Friday, May 21, 2010

Why the Konservatives hate UNRWA

Canada's New Government (TM) has ordered CIDA to stop giving money to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency formed to provide humanitarian relief for Palestinians displaced by the creation of Israel.

According to Embassy Magazine, the move has been puzzling for agency officials, Canadian public servants, and regional diplomats:

Jordan's ambassador to Ottawa says the Canadian government still hasn't explained exactly why it stopped providing direct budgetary support to the UN agency responsible for helping Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, 1.9 million of which live in his country.

A representative for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, says the organization is similarly mystified, but that Canadian budgetary support is essential as the agency struggles with a $90-million shortfall this year.

What has become clear, however, is that despite allegations made by pro-Israel groups—and alluded to by some Cabinet ministers—CIDA staff were extremely confident that there was "minimal" risk of Canadian funding to UNRWA being directed to terrorist groups. Rather, internal CIDA documents say the agency was "quite strong in its relevance to Canadian priorities" and financial management.

If you are one of those souls who are mystified by this move, then please, allow me to explain:

The Palestinian refugee problem exists for 2 reasons.

a) Zionist militias drove Palestinians from their lands in 1948 (a second wave fled their homes during the Six-Day-War as the IDF advanced).

b) Arab countries where most of them currently reside won't give them citizenship, and those living in the West Bank are living under IDF occupation.

The existence of UNRWA facilitates b). By providing Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt with food and shelter, UNRWA takes pressure off the Palestinians to scatter in search of sustenance (which the pro-Israel camp hopes would be the end of the Palestinian nation), and takes the pressure off Arab governments to either accomodate or eliminate by force a restive and hungry refugee population. Accomodating the Palestinians sounds attractive, until you realize that most Egyptians and Lebanese people are not that well off, and would not take kindly to their governments doling out food and housing to people who are already very explicit in their own desire to live elsewhere, i.e. home.

Harper and his cabinet don't see any problem with a). In their eyes, a Jew from Toronto has more of a right to live in Jerusalem than an Arab who was born there, because, in a nutshell, God said so. Consequently, impoverishing UNRWA and thereby starving the Palestinians of the means to stay alive suits their goals.

If all this sounds a little far-fetched, it isn't just my theory. The abolition of UNRWA has been on the wishlist of radical zionist groups for decades. While individual websites offer detailed explanations of how this would benefit the zionist cause, a simple Google search for "abolish UNRWA" drives the point home well enough.

The Konservatives deeply sympathise.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The trouble with George Galloway. . .

. . . is that he sometimes reveals that he operates under a misconception that is, unfortunately, common amongst people at his end of the political spectrum, and that is also, unfortunately, something that the wingnuts and bedwetters are not entirely incorrect about. Specifically, he believes that people of all faiths, on average, take their scriptures equally seriously. The result is this somewhat embarrassing exchange between Galloway and this British documentary film-maker. I'm posting it here because I have, in the past, posted clips of Galloway laying waste to opponents on a variety of issues related to Muslims and Anglo-American involvement in Muslim countries.

The discussion, which begins with a civil tone, ends with Galloway assuming the tone of an interrogator, while simultaneously himself refusing to give any response to what was a completely fair question repeated ad nauseum by the guest.

Much has been made of Galloway's other public gaffes, but for me these have only called into question his judgement, and not his character or the soundness of his positions. This exchange, however, does create doubt about the latter.

While the Old Testament does contain far more violence than the Qur'an, for one reason or another, the overwhelming majority of British Jews or Christians don't take it all that seriously. That's not to say that they don't have any faith at all, but it does say that they have developed a variety of rationales (some less convincing than others) to effectively ignore most of it.

Amongst Muslims, particularly within the reactionary neo-Salafi school promulgated by the ibn Saud, not only the Qur'an, but Prophetic narrations from canonical secondary sources are taken, in a decontextualized form, as literal instructions that are binding upon Muslims for all eternity without qualification.

This does not validate the anti-Islam thesis that Muslims are all therefore suspects in a vast conspiracy to crush Western Civilization, but it does mean that one would indeed have a harder time finding a British church in which people were prescribing the death penalty for apostasy, than a mosque in which the same was being said. Without a knowledge of the Muslim community from the inside, that fact provokes either blind denial from those sympathetic to the Muslim community, or blind hate from those with xenophobic or imperialistic tendencies.

Ultimately, though, what infuriates me about the school of Islam promulgated by the ibn Saud is not that it creates a distraction from the genuine material grievances that create anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world.

As for Galloway, he lost his seat in the British election. I have a feeling though, that this isn't the last we shall hear of him.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

The comments are actually intelligent

Generally, the comments section of any online newspaper, blog, or YouTube video represent a sample of the gutter of the internet. This goes for a rag like the Notional Pest as much as it does for a quality daily like the Ha'aretz or the Independent.

The comments on this article over at the Dawn Blog, on the challenges faced by Pakistani immigrants to Canada, are remarkable for that reason - in that their authors actually seem to have put some thought into what they were writing, as opposed to randomly mashing expletives into the keyboard.

Maybe there is hope after all . . .

The xkcd classic: "Listen to Yourself"

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