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Religions against women, everywhere April 4, 2009

Posted by dorigo in news, politics, religion.
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Maybe you might get the impression that I am discovering hot water with this post, and in that case I apologize. But I cannot help logging in this site that I insist in being constantly amazed at the virulence, the shamelessness, and the violence which religious activists use on a daily basis against women, everywhere on this poor planet.

We are all used to the ferocious laws against women in islamic countries, the beating to death of mothers and daughters for futile reasons, the lack of civil rights of women there. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the Talibans were eradicated from power in Afghanistan -only to wake up later and find out that nothing much has changed. In general, when we discuss the rights of women, the situation in arab countries is the obvious issue to deal with.

Things, however, are not qualitatively very different in more “civilized” countries. Take Italy as a very clear example. A western country, a democracy, a secular power which should be able to legislate free from religious ingerence. But it is not so: through lobbying, declarations of archbishops, preaches by Pope Ratzinger, and sermons in the churches, the Vatican managed to convince the italian government to pass a law that for all practical purposes prevents in vitro fertilization. Women who want to get pregnant with medical aid have to travel to Spain or Ukraine, if they can afford it. Worse still, the health of women who accept the italian rules on assisted procreation is put to risk by insane rules whose denominator is the belief that “the embryo is sacred and has to be defended” -even at the risk of the owner of the womb. Every sperm is sacred: one cannot help hearing the old song by Monty Python sung in the background every time Cardinal Bagnasco or one of his accolites is seen on national television.

There would be other things to discuss -Ratzinger’s fight against condoms in Africa, for instance, is directed first and foremost against women. Or the idiotic laws against stem cell research. But I want to mention something else here today.

What prompts me to write about religion and women today is the news about a picture of the new Israeli government of Benyamin Netanyahu, which contains -the horror, the horror- two women: Limor Livnat, minister of Culture and Sport, and Sofa Landver, minister of Immigration. These two women were amidst 28 men in a picture taken yesterday, and shown on most israeli newspapers. The devil is in the details: see the two versions, and decide for yourself which one is the original and which one appeared on ultra-orthodox newspapers, Sha’a Tovah and Yated Ne’eman.

No violence was moved, nobody was hurt. But to me, the photoshopped picture is if possible even more disturbing than an “ordinary” violent act against a woman. Because it comes from a supposedly respectable institution, in a “civilized” country.

If I were Netanyahu, I would force the newspapers editors to publish the original pictures and present their excuses to the ministers, to the people of Israel, and to us all. Otherwise, some of the reasons why we root for Israel against arab fundamentalists are lost, and Israel itself becomes weaker in its struggle for survival.

On the casualty ratio in Gaza January 19, 2009

Posted by dorigo in news, politics.
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In this short post I wish to discuss whether during the 22-day-long war in Gaza the israeli defence force (IDF) has been, as some commenter claimed here, “the most moral army in the world”. It is indeed reported by media that the IDF makes phone calls to civilian houses before those are bombed, that leaflets are spread on areas which will be targeted, etcetera. I think these are commendable actions, but on the other hand the media these days are full of news that report despicable episodes by the israeli army, which tend to demonstrate the opposite. Leaving aside the endless debate that such conflicting evidences would set up, let me stay on the easier ground of mathematics, and aseptically discuss the civilian casualty ratio in Gaza.

First of all, there are a couple of caveats to mention. The ratio is not too easy to ascertain, because -to some extent- many of the Gaza “civilians” might be considered supporters of the Hamas force. So we have to stick to numbers provided by Israel itself, rather than rely on the claims by Hamas that just 48 of its combatants have been killed in the attack. Israel sets that number at “at least 500”, and I will take 500 as a fair estimate, ignoring the Hamas claim and the rather propaganda-sounding “at least” by the IDF.¬† Let us give the number a 20% uncertainty: 500+-100. As for the total casualties, their number is less uncertain: most sources set it at 1300 or above, if we stick to palestinians who have lost their life until today. More can die of the wounds in the near future, but the ratio we are to compute should not be affected by that.

The other caveat is that one could argue that it is unfair to judge the actions of the IDF on the basis of the casualty ratio, because the action was aimed at eradicating the weapons potential of Hamas rather than Hamas itself, and the weapons had allegedly been concealed in homes, hospitals, schools, places of worship. This objection to me is not too valuable, because it amounts to declaring that the action had been decided in spite of that practice. Or, to put it another way: if Hamas uses the horrible practice of human shields, Israel uses the even more horrible practice of ignoring it!

Now, let us look at the numbers. (1300-500)/500 = 1.6 \pm 0.5, roughly. That means that for each Hamas fighter, more than one civilian has been killed.

Let us now look at some statistics reported one year ago by Haaretz  here, about the civilian casualty ratio of air strikes. It is reported at 1:30.

So I am led to conclude that the IDF considered not enough the air strikes, and needed a different strategy to counter the Kassam missiles; and that they did not really care about the civilian losses they would inflict on palestinians, this time.

And a warning: Of course, I am willing to hear other opinions on the matter; this blog is usually censorship-free. Since, however, I am bored by allegations of being “anti-semitic”, “communist”, of “caring zero for the other wars in the world”, “where were you when Serbia was bombed by your country”, etcetera, I will apply some measure of censorship here. Either leave your name and address, or refrain from posting meaningless, insulting comments, please.

In support of UN sanctions to Israel January 15, 2009

Posted by dorigo in news, politics.
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As the war in the Gaza strip is approaching its fourth week, the number of casualties has surpassed a thousand, 300 of them children -needless to say, all from the defending side. 1500 more children have been wounded, and the situation configures itself as a humanitarian catastrophe, of which the guilt is entirely of the offenders, the leaders of the state of Israel.

The Israeli army continues the attacks, denies humanitarian aid, bombs hospitals, uses white phosporus to bomb densely populated areas. “Intelligent bombs“, somebody insists calling them. In order to minimize their army’s losses, the Israeli prefer to kill civilians blindly. Today they bombed a UN building, home of the UNRWA. Later Olmert commented that Hamas militians were shooting from its roof.

The IDF needs to be stopped, because it is clear that they cannot get back to reason by themselves. I believe the only way that the UN can put real pressure on Israel is to sanction it economically. Israel is a small state and its economy is more frail than its army. There needs to be a response to the barbarian acts they are committing in Gaza.

Yes, barbarian acts. How else can a civilized person call the indiscriminate bombing of civilians ? Israeli supporters will argue that the death of those 300 children is Hamas fault, because they allegedly use children as human shields. Israeli supporters will show videos of small palestinian children educated to fight, dressed in mimetic suits, carrying guns. They believe those admittedly disturbing images are enough to justify the deliberate killing of children. This, to me, is barbarous, period.

The hundreds of rockets randomly fired by Hamas into Israeli territory this year are a drop in the sea in comparison to the destruction, the deaths, and the steps farther from peace that this senseless war has brought. Terrorist is Hamas, and terrorist is Israel. And since the war is ultimately the result of the need of the present Israeli government to strengthen itself in view of the forthcoming elections, economic sanctions by the UN are the best way to respond.

I hope President Obama will be able to use his power to put an end to this horrible situation. A change from the unconditioned support that the US have given to Israel would be the strongest message. The US needs to support Israel in its attempts at creating the conditions for a durable peace with the Arab countries, and sanction it in case this bloody foreign politics is furthered.

I know these are likely to remain delusions: despite the strong condemnation by the French government, the shock declared by Merkel and Brown, the indignant reactions by UN officials, and the other reactions that have been proclaimed today, there is little hope that anything more concrete than spelling words will be done. But Israel, unfortunately, will pay for this senseless attack, because it has worsened the hatred that arabs feel for its citizens. This is the sorry aftermath of any military action against civilians: a renewed, reinforced hatred.

The israeli fanatics who read this blog will argue that I am anti-semitic: this is false, of course, and it equates to an accusation of racism. I hate racism as much as I hate wars, whomever moves them, and whomever argues that the attacking side has the right on their side.