I finally got my internet back. I can see that the comments section has become a verbal bloodbath in my abscence. The lunatics have taken over the asylum. Can’t promise I will join bacchanalia. But I promise posts about more pressing subjects will resume beginning tonight.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
Since the mid-1980s it is estimated that over a million Russians have immigrated to Israel. With a population of just over 6 million, this makes the Russian immigrant community a strong voting block in the Jewish state. Politically, they are considered a staple of the Israeli right wing.
But as Lily Galili reports in Haaretz, war can produce combinations that on the surface of Israeli politics seem unimaginable. At the head of Israel’s antiwar movement against the invasion of Lebanon stands Jana Kanapova and Khulud Badawi. Kanapova immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine as a young Zionist 11 years ago. Badawi is an Arab-Israeli resident of Haifa, which for the last month has been the target of Hezbollah’s Katyusha rockets (which were ironically made in Russia). Together they have been the leaders of the peace movement on behalf of the Women’s Peace Coalition and the Ta’ayush organization. An Arab and a Russian. The combination defies most assumptions about the politics of ethnicity and the ethnicity of politics in Israel.
The way Kanapova and Badawi view the war and Israeli politics in general is laden with feminist overtones. As Karapova told Haaretz, “The police sees Khulud as a natural threat. In the same exact circumstances, the police refuses to see me as a threat. After all, they also share the stereotype that there are no leftists within the Russians. Khulud will always represent a danger, I’m never a danger; Khulud is the demographic ticking bomb, I am the demographic hope. This is the exact same attitude that views both of our wombs as state instruments, and we will not give them that pleasure.”
The demographic problem and solution that both their respective communities represent to the future of Israel makes their struggle more than over policy and war. Theirs is also a biopolitical struggle over what their bodies represent to the present and future of the Israeli state. Israel’s “Right of Return” law has always had biopolitical elements. The hope is that immigration from the Jewish Diaspora will offset the rapidly growing Palestinian population. Israel’s battle for its future therefore is more than about guns and missiles. It is about the reproduction of bodies. But not just any body. It is about the reproduction of particularly Jewish bodies.
The biopolical analysis that both Kanapova and Badawi make is not the only unique quality about resistance to this war. In fact, it is difficult to say whether this consciousness of the body is the main logic behind the peace movement. However, the fact that the protest against the Lebanon war, unlike Israeli peace movements of the past, has been mostly headed by women inevitably throws issues of gender into the mix. “All the aspects of this war tie the feminist, social, ecological and class struggle closely to the ongoing struggle against the occupation,” they told Haaretz. “Women make this connection naturally. The old left, even that of ‘Gush Shalom,’ did not manage to connect these struggles. We did. The women’s social and political networks are also stronger. This war is taking place in our social arena, in our homes. As women and citizens, we produce an alternative feminine voice to oppose the militant male voice.” “This is a war of men fighting for their honor, both the IDF’s honor and Hezbollah’s honor,” concludes Kanapova. “Women are less into the honor thing. Russian women are instinctively aware that wars are men’s games. That is the society we grew up in, and we find it obvious.”
The significance of Kanapova’s and Badawi’s gender is not the only unique aspect of resistance to this poorly planned and ill fated Israeli offensive. Their respective ethnicities is what makes them attractive to the news. If they were two Ashkenazim, their presence and efforts on the Israeli Left would have perhaps been overlooked. Their presence allows for the peace movement to be conducted in three languages—Arabic, Hebrew and Russian–,and according to Kanapova, this has allowed her to engage, and even convince some in her community to oppose the war. The presence of Russian female activists has ballooned from three to 200. It has also led to more contact with Israeli Russians and Arabs:
In the past, Israeli Arab citizens avoided coming to demonstrations in Tel Aviv in the midst of war. At most they resigned themselves to a symbolic representation in the later stages of the protest. Their demonstrations against the occupation also usually took place in Arab towns. No more. This time, the Arabs were equal partners in the left’s demonstrations in Tel Aviv from the outset of the war. The thousands of Katyushas, falling on them as well, have toppled the old inhibitions. They do not see it as another Jewish war, but as a civilian war in which they have an equal right to speak out. Badawi says that they purposefully bring their voices to Tel Aviv, which they consider to be the Israeli capital.
Another kind of change is happening in the Russian-speaking arena. The community of Russian-speakers has long been considered the hard core of the Israeli right wing. The recruitment of a even handful for leftist Zionist demonstrations was always considered a great achievement. On this occasion, there exists a small but prominent and consistent presence of Russian-speakers in the radical left’s protests. The Arabs learn to shout out the slogan “Vayni nyet” (no war), and the Russian and Hebrew-speakers rhythmically call “Salam na’am, hareb la” (peace yes, war no.) It is safe to assume that these ties will remain long after the sounds of war fade away.
One hopes that they are correct.Post Views: 364
By Sean — 13 years ago
—Things continue to heat up in Azerbaijan before tomorrow’s elections. Azeri police raided the headquarters of two opposition parties, Popular Front of Azerbaijan and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, arresting their campaign directors, Gabil Mammadrzayev and Faramaz Javadov. The arrests are yet another attempt by the Aliyev government to preempt any chance the parliamentary elections will become “colored revolution.” So says Azeri Interior Minister Ramil Usubov, “If someone puts up tents somewhere, no matter what their color, and violates the rights of other citizens, and if it’s on some road where there’s transport, that will be prevented.”
—Inmate riots continue at Prison No. 31 outside the Kyrgiz capital of Bishkek. Security forces stormed the prison and crushed prisoners’ control of the prison. Two weeks ago prisoners revolted to protest living conditions. They took control of the prison and killed imprisoned former deputy Tynychbek Akmatbayev. But there is more to this story than prisoners rioting to protest conditions. Consider how Gulnoza Saidazimova describes the situation at Prison No. 31:
“Machine guns and knives, mobile phones, and computers with Internet connection, large amounts of money in U.S. dollars and euros as well as narcotics — all are in the possession of a “vor v zakone”, or a criminal kingpin, in Kyrgyz jails.
Consider, for example, Aziz Batukaev, who served a term in Prison No. 31 in the settlement of Moldovanovka near the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek until he was transferred to another prison on November 1.
Speaking to journalists on 1 November in the wake of October unrest in Kyrgyz penal colonies, Deputy Prosecutor-General Abibulla Abdykaparov said Batukaev had occupied a whole floor of his prison. That included 16 rooms, where he kept three mares and 15 goats.
Abdykaparov explained that the convict used to drink the domestic animals’ milk to heal his ulcer. His wife and daughter-in-law as well as a bodyguard — not convicts themselves — were with him when the troops burst into the prison building.”
This of course is the conditions of the Kingpin. Other prisoners don’t fair so well. According to Topchubek Turgunaliev, the leader of the Erkindik opposition party,
“Conditions are extremely harsh, firstly, because of lack of food. What they get is [called] ’balanda,’ which is not only not nutritious, but also kills people. In some prisons, inmates have no food at all or get it once a week. The other problem is that prisons are overcrowded. So there is simply no air. I experienced that myself. In the cells of five-six people, we were 17-18 inmates.”
The “vor v zakone” rules at the behest of corrupt prison officials. The system seems to be a symbiotic one. The Kingpin controls the prison population from within, while the authorities get a piece of the prison drug trade. Though Kyrgyz officials have denied prison authorities involvement in narco-trafficking, (what are they going to do admit it and ruin their action!?), Turgunaliev adds,
“Prison facilities are a center of corruption. I know narcotics, including ‘gera’ [heroin] is brought there. I saw myself how they make 50-70 ‘lyap’ [portions] from a gram of gera. Each lyap cost [$1.5] in 2001. I don’t know the current prices. There are two kinds of narcotic trafficking [in prison],” he said. “The first is that of vory v zakone. The other one is controlled by the prison administration. Usually, one of the deputies of a prison head is in charge of the traffic. They get tens of millions [sums of profit] every month. I emphasize once again: tens of millions.”
—Like a modern day Peter the Great, Putin went to the Netherlands this week to discuss economic relations. He also gave an interview to Dutch TV. Some of Putin’s answers are worth highlighting.
QUESTION: In October, events took place in Nalchik that showed that terrorists are spreading their action beyond Chechnya and into the whole of the North Caucasus. Does this mean that Russia is losing the fight against the terrorists? How do you assess the effectiveness of your law enforcement agencies’ work in Nalchik?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is not the first time terrorists have made incursions into other parts of the Caucasus and other regions of the country. Russia was one of the first countries to be confronted with terrorism, and the reasons for this are clear. The Soviet Union fell apart, the state was in an extremely weakened position and the population had to face the collapse of the economy and the social protection system. Elements of this break up of the Soviet Union made their way onto Russian territory. This all made possible the terrible situation we have been facing for the last 15 years. But no terrorists can defeat the people that in their time vanquished Nazism, above all because the Russian people and the other peoples of Russia have an extremely strong feeling of self-preservation.
But several things are needed to be able to fight terrorism effectively. We need to strengthen the state and the legal system, achieve economic growth and create a middle class, strengthen the law enforcement agencies and develop more effective international cooperation.
Regarding how effectively the law enforcement agencies worked in Nalchik, preliminary reports say that the group of bandits that attacked Nalchik counted around 150 people, of which 93 were eliminated and 40 arrested. The terrorists managed to take three groups of people hostage at three different locations. Our law enforcement agencies’ special forces carried out three operations to free the hostages. All the hostages were freed, there were no lives lost among the special-forces officers and all the terrorists were eliminated.
As you can see, the terrorists have ever less opportunity to act effectively in Chechnya itself and so they are trying to expand their activities into other regions of the Caucasus, but they will not succeed in this objective for we will not let them.******
QUESTION: I wanted to ask a question about mass media freedom in Russia. The organisation Reporters without Frontiers put Russia in 138th place in its list of countries evaluated according to freedom of the press. The problems most commonly cited with regard to freedom of the press in Russia are the so-called ‘black hole’ when it comes to coverage of events in Chechnya, increased state control over the press and more. Could you comment on the conclusions of this organisation?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: It seems there is no getting away from the problems of Chechnya, the fight against terrorism and everything connected to the Caucasus. I will make my final comment on this point and then let us move on to another subject, the one you just raised, for example.
The tradition of appeasing any aggressors and extremists following the principle of ‘make agreement with anyone at any price, if only they will leave us alone’ has become firmly rooted in European political thought. This is a dangerous way of thinking that in practice leads to great tragedies. It is enough to remember Chamberlain and Daladier who signed the Munich Agreement with Hitler in 1938 and announced on their return home that they had brought with them ‘peace in our time’. But the Second World War broke out only a year later. In this respect, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was no better, but it was a necessary measure after the western countries accepted a deal with Nazi Germany.
I think this is a very dangerous trend and we have to realize that this kind of practice leads to problems in all of our countries. No sops to terrorists, not even giving them political asylum, can buy them off, and the recent tragic and serious events in a number of European countries are the clearest confirmation of this.
Now, regarding the media, we are aware, of course, of these evaluations and I think that we need to listen to such criticism. We have many problems, especially at regional level, and I am aware of this. I think that freedom of the press is one of the basic conditions for developing democracy in the country. Without freedom of the press we will not be able to root out corruption or build a free society. The most important task for us is to ensure the media’s economic independence so that it will serve the interests of all of society rather those of the economic groups or oligarchs.
Today in Russia there are 47,000 registered periodical media publications and around 3,000 radio and television companies. It would be impossible to control them all even if we wanted to, and we have no such desire anyway. That is not to mention the Internet, which is developing absolutely freely, without any control from outside at all, and has an ever-growing number of users.******
QUESTION: You spoke about your past, and now, perhaps, you could answer a question about your future. You said that in 2008 you will step down from the post of President. Do you already have any plans for the future? Will you remain active in political life or will you go into some other area of activity?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Every normal person has plans for the future. It is hard to imagine someone who has no plans at all. But it is not such a good omen to talk about the future. The future depends on how we live and what we do in the present. We build our future ourselves, through our present action.
QUESTION: You are very popular in the ratings in Russia at the moment and you are one of the stabilising factors for the situation in the country. Can you imagine a situation in which you would decide to remain in office for a third term?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You are suggesting that destabilization could take place in the country?
RESPONSE: Perhaps. It is a situation that cannot totally be ruled out.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I realize that 2008 will be an important test for Russia, and not an easy one.
At the same time, the Constitution of the Russian Federation states that the President, the head of state, is elected for four years through direct secret ballot and cannot stay in office for more than two consecutive terms.
I am not indifferent of course to the question of who will take in their hands the destiny of the country I have devoted my life to serving. But if each successive head of state were to change the Constitution to suit them, we would soon find ourselves without a state at all. I think that Russia’s different political forces are sufficiently mature to realize their responsibility to the people of the Russian Federation. In any case, the person who receives the votes of the majority of Russian citizens will become the President of the country.
At the same time, I would like to note that, according to the Constitution, the presidential powers are conferred on the new President after the inauguration takes place, and until this time, the incumbent head of state carries full responsibility for the situation in the country. In the name of the interests of the people of the Russian Federation, I will not allow any destabilization in the country.
—Russia’s new holiday, Unity Day, which supposedly marks the 1612 liberation of Moscow from Polish rule, showed few signs of unity. A 1000 nationalist youths from the Eurasian Youth League held a demonstration calling for the liberation of Russia from illegal immigrants, mostly those from the Republics to its south. Youths from the liberal group Oborona threw condoms filled with water at the nationalists in retaliation.
Catholics are claiming that the holiday is merely a celebration of Orthodoxy’s triumph over Catholicism. In 1612 the liberation of Moscow by armies led by Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin drove out the Polish pawn and pretender, False Dmitri. Some believe that this victory prevented the Catholicization of Russia.
The contention over Unity Day doesn’t stop there. Historians argue that the Kremlin got the date all wrong charging that November 4 is more about replacing the holiday commemorating the Bolshevik Revolution on November 7 rather than celebrating the liberation from the Poles or the end of the Time of Troubles. As Communist Deputy Sergei Reshulsky said, “This is just a fake holiday. Even the dates are wrong. The Kremlin came up with this holiday just to make people forget their communist past.” Of course, as the Moscow Times reports, the reasons for the holiday matter to many Russians as long as there is a holiday. When asked what she thought of the holiday, Lyudmila Knyazeva, a 49-year-old accountant said, “I don’t know what we are celebrating and, to be honest, I don’t care. What is important is that I don’t have to go to work. The weather is not cold yet, and I might go to the dacha.” Let the holiday spirit ring.Post Views: 1,843
By Sean — 13 years ago
Today’s NY Times once again raises the question of what to do with V. I. Lenin, whose body remains mummified in his mausoleum on Red Square. The debate reared its head after a senior Putin aid, Georgii Poltavchenko remarked, “Our contry has been shaken by strife, but only a few people were held accountable for that in out lifetime. I do not think it is fair that those who initiated the strife remain in the center of out state near the Kremlin.”
This question seems to come up every so often. Yelstin wanted to bury him in the 1990s as a way to symbolize the transition from the old regime to the new one. The effort failed. It was seen as too soon. Too many people attached their lives and their national pride to Lenin. Putin has refused to move forward on burying him, rightly observing, “Many people in this country associate their lives with the name of Lenin. To take Lenin out and bury him would say to them that they have worshiped false values, that their lives were lived in vain.” Given the pageantry and recreation the Putin Administration put on for the 60th Anniversary of the Great Patriotic War (WWII for Russians for all those who don’t know), complete with banners of Lenin, Stalin and other Soviet imagery, Lenin as a symbol still has a place in post-Soviet Russia.
The truth of Putin’s remarks and the complexity in how Russians construct a historical memory of the Soviet period is what makes me frustrated with articles such as this in the NY Times. There is a tendency in the Western media to place the meaning of a figure like in Lenin in a binary of Communists vs. “Reformers”. One need only look at who is quoted in this story: Gennady Ziuganov, the head of the Communist Party, and prominent film director, Nikita Mikhalkov (Burnt by the Sun, ?????????? ???????, and the Barber of Siberia, ????????? ?????????, among others). Both give a new name to rhetorical hyperbole. Ziuganov: “Raising this issue smells of provocation and illiteracy,” adding that the people who call for Lenin’s removal as those “who do not know the country’s history and stretch out their dirty hands and muddy ideas to the national necropolis.” Mikhalkov: “Vast funds are being squandered on a pagan show. If we advocate Christian ideals, we must fulfill the will of the deceased.”
I’m afraid, the issue is much more complicated than that. We would know this if more Russians were asked what they think of not only Lenin but the fact that his statue continues to be prominently displayed all over Moscow. The biggest towers across the street from metro Oktiabrskaia. The Soviet Union and its legacy remains a contentious issue for some. But for many it is viewed with an understandable ambivalence. It simultaneously figures as the best of times and the worst of times. There is nostalgia for many aspects the Soviet times, especially (and rather ironically because it is frequently associated with stagnation) for the Brezhnev period. I think what Lenin stands for is changing in Russia. For better or for worse, he is becoming more like Peter the Great: a firm and decisive, but necessary ruler who thrust Russia into modernity. But that is historical memory for you. A new historical narrative emerges at the moment of forgetting. Even the Lenins of the world can find their place in the genealogy of the present.
(photo: Associated Press)Post Views: 489