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August 2009

Vol 9, No.8

JAPAN: TWILIGHT IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN? By J. Y. Chiam It was the new year of 2009. As throngs filled temples across the country, praying for a peaceful, successful and prosperous new year, television news were filled with images of the newly unemployed and homeless. This flood of homeless was a direct result of the shedding of jobs by Japanese manufacturers hard hit by the economic fallout from the global financial crisis, and enabled by the liberalisation of labour laws during the past decade. Japan, an export-oriented economy, bore serious consequences from the collapse in global demand. For fiscal year 2008, which ended on March 31, 2009, Japan posted its worst post-World War II gross domestic product (GDP) figure, with the national economy shrinking an unprecedented 3.5 percent. The numbers from economic statistics and forecasts, as well as businesses‘ spreadsheets, are grim, although the Central Bank of Japan has – in May 2009 - recently released more optimistic forecasts for the coming year in anticipation of the bottoming out of the Japanese economy, and industrial production has even surged in recent months. Sustainable recovery, however, is still an uncertain prospect as unemployment continues to rise, and

deflationary pressures bear upon the Japanese economy.

In response to the economic downturn, the Japanese government has rolled out a stimulus budget of $149 billion (¥ 14.9 trillion) – projected to be worth a total of $570 billion (¥ 57 trillion) – and other measures to counter the declining fortunes of the Japanese economy. The effectiveness of the stimulus package, however, is highly suspect due to the poor structure and contents of the package, with some economic analysts prognosticating that any positive outcomes from the package would likely be short-lived. At recent G20 meetings,

Tokyo has also promised to strengthen international cooperation and to coordinate with other countries in any efforts to mitigate the crisis. One such measure includes Japan pledging more funds to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to strengthen and expand the institution‘s core work. All this additional spending will weigh heavily on the budget of the Japanese government, which, with a public debt reaching about 174 percent of its GDP in 2009, is the largest public debtor in the world. This will severely constrain what steps the Japanese government can take in any future crisis, whether political, economic or social. Gloomy economic conditions have contributed to the declining support for the governing coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japan and the new Komeito. A dearth of effective leadership in the ruling coalition has seen a change of the top LDP post three times since Junichiro Koizumi stepped down as prime minister in 2006. They are increasingly in a precarious position of power, with the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Turn to next page

STATEMENTS

ARTICLES

UIGHUR DISCONTENT .... It would be a

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mistake for the Chinese government to rely mainly upon massive arrests bans upon demonstrations and curbs on the media to contain Uighur discontent......................P.2

By Ignacio Ramonet ..................................... page 6

ARTICLES

ZIONISM: THE PROOF IS IN THE RUBBLE By Sanen Marshall ...................................... page 7

PIRATES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN By Yvonne Ridley....... .................................. page 8

THE MARWA MURDER AND ISLAMOPHOBIA

1MALAYSIA: THE WAY AHEAD

By Chandra Muzaffar.................................... page 3

By Chandra Muzaffar................................... page10

INDIA: THE PROMISE OF STABILITY

THE USE OF “ALLAH”

By Kanishk Tharoor...................................... page 4

By Omar Zaid Abdullah ............................ page 11


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continued from page 1 gaining support amongst the public, although DPJ experienced a dip in support as a result of a political funds scandal involving the top secretary of former DPJ president, Ichiro Ozawa, who stepped down in May 2009. The DPJ, which holds a majority in the Upper House, is hoping to wrestle power from the LDP in the coming Diet Lower House election due this fall. In acknowledgment of the challenges facing the nation, the DPJ president, Yukio Hatoyama, has proposed a vision of Japanese society based on the concept of yu-ai (fraternity). How this might translate into state policy if the DPJ ever holds the reins of government remains to be seen. Notwithstanding her image as an egalitarian society, the facts on the ground paint another more complex and disturbing reality. Years of adopting the Washington-led economic model had not only brought material prosperity to Japan, it brought in tandem with it, marginalising and divisive socio-economic conditions. Japan has one of the highest Gini coefficient (a measure of national wealth/ income distribution) among Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, topping 0.5263 in 2005 (the closer the Gini coefficient approaches one, the more unequal the wealth distribution). Additionally, according to an OECD report (data from the mid- 2000s), Japan‘s relative poverty is a high 15 percent, coming second only to the United States, with 17 percent. Among OECD countries, Japan consistently scores0poorly on all other measures in terms of poverty amongst its population. This is partly a reflection of the fact that non-regular workers account for about a third of the

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total Japanese workforce, with the majority of them earning less than 2 million yen annually. The problems are compounded by the fact that most young people in their 20s and 30s, if they are able to find any work at all, end up in jobs with little prospect for advancement, even while their contributions are needed to prop up Japan‘s social safety net and pension system. The increasing socio-economic stratification of Japanese society, popularly referred to as kakusa shakai (gap-widening society), has resulted in what has been termed kibo kakusa (gap of hope – a term coined by sociologist Masahiro Yamada) among, in particular, the youth in Japanese society. The ramifications are serious for the Japanese social fabric, as Japan is also a rapidly aging society and faces a declining population base. Already, Japan, long considered one of the safest places in the world, has seen crime grow. According to the latest statistics provided by the National Police Agency, robberies, in contrast with overall crime, jumped 12.4 percent in the first quarter of January-April 2009, mirroring an increase in unemployment, which recorded a rate of 4.1 percent in January, surging to 4.8 percent in March. The widening gap in inequality, and other socio-economic issues reveal that Japan has been facing a mounting crisis long before the global financial and economic meltdown. The global economic implosion has only deepened and widened the endemic problems in Japanese society, and made it that much harder to ignore. Yet, the nation‘s leadership has been unwilling to earnestly examine the underlying reasons

for the malaise in Japanese society, and to improve the situation with radical solutions, instead choosing to repeat the status-quo mantra of more economic growth and social spending to tackle the existing problems. Undoubtedly, increased social spending is urgently required to mitigate the effects of inequality and the global economic crisis on the most vulnerable part of society; however, the fundamental problems with the current economic model are never questioned, and even the concept of sustainable development has been disregarded in recent years. Moreover, pledging even more funds to the IMF, whose policies leave much to be desired, is a step in the wrong direction. Politicians and corporations alike should take a leaf from the book of the traditional Japanese merchant values of sampouyoshi (trinity of goodness) – a motto from the Ohmi merchant class in what is now Shiga Prefecture – which emphasized the satisfaction of and positive impact on all the parties involved in any transaction, which include the seller, buyer and general public. An expanded version of the concept to include the environment and future generations would definitely offer a more holistic approach to securing socio-economic security for the Japanese than the ‘winner-takes-all‘ paradigm which has dominated for so long, and which is being revealed daily as the bane that it is on humanity and the rest of the planet.

18 July 2009 Ms J.Y. Chiam, a Malaysian who lives in Japan, is a keen observer of global economic trends and international relations. She interned with JUST in 2005.

STATEMENTS UIGHUR DISCONTENT It would be a mistake for the Chinese government to rely mainly upon massive arrests, bans upon demonstrations and curbs on the media to contain Uighur discontent in the Xinjiang province of Western China. The Chinese government should address the root causes of the discontent. Poverty, widespread unemployment, low

paying jobs and alleged discrimination in the work-place, have created a deep sense of alienation within the Uighur population. There is also considerable unhappiness about the Han influx into Xinjiang which has altered the province’s demography. Today, about 50 percent of the province’s population is Han; five decades ago it was less than 5 percent. The Uighurs who are 10 million strong

and make up the other 50 percent, feel overwhelmed in their own homeland especially since most of the powerful and influential positions are held by the Han. It is the Hans, the Uighurs allege, who enjoy the lion’s share of rapid economic growth in a province that is well endowed with oil and gas reserves. Add to all this, allegations of severe curbs upon Uighur continued next page


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continued from page 2 culture and language, and one can understand why Uighurs have from time to time revolted against Beijing. This is why improving the economic wellbeing of the Uighurs is a major challenge facing the Chinese government. Special efforts should be made to channel development assistance to the Uighurs. The civil and social rights of the Uighurs and their distinctive cultural identity should also be accorded the respect they deserve. Most of all, empowering the Uighur minority should be part of a larger transformation that leads to the devolution of authority from the Centre to the provinces and the strengthening

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of individual human rights and collective ethnic autonomies within the larger framework of the Chinese nation. This is a process that will take time but one hopes that the Chinese authorities will begin to move in that direction.

both domestically and internationally. The Uighurs should also guard against the infiltration of extremist interpretations of Islam which have begun to take root among a small fraction of their youths.

The Uighurs for their part should continue their quest for justice in a peaceful manner, without resorting to acts of violence. The violent reaction of a small segment of the community to the killing of a couple of Uighur workers by Han Chinese in a toy factory in Guangdong province on 26 June 2009 has been exploited by the Chinese media to tarnish the image of the Uighur people

If Uighurs remain on the middle path, it is quite conceivable that more of the Han Chinese intelligentsia will begin to understand and support their struggle for justice. Dr Chandra Muzaffar, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST). 17 July 2009.

ARTICLES THE MARWA MURDER

AND ISLAMOPHOBIA By Chandra Muzaffar

While the German authorities have shown a certain degree of sensitivity in their handling of the issues arising from the murder of a 32 year old Egyptian woman, Marwa al-Sherbini, in a German court room on the 1st of July 2009, the tragic incident has highlighted once again some fundamental questions in the troubled relationship between European society and its growing Muslim minority. The murder was perpetrated by a 28 yearold recently arrived Russian immigrant of German descent referred to in public records as “Axel W” who was in court in Dresden to appeal against an earlier conviction for insulting Marwa in a public park where she was playing with her three year old son by calling her an “Islamist”, a “terrorist” and a “slut” without any provocation whatsoever. “Axel W” was a passer-by, not known to Marwa who was wearing a hijab in the 21 August 2008 incident. For insulting Marwa, the culprit was fined 780 euros by a lower court last year. In his earlier trial, “Axel W” had admitted that he hated Muslims. It was this hatred and the court fine that drove him to stab Marwa in the presence of her son and husband a couple of weeks ago. It would be wrong to dismiss Marwa’s murder as the work of a ‘lone wolf’. It is not the first hate crime of its kind to target Muslims in Germany and Europe. UN reports over the last decade or so have

revealed numerous cases of Muslims being subjected to humiliation, vilification, discrimination in schools and work places, physical abuse and even murder. Islamophobia is alive and well in Europe. Of course, there are laws in almost every European country against racially motivated hate crimes and ethnic and religious discrimination. That Marwa was able to bring a case against “Axel W” and that the judiciary defended her right is testimony to the effectiveness of the system. But racial hatred and religious bigotry cannot be overcome through laws

alone. There has to be a holistic transformation of popular attitudes and popular sentiments through mass education. In this regard, two institutions which could have played a constructive role in

educating Germans and other Europeans about the underlying issues in the Marwa tragedy have failed to do their duty. The German and European media as a whole have been rather muted in their response to the tragedy. According to analysts, there have been few attempts to discuss in depth the Marwa murder in the context of Islamophobia and majority-minority relations in the mainstream media. The only major international news media outlet that reported the incident was the Associated Press (AP) — and that too, three days after the murder! And yet from a news angle, it was not just the incident — a murder in court — that was “newsworthy”. Marwa was four months pregnant and her husband who came to her aid was not only stabbed by — “Axel W” but was also shot in the leg by a court security guard who thought that he was the attacker. That perception itself, it is alleged, is a reflection of the prevailing bigotry. As the dead woman’s brother put it, “The guard thought since he (the husband) was not blond, he must be the attacker, so he shot him.” The husband, who is on a research fellowship at the Max-Planck Institute in Dresden, is now in a critical condition in a German hospital. The European media’s treatment of the Marwa tragedy contrasts sharply with the way it dramatized the murder of the continued next page


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continued from page 3 Dutch film director, Theo van Gogh, by a Muslim fanatic in 2004. Muslim groups in Egypt and elsewhere have made this comparison to emphasise the biasness of the European media and its double standards. They argue that the injustice of Marwa’s death runs deeper for she had not done anything which could be construed as an act of provocation while in the case of van Gogh, he had deliberately and contemptuously denigrated Muslim culture — though it in no way justifies his heinous murder. Muslim activists and intellectuals are also comparing Marwa’s case with the constant airing of the death of a young Iranian woman by the name of “Neda” during the recent demonstrations in Tehran over all major news networks in Europe. While most of them condemn the

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shooting of a peaceful protester, they are asking why the brutal stabbing of a pregnant woman, who was the victim of a religious slur, has received so little publicity in a media that claims to protect human rights. It is not just another example of the selective attitude towards human rights and justice that the European media has always been guilty of; it is incontrovertible proof of how the media often serves the larger political agenda of the powers-that-be. The other group that has also failed to uphold the tenets of justice and truth in the Marwa tragedy are human rights NGOs in Europe. Quick to expose any human rights violation committed by governments in the Global South, the vast majority of them have been conspicuously silent on the Marwa tragedy. The murderer had crushed the most fundamental of all rights — the right

INDIA: THE PROMISE

OF By Kanishk Tharoor

Five years ago, Indian voters comprehensively shredded the predictions of their country’s chattering class, toppling the then ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and sweeping to power the centrist Congress party. Analysts, pollsters, and journalists at the time all expected a BJP triumph, believing too readily the hype surrounding the BJP’s promise of an “India Shining”. The country’s electorate - the largest in the world - proved them woefully wrong. Once again, the Indian voter has upstaged the Indian commentator. While many predicted that the ruling Congressled coalition would shade this year’s national elections, none foresaw the emphatic victory that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claimed this weekend. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) comprising the Congress and its remaining regional allies - won 263 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament), a measly nine seats short of the required majority. Congress leaders need only cherry pick small, convenient parties to make up the deficit. The Hindu nationalist BJP and its allies, under the umbrella of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), return to the opposition after only mustering 158 seats, trailing by a yawning chasm of

A R T I C L E S to life — in such a callous manner and yet there has been very little condemnation. Unless there is a significant transformation in the attitudes of the media and human rights NGOs in Europe, deep-seated prejudices against Europe’s largest religious minority will continue to erupt from time to time. These incidents will make it more difficult to improve relations between Europe and the Muslim world. However, it is commendable that on this occasion Muslim groups have been largely peaceful in their protests against the Marwa murder. Rational arguments are much more effective in revealing the ugly truth about Islamophobia in Europe. 13 July 2009

STABILITY

over one hundred MPs. They now look on morosely as Congress builds a coalition government likely to be the

strongest and most stable in over two decades of fractious politics. A false dusk for Congress If one believed the ubiquitous media narrative ahead of this election, such an outcome would have been unimaginable. We were told that Congress - the 124-year old party that won independence from Britain in 1947, but held dynastic sway over India for over four decades thereafter - was in irreversible decline. We were told that regional and identity-based parties would continue to siphon away disillusioned voters, further splintering India’s vast political landscape. We were

told that India was doomed to governments with increasingly weak mandates, governments dependent on anarchic, unreliable coalition allies to maintain their fitful hold on power. The results disclosed on Saturday suggest otherwise. Nearly one out of three voters (28.5 percent) chose the Congress party, a substantial sum given that Indians had to find their way through a blizzard of 1,055 contesting parties. Its own tally of 206 seats is Congress’ highest since 1991, when it won 244. While Indian electoral politics can be intensely local and parochial (voters often cast their ballots with their religious, caste, ethnic or linguistic identities in mind), Congress’ success is being understood as a vote of approval for its last five years of leadership. The UPA government allowed the lightning pace of economic growth in India to tick along, while ensuring the country remained in large part sheltered from the buffeting winds of global recession. In the face of criticism from free-marketeers and governance sceptics, it invested in the gargantuan National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, a project of unprecedented size that begins to make up for India’s egregious lack of a social welfare net. And it demonstrated coolness in the wake the 26/11 attacks in continued next page


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continued from page 4 Mumbai, resisting hot-headed calls for military pressure and action against Pakistan. If the elections of 2004 were a rejection of the hyperbole of the BJP, this year’s polls seem to have rewarded the UPA’s restrained, sober rule with an indisputable mandate. Some Congress leaders have spoken of the victory as ushering in a moment of “renewal”, but in truth it is one of triumphant reinforcement. In New Delhi today, elected Congress MPs joyously backed Manmohan Singh’s return as prime minister for a second term. They know that there will be much more scope in the next five years for their initiative, their strategy and their agenda. Would-be friends It is a chastening prospect not lost on Congress’ fickle, erstwhile allies. Parties that jettisoned the UPA in the run-up to the election now plaintively seek re-entry into the ruling coalition. In the north central state of Uttar Pradesh (India’s most populous state), the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have pledged their unconditional outside support (at the least) to the UPA. Both parties were stunned by the success of the Congress after it won 21 seats in Uttar Pradesh, a feat attributed in large part to the party’s intensive grassroots campaigning under the state leadership of Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the NehruGandhi dynasty. The fortunes of the BSP, in particular, also grate against the pre-election narrative. Many analysts speculated about the possibility of Mayawati, the iconic BSP leader and chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, becoming prime minister. She and her party represented the supposed ascendance of alternative, centrifugal trends in Indian politics, galvanising the support of marginalised groups and capitalising on the failings of the big parties. The BSP’s disappointing results around the country have now left its leadership in the midst of gloomy soulsearching, with Mayawati pledging to return to the purely caste-based agenda that had won her success in the past. In neighbouring Bihar, the dismal showing of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) - the latter of which was effectively wiped off the map - prompted further promises of

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support for the newly victorious UPA. Both parties’ leaders had held prominent ministerial posts in the last UPA government, before ditching the Congress ahead of the polls in what turned out to be a disastrous decision. Now, local Congress workers insist that any serious reconciliation with the RJD and its colourful and controversial leader Lalu Prasad Yadav would only derail hopes for a Congress “revival” in Bihar. Far from relying on their regional allies, the Congress may be better off without some of them. The bereaved Congress leaders may take particular pleasure in the stunning decimation of the Left. Last summer, India’s Communist parties withdrew their outside support for the UPA and threatened to topple the government altogether over the Indo-US nuclear deal. The Left will be unable to launch such a bold bid in the next five years after being crushed in their strongholds in the eastern state of West Bengal and the southwestern state of Kerala. Their representation in parliament plummets from 59 seats to a dejected 24. Events in West Bengal, where Communists have been in power since 1977, were particularly striking. The Trinamool Congress (TC), the main opposition in the state, increased its block in the Lok Sabha from a solitary seat to 19, while the state’s ruling Communist party dipped from 35 seats to 15. Disillusionment with the Communists’ heavy-handed management of the divisive development projects at Singur and Nandigram most likely contributed to the party’s downfall. Key leaders are set to resign as the Left cuts its losses. Also licking its wounds is the BJP. The Hindu nationalist party remains the second largest party in parliament and the core of the opposition to the new government, but morale within the party has plunged. Its shrill, often ad hominem attacks on the Congress failed to rouse voters. Its petty politics over the IndoUS nuclear deal - a policy that it would have certainly pursued if in power undermined its credibility. And its continued ties to atavistic extremist groups (like the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra) alienate India’s many nonHindus and young people tired of religious politics. For the sake of Indian democracy and for its own good, the BJP

A R T I C L E S must discard these unsavoury allies and reinvent itself as a truly centre-right party, shorn of its fanatic fringe. Strength at the centre As the implications of the election results sink in across India’s vast and diverse political landscape, optimism amongst Indians has surged. The country’s stock markets saw frenetic activity yesterday and today, some indexes reaching astonishing highs. With Congress in such a strong position, Indians look forward to a stable government that will finally be able to shape coherent, determined domestic policy in the many areas that require its attention. Congress’ emphatic victory will also come as welcome news to western powers. Europe and the United States want India to play an increasing role as a responsible stakeholder in the international system. A Congress-led government, unburdened of the antiimperialist ideology of its former Communist allies, will be better able to navigate the global stage. The alarming growth of insurgency, terrorism and instability in neighbouring countries in south Asia also demands clear-thinking and decisive strategy from New Delhi. A weak government, constantly looking over its shoulder, would not be up to the task. Amidst all the hope, one must sound a cautionary note. India has had its fair share of strong Congress governments in the past, not many of which could be deemed successful, even in the most generous terms. The regionalisation and fragmentation that has characterised the last twenty years of Indian politics arose from the systemic failings allowed by grey ladies like the Congress party. Congress leaders should not only use the stability of the government to advance policy objectives, but to build a more inclusive politics, to deepen Indian democracy from the bottom-up. This would be the best way to honour the privilege of the mandate of a billion people. 19 May 2009 Kanishk Tharoor is associate editor at openDemocracy. He is a publisher and awardwinning author of short fiction. Source: http://www.opendemocracy.net/ india/article/inda-elections-results-congressUPA-stability


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THE NEW SOUTH AMERICA By Ignacio Ramonet The recent victory in El Salvador of Mauricio Funes, candidate or the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN), has a threefold meaning. For the first time, the Left manages to wrest power from the hardline Right, which had always dominated this unequal country (0.3 percent of Salvadorans hoard 44 percent of the wealth). More than one-third of all Salvadorans live under the threshold of poverty and another third is forced to migrate to the United States. Funes’ success at the polls also demonstrates that the FMLN was right when, in 1992 and in the context of the end of the Cold War, it abandoned the guerrilla option after a 12-year conflict that took 75,000 lives, and adopted the road of political combat and the ballot box. At this point, in this region, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place. That is the subliminal message sent — particularly to the Colombian FARC — by this FMLN victory. Finally, Funes’ victory confirms that the winds that are favorable to the Lefts continue to blow strongly in South America [1]. Since Hugo Chávez’s historical victory in Venezuela 10 years ago, which cleared the road, and despite the media campaigns of fear-mongering, more than a dozen progressive presidents have been elected by popular vote on platforms that announce social transformation of great breadth, a fairer redistribution of wealth, and the political integration of social sectors that were previously alienated or excluded. While in the rest of the world (very particularly in Europe) the Lefts, distant from the popular classes and committed to the neoliberal model that has caused the current crisis, appear exhausted and bereft of ideas, in South America, stimulated by the powerful energy of the social movement, the new socialists of the 21st Century overflow with political and social creativity. We are witnessing a renaissance, a true refounding of that continent and the final act of its emancipation, initiated two centuries ago by Simon Bolívar and the other Liberators. Although many Europeans (even leftist Europeans) may not know it — because

of the colossal wall of lies erected by the big media conglomerates to conceal the truth — South America has become the most progressive region in the planet. It is the place where more changes are being made in favor of the popular classes and where more structural reforms are being adopted to emerge from dependence and underdevelopment. Beginning with the experience of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, and with the encouragement of presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador, an awakening of the indigenous people has taken place. Significantly, these three states have resorted to referendums to write new Constitutions. Shaken to its foundations by winds of hope and justice, South America also has given a new direction to the great dream of integration of the peoples, not only of the markets. In addition to the Mercosur, which shelters the 260 million inhabitants of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, the most innovative institution in its promotion of integration is the Bolivarian Alternative for the People of Our America (ALBA). Its members [2] have achieved a stability that allows them to devote themselves to the struggle against poverty, misery, alienation, and illiteracy, to guarantee their citizens an education, health care, housing and decent jobs. Thanks to the Petrosur project, those nations also have achieved a greater energy cohesion, as well as a significant increase in their agricultural production that will enable them to achieve food sovereignty. Thanks to the creation of the Bank of the South and a Common Monetary Zone, they are also moving toward the creation of a common currency that could be named the sucre [3] On March 9, several South American governments [4] took a step that seemed inconceivable: they decided to form the Council for South American Defense (CDS), an organization of military cooperation created through the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), an organization founded in Brasília in May 2008.

Thanks to these recent instruments of cooperation, the new South America will attend — more united than ever — its big date with the United States at the Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain (Trinidad & Tobago), April 17-19. There, the South American leaders will engage in debate with the new President of the United States, Barack Obama, who will state his vision of U.S. relations with its neighbors to the South. In his recent visit to Washington, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva asked Obama to totally lift the United States’ economic embargo against Cuba, arguing that it is opposed by all the countries in the region [5]. On March 11, Washington announced that CubanAmericans may visit whoever they want on the island once a year and remain in Cuba as long as they wish. Although during his presidential campaign, Obama promised to maintain the embargo, it seems that an era of rapprochement between Havana and Washington is approaching. It was time. Still to happen is a normalization of relations with Venezuela and Bolivia. More broadly, Washington must admit that the concept of a “back yard” is over, that the people of South America have begun their march. And that this time they won’t stop. 9 April 2009 Ignacio Ramonet was editor of Le Monde Diplomatique. Source: Le Monde Diplomatique [1] The concept of South America, which Venezuelan Bolivarianism supports, surpasses that of “Latin America” because it acknowledges the participation of indigenous nations and people of African descent, and encompasses countries and territories whose “Latin Americanness” is questionable. In other words, the traditional concept of “Latin America” is unable to define the South American space as a package of realities, from the Rio Grande and the Caribbean to Tierra del Fuego. [2] Bolivia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela (Ecuador is an observer nation.) [3] Single System for Regional Compensation. [4] Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela. [5] Costa Rica and El Salvador, the only two countries in the region that had no diplomatic relations with Havana, announced in March their decision to reestablish them.


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ZIONISM: THE PROOF IS IN THE RUBBLE By Sanen Marshall Now that Israel has gone through the formalities, it can proceed to do in Arab East Jerusalem what it has been doing for decades with impunity in other parts of the Occupied Territories. Last month, an alternative zoning plan submitted by the residents of the Al-Bustan neighbourhood of the Palestinian village of Silwan was rejected by the Jerusalem municipality. This procedural appeal by the Palestinians was allowed in 2005 after the international outcry that followed a decision by the Jerusalem municipality to demolish more than 80 homes in AlBustan, Silwan. The decision to demolish on such a large scale – which will affect 1,500 of the 45,000 Silwan residents – has been effected through the municipal zoning of Al-Bustan for ‘public recreational use.’ At the same time, it appears that many of the structures that have been built by Silwan residents on their own land are without municipal approval. But Palestinian residents complain that they usually cannot get permits to build from the Jerusalem municipality. Thus, apart from the alternative zoning plan which costs the neighbourhood of Al-Bustan $80,000 to produce, many Silwan residents regularly pay municipal fines for illegally built structures in addition to their municipal tax. Apart from the political pressure there is thus financial pressure on the residents of Silwan to keep their homes. It is perhaps because of this that some Silwan residents have already sold their homes to Jewish settlers, while other homes – considered as abandoned - have been simply seized by settlers. There are now about eighty Jewish settlers in the village, and a number of Israeli flags flutter over Silwan in the winds of change. Staking a claim for modern Israel to a piece of land that has been in Arab hands for several generations is not an issue for the settlers. After all, is not Silwan located on an archaeological site that dates back some 3,000 years to the ancient kingdom of Israel? One or two Israeli archaeologists have even claimed to have found a structure used by King David. The Silwan area is now called the ‘City of David.’ Sight-seeing tour operators run a brisk business. These tours sometimes feature commentaries containing

messages synonymous with the idea of the return from exile, which strikes a chord with a segment of the religious Jewish community. Zionism is bad news for Palestinians. At the centre of the ‘City of David’ is an archaeological park. It is built on land confiscated from Palestinians on which their homes once stood. The expansion of archaeological excavations and the park itself seem imminent. Some years ago, Jewish settlers began establishing themselves in Silwan around such sites and there are fears that archaeology itself is being used to serve political ends. Tunnelling is now being carried out under Palestinian homes in Silwan and several homes and a local mosque have been damaged. The residents fear that their buildings’ foundations are being destroyed. The fact that the nongovernmental organisation running the excavations - known as the Elad foundation – is alleged to have links to the settler movement has added to the controversy. In fact, some reports claim that it is a settler organisation! It is reported that last year during one of the Elad-sponsored archaeological digs some 100 meters from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, dozens of skeletons thought to be from an early Islamic-era period were discovered but were discarded without inspection. Hence the public outcry. Some archaeologists have called it ‘bad science.’ Others have demanded clear proofs of the archaeological discoveries ascribed to King David. There appears to have been a serious breach of professional ethics. This is now the subject of a petition by a number of

internationally renowned historians and archaeologists. Citing hardships suffered by the Palestinians of Silwan, they are calling on the Israeli authorities to remove Elad from the ‘City of David.’ The campaign to save Silwan is also being waged on one other front. Last month when a leading credit card provider in Israel mass-mailed a gift coupon to its customers promising significant discounts when using the credit card to buy a tour of the ‘City of David,’ Jewish activists of the Israel-based Peace Now counter-acted by asking people to write the credit card company’s managers to inform them how ‘Elad settlers…are, for more than a decade, making life for Palestinians in Silwan into hell.’ Alternative tours are now being conducted to inform visitors to the ‘City of David’ of the plight of the Silwan residents. At the same time the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace, which has for sometime now been calling on people to write in protest to the company that sells bulldozers to Israel, has updated its campaign to highlight this latest threat to the houses in Silwan. In a nutshell, citizens’ groups are now suggesting that we reconsider the perceived neutrality of private capital and how through our everyday actions or inaction we are complicit in the sufferings of others. Over the decades the refusal of the Palestinians of accept the Occupation has become so evident that the idea of a Palestinian state is now widely acknowledged. Conversely, the idea of settlements in the Occupied Territories or even the idea of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel is now increasingly controversial. Thanks to the wanton actions of Jewish settlers and the agencies that actively support them, even the ideology and thinking that fuels and legitimises the demolishment of Palestinian houses and the seizure of Palestinian land may once again come into focus. In the early 1990s, as a reward for its participation in the Madrid peace conference [which eventually led to the Israeli-Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) peace accord], Israel received what it asked for: the rescinding of the 1975 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, equating Zionism with racism. After a decade of continued next page


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continued from page 7 broken promises and provocative actions, that idea has been revived. At the 2001 UN conference on racism held in Durban, US and Israel delegates walked out after a fiery NGO declaration called for among other things the ‘reinstitution of UN resolution 3379 determining the practices of Zionism as racism practices.’ Though the idea never made it into the final conference document, the Durban declaration was still ‘concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation.’ Even this was too much for the US and Israel. The US and Israel did not attend the recently held UN-sponsored review conference on racism in Geneva One line of defence used by Israeli representatives and spokespersons at international forums down the years is that Israel is being unfairly singled out when in fact there are other conflicts in other parts of the world that cost more lives. Why this argument is fallacious and

NOT content with committing war crimes and human rights atrocities in full view of the world, Israel has now confirmed itself as a rogue state by launching into international piracy. Dawn had not yet broken over the Mediterranean waters in which the SS Dignity was sailing when an Israeli naval gunboat appeared from the inky black and rammed the aid-bearing ship. The act of aggression on a peace mission was launched in international waters 90 miles off Gaza, without any warning to the captain of the Dignity or the crew. Israel claimed the incident was an accident and that its naval officers had made numerous attempts to communicate with the Dignity. It was an accident that was to repeat itself three times. Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told one press agency that the naval vessel tried to contact the aid boat by radio for identification and to inform it that it could not enter Gaza.

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why the Israel-Palestine conflict has critical implications for international justice and human rights do not need to be repeated here. However, the states of the UN-system who criticise Israel and declare their support for the Palestinians in their sufferings, should themselves be shinning examples of anti-racism. They should first and foremost have ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. And they should not be considered to be in breach of the object and purposes of other major international human rights agreements through their explicit reservations against the articles that have implications for combatting racism. They should above all make widely accessible – as usually demanded by international human rights agreements – their five-yearly reports on the efforts undertaken in their own societies to uphold human rights, including those efforts to educate people against supremacist thinking and legislate against racial discrimination.

PIRATES Sorry to be so direct, but Palmor is a purveyor of deceit, a liar - and a very unconvincing one at that.

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A R T I C L E S This year’s Geneva declaration does not specifically mention Israel or the Palestinians but ‘all those under foreign occupation.’ It does, however, explicitly reaffirm the Durban declaration. Small victory perhaps. But for those diplomats, journalists and academics who are inclined to miss out the word ‘occupation’ when speaking of Palestine, its adoption by a major conference on racism is doubly significant. For those who bear first-hand witness to the condition of the Palestinians, however, even this word does not capture the gravity of the situation. Rachel Corrie, the American student-activist who was killed in 2003 when she placed herself between an Israeli military bulldozer and a Palestinian home, had another word for it. Genocide. 15 July 2009 Sanen Marshall is a member of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).

OF THE MEDITERRANEAN By Yvonne Ridley

“After the boat did not answer the radio, it sharply veered and the two vessels collided, causing only light damage,” Palmor said. I wonder how many traffic cops around the world have heard that line from a drunken or reckless driver in the wake of a crash. The Israeli spokesman then went on to accuse the international activists of “seeking provocation more than ever.” Isn’t it amazing how Yigal and Co suddenly go belly up and adopt a victim men tality? I wonder how he will react to the news that onboard the ship, among the cargo of much-needed medical supplies and humanitarian aid were TV crew s from CNN and Al Jazeera as well as other media. For goodness sake, the Dignity was on a peace mission, armed with nothing more than humanitarian aid - hardly a match for the tooled up, hi-tech Israeli Navy and its deadly arsenal. Sorry to be so direct, but Palmor is a purveyor of deceit, a liar - and a very unconvincing one at that. You see all seafaring people know that there is a certain

radio channel and frequency which remains open 24 hours a day. I know myself, because the Israeli Navy used that exact same frequency on one of the two Free Gaza boats as they set sail back in August 2008 to break the siege of Gaza by sea. That emergency frequency carried messages of threats and intimidation as clear as a bell. Radio communications were used without any difficulty on the Israeli Navy several times by human rights activists from the Free Gaza Movement warning the gunboats to back off when they fired at Gazan fishermen. The westerners were on the tiny fishing ships to stop the naval bully boys terrorise the unarmed fishermen. And by the way, what the hell is Israel up to by banning or trying to prevent boats from entering waters not in its territory? This is the Mediterranean. Just when did Israel assume complete authority of the Med? It is also worth pointing out that SS Dignity was clearly flying the flag of continued next page


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continued from page 8 Gibraltar, and was piloted by an English captain with a passenger list including revered politician Cynthia McKinney from the US. The Israeli Government Press Office director was faxed the entire passenger list and press release shortly after Dignity set sail. Cynthia is a former Congresswoman from Georgia, and the 2008 Green Party US presidential candidate. She was travelling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict. I know her and I can tell you she is one sassy lady. If the Israel Navy thinks this little incident is going to sink without trace then they truly are in for one rude awakening. After reaching port safely in Lebanon, where thousands greeted the SS Dignity, Cynthia said: “Israeli patrol boats...tracked us for about 30 minutes...and then all of a sudden they rammed us approximately three times, twice in the front and once in the side...the Israelis indicated that [they felt] we were involved in terrorist activities.” She was joined by another woman of substance, Dr. Elena Theoharous, MP who is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She was going to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals. Also on board is another good friend of mine, Caoimhe Butterly, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement. She said: “The gunboats gave us no warning. They came up out of the darkness firing flares and flashing huge floodlights into our faces. We were so shocked that at first we didn’t react. We knew we were well within international waters and supposedly safe from attack. They rammed us three times, hitting the side of the boat hard. We began taking on water and, for a few minutes, we all feared for our lives. After they rammed us, they started screaming at us as we were frantically getting the lifeboats ready and putting on our life jackets. They kept yelling that if we didn’t turn back they would shoot us.” Furthermore, the attack was filmed by the journalists, and crew and passengers and no doubt we will see the full extent of that footage and the damage caused by Israel.

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Of course Israel is always using the “Oo-er, sorry it was an accident” routine. That’s the excuse the Zionist State used when it hit the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 with a flurry of bombs, murdering 34 American servicemen in cold blood. In the 40 year s since, those with the blood of those shipmates on their hands have gotten away with murder. But try as they might to rewrite what happened onboard the Dignity and the Liberty, there are some memories which will not die. And what Israel has done to Gaza in the last few days will become an epitaph for the Zionist State. Israel’s deplorable attack on the unarmed Dignity is a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states, “the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes.” Delivering doctors and urgently needed medical supplies to civilians is just such a “peaceful purpose.” Deliberately ramming a mercy ship and endangering its passengers is an act of terrorism and piracy. As I write this a funeral is being planned for five Palestinian sisters who were slaughtered in their sleep when an airstrike hit the next-door mosque in Gaza. One of the walls collapsed on to their small asbestos-roofed home and they were all killed in their beds in the densley populated Jabalya refugee camp. The eldest sister, Tahrir Balousha was 17 years old, the youngest, Jawaher, just four. Some hours earlier Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told al Jazeera: “”Hamas seeks to kill children; it fires at kindergartens, schools, civilians – because this corresponds with its extremist ideology. Our values are completely different,” she said. Her outrageous claim went unchallenged, like so many statements coming out of Tel Aviv do these days. In a way, Ms Livni is right - Israel’s values are different. Hamas has killed no one’s children but the Israeli cabinet members who have spent the last the fact that leaders in the international community seem unwilling or unable to

halt the Zionist War Machine, there are international lawyers who think otherwise. And that is why one by one, those responsible will one day be charged with war crimes ... the evidence is stacking up Nuremberg would be quite a fitting arena to try the guilty but London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam or Madrid will do. The Israelis might not acknowledge their guilt publicly, but Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi has cancelled a study sabbatical in London for fear of being indicted for “war crimes” and former IDF Southern Commander Doron Almog clung on to his passenger seat when someone from the israe li Embassy advised him not to put one foot on the ground at London’s Heathrow Airport after a suit had been filed against him for “war crimes” during his stint as head of the IDF Gaza division from 1993-95 and head of the IDF Southern Command starting in 2000. IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon and former Shin Bent director Avi Dichter are two others who are advised not to leave outside Israel. I understand fresh writs are being prepared for the next generation of Israeli war criminals and that includes all those involved in the Gaza massacres ... which could be anyone from a lowly reservist who has just been called up right through to the top ranks and beyond. Like the Nazi and war crime hunters of the past, we must never forgive, never forget and never submit to the demands of morally bankrupt states and politicians. 1 July 2009 Yvonne Ridley and film-maker Aki Nawaz sailed to Gaza with the FGM on the first mission to break the siege. http:// yvonneridley.org/yvonne-ridley/articles/ pirates-of-the-mediterranean.html Source: Information Clearing House July 2009


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1MALAYSIA: THE WAY AHEAD By Chandra Muzaffar In his royal address in conjunction with the King’s birthday on the 6th of June 2009, His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, called upon all Malaysians to make the “1Malaysia” concept central to their lives. On the same occasion, the proponent of the concept, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak, made it explicitly clear that in its quest for national unity, 1Malaysia will be guided by the Malaysian Constitution. This clarification is important since it defines what the 1Malaysia quest is and what it is not. 1Malaysia acknowledges that there are certain underlying socio-political ideas in the Constitution which will shape its journey towards a nation that is truly united in diversity. One of them is the idea that the multi-ethnic Malaysia of today with its principle of common citizenship has evolved from Malay Sultanates and other indigenous entities, suggesting that our Constitution integrates the past with the present. Related to this evolution is the attempt to balance the rights and interests of the various communities. Thus, while Malay is the sole official and national language, the use and study of other languages is also protected in the Constitution; while Islam is the religion of the Federation, the freedom to practise other religions is also safeguarded; while the special position of the Malays and other indigenous peoples is enshrined in the Constitution, it also guarantees the legitimate interests of the other communities. This equilibrium is a vital dimension in the nation’s philosophy of, and approach to, national unity. It is reinforced by a third idea. The Constitution recognises the importance of principles, processes and institutions that transcend ethnic interests in holding the nation together. Civil liberties, common electoral rolls and multi-ethnic legislatures would be some examples. 1Malaysia’s lineage is not confined to the Malaysian Constitution. The

Rukunegara with its commitment to national unity, among other goals, and the New Economic Policy (NEP) that had pledged to eradicate poverty irrespective of ethnicity and restructure society in order to reduce the identification of ethnicity with economic function are part of its heritage. So is Wawasan 2020 which enunciates “a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny” as the first of its nine central strategic challenges. 1Malaysia, it is apparent, is the latest in a whole series of ideas and visions

which seek to promote unity among our diverse communities. It is significant that they have emerged at regular intervals in our history— the Rukunegara and NEP 13 years after the 1957 Constitution; Wawasan 2020 21 years after the Rukunegara and the NEP; and now 1Malaysia 18 years after Wawasan 2020. They represent renewal and rededication to an ideal which continues to elude the nation. One of the reasons why we are nowhere near our goal of a united nation is because there has been no attempt to inculcate in our people a profound understanding and appreciation of the Constitution or the Rukunegara or Wawasan 2020. That is why 51 years after Merdeka, a huge segment of the non-Malay population refuses to acknowledge the Malay root of the nation’s identity even though it is so much a part of our political and cultural landscape. Likewise, a sizeable

section of the Malay population is reluctant to recognise the legitimacy of the non-Malay yearning for equality inherent in their status as long domiciled citizens of the land. Of course, developing a deeper understanding of the nation’s documents of destiny among its citizens is not a panacea. There should be constant efforts to bridge the gulf between Constitutional principles and the goals of the Rukunegara, on the one hand, and the realities that confront the lives of our people, on the other, especially in relation to national unity. More than that, the government and other actors should address the causes behind this failure to live up to national goals and principles with courage and integrity. Malaysians hope that 1Malaysia will be different; that there will be greater drive and determination to unite our people at a more concrete and substantive level. Given the current situation, there are perhaps at least five gaps that 1Malaysia could focus upon. One, there is the territorial gap which separates the communities and cultures of Sabah and Sarawak from the people of Peninsular Malaysia. Integrating their cultures into the mainstream is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for national unity. Sabahans and Sarawakians have to be accommodated in mainstream politics and administration at a faster pace. Two, there is an ethnic gap between significant sections of the Malay and non-Malay communities on the Peninsula which, as we have seen, expresses itself in conflicting perceptions of the nation’s identity, the rights of the different communities, how they are rewarded, and so on. A needs based approach— rather than the present emphasis upon ethnicity— in areas related to socio-economic justice may help to narrow this ethnic gap. continued next page


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continued from page 10 Three, there is a growing religious gap that has increased the social distance between segments of the Muslim and non-Muslim communities especially on the Peninsula. The issues that have caused this polarization will have to be tackled effectively within the framework of a more progressive understanding of religion in the contemporary world.

Four, there is an income and wealth gap which has heightened the differences between those who “havea-lot” and those who “have-a-little” in our society. Apart from the inherent injustice of widening disparities in any society, the

A R T I C L E S thirties when it comes to crucial issues such as the need for compromise and consensus among the different communities and the importance of stability and change in Malaysian politics. These attitudinal differences may lead to the erosion of core elements in current inter-ethnic arrangements with all their dire consequences for the nation.

alienation and relative deprivation of the latter has contributed in no small measure to increased crime and other social malaise. Five, there is a generational gap of sorts that appears to distinguish those above fifty from those in their twenties and

Though the federal government will have a major role to play in reducing these gaps, all sectors and strata of Malaysian society will also have to commit themselves wholeheartedly to this monumental challenge of transforming the idea of 1Malaysia into reality. Are we ready for this challenge? 16 June 2009

THE USE OF “ALLAH” By Omar Zaid Abdullah, as’Siddiq The controversy over the use of “Allah” by the People of the Book is little more than an adolescent gang marking it’s territory with grafitti. It smacks of Tribalism, an estate the Prophet (pbh) and Allah (swt) condemn rather strongly.

regards to the name of Yeheoshua [Isa].

Stone. YHWH means I AM WHO AM or I BE.

Elah or Al’Yah is another form of Elohim: a combination of El or Strength and Alah or Swear. Literally meaning — in ancient Hebrew — To swear by Strength” — (see Strong’s Concordance 425 and Scofield’s Reference Bible, First Edition), where it is also recorded that this very term, Allah, had been deleted from the revised text of the bible last century.

Therefore, it is rather arrogant and nonproductive to refuse today’s People of The Book the use of this Holy name. It is actually one of the bits of recovered knowledge that eased my own path to Islam when I discovered the knowledge some years ago, and long before my reversion.

It is also thought to be a combination of two other words meaning ‘the God’, and is used in reference to God more than 2500 times in the Old Testament.

It is truly sad that the Malaysian Government has so far to go before executing its role as Vicegerent with knowledge and wisdom, rather than methodologies that belie its vulnerabilities. May Allah have mercy on us all.

God’s name is extremely important to Him, and accordingly should be so to all Believers! It is clear He gave His Name to Prophets who brought the Scriptures Al’Quran confirms, so Muslims who object have little ground upon which to stand. The Jews removed over 3,000 direct references to this name from their manuscripts, and it seems the early Church Fathers have done the very same in the New Testament with

The Tetragrammaton: YHWH pronounced Yahveh, in the Original form is Yah. El was used at the time to mean ‘Lord, King, or Chief’. The combination El-Yah or Lord-God is quite sensible, and it is not inconceivable that El-Yah, Al-Yah, or the Aramaic Eli (reportedly spoken on the cross), are derived from this use. The first inscription bearing the name Yahveh is found on the famous Moabite

5 June 2009 For further reading, see my Book Trinity and also Yahweh, Yashua & You, by Gail Melvin, 1998, ISBN 0-9665602-0-5 #98-91512, an excellent treatise on the derivation and deletion of God’s name from the Biblical texts, including complete scholarly references. Dr Omar Zaid Abdullah, as’Siddiq, M.D. is attached to the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) at the International Islamic University Malaysia. He is also a member of JUST.


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Just Commentary August 2009