Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NOW AVAILABLE: Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, by Adam Jones (Routledge, 2006; 430 pp., US $33.95 pbk). See "The best introductory text available to students of genocide studies ... likely to become the gold standard by which all subsequent introductions to this enormously important subject will be measured" (Kenneth J. Campbell).

Genocide Studies Media File
January 31 - February 11, 2009

A compendium of news stories, features, and human rights reports pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity. Compiled by Adam Jones. Please send links and feedback to

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"War's Lingering Scars Slow Bosnia's Economic Growth"
By Dan Bilefsky
The New York Times, 7 February 2009
"During the three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s, Brano Vujicic provided Internet access to thousands in Bosnia, braving Serbian grenades thrown under his window and countering the constant electricity cuts by hacking into the Bosnian president's power supply. 'It is the politicians who create all the problems,' said Ljubo Kovac, the owner of Rubin, a wood-processing company. 'Doing business was an act of defiance and escape,' said Mr. Vujicic, who managed to send e-mail messages to friends and clients twice a day during the height of the siege. 'We needed a way out of Sarajevo and a way to communicate with the world.' Fourteen years later, Mr. Vujicic -- who is part Serb, part Croat -- leads Ping, a computer and software engineering company that serves clients in the banking, food processing and pharmaceutical sectors and has $2.5 million in annual revenue. These days, his chief challenge is finding skilled computer engineers and drumming up business in a country where government bureaucracy absorbs a staggering 50 percent of the gross domestic product and the average monthly wage is about $450. Even with 25 percent unemployment, he complains, it is hard to find qualified employees since the best engineers have left. Bosnia, a former Yugoslav republic, was already struggling with the transition from communism to capitalism when it became mired in a war from 1992 to 1995 that killed 100,000 people and decimated its infrastructure. Today, the country known as Bosnia and Herzegovina has a new class of young entrepreneurs, a growing influx of tourists and new shopping malls selling everything from luxury ski equipment to mango bathing gel. But the country remains weighed down not just by a bloated bureaucracy, but also by a national brand inextricably linked with ethnic violence and an economy overly dependent on foreign aid. With fears rising about political tensions and a renewed determination in Europe and the United States to bring stability to the region, Bosnia’s ability to develop a sustainable economy has become a crucial test. [...]"


"Revealed: Burma's Human Exports"
By Phoebe Kennedy
Reuters/CNN dispatch in The Independent, 7 February 2009
"Her glasses were Gucci and her bag YSL. The smart Burmese businesswoman was perched neatly on a sofa in the lobby of a Rangoon hotel, delivering her sales patter to a small group of businessmen. Her product? Human beings. 'We supply only strong bodies,' she says crisply. 'That is our guarantee.' I am sitting at the next table using the hotel wi-fi, and, as she speaks in clear English, I am drawn into a world of desperation and exploitation. The woman is a supplier of workers for deep-sea trawlers, and her stock of men come from Burma's beautiful but impoverished Inle Lake area, where fishing the tranquil waters no longer makes enough to feed a family. 'These are just simple fishermen; they are not educated, but what we promise you is strong bodies,' she says, using a phrase she repeats again and again. It appears that the businesswoman's potential customers are middlemen, probably Chinese. Through a translator, they discuss placing the men on boats in the South China Sea, trawling for tuna. First, they will be flown to a Chinese city. In echoes of the slave trade, she describes a selection process worthy of a livestock market. In a 21st-century twist, she does so with the aid of pictures on her laptop. ... Lack of opportunity has driven millions of Burma's young people on dangerous journeys to South-east Asia's wealthier nations. They sneak across the border to Thailand, to work illegally as domestic helps, labourers, or in the fish-processing industry. Many young men make perilous sea voyages in the hope of reaching Malaysia, paying agents hundreds of dollars for places on rickety boats. If they make it, construction work is relatively well-paid, but migrant workers run the risk of abuse at the hands of employers and the authorities. The migrants live simply, and try to send all the money they can back home. 'There is a huge exodus of people from Burma,' said Debbie Stothard, of the Bangkok-based Burma lobby group Altsean. 'It is a land of no opportunity. The only way people can survive is to have a family member overseas, sending money home.' [...]"


"Efforts to Limit Khmer Rouge Trials Decried"
By Seth Mydans
The New York Times, 31 January 2009
"At first glance it seems to be simply a numbers game: whether to try 5, 10 or more defendants for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge three decades ago. Chan Kimsrun and her child in a photo taken by interrogators at the brutal Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. But as a United Nations-backed tribunal prepares to hold its first trial hearing this month, the wrangle over numbers is reinforcing longstanding concerns about the tribunal's fairness and independence. The Cambodian government, critics say, is trying to limit the scope of the trials for its own political reasons, a limit that the critics say would compromise justice and could discredit the entire process. 'To me, it's the credibility of the tribunal which is at stake, its integrity and therefore its credibility,' said Christophe Peschoux, who runs the Cambodia office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The first defendant is the man with perhaps the most horrifying past: Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch (pronounced DOIK), the commander of the Tuol Sleng torture house in Phnom Penh, where at least 14,000 people were sent to their deaths. His trial is to open with a procedural hearing, set for Feb. 17, during which more substantive sessions, involving witnesses and evidence, are expected to be scheduled. Four other defendants, all of whom were members of the Khmer Rouge Central Committee, are also in custody, waiting their turns to face charges on crimes that occurred while they were at the top of the chain of command from 1975 to 1979. As much as one-fourth of the population in Cambodia died from disease, hunger or overwork, or were executed under the Khmer Rouge’s brutal Communist rule. Those five defendants are enough, Cambodian officials say. But foreign legal experts counter that within reasonable limits, the judicial process should not be arbitrarily limited. ... Last month the foreign co-prosecutor, a Canadian named Robert Petit, submitted six more names to the court for investigation, saying that he had gathered enough evidence to support possible charges. Mr. Petit's Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, objected -- not on legal grounds, but for reasons that appear to reflect the government's position on the trials. Additional indictments, the Cambodian prosecutor said, could be destabilizing. She said they would cost too much, take too long and violate the spirit of the tribunal, which she said envisioned 'only a small number of trials.' [...]"


"Montreal Massacre Film Opens in Quebec Theatres", 6 February 2009
"'Polytechnique,' the controversial new film about the 1989 Montreal Massacre, has begun playing in the province where the tragedy took place almost two decades before. Based on the tragic events of Dec. 6, 1989, the film tells the story of the deranged 25-year-old gunman Marc Lepine, who entered Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique and went on a disturbing shooting rampage, killing 14 women before taking his own life. Lepine, who is not named in the film, blamed feminists for the problems in his life. The 76-minute film about the shootings opened Friday in Quebec, in both English and French. It will later be released to a wider Canadian audience. Director Denis Villeneuve told CTV's etalk recently that he didn't want 'Polytechnique' to be a portrait of the killer or a glorification of the disturbing violence he was responsible for. Hence, the director chose to make the film in black and white. 'With black and white, you have kind of a poetic distance with the subject,' Villeneuve said. 'It can help me to go further in the violence and to be in places and to shoot things that would be unbearable in colour.' Those who worked on 'Polytechnique,' have acknowledged that it is difficult it is very hard for some people to accept that it was being made into a film. Actress Karine Vanasse, who is also one of the film's producers, said while some people may not to go see the film, she believes it is respectful. 'You might have some resistance to go see the film, we're not going to convince everybody,' she told CTV's etalk recently. 'But I'm confident that the film doesn't go too far.' ... Maxim Gaudette, who portrays the unnamed Lepine, said he believes that there is no ideal time to release a film about the Montreal Massacre. 'I don't think there's a moment to talk about this,' he told etalk. 'Is it too early, too late? It's now.' [...]"
[n.b. As a Master's student at McGill University, I was a couple of miles from the Polytechnique when the massacre occurred, and joined tens of thousands of Montrealers in filing past the victims' coffins several days later. See my study of the Polytechnique as a case of gendercidal massacre (my own term).]


"Indigenous Colombians 'Massacred in Cocaine Region by Farc'"
By Jeremy McDermott
The Telegraph, 10 February 2009
"Some 30,000 members of the Awa tribe live in the southern province of Narino, a remote jungle region littered with drug crops and fought over by guerilla groups including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc). 'On the 4th of February the Farc detained a group of indigenous families and accused them of collaborating with the army,' said provincial governor Antonio Navarro. 'One of the young men escaped and has said that they had been tied up and beaten and that they were killing them with knives.' It took the witness almost two days to reach the town of Samaniego, so news of the massacre has only recently emerged. Neither security forces nor aid agencies have yet reached the zone. 'This is a difficult zone, dense jungle, full of anti-personnel mines and with very aggressive guerrillas who do not hesitate to attack the civilian population,' said Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is trying to get into the area. He said that the armed group carried out the attack as retaliation for the arrival of Colombian forces in the south-western region The Awa have long pleaded for state protection, as they have not only received death threats from the FARC, but also have the smaller rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN) and an armed drugs trafficking group the Rastrojos constantly moving through their reservations, chasing the drug crops that grow in abundance in the region."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Iraq's Shocking Human Toll: About 1 Million Killed, 4.5 Million Displaced, 1-2 Million Widows, 5 Million Orphans"
By John Tirman
The Nation on, 2 February 2009.
"We are now able to estimate the number of Iraqis who have died in the war instigated by the Bush administration. ... We have a better grasp of the human costs of the war. For example, the United Nations estimates that there are about 4.5 million displaced Iraqis -- more than half of them refugees -- or about one in every six citizens. Only 5 percent have chosen to return to their homes over the past year, a period of reduced violence from the high levels of 2005-07. ... The mortality caused by the war is also high. Several household surveys were conducted between 2004 and 2007. While there are differences among them, the range suggests a congruence of estimates. But none have been conducted for eighteen months, and the two most reliable surveys were completed in mid-2006. The higher of those found 650,000 'excess deaths' (mortality attributable to war); the other yielded 400,000. The war remained ferocious for twelve to fifteen months after those surveys were finished and then began to subside. Iraq Body Count, a London NGO that uses English-language press reports from Iraq to count civilian deaths, provides a means to update the 2006 estimates. While it is known to be an undercount, because press reports are incomplete and Baghdad-centric, IBC nonetheless provides useful trends, which are striking. Its estimates are nearing 100,000, more than double its June 2006 figure of 45,000. (It does not count nonviolent excess deaths -- from health emergencies, for example -- or insurgent deaths.) If this is an acceptable marker, a plausible estimate of total deaths can be calculated by doubling the totals of the 2006 household surveys, which used a much more reliable and sophisticated method for estimates that draws on long experience in epidemiology. So we have, at present, between 800,000 and 1.3 million 'excess deaths' as we approach the six-year anniversary of this war. This gruesome figure makes sense when reading of claims by Iraqi officials that there are 1-2 million war widows and 5 million orphans. This constitutes direct empirical evidence of total excess mortality and indirect, though confirming, evidence of the displaced and the bereaved and of general insecurity. The overall figures are stunning: 4.5 million displaced, 1-2 million widows, 5 million orphans, about 1 million dead -- in one way or another, affecting nearly one in two Iraqis. [...]"


"Mexico City Mass Grave May Hold Remains of Aztec Fighters Who Resisted Cortes to the End"
By Mark Stevenson
Associated Press dispatch in The Los Angeles Times, 10 February 2009
"Archaeologists digging in a ruined pyramid in downtown Mexico City said Tuesday they found a mass grave that may hold the skeletal remains of the Aztec holdouts who fought conquistador Hernan Cortes. The unusual burial holds the carefully arrayed skeletons of at least 49 adult Indians who were buried in the remains of a pyramid razed by the Spaniards during the 1521 conquest of the Aztec capital. The pyramid complex, in the city's Tlatelolco square, was the site of the last Indian resistance to the Spaniards during the monthslong battle for the city. Archaeologist Salvador Guilliem, the leader of the excavation for Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, said the Indians might have been killed during Cortes' war or during one of the uprisings that continued after the conquest. Guilliem said many burials have been found at the site with the remains of Indians who died during epidemics that swept the Aztec capital in the years after the conquest and killed off much of the Indian population. But those burials were mostly hurried, haphazard affairs in which remains were jumbled together in pits regardless of age or gender. The burial reported Tuesday is different. The dead had many of the characteristics of warriors: All but four were young men, most were tall and several showed broken bones that had mended. The men also were carefully buried Christian-style, lying on their backs with arms crossed over their chests, though many appear to have been wrapped up in large maguey cactus leaves, rather than placed in European coffins. [...]"


"The First Holocaust: Horrifying Secrets of Germany's Earliest Genocide inside Africa's 'Forbidden Zone'"
By Sean Thomas
Daily Mail, 7 February 2009
"[...] In the mid-1900s the Herero people of northern Namibia rebelled, massacring dozens of German settlers. The Germans saw this revolt as a serious threat to the potential of their diamond-rich colony, so they despatched a ruthless Prussian imperialist, Lothar von Trotha, to deal with the uprising. The Kaiser's explicit instructions to his upper-class viceroy were to 'emulate the Huns' in savagery. Von Trotha didn't need encouraging. His intentions were quite plain. 'I know enough tribes in Africa,' he boasted. 'They are all alike insofar as they only yield to violence. My policy was, and is, to exercise this violence with blatant terrorism and cruelty.' He was as good as his word. After several battles, where the Herero were slain in their multitudes, von Trotha decided to finish the job once and for all by destroying the entire Herero people. In 1907 he issued his notorious extermination order, or ernichtungsbefehl. 'I, the great general of the German soldiers, send this letter to the Herero ... the Herero are no longer German subjects. ... they must leave the country. If they do not leave I will force them out with the big gun. 'All Herero, armed or unarmed, will be shot dead. I will no longer accept women or children, they will be forced out or they will also be shot. These are my words to the Herero.' The Herero were driven west, into the Kalahari desert, to expire. Guards were stationed at waterholes so the people couldn't drink; many wells were deliberately poisoned. In the searing heat of the desert, denied water and food, the Herero didn't last long. Some women and children tried to return, but they were immediately shot. Accounts of the holocaust are unbearably harrowing. Witnesses reported hundreds of people just lying in the desert, dying of thirst. Children went mad among the corpses of their parents; the buzzing of the flies was deafening. Paralysed people were eaten alive by leopards and jackals. ... Reliable historians estimate that 60,000 died in this appalling crime, constituting 70 to 80 per cent of the entire Herero people. The genocide affects Namibia's demography and politics to this day. [...]"


"Wanted: The Last Nazis"
By Claire Soares
The Independent, 1 May 2008
"At first glance, the mugshots appear to be a gallery of roguish grandfathers, but the octo- and nonagenarians are the 10 most-wanted fugitives of one of the most heinous regimes the world has ever seen. They are the last remaining Nazis, and the codename of the hunt to find them -- Operation Last Chance -- says it all. More than 60 years after the Nuremberg trials put the first of Hitler's henchmen in the dock, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre yesterday released its most wanted list of the remaining Nazi war criminals. The battle to bring them to justice is complicated by a mix of political apathy, legal wrangling, legendary powers of evasion and what Nazi-hunters term 'misplaced sympathy' for the craggy-faced men in their twilight years. 'They are old, and the natural tendency is to be sympathetic toward people when they reach a certain age, but the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the perpetrators,' said Efraim Zuroff, the Jerusalem-based director of the Wiesenthal Centre. 'If we were to put a chronological limit on prosecution, we would basically be saying you can get away with genocide.' The top target is Aribert Heim, now 93. Jewish prisoners at Mauthausen concentration camp probably knew better him as 'Doctor Death.' The Austrian medic would inject petrol and an array of different poisons straight into the hearts of his so-called patients to see which killed them fastest. He once removed the tattooed flesh of a prisoner and turned it into soft furnishings for his commandant's flat. An 18-year-old Jewish footballer and swimmer who was sent to Heim with an inflammation of the foot was knocked out, castrated and then decapitated. His head was boiled to remove the flesh and his skull was put on display. '[Heim] needed the head because of its perfect teeth,' testified one hospital worker at the camp, according to an arrest warrant uncovered by the Associated Press news agency. Although the hunt for the fugitives continues, the race is on to bring them to justice before they die. Conscious of the ticking clock, Mr. Zuroff will launch a media blitz in South America this summer, airing adverts there for the first time which publicise the $485,000 (£245,000) reward offered for Heim's arrest. [...]"

"Aribert Heim, Most Wanted Nazi, Reportedly Died in Cairo in 1992"
The Los Angeles Times, 4 February 2009
"Documents have surfaced in Egypt showing the world's most wanted Nazi war criminal, concentration camp doctor Aribert Heim, died of intestinal cancer here on Aug. 10, 1992, Germany's ZDF television and the New York Times reported Wednesday. The report said Heim had converted to Islam and was living under the name Tarek Hussein Farid. ZDF said that in a joint effort with the newspaper, it located a passport, application for a residence permit, bank slips, personal letters and medical papers -- in all, more than 100 documents -- left by Heim in a briefcase in the hotel room where he lived. Egyptian dentist Tarek Abdelmoneim Rifai said he knew Heim because he was a patient of his father, also a dentist. He said Wednesday that he had seen Heim only a few times, 20 years ago, but confirmed that he knew of his death. 'He died in 1992. I didn't know that he was a doctor and that he is the most wanted Nazi war criminal. I am surprised,' he said in a telephone interview. 'He introduced himself to my father as a German, and I know that he converted to Islam and changed his name.' Heim, an Austrian doctor with Adolf Hitler's infamous SS, evaded West German police in 1962 as they prepared to prosecute him. He was nicknamed 'Dr. Death' for killing hundreds of Jewish prisoners at the Nazis' Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Heim is said to have removed organs from victims without anesthetic. He kept the skull of a man he decapitated as a paperweight. Witnesses told investigators that he worked closely with SS pharmacist Erich Wasicky on such gruesome experiments as injecting various solutions into prisoners' hearts to see which killed them the fastest. ... ZDF reported that Aribert Heim was buried in a cemetery for the poor in Cairo, where graves are reused after several years, so 'the chance of finding remains is unlikely.'"

"Priest Uncovering Beginnings of Final Solution"
By Maria Danilova and Randy Herschaft
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 31 January 2009
"The Holocaust has a landscape engraved in the mind's eye: barbed-wire fences, gas chambers, furnaces. Less known is the 'Holocaust by Bullets,' in which over 2 million Jews were gunned down in towns and villages across Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Their part in the Nazis' Final Solution has been under-researched, their bodies left unidentified in unmarked mass graves. 'Shoah,' French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann's documentary, stands as the 20th century's epic visual record of the Holocaust. Now another Frenchman, a Catholic priest named Patrick Desbois, is filling in a different part of the picture. Desbois says he has interviewed more than 800 eyewitnesses and pinpointed hundreds of mass graves strewn around dusty fields in the former Soviet Union. The result is a book, 'The Holocaust by Bullets,' and an exhibition through March 15 at New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage. Brought to Ukraine by a twist of fate, Desbois has spent seven years trying to document the truth, honor the dead, relieve witnesses of their pain and guilt and prevent future acts of genocide. Some 1.4 million of Soviet Ukraine's 2.4 million Jews were executed, starved to death or died of disease during the war. Another 550,000-650,000 Soviet Jews were killed in Belarus and up to 140,000 in Russia, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Most of the victims were women, children and the elderly. Begun after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the slaughter by bullets was the opening phase of what became the Nazis' Final Solution with its factories of death operating in Auschwitz and other camps, all in Nazi-occupied Poland. Desbois devotes his 233-page book, published by Palgrave Macmillan in August, to his work in Ukraine, where he says he has uncovered over 800 mass extermination sites, more than two-thirds of them previously unknown. Since the book was written, he has expanded his search for mass graves into Belarus and plans to look early this year in areas of Russia that were occupied by the Germans. Sometimes bursting into tears, old men and women from poor Ukrainian villages recount to Desbois how women, children and elders were marched or carted in from neighboring towns to be shot, burned to death or buried alive by German troops, Romanian forces, squads of local Ukrainian collaborators and local ethnic German volunteers. [...]"


"Amnesty Accuses Hamas of Torture and Killings"
By Michael Jansen
The Irish Times, 11 February 2009
"Amnesty International yesterday called on the de facto Hamas government in Gaza to immediately end violence against men suspected of collaborating with Israel during its 23-day offensive against Gaza, which killed 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and wounded 4,300. Since Israel began its attack on December 28th, Hamas security men and militiamen in the Gaza Strip have, according to Amnesty, 'carried out a deadly campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of "collaborating" with Israel, as well as opponents and critics. At least two dozen men have been shot dead by Hamas gunmen and scores of others have been shot in the legs, kneecapped or inflicted with other injuries intended to cause permanent disability, subjected to severe beatings which have caused multiple fractures and other injuries, or otherwise tortured or ill-treated.' Most were kidnapped and dumped, dead or injured, at isolated sites. Amnesty said some of the victims were prisoners who escaped from Gaza’s central prison when Israel bombed the facility, while others were former members of the Palestinian Authority security services or members of the rival Fatah party which administers the West Bank. One victim was quoted as testifying: 'Four masked men came to my house on 31st December 2008 at about 4pm; they were armed with Kalashnikovs. They took me behind my house. They shot me in the back of my right knee and then shot my left leg three times.' Although Hamas has publicly accused Fatah supporters of spying for Israel, the leadership denies ordering reprisal attacks against suspects and blames rogue gunmen for killings and woundings. Amnesty has asked Hamas to appoint an impartial commission to investigate the allegations."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"International Criminal Court to Consider Gaza Investigation"
By Sebastian Rotella
The Los Angeles Times, 5 February 2009
"In a move that could inject a new international actor into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the International Criminal Court will examine requests to investigate alleged war crimes during the recent combat in the Gaza Strip, its chief prosecutor said Wednesday. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the Netherlands-based court, said he had decided to consider an investigation after the Palestinian Authority accepted the jurisdiction of the court last week. Now his prosecutors must analyze three questions, he said: whether the Palestinian Authority has legal power to recognize the court's authority, whether war crimes occurred, and whether the governments involved conduct genuine investigations. 'Each legal area is complicated,' Moreno-Ocampo said in a telephone interview from The Hague. 'We move when we are completely sure. Our contribution is impartiality. We will consider this carefully and thoroughly.' The court has received 210 requests from organizations and individuals regarding the recent fighting between Israel and the Hamas militant group. Many claims accuse Israel of offenses such as violence against civilians and illegal use of phosphorus shells. But groups such as Human Rights Watch have also called for an investigation of Hamas' rocket attacks on Israeli towns and its alleged use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. The prosecutor's review could take years and faces legal and political obstacles. The court can investigate only in nations that accept its mandate, and most international bodies do not consider the Palestinian Authority to be a sovereign state. 'The ICC charter is adhered to by sovereign states, and the Palestinian Authority has not yet been recognized as one, so it cannot be a member,' said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. 'It doesn't mean anything except that it's a good propaganda stunt.' Nonetheless, the court's review could have symbolic and concrete repercussions. Israel could try to head off the investigation with its own comprehensive probe, said Yuval Shany, a professor of international law at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 'It will create greater pressures inside Israel to conduct a serious investigation,' Shany said. 'The fact that it has not been dismissed offhand by the court could prove to be significant.' [...]"

"After the War, Gazans Seek Answers on White Phosphorus"
By Ilene R. Prusher
The Christian Science Monitor, 5 February 2009
"When Nafiz Abu Shabam received a 5-year-old patient at the Shifa Hospital early in the war between Israel and Hamas, he dressed her burns and sent her for tests. Three hours later, when he and other medical staff redressed the wound, they saw smoke coming from it. 'We found small pieces of foreign material in her body, and even when we picked it out, the wound was still smoking,' he says. 'We were later told [by foreign doctors and human rights workers who arrived after the war started] that it was white phosphorus.' Dr. Abu Shabam, head of the burn unit of Gaza City's main public hospital, now says that hundreds of Gazans from all parts of the strip, who were brought to the hospital during the war with unusual burns, must have been victims of white phosphorus shells used by Israel. 'We had patients who had burns over 10 to 15 percent of their body, and with that much of a burn, these people should not have died,' Abu Shabam says. His accusations about white phosphorus munitions add to the growing pool of accounts from Palestinian and foreign physicians and rights groups that suggest Israel used white phosphorus munitions in populated areas during the war and against the international norms of war. As white phosphorus is highly incendiary, can reignite when exposed to oxygen, and causes painful chemical burns, it is not intended -- or legal under international law -- for use in civilian areas. Israel initially denied that white phosphorus munitions were used in its 22-day war with Hamas. It now says, 'there was no illegal use of phosphorus or any other material,' according to the spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Amid the allegations that white phosphorus shells were used in populated areas, Israel announced an investigation. [...]"

"Israel: Attack That Killed Gaza Girls 'Reasonable'"
Associated Press dispatch on, 5 February 2009
"The Palestinian doctor became a symbol of the Gaza offensive after he captivated Israeli TV viewers with a sobbing live report on the death of his three daughters in Israeli shelling. On Wednesday, Israel's military said its troops were fired on from nearby and called the mistaken identification of people in his house as combatants 'reasonable.' The report said screams from the shelled building led soldiers to stop firing. The military expressed sadness at the deaths but did not admit to a mistake in identification. Israel is pursuing a number of investigations into Gaza deaths in the three-week offensive that ended last month. The offensive killed 1,300 people, about half of them civilians, according to Palestinian figures. Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish has denied there were any militants in his house. The 55-year-old gynecologist is a rarity among Palestinians, a Hebrew speaker who trained in Israeli hospitals. Throughout the war, he brought accounts of war's tragedy to Israeli living rooms through TV interviews, making him for many the voice of Palestinian suffering. He often spoke of his fears for his eight children. But on Jan. 16, he answered his cell phone, crying, and told Channel 10 that his house in the northern Gaza strip town of Jebalia had been hit by Israeli shells and his daughters, ages 22, 15 and 14, were killed. [...]"

"Gaza Desperately Short of Food after Israel Destroys Farmland"
By Peter Baumont
The Observer, 1 February 2009
"Gaza's 1.5 million people are facing a food crisis as a result of the destruction of great areas of farmland during the Israeli invasion. According to the World Food Programme, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and Palestinian officials, between 35% and 60% of the agriculture industry has been wrecked by the three-week Israeli attack, which followed two years of economic siege. Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, the World Food Programme's country director, said: 'We are hearing that 60% of the land in the north -- where the farming was most intensive -- may not be exploitable again. It looks to me like a disaster. It is not just farmland, but poultry as well. 'When we have given a food ration in Gaza, it was never a full ration but to complement the diet. Now it is going to be almost impossible for Gaza to produce the food it needs for the next six to eight months, assuming that the agriculture can be rehabilitated. We will give people a full ration.' The FAO estimates that 13,000 families who depend directly on herding, farming and fishing have suffered significant damage. 'Before the blockade and the attack,' said Ahmad Sourani, director of the Agricultural Development Association of Gaza, which runs programmes with charities such as Britain's Christian Aid, 'Gaza produced half of its own food. Now that has declined by 25%. In addition, a quarter of the population depends on agriculture for income. What we have seen in large areas of farmland is the destruction of all means of life. We have seen a creeping process of farmers being forced out of the buffer zone around Gaza's border. ... It is indirect confiscation by fear. My fear is that, if it remains, it will become de facto. Bear in mind that 30% of Gaza's most productive land is within that buffer zone.' The wholesale destruction of farms, greenhouses, dairy parlours, livestock, chicken coops and orchards has damaged food production, which was already hit by the blockade. Buildings heavily damaged during Israel's Operation Cast Lead included much of its agricultural infrastructure. The Ministry of Agriculture was targeted, the agriculture faculty at al-Azhar university in Beit Hanoun largely destroyed, and the offices of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees in Zaitoun -- which provides cheap food for the poor -- ransacked and vandalised by soldiers who left abusive graffiti. Although international and local officials are still gathering figures, they believe that scores, perhaps hundreds, of wells and water sources have been damaged and several hundred greenhouses have been levelled, as well as severe damage inflicted on 60,000-75,000 dunums of Gaza's 175,000 dunums (44,000 acres) of farmable land. As well as the physical damage done by Israeli bulldozers, bombing and shelling, land has been contaminated by munitions, including white phosphorous, burst sewerage pipes, animal carcasses and even asbestos used in roofing. In many places, the damage is extreme. In Jabal al-Rayas, once a thriving farming community, every building has been knocked down, and even the cattle killed and left to lie rotting in the fields. [...]"
[n.b. What a thug and a vandal Israel has become.]

"Israeli Army Lawyer Who Sanctioned Bombings under Attack over University Post"
By Dina Kraft
The Telegraph, 1 February 2009
"For five weeks, Israelis have maintained a wall of public support for what they saw as a defensive war in Gaza, denouncing overt criticism as rank unpatriotism during a time of national crisis. Yet the shocking images of suffering broadcast from inside the Palestinian territory -- including the deaths of hundreds of children -- have led some people to start questioning whether the army went too far. For a country that prides itself on having an armed service that upholds high moral standards, the criticisms have been jarring and spurred a debate as to how Israel's image abroad can be repaired. Some of this backlash has now engulfed Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, a military lawyer heading the office responsible for giving the legal go ahead when the Israeli army selected its targets. Her office controversially authorised the bombing of a graduation ceremony for Palestinian policemen on the first day of the war, killing about 40. The international law department, which she headed, is also reported to have relaxed the rules of engagement -- allowing the use of white phosphorus, cluster bombs and anti-personnel mines -- which is thought to have increased the number of civilian casualties. Now other academics at the university have attacked the decision to give her the job and a leading newspaper has said it should be rescinded. 'One of the important reasons not to appoint Sharvit-Baruch to the law faculty is her sanctioning of the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians,' said an editorial in Ha'aretz. Professor Chaim Gans, a law professor at Tel Aviv University lodged what he called, 'a moral protest against a state of affairs where somebody who authorised these actions is teaching the law of war.' Anat Maor, a lecturer of philosophy at the university, who also opposed the appointment, said she was not against Col Sharvit-Baruch's views, but her actions. 'It is her deeds, the fact that she was a senior participant in planning a criminal attack on civilians,' she said. 'I can't imagine such a person teaching international law in my university. This brings Israeli academia to one of its lowest points ever.' [...]"


"Slain Exile Detailed Chechen Ruler's Systematic Cruelty"
By C.J. Chivers
The New York Times, 31 January 2009
"Umar S. Israilov saw the men who had come to kill him. They confronted him in the neighborhood where he lived in hiding in Vienna. He must have sensed their intentions, because he ran. For more than two years, Mr. Israilov, a Chechen in exile, had formally accused Russia's government of allowing a macabre pattern of crimes in Chechnya. Even by the dark norms of violence in the Caucasus, his accusations were extraordinary. A rebel fighter turned bodyguard of Ramzan A. Kadyrov, Chechnya's current president, Mr. Israilov had access to the inner ring of Chechen power. Mr. Kadyrov's career has been sponsored by Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who as president lifted him from obscurity with unwavering Kremlin support. In written legal complaints, Mr. Israilov described many brutal acts by Mr. Kadyrov and his subordinates, including executions of illegally detained men. One executed man, Mr. Israilov said, had been beaten with a shovel handle by Mr. Kadyrov and Adam Delimkhanov, now a member of Russia's Parliament. Another prisoner, the defector said, was sodomized by a prominent police officer and at Mr. Kadyrov's order put to death. Mr. Israilov said he and others had been tortured by Mr. Kadyrov, who amused himself by personally giving prisoners electric shocks or firing pistols at their feet. ... A spokesman for Mr. Kadyrov released a statement decrying 'a large-scale and purposeful campaign' to discredit Chechnya's president and government. The campaign, the spokesman said, was the 'deeply conspiratorial initiative of some ideologists of terrorism and an armed criminal underground.' Since 1994, Russia's wars against nationalist and Islamic separatists in Chechnya have been fought with sinister conduct by all sides. Human rights organizations and independent journalists have documented patterns of abduction, detention, disappearances, collective punishment, extrajudicial executions and the systematic use of torture by Russian and Chechen authorities, including Mr. Kadyrov. The separatists have unapologetically employed terrorist attacks, including on children. [...]"


"Turkey Prosecutor to Probe Whether IDF Gaza Op Was 'Genocide'"
Associated Press dispatch on, 6 February 2009
"A Turkish prosecutor's office says it has launched a probe into whether Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip counts as genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. The Ankara chief prosecutor's office said Friday that the investigation was opened after an Islamic human rights organization filed an official complaint against Israeli leaders, including the president, prime minister and foreign minister. The prosecutor's office said the rights organization has also asked for the Israeli officials be detained if they step foot in Turkey. Turkish prosecutors are required to open investigation any time an official complaint is filed. Turkish laws allow trials against people accused of genocide and other crimes against humanity committed in other countries. Israeli and Turkish officials have been engaged in behind-the-scenes discussions aimed at easing tensions between the two countries in the wake of Israel's operation in the Gaza Strip. Shalom Turjeman, an adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was said to be holding talks with an aide of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an attempt to improve relations between Jerusalem and Ankara. Ties between Israel and Turkey reached a new low on Friday when Erdogan stalked off the stage at the World Economic Forum at Davos, after sparring with President Shimon Peres over Operation Cast Lead."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Perhaps the Ottoman genocides against Armenian, Assyrians, and Greeks will be next to receive serious investigation in Turkey! I'm not holding my breath ...]


"Battle over Armenian Genocide Museum in D.C. Gets Nasty"
By Michael Doyle
McClatchy Newspapers, 7 February 2009
"A nasty legal fight complicates plans for an Armenian genocide museum, and it shows no sign of abating. On Friday, attorneys for the warring parties who once were close allies met again in a District of Columbia courtroom. There was no peace agreement, only the prospect of many more months of wrangling. 'The clients are very hostile to each other right now,' attorney Arnold Rosenfeld advised a federal judge last year, a court transcript shows. Rosenfeld represents the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial Inc. On a site two blocks from the White House, the non-profit organization proposes to build 'the premier institution in the United States dedicated to educating American and international audiences about the Armenian Genocide.' The museum potentially has high appeal in regions with large Armenian-American populations. It's been discussed since the mid-1990s, and planners say they want the 35,000-square-foot facility open before 2011. But a bad falling out with a major donor has been diverting time, energy and money. The one-time donor, retired millionaire businessman Gerard Cafesjian, is suing to reclaim his donations. Cafesjian, in turn, is being sued by museum organizers for allegedly trying to interfere with their work. The competing lawsuits now resemble a bad divorce, where mutual rancor feeds on itself and prior intimacies become potential vulnerabilities. ... When completed, the museum will commemorate the events between 1915 and 1923, when by some estimates upward of 1.5 million Armenians died during the final years of the Ottoman Empire. [...]"


"The 'Pedophile's Paradise'"
By Brendan Kiley, 3 February 2009
"[...] On the morning of January 14 in Seattle, Ken Roosa and a small group Alaska Natives stood on the sidewalk outside Seattle University to announce a new lawsuit against the Jesuits, claiming a widespread conspiracy to dump pedophile priests in isolated Native villages where they could abuse children off the radar. 'They did it because there was no money there, no power, no police,' Roosa said to the assembled cameras and microphones. 'It was a pedophile's paradise.' He described a chain of poor Native villages where priests—many of them serial sex offenders—reigned supreme. 'We are going to shine some light on a dark and dirty corner of the Jesuit order.' The suit, filed in the superior court of Bethel, Alaska, the day before, accuses several priests of being offenders and conspirators. Among the alleged conspirators is Father Stephen Sundborg, who is the current president of Seattle University and was Provincial of the Oregon Province of Jesuits from 1990 through 1996. (The Oregon Province includes Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska; as Provincial, Sundborg was head of the entire province.) The suit alleges that while Sundborg was head of the Northwest Jesuits, he had access to the personnel files of several pedophile priests, including one named Father Henry Hargreaves, whom he allowed to remain in the ministry. ... Roosa and his associate Patrick Wall (a former Benedictine monk who once worked as a sex-abuse fixer for the Catholic Church) said they knew of 345 cases of molestation in Alaska by 28 perpetrators who came from at least four different countries. This concentration of abuses is orders of magnitude greater than Catholic sex-abuse cases in other parts of the United States. Today, Roosa said, there are 17,000 Catholics in the diocese of Fairbanks, though there was a much smaller number during the peak of the abuse. Roosa compared this lawsuit to the famous Los Angeles suits of 2001, which claimed 550 victims of abuse in a Catholic population of 3.4 million. [...]"


"Goucher Professor Accused Of Genocide In Rwanda Arrested"
Associated Press dispatch in The Huffington Post, 5 February 2009
"A Maryland college professor accused of genocide in his home country of Rwanda has been arrested for being in the U.S. illegally, immigration officials said Thursday. Leopold Munyakazi, 59, taught French at Goucher College, north of Baltimore, until he was suspended with pay after the liberal arts school learned in December that he was wanted in Rwanda. Munyakazi has denied the accusations. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are taking steps to deport Munyakazi, who was arrested Tuesday at his home in Towson for overstaying his visa, according to agency spokesman Brandon A. Montgomery. Munyakazi was later released from custody but with a monitoring device. The arrest came a day after the allegations against the professor became public, but Montgomery said the news reports weren't a factor. 'We don't rush to get something done just because of the news,' he said. The genocide accusations stem from 1994, when more than a half-million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in Rwanda after the then-president's plane was shot down as he returned from negotiating with Tutsi rebels. Munyakazi is Hutu. ... Munyakazi is charged with murder and several genocide-related counts, according to a copy of an indictment provided by Munyakazi. Goucher officials said they gave Munyakazi a copy of the indictment, which they received from a Rwandan prosecutor. Alison Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch's Africa division, reviewed the indictment and said it contained details that do not 'fit historical facts of the time.' For instance, it is unlikely that Munyakazi organized a militia associated with a party that was opposed to the party he was affiliated with, Des Forges said. Goucher suspended Munyakazi because the allegations are so serious, college President Sanford Ungar said earlier in the week, adding the removal wasn't a judgment of the professor or the charges. [...]"


"US: Genocide Case File[d] Against Sri Lankan Government"
By Aziz Haniffa, 10 February 2009
"Bruce Fein, a former US deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan Administration, has filed a 12-count indictment against Sri Lanka's defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the country's army commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, for perpetrating genocide against Tamil civilians with US Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice. The indictment filed under the US Genocide Accountabilty Act of 2007, charged both Rajapaksa -- brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa -- and Fonseka with command responsibility for genocidal deaths perpetrated by their subordinates in the Sri Lankan security forces. In an interview with, Fein, legal counsel for the groups Tamils Against Genocide and the newly formed Tamil Legal Defense Fund, said this is the first genocide indictment filed under the GAA since its was enacted into law by the US Congress -- which applies to genocide irrespective of the place of its occurrence -- and held Rajapaksa and Fonseka complicit because 'they are US citizens, green card holders, and we have responsibility as Americans, to make certain that none of our people are involved in genocide, just like we expect other countries to hold their citizens to the same standards.' He said that as counsel to TAG and TLDF, he had done extensive research and the 12 indictments arose from this research. The indictment charges Rajapaksa and Fonseka with genocide of Tamils in 12 discrete geographic areas of Sri Lanka. It chronicles more than 3,750 alleged extrajudicial killings, with 10,000 suffering bodily injury and more than 1.3 million displacements, which according to Fein, 'far exceed displacements in Kosovo which lead to genocide counts before the International Tribunal for the former Yugolavia.' Asked where he hoped to go with this indictment, Fein said, 'We want to have a grand jury investigation opened into it and followed up with an indictment.' He argued that 'under the Genocide Convention, there is an obligation of every signatory state like Sri Lanka to extradite persons in their territory that are accused of genocide.' Fein acknowledged, 'Now, that, may or may not happen, but, who knows, what the political configuration can turn out to be in Sri Lanka?often times you get surprised, so Mahinda may not be the President by the time we can get an indictment, but he may be. But, even so, you could always say, Alright, we'll drop the indictment, but you got to stop the killings of the civilians, the bombardments, the so-called safe zones, which are about as safe for Tamils as Auschwitz was for Jews.' [...]"


"Massacres Follow Failed U.S.-Aided Uganda Mission: Report"
Reuters dispatch in The Washington Post, 7 February 2009
"The U.S. military helped plan and finance a recent attack on a Ugandan rebel group which went awry, with fleeing fighters conducting a series of massacres that killed up to 900 civilians, The New York Times reported on Saturday. The Uganda-led operation targeted the brutal rebel group called Lord's Resistance Army, which had been hiding in a Congolese national park. The rebel leaders escaped and small group of fighters rampaged through towns in northeastern Congo, hacking, burning, shooting and clubbing civilians to death, the newspaper said. The U.S. involvement was its first helping plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda, the Times said, citing senior U.S. military officials. The officials said a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon's new Africa Command worked with Ugandan officers, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel. No U.S. forces were involved in ground fighting, the Times said, adding that human rights advocates and villagers said the Ugandan and Congolese troops did little to protect villagers from the attackers. U.S. officials admitted that villagers were left unprotected. 'We provided insights and alternatives for them to consider, but their choices were their choices,' the newspaper quoted a U.S. military official who was briefed on the operation as saying, in reference to the African ground forces. 'In the end, it was not our operation,' the U.S. official said. A Ugandan military spokesman declined to discuss the U.S. involvement, saying only 'There was no way to prevent these massacres.' The rebel group remains at large, moving through villages, torch them and killing civilians, the Times said. Witnesses said they have also kidnapped hundreds of children to enslave them into their forces, it said."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Obama CIA Pick Backtracks on 'Torture' Charge"
By Randall Mikkelsen
Reuters dispatch, 6 February 2009
"President Barack Obama's pick to head the CIA retreated on Friday from a charge that the United States sent terrorism suspects to other countries so they could be tortured under questioning. 'On that particular quote, that people were transferred for purposes of torture, that was not the policy of the United States,' Leon Panetta told a Senate hearing on his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. 'To that extent, yes, I would retract that statement.' Panetta has long written of his opposition to abusive interrogations and torture. On the first day of his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Thursday, he was asked whether the CIA would continue 'extraordinary renditions,' where prisoners are sent outside the United States for questioning. He replied that Obama had banned the use of secret 'black sites' for questioning last month. 'That kind of extraordinary rendition, where we send someone for the purposes of torture or for actions by another country that violate our human values, that has been forbidden by the executive order,' he said. He said he was uncertain of the validity of charges that terrorism suspects were tortured under questioning, but suspected that they were true, based on public reports. Although Obama banned the 'black site' program, the CIA might continue to send suspects to third countries for questioning, provided there are verifiable assurances they would be treated humanely, Panetta said. [...]"


"British-born Roman Catholic Bishop 'Sacked over Holocaust Controversy'"
The Telegraph, 9 February 2009
"The news agency Diarios y Noticias said the ultra-conservative Society of St Pius X was relieving Richard Williamson of his post as director of its seminary in La Reja, Argentina. Neither parties [sic] have yet been reached to confirm the report, but it follows a demand from the Vatican last week for the bishop to publicly recant his views on the Holocaust. Bishop Williamson is reported to have claimed in a television interview last month that historical evidence was 'hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler ... I believe there were no gas chambers.' He added: 'I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by gas chambers.' Previously, Pope Benedict XVI faced uproar in his native Germany and severe criticism from Jewish groups over his decision to lift an excommunication of the bishop. He had the status lifted along with three other bishops who were ordained without Vatican permission by the renegade French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. But the Vatican said that the Pope did not know about Bishop Williamson's views when he agreed to lift the excommunication."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"German Bishops Say 'No Room' for Holocaust Denier in Catholicism"
CNN dispatch, 7 February 2009
"Germany's Catholic bishops are calling for the expulsion of a bishop, recently brought back into the church by Pope Benedict XVI, after new reports that Richard Williamson denies the Holocaust. In statements to Spiegel Online, the Web site of the German news magazine, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said the church should part ways with Bishop Williamson, a member of an ultra-conservative group that split off after Pope John Paul II excommunicated him and three other bishops in 1988. 'Mr. Williamson is impossible and irresponsible,' Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, told the magazine in an article published Saturday. 'I now see no room for him in the Catholic Church.' The Vatican has faced criticism since Benedict lifted the excommunication of the four men January 21 and announced the move three days later. The announcement came days after a Swedish Public Television interview in which Williamson said Germany's systematic murder of millions of Jews during World War II never happened. In the Saturday article, Spiegel quotes Williamson saying that he will not recant his theories and that he would need more evidence to believe the Holocaust really happened. 'If I find this proof, then I will correct myself,' he said. 'But that will require some time.' On Wednesday, the Vatican ordered Williamson to 'distance himself' from his views 'in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner.' The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has said Williamson will not be allowed to perform priestly functions if he does not recant. He said the pope was unaware of the comments when he rehabilitated the men. Williamson apologized last week for the 'distress' he has caused the pope but did not retract his comments. [...]"

"Vatican Crisis over Bishop Who Denies the Holocaust"
By Oliver Balch
The Guardian, 7 February 2009
"[...] It is, a source close to the highest levels in the Vatican told the Guardian, 'the biggest catastrophe for the Roman Catholic church in modern times.' An exaggeration, perhaps, but the passion with which that judgment was spat out hinted at the tensions that have been aroused by Pope Benedict's move. His judgment and ability have been questioned as never before, both within his administration, the Roman Curia, and the wider church that he leads. It has unleashed a torrent of Jewish indignation, doubtless setting back the chances of a deal on the status of the Roman Catholic church in Israel, and could yet doom his scheduled visit to the Holy Land in May. Some of the fiercest internal criticism came, not from the dwindling numbers of liberal Catholics, but from the very conservatives who delighted in his election four years ago. ... By lifting the excommunications without demanding any undertaking from Williamson and the others, the pope has angered not just liberals, who see it as capitulation to an unpleasantly reactionary splinter group, but also the many conservatives who admired his insistence on obedience and who feel he has blunted the most fearsome disciplinary instrument in the pope's gift. Few, in Rome at least, were ready to vent their criticism publicly. But according to one well-informed source, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the senior Vatican official who was told to sign the decree lifting the excommunications on behalf of the pope, 'roared' his disapproval of the move. [...]"

"The Devil's Publicist"
By Philip Jenkins
Foreign Policy, 4 February 2009
"When the Catholic Church canonizes a new saint, a Devil's Advocate marshals all possible evidence against the candidate. Judging by current events in the Vatican, one might imagine Pope Benedict XVI has a full time employee called the Devil's Publicist, who is charged with finding the most embarrassing story to release at the worst possible time. The Devil's Publicist is cultivating the nastiest possible reputation for the papacy worldwide. After a speech that enraged Muslims in 2006, this time, the Devil's Publicist has provoked Jews, and much of Europe. Not only did the Vatican lift the excommunication of some extremely traditionally minded clerics, but one of them -- Bishop Richard Williamson -- had recently given an interview denying the Holocaust. He rejected the historical reality of gas chambers, and placed the number of Jewish victims at 'only' two or three hundred thousand. The row broke just as Jewish activists worldwide were smarting from controversies surrounding the Israeli attack on Gaza. They were extremely sensitive to any suggestions of Western anti-Semitism, especially when these could be linked to a Bavarian pope. If the Publicist was trying to turn Benedict into another 'Hitler's pope,' he could scarcely have done better. [...]"

"A German Pope Disgraces the Catholic Church"
Spiegel Online, 4 February 2009
"[...] The decision by Pope Benedict XVI to reinstate the bishops of this brotherhood of St. Pius, who were excommunicated in 1988, has been the source of astonishment, disillusionment and outrage both inside and outside the Vatican. It has also triggered a deep sense of despair over the future relationship among religions. The fact that it was merely a matter of housekeeping within the church -- the ultra-conservatives who were restored to the pope's good graces had been made bishops in unsanctioned consecrations by Lefebvre in 1988 -- was irrelevant. What triggered the scandal, as SPIEGEL reported two weeks ago, was the fact that one of the priests brought back into the fold, Bishop Richard Williamson, is a notorious Holocaust denier. During a visit to Germany only two weeks ago, the British cleric told Swedish television: 'Not a single Jew died in a gas chamber.' ... And this obstinate priest, of all people, is to be reinstated into the church, according to the will of the pope? With a single, perhaps imprudent gesture, Benedict XVI has reignited old fears among Jews the world over, fears that the Catholic Church has in fact never really shed its old anti-Semitism. Benedict has called into question the efforts of his predecessor, John Paul II, who was the first pope to apologize for the crimes of his church. And he has raised a concern among his supporters that the German pope could in fact be a pope of the Restoration, a man who is taking his church, which had cautiously stepped into the modern world, back into the ivory tower of theological dogma. And then there is the question that has the entire world worried: How can it be that a German pope, of all people, is pardoning a Holocaust denier? Did the pope underestimate the impact of his gesture? Did Benedict XVI have a plan, or was his decision based on the occasionally obscure theological logic of the Vatican's clerical bureaucrats? Does the pope, a man of books throughout his life, still understand the world outside his palace walls? [...]"

"Cardinal Admits Error over Holocaust Denier"
By Kate Connolly
The Guardian, 4 February 2009
"The cardinal in charge of the Vatican's relations with Jews has admitted that the Pope's decision to rehabilitate an ultra-conservative bishop who denies the Holocaust was dealt with poorly and was the result of bad management in the Vatican hierarchy. In a frank interview with the German service of Vatican Radio, Cardinal Walter Kasper acknowledged that communication between decision-makers had been lacking. 'There wasn't enough talking with each other in the Vatican and there are no longer checks to see where problems could arise,' he said. Kasper, who like Pope Benedict is German, added: 'I'm watching this debate with great concern. Nobody can be pleased that misunderstandings have turned up. Mistakes in the management of the curia [Vatican administration] have certainly been made.' His blunt appraisal comes as condemnation of the move to lift the excommunication of a Briton, Richard Williamson, who denies the full scale of the Holocaust, and three other traditionalist bishops, has spread across the world. Holocaust survivors, US Congress members, Israel's chief rabbinate and leading members of the Catholic church are among those who have condemned the decision. The scale of the criticism is unprecedented in the four years of Benedict's pontificate and has prompted commentators to suggest fundamental defects in the governing style of the 81-year-old Pope. Criticism from Germany -- where denying the Holocaust is a crime punishable by imprisonment -- has been particularly acute. Yesterday the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she was forced to break her own rule not to criticise or comment on internal church matters because the issue was a 'question of principle.' She called on the Pope to 'unambiguously clarify' his position. 'When a decision by the Vatican gives rise to the impression that the Holocaust may be denied this cannot be allowed to stand ... it's a matter of affirming very clearly on the part of the Pope and the Vatican that there must be no denial here,' she said. The chancellor added that 'as a protestant Christian' she was 'encouraged' that many voices in the Catholic church were also calling on the Vatican to explain itself. [...]"


"Venezuela's Jews Fear More Attacks"
By Fabiola Sanchez
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 6 February 2009
"As President Hugo Chavez intensifies his anti-Israel campaign, some Venezuelans have taken action, threatening Jews in the street and vandalizing the largest synagogue in Caracas -- where they stole a database of names and addresses. Now many in Venezuela's Jewish community fear the worst is yet to come. Chavez has personally taken care not to criticize Israelis or Jews while accusing Israel's government of genocide against the Palestinians. He vehemently denies inciting religious intolerance, let alone violence. But Venezuela's Jewish leaders, the Organization of American States and the U.S. State Department say Chavez's harsh criticism has inspired a growing list of hate crimes, including a Jan. 30 invasion of Caracas' largest synagogue. About 15 people overpowered two security guards at the Tiferet Israel Synagogue, shattering religious objects and spray-painting 'Jews, get out' on the walls. Most worrisome, according to Elias Farache, president of the Venezuelan-Israelite Association, was their theft of a computer database containing many names and addresses of Jews in Venezuela. Police are now posted outside the synagogue, and prosecutors said Friday that the security guards 'could be involved.' Venezuela's attorney general ordered them to court on Feb. 13 -- two days before Venezuelans vote in a referendum that could enable Chavez to extend his rule indefinitely. One week before the invasion, a Chavista columnist named Emilio Silva posted a call to action on Aporrea, a pro-government Web site, describing Jews as 'squalid' -- a term Chavez often uses to describe his opponents as weak -- and exhorting Venezuelans to confront them as anti-government conspirators. 'Publicly challenge every Jew that you find in the street, shopping center or park,' he wrote, 'shouting slogans in favor of Palestine and against that abortion: Israel.' Silva called for protests at the synagogue, a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, seizures of Jewish-owned property, the closure of Jewish schools and a nationwide effort 'to denounce publicly, with names and last names the members of powerful Jewish groups present in Venezuela.' ... With criticism mounting, Chavez phoned Farache Thursday night in a conversation broadcast live on state television, and vowed to guarantee the safety of Venezuela's 15,000 Jews. He condemned the synagogue attack. But he also suggested that it might have been an inside job, and demanded that Jewish leaders publicly recant accusations against his government. [...]"

"Synagogue in Venezuela Vandalized in Break-In"
By Simon Romero
The New York Times, 31 January 2009
"A group of unidentified assailants overpowered security guards and vandalized a synagogue here early Saturday morning, the latest in a series of episodes aimed at Jewish institutions since Venezuela's recent expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the severing of diplomatic ties with Israel to protest the war in Gaza. The vandals broke into Tiferet Israel, a Sephardic synagogue in the Maripérez district of Caracas, strewing Torah scrolls on the floor and spray-painting the walls with messages like 'Death to all,' according to televised reports. 'We feel threatened and, with this incident, attacked,' said Elías Farache, a spokesman for Venezuela's Jewish community, in comments broadcast by Globovisión, a private television network. President Hugo Chávez’s government criticized the episode on Saturday. 'We reject these acts of violence,' Jesse Chacón, the communications minister, said. But Mr. Chacón also insinuated that the attack could have come from a conspiratorial antigovernment group seeking to 'generate a climate of irritation' before a referendum in February over lifting Mr. Chávez's term limits. Still, it was not clear on Saturday who carried out the attack. It came after an earlier episode in January in which vandals sprayed anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls of the same synagogue reading, 'Property of Islam.' 'What is troubling about Venezuela is that anti-Semitism is being used as a political tool,' the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, said in a report detailing previous episodes of vandalism here in January on the Israeli Embassy, which is now closed, and the businesses and synagogues of the Jewish community, which numbers about 15,000. [...]"


"Is Zimbabwe Now a Rogue State?"
By Christopher Hitchens, 9 February 2009
"The situation in Zimbabwe has now reached the point where the international community would be entirely justified in using force to put Robert Mugabe under arrest and place him on trial. Why do I say this now? Mugabe's crimes were frightful enough before, to be sure. But they were the crimes of an elected government, and it wasn't absolutely clear that they exceeded the threshold at which intervention can be justified or, rather, mandated. Essentially, there are four such criteria. One is genocide, which, according to the signatories of the Genocide Convention (the United States is one), necessitates immediate action either to prevent or to punish the perpetrators. Another is aggression against the sovereignty of neighboring states, including occupation of their territory. A third is hospitality for, or encouragement of, international terrorist groups, and a fourth is violations of the Nonproliferation Treaty or of U.N. resolutions governing weapons of mass destruction. Mugabe did kill a lot of people in Matabeleland in the 1980s on punitive expeditions inflicted by special units, trained by North Korea, against an ethnic group not his own. And he has punished recalcitrant voting districts by the indiscriminate denial of food supplies. But this doesn't quite rise to the level of 'genocide.' His soldiers may at one time have taken part in the opportunist looting of the resources of Congo, but this doesn't exactly qualify as invasion or occupation. Zimbabwe is not a harbor or haven for wanted international terrorists, and it isn't a player in the international WMD black market, either. The situation has altered recently, however, and an examination of what has altered may help us to clarify when a state crosses the boundary from 'failed' to 'rogue.' So great is the misery of the Zimbabwean people that acute diseases like cholera are now rife. And such is their degree of desperation that they have started crossing the frontier en masse, chiefly in the direction of South Africa, taking their maladies with them. This means that Mugabe has made himself an international problem, destabilizing his neighbors and thus giving them a direct legitimate interest in (and a right to concern themselves with) the restabilizing of Zimbabwe. If the voices of people like Desmond Tutu and Graça Machel, who are beginning to insist that regional action be taken to remove Mugabe, are ever heard properly, it will probably be because Mugabe went too far in driving infected people onto the territory of the countries next door. This is germ warfare of a kind. [...]"


"Behind Every Nazi Mass Murderer Was a Woman: New Book Claims Women under Hitler Were Just as Ruthless as Men"
By Alan Hall
The Daily Mail, 3 February 2009
"Women who worked under Adolf Hitler were just as ruthless as men, a shocking new book reveals. 'Female Perpetrators; Women Under National Socialism' exposes the myth that women under Hitler were the fairer sex and were simply caught up in the cruel actions of men. In Nazi art, films and magazines, women were always portrayed as the fairer sex, fighting on the home-front as their menfolk fought on the battlefields. But the book, which goes on sale in Germany this week, shows this was all propaganda and that women who worked under Hitler were just as brutal as men. In the first German post-war reckoning of the role of women in underwriting the crimes of the Nazis, historian Kathrin Kompisch has revealed what has been swept under the carpet since 1945. 'The history of National Socialism has long been reduced to one that blamed men for everything,' Ms. Kompisch said. 'This was and is the popular picture.' But the fairer sex venerated by the propaganda machine of Josef Goebbels was, according to Ms Kompisch, every bit as eager to turn the thumb-screws on the victims held in Gestapo cellars across Europe. Her book shows that women were also every bit as fanatical as the men when it came to crushing resistance to the state. This was partially portrayed by Kate Winslet, who plays a Nazi guard accused of war crimes, in the Oscar-nominated film The Reader. 'Apart from a few particularly cruel examples, the participation of women in the crimes of the Nazis has been blended out of the collective conscious of the Germans for a long time,' Ms. Kompisch wrote. 'I tried to analyse the motives and the personal circumstances of the women involved and to pose the question about their own personal responsibility for what occurred.' She found that Hitler and his satraps virtually hypnotised women to do the bidding of a regime founded on violence and race hatred. As such they became handmaidens to the S.S.; staffed the 'baby farms' where 'supermen' children were born and assisted the doctors who first sterilised. Later women went on to become murderers of the disabled as well as guards in the gulag of concentration camps. 'One should never forget the legions of women who supported their menfolk as they killed people by the tens of thousands in Russia, in Poland, in places like Auschwitz and Treblinka,' Ms. Kompisch said. 'Women typed the statistics of the murdered victims of the S.S. Action Squads in the east, operated the radios which called up for more bullets, were invariably the secretaries -- and sometimes much more -- in all the Gestapo posts,' Ms. Kompisch said. 'And at the end of the war they tried to diminish their responsibility by saying they were just cogs in the all-male machine which gave the orders.' [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing this item to my attention.]