18 April 2015

The European Union wants to label products from Judea and Samaria

As if all in Europe is well and all European countries are flourishing, the European Union seems to feel the need to meddle in affairs that - as far as I am concerned - are none of their (or should I say 'our'?) business. On the 16th April 2015, Israel National News writes that
Sixteen out of the 28 EU countries want the bloc to label products from Judea and Samaria in an economic attack on the Jewish state, diplomatic sources told AFP Thursday, confirming a Haaretz report.

The plan was first mooted in 2012, but the 16 member states told EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini it was now time to press ahead as part of efforts to force Israel to divide in a "two state solution."
Source: EU Label on Israeli 'Settlement' Goods: A Yellow 'Jude' Badge | Israel National News / Arutz Sheva

The sixteen countries whose foreign ministers (seem to) want to force Israel to give up parts of historical Israel to a second Palestinian-Arab state (the first being Jordan) are Britain, Spain, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Malta, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands and Luxembourg (Source: 'EU Boycotts Israel, Not Murderers in Syria or Gaza' | Israel National News).

As a citizen of one of the countries whose foreign ministers decided they want to label products from Judea and Samaria, I say: Not on my behalf, not in my name and certainly not because I asked it - I did not. My message to the EU is this: If you want to block or label products from non-EU countries, let's leave Israel alone for a change and look at labelling or blocking products from countries that support terrorism and the killing and subjugating of innocents; that want to destroy other countries, lifestyles or people; that discriminate against women or minorities being equal members of society; that threaten the existence of other countries, religions and peoples; and countries (or regions) that support - financially or otherwise - terror against innocent non-combatants.

However if the European Union does insist on labelling products from the Holy Land, I know that I and many others with me will be happy to buy those products - whether something is made in Haifa or Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or Maale Adumim - I support Israel and Israeli products, not those who are represented by terrorists and murderers wanting to kill as many Jews as possible and wipe Israel off the map.

16 April 2015

Elie Wiesel Quote

"For the dead and the living, 

we must bear witness."

 --  Elie Wiesel

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
May we never forget; may Never Again be tattooed on our hearts.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Yom HaShoah

How do you remember a tragedy some seventy years ago when you see it happening all over again, all around you and all around the world? How do you tell your children that those bad and evil people who murdered so many last century are not dead and gone as we once thought but still here, just wearing different faces, shouting different slogans?

How do you honour your family members, the ones still here who lived through it and the ones long gone, murdered or gassed or shot or simply left to rot, how do you remember them without the promise, always, of Never Again? How do you tell your children, your neighbours, your ancestors and future generations? How do you explain to them that despite the horror and the knowledge and the pain, it is happening again?

In Brussels (Belgium) where three innocents were murdered at a museum.
In Paris (France) were four were murdered at a kosher store.
In Copenhagen (Denmark) where a man was killed outside a party.
In Amsterdam (Netherlands) where "Jews to the gas" is heard on the streets.
In Jerusalem (Israel) where five died after an attack at a synagogue.
In Wuppertal (Germany) where a synagogue was attacked with fire bombs.
All around the world where swastikas are drawn or Jews are painted as evil.

The Holocaust in most languages, known as the Shoah in Hebrew. It ended some seventy years ago, officially, yet anti-Semitism is still going on, still happening, still waiting to kill more innocents simply for being who they are, for being born as they are. Today on the Jewish calendar is the 27th day of the month of Nisan - Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; "Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day"), known colloquially in Israel and abroad as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה) and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Holocaust Day, is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews and five million others who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its accessories, and for the Jewish resistance in that period. In Israel, it is a national memorial day and public holiday. (Wikipedia)
How do we honour those who were killed, who were gassed, who were starved, those who died in the streets, who were tricked or betrayed or left to rot as if their lives meant nothing? How do we teach our children about the horrors of the Shoah, how do we ensure they understand the tragedy, the pain, the absolute wrongness of what happened decades ago? How do we instil in future generations the knowledge that such horrors must Never, Ever happen Again?

I have no answers, yet I have so many questions.
I have no solutions, yet I see so many problems.
I have no wise words, only words of grief and sorrow.

What is wrong with the human race that we are unable to be compassionate?
What is wrong with us, that we believe it normal to kill those we dislike?
What is wrong with us, that we believe it is our right or our duty to murder those we disagree with?
What is wrong with us, that we are unable to learn from the past?
What is wrong with us, that we continue hating people simply for who they are and for how they were born?
What is wrong with us that we allow the slaughter of innocents to go on and on and on, despite knowing what the consequences are, despite knowing what they go through, despite being aware of the horror and the pain and the senseless hatred?

What is wrong with us that we do not stand up for our fellow human beings, protect them as if they were our own parents, siblings, children, friends? We are all human beings - our differences make us unique and special, they never make us better or more or somehow more entitled. Whatever our shape and colour, size and race, country and nationality and ethnicity, whatever our language and religion, we are all members of the human race, all members of the same family. We are all one creation, one people who inhabit this one world together. Why do we, with all of history to learn from, continue hating others? Why do we, with survivors who have numbers tattooed on their arms to learn from, continue acting as if nothing happened? What is wrong with us? And will we ever be able to make it right again? Will we ever be able to stop hating others, simply because they are who they are?

12 April 2015

Game of Thrones' Kit Harington is sick of being objectified by women

Kit Harington plays Jon Snow on Game of Thrones and according to the media, the actor is sick and tired of being objectified. Welcome to our world, Kit! While looking for his exact quote today, I searched a few websites, looking for a site to link to that shares the actor's words without referring to him as a hunk, a heartthrob or eye-candy and without belittling his words. Honestly - a site like that was hard to find.

Why is it so hard to appreciate someone for his work, his commitment and for bringing a loved and appreciated character from a book to life through television? Do women have nothing better to do than objectifying a man simply because he appears on a hit television show? One wonders... The actor spoke to Page Six about being treated as nothing but a body:
“To always be put on a pedestal as a hunk is slightly demeaning,” “It really is and it’s in the same way as it is for women. When an actor is seen only for her physical beauty, it can be quite offensive.”

“Well, it’s not just men that can be inappropriate sexually; women can be as well. I’m in a successful TV show in a kind of leading man way and it can sometimes feel like your art is being put to one side for your sex appeal. And I don’t like that.”

“In this position you get asked a lot, ‘Do you like being a heartthrob? Do you like being a hunk?’ Well, my answer is, ‘That’s not what I got into it for.”
Perhaps if Mr. Harington was a model strutting around on a catwalk instead of an actor, I could sort of understand if people saw him as 'just a body'. However Kit is an actor in a very succesful television show, not a model on a catwalk or a mannequin in a store window. He's not made or wood or plastic either and is not a toy or an object, certainly. Why then is he treated as such? For those who think I'm making a big deal out of nothing, read on. The Page Six article quotes Harington (above) before continuing:
Be that as it may, his ripped abs, sky-high cheekbones and soulful eyes have no doubt helped him remain gainfully employed. He has been a regular in the wildly popular fantasy drama since it hit the screen in 2011. 

Fox News writes about Mr. Harington's looks as well. In fact, they use the same words as above, plus a space and a comma. I'm not sure if the next website is intentionally trying to hurtful, however according to the website itself, it's "an entertainment website with celebrity news and pictures," not a satirical website. The Daily Stab writes that:
The ‘Game of Thrones’ actor is clearly quite hot (most of the audience will agree he’s probably the best of the bunch when it comes to the guys on the show) and we all know he didn’t exactly land the role because he deserves an Oscar more than Leonardo DiCaprio ... Kit is frustrated that no one cares about his acting skills, when really he should be happy no one has noticed him as an actor (because even if he thinks it’s “art”, he isn’t exactly noteworthy). 

Thankfully People.com didn't feel the need to objectify the actor quite so much:
Here's hoping, however, Harington, 28 – who stars as Jon Snow on HBO's hit show – doesn't mind being called sexy – he was named one of PEOPLE's Sexiest Men Alive in 2014.

I understand there are enough people who appreciate the actor for his craft and his work, not just for his looks. Reading about the actor's exterior as opposed to his acting or his brilliant portrayal of a beloved character does make me wonder, however; what is the actor actually appreciated for, really? While I occasionally catch an episode of Game of Thrones and know most of the story lines, I'm not a regular viewer. Reading some of the blatantly sexist and - yes, I'm going to say it - demeaning comments about one of the show's leading men makes me think perhaps I should. In the past I've used this blog as a platform to speak out about the way some men treat women and the way some stronger people treat weaker people. Today I add the way some women treat men to that list. It almost makes me ashamed to be female. And no - I'm not going to end this post with a quick quip about anyone's abs, body or looks.

When Muslims Murder Palestinians...

In 2014, when Hamas attacked innocent Israelis with numerous rockets day in day out, the world was mostly silent. Or I should say: The world quietly applauded the so-called Palestinian 'freedom fighters' and their despicable terrorist acts, calling them heroes and courageous people.  What is courageous about terror and hatred? What is courageous about killing innocents? What is courageous about sending rocket after rocket at men, women and children simply trying to live their lives? What is courageous about terror tunnels meant to attack non-combatants? What is courageous about hating Jews because an old book tells you that you should?

Yet when Israel fought back, when the Jewish people responded by protecting their own instead of waiting to be slaughtered the way the world seems to think they should, the world reacted. The world shouted about the 'evil Jews' and the supposedly horrible acts they committed. The world shouted about 'concentration camps' in Gaza as if they knew what they were talking about when in truth it was radical Muslims in Gaza attempting to kill innocents in Israel, not the other way around. The world shouted about innocents being killed in Gaza, as if the innocents being attacked in Israel didn't matter. The world shouted because the world's one Jewish nation refused to submit to those who believe today, as Hitler and his Nazis did all those years ago, that Jews are evil scum and must die.

Innocents died in Gaza, there is no denying that. Too many. Too many lives lost, too many families torn apart, too many children who will never grow up. Every innocent who died is one too many. Yet those who blame Israel for those deaths conveniently forget WHY Israel responded, conveniently forget the rockets that rained down from Hamas-controlled Gaza for months and even years, conveniently forget the terror tunnels and the countless terrorist attacks, conveniently forget the abduction and murder of Eyal, Gilad and Naphtali, conveniently forget that Hamas is an evil organisation intent on killing Jews and wiping Israel off the map, no matter what the cost. Some  managed the words "every country has the right to defend itself" however when it came to supporting Israel and condeming the evil and the hatred coming out of Gaza, even they became quiet.

Today, April 2015, it is almost a year since the events described above. Today, in April 2015, it is ISIS in Syria who are killing innocent Palestinians, in Yarmouk and not in Gaza. Today, it is Muslims who slaughter innocents, yet there are no marches in the street, there are no worldwide protests. There are some who cry out and speak up, however not enough - not nearly enough. Why is it that when Muslims murder Palestinians, the world is silent, yet when Israel defends itself and through the actions and hatred of Hamas many innocents die, the world cries out? Why is it, when there are no Jews or Israelis to blame for the deaths of Palestinians, the world sits by as if killing innocents is suddenly 'okay' or accepted or inevitable.    

There was no massacre of Palestinians at the hands of the IDF last Summer. But in Syria there is. Right now as you read this. But you would be forgiven for being unaware of it. For this time there aren't tens of thousands demonstrating on the streets. There are no demonstrations at all. There are no rallies. There are no screams of massacre. There are no demands on governments to take action.

There is simply a sad, deafening silence.
And I want to know how this is possible. How can it happen that when Israel defends herself thousands take to the streets, the activists with their megaphones go marching, the whole machinery of campaigning and letter writing and the demands for action from politicians swing into action but when a real massacre of Palestinians happening there is silence from the very organization [the Palestine Solidarity Campaign] which exists to campaign on behalf of Palestinians.

We’re constantly told that the Israel Palestine conflict is what radicalises young Muslims in the West. So what happens when those radicalised Muslims from the West start beheading Palestinians while wearing the uniform of the Islamic State?

Apparently nothing at all.

Read more: When Muslims murder Palestinians
Marc Goldberg | The Blogs | The Times of Israel

08 April 2015

Je Suis Kenyan 02

All lives matter.
African or American or Asian - We are all human beings.
The victims of the Garissa attack in Kenya are not just numbers.

Je Suis Kenyan 01

All lives matter.
African or American or Asian - We are all human beings.
The victims of the Garissa attack in Kenya are not just numbers.

The Power of the Israeli Knesset

Once upon a time, this blog started as a simple collection of ideas in one person's head. Those ideas were expanded to ever so slowly become a dream. The dream became reality through faith, hard work and dedication. While I usually write "I" in the blog posts for What Makes People Tick, I the writer / editor could not do my writing-work without a team of people to support me, sustain me, teach me, help me and guide me. This blog is a team effort as much as it is an individual effort.

Why start a post entitled "The Power of the Israeli Knesset" by talking about something that has very little to do with said Knesset; a blog run / written by a non-Israeli? Because the State of Israel inspires this humble writer greatly. As John Lennon said, "A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality." How very true with regards to Israel, a country that was a dream in the hearts and minds of so many for thousands of years and became a reality in 1948. Am Yisrael Chai. On to the power of the Knesset! The Times of Israel reports today (08 April 2015):
On March 29, the Knesset unveiled a 4,560-square-meter (50,000 square feet) solar field on its roof and those of surrounding buildings. Although the 1,500 solar panels are the highlight and the most obvious aspect of the greening of the Knesset, they are by far not the only way in which the Knesset is conserving energy. The Green Knesset Project, launched in January 2014, involves 13 different ecologically conscious projects at a cost of NIS 7 million ($1.8 million).
Israel has done it again - I am inspired and awed. In a world that is slowly but surely using up its fossil fuels (well... not so slowly: one might better say 'at an alarming rate') and poisoning itself by spouting waste into the oceans and CO2 into the air, a world that is slowly but surely destroying itself, the world's one and only Jewish nation shows it is ready to change for the better, to improve, to learn and to evolve. The article explains that turning the Knesset green is not just about what one installs or how one changes a building, it is also about reeducating both Members of Knesset (MKs) and Knesset staff.
“It’s a matter of changing organizational culture,” said Ronen Plot, director general of the Knesset. “During the preelection recess [January through mid-March 2015], we offered an in-depth course on sustainability for 35 employees from different departments.”

This week-long advanced course — on subjects such as environmental ethics, environmental law, and environmental economics — followed sustainability workshops that were compulsory for all Knesset employees.

“We are entering an era of sustainability, but it’s not just about the building. It’s also about influencing the staff and the MKs. Everyone needs to be on board if we are to act as an example to other parliaments around the world,” said Dr. Samuel Chayen, sustainability coordinator for the Green Knesset Project.
Source for both quotes: MKs may turn the air blue, but Knesset is Earth’s greenest parliament | The Times of Israel  

01 April 2015

The 'State of Palestine' today joined the International Criminal Court

Today, April 1st 2015, the so-called State of Palestine has become a member of the ICC, the International Criminal Court. For the sake of innocent peace-loving civilian Palestinians who simply want to live in peace, security and safety, I welcome and applaud this move. However I also want to remind readers of this blog of what ICC membership for 'Palestine' actually means.

The 'State of Palestine' is made up of Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Fatah-controlled West Bank - Judea and Samaria. WhileI am not a supporter of Hamas or of Fatah and personally believe that the Palestinian people would be better off without these so-called leaders, today I do not want to talk about my opinion, I simply want to share some facts:

The Hamas Covenant 1988, known as the "The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement" is the founding document of Hamas. The document makes it very clear what Hamas' hopes and dreams are for the future. From that Covenant, here are three quotes, in italics.

Even before the introduction, one finds the following:
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory)."

In the introduction to the document's Articles:
"This Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), clarifies its picture, reveals its identity, outlines its stand, explains its aims, speaks about its hopes, and calls for its support, adoption and joining its ranks. Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realised."

In Artice Seven, a hadith is quoted:
"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem)."

We're Now On Twitter!

From an idea to a dream to a collection of topics to a set of stories to an actual blog to a blog with a Google Plus page - What Makes People Tick has come a long way. This year, we're hoping to go even further.

We're coming to Twitter!
Or rather: We've arrived and we hope you'll join us for the party!

31 March 2015

Demonizing Israel With False Moral Equivalence - Hamas Propaganda Seems To Be Working

In a 26 March 2015 article, The Jewish Press writes that

"Rhetoric plays a major role in the demonization of Israel. The dissemination of false arguments is prevalent among the major demonization techniques. It is thus important that those who publicly defend Israel be trained to see through such tactics.

One technique used against Israel is false moral equivalence. It is based on the deceitful claim that there is no difference between two greatly dissimilar actions. Examples abound and only some of the most frequent ones can be mentioned here.

A prominent one is the perverse claim that Israel’s behavior is equivalent to that of the Nazis. This example of false moral equivalence is widespread throughout Europe. Five studies covering nine European countries show that about 40 percent of Europeans think Israel is a Nazi state."

Source: Demonizing Israel With False Moral Equivalence | The Jewish Press

Let me repeat that:
"Five studies covering nine European countries show that about 40 percent of Europeans think Israel is a Nazi state." 

Seventy years after the end of World War Two; seventy years after the end of the Holocaust that killed over six million innocent Jewish men, women and children, some forty percent of Europeans believe that Israel is a Nazi state.

The author of this particular blog post lives in Europe and can confirm that many here see Israel as a country where apartheid reigns and where Arabs / Muslims are mistreated and discriminated against. That there are Arabs who are not Muslim is something many here are unaware of or simply ignore. That there are many Palestinians who are not Muslim and many Israelis who are not Jewish is often similarly 'forgotten'. As for reality on the ground - It is easier to yell and scream about the 'horrible Israelis' who 'should know better after the Holocaust' and thus, 'should stop occupying the poor, innocent Palestinians' than to actually investigate the facts as they stand. 

There are two main groups and lots of smaller ones who all want to claim the same piece of land as theirs, all want the same city to be the capital of their land. However there is only one side who wants to destroy the other, only one side who is willing (and I fear, eager) to claim the land by force. Only one side as bas as that other group that is so much like it, which we know as ISIS. When one asks people about the role armed terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah play, these fundamentalist murderers are written off as 'freedom fighters' who are battling oppression by 'the Zionist occupiers'. Hamas propaganda seems to be working over here - many people actually believe that violent, murderous terrorists - Hamas, the chosen government in Gaza - are freedom fighters working to liberate their country and their people instead of terrorists and murderers wanting to destroy Israel and kill as many innocent Jewish people as possible.
The Hamas Covenant 1988, known as the "The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement" makes it very clear what Hamas' hopes and dreams are for Israel. Even before the introduction, one finds the following:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory)."

Do I agree with every decision the Israeli government makes or every move the IDF makes? Certainly not. Do I agree with Israeli policy 100%? Again - certainly not. However I do very much support Israel's right to defend itself from terrorist attacks against all its citizens. Supporting Israel's right to self-defence does not mean that I do not support the Palestinian people and their struggle to live in freedom and safety in their own ancestral homeland. It does mean that I stand with Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths and creeds against terrorists who wish to destroy all of Israel and Palestine, by whatever name one may want to call the region. It is my belief that the only way forward for all the people of the Promised Land is peace and for peace to have a chance, groups such as Hamas need to stop terrorising innocents. Only when the pen and the word are mightier than the sword will true and lasting peace be possible.

19 March 2015

"Freedom Under Attack" by Ron Prosor - Quotes and Thoughts

Recently read an article entitled "Freedom Under Attack" in the Op-Ed section of The Jewish Press. The writer, Ron Prosor, is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. Read the article at:

A lot of what Ambassador Prosor says has me nodding, not just today but in the past as well and from what I read, I find that he makes a lot of sense to me. Which is why I'm sharing some quotes from the article. The quotes are in bold text, my own words are in plain text.

Ambassador Prosor starts by looking at 1945, the year World War Two ended in Europe. The year 2015 marks seventy years since the closing of Auschwitz - Birkenau and other Nazi camps, the death of Anne Frank, the liberation of Europe from the claws of Nazi Germany and the eventual end of World War Two.

My grandparents lived through that War and growing up, it was not uncommon that they and other grown-ups, those old enough to remember the War (which then meant everyone older than my own parents), taught us about the Holocaust and talked about the old days when things were different. We grew up learning about ration booklets, food stamps, curfews and black-outs. We grew up learning about strangers in the streets there to order you around, there to use and abuse you as they saw fit, there to take your friends and neighbours away - some to work in labour camps or factories and others to die horrible deaths.

I grew up learning about the War, not only through movies (films), television and history books but from people who remembered it, people who lived through it, people who lost friends, family members, neighbours and loved ones to the Nazis. I learnt from people who chose to share their pain, their misery, their horrible experiences and their tears with strangers. I learnt from people who knew that the children and youngsters they taught might not understand them or appreciate their sacrifice in being there but who spoke up nonetheless. The courageous men and women who spoke at family gatherings, schools and public events did so because they understood that the only way to ensure Never Again actually meant and continues to mean Never Ever Again is to educate the next generation about the true cost and the true horrors of war, hatred, prejudice, death and discrimination - about the true cost of the Holocaust. My words are nothing compared to their memories.

"More than 60 million people – three percent of the world’s population – were killed or murdered in the Second World War. Half of the victims were civilians. Countless young girls and boys were denied the most basic right – the right to grow up and grow old. The scope of the human tragedy is simply unfathomable.

The sacrifices were immense – Russia alone lost over 25 million people. The Russians pushed forward to conquer Berlin and halted the Nazi advancement. They fought so that peoples and nations could live in freedom."

How many in the world today realise that Russia lost that many people to the War? I knew they fought, I knew they suffered, I knew that, however twenty-five million dead - that I did not realise. Six million, that is a number I remember, a number that feels ridiculously huge already. Six million is roughly a third of the population of The Netherlands - probably more people than I will ever meet in my entire life. Numbers like twenty-five million and sixty million - they are so huge that they almost lose meaning because truly fathoming how many people that is... That simply feels impossible, quite honestly.

The Ambassador continues:
"Seventy years ago, with the ashes of World War II still smoldering, the victors of the war came together to establish the United Nations and ensure that “Never Again” would not be a hollow promise

Today the values at the very heart of the UN are being threatened by extremist ideologies that target our way of life. From West Africa to the Middle East, extremists group have unleashed a plague of persecution believing that by silencing individuals, they can silence civilization.

The terrorists who stormed the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris attacked liberty – the right of every person to express him or herself. The terrorist who targeted Jews in Paris and Copenhagen attacked equality – the idea that every person, no matter his faith, is equal. By aiming their attacks at innocent civilians, the terrorists also attacked brotherhood – the bonds of our shared humanity.

A war is being waged against human dignity and human rights, and we must fight back. Standing united with courage and conviction we can turn back the tide of violent extremism and safeguard the values that we cherish."

How very true. A war is indeed being waged against human dignity and against basic human rights. A war is being waged by those wanting to silence free speech, who want to stop people from thinking for themselves, deciding for themselves and choosing for themselves. It is up to us to stand up to those who wish to bully us into submission, who wish to silence us with their knives and their bombs and their guns and their horrible acts of violence. Because if we don't, who will?

It is the closing statements of Ambassador Prosor's Op-Ed that move me the most:

"We must overcome indifference. We must know what we stand for and then stand up for something we believe in – never indulge racism; never ignore incitement; never be silent when confronted with the warning signs or war.

I issue a warning to the world – do not close your eyes to the atrocities around you; do not turn away from the animosity that ensues. It is your responsibility to speak out against hatred clearly and unequivocally.

Equip the next generation with words and not weapons. Arm them with ideas and not radical ideologies. Teach them tolerance, not terrorism. War is not inevitable. It is not a force of nature nor is it part of human nature. It can be prevented. But only if we stand together to denounce indifference and defend peace.

The duty rests upon us. If we wish our children to live in a world built on freedom, tolerance, and justice, we must stand united to defend those values."

Looking at the world today as someone who's not a sociologist or an anthropologist or anything of the sort, I see a lot of different people, different countries, different religions, different cultures, different ideologies, different lifestyles and different truths. The world is divided by lots of things - natural borders, man-made borders, man-made laws and rules and regulations, linguistic, religious and cultural barriers, misunderstandings, prejudice, discrimination, racism...

Natural borders we can overcome - our knowledge of science, technology and engineering enables us to build aeroplanes and fly to our neighbours, to build roads and cars and drive to our neighbours, to build boats and use them to sail to our neighbours. We can use telephones or the internet to contact our neighbours, to get to know them, to learn from them and to understand them.

Man-made borders are much harder to overcome. When separate groups all believe that their truth is the only acceptable truth and others' truths are not true or valid, we get to the place we are at today - what the King of Jordan calls World War Three. He is not the only one.

Look at what happened when white Christian Europeans moved to other parts of the world - look at what happened in North America, South America, India, Indonesia, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand... Apartheid is a word that comes from a Germanic language, not from an African language: It comes from Dutch. White people from Europe went to Africa where they forcibly removed people from their homes and their families, put them on boats and forced them to work, to be slaves, degraded them, whipped them, abused them, treated them as mere property. They took them to new countries where they forced them to live as slaves instead of as free people, as they had been. That is what European Christians did in centuries past and that is what fundamentalist Muslims are doing today.

How would you like it if someone came into your house right now, abducted you, took your spouse, your children and your neighbours away, perhaps shot a few people to ensure everyone understood that they were truly serious? What if strangers came to your house, took your possessions, enslaved you, treated you as less than human, as someone without rights? What if those strangers defended / explained their actions by stating that your values, beliefs and laws and the society that you hold dear were unimportant, worthless, barbaric even, perhaps? How would that make you feel?

26 February 2015

English, British or Yuukayeean...

The English language can be confusing... However so can those who speak the language! England, Britain or the United Kingdom? English, British or perhaps Yuukayeean? Here's an easy tool to help you remember!

Disclaimer: Yes, we did make up the word Yuukayeean. Call it attempted humour. Or just silly.  

23 February 2015

Yoko Ono Quotes

Some quotes by the amazing and inspiring Yoko Ono.

Dear Yoko, 
You make me want to be a better person. 
Thank you for being you.

“War is over if you want it.”

You change the world by being yourself.”

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. 
A dream you dream together is reality.”

“Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world. 
Just start thinking peace, and the message will spread quicker than you think.”

Video: "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman"

Why is it that some men seem to think it is necessary to treat women as nothing more than 'a piece of ass' or as 'eye-candy'? I understand that as human beings with eyes, we look around us and at others while walking around - most people don't like walking into other people, buildings or parked cars, after all - however does it really need to be accompanied by cat-calls, whistles, groping and lewd comments?

Will there ever be a time when women are appreciated as they are and for who they are as human beings? Women are not food, gadgets, mannequins or toys - we make up half the population of the world and are simply just as human as any male. Whatever your religious background or view on a woman's proper place or role - surely it is possible to treat all women as if they are your mothers, sisters and daughters?

Rudy Giuliani speaks out... And he's got my vote!

If you care about what happens in the world, in the United States, in Israel, in the Middle East, in Europe... If you care about the survival of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and free press... Watch this video of (former mayor of New York) Rudy Giuliani speaking out about world issues, the danger of power in the wrong hands and how to make the world a better place. 

I am - shock horror - quite a fan of (American president) Obama and very much appreciate that he is attempting to bring the entire world together or at least that he's trying to talk to the Arab / Muslim world, not just to white / European / western / Christian countries. What I think is ridiculous is that the American president does not seem to want to link terrorists motivated by (their particular version of) Islam to Islam as a global religion

I refuse to blame all of Islam (as a religion) or all Muslims for the horrible and despicable acts of a relatively small group who commit atrocities in the name of Islam. That would make me as bad as those who brutally murder journalists or aid workers for decisions made by the governments of the countries those people happen to have been born in. 

However I also believe that it is important to be clear about what motivates groups such as Daesh (IS / ISIS), the Taliban, al-Nusra front, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Jihad and groups like them - they are motivated by their interpretation of Islam, by their particular Islamic world-view, by their reading of the Qur'an (Koran) and their interpretation of the hadith (words and actions of Islam's prophet Muhammad, written down and collected). 

Blaming an entire religion for the actions of a few is ridiculous, however pretending those few are not motivated by religion is, in my humble opinion, just as ridiculous. Honesty first, diplomacy second.

20 February 2015

Rape is only one of the problems women face...

Earlier this month, a Turkish young woman was brutally murdered after resisting assault and rape by a stranger. A 20-year old university student on her way home to her family, Özgecan Aslan was aware of the dangers all women face in a world in which men live - she carried pepper spray and she knew to fight back to defend herself - yet also determined to get an education and live her life without fear of other human beings.

The burned body of Aslan, who had been missing for two days, was discovered on Feb. 13 in a riverbed in Tarsus in the southern province of Mersin. Ahmet Suphi Altındöken, the 26-year-old bus driver, confessed in a testimony to the prosecutor that he stabbed Aslan to death before cutting off her hands and burning her body. The court arrested Altındöken, while his 50-year-old father, Necmettin Altındöken, and 20-year-old friend, Fatih Gökçe, have also been arrested on charges of being accomplices to the murder.  
Turkish women changing names to escape violence from men | Hurriyet Daily News 

Another article from the same newspaper entitled Women defy imam in murdered woman’s funeral, carry the coffin speaks about Özgecan's funeral and nearly broke my heart. What happened, in a nutshell - Özgecan and a friend got on a minibus to go home, after other passengers got off the bus and Özgecan was the only passenger left, the driver attempted to assault and rape her. When she fought back and showed that she wasn't going to be used and abused by a stranger, he killed her. He then enlisted his father and a friend to help him dispose of Özgecan's body and cover up the evidence. While I am not someone who believes that violence is the answer to any of the world's problems, I cannot help but agree with Özgecan's mother as quoted in the article about her daughter's funeral:

“They should be executed, they should be tortured. Özgecan had a wonderful heart, she would work hard, help everyone. I cannot accept that she was massacred when she took a minibus to come home. Is my daughter’s only mistake is to get on a minibus to come home?”

Özgecan's courage and determination did not help her in her fight against the disgusting animal who so brutally murdered her. However her name will be remembered by many and her story is raising voices around the world. Even though we can't help Özgecan now, perhaps we can act to help others from suffering the same fate. No woman deserves to be raped or assaulted, no woman ever asks for it, no matter what she says or does, no matter what she wears or how she looks.

I wrote about rape in a previous blog post, or rather rape statistics in India and around the world. According to those statistics, 93 rapes happen in India each and every day of the year. Just imagine 93 women you know, imagine their faces, their eyes, their smiles. And now imagine them being raped. Tomorrow, imagine the next 93 women, the next day another 93. That is reality for women in India. As a female who has been attacked, assaulted, harassed, felt up and - yes - raped by someone I once thought of as a friend, I am all too aware of the many dangers women face in a world controlled by men.

Since reading about Özgecan's murder, I have been trying to write an article that expresses what I think and feel. I have come to the conclusion that sharing some of my own stories will be hardest for me to do however is also what needs to be done. The only way to stop violence against women and against ALL people weaker or more easily subdued than (often stronger) men is to help the world's males understand the consequences of their actions - I too need to speak up and explain what being attacked, harassed, assaulted and raped has done to me and what it does to other women.

Writing this article, I started thinking about the girls and women I personally know who have been harassed, assaulted, discriminated against, who have been raped or even gang-raped. Some are victims of domestic violence. Some have been jumped on the street in broad daylight. Some were ambushed while heading home from work. Some were waiting for public transport. Out of the women I know, some wear make-up and jewellery, some don't. Some show cleavage or enjoy wearing short skirts while others cover up for various reasons. Some love wearing high heels, others prefer flats. Some enjoy talking on their cellphone while waiting for public transport, others may read a book or magazine. Some are married and some aren't. Some are stay-at-home mothers while others work long hours or have their own companies. None of them wanted to be hurt. None of them asked to be harassed, assaulted, groped, "eve teased," raped, degraded or discriminated against. None of them ever asked for it or wished it, dreamed about it or hoped for it. None of them. Yet it happened to all of them.

For some women, like for Özgecan, the attacker was a stranger. For others, the attacker was someone we thought of as a friend and someone we could trust. Sadly, strangers are only part of the danger and the problem - men we know and trust such as family members, friends and neighbours are too often the ones hurting women. While researching for the previous blog post / article I wrote about rape, I came across a report from Australia. The Guardian reports that domestic violence in Australia is caused by a culture of hostility to women.
Australia’s police commissioners have identified “vulgar and violent attitudes towards women” as a key cultural cause of unacceptably high rates of family violence and say it will not stop until men’s attitudes change. 
They have urged victims to report assaults to police, who they say have transformed their own attitudes towards family disputes in recent years. Most commissioners say police working closely with other agencies involved with family violence is the only practical way to tackle a crime that kills one woman a week in Australia.
Culture of hostility to women leads to domestic violence, say police chiefs | The Guardian (Australia), 02 November 2014

18 February 2015

We are all "Sons and Daughters of Abraham" - Matisyahu

I firmly believe that all people are equal because we are all human. Whether one believes in a Big Bang and gradual evolution or believes that we were created by a Higher Power and the first of us were Adam and Eve - one cannot deny that we are all equal, all the same, all human, all part of the same family.

We are all individuals - We are all people who think, dream, imagine, smile, laugh, love and cry. We all feel emotions, we all have families and friends we love, we all have hopes and dreams and aspirations. While we are all unique, different and individual, we are also all human. In the end we all want the same for those we love and care about - we all want them to be happy, safe, loved and protected.

I myself want the same for my family and friends - I want them to be happy, to be free, to be able to speak their minds, to choose their own path in life, to know they are safe, to be free from persecution and hatred, to be surrounded by those who love and care about them. The thing is - my family is not restricted to those who look like me, sound like me or are directly related to me. As a member of the human race and of the great family that is humanity, I want the best for all of us, want peace and security and stability for all of us, want love and laughter and safety for all of us.

"My family is humanity. My dreams and hopes and aspirations are for all of humanity."
~ What Makes People Tick Blog

Personally I believe both in God and in evolution - I believe that evolution is simply God's work on a scale so huge that it is hard for humans to fathom and comprehend. God is not bound by human perceptions of time and space and distance - God is above and beyond those limitations and those restrictions. God existed before creation, before galaxies and stars and suns and planets, before humans and animals and birds and fish. As humans we live in a created universe where certain rules apply, however God is above and beyond that universe, beyond the rules and limitations that apply here. God is not bound or limited or restrained by time or space or gravity or distance or matter - I see God as so far above and beyond those limits that it is practically impossible for us to imagine His greatness and goodness and the extent and reach of what God is and does and means.

"I think there is a tendency for people to get rigid and caught up in their beliefs of what is right and wrong, and they lose sight of humanity. Being human has to come first before right or wrong."
~ Matisyahu (Brainyquote)

And yet I also believe that God has a plan for all of us and that God cares about each and every living being, that we can turn to God and be heard and loved and sheltered and cared for. I believe that we are all God's creation, all created in His image as thinking and feeling beings able to use our minds and our imagination, to feel compassion and love and to care about others, to think and reason and know right from wrong and good from bad. I believe that God has a plan for all of us, that God cares about all of us and wants all of us to live together as one people, one family, one human race.

Sons and daughters of Abraham
Lay down to a higher command
Don't be tricked by the acts of man
God's wisdom revealed in a holy plan

A chance to unite the past
With the brothers coming home at last
Fighting together for life

Lyrics to What I'm Fighting For by Matisyahu

13 November 2014

Jewish Press Cartoon "Home Schooling"

The Jewish Press » » Home Schooling

This cartoon got me thinking. I hope it does the same for you.

Source: The Jewish Press

12 November 2014

Saudi Arabia to grant women right to drive

The more things change...
The more I hope they change even more!

I'm one of those people who doesn't drive. Not because I can't or believe I shouldn't, but because I don't want to. I walk, I bike, I take public transport and feel good about doing so, about using environmentally friendlier modes of transport than using a car to get just me from A to B. Driving is not usually necessary where I live as public transport runs on a regular schedule and can get me most places.

Sometimes though, especially after being harassed on the bus or tssssk-ed at while waiting for the train or ogled while on the tram or followed home from the metro,  I wish I did drive. I do not ask to be harassed. I do nothing to suggest I might want strangers to approach me. I wear a ring around a significant finger to show that I am taken, if anyone bothered to check. I am not "asking for" attention, in fact the opposite is true : I do what I can to divert attention away from me.

I am so much more than just the exterior one sees at first glance - I am a human being with a heart, soul and mind, with feelings and ideas and emotions. I love blogging and writing stories, learning about the world's people, cultures, languages and religions. I am a person, a human being with a mind of my own. I am not just a body and I very much resent being treated as nothing more than an object simply because that is what men the world over are accustomed to.

Especially after being harassed by strangers or made to fee unsafe by the actions or unwanted attention of others, I think about buying a car and how that would make me feel. I don't mean that I would see the car as a status symbol and be proud of it. I don't even mean the feeling of immense financial satisfaction buying a car - and paying for it on the spot - would give me. I am talking about the feeling of safety I would have inside a closed-off space others would have to break into to get to me. Being able to lock the doors, being able to drive away fast or honk my horn loudly, being able to simply get from A to B without strangers being able to come near enough to talk to me, make unwanted noises at me, harass me or assault me - that is the feeling I hope for. It sounds like a dream come true, to live in a world where men do not feel that they have the unalienable 'right' to objectify, harass, insult and assault me simply because I am a woman, because I dare to leave the house on my own and have the nerve to go about my own business without a male escort.

Perhaps if I lived in a country where male chaperones were the norm (like Saudi Arabia) and unaccompanied females a glaring exception, I could better understand being harassed by men when leaving the house on my own. Yet I live in The Netherlands, not in Saudi Arabia. Women are equal to men here, by law at least. There are laws against the mistreatment of people, including women and minorities. There are laws meant to protect me, a female, from the actions or inaction of others. Yet I am still harassed, assaulted, objectified.

Following lengthy campaigning on the behalf of Saudi women’s groups, the 150-member Shura Council, which is permitted to propose legislation to the King, proposed that women over the age of 30 should be allowed behind the wheel, but only until 8pm each day, and without the application of make-up, a council member told AP. 
The Gulf State country of some 30 million people has no law on the books forbidding women from driving, only religious edicts supported by leading religious authorities. Muslim clerics in this Gulf State fear "licentiousness" will get out of control if women have the freedom to drive. 
Source: Saudi Arabia mulls women’s right to drive - but only for over-30s ‘without make-up’RT.com | 08 November 2014

When leaving the house to go shopping, go to work, visit friends or family, I am aware that I am leaving the relative safety of my own home. I am also aware that I am traversing a world where women are preyed on, objectified, harassed and assaulted by strangers. A quick look at rape statistics around the world shows that violence against women happens all around the world, it is not contained to one area of the world, one religious group or one ideology. It happens wherever men live, which means it happens everywhere, all around the world. From my own experiences I know that women are not the only target of men's rage, anger, horniness, boredom or whatever excuse they use to harass, objectify, use, abuse, assault or demean others. Violence by men happens against all those weaker than they are - Smaller or less strong men, children and teenagers, the handicapped, the elderly, the mentally unstable, innocent animals.  

Licentiousness, according to the Oxford dictionary:
Promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters 
Licentiousness, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary:
Lacking legal or moral restraints; especially :  disregarding sexual restraints

Having been harassed, felt up, jumped and even assaulted in the past - all by men, all without my consent or invitation or permission - I am certainly aware of the dangers of braving the world on my own. Yet the simple facts are that in a country that expects men and women both to work full-time, there are no spare male family members who can give up their precious time to accompany and protect me. Without men to shadow my every move and protect me from the unwanted attention of other men, I need to be able to either protect myself or keep predators at a distance. Having the use of a car would mean safety, would mean being able to go to work without being afraid, would mean visiting family without being scared of being jumped, would mean going to the supermarket without having to be afraid I'll be followed home. A car to me would equal being able to protect myself from a lot of potentially dangerous situations.

Honestly, the idea that allowing someone like me to drive - female, over the age of thirty, someone with no interest in wearing make-up or looking 'desirable' to strange men - would lead to licentiousness is ridiculous to me. Unless the licentiousness mentioned refers to how the men of Saudi Arabia would act and behave towards women drivers, in which case I agree 100% that licentiousness needs to be curtailed severely.

As far as I'm concerned, allowing women to drive in The Netherlands means they are safe inside their own closed off cars. It means they do not get sick from standing in the cold, wind or rain while waiting for public transport. It means they do not get harassed, assaulted, insulted or spoken to by strange men. It means women are free to live their lives without having to wait for a male to go with them and protect them FROM OTHER MEN.

Yes, women being able to and allowed to drive means that women are less restricted by men and more free to go where they please, to visit family when they want to, to shop or see friends or go to work or simply take a child to hospital for a check-up. It does not mean that 'suddenly' the country's women have changed or will act differently. It simply means that they are treated as people, as human beings, as citizens, as thinking adults instead of little children. While giving women in Saudi Arabia more freedom and independence is something I very much applaud and can only agree with, I want to send a message to the government of Saudi Arabia:

Covering up your women and forcing them to stay home will not change how men think about women. Keeping women locked up as animals or covered up as if they were radioactive will not change how men think about and act towards women; will not make women safer. The only way to make driving and being in public safe for women in Saudi Arabia is to change how MEN think about women, to change how MEN treat women, is to change how MEN approach women. 

While men and women are different, we are also very much the same in many things. We think, we feel, we dream, we hope, we love, we care, we laugh, we smile. Women are human just like men and wish to be treated as such, not locked up or forced to stay inside because the world is ruled by men who perpetuate the abuse and misuse of women. It is simple: Women will not be safe unless the men in this world understand that it is not 'okay' or right or good or wanted or desired behaviour or 'cool' to abuse women, to objectify women, to ogle women, to grope women, to publicly harass or assault women, to suggest indecent acts to women, to treat them as less.

I'd like to end this article with a quote from the Qur'an (Pickthal translation) to illustrate my point. The Qur'an tells both men and women to lower their gaze and be modest. I believe it is time for men to realise that Allah / God does see everything they do, that men realise that they will be held accountable for their actions, that men understand that they too need to be modest in dress and behaviour and yes, in how they treat and approach women.

024:030: Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do.

024:031: And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to [men close to them by blood or marriage]. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.