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What do you know of Norway? Ranked #1 on many indicators

Norway: a “Northern miracle” through the eyes of statistics

Note: Currently, Norway is #1 in collecting Olympic medals of all kinds in South Korea winter game

Is extracting crude oil and gas good or evil? Norway managed to avoid  this “resource curse

On the one hand, Norway doesn’t have anything special to constantly attract the world media:
·         It is the most Northern European country: 1/3rd of the country’s territory is situated within the Polar circle
·         The least populated European country (4.9M people).
·         2/3rds of the territory are covered with mountains and lakes. That is why most Norwegians travel by plane.
·         In the 1950s Norway was considered the poorest European country
On the other hand, Norway is currently considered one of the most developed and successful countries of the world:
·         It comes 2nd in terms of natural gas export (after Russia) and 6th in terms of oil export. It was the only country to retain the budget surplus in 2009 (9.9% of the GDP, mostly at the expense of its crude oil exports).
·         The rate of saving is 25%-30%. In this aspect Norway has been sharing the 1st place with Japan and Finland since the end of WWII.
·         It is the world’s 6th richest country in terms of GDP per capita ($59, 100). For comparison sake, the USA occupies the 10th place.
·         For many years Norway has been called the world’s best country to live in (including the income level and the quality of education).

The Norwegians are not in a hurry to join the EU. They seem to be self-sufficient in welfare.
So it is not accidental that Norway is #1 in the rating of the most welfare countries (by Legatum, Oxford Analytica and Gallup World Poll Service).
There is a temptation to consider crude oil to be the main reason for Norway’s welfare. 10 years of high commodity prices and favorable economic situation… it seems to be not a “recourse curse” but a “resource blessing”.
Norway: a “northern heaven”

Of course, the global economic crisis affected Norway as well. However, as compared with many other countries, it came out of it relatively “unscratched”.
In 2009 the country’s economy declined 1.8% (for the 2nd time since WWII). The unemployment rate reached 3.5% (the record of the last couple of decades).
Many other developed countries cannot even dream about such results. The recession period was a brief one. Yet, the country’s economy seems to keep showing stable growth.
Norway remains one of the most successful countries in the world.
So it is interesting to know the reason for this Norwegian miracle as well as the factors that ensure the stability of its economy. These are some of them:
·         Abundant natural recourses. Norway is quite rich in natural recourses – crude oil, natural gas, iron ore, copper, zinc, nickel, uranium, silver, gold, titanium, fish, timber, hydroelectricity (the country comes 1st in terms of the production of electricity per capita).
·         Well-thought-out economic policy. The main peculiarity of the Norwegian economy is that it is mixed, i.e. it is the combination of the free market and governmental regulation including:
–          Considerable public sector employing every third citizen.
–          Strict bank regulation
–          Control over the country’s key economic sectors: crude oil production, fishing and agriculture. For example the government owns 71% of the shares of Statoil, which is the largest national oil company, thanks to which they can control 60% of the entire Norwegian oil and gas markets.
–          Well-developed industries, including shipbuilding, heavy engineering and others. But the way numerous waterfalls give Norway an opportunity to produce relatively cheap energy (99% of all the electricity is produced by hydroelectric power plants).
The gas and oil industry is still the basis of the Norwegian economy. However, Norway is one of the leaders in information technology (IT) and in terms of the production of pure energy (solar, wind and water energy).
Norway is among the most competitive economies of the world.
·         Export-oriented economy. Taking into account the fact that Norway’s domestic market is tiny, its economy is oriented towards exporting products and resources (for example Norway consumes only 5% of the gas it produces).
Almost 90% of the produced paper and cellulose is exported as well.
Norway exports fish to almost 140 countries around the world. By the way 90% of the salmon imported by Russia comes from Norway.
Norway is the world’s leading exporter of ostriches. It is not accidental that the Norwegian merchant fleet is the 5th largest in the world.
·         Norway’s small-scale and medium-scale businesses represent a considerable share of the country’s economy (99,6%). Over 70% of the working population is employed in the sector.
·         Favorable business environment. Norway can boast Europe’s best business environment. For example anyone opening his/her own business in Norway  can address the Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund to get a free “development grant”.
As a businessman you don’t need to pay taxes until you gain your feet i.e. until your earn a certain amount of money.
It is easy to start a business. All you need is to send the necessary documents by mail and wait. By the way, it is very difficult to become bankrupt in Norway due to governmental support and affordable loans.
Norwegians spend least of all on licenses, registrations and customs formalities. The relations with tax service and other public institutions are absolutely transparent. The level of corruption is very low even though sometimes it seems that corruption and crude oil are inseparable.
·         Taking into account Norway’s fundamental position (it is one of the world’s most solvent countries) and good perspectives as compared to most Euro countries, numerous experts say that Norway may become a new “safe heaven” for many of those who invest in Europe. At least the Norwegian T-bond yield is slightly higher than the German one.
·         Tourism development. Even though the country is situated in the same latitude with Siberia and Alaska, Gulf Stream makes the Norwegian climate relatively mild. Moreover, according to the National Geographic Traveler, the Norwegian fjords currently present more interest for tourists than the Egyptian pyramids and the Great Wall of China:
Norway’s pristine environment, crystal lakes and rivers, blooming valleys and hundreds of ethnographic museums do make the country attractive for tourists from around the world (5-6M tourists a year). Norway is one of the best places for fishing and skiing.

Crude oil and natural gas.
Crude oil and natural gas industries provide 36% of the taxes and 51% of the export proceedings.
The oil wealth is distributed and used wisely. Here are the main distinctive features of the Norwegian energy policy:
In 1971 (or a couple of years after oil was found in the Norwegian part of the North Sea) the Norwegian parliament adopted a new energy policy based on the statement that the country’s natural resources (and crude oil in particular) should belong to the people.
They created a national oil-producing company. The Government Pension Fund of Norway was founded as well. This is the biggest pension fund in the world – $450B.
In reality it is not a pension fund but a fund created to separate sovereign wealth funds in order to ensure Norway’s high living standards when the oil reserves are exhausted (including the profit from oil exports… For example, Statoil gives 78% of its profit to the government).
It appears that the money gained from the Norwegian oil export is isolated from the country’s economy. The fund invests only in foreign securities from around the world (60% is invested in stocks, 40% is invested in bonds).
The country already owns 0.8% of the net amount of all the securities issued around the world.
Russia lent the idea of the Russian Stabilization Fund from Norway.
The Norwegian government spends almost no money for domestic needs (only 4-7% of the money is allocated for Norway’s budget spending). Of course not all the Norwegians like this “stinginess” because the country still has a lot of problems to solve.
The fund is under constant public control: oil companies are obliged to publish income, tax, bonus and investment reports, which are inspected by some international auditing firm.
Norway is mainly exporting oil products, which makes it possible to gain the max profit.
Before the crisis the investments in oil-and-gas sector were increased by 15%. This year the government is going to invest the record amount of $25B.
It appears that it would be ridiculous to regret being blessed with abundant reserves of natural resources. The thing is how effectively they are used and distributed.
Norway: a “social heaven”

Norway is referred to as a prosperous country. The average income is €4000, the average pension is €1500. Norway has managed to create almost a perfect social state with high social guarantees.
Thanks to the progressive tax scale, there are no poor people and almost no rich people. The government pays $5000 each time a child is born and then deposits a certain amount of money to his/her account every year.
The working day usually lasts from 8.00 till 15.00 (not more than 37hrs a week) as the Norwegians know that people need a good rest to work well. The unemployment benefit is paid for 2 years (2% of the previous income).
They also take care of their environment. The secondary and higher education is free. Students get scholarship. The medical service is also free. 9% of the budget is spent on healthcare.
If a Norwegian family spends €500 or more on medicine, the costs are compensated by the government. Norway is also a heaven for the old and retired.
In principle, this is a country of considerable social spending, so it should have been one of the first countries to fall prey to the global crisis. However, as we can see, it didn’t happen.
Skeptics say that Norway can afford spending big money on social benefits and guarantees (for example the population of Russian is 30 times as big as Norway’s one but the Russian oil deposits contain only twice as much crude oil as those located in Norway)
Norway spends only 1,9% of the national GDP on military outlays.

The peculiarities of the Norwegian mentality
The Norwegians are true patriots. They feel proud for their country, its nature and state system. They like to be useful to the society. That is why almost all of them are members of some clubs, parties and organizations.
The Norwegians are emotionally reserved, unhurried and sedate. That is why some foreigners say they can be boring. Most of them are honest and law-abiding. They are sporty and tolerant, self-respecting and self-sufficient.
The weak spots of the Norwegian economy.

In the light of all the above-mentioned the natural question arises: are there any problems in the Norwegian economy? In fact, there are some. Yet they are rather serious:
·         Resource-based economy. Crude oil and natural gas extraction remains the basis of the country’s national economy. Norway is dependent on crude oil even more then Russia.
The peak of oil production was reached in 2000. The production volume has been declining ever since. This year the volume is expected to decline by 6%. The old oilfields of the North Sea are being gradually exhausted.
The gas and oil stocks are overvalued by 20%. The companies have to develop hard-to-reach gas and oil fields, which proves to be much costlier.  Without oil export the country’s budget would be deficit-ridden. Some pessimists say that Norway’s oil deposits will be exhausted within a decade.
·    Severe climate, short vegetation period, short and cold summer and low fertility of the soil restrain the development of agriculture. Only 3% of the land is suitable for cultivation. Despite the generous subsidies the farmers get from the government, 60% of the consumed food is exported.
·   High taxes. Considerable budgetary spending and costly social security system cannot do without high taxes, which are nearly equal to 50% of the national GDP. The Norwegian taxation system is rather tough while the taxes are some of the highest in the world.
The average rate of the income tax is 28%. Most Norwegians spend over 1/3 of their monthly income on various taxes and duties. The taxes are progressive: those who earn over €4375 a month should pay an extra tax (9%), €7100 – 12%. The corporation tax is 28% (Gas and oil companies pay 50%). There are many other taxes and duties (gasoline tax, alcohol tax etc.). In return investors get high-quality service, modern infrastructure, transparency, stability and security.
·   Lack of skilled personnel. Norway constantly lacks qualified labor power, especially managers. The thing is that skilled workers need high salaries. That is why many companies employ less skilled specialists to pay less.
·    Catastrophic population ageing. The amount of the old and retired people in Norway is rapidly growing, which requires more social spending. The problem could be partially solved by attracting migrant laborers. But Norway’s emigration policy is very tough (one of the toughest in the world).
However, the number of emigrants grows every year. Over the last 10 years, 510.000 foreigners have received residence permits. The Norway authorities are afraid that the emigrants may exceed the critical amount.
So, does Norway really have chances to survive without crude oil? Yes, of course.
The country’s economy is quite diversified. Moreover, the Norwegian authorities know about their “Achilles’ heel” and are getting ready for the “post-hydrocarbon” period.

Note 1:  Extracted from kazinkas, Forex Market reviews

Note 2: Recently, a deputy in the parliament applied for the Palestinian BDS movement against Israel for Nobel Peace Prize.




‘Fake News!’: The View from Israel’s Occupation

Rebecca Stein. Feb 19, 2018

Among the numerous ideological affinities and governing styles shared by Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a commitment to the rhetoric of ‘fake news.’

In the last year, Netanyahu has increasingly borrowed this Trump formulation in an attempt to quell dissent and undercut critical Israeli and international media scrutiny.

Netanyahu is not unique in this regard. Over the course of the last year, authoritarian regimes across the globe – including Syria, Russia and Malaysia – have adopted the fake news script to silence detractors and critics, frequently in response to the charge of human rights violations.

But while the global scale of this accusation may be unprecedented, charges of fake news have a long history, considerably preceding the Trump era.

In Israel, the accusation of fraudulence, employed against political critics and foes, can be traced to the onset of the Zionist settler-national project.

As post-colonial studies show, the repudiation of indigenous claims (to history, land, humanity and so on) was a foundational logic of colonial projects, enabling the violence of colonialism in its various forms.

This formulation was also at work in the history of Zionism and has had a lasting hold on dominant Israeli ideology.

Over the course of the last two decades, amidst the ascendance of nationalist extremism in Israel, the fraudulence charge has grown ever stronger among the Jewish right-wing public as a popular means of indicting critics and undercutting Palestinian claims, particularly where Israel’s military occupation is concerned.

Mohammed al-Dura

Video footage of Israeli state violence against Palestinians has been a favorite target of this accusation – footage shot by international journalists and human rights workers and increasingly, as cameras have proliferated in the West Bank, by the cameras of Palestinians living under occupation.

It was in the language of fake news that Israelis famously responded to the killing of 12-year-old Mohammad al-Dura by the Israeli security services in 2000, in the early days of the second Intifada.[1]

His killing was filmed by French television and was replayed around the world in the aftermath of the event, becoming no less than a viral global icon of the Israeli military. What ensued was an organized campaign by the Israeli right wing, and their international supporters, to debunk the images as fake.

Netanyahu convened an Israeli government committee of inquiry in 2012 to investigate the incident, and the committee eventually endorsed the popular discourse of fakery, blaming manipulative editing for falsely producing the damning images.

The state committee did more than exonerate the Israeli security services in al-Dura’s death; indeed, they argued that he was Not actually dead.

Right-wing Israeli newspapers put it succinctly in their headlines: “Mohammed al-Dura: The Boy Who Wasn’t Really Killed.” Pleas by the al-Dura family to exhume the boy’s body were declined.

The state committee did more than exonerate the Israeli security services in al-Dura’s death; indeed, they argued that he was not actually dead.

Despite the Israeli response to the al-Dura affair in 2000, it would take nearly two decades for this argument about Palestinian fakery to become commonplace where video evidence of Israeli state violence is concerned.

By 2014, amidst the ascendance of far-right politics in Israel, and the threatening spread of cameras among Palestinians living under occupation, the argument finally gained a mainstream foothold.

Footage from Bitunya

For example, the charge of fake news would predominate in Israel following the killing of 2 Palestinian youths in the West Bank town of Bitunya in 2014, fatally shot by the Israeli security services during an annual demonstration commemorating the Nakba.

The military denied responsibility, claiming that their forces had only used non-lethal rubber bullets that day, in compliance with regulations governing engagement in protest contexts.[2] But the scene had been filmed by numerous on-site cameras, including four security cameras, and those of CNN and a Palestinian photojournalist.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem took on the case, believing that the unusually high volume of associated footage conclusively established military responsibility for the deaths.

But mainstream Israelis felt differently, and the volume of footage from Bitunya did little to persuade them of the military’s responsibility. To the contrary, the videographic evidence fueled a widespread repudiation campaign.

State actors and institutions were among the first to join the fake news chorus, including the defense minister, the foreign minister and official military spokesmen.

All argued that “the film was edited and d[id] not reflect the reality of the day in question.”

Their assertions were parroted by the national media, who insisted that the shootings were “staged and faked.” That accusation was then picked up by right-wing Israelis and supporters internationally.

Some focused on the image of the falling body, arguing for its self-evident theatricality (yet another case of what some called “Pallywood” – the purported Palestinian Hollywood-like industry in manufactured images of Palestinian victims).

Others claimed there was a lack of adequate blood in the footage, proof that the victim had not been killed. Most proponents of the fraudulence charge did not dispute the deaths themselves, as they had in the al-Dura case, but focused on exonerating the IDF through a re-reading of the footage, arguing that the bullets had come from other sources.

The charge of fraudulence haunted the case as it wound its way through the Israeli legal system. The Bitunya case established the fake news charge as a default Israeli script for responding to video-graphic evidence of state violence against Palestinians.

A few months hence, during another violent Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Netanyahu would famously rehearse a variant of this discourse when he accused people in Gaza of performing their deaths for the media: “They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause.”

The language of “fake news” had moved from the margins of the conspiratorial blogosphere to become the language of state – presaging a dynamic that we would watch unfold in the US in the Trump era, a few years hence.

High Stakes

For Israelis who support the fake news accusation, the stakes are considerable – just as they are in Trump’s America for those who parrot this rhetoric. In the Israeli context, these accusations aim to protect the image of Israel by stripping Palestinian victims and Israeli perpetrators from the videographic scene of the alleged crime – and to do so in a way that removes all traces of repressive Israeli military rule and its histories.

The charges of fraudulence, forgery or Palestinian theatrics are an attempt to correct the record, to right the wrongs done by a libelous Palestinian public that is intent on Israel’s defamation by means of fictive image-making – or so many believe.

In this way, the discourse of fake news is just another tool in the Israeli struggle against the so-called existential threat.

[This article was originally published in Middle East Report (Issue 283).]

[1] Adi Kuntsman and I explore this in more detail here.

[2] For a more detailed discussion of this case, see Stein, “GoPro Occupation: Networked Cameras, Israeli Military Rule, and the Digital Promise,” Current Anthropology 58/S15 (February 2017).

Solving the 2,000 Year Old Mystery of the Druze

Note: I don’t mind posting controversial articles and letting the reader apply their reflective minds. I sense this article falls within the hasbara or Zionist propaganda to lure the Druze in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon to engage in spying for Israel’s interest.

The origins of the Druze people and their religion have fascinated historians, linguists and geneticists for centuries.

Druze farmers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Druze farmers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It is in what we now call the Middle East that humans domesticated plants and animals, built the earliest cities, devised the first alphabet, and wrote the first literature.

But while many of the mysteries in the region’s history still abound, few have attracted more varied speculation than the origin of the Druze people and their religion. Modern genetics gives us powerful new tools to decipher the origin of the Druze.

Much like the Ashkenazic Jews, the origins of the Druze people and religion have fascinated historians, linguists and geneticists.

For nearly a millennium, travellers and their neighbours have wondered and hypothesised about the beginnings of this enduring people, and their exclusive religion in the mountains of Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

Benjamin of Tudela, the Jewish traveller who passed through Lebanon in 1165, was one of the first European writers to refer to the Druze by name. Even then, they were known as mountain-dwellers, and Benjamin described them as fearless warriors who favoured the Jews. But he could not state their origin, and he was not the only one to be mystified. Over the years, people have proposed that the Druze have Arabian, Persian or Near Eastern origins.

Reports from Cairo’s ruler, Al-Hakim (996-1021 CE), give us the first glance into the Druze and Druzism.

Al-Hakim had sent missionaries throughout Arabia, to win new believers. His missionaries claimed the Druze had splintered from Isma’ili Islam, a branch of Shia Islam. (Sects opposing the Caliphs’ institution)

After Al-Hakim’s sudden disappearance, the new ruler eradicated the faith in Cairo.

The Druze who took residence in the mountains of what is now Lebanon, Syria and Palestine not only survived, but flourished.

Since the 11th-century Crusades, the Druze have played a distinctive role in the region. (How distinctive? any details?)

Also in the 11th century, the Druze closed their faith to new adherents. You cannot become a Druze. This exclusivity also means that modern-day Druze people contain the genetic signature of the their Druze ancestors.

The Geographical Population Structure (GPS) technology, which works in a similar way to the satnav geolocation system, uses DNA instead of satellites to predict the most recent geographical origins of a DNA sample. To infer the origin of Druze ancestors, my lab at the University of Sheffield has applied the GPS technology to the DNA of Israeli Druze. (Meaning Palestinian Druze?)

Most of the Druze, we have found, can be traced to the highest mountains in Turkey, northern Iraq and southern Armenia, and to the Zagros Mountain belt bordering Mount Ararat – very close to ancient Ashkenaz.

By comparing the DNA of contemporary Druze to DNA dated 1,000-4,000 years ago from the Levant, Turkey and Armenia, my lab confirmed these findings.

This means that, genetically, the Druze really are different from their neighbours.

Unlike Palestinians, Bedouins and Syrians who share between 36-70% of ancient Levantine ancestry, the Israeli Druze have only a minor Levantine component of 15% and a significantly higher (80%) ancient Armenian ancestry.

Ashkenazic Jews, by contrast, had a major ancient Anatolian ancestry (96%) and a residual Levantine one (0.5%), in support of their non-Levantine origins.

The Druze have long preferred to live among high mountains, which has helped them maintain their close social structure, as well as providing them with protection. Our results indicate that the Druze habitation in high mountains is an ancient practice, one that their ancestors brought with them from what is now Iraq, Armenia and Turkey.

But why did they come to the Middle East? Can DNA help us answer that?

Fortunately, since the Druze maintain a close-group social structure, each group preserved a different aspect of the Druze history.

Genetic testing is thereby able to determine that the Druze DNA experienced its last major admixture event, where Druze mixed with local Levantines (Syrians), between the early ninth century and the early 12th century. The date overlaps with the expansion of the Seljuk Turkish Empire into the Levant during the 11th century to fight the Crusaders.

We know that after pushing away the invaders, the Seljuks settled in Iran, Anatolia and Syria, and that the Druze were first recorded in that region around 150 years later.

The genetic similarity between Druze and Armenians supports speculation that they had Seljuk ancestors.

Most likely, the Seljuks would have, upon their arrival in the Levant for the Crusades, mixed with the native population. Some of them would have likely adopted the Druze faith.

The Druze genome is therefore like a very long museum with separate rooms for Near Eastern and Levant exhibits, and including rooms for mixed inheritances that could not be sorted. Now, we can put together the remaining evidence to reconstruct the Druze’s history.

The Near Eastern ancestors of the Druze emerged near the Fertile Crescent, in the region that saw the rise of domestication and agriculture.

Unsurprisingly, it was also a major convergence point on the Silk Road, with trade routes leading to Constantinople and Antioch. This is when the Druze likely encountered the Ashkenazic Jews who played a key role in global trade.

The genetic similarity between Druze and Ashkenazic Jews is very high, although they emerged from different ancient founding populations (Anatolians and Armenians). However, although they started at the same place, they went their separate ways.

By the eighth century, Ashkenazic Jews had abandoned ancient Ashkenaz and moved north to Khazaria and west to Europe. (Read my note). Two centuries later, the Druze ancestors began descending to the Levant to fight in the Crusades.

When the Druze re-encountered Ashkenazic Jews in Palestine centuries later, neither population recalled its Near Eastern origins, and both peoples developed a rich heritage based on their experience over the previous millennium. (Now the propaganda or hasbara starts)

However, as both populations, to a large extent, favoured marriage within the community, each retained Near Eastern relics in its DNA museum, which allowed us to tell the end of this 2,000-years-old odyssey.

This article originally appeared in Aeon

Note: The Khazaria “kingdom” was over-run by the Russian Ivan in the 11th century and the Ashkenazic dispersed in the neighboring regions. Many of them transferred to eastern Europe. The Ashkenazic adopted the Jewish daily customs and rituals, as many early Christian sects did in proselytizing in the Near East and onward to the Caucasus and even toward China. Jesus and his disciples (from the province of Tyre and Galilee) were Not recognized as Jews by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, even though they also followed the daily Jewish practices and customs.

It hugely Matters: unnecessary extended trial Experience of Palestinian teenage girl Ahed Tamimi

Israel’s prosecution of Ahed Tamimi under an Israeli military court for putting up resistance to Israel’s occupation regime epitomizes the unspeakable inhumanity of holding a civilian population captive for generations.

It is now known by virtually everyone who follows the Palestinian struggle that a 16-year-old girl named Ahed Tamimi, who is now 17, confronted Israeli soldiers on her family’s land shortly after her cousin, Mohammed, was shot in the face with a rubber bullet, causing a coma.

The video of her actions has gone viral, showing the world a courageous young woman engaging in nonviolent acts of resistance, and then a day later in the middle of the night being arrested in her home and then charged with a series of crimes.

As is standard Israeli practice in the arrest of children, Aden was hauled off to an Israeli prison facility out of reach of her family and then denied bail.

As has been widely noted, Ahed Tamimi is a heroic victim for those in Palestine and elsewhere who approve of the Palestinian national struggle, and commend such symbolic acts of nonviolent resistance. Ahed has also been often called ‘iconic’ because her story, now and before, is so emblematic of the extraordinary perseverance of the Palestinian people who having endured fifty years of occupation, and seventy years since the mass dispossession of 1948 known to Palestinians as the Nakba.

This prolonged ordeal continues to unfold without a decent ending in sight.

The fact that Ahed is a child and a girl reinforces the double image of courage, stubborn resistance, and victimization. It is also notable that as early as 2013 Ahed gained prominence when given The Handala Courage Award by a Turkish municipality in Istanbul, an occurrence given great attention due to a breakfast in her honor arranged by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

While only 13, Ahed opened an art exhibit in Istanbul aptly titled “Being a Child in Palestine.”

The Israeli reaction, as might be expected, was as negative and denigrating as the Palestinian response was affirmative; maybe more so. Israel’s Minister of Culture, no less, Mira Regev referred to Ahed this way: “She is not a little girl, she is a terrorist. It about time they will understand that people like her have to be in jail and not allowed to incite racism and subversion against the state of Israel.”

The internationally known Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, was more precise in describing the punishment that fit Ahed’s supposed crime: “Ahed Tamimi should serve a life sentence for her crime.”

More luridly, Ben Caspit, a prominent journalist, made a rather shocking assertion of how Ahed’s type of defiant behavior shockingly deserves to be addressed outside the framework of law: “In the case of girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark without witnesses or cameras.”

Some critics have read this statement as advocacy of sexual abuse, even rape, but whatever its intention, the fact that such language can be used openly at the higher levels of Israeli discourse, without arousing an Israeli backlash is suggestive of a terrorist style of governance relied upon to break the will of Palestinian resistance.

Mira Regev’s reaction to the Tamimi video clip situates the Israeli reaction to Ahed Tamimi’s in ways that seem to reflect the dominant mood in the country that perversely reverses the realities of oppressor and oppressed, victimizers and victims: “When I watched that I felt humiliated. I felt crushed,” finding the incident “damaging to the honor of the military and the state of Israel.” (Is this sentence good to Israel or against its brutal actions?)

It is in this strange sense that it is Israelis, not Palestinians, who experience humiliation in the current situation—despite Israel being in total control of every aspect of the Palestinian life experience, which for Palestinians involves a daily encounter with oppressive policies designed to frighten, humiliate, and subjugate.

In contrast, Israelis enjoy the benefit of urban freedom and prosperity in an atmosphere of normalcy with relatively high levels of security in recent years that has greatly diminished the security threat, and in the process, effectively erased Palestinian grievances and aspirations from public consciousness.

When Palestinians are noticed, as in this incident, it tends to be with derision, and expressions of a domineering Israeli political will that considers it entirely fitting to impose punishments on Palestinian children of a severity totally disproportionate to the gravity of the supposed crime.

It is this disparity between the reality of Palestinian resistance and the rhetoric of Israeli oppressive options that gives Ahed Tamimi’s story such symbolic poignancy.

Of course, there are more sophisticated Israeli responses to Ahed’s challenge.

Some commentators claim that what is disproportionate is the global attention devoted to the incident, even suggesting that it was a cynical ploy meant to distract world public opinion due to the failure of Hamas to deliver on its call for a third intifada in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and so move the U.S. Embassy.

Other critics insist that the incident was staged by the Palestinians, with cameras at the ready, and not as spontaneous as the video wants us to believe. Such a contention seems irrelevant, even if correct, as Ahed’s defiance was prompted by the shooting and wounding of her cousin a short time before, which was certainly not staged, but rather a reflection of oppressive and violent Israeli responses to Palestinian demonstrations of resistance.

To belittle her acts as instruments of ‘infowar’ is also to ignore the uncertainty she faced when so strongly confronting Israeli soldiers and challenging their authority. She could not have known that these soldiers would not violently retaliate, as indeed some Israelis wished had happened to avoid ‘humiliation’ on the Israeli side.

Ahed’s bravery and dignified reaction seem to be authentic given the wider context, as does the resistance of the Tamimi family in the town of Nabi Saleh that undoubtedly socialized Ahed into a culture of nonviolent practice.

I think these polarized responses to the incident offer a defining metaphor for the current phase of Israel/Palestine relations.

The metaphor is given a special vividness because Ahed Tamimi as a child epitomizes the mentality and tactics of an oppressive state: the prospect of Ahed’s case being heard by a military court that finds that more than 99% of defendants are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused.

This is reminiscent of South African administration of criminal justice at the height of apartheid racism.

Beyond the legal fate of Ahed’s case is the unspeakable inhumanity of holding a civilian population captive generation after generation.

Related article: Benny Morris’s Untenable Denial of the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

This article was originally published at on February 13, 2018.

Invisible Bike Helmet?

You know what kind of sucks about riding a bike? Other than all that pedaling? Bike helmets.

Sure, they keep that overrated “brain” from getting splattered, but they take a lot of the open-air-joy out of things, and they’re not comfortable.

A pair of Swedish women have developed a remarkable solution: the invisible bike helmet.2P

Jason Torchinsky posted this Nov. 7, 2013

Swedes Develop Invisible Bike Helmet


Wouldnt the womans hair bother the helmet?


Ad here I thought it was all that drug testing, after having one testicle taken away.

Tired of strapping ugly, uncomfortable styrofoam-and-plastic turtle shells to their heads, the pair came up with a pretty revolutionary solution that does manage to give you full head protection without, remarkably, wearing anything on your head.P

Swedes Develop Invisible Bike HelmetSExpand

I’d like to just come out and tell you the secret of how their Hövding helmet works, but this video does such a nice job of building suspense I kind of don’t want to ruin it.

So I won’t post any pictures showing the operation, and don’t follow that link to their site if you don’t want to spoil a minor surprise.P

Once you see how it works it all makes sense, and is a very clever solution that draws from a number of technologies that are well-established and familiar.3P


Good call, I’m glad I watched the video.

If you’re so jaded that the tiny joy of a mild surprise doesn’t appeal to you, click away.4P


Or if the video plays <10 seconds and stops, like it does for me 😦

Regardless of how wrong they are about discounting cars in the future, they’ve done a pretty impressive job with the design and engineering of this, and I wish them all sorts of luck.P

(via TravelingGreener)P

Gamal Abdel Naaser borrowed money according to standard procedure to wed his daughter

Hassan Abaas Zaki, former chief of Egypt central bank and minister of finance recounted this story.

Gamal Abdel Naaser earned 500 Egyptian pounds as President and needed 10,000 in order to wed his daughter.

Marshal Abdel Karim Amer enjoyed an open account in the budget of the army, but the President refused to dip his hands into accounts Not meant for him.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and indoor
Nawwaf AlShibli to شبكة اخبار بلديCNN

نريد من أي مسؤول أن يتعرض لاختبار النزاهة والصدق!!

عندما كنت رئيسا لبنك مصر اتصل بي ذات مرة سامي شرف سكرتير الرئيس جمال عبد الناصر وطلب مني الحضور لمقابلة الرئيس .. وذهبت وأنا أرتعش وقلت لنفسي لماذا يطلب الرئيس عبد الناصر مقابلتي شخصيا ؟؟!! ، وعندما دخلت عليه وهي المرة الأولى التي أقابله في حياتي وجدت في عينيه بريق لم أره في حياتي في أي انسان وله شخصية تهز من أمامه .. وقال لي اجلس ياحسن .. فجلست وقلت له : خير يا ريس .. فقال لي خير ياحسن ثم سألني :

لو موظف كبير في الدولة أراد أن يعمل سلفة ( قرض ) من البنك ايه هي الاجراءات ؟ فقلت له ياريس مين ده الموظف اللي سيادتك جايبني هنا وبتوصي عليه شخصيا أكيد شخص يهمك ؟ ففوجئت به يقول : أنا .!!! قلت له سيادتك ياريس ؟ فقال لي : أيوه مش أنا موظف في الدولة وباخد 500 جنيه مرتب .. المهم رديت عليه : حاضر ياريس ، وحسبت له القرض طلع 7200 جنيه فقال لي بس أنا عاوز 10000 جنيه علشان هاجوز بنتي وفيه أشياء أخرى تحتاجها عائلتي .. فقلت له ممكن لما يبقى الشخص مضمون نرفع مبلغ القرض ، وسيادتك رئيس الجمهورية . وطلبت من جمال عبد الناصر صورة البطاقة العائلية واستمارة طلب قرض موقع منه فأمر عبد الناصر باحضار المطلوب من السكرتارية ثم وقع علي استمارة طلب القرض شخصيا ،

فأخذت الأوراق وانصرفت . وذهبت للبنك وثاني يوم عند الظهر كانت الفلوس جاهزة وتوجهت بهم لمكتب سامي شرف . جلست لحظات في مكتبه فوجدت المشير عبد الحكيم عامر قادم وكان يعرفني شخصيا ثم قال لي : حسن زكي ؟ بتعمل ايه هنا ؟ فاضطررت اقول له القصة باختصار . فهاج عامر وقال لي : ناصر يستلف !! ده أنا عندي ميزانية في الجيش مفتوحة أعطيه منها ما يريد ، ودخل عامر لعبد الناصر وأنا واقف أنتظر مايسفر عنه لقاءهما ، فوجدت عبد الناصر ينظر من فتحة الباب وأشار لي وقال : تعالى ياحسن .. ووضح أنه رفض عرض عامر له . فدخلت وأعطيته المبلغ ومعي استمارة استلام النقدية أخذها مني ووقع عليها وسط ذهول عبد الحكيم عامر . وانصرفت بعد أن شكرني كثيرا ..

هذا هو عبد الناصر الشريف المخلص . تخيلوا رئيس الجمهورية يستلف مبلغ علشان يجهز عفش بنته !!!! وتحت يديه أموال الدولة كلها ولكنه كان رئيسا شريفا وأمينا ومخلصا لبلده ..

واستكمالا للقصة وبعد حوالي شهرين كان جمال عبد الناصر يشكل الوزارة فوجدت مكتبه يتصل بي : احضر لمقابلة الرئيس وذهبت .. فقابلني جمال عبد الناصر وقال لي أنا مرشحك وزيرا للمالية ايه رأيك ؟ فقلت له بس ياريس أنا عندي 40 سنة يعني لسه سني صغير فقال لي : انت ممتاز يا حسن وقد سمعت عنك كل خير وانا مبسوط منك من يوم القرض فأنت سمعت كلامي ونفذته مباشرة ولم تعرض عليا حلولا أخرى فأخذت عنك انطباع انك انسان جاد ومخلص وشايف شغلك ، وأنا عاوز واحد شايف شغله علشان يظبط لي الميزانية ..

وفعلا في أول سنة عملت وزير مالية فيها حققت الميزانية فائض 35 مليون جنيه وكان مبلغ كبير أيامها . رحم الله الزعيم خالد الذكر جمال عبد الناصر .

رواها السيد/حسن عباس زكي ..وزير المالية في عهد جمال عبد الناصر

Notes and tidbits posted on FB and Twitter. Part 152

Note: I take notes of books I read and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pay attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory.

On raconte ses Noels? J’etais en pension (boarding school) durant 6 ans. Mes parents venaient tous les 2 etes. Nos Noels, mon frere et soeur, n’etaient pas celebre’ en famille, mais avec les etudiants que leurs parents ne pouvaient pas les recuperer. Je  me souvient d’un Noel ou je coupais and gluais des cartons pour construire des mainsons dans une grande sale d’etude, presque vide. Un cadeau miserable nous etait offert. C’est tout. Un autre Noel on fut inviter avec mon frere a une maison d’une cousine (Nadia 3abboud Toubiyya) qui travaillait a l’ecole. C’etait une soire’ simple, chalereuse et memorable, beaucoup plus memorable que tous les autres Noels qui suivirent.

In 1946, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry concluded that the demand for a “Jewish State” was Not part of the obligations of the Balfour Declaration or the British Mandate.

Even in the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897, when Zionists sought to “establish a home for the Jewish people”, there was no reference of a “Jewish State”.

If the US wants Iran to withdraw its military presence in Syria, it better plans to withdraw and close all its bases in North Syria. For the time being, US has to close its bases by the Syria/Iraq borders (no need for any buffer zone there)

In 1900 lived in historical Palestine 800,000 of its 840,000 inhabitants and a few thousands Jews lived in a few colonies. Most of the Palestinians were driven off their land through wars, terror tactics, violent eviction or fear.

Remember that in 1948, UN resolution 198 included the Right of Return of the Palestinians to their homeland and the 1947 resolution divided Palestine into 2 States with definite boundaries.

It is very easy to cherry-pick quotes from scriptures of all religions that permit or enjoin violent acts against other people. This is the danger of believing “every word and sentences” in religious books that were fabricated piece-meal during decades and centuries to fit the power-to-be interests.

Je patiente dans l’attente de grands changements? Comme s’enfoncer plus profondement dans une routine futile and sans issue?

Pour Franco, je constituais la preuve de son omnipotence a me transformer: je lui permettais de demontrer qu’il savait etre un homme comme il se doit, et aussi etre la femme qu’il aurait voulu etre.

Les evenements de changements arrivent par vagues. Ils sont plus frequent et performants pendant les periodes de development econmiques, qu’on appelle “periodes instables“.

Unstable periods? It means changes are the results of economic transformation

Is it this Only reality of death that is rendering moments of fulgurant epiphany possible? We try hard to demonstrate we are smart or nonchalant in our periods of depressive moods

Nous etions deux adultes raisonables: on pense qu’on peut discuter et expliquer pour affronter nos divergences? Mon oeil. Seuls, les enfants savent resoudre leurs problems: le present a plus de valeur a tout moment.





February 2018
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