NEWS - Archive May 2013

Headlines 31 May, 2013

Greek coalition rift widens

31/5/2013- A rift in Greece's coalition on how to tackle mounting racism attacks in the recession-hit country widened on Friday as government allies tabled separate bills on the issue. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' conservatives have disagreed with their socialist and moderate leftist partners over how to stem the rise of aggressive neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn whose alleged attacks on migrants and hateful rhetoric has cast a negative light over the country. But fearful of alienating its core group of conservative supporters -- which includes the Church and military -- New Democracy moved to water down a proposed anti-racism bill aimed at toughening up the law against hate speech and war crimes denial. While accepting the higher penalties agreed on by the two other coalition partners, Samaras' party -- Greece's biggest -- has proposed to exclude state institutions such as the Church and the military from prosecution under the bill.

Senior clerics from the influential Orthodox church have in the past made remarks about Jews that could be deemed anti-Semitic, while Greek conscripts have been filmed chanting anti-Albanian and anti-Turkish slogans. Samaras has come under international pressure to update Greek legislation on the issue, some of which dates from 1979. The proposed bill put forward originally by the justice ministry prescribes prison sentences of up to three years -- up from two years currently -- and fines of up to €20,000 for breaking the law. All three coalition partners have accepted the penalties save for the question on whether to grant the church and the army immunity. Adding to the confusion, the radical leftist Syriza party and the nationalist Independent Greeks party have also pledged to table anti-racist proposals next week. "There is a risk that none of these proposals will pass and that the country will be ridiculed," said Andreas Papadopoulos, spokesman of moderate leftist party Dimar.

The World Jewish Congress has bashed Greece's delay in adopting the legislation and the European Commission has also called for a swift resolution. Golden Dawn has 18 lawmakers in parliament and currently polls at around 10 percent in opinion surveys. Rights groups believe that it has instigated a recent wave of violence against migrants, which the party denies. Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos has publicly denied the existence of gas chambers and crematoria during World War II. He has also called Adolf Hitler "a major historical figure of the 20th century".
AFP

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Anti-racism legislation a step closer to EU rulebook, Brussels says (Greece)

30/5/2013- Passing the anti-racism bill in Parliament would bring Greece a step closer to the European Union's legal framework, a spokesman for EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in Brussels on Thursday. Asked by Kathimerini's Brussels correspondent Nikos Chrysoloras if he expected Greece to do more to strengthen its legal framework against hate and racially-motivated crimes, Michele Cercone said the Commissioner remained concerned about racial and extremist violence in Greece. “Of course, the law that is currently being discussed by the Greek authorities in order to implement the European framework decision would certainly be an important step toward fighting this phenomenon,” Cercone said. However, the official said, “it will not be a solution by itself.” The Commissioner, said Cercone, never intervened specifically on the content or the procedures. “This is for the Greek authorities to debate... We'll see what the follow-up will be,” he said. Greek parties have failed to reach compromise on a proposed anti-racism legislation which would, among others, criminalize Holocaust denial. Junior coalition partners PASOK and Democratic Left on Thursday tabled a bill on their own while SYRIZA is expected to unveil its own proposal on Monday.
Kathimerini

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Surge in hate crimes divides Greek coalition

30/5/2013- Greece’s coalition government was in disarray Thursday over efforts to crackdown on growing racist violence, as majority conservatives and their center-left partners clashed over the best way to tackle anti-immigrant violence. The embarrassing rift in conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ government occurred amid pressure from the European Union and human rights groups to toughen anti-racism laws. Greece, in its sixth year of recession — and with the highest number of immigrants entering the European Union illegally — has seen a sharp rise in violence against non-European immigrants, as well as a surge in support for the xenophobic and extreme right Golden Dawn Party. Samaras’ center-right New Democracy party refused to endorse draft legislation overhauling laws on racial equality, and instead submitted more limited amendments to laws passed in 1979. But his coalition partners, the Socialist Pasok party and Democratic Left, submitted the more extensive proposals as a private members bill.

‘‘What matters is that we unite political parties and the people against the Nazis, and not to let the danger of neo-Nazism divide us,’’ Samaras said in a written statement. Formed after general elections last June, the ruling coalition cannot pass legislation without some form of cross-party support. The European Union, as well as international Jewish groups, have urged Greece to tackle racism by criminalizing incitement to commit racial violence among other measures. The New York-based organization Human Rights Watch on Thursday also urged the swift adoption of measures against racial violence. ‘‘With people being attacked on the streets, Greece urgently needs to beef up its criminal justice response to hate crimes,’’ Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch said. Opponents of the racism bill argue it could violate constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly. Meanwhile leftwing parties claim Samaras’ conservatives fear antagonizing the far right as the country recovers from its crippling financial crisis.

Late Wednesday, several thousand Golden Dawn supporters attended a rally in central Athens. Holding Greek flags and fire torches, the crowd chanted: ‘‘Foreigners out of Greece.’’ Campaigning aggressively against immigration and Greece’s bailout agreement, Golden Dawn has reaped a surge in support in recent years. The party elected 18 members to the 300-member parliament in last year’s general election with nearly 7 percent of the vote. An opinion poll for private Mega television published this week suggested support for the extreme right party has risen to 10 percent. The GPO survey of 1,200 adults, conducted May 24-27, found two-thirds regarded Golden Dawn as a threat to democracy, and half supported the anti-racism law. Fewer than 40 percent of those who voted for Samaras’ center-right New Democracy in the last election back the proposed legislation.

‘‘There is no doubt that this law is targeting Golden Dawn,’’ Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos told his party’s lawmakers ahead of Wednesday’s rally. ‘‘Let them bring the law to parliament and we will see, finally, who is with Greece and who is on the side of the illegal immigrants.’’ Golden Dawn denies any involvement in attacks against immigrants, though party supporters have been arrested as suspects in several recent incidents.
The Associated Press

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30/5/2013- A Greek extreme far-right lawmaker who wanted to travel with his licensed handgun on a domestic flight drew unwanted attention after the firearm accidentally went off during check-in procedures Thursday. Police said nobody was hurt in the incident in a secluded area of Athens International Airport. But the gaffe drew broad condemnation from mainstream parties and prompted a quick government decision to review all gun licenses granted to members of Parliament. About 50 of Greece’s 300 lawmakers have such permits, in a country where legal gun ownership is uncommon and strictly regulated. Authorities said Thursday’s accident occurred in an office away from the busy airport’s public areas, as Golden Dawn lawmaker Antonis Gregos was handing over the gun to airline officials. Police have ordered an investigation into how a round was apparently left in the chamber after the ammunition clip was removed.

Nationalist and anti-immigrant Golden Dawn, which rejects the neo-Nazi label attached to it by mainstream parties and international rights groups, holds 18 of Parliament’s 300 seats. More than a dozen of its lawmakers are believed to hold gun permits, although police have declined to issue full details, citing security concerns. A party lawmaker has been accused of trying to pull a handgun as he was being restrained by police guards after allegedly trying to punch the mayor of Athens this month. A police official told the Associated Press that authorities will now re-examine all politicians’ gun permits to see why they were initially issued, what security concerns were cited and whether they are valid. “They will also check whether the necessary psychiatric documentation has been submitted,” the official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media on the record. “And obviously the behavior of each lawmaker will play a part — that is whether they were involved in incidents where they threatened to use a gun or made intimidating moves.”

The incident follows a heated debate over gun-packing politicians, which prompted Parliament to forbid its members to enter the building armed. “You can’t have lawmakers who are loony, fascists, populists or idiots walking through (Parliament) with guns,” conservative member of Parliament Fotini Pipili argued before the ban was imposed. The Socialist Pasok party, a minority partner in Greece’s conservative-led governing coalition, said it was a matter of luck that nobody was injured in Thursday’s incident. “Golden Dawn’s guns have their safety catches off and are ready to shoot anyone,” a party statement said. The main opposition Syriza Radical Left Coalition called for an end “to the unchecked behavior of fascist groups.” Golden Dawn didn’t immediately issue a statement about the incident. The previously-marginal party won nearly 7 percent of the vote in national elections last year, riding a wave of anti-immigrant and anti-establishment sentiment amid a depressed economy and record-high unemployment. Debt-heavy Greece has imposed resented income cuts and tax hikes over the past three years to secure international rescue loans shielding it from bankruptcy.
The Associated Press

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Hundreds of neo-Nazis march through Athens (Greece)

30/5/2013- Hundreds of Greek neo-Nazis marched with torches through the streets of Athens to commemorate the 560th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The militants from the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party shouted "Blood, honour, Golden Dawn" and "Greece belongs to the Greeks". After several fiery speeches against the Turks and communists in the square outside Athens cathedral, they marched on parliament, where the party has held 18 seats since June. The annual march concluded without incident, unlike last year when a Pakistani man who found himself in their path was attacked by 15-20 neo-Nazis. Nevertheless, this year's march caused concern among tourists in the Greek capital. "When they arrived, all the tourists paid their bills and left," said Fotis, a waiter at the Meatropoleos restaurant in central Athens. As he watched the neo-Nazi demonstration unfold, Antonio Leiva, a tourist from Chile, said: "I'm shocked. "I strongly believe in freedom of expression but there are limits when it comes to encouraging racial hatred," he said.

Greece's ruling coalition is split over a bid to toughen an anti-racism law aimed at curbing Golden Dawn, amid fears it could unwittingly alienate the influential Orthodox church. The socialist and moderate leftist parties put forward the bill on their own on Thursday after the coalition's leading conservative party backtracked. The proposed bill would impose prison sentences of up to three years - up from the current two years - and a fine of up to 20,000 euros for hate speech and the denial or praise of war crimes and genocide. Rights groups believe Golden Dawn has instigated a recent wave of violence against migrants, which the party denies. The New York-based organisation Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the swift adoption of measures to toughen measures against hate crimes and incitement to commit racially motivated violence. "With people being attacked on the streets, Greece urgently needs to beef up its criminal justice response to hate crimes," said Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch.
The Sydney Morning Herald

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Internet Task Force Aims to Combat Online Anti-Semitism

Internet Hate Task Force meets in Jerusalem to combat online hate and anti-Semitism. 

30/5/2013- The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the issuance of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) Internet Hate Task Force Report and Recommendations on Wednesday in Jerusalem. The report -- the culmination of testimony and meetings with industry experts, academics and non-governmental organizations -- offers a series of recommendations for responding to cyber-hate, including the creation of clear policies on hate speech and better enforcement of hate speech policies. The task force was chaired by Yuli Edelstein, the Israeli Knesset speaker, and ADL Civil Rights Chair, Christopher Wolf. Wolf is the co-author, with Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, of the forthcoming "Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet", which will available in bookstores on June 4.

“The Internet, with all of its great benefits to society, has also become a superhighway for hate. Anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, cyberbullying, and other forms of hatred have proliferated online. The ICCA recommendations represent the beginning of a dialogue with industry that puts mechanisms in place to respond to Internet hate while balancing individual rights and freedoms,” the ADL said in a statement from the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem. “We welcome the task force’s conclusion that the most meaningful way to address this issue is to work directly with intermediaries to encourage a transparent and inclusive approach.

“Hate speech is more than just a belief or perspective -- it reinforces stereotypes and strengthens the belief that singling out “the other” for abuse is acceptable. Nobody is immune from being targeted online. Hate speech can harden low self-esteem and intimidate its targets, sometimes setting the stage for violence. But that doesn’t mean that we should give up. There is a role for Internet users, for Internet companies, and for educators. We look forward to initiating an inter-disciplinary approach to implementing the task force’s recommendations,” the ADL said in the statement.

The Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) is an organization comprised of parliamentarians from around the world working to combat resurgent global anti-Semitism.
Arutz Sheva

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Some 500 take part in anti-Roma demonstration in Duchcov (Czech Republic)

29/5/2013- Some 500 people demonstrated Wednesday in reaction to a Roma attack on a young married couple in mid-May and some of the participants headed for the Roma-inhabited houses, but the police barred their way and the event organisers called on them to disperse. The police have accused five Roma attackers of causing a heavy bodily harm. The court has not complied with the proposal that they be taken into custody. The demonstration was called by three Duchcov inhabitants under the title Meeting of Dissatisfied Citizens. "We do not know what to expect from various people. I am afraid that there will be no space for discussion Wednesday," mayor Jitka Bartova said before the meeting. One hour ahead of the demonstration local Roma also met to pray for the public peace. "It always requires two to brawl," an attending priest said. Several Roma attacked a young married couple in the night of May 18. The police said the attack was preceded by an attempted theft of a bicycle, in which its owner was injured. Afterwards the same assailants attacked the married couple returning from a disco. They kicked them and beat with fists.
The Prague Daily Monitor

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Bulgarian Nationalist Chief: We May Topple Govt Anytime

29/5/2013- Bulgaria's far-right, nationalist Ataka party will topple the new Cabinet on the spot upon noticing any lobbyism or actions against the interests of the people, according to party leader, Volen Siderov. He made the statement in the Parliament Wednesday after it emerged that the needed quorum of 121 MPs to vote on the new Cabinet proposal has been reached and that Siderov has been precisely the person to secure this quorum. The Cabinet proposal was tabled by former Finance Minister, Plamen Oresharski, who was nominated for Prime Minister by BSP. Speaking from the parliamentary tribune, Siderov criticized the selection of members of the Cabinet for including individuals linked to the other three parties in the Parliament - the formerly-ruling center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, the Bulgarian Socialist party BSP, and the liberal ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS.

"We will have controlling functions as the partisan members of the government make us very critical. We will be observing; we will be active in making proposals – we made 3 already – lifting the full smoking ban, prosecuting attacks on doctors and teachers, and a moratorium on electric power prices. We call on very speedy debates and on a vote on them. We call on the future PM to pay strong attention to the professional organizations, the trade unions, and the NGOs," said he. The nationalist leader accused GERB of being irresponsible by not registering for the quorum and for keep coming in and out of plenary hall in sabotaging the work of the Parliament. According to Siderov, the above was a stark proof GERB ruled the country as a lobbyist group and do not care at all about anything when not in power. Later, speaking in the parliamentary hallway during the break, he told journalists that him "helping" the quorum was not support for BSP and DPS, but a show of political responsibility. The nationalist leader further confirmed that his security has been upped due to threats for his well-being and even life.

He, however, failed to state how his party and himself will act in the upcoming vote for the "Oresharski" Cabinet, once again keeping the suspense alive. The speculations are that Siderov and his MPs will not vote or vote against. The voting against can bring the Parliament to impasse if GERB decide to vote against as well – the result will be a 120:120 tie, meaning Bulgaria would not have a new government Wednesday. Tuesday evening GERB announced they will be present at Wednesday's sitting, but will not register for the vote. However, speaking for bTV Tuesday morning, GERB MP, Dimitar Glavchev, hinted they might wait to see what Ataka would do and may vote against instead of not voting at all. If the vote flops, the President must give, at his discretion, the mandate to either DPS or Ataka. If the third mandate fails to form a Cabinet, Bulgaria will face new early elections.
Novinite

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Police treating Harlow arson attack as 'hate crime' (UK)

30/5/2013- Police investigating a devastating arson attack which left two women homeless believe the couple may have been targeted because of their sexuality. Lorraine Turner (42) and partner Sue Bashforth (46) were lucky to escape with their lives after the blaze ripped through their ground-floor council flat in Pennymead in the early hours of March 17. At the time, they told the Star they owed their lives to their cats after being woken by their pets’ howling. Fire investigators believe the fire was started deliberately after flammable liquids were poured through a catflap in the front door - and police are now treating the attack as a hate crime. Speaking to the Star this week, a distraught Lorraine appealed for anyone with information to come forward. “It makes me sick that even in 2013 there are still ignorant, evil people capable of doing something like this just because they don’t agree with somebody’s sexuality,” she said. “I would urge anyone who knows who might have done this to contact the police before they try something like this again.” The couple, who had been celebrating their engagement the night before the fire, have now been rehomed outside of Harlow. “It’s been three months of hell for us as we’ve been moved from one temporary accomodation to another,” Lorraine said. “We lost everything in that fire, and even had to give up our cats. “It’s been incredibly traumatic and has put both of us under enormous strain as we try to rebuild our lives.” Anyone with any information on the arson attack is urged to contact investigating officers at Harlow Police Station on 101.
The Harlow Star

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Following the EDL's mobilisation after the Woolwich attack, we must broaden the fight against racism in all its forms
By Richard Seymour 

28/5/2013- Today's setback in London – and it has to be seen as a setback for anti-racists given that they were substantially outnumbered by EDL supporters, and forced to weather a shower of bottles while being kettled – should provoke some rethinking. These are some points that immediately come to mind, which I'll flesh out and redact in the next few days.

1. This is a long-term fight that has to be conducted on many different levels. It is not just a question of winning immediate political battles. The tempo of political struggles is extremely rapid, and the half-life of a particular struggle can be very brief indeed. But these struggles are fought on a terrain formed by years of cultural and ideological work, between forces shaped by that same work over a long duration. The tempo of cultural and ideological battles is, compared to political fights, glacial. But just because there are no immediate successes in these fronts doesn't mean they are of no value – they are absolutely central. The intense racist backlash following the Woolwich killing was not inevitable. It took place on the basis of efforts by diverse forces to elaborate new racist ideologies over a long period.

2. We cannot fight the EDL without also combating the other major forces of racism in society. The EDL would be nothing without the tabloids, the police, the neoliberal parties in parliament, and so on. The ideologies which legitimise the EDL's actions or at least render them as explicable reactions to extreme provocation, originate in Whitehall, the BBC, the press, parliament and the business funders of reaction. And to defeat those forces we need a different range of tactics. The EDL is primarily based on street violence, so the onus is on counter-mobilisation and self-defence. The same tactics could not be deployed against Ukip, the Murdoch press, or the Home Office. I don't propose a smorgasbord of alternative tactics here; I merely highlight the need for something more than counter-mobilisations.

3. There is no future in attempting to collapse anti-racism into anti-austerity struggles. Such attempts represent a strain of workerism, and have emerged from some surprising quarters – including Alexis Tsipras. Racism does not simply emerge as a displaced form of despair over deprivation or insecurity. Its development and spread may be accelerated by profound political crisis, the breakdown of authority, crises of overproduction, financial collapses, and so on. And certainly, the struggles over the capitalist crisis and its resolution has a relationship to the struggle over racism: this means that initiatives such as Left Unity and the People's Assembly should take anti-racism seriously as a semi-autonomous component of their broader strategy. But to understand the relationship between racism, economic crisis and emerging political subjectivities requires an analysis light years ahead of the lingering "capitalist crisis = hard times = racism" model.

4. There can likewise be no attempt to collapse anti-racism into the antiwar movement, such as it is. That is no less reductive. For example, the analyses of the Woolwich killing that attempt to ascribe it to the "war on terror", and therefore to orient analysis primarily toward antiwar activism, strike me as unconvincing. Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale certainly seem to have responded to the context of the "war on terror", and to have explained their actions in that context. But the processes through which they appear to have decided to join the most marginal and militant of Islamist sects in the first place are likely to be rooted in the daily processes of British capitalism. We need to fight and win that argument: that Britain is a profoundly racist and unjust society in which black people are humiliated and deprived in all sorts of highly visible ways.

5. It's been obvious for a while, and it is more obvious now – one cannot segment off different types of racism as if they are completely separate; they are mutually reinforcing. The rise in Islamophobia, as we saw during the riots, and as is becoming clear from the intriguing raciologies arising from the Woolwich killing – the EDL speaker in Newcastle urged his audience to "send the black cunts back" – is not exclusive of a long-term regeneration of other types of racism. Indeed, Islamophobia's role as the dominant form of culturalist racism permits the rehabilitation of the discredited elements of racial essentialism, while at the same time articulating them in a new form. What this means is not simply that Islamophobia is simply a cover for "traditional" types of racism. It used to be argued that it was merely a way of being racist toward Pakistanis. No, current forms of racism do not simply reanimate older forms. As Stuart Hall put it, "Racism is always historically specific. Though it may draw on the cultural traces deposited by previous historical phases, it always takes on specific forms. It arises out of present – not past – conditions, its effects are specific to the present organisation of society, to the present unfolding of its dynamic political and cultural processes – not simply to its repressed past."

The current forms of racism refer to and organise current antagonisms, expressed in complex political struggles, from the 2001 riots to the 2012 riots. And there is something very specific about Islamophobia and its content – the obsession with religious identities, with the amateurish hermeneutics of the Qur'an, and so on – something very current. The point is not that Islamophobia is a cover, but rather that there is a convergence in the techniques of racialisation, the political forces involved, and the ideational content involved in the types of racism in Britain today. I think this means that it would a political mistake to try to identify one type of racism as the "respectable racism" and simply campaign against that – the tendency is for racism in general to be made "more respectable", and therefore we need a multi-pronged assault on racism in general.

That'll do for now.
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