school, and referred to the monks as those who “protect our country, religion and race”.
But the anti-Muslim message seems to have struck a chord with parts of the population.
Even though they form a majority in both countries, many Buddhists share a sense that their nations must be unified and that their religion is under threat.
The global climate is crucial. People believe radical Islam to be at the centre of the many of the most violent conflicts around the world. They feel they are at the receiving end of conversion drives by the much more evangelical monotheistic faiths. And they feel that if other religions are going to get tough, they had better follow suit.
Alan Strathern is a fellow in History at Brasenose College, Oxford and author of Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth-Century Sri Lanka: Portuguese Imperialism in a Buddhist Land
Five hurt, shops and mosque damaged in Myanmar violence
Five people have been injured in clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay.
The incident was apparently triggered by a claim that a Buddhist woman had been raped by one or more Muslim men.
Armed groups gathered on the streets on Tuesday evening, hurling rocks and bricks and damaging shops. They only dispersed early on Wednesday morning when the police fired rubber bullets.
Myanmar has seen several outbreaks of violence targeting Muslims since 2012.
Muslims are a minority group in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.
The BBC’s Jonah Fisher says tensions rose when a blogger posted that a Buddhist woman had been raped. The post was then shared by one of Mandalay’s most controversial monks – Ashin Wirathu – on his Facebook page.
Wirathu is the leader of the controversial 969 group and was previously jailed for inciting religious hatred. The 969 group are opposed to what they see as Islam’s expansion in Myanmar.
On Tuesday evening, a group of Buddhists gathered in a Muslim area of Mandalay, ransacking shops and burning vehicles, according to reports.
Throughout the night, the police kept angry groups of Buddhist and Muslim men apart, says our correspondent.
Both sides were armed with primitive weapons including iron rods, sticks and swords. Four rioters and a policeman were hurt. Muslim shops were damaged and the windows of a mosque were smashed.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mandalay police said a man had been charged with rape.
Much of the violence between the two groups has taken place in Rakhine state in the west of the country, where at least 200 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced in 2012.
Many of the displaced – mostly Muslims – continue to live in refugee camps.
Those clashes were sparked by the rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman.
The violence continued throughout 2013. The last reported clash happened in January in Rakhine state, killing more than 40 people, according to the United Nations.
There have been particularly bitter and long-standing tensions between the Rakhine people, who are Buddhist and make up the majority of the state’s population, and Muslims.
Most of these Muslims identify themselves as Rohingya, a group that is considered stateless and is rejected by both Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh.
The clashes have posed a challenge for Myanmar’s nominally civilian government, which was elected in 2010 after decades of military rule.
President Thein Sein has previously said that the Rakhine violence puts the country’s moves towards democracy in danger.
WASHINGTON — Just weeks beforeBlackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.
American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.
After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.”
“The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” the investigator, Jean C. Richter, wrote in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials. “Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law,” he said, adding that the “hands off” management resulted in a situation in which “the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control.”
His memo and other newly disclosed State Department documents make clear that the department was alerted to serious problems involving Blackwater and its government overseers before the Nisour Square shooting, which outraged Iraqis and deepened resentment over the United States’ presence in the country.
Today, as conflict rages again in Iraq, four Blackwater guards involved in the Nisour Square shooting are on trial in Washington on charges stemming from the episode, the government’s second attempt to prosecute the case in an American court after previous charges against five guardswere dismissed in 2009.
The shooting was a watershed moment in the American occupation of Iraq, and was a factor in Iraq’s refusal the next year to agree to a treaty allowing United States troops to stay in the country beyond 2011. Despite a series of investigations in the wake of Nisour Square, the back story of what happened with Blackwater and the embassy in Baghdad before the fateful shooting has never been fully told.
The State Department declined to comment on the aborted investigation. A spokesman for Erik Prince, the founder and former chief executive of Blackwater, who sold the company in 2010, said Mr. Prince had never been told about the matter.
After Mr. Prince sold the company, the new owners named it Academi. In early June, it merged with Triple Canopy, one of its rivals for government and commercial contracts to provide private security. The new firm is called Constellis Holdings.
Experts who were previously unaware of this episode said it fit into a larger pattern of behavior. “The Blackwater-State Department relationship gave new meaning to the word ‘dysfunctional,’ ” said Peter Singer, a strategist at the New America Foundation, a public policy institute, who has written extensively on private security contractors. “It involved everything from catastrophic failures of supervision to shortchanging broader national security goals at the expense of short-term desires.”
Even before Nisour Square, Blackwater’s security guards had acquired a reputation among Iraqis and American military personnel for swagger and recklessness, but their complaints about practices ranging from running cars off the road to shooting wildly in the streets and even killing civilians typically did not result in serious action by the United States or the Iraqi government.
But scrutiny of the company intensified after a Blackwater convoy traveling through Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007, just over two weeks after Mr. Richter sent his memo, fired on the crowded traffic circle. A 9-year-old boy was among the civilians killed. Blackwater guards later claimed that they had been fired upon first, but American military officials who inspected the scene determined that there was no evidence of any insurgent activity in the square that day. Federal prosecutors later said Blackwater personnel had shot indiscriminately with automatic weapons, heavy machine guns and grenade launchers.
Founded in 1997 by Mr. Prince, a former member of the Navy SEALs and an heir to an auto parts fortune, Blackwater began as a small company providing shooting ranges and training facilities in rural North Carolina for the military and for police departments. After the American-led invasion of Afghanistan and later Iraq, it ramped up to become a global security contractor with billions of dollars in contracts for the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The company’s gung-ho attitude and willingness to take on risky tasks were seductive to government officials in Washington. The State Department, for example, secretly sent Blackwater guards to Shenyang, China, to provide security for North Korean asylum seekers who had gone to the United States Consulate there and refused to leave for fear the Chinese government would force them to go back to North Korea, according to company documents and interviews with former Blackwater personnel.
But Blackwater’s rapid growth and the State Department’s growing dependence on the contractor led to unbridled hubris, according to several former company officials. That was fostered, they said, by Mr. Prince, who not long before the Nisour Square shooting gathered employees in front of Blackwater headquarters in Moyock, N.C., and demanded that they swear an oath of allegiance.
Saying that the business was on the verge of being awarded lucrative new contracts, Mr. Prince told the workers that they had to take a pledge — the same one required of those entering the United States military — “to display our commitment to the war on terror,” several former employees recalled.
As he was speaking, the employees were handed copies of the oath, which had a Blackwater bear paw logo on top, and told to sign and return it to their supervisors after reciting the words. But some balked.
This was an oath for soldiers, not the employees of a private company, and many in the crowd were veterans who believed that it was inappropriately being linked to the company’s commercial prospects.
“It was kind of like pledging allegiance to Erik,” said a former Blackwater employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he had been required to sign a nondisclosure agreement with Blackwater. “That’s how a lot of us interpreted it.”
Soon after State Department investigators arrived in Baghdad on Aug. 1, 2007, to begin a monthlong review of Blackwater’s operations, the situation became volatile. Internal State Department documents, which were turned over to plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Blackwater that was unrelated to the Nisour Square shooting, provide details of what happened.
It did not take long for the two-man investigative team — Mr. Richter, a Diplomatic Security special agent, and Donald Thomas Jr., a State Department management analyst — to discover a long list of contract violations by Blackwater.
They found that Blackwater’s staffing of its security details for American diplomats had been changed without State Department approval, reducing guards on many details to eight from 10, the documents said. Blackwater guards were storing automatic weapons and ammunition in their private rooms, where they also were drinking heavily and partying with frequent female visitors. Many of the guards had failed to regularly qualify on their weapons, and were often carrying weapons on which they had never been certified and that they were not authorized to use.
The armored vehicles Blackwater used to protect American diplomats were poorly maintained and deteriorating, and the investigators found that four drunk guards had commandeered one heavily armored, $180,000 vehicle to drive to a private party, and crashed into a concrete barrier.
Blackwater was also overbilling the State Department by manipulating its personnel records, using guards assigned to the State Department contract for other work and falsifying other staffing data on the contract, the investigators concluded.
A Blackwater-affiliated firm was forcing “third country nationals” — low-paid workers from Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, including some who performed guard duty at Blackwater’s compound — to live in squalid conditions, sometimes three to a cramped room with no bed, according to the report by the investigators.
The investigators concluded that Blackwater was getting away with such conduct because embassy personnel had gotten too close to the contractor.
On Aug. 20, 2007, Mr. Richter was called in to the office of the embassy’s regional security officer, Bob Hanni, who said he had received a call asking him to document Mr. Richter’s “inappropriate behavior.” Mr. Richter quickly called his supervisor in Washington, who instructed him to take Mr. Thomas with him to all remaining meetings in Baghdad, his report noted.
The next day, the two men met with Daniel Carroll, Blackwater’s project manager in Iraq, to discuss the investigation, including a complaint over food quality and sanitary conditions at a cafeteria in Blackwater’s compound. Mr. Carroll barked that Mr. Richter could not tell him what to do about his cafeteria, Mr. Richter’s report said. The Blackwater official went on to threaten the agent and say he would not face any consequences, according to Mr. Richter’s later account.
Mr. Carroll said “that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” Mr. Richter wrote in a memo to senior State Department officials in Washington. He noted that Mr. Carroll had formerly served with Navy SEAL Team 6, an elite unit.
“Mr. Carroll’s statement was made in a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine,” Mr. Richter stated in his memo. “I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.”
He added that he was especially alarmed because Mr. Carroll was Blackwater’s leader in Iraq, and “organizations take on the attitudes and mannerisms of their leader.”
Mr. Thomas witnessed the exchange and corroborated Mr. Richter’s version of events in a separate statement, writing that Mr. Carroll’s comments were “unprofessional and threatening in nature.” He added that others in Baghdad had told the two investigators to be “very careful,” considering that their review could jeopardize job security for Blackwater personnel.
Mr. Richter was shocked when embassy officials sided with Mr. Carroll and ordered Mr. Richter and Mr. Thomas to leave Iraq immediately, according to the documents. On Aug. 23, Ricardo Colon, the acting regional security officer at the embassy, wrote in an email that Mr. Richter and Mr. Thomas had become “unsustainably disruptive to day-to-day operations and created an unnecessarily hostile environment for a number of contract personnel.” The two men cut short their inquiry and returned to Washington the next day.
Mr. Richter and Mr. Thomas declined to comment for this article. Mr. Carroll did not respond to a request for comment.
On Oct. 5, 2007, just as the State Department and Blackwater were being rocked by scandal in the aftermath of Nisour Square, State Department officials finally responded to Mr. Richter’s August warning about Blackwater. They took statements from Mr. Richter and Mr. Thomas about their accusations of a threat by Mr. Carroll, but took no further action.
Condoleezza Rice, then the secretary of state, named a special panel to examine the Nisour Square episode and recommend reforms, but the panel never interviewed Mr. Richter or Mr. Thomas.
Patrick Kennedy, the State Department official who led the special panel, told reporters on Oct. 23, 2007, that the panel had not found any communications from the embassy in Baghdad before the Nisour Square shooting that raised concerns about contractor conduct.
“We interviewed a large number of individuals,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We did not find any, I think, significant pattern of incidents that had not — that the embassy had suppressed in any way.”