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Thursday 24 July 2008
Letters: Israeli soldiers
Israeli soldiers escape prosecution over deaths of unarmed civilians
Your report ("Bound Palestinian protester shot by soldier", 22 July) shows yet another instance of the violence perpetrated by the Israeli Defence Force against unarmed people who resist the occupation. B'tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, has recorded 25 cases of beatings and/or abuse of Palestinians by the IDF between 2005 and 2008. Many cases involve more than one victim.
More serious are the thousands of deaths and woundings of unarmed Palestinians, and of some Israeli and international activists. According to B'tselem, 4,748 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces from the beginning of the Second Intifada (September 2000) to 30 June 2008. But of these 2,219 (47 per cent) were definitely not fighting, and there was doubt about whether a further 871 (18 per cent) were involved. In the same period, 386 Palestinians were killed in "targeted killings", but 154 (40 per cent) were merely bystanders.
The high-profile cases include the killings of the British and American students Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie; the British, Palestinian and Italian cameramen James Miller, Fadel Shanaa and Rafaele Ciriello; and Harald Fischer, the German doctor who was treating injured Palestinians. All were clearly identifiable as non-combatants. There are far too many cases to be just the actions of a few undisciplined soldiers. At the very least, there is a culture of impunity in the IDF. At the worst, it is a culture of deliberate, intimidatory violence up to, and including, murder.
Jews for Justice for Palestinians, London
In response to Lior Ben-Dor (letters, 22 July), the Palestinians have been made outsiders in their own land. Call it colonialism, call it apartheid or just call it wrong. It's not complicated.
The lost chance for peace in Bosnia
It's all the fault of the Serbs and Radovan Karadzic, according to Marcus Tanner ("Karadzic, the psychiatrist who became a genocidal madman", 22 July). He may care to ask why the Dayton Agreement was not reached before the Bosnian wars broke out. There was, after all, the confederal-cantonal Cutileiro Plan, which was provisionally agreed by Bosnia's three ethnic leaders at negotiations hosted by the European Community in Lisbon on 23 February 1992.
The Muslim leader, Alija Izetbegovic, who all along wanted a centrally governed Bosnia, flew back to Sarajevo and met the US ambassador to Yugoslavia Warren Zimmermann. Encouraged by Zimmermann, Izetbegovic disowned the plan. Washington had, in effect, pushed the Europeans aside and paved the way for war. Some three and a half years later, a muscularly interventionist Washington was congratulating itself for having engineered the confederal-cantonal Dayton Agreement.
And the beliefs of Alija Izetbegovic echoed those of Islamists. His authorship of The Islamic Declaration in 1970 earned him a prison sentence. In it, he yearned for a caliphate subject to Islamic law from Morocco to Indonesia, and ultimately elsewhere, whenever and wherever Muslims attained a majority. At no time did he disown the publication.
Irony abounds. Just as many British today fear Islamist organisations advocating a caliphate, so Bosnia's Serbs and Croats feared a centrally-governed, Izetbegovic-led Bosnia. Moreover, if Izetbegovic were alive today, he would not be granted entry into the US.
Though many will cheer the capture of Radovan Karadzic, his alleged crimes represent only one portion of the horrible saga of Bosnia's civil war: the remainder has not been told by our "free and fair," mainstream media.
The Hague Tribunal has thus far not seriously investigated the crimes committed against Serbian civilians throughout the former Yugoslavia as it strives to blame the Serbian people for all that has happened during and after the Western-catalysed break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
Most recently, the Bosnian Muslim commander, Nasir Oric, was released by the Tribunal, despite overwhelming evidence of his crimes against Bosnian Serbian civilians residing in the hamlets surrounding the "safe haven" of Srebrenica. These crimes committed by forces under his leadership in Srebrenica provoked the capture of Srebrenica by the Bosnian Serbian forces, with regrettable (but often grossly overinflated in the Western media) loss of life.
Though the International Criminal Tribunal may get a new lease on its primarily US-sponsored life by trying Karadzic, it will always be seen as a primarily anti-Serbian instrument of Western powers (primarily the US) to justify their illegal and vicious intervention in the former Yugoslavia, and not as a mechanism for meting true justice. There will be no triumph for Europe until all guilty perpetrators (including some Western leaders) are punished for their crimes.
Dr Michael Pravica
Henderson, Nevada, USA
Is it any wonder that the Serb nation has a complex bordering upon paranoia? Some 90 per cent of international war-crimes proceedings have been against Serbs, while the thousands of Serb victims have been disregarded. If crimes against Serbs were pursued after the 1990s' conflicts perhaps Mladic and Karadzic would be in The Hague, instead of being revered as the Serbs' only prominent protest against the international communities' unwillingness to act with an even hand.
To find the Albanian Ramush Haradinaj not guilty of war crimes against non-Albanians, to acquit the jihadist Naser Oric of crimes against 3,500 Serb civilians in the villages around Srebrenica prior to the massacre of 1995, to refuse to indict Izetbegovic and Tudjman posthumously as they did with Arkan, The Hague has shown again that a Serb life isn't worth that of an ethnic Albanian, Bosnian Muslim or Croat. It is an insult to the Serb nation, living and dead.
Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic are, in my eyes, Serbian heroes in much the same way that Churchill is to many British citizens. Until The Hague treats all people equally I will subscribe to this view and so will other Serbs.
Co-op is bigger than you think
There is far more to the Co-operative movement than just the Co-operative Group (Business, 17 July).
Here in Gloucestershire, our Co-op stores and services are owned by members of the Midcounties Co-operative Society, one of a number of "independent" regional and local societies, who together contribute a rather larger share of the retail market than you suggest.
Second, the Co-op as a whole does not merely redistribute a share of the profit back to members; it also has a role in returning money and support to the communities in which it operates, in a way that other retail chains either cannot, or will not do. The Co-op also has a clear, ethical stance on fair trading, local produce and green issues.
Finally, those who join their Co-operative society become joint owners of it and can become active participants it. In the past, the co-operative movement had a clearly defined social and educational role that embraced its members, who in turn had a fierce loyalty. It's a pity that over the years this role has declined, but it is still there.
Although Nick Clark (business, 17 July) follows accepted practice in dating the Co-operative movement from the Rochdale Pioneers of 1844, it is only fair to record that they, in turn, acknowledged their debt to the Brighton Co-operative Society, founded in 1828.
The co-operative connection between the two towns was Lady Noel Byron. Lord (George Gordon) Byron, the poet, was the last Lord of the Manor of Rochdale. The Brighton pioneer co-operator was that esteemed resident, Dr William King.
The full details can be read in Brighton's Co-operative Advance, 1828-1938 by W Henry Brown, published by The Co-operative Union, and The People's Business, A History of the Brighton Co-operative Society, by Sir William Richardson, published by the Brighton Co-operative Society around 1883.
George A Smith
Hove, East Sussex
Disabled, but still seeking work
I write as somebody with a lifelong disability who is voluntarily seeking guidance from my local Job Centre Plus about the possibility of returning to work and being able to come off benefit ("A welcome return to the principles of Beveridge", 22 July). The support I appear to be getting from my advisers appears to be rather good and they are careful not to promise too much and raise my hopes too high. The type of disability I have would make it impossible for me to write this letter without the aid of a computer.
I watched the ministerial statement by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the reaction in the Commons to it. The importance of putting pressure on incapacity benefit claimants to seek employment was often stressed by the members from both sides of the house. That employers are often unwilling to take on workers with disabilities, particularly those with mental health problems, was only very briefly referred to in the debate .
When I left special education way back in 1969, my mother was told if I found employment it would need to be with a employer who was sympathetic to disability. People with disabilities being told that ability matters, not disability, is only a very recent development. Those of us who attended special schools in decades past were told the opposite. I very much doubt that, in the world of modern business, employers can afford to be sympathetic to disability.
And the idea of replacing medical sick-notes with well-notes is lunacy.
Peter J Brown
While work can indeed increase dignity, there is little dignity in forcing people with disabilities, such as autism, to participate in inappropriate work programmes. Too inflexible an approach may only increase the stress and anxiety they are already under and could damage their employment prospects in the long term.
Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling condition and the level of support that people with autism require is not always obvious to those with no knowledge of the condition. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that employment advisers understand the complexities of autism and individuals' needs.
Many people with autism want to work, but experience great difficulty in finding and staying in employment, often due to inadequate support and misunderstandings about their condition. If a welfare revolution is truly to occur, the Government must work harder to address the gaps in understanding and specialist support to help people with autism succeed in the workplace.
Chief Executive, The National Autistic Society, London EC1
We may not yet have the scientific evidence to prove a link between prolonged internet use and its effect on brain development (report, 18 July), but what parent, teacher or politician is prepared to risk damaging the brains – and futures – of an entire generation, when there is a proven, alternative method of teaching?
C'est la vie
Sir Paul McCartney's message to Quebec to "smoke the pipes of peace" is fully justified (report, 16 July). Resentment in some quarters lingers on strongly, even in provincial government. You state that Quebec is bilingual, whereas it is Canada which is bilingual while Quebec is monolingual in French. Only correspondence for outside the province can be in another language. I have seen signs in English in "Battlefields Park" vandalised. Separatism is still alive.
Not our patch
Michael McCarthy criticises Ofcom for failing to "pronounce on the vital matter of accuracy" in its decision on Channel 4's The Great Global Warming Swindle (22 July). Parliament specifically decided it didn't want Ofcom to regulate for accuracy other than in news programmes. So we can't pronounce on the accuracy of programmes such as documentaries. Parliament did require Ofcom to ensure broadcasters adequately protect the audience from harmful or offensive material. Ofcom uses this power to ensure broadcasters do not materially mislead their audiences.
Director of Standards, Ofcom, London SE1
Bernard Jenkin ( 21 July) asserts that nobody seems to appreciate the headway that British troops are making in Iraq. So may I ask him what percentage of the Iraqi population now has access to electricity and to a domestic water supply 24 hours a day? And what percentage of children of school age now has access to full-time education?
Bernard Jenkin, in a delightful phrase, wants the UK to build a "positive military footprint" in Iraq. Surely he means "bootprint"?
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
Our supermarket has a sign saying "We only sell quality British beef, pork and lamb". I was surprised. It's a big store, and I would have thought it sold much more than just that.
One cup, or two?
It was most uplifting to read that "Mr de Bruyn runs a brassiere on the outskirts of town..." ("The Bernie Ecclestone of snail racing", 23 July).
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