Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Veteran Nazi hunter who tracked down Klaus Barbie running for German presidency

Beate Klarsfeld, 73, and Jewish husband Serge have devoted their lives to privately tracking down Nazis who took part in the Holocaust.

By DPA Tags: Jewish World Holocaust Nazis
BERLIN - Germany's opposition Left Party Monday nominated veteran Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, who tracked down Klaus Barbie, as its candidate in next month's presidential election.
Klarsfeld, 73, has no real chance of beating Joachim Gauck, 72, in the two-horse race. Gauck has been nominated by Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition together with two opposition parties. The appointment is to be made by an assembly of 1,240 public figures, including all the Bundestag.
Beate Klarsfeld German Left Party's presidential candidate Beate Klarsfeld, Germany, on Oct. 13, 2011.
Photo by: AP
Klarsfeld and her husband, Serge, have devoted their lives to privately tracking down Nazis who took part in the Holocaust but returned to postwar life without being brought to justice, tipping off the authorities so they could be arrested.
In Paris, Klarsfeld described the nomination by the Left Party national executive as "wonderful."
"I've just told that the nomination was unanimous," she said. The party said on its website that two other potential nominees had withdrawn. The presidency, a largely ceremonial post, is vacant after Christian Wulff resigned because prosecutors were investigating whether he accepted favors as state premier from a wealthy businessman.
Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor with a strongly anticommunist, pro-freedom message, is practically assured of election on the first ballot, with the opposition Social Democrats and Greens supporting him and only the Left publicly opposed to his election.
The Klarsfelds' most celebrated success was to track down Klaus Barbie, a former Gestapo officer known as the "Butcher of Lyon," who was living in Bolivia in the 1970s under an alias.
In 1983, he was arrested and extradited to France, where he was convicted of crimes against humanity in occupied Lyon between 1942 and 1944. Barbie died of leukemia four years into his life imprisonment.
Klarsfeld was born in Berlin and moved to Paris in 1960 as an au pair, where she met her future husband Serge, who is Jewish and whose father was deported to Auschwitz during World War II.
In Germany, she shot to prominence when she publicly slapped West German Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger in 1968. Klarsfeld accused him of having been a Nazi propagandist.
She was sentenced to one year in prison for the attack but that was later commuted to a four-month suspended sentence.
Klarsfeld spoke of her "great satisfaction" that, despite her strong pro-Israeli views, she had won the endorsement of the Left, which has been critical of Israel.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

News Summary:

Dismay over the closure of a local factory and hope for an Israeli film were key stories in Israel along with an attack of Arab youth on Jewish youth in Haifa and the latest IAEA report. On the sidelines, the papers reported about the rising tensions after weekend clashes in E. Jerusalem led to the killing of a young Palestinian man. And while Hamas expressed support for the anti-Assad rebels, some Israeli Arabs expressed support for Assad.

The Iranian defense minister made one of the strongest statements yet on how Iran would respond to an Israeli strike: An attack will lead to Israel's collapse, he said. More here. And what timing. Just as an IAEA report determined that Iran has tripled the rate at which it enriches uranium. Netanyahu called that proof that Iran’s nuclear program is advancing ‘uninterrupted.’ Israel Hayom ran a piece titled Israeli attack on Iran might pull US into new war, analysts say. And after Haaretz ran a front-page headline claiming that Israeli President Shimon Peres planned to tell the US president he opposed an attack on Iran, Peres gave Haaretz an interview where he said, “A nuclear Iran would be a catastrophe.”

Ahead of his meeting with US President Barack Obama next week, Netanyahu has called on everyone to keep their mouths shut regarding Iran. He has also called for a construction freeze in E. Jerusalem. And the Interior Ministry was instructed not to carry out any "surprise" moves in the near future. Yedioth reports that entrepreneurs who submitted construction plans over the Green Line were surprised to hear that for now at least, their meetings have been postponed "for political reasons."

A Palestinian community activist was shot to death during clashes near Qalandiya checkpoint Friday. Sources say Talat Ramieh, 25, was killed by a live IDF bullet. More clashes ensued following his funeral yesterday with nine more Palestinians injured. And before Ramieh was killed, clashes on the Temple Mount led to injuries of Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators. All the papers reported that the police are preparing for more acts of violence. Haaretz’s Avi Issacharoff says this may be the preface to an eruption in the West Bank. Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad criticized the Mideast Quartet’s policies saying inaction by the international community emboldens Israel to kill unarmed Palestinian protesters. Maariv's Shai Golden wrote an Op-Ed titled "The terrible lightness of shooting" where he said that "if Israel does not restrict the use of live fire in demonstrations it is likely to find itself at the opening of another and unncessary round of violence." (NRG Hebrew)

Today Qatar is hosting a conference about East Jerusalem. Arab MKs and other prominent Israeli Arabs are attending. The gathering, sponsored by the Arab League, will discuss among other things, the Judaization of the Arab side of the capital. More information here. Interestingly, Yedioth's Friday Jerusalem supplement reported that the Arab E. Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan - in whose heart Israel is building an archaeological center - hosted 'a very honorable guest': CEO Qatari Organization for International Development Sheikh Jassem Ben-Salem Al-Ansari. The Qatari arrived at the Palestinian protest tent in what Israel calls the 'City of David.'

For many months, Hamas has been refusing to express support for the Assad regime in Syria. Now, Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh gave an official endorsement of the anti-Assad rebels saying that Hamas 'salutes the Syrian people's fight for freedom, democracy and reform.’  However, at a conference in Haifa, Israeli Arabs and Druze did express their support for the brutal dictator. Others said that the conflict needs to be resolved internally.

Israel Update


The NY Times is not always very accurate about Israel, and at times even seems biased against Israel's interests, but this assessment of current issues from the Times is basically accurate and gives a broad outline of some of the concerns that are ongoing or recent and I thought it might be of interest to our readers,
and help those who would like to know more get up to speed.

In the fall of 2011, with its Cairo embassy ransacked, its ambassador to Turkey expelled and the Palestinians seeking statehood recognition at the United Nations, Israel found itself increasingly isolated and grappling with a radically transformed Middle East where it believes its options are limited and poor.
Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador in early September over Israel’s refusal to apologize for a deadly raid in 2010 on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza in which nine Turks were killed. Turkey once ranked as Israel’s closest strategic ally in the Muslim world, but ties began to fray with an Israeli military operation in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.
And there is always Iran and its nuclear program, which Iran has defended as peaceful even as it has defiantly pursued uranium enrichment through years of international pressure and sanctions. Israel’s increasingly urgent warnings on the need to halt Iran’s nuclear progress, before it gets much closer to being able to build a bomb, have prompted concerns that Israel might unilaterally mount a military strike — and have added to the implacable enmity between the two.
In January 2012, seeking to lower the tone of nervous discourse as the United States and European Union imposed sanctions on Iran, Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, said that any decision to attack Iran because of its nuclear program was “very far off.”
But in mid-February, tensions between Israel and Iran heightened further, when Israeli officials blamed Iran in two separate attacks. On Feb. 13, Israeli Embassy personnel were targeted by bombers in the capitals of Georgia and India, injuring the wife of an Israeli diplomat and a driver. The embassy blasts used methods that were similar to attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years, for which Iran has blamed Israel. The next day, a series of explosions rocked a residential neighborhood in Bangkok, wounding several people. Thai authorities found a cache of bombs in a rented house and captured two men who carried Iranian passports.
Speculation and Rising Concern About an Attack
Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran’s air defenses, attack multiple underground sites simultaneously — and use at least 100 planes.
That was the assessment of American defense officials and military analysts close to the Pentagon, who said that an Israeli attack meant to set back Iran’s nuclear programwould be a huge and highly complex operation. They described it as far different from Israel’s “surgical” strikes on a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 and Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981.
In a sign of rising American concern, Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in Jerusalem on Feb. 19, and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey warned on CNN that an Israeli strike on Iran right now would be “destabilizing.” Similarly, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, told the BBC that attacking Iran would not be “the wise thing” for Israel to do “at this moment.”
Keeping a Wary Eye on Syria
As Israelis watch the bloody confrontation between the Syrian people and the government of President Bashar al-Assad, they are torn by two sentiments: The downfall of Mr. Assad would deal a major blow to Iran and so would be welcome. But without a central authority, Syria could descend into being a land of chaos and terrorist bases on Israel’s northeast border.
Nearly a year into the Syrian uprising, the predominant view in Israel today is the former, that Mr. Assad must go, not only because he has killed thousands of civilians, but because he is a linchpin in the anti-Israel Iranian power network that includes Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Israeli government and intelligence analysts say they believe the most likely outcome of the current struggle in Syria is chaos. They base that on observing four parameters: the loyalty of Mr. Assad’s security forces, the economic situation, the participation in protests in the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo; and the possibility of international intervention.
Their conclusions are that a vast majority of the Syrian security forces remain loyal to Mr. Assad, and that will not change soon; that Iranian economic aid to Syria is generous and vital and keeps the system going; that the participation within Damascus and Aleppo in antigovernment activity remains low; and that the chance of American or European military intervention in Syria is near zero.
Israeli officials and intelligence analysts say they also worry about an increased presence by Al Qaeda in Syria and the possibility that Syria’s large storehouse of arms could end up in the hands of Hezbollah and other anti-Israel groups.
Relations With the Palestinians
Relations with the Palestinians seemed to be stalled. Israel vehemently opposed the effort begun in September by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, for full recognition by the United Nations Security Council. Shortly afterward, Mr. Netanyahu’s government formally accepted an international proposal to return to peace negotiations, but the Israelis and Palestinians differed sharply over the letter and spirit of the proposal.
In November, to protest the Palestinians’ membership efforts at the United Nations and pursuit of power-sharing with Hamas, Israel carried out a threat to suspend the transfer of about $100 million in tax payments to the Palestinian Authority. On Nov. 30, under strong American and international pressure, Israel agreed to transfer the money.
In early January 2012, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met for the first time in more than a year in Jordan, in an effort to revive moribund peace talks, although none of the sides involved suggested any reason to view the meeting as a sign of significant progress. Palestinian officials reported little or no progress in the meetings and, on Jan. 25, Mr. Abbas said that discussions had ended.
Release of Gilad Shalit
Israel and Hamas reached an agreement in October 2011 to exchange more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for five years, Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, in a deal brokered by Egypt. Sergeant Shalit was released on Oct. 18, at the same time that several hundred Palestinian prisoners were freed in the first phase of the agreement.
It was unclear what drove the two to accept a deal that had been on the table for years. But both stood to benefit politically and had reasons to distract attention from the globe-trotting efforts of Mr. Abbas in his U.N. bid.
Sergeant Shalit — he had recently been promoted from staff sergeant to sergeant first class — was the first captured Israeli soldier to be returned home alive in 26 years.
In Israel, there were elaborate preparations for his return, a calibrated mix of relieved celebration and acknowledgment — both of the pain and death that the released Palestinians caused many families and of the risk that their release may pose.
Housing Protests
Israel has also been rocked by a social movement that began in mid-July 2011 when a group of young Israelis pitched tents in the center of Tel Aviv to protest inflated housing prices.
In October, the Israeli cabinet endorsed the findings of a special government committee that recommended building almost 200,000 apartments over the next five years, making more apartments available as rentals and increasing housing subsidies for the needy.
The panel also recommended raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, building more day care centers and providing free pre-kindergarten for children 3 to 5 years old.
Settler Violence
In December 2011, after two days of settler violence against the Israeli army and police, Mr. Netanyahu announced that some radical Israelis would be treated the same way as suspected Palestinian militants — detained for long periods without charge and tried in military courts.
Mr. Netanyahu declined to go so far as to formally label violent settlers “terrorists.” Doing so would have allowed security forces to use targeted sanctions and courts to impose harsher punishments. And he made sure to underscore that he does not believe settlements are the problem, just the violent outliers.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who Are the U.S. Real Allies?

Alan Dershowitz

Who Are America's Reliable Allies?

India has long claimed to be a reliable ally, but it is now undercutting American efforts to impose meaningful sanctions against Iran. Its help cannot any longer be counted on in the struggle against the greatest danger faced by the United States -- an Iran with nuclear weapons. Japan, another ally, is dilly dallying on sanctions as well. Brazil used to be a reliable partner, until it began to fall under the sway of Venezuela's Chavez, who is closely allied with Iran and other American enemies. The "new" Russia and China demonstrated their lack of reliability when they vetoed American efforts in the Security Council to help resolve the Syrian crisis. Egypt, which has received billions of dollars of American aid, has defied American warnings not to put US citizens on trial on phony, trumped-up charges. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are now playing footsy with Hamas and Hezbollah, also Iranian surrogates, as they worry about the contagion of the Arab Spring and the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It turns out that other than Europe, Israel may be America's only remaining reliable ally. And even some European countries, such as France, Sweden and Norway, are in doubt.
Israel will always remain a strong American ally because it shares an American commitment to democracy, to freedom of religion, to freedom of expression and to an open market economy. It also shares a common commitment to fight against terrorism and other threats to the security of the United States -- a commitment that is less than vigorous among some European countries.
Some political scientists and state department officials, who call themselves "realists", question Israel's value as an American ally. They are wrong, and recent events confirm how wrong they are and have been.
There is no doubt that America helps Israel enormously, as it should help those who share our democratic values. But there is also no doubt that Israel helps the United States considerably, by sharing its extraordinary intelligence-gathering capabilities, its military R&D, its computer know-how and other intangibles. As other nations in the region debate whether American troops should even be allowed to set foot on their territory, Israel welcomes the American military to engage in joint exercises. In its nearly 64 years of existence, Israel has never asked for a single American soldier to fight its battles. It fights its own battles while assisting the American military in defending our country against terrorism and other threats to our citizens.
It's time for the realists to acknowledge that Israel not only has a moral and ideological claim to American support, but it also has a claim base on realpolitik. Moreover, Israeli exports -- medical, environmental, educational, cultural, agricultural, and high tech -- contribute to the quality of life of all Americans. No country in history has contributed more in 64 years to the quality of life of the world's population than Israel has since its birth.
Those are some of the reasons why thoughtful Americans overwhelmingly support Israel, why every mainstream presidential candidate supports Israel's security, and why Israel has never been a divisive issue in American politics, as it has sometimes been in European politics.
This commonality of interests should not immunize Israeli policies and actions from legitimate and reasonable criticism, any more than England's shared values should immunize that country from criticism. Allies need not agree on every aspect of each other's policy to remain supportive friends. But Israel's reliability as an eternal American ally -- and its many contributions to American security and daily life -- should cause us to treat that nation as a friend and to resolve reasonable doubts in its favor.
Unfortunately, the opposite is being advocated by some "realists," hard left academics and extremist student activists. They see Israel as an enemy and resolve all doubts against it. They single out the Jewish state for divestment, boycotts and sanctions, (DBS) -- ignoring real human rights offenders such as China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iran and Syria. They apply a double standard of judgment against Israel. They do not limit their hostility to particular Israeli actions or policies. Instead, they seek to delegitimate the entire concept of a secular, democratic, pluralistic nation state for the Jewish people in a world that includes numerous "Arab," "Muslim," "Christian," "Hindu" and other far more particularistic states.
At its root much of the animus directed at Israel, particularly from the hard left, is actually directed at the United States. The hard left hates America, and it also hates its reliable allies such as Israel. But for those of us who love America, support for Israel -- its most reliable ally -- comes naturally.
So let our great nation continue to support the security and survival of another great democracy with the understanding that there is mutual benefit to our enduring alliance and friendship. Israel, unlike many other fair weather allies, can always be counted on by the United States.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Netanyahu: Iran's terror acts undermine the world's stability

Five arrested on suspicion of involvement in New Delhi attack against Israeli embassy; Thai police investigating Tuesday's botched bombing, one suspect reportedly fled to Malaysia.

By Barak Ravid Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu Israel terrorism
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Iran is destabilizing the world and urged the international community to condemn its terror acts against Israeli targets.
The prime minister's comments come a day after a botched terror attack in Thailand, which Israeli officials believe was meant to target Israel's ambassador in Bangkok. The bombing followed an attack on Israel's embassy in New Delhi and an attempted attack on Israeli diplomats in Tbilisi.
New Delhi bomb - AP - February 2012 Car bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in New Delhi.

Photo by: AP
"Iran's terror operations are now exposed for all to see," Netanyahu said during a Knesset plenum on Wednesday. "Iran is undermining the world's stability and harms innocent diplomats. World countries must condemn Iran's terror acts and draw a red line."
Four Thai civilians were wounded in Bangkok in a series of blasts that began Tuesday when a cache of explosives ignited at a house, apparently by mistake. One explosion blew off the leg of an Iranian who had fled, carrying what looked like grenades.
On Monday, a bombing of an Israeli diplomatic car in New Delhi wounded four people, including a diplomat's wife. A similar bomb found under a car in Georgia on Monday was defused.
The Indian police detained five suspects for questioning on suspicion of involvement in the New Delhi attack, India Today reported.
According to the report, the police was able to identify the assailant, who placed the bomb on the car of the wife of the Defense Ministry's representative in India, Tali Yehoshua-Koren, using footage from CCTV cameras positioned on the embassy’s street. The police also identified a red motorcycle believed to have been used by the terror cell.
The New Delhi police suspect that the terrorist had followed the Israeli diplomat. A few hours before the blast, the Israeli diplomat met with his wife for lunch in the Khan Market. Security cameras from the market area caught several of the suspects loitering around Tali Yehoshua-Koren’s car that was parked nearby.
Moreover, the police have been going over international phone calls made from New Delhi to Iran, Lebanon, and Pakistan during the hours following the bombing. During the half-an-hour from 3:30 to 4:00 P.M on the day of the attack, 115 calls were made to those three countries. Four of them were made from a phone booth near the market where the Israeli couple met. Thirteen of the conversations lasted between eight to ten minutes, and the police are trying to identify the persons who made these calls.
According to the report in India Today, the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, gave its Indian counterpart a list of eight suspects, believed to have been involved in the attack.
The investigation of the Iranian terror cell in Thailand is also in progress. The Thai police set up a special command center dedicated to the search and seizure of cell members still at large. The police issued an arrest warrant for an additional member. Another suspect had apparently already fled the country on a flight to Malaysia. Thailand asked the Malaysia police to arrest the suspect.
Mohammad Haji, a member of the terror cell, who was arrested in Bangkok’s international airport trying to flee the country, denied all involvement in the bombing. Despite his denial, the Thai police believe they have enough evidence to prosecute him in the case. The police said the members of the terror cell arrived via Seoul, South Korea.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Talks Constitution, Women And Liberty On Egyptian TV

Appearing on Egyptian television before concluding a four-day trip in Egypt, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg extolled the virtues of the U.S. Constitution but urged Egyptians to look to other countries' newer constitutions for guidance as they craft their own in the coming months. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo's website noted in a Feb. 2 release that Ginsburg concluded her trip to Egypt "following four days of discussions and programs in both Cairo and Alexandria with judges and legal experts as well as law faculty and students." She had intended to "'listen and learn' with her Egyptian counterparts as they begin Egypt's constitutional transition to democracy," according to the embassy. Yet while Ginsburg's interview, posted on YouTube on Wednesday, lauded the Founding Fathers' "grand general ideas that become more effective over the course of ... more than two sometimes-turbulent centuries," she also said she "would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012," given its original exclusion of women, slaves and Native Americans. Since World War II several other models have emerged that offer more specific and contemporary guarantees of rights and liberties, she said, pointing to South Africa's constitution, which she called a "really great piece of work" for its embrace of basic human rights and guarantee of an independent judiciary. She also noted Canada's charter of rights and freedoms and the European Convention of Human Rights. "Why not take advantage of what there is elsewhere in the world? I'm a very strong believer in listening and learning from others," she said. Among those currently sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court no other justice has publicly advised another country on the creation of a constitution. In 1960, eight years before he became a justice, Thurgood Marshall traveled to Kenya to draft its bill of rights, which he modeled after the European Convention on Human Rights. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Kenyan document guarantees rights to education, health, welfare and a right to work. Nevertheless, Ginsburg spent most of the 18-minute interview spelling out all the ways the Egyptians could take inspiration from the United States' Constitution, from the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech and a free press to the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause that she, as a lawyer in the 1970s, convinced the court to expand to protect women's rights. "We were just tremendously fortunate in the United States that the men who met in Philadelphia were very wise," Ginsburg said. "Now it is true that they were lacking one thing," she continued with a chuckle. "And that is that there were no women as part of the Constitutional Convention." "It's a very inspiring time -- that you have overthrown a dictator and that you are striving to achieve a genuine democracy," Ginsburg told Al Hayat TV. "I think people in the United States are hoping that this transition will work and that it will genuinely be a government of, by and for the people." Jan. 25 marked the one-year anniversary since the start of the Tahrir Square protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak's nearly three-decade regime. When asked by her interviewer how best to draft a constitution and protect it from contemporary political pressures (perhaps alluding to Islamic parties' dominance in the new parliament's lower house), Justice Ginsburg answered, "A constitution, as important as it is, will mean nothing unless the people are yearning for liberty and freedom." "If the people don’t care, then the best constitution in the world won’t make any difference," she said. "The spirit of liberty," she continued, "has to be in the population."
This Story Appeared Earlier on The Huffington Post

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How Iran Controls Afghanistan


These changes have given rise to tension between the Afghans who never left home and the Afghan returnees

By Fariba Nawa
Afghanistan has suffered from foreign meddling since its inception. But while Pakistan’s role has been widely discussed -- most Afghans will point to concrete examples -- Iran’s involvement is more subtle.
Iranian influence is all encompassing--the Islamic government funds Afghan Shiite sects and politicians, has invested in building roads and providing fuel and transport, and is fighting hard against the Afghan opium trade that supplies millions of addicts. But Iran’s lasting power on Afghanistan is cultural as well as political, broadcasting state radio and television programs inside Afghanistan.
Yet the country’s biggest cultural influence is not imposed by the Iranian government.
The more than one million repatriating Afghan refugees from Iran – tens of thousands have been deported –bring the dialect, food, music, and clothes particular to Iran.
Some of the Afghans repatriates are migrant workers, similar to Mexicans in the U.S., some are construction workers who became addicted to drugs in Iran, others were able to get an education and acquire job skills, and most have lived there for over three decades.
Yet Iran will not grant them legal status; they do not have a right to a higher education, to own property, or to work. Most voluntarily return to Afghanistan because there are more opportunities in their home country. These Afghans are changing Afghanistan’s identity to be more Iranian – for better or worse.
My family escaped the Soviet invasion in 1982 and settled in the U.S.
I first returned to Afghanistan in 2000 when the Taliban reigned, but it was after the group’s ouster that I witnessed the cultural changes brought on by immigration.
I was traveling through Afghanistan researching the drug trade for my book "Opium Nation" from 2002 to 2007, and my first confrontation with Iran’s cultural impact was language.
Iran and Afghanistan both speak Farsi, but the Afghan dialect is called “Dari.” I’m fluent in Dari but I no longer understood what many of the families in my hometown, Herat are saying.
Common words, idioms, and even Iran’s use of French terms have invaded Afghan speech. The Herati folk songs I recalled hearing in shops as a child were replaced by Iranian pop produced in Los Angeles. The young Afghan activists and artists read Iranian websites and books.
These changes have given rise to tension between the Afghans who never left home and the Afghan returnees.
The skilled repatriates are resented for getting better jobs with aid companies and the Afghan government.
Conservatives view the Afghan women who grew up in Iran with disdain because they appear more liberal and courageous--they sing on TV, they’re news broadcasters, business owners, and government workers. They voice their opinions loudly in a male dominated country.
The Hazara ethnic group in Afghanistan who were historically the poorest of minorities return richer, more literate, and united. They have made unprecedented advances in Afghanistan, including in the arts and in the government.
These returnees are called “Afghan-e badal,” or counterfeit Afghans. Few of them have political connections to Iran, but their time living in the Islamic Republic taints themin the eyes of the Afghans who didn’t leave as culturally inauthentic and politically suspect.
Several Afghans at NGOs I met told me that their returnee colleagues had clandestine connections to Iran. When I asked for tangible evidence, one of them told me. “I just know by that accent they use. They’re sellouts.”
While I’m not fully comfortable with this cultural invasion, I understand that Iran advanced while Afghanistan struggled to survive in the last three decades.
Culture is fluid and both countries share a common history. After all, my own husband is one of these Afghan returnees and he’s a true patriot.
Repatriating Afghans have enough of a hard time readjusting to their battered country – ostracizing them is simply cruel.
However, Afghan bitterness toward the Iranian government is justifiable. The Islamic Republic backs religious divisions inside Afghanistan, using Afghan Shiites as pawns.
Shiite Afghans, who come from other ethnic groups as well, are encouraged to watch Iranian clerics give fiery speeches against Sunni Afghans. Iran built the road from Herat City to its border, one of the finest rebuilt highways, but the signs alongside the road bear Koranic verses picked by Iran‘s government.
My homeland is geographically determined as a buffer zone where empires and nations have fought their battles using Afghans as their pawns.
Extremist Sunni groups cross the Pakistani border to kill Afghan Shiite children and women. The carnage last month in Kabul at a Shiite mosque killed eighty people and was a new height in religious sectarian violence for Afghanistan. It won’t be long before Iran recruits a group to bomb a Sunni mosque.
Iran and Pakistan were not such deadly influences on Afghanistan before the revolutions and wars inside these countries.
A harmonious cultural exchange was common among these neighbors. Pakistani couples took their honeymoon in Kabul while Iranian singers traveled to give concerts in Kabul in the 1960s.
Before the Soviet invasion, my mother, a Sunni, joined her Shiite friends to commemorate the death of Prophet Mohammed’s grandsons during the month of Muharram.
One of my uncles married a Shiite woman, and while throughout history tensions existed between the two sects, the result was not as violent.
I can take pop music and the Iranian Farsi drawl, but Iran’s sponsorship of sectarian violence must be stopped -- by the U.S. and other foreign powers invested in Afghanistan -- but mostly, by Afghans themselves who must unite to stand up to their neighbors.
Fariba Nawa is the author of "Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords, and One Woman’s Journey Through Afghanistan." She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two daughters. Visit her online: http://www.faribanawa.com
Category: Corruption - Views: 1079

The Chomsky Hoax

The Chomsky Hoax
Exposing the Dishonesty of Noam Chomsky