Why are there so few brown and black faces in ‘Dunkirk’?

Soldiers from the French African colonies holding a position at Boucle du Doubs, near Besancon, France, winter of 1944.

135,000 Senegalese troops fought in Europe during World War I and over 30,000 died. De Gaulle’s Free French Army in World War II was largely composed of troops from the French colonial empire, including conscripts and volunteers from among the colonized populations. The Nazis executed several thousand French colonial POWs from Africa, driven by their racial animus towards black peoples.

Over a million Indian troops served overseas during World War I. Undivided India (most of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal) was part of the British Empire at the time. During World War II, the Indian Army expanded to include 2.5 million troops in uniform. The bulk of the force was deployed in Asia to stop the Japanese advance into Burma, but numerous divisions served in the Middle East, Africa and in Europe. Six of the fourteen Allied divisions in North Africa were from the Indian army.

So why are there so few black and brown faces in the new movie about Dunkirk?

In the film, we see at least one French soldier who might be African. In fact, soldiers from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and elsewhere were key to delaying the German attack. Other African soldiers made it to England and helped form the nucleus of the Free French forces that soon took the fight to the Axis.

There were also four companies of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps on those beaches. Observers said they were particularly cool under fire and well-organized during the retreat. They weren’t large in number, maybe a few hundred among hundreds of thousands, but their appearance in the film would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war. Their service meant the difference between victory and defeat. In fact, while Britain and other allies were licking their wounds after Dunkirk, the Indian Army picked up the slack in North Africa and the Middle East.

— www.slate.com/…

Sunny Singh, writing in the Guardian writes that these omissions have a broader impact. White-washing the two world wars (and colonial history more generally) aids right-wing ethno-nationalists by erasing the sacrifices other peoples made to ensure French, British and American freedoms.

[…] it erases the Royal Indian Army Services Corp companies, which were not only on the beach, but tasked with transporting supplies over terrain that was inaccessible for the British Expeditionary Force’s motorised transport companies. It also ignores the fact that by 1938, lascars – mostly from South Asia and East Africa – counted for one of four crewmen on British merchant vessels, and thus participated in large numbers in the evacuation.  […]

A vast, all-white production such as Nolan’s Dunkirk is not an accident. Such a big budget film is a product of many hundreds of small and large decisions in casting, production, directing and editing. Perhaps Nolan chose to follow the example of the original allies in the second world war who staged a white-only liberation of Paris even though 65% of the Free French Army troops were from West Africa. […]

Why is it so important that the covering fire be provided by white French troops rather than North African and Middle Eastern ones? Those non-white faces I mentioned earlier – they were French troops scrabbling to board British boats to escape. The echoes of modern politics are easy to see in the British-first policy of the initial retreat that left French troops at the mercy of the Nazis. In reality, non-white troops were at the back of the queue for evacuation, and far more likely to be caught and murdered by Nazi soldiers than their white colleagues who were able to blend into the crowd.

— www.theguardian.com/…

Oh, and that insistence on a whites-only liberation force for Paris? It was part of a policy called ‘blanchiment’, literally “whitening” of the liberating units.

In January 1944 Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, was to write in a memo stamped, “confidential”: “It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.

“This would indicate the Second Armoured Division, which with only one fourth native personnel, is the only French division operationally available that could be made one hundred percent white.”

At the time America segregated its own troops along racial lines and did not allow black GIs to fight alongside their white comrades until the late stages of the war. […]

In the end, nearly everyone was happy. De Gaulle got his wish to have a French division lead the liberation of Paris, even though the shortage of white troops meant that many of his men were actually Spanish. […]

For France’s West African Tirailleurs Senegalais, however, there was little to celebrate. Despite forming 65% of Free French Forces and dying in large numbers for France, they were to have no heroes’ welcome in Paris.

— news.bbc.co.uk/…

@subirgrewal | Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org & TheProgressiveWing.com

New Delhi rape victim sues Uber and its CEO for illegally obtaining her medical records.

About 10 days ago, the tech blog Recode reported this:

A top Uber executive obtained medical records of a woman who had been raped during a ride in India, according to multiple sources. He is no longer with the company, an Uber spokesperson said.

The executive in question, Eric Alexander, the president of business in the Asia Pacific, then showed the medical records to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and SVP Emil Michael. In addition, numerous executives at the car-hailing company were either told about the records or shown them.

Alexander’s handling of the delicate situation was among 215 claims reported to two law firms — Perkins Coie and Covington & Burling — doing deep investigations into both specific and widespread mismanagement issues at the company, including around allegations of pervasive sexism and sexual harassment at Uber. — Recode

Alexander, was not among the round of firings announced on June 6. Recode then contacted the company for a comment on how he obtained confidential medical records that were part of a criminal investigation in India. They told shortly after that Alexander had been fired.

The victim’s medical records were passed by Alexander to the CEO Travis Kalanick and a SVP Emil Michael. It seems they then speculated whether or not the victim had in fact been raped or was colluding with a competitor. Some Uber executives who learned about this were taken aback, noting that none of the three had medical trainingand would not have been able to make any such determination.

On June 13th, Uber announced that Kalanick would be on a leave of absence and that Michael had been dismissed.

A woman sued Uber Technologies Inc on Thursday claiming top executives at the ride-hailing company improperly obtained her medical records after she was raped by a driver in Delhi, according to court documents.

The lawsuit, filed in a California federal court, comes two days after Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick said he would take a leave of absence from his troubled company to grieve for his recently deceased mother and to work on his leadership skills. […]

“Uber executives duplicitously and publicly decried the rape, expressing sympathy for plaintiff, and shock and regret at the violent attack, while privately speculating, as outlandish as it is, that she had colluded with a rival company to harm Ubers business,” the lawsuit said.

In a statement on Thursday, Uber said: “No one should have to go through a horrific experience like this, and we’re truly sorry that she’s had to relive it over the last few weeks.” — The Hindu

The driver was convicted and is serving a life sentence for assault. The victim had previously sued Uber over its safety and background check practices in India. That case was settled.

The lawsuit filed on Thursday said shortly after the rape occurred, a U.S. Uber executive “met with Delhi police and intentionally obtained plaintiff’s confidential medical records.” The lawsuit says Uber has retained a copy of those records. — Reuters

The victim currently lives in the US and has not been identified. The story continues to be huge news in India. Recode has a copy of the complaint in their article.

The attorneys are demanding a jury trial, claiming that a few days after the incident Alexander met with Delhi police and obtained the confidential medical records. The victim is suing for intrusion into private affairs, public disclosure of private facts, and defamation. She is seeking damages of an unspecified amount. — Recode

Did Ivanka Trump flunk world religion or is she asking a deeper question?

While discussing the father’s recent trip abroad, which she accompanied him on, Ivanka said, “To have covered the three largest world religions over the course of four days, it was deeply meaningful.” While referring to her meetings with religious leaders of Islam, Judaism and Christianity in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican last month, Ivanka incorrectly labeled Judaism as one of the world’s three largest religions. In fact, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism all have more believers than Judaism.

The show’s hosts did not comment on her gaffe. — Haaretz

Now, I want to be fair to Ivanka and the good folk at Fox and Friends. There are two rather messy questions that need to be answered before we can say what the “three largest world religions” are.

  1. What constitutes a religion?
  2. Who can be counted as a believer?

These sound like simple questions, but there are several complications. Most faith traditions have several schisms. Is mainline Catholicism the same religion as Unitarianism? What about the Eastern orthodox church, or its several variations (Russian, Greek, Syrian, Albanian, etc. etc.).  Did Jesus intend to found a new religion, or was it Paul’s idea? Is Shi’a Islam the same as Sunni Islam, or was there an irrevocable rift at the Battle of Karbala? A handful of extremly hard-line Sunnis would tell you Sh’ia are not Muslim. What about Sufis, or Isma’ilis, or Yazidis? What constitutes mainline Hinduism? What level of adherence to Vedic texts is required, what about the Puranas? Is Shaivism a sect or a different religion? If you accept an agnostic reading of the Nasadiya Suktam, are you still a Hindu? Are Buddhism and Hinduism two separate faiths or are they part of one tradition? What about Jainism? For that matter, are the three major Abrahamic traditions truly distinct? What distinguishes Halakhic (Jewish) law from Sharia (Islamic) law? When thinking of that question and its implications, this twitter thread is excellent:

How do we treat traditions that are syncretic to varying degrees? When considering the blended/syncretic faiths practiced by many indigenous peoples in IndiaAfrica, the Americas and elsewhere, do we count them as Hindu, Christian or Muslim? Or do we give equal weight to their ancient faith traditions? Several traditional faiths have adherents that number in the tens of millions. Traditional Bantu religions might make it into the top five if we counted them as such.

Why do we start with an Abrahamic mindset along with some allowances for large Asian faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism? Is that a Euro-centric view of faith/religion? What would a non-Euro-centric view look like? How do we treat the fact that the spread of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism was, in many cases, associated with colonization, enslavement and conquest? If a person adopts a religion because they are compelled to out of need or pressure, do we count them as a believer/adherent? When we describe a conflict in religious terms (Sunni/Shia, Protestant/Catholic, Hindu/Muslim), is it truly a religious conflict, or is that a convenient way to avoid asking other questions about how political actors rally troops/support by using religion?

These are all really interesting and important questions. But I don’t believe Ivanka was really thinking about them. I think her narrow parochialism led the senior advisor to the president to assume the “three largest world religions” started in the Middle East.

Lastly, as an agnostic, I want to give a shout-out to this NY Times article: Religious Liberals Sat Out of Politics for 40 Years. Now They Want in the Game. I may not believe, but I recognize that when it comes to politics, I am on the same side as many who do, and I am glad to be in their company.

Filasṭin Week by Week: A March for the Bedouin, A License to Kill & To Teach the Nakba

Haaretz reports a few dozen people, including members of the Arab-Jewish Joint-List have begun a Four-day march to Jerusalem for Bedouin rights

President Reuven Rivlin had promised to welcome marchers, but will be abroad when they arrive in Jerusalem to draw attention to the Negev’s unrecognized villages.A four-day march to Jerusalem to raise awareness of the plight of unrecognized Bedouin villages and to present a plan to recognize them began on Thursday morning as planned, even though President Reuven Rivlin will not be receiving the marchers in the capital, as they had hoped.

Although Rivlin had agreed to receive the marchers on Sunday at the President’s Residence, the march’s final destination, it was learned on Wednesday that he will be in Singapore for the funeral of former president Lee Kuan Yew.

This reminds me somewhat of the Salt March led by Gandhi. It will never gain as much attention because the number of people who would be engaged are bound to be so much smaller in I/P. I’ve discussed the forced relocation of Bedouin in a diary called A Modern Day Trail of Tears in Jerusalem and on Medium: What happened to Ben-Gurion’s Oasis in the Desert?.David wrote a diary back in 2013 on the treatment of the Bedouin within Israel: Israel to Raze Palestinian Villages (within Israel) & Displace its Citizens to Build ‘Jewish’ Towns

+972mag has a deeply personal story from Mya Guarnieri about how she (an American Jew from Florida with Israeli citizenship) found herself living in the West Bak. She discusses how porous the barriers between the West Bank and Israel are. I think this is a must read if you’re interested in Israel/Palestine and a good example of the kind of writing that +972 showcases. It’s called The long road to Bethlehem

After taking a job at a Palestinian university in the West Bank, Jewish journalist Mya Guarnieri feels that the center of her life is increasingly on the ‘other side’ of the Green Line. Israeli soldiers give her a hard time for being a Jew in ‘enemy territory’ and it becomes more and more difficult to live in Israeli society.[…]

He answered in Hebrew in kind, ken, yes, and showed me the pictures he’d taken on his phone. There was the guard tower, just meters away. There was the group that had gathered as soldiers attempted to enforce the new closure in the fence; there was the fellow holding the hole open; there were men helping an elderly woman and a young lady through. The parking lot; the bus. I was struck again by the absurdity of it all. Hafuch al hafuch al hafuch.

That’s not to downplay Israeli-imposed restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement. It’s more to point out that if someone wants to slip into Israel without a permit, they can. In fact, approximately thirty thousand Palestinian workers do it every day. But, in doing so, they risk injury, arrest, and death. In July of 2012, a Palestinian day laborer was killed when soldiers opened fire on a car full of workers that tried to pass a checkpoint without permits.

The International Solidarity Movement reports on  the IDF’s heavy handed response at a regular Friday demonstration in the village of Ni’lin: Ni’lin demonstrators met with senseless violence

On the 20th of March, during Ni’lin’s weekly Friday demonstration, Israeli occupation forces attacked protestors with about 20 rounds of tear gas canisters shot with the ‘venom’ tear gas launcher mounted on a military jeep (which can launch up to thirty rounds of tear gas before needing to be reloaded), countless rubber-coated steel bullets and approximately one hundred rounds of live ammunition. One Israeli activist was shot in the ankle and one Palestinian boy was injured in the leg, both with rubber-coated steel bullets. Many protesters suffered from tear gas inhalation.

In +972mag: License to Kill, part 3: Why did Colonel A. order the sniping of Ihab Islim?

Members of a family are standing on a balcony and chatting. The commander of IDF forces in the region orders snipers to open fire on them. One brother is killed, the other one loses an eye. The commander fails to account for the order in the investigation that ensues. The case is closed, and the commander is promoted. In the following months, other civilians in the region are killed in the exact same manner. No one is found guilty.[…] the IDF has admitted that an innocent person had been shot, and that the targeted sniping of 17-year-old Ihab Islim in his head was carried out without him having committed a crime.

Yet the Military Police has failed to find the shooters; an IDF video clip that documents the shooting and the preceding events; or the operations logs that could have shed some light on the events that transpired in Nablus on June 25, 2004.

Int’l Solidarity Movement: Resistance to the destruction of olive trees in Wadi Qana

Supporters, many from the nearby village of Deir Istiya, as well as locals and internationals, turned out in anticipation of soldier presence or settler provocation, but no conflict took place.In 2008 and 2011 farmers of Wadi Qana were issued with similar notices.  These removal orders were not carried out. In 2012 trees were removed without notice. Approximately 3,000 trees have been destroyed in Wadi Qana by settler attacks and by order of Israeli authorities.

Olive groves are a ubiquitous feature of Palestinian agriculture. Destroying them is a way of asserting authority over the land and indigenous uses of it. It is in keeping with other efforts like that run by the JNF, to plant stands of non-indigenous varieties, some of them on the ruins of former Palestinian villages.From Haaretz: UN report: 2014 saw the most Palestinians killed by Israel’s military since ‘67

Israeli security forces killed 2,312 Palestinians, most in the Gaza war over the summer. Roughly two-thirds were civilians.The number of Palestinian civilians killed by the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip last year topped 1,500 — the highest number since the occupation began in 1967. By most other measures, the Palestinians’ lives under the occupation also took a turn for the worse, as reflected in the annual overview by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

This is being covered quite widely, including the Guardian, Al-Jazeera and YNet.+972mag: Hundreds mourn Palestinian youth shot dead by Israeli soldiers

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered to take part in the funeral of Ali Safi in the Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah Thursday. Safi, 18, was shot with live bullets by Israeli soldiers during clashes near the refugee camp on Wednesday, March 18. He was taken to a hospital in Ramallah and placed in the ICU until he died on Wednesday night.

In Haaretz: When Zionist parties wooed Palestinian-Israeli voters

The early Israeli establishment allowed Arab citizens to vote and Zionist parties even courted their support. Today, however, the Arab vote is seen as a threat.[…]

Some American commentators rushed to link Netanyahu’s remarks to the Jim Crow South of the 1960s, when African-American participation in the political process was considered dangerous by white supremacists. This comparison rings even more poignant if we consider that at the same time as when African Americans fought against segregation, Palestinians in Israel were placed under what was known as the Military Government.

This form of martial law (1948-1966; not to be confused with the post-1967 military occupation and Israeli settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip) suspended many of the civil rights and legal protections that Israeli citizenship afforded those Palestinians who managed to remain in the state after 1948. There is, however, a fundamental difference between early Israel, the Jim Crow South – the early Israeli establishment still allowed the community it oppressed to vote and actually courted their electoral support.

Int’l Solidarity Movement: Continuing harassment of activists in Palestine

“We are not wearing vests like Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) for example, which makes it easier for us to pass through the checkpoints. But they don’t like us either. Only a few days days ago one of us was arrested and held for seven hours for bogus reasons, and now he’s not allowed in the city for two weeks” ISM volunteer Franceska explains.In four different incidents within one week in late February, Israeli forces raided the ISM apartment without having a warrant or any legit reason. Franceska was in the apartment when the soldiers came:

+972mag: Distorting the facts of Occupation: Regavim’s attacks on the EU

Reports started circulating before Israel’s elections that Prime Minister Netanyahu had ordered the destruction of mobile structures distributed by the EU in Area C of the West Bank. This harks back to a report in November 2014 by the Israeli NGO Regavim, which draws a shocking parallel between the EU’s humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Area C and Israel’s building of settlements there.  Assuming that Israel’s settlements are legal under international law, Regavim accuses the EU of assisting the Palestinians in an illegal plan to take control of large parts of the West Bank.

Activestills.org: Solidarity with Palestinian farmers, Wadi Qana, West Bank, 20.3.2015

Palestinian and international activists hold a sign that reads, “Wadi Qana is for us”, during a solidarity activity with Palestinian farmers in the area, West Bank, March 20, 2015. On Sunday March 15th, Palestinians received an Israeli military order to uproot 123 olive trees in Wadi Qana, which is surrounded by seven settlements. According to OCHA maps, Wadi Qana is supposed to be annexed to Israel in order to create a path for the Wall.

Haaretz: Ex-Education Minister Piron backs teaching Nakba to all Israeli students

Shay Piron, education minister in the previous government, was quoted on Tuesday as backing the teaching of the Nakba – the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” which the Palestinians use to refer to Israel’s War of Independence – to all Israeli students.Piron’s remarks, in a recording broadcast by Israeli Army Radio, indicated that he supported teaching the Nakba story alongside what he called the “settler narrative.”

“In the bilingual schools in Misgav” – a city 45 minutes northeast of Haifa – “I was asked what I thought about teaching the Nakba to Arab students,” Piron, a member of the Yesh Atid Party, said.

“I answered that I opposed it. I support teaching the Nakba to all Israeli students. I don’t think that a student can reach deep in the Israeli educational system when 20 percent of the students have an ethos, a specific story, and he does not know that story.”

Israelis who wish to learn more about the Nakba have a number of sources they could use, including the iNakba app produced by Israeli NGO Zochrot (which has been working on this since 2002). And of course, S Yizhar’s seminal novella about an army unit expelling Palestinian villagers from the fictional Khirbet Khizeh has been an optional part of the Israeli curriculum for decades (though I have no idea how often it’s actually assigned).+972mag: Israeli army arrests 7 in action against E1 settlement

Palestinian, international and Israeli activists protested against Israeli plans to seize and build in the E1 area, which would cut off the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. Held on the same day as Israeli elections, the protest was aimed at attracting international attention to the progress of illegal Israeli construction and the planed displacement over 15,000 Palestinians and Bedouin communities living in 45 communities in the area.

United Nations OCHA-oPt: Weekly Highlights – March 17 – March 23

Israeli forces injured 21 Palestinians, including seven children, in various clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians. The most serious incidents reported in the West Bank, include ran eight-year-old child who was seriously injured when a soldier, with his rifle, hit the child in the eye while playing in proximity to clashes in Al Khader (Bethlehem); three Palestinians, including two children (14 and 15 years old), shot with live ammunition in Silwan; and a man who was shot with live ammunition in the back during clashes at the entrance to Al Jalazun Refugee Camp (Ramallah). Another three Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli forces next to the Gaza perimeter fence, east of Khan Younis.Two Palestinian attacks resulting in Israeli injuries or property damage were reported, including four people, two of whom are children, injured as a result of stone-throwing at an Israeli bus and damage to settlers’ houses as a result of a Molotov cocktail-throwing, both in East Jerusalem.

Israeli forces uprooted 492 trees and saplings planted by Palestinians next to the Majdal Bani Fadel (Nablus), Bidya (Salfit) and Adh Dhahiriya (Hebron) villages in Area C of the West Bank, on grounds that these areas were designated as “state land”. According to official data, over 99 per cent of “state land”, or public land, has been included within the jurisdictional boundaries of the local and regional councils of Israeli settlements, built in contravention of international law.

This is a roundup of news related to Filasṭīn with a particular focus on grassroots action and peaceful civil disobedience in the Occupied Territories and within the borders of Israel proper. The goal is to provide a bi-weekly update on the non-violent resistance movement.

Diplomatic negotiations and actions by armed resistance groups are covered quite widely by the mainstream press and in other diaries on DKos so they will rarely be included.

We use the term Filasṭīn, since that is the pronunciation preferred by Arabic speakers (irrespective of faith) of the pre-partition era for their land. The more familiar Palestine is the Hellenic or Roman variant. Filasṭīn refers to the geographic entity roughly encompassing Israel and Palestine. It is likely a cognate of “Philistine”, the name used in the Hebrew bible to describe a rival of the Jewish kingdom of that era.

The failure of the Evian conference and Likud’s insistence on a “Jewish State”.

Many see me as a pro-Palestinian voice on this site. A couple of recent conversations made me think about the Evian conference which I’ve only discussed in passing. There was a diary around  Helen Thomas’s retirement that mentioned Evian, but not much since. It deserves to be better known since it is a shameful episode and understanding it is critical to realizing the desperation and determination of the early Zionists to create a homeland that would serve as a permanent refuge for their people. It is crucial to understanding, and appreciating, the agony many feel over the deterioration or even demise of Israel’s Jewish character or Jewish majority. It is positively essential to the deep emotional connection many Israelis have with the idea of aliyah.

I cannot dismiss these concerns, and what happened at Evian has much to do with it. But first we have to talk quickly about the prelude.

Prior to World War I, much of Central Europe was a surprisingly cosmopolitan and diverse place. Under the Austro-Hungarian empire, professionals and merchants moved and settled across a broad swath of central Europe. Russia continued to experience pogroms and its institutions forced re-settlement and practiced harsh discrimination towards Jews. In Central Europe though discrimination was present, it was not as overt. Levels of international trade as a portion of global GDP were comparable to where they are today (partly due to colonial exploitation), and a global supply chain existed for many manufactured goods (as it does today for most). From many perspectives, the world looked quite tolerant and inter-connected. As it does to many today.

There is a real case to be made that our own interconnected world is just a thin, brittle veneer over deep, un-shakable tribal divisions that can flare up at any time. A subtext of exploitation, charged with race could be used by demagogues to embark once again on mass slaughter (as indeed we have seen in numerous episodes in Asia and Africa post World War II). If you look around you, there are places in the world (some in the Middle East) where things look quite horrific. As liberals we look for the humanity and good in all human beings, but we have to be aware of this criticism and acknowledge it as we work against such an outcome.

But back to Central Europe in the inter-war years. The Nazis acquire power in 1933 and begin implementing their campaign promise of racial purification. Zionists had already seen what was to come and frantically negotiated the Haavara agreement which offered to purchase German goods so Jewish emigrants could leave and realize some value, however small, for their property. In 1934, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Vienna, is shaken by shelling during the Austrian Civil War between various factions on the left and right, including fascist and Nazi elements (Patrick Leigh Fermor’s magnificent trilogy describes these incidents, which he witnessed). In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws are passed, Jews are no longer citizens, and Jewish life becomes untenable in Germany. The Nazi’s annex Austria (the Anschluss) in March 1938 and suddenly Jews are as persecuted in cosmopolitan, vibrant Vienna as they were in Germany.

Those who can, have been fleeing Central Europe through the 30s. This is possible for those with means and easier for those who have assimilated into modernist European society. The poor and those following traditional ways have limited opportunities.

It is in this context that FDR convenes a conference in Evian-les-Bains in France during early July 1938. The intention was to discuss what, if anything, could be done for Jewish refugees who faced limited opportunities to emigrate. The US still operated on the national origins formula which severely limited the immigration of many peoples, including Jews. *

Hitler made the following statement when informed of the Evian conference:

I can only hope and expect that the other world, which has such deep sympathy for these criminals [Jews], will at least be generous enough to convert this sympathy into practical aid. We, on our part, are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries, for all I care, even on luxury ships.

The national origins formula capped immigration at 30,000 a year from Germany/Austria. At Evian the US representative “magnanimously” made the entire quota available to Jewish refugees from those countries (though in practice it ended up being a bit higher). After the conference, Britain modified the refugee quota for mandate Palestine to permit 75,000 Jewish refugees a year to enter. It did not offer resettlement in its other colonies, though some Jewish refugees did find their way to India, and others made it as far as the diaspora community in China. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and much of South America explained their refusal to accept additional refugees by pointing to the depression. The tiny Dominican Republic offered to accept 100,000 refugees and set aside land for them but in the end only 800 refugees received visas and were re-settled.

In the end, the free world failed the Jewish populations of Germany and Austria. And it failed all other Jewish communities in Central Europe that swiftly found themselves subject to the same persecution as more nations fell to the Nazi onslaught. What sticks in many throats is that though Golda Meir was at the conference, she was not permitted to speak, only observe.

I’m for one state in Israel/Palestine, with a federal character and equal rights for all. It seems to me to be a difficult, but just and sustainable answer. In any such state, Jews will eventually be a slim majority or a sizable minority. The equilibrium state is likely to be very similar to Lebanon’s Christian minority. Israel/Palestine also has a 6-10% Christian/Druze population. Any such proposal has to overcome the objection that if the Jews do not have a homeland where they are a secure majority, the unthinkable is possible.

This objection is not just about a resurgence of a genocidal threat, which may sound far-fetched to many ears. It is also about the abject, shameful failure of the free, western world to provide a refuge at the exact moment when it was both necessary and possible.

And here’s the lesson for us on DKos. For liberals who idolize him, this is particularly distressing, because it was FDR. It doesn’t matter whether it was a failure of imagination, analysis or simply an unwillingness to exercise power. Nor does it matter that Poland and Romania demanded the same “right” to expel their Jews they saw the Nazis being offered, multiplying the number of possible refugees ten-fold to over four million. The fact is that FDR’s administration did not grasp the opportunity when it was presented. One of the most liberal administrations in American history, one we still hold as a lodestar in any discussion of social justice saw almost five million souls held in a vice and failed them.

I support one state in Israel/Palestine, with a federal character and equal rights for all. But it is a difficult cause to support given Evian (among many other events). It is difficult for me, as a gentile to support it given all that history. I understand how thoroughly impossible it may be for those who consider themselves a part of the Jewish people. It may be difficult to remember all this deep in a comment thread with those who support two-states or those who object to anything that would compromise Israel’s ability to defend it’s borders and further compromise its severely limited strategic depth. But let us all strive to remember the deep and true reasons for their views, and respect them.

* These racial quotas were not conclusively swept aside till LBJ’s administration and the 1965 Immigration reform act.

Delhi rapist blames victim on camera, Indian gov’t seeks to suppress BBC documentary

Investigative journalists and a raucous cable news culture have managed to bring a discussion about rape into Indian living rooms in ways that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. A series of horrific, widely-reported gang rapes in Delhi and Mumbai sparked intense outrage over the past two years and the Indian government quickly passed laws with harsher punishments for rapists.

Leslee Udwin has made a documentary for the BBC titled “India’s Daughter”. The documentary has a series of interviews with convicted rapists, their lawyers and others. The Indian government has requested and received a restraining order preventing the BBC from airing the documentary. In response, the BBC broadcast the film in the UK today, rather than waiting for International Women’s Day on March 8.

Mukesh Singh is one of the men accused of gang-raping and brutalizing a 23-year old woman in a privately-operated bus in 2012 in Delhi. He was the driver of the bus she and her male friend boarded. The woman later died of the internal injuries she suffered. Much of the controversy centers around some comments made by Mukesh in an interview that is part of the film. Mukesh says:

“You can’t clap with one hand, it takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. A boy and a girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 per cent of girls are good.”

The open secret of course, is that many in India, of both genders hold views that would be variations on this theme. Which is something the AP latches onto in A Murderer and Rapist’s Views Reflect Those of Many in India

“What the man spoke reflects views of many men in India,” Anu Aga, a prominent businesswoman and legislator said in Parliament.”Every time a rape happens, the victim is blamed to have provoked the men. Let’s be aware of the view and not pretend all is well,” she said.

Many Indian men (I’m one), perhaps the vast majority care enormously about women in their families and the world at large. Most Indian families create a loving environment for all their children. Indian culture has staggering regional diversity, and contains both matrilineal (descent/inheritance via the female line) and matriarchal societies. Millions of people marched in the streets to protest these rapes, demand better public transport, infrastructure and speedy judicial redress for crimes against women.

Udwin is quoted in The Guardian’s article India’s Daughter: ‘I made a film on rape in India. Men’s brutal attitudes truly shocked me’:

“It was an Arab spring for gender equality,” Udwin says. “What impelled me to leave my husband and two children for two years while I made the film in India was not so much the horror of the rape as the inspiring and extraordinary eruption on the streets. A cry of ‘enough is enough’. Unprecedented numbers of ordinary men and women, day after day, faced a ferocious government crackdown that included teargas, baton charges and water cannon. They were protesting for my rights and the rights of all women. That gives me optimism. I can’t recall another country having done that in my lifetime.”

But this story isn’t about all the wonderful things and great people who live in India. It’s about the bad stuff that comes with an intensely patriarchal culture (not unique to India). As a number of the news reports note, gender inequality, ingrained in Indian culture, results in pervasive discrimination and violence against women.  The Guardian writes about the murdered victim:

Jyoti, initially given the name Nirbhaya, meaning fearless in Hindi, to preserve her anonymity, died after 13 days. Her parents, given 2 million rupees (£21,000) by the government, set up the Nirbhaya Trust to help women who have experienced violence. “We want to help those girls who have no one,” Jyoti’s father says. […]Jyoti’s father, a man of shining integrity, says of his daughter: “In death, she lit such a torch … whatever darkness there is in this world should be dispelled by this light.”

In an article on the BBC’s website, Delhi rapist says victim should not have fought back, the film-maker Leslee Udwin quotes Mukesh further:

People “had a right to teach them a lesson” he suggested – and he said the woman should have put up with it.”When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy,” he said.

Chillingly, he went on: “The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.”

and she goes on to quote the lawyers who defended the five men:

“In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6:30 or 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening with any unknown person,” said one of the lawyers, ML Sharma.”You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn’t have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”

The other lawyer, AP Singh, had said in a previous televised interview: “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”

He did not disown that comment when I put it to him. “This is my stand,” he said. “I still today stand on that reply.”

but perhaps the most shocking of the many snippets is this:

One of the men I interviewed, Gaurav, had raped a five-year-old girl. I spent three hours filming his interview as he recounted in explicit detail how he had muffled her screams with his big hand.He was sitting throughout the interview and had a half-smile playing on his lips throughout – his nervousness in the presence of a camera, perhaps. At one point I asked him to tell me how tall she was. He stood up, and with his eerie half-smile indicated a height around his knees.

When I asked him how he could cross the line from imagining what he wanted to do, to actually doing it – given her height, her eyes, her screams – he looked at me as though I was crazy for even asking the question and said: “She was beggar girl. Her life was of no value.”

The NY Times has some coverage Man Convicted of Rape in Delhi Blames Victim which discusses the government request to suppress the film:

After complaints by the home minister, an Indian court issued a restraining order, stating that Mr. Singh’s interview created “an atmosphere of fear and tension with the possibility of public outcry and law and order situation.” The order said the film violated four Indian statutes, including one against “intent to cause alarm in the public” and another banning acts “intended to outrage the modesty of a woman.”Ms. Udwin said the order amounted to a ban.

“That means they have banned a film which is in the public interest without having seen it, without having requested a copy of it,” she said. The film will be distributed through social media, she added.

“No intelligent person can watch this film and not understand that these remarks are not being promulgated,” she said.

Another article in the NY Times Broadcast of India Gang Rape Documentary Is Banned by Court quotes several prominent Indian women discussing the impact airing the film may have:

The author Nilanjana S. Roy warned of the “very real risk of turning a rapist into the Twitter celebrity of the day.” Kavita Krishnan, of the leftist All-India Progressive Women’s Association, saw patriarchal undertones in the advance foreign coverage for the film, describing “a sense of India as a place of ignorance and brutality toward women, that inspires both shock and pity, but also call for a rap on the knuckles from the ‘civilized world’ for its ‘brutal attitude.’ ”Others defended the film. Shobhaa De, a popular Mumbai-based columnist, wrote that the film “must be made compulsory viewing in our schools, colleges and government offices.” And writing on the news website FirstPost, Sandip Roy, a journalist and novelist, questioned why people were so outraged by the convict’s statements, considering that, as he put it, “Singh’s observations would not sound that out of place in the mouths of many law-abiding Indians.”

In Wishing away India’s culture of rape, Rukmini Srinivasan highlights a number of other outrageous comments recently made by Indian men, some in positions of power, concerning rape:

Mukesh’s repugnant comments are echoed by one of the defence lawyers, A.P. Singh, who tells Ms. Udwin that he would set ablaze his sister or daughter if she “engaged in premarital activities.” Another lawyer M.L. Sharma is a step worse. “If you keep sweets on the street then dogs will come and eat them. Why did [her] parents send her with anyone that late at night?” he says. Another man convicted of raping a ten-year-old tells Ms. Udwin, “she was a beggar child. Her life had no value.”Statements such as these, which separate the ‘good’ girl from the ‘bad’ girl, are not rare, and have been made repeatedly by leading politicians of the country such as Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. Mr. Khattar said during his election campaign that “if a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way.” Nationalist Congress Party leader Asha Mirje said in early 2014, “Did Nirbhaya really have to go to watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend? Take the Shakti Mills gang-rape case. Why did the (victim) go to such an isolated spot at 6 p.m.?” A couple of days back, a video of a right-wing leader saying in the presence of Bharatiya Janata Party MP Yogi Adityanath that Muslim women’s corpses should be dug up and raped resurfaced.

Some Indian institutions are chiming in, The Indian Express reports: Gangrape documentary: Bar Council of India head upset with anti-women remarks by lawyers

Bar Council of India (BCI) Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra on Thursday  termed “unwarranted” the alleged anti-women remarks of certain lawyers, including a defence counsel of the December 16 gangrape convict.
The BCI Chairman, however, said the lawyers’ body cannot initiate action on its own without any complaint.
“Unless and until the council gets a complaint in writing, we cannot initiate any action. Until now, we have not received any complaint in this regard.
“Once the complaint comes, we will examine that and only then we can do anything. Comments against women appear to be unwarranted, but we cannot do anything unless we get some complaint in this regard,” he said.
Senior advocate Raju Ramchandran disagreed with the view of the BCI Chairman and said the bar council “has a duty to issue suo motu notice and ask for explanation” of the lawyers.
“It is not part of lawyers’ professional duty to justify his client’s conduct specially when it is a crime outside the court. Inside the court, it is a part of duty as a defence lawyer. Lawyers have the maximum latitude inside courtroom.

The Hindu’s editorial page is firmly against any attempt to suppress the film.

The Hindi press is mostly reporting on events along similar lines and the opinion pieces are condemning the statements made by the convicted rapist and his lawyers. The Navbharat Times has the following post (in Hindi): Remember Nirbhaya, but not this way please. The writer discusses the views of the convicts and their lawyers, notes this is a reflection of wider attitudes in Indian culture, remarks on the suspicion that some of the controversy may have been sparked to generate buzz for the movie, wonders whether it is right to provide such a platform to the hateful views of the rapists and questions the government authorities that approved the interviews. The Indian government claims the film-maker breached the agreement to use the interview only in non-commercial ways. The writer says he agrees that an attempt should be made to understand the criminal mind, but is discomfited by airing their repugnant views so widely.

The Times of India reports on the Indian government’s effort to block the film: Govt serves legal notice to BBC for airing Nirbhaya film ‘India’s Daughter’ and YouTube removes Nirbhaya documentary:

When contacted, a YouTube spokesperson said: “While we believe that access to information is the foundation of a free society and that services like YouTube help people express themselves and share different points of view, we continue to remove content that is illegal or violates our community guidelines, once notified.”The video sharing site did not confirm whether it has received a notification from the government, which is required to remove the content from its site.

The NYTimes is also reporting on the same story: India Asks YouTube to Remove Delhi Rape Film:

“We just forwarded the court order and asked them (YouTube) to comply,” an official at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology told Reuters.

India’s legal protections for speech are not as robust as those we enjoy in the US. Various books and films have been suppressed in the past (including Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses) for fear they would cause public unrest. Over time though, India’s Supreme Court seems to have moved towards a more expansive view of the rights of people to free expression (which is a “fundamental right” in the Indian constitution).  Again in the Hindu, Sanjay Hegde walks through some of the issues but believes the Supreme Court will not suppress the documentary indefinitely.

Third, a ban on telecast is just not legally tenable after the Supreme Court’s judgment of 1994 in Auto Shankar’s case. A temporary stay on telecast may be obtained, but in the final judgment such a ban is unlikely to be upheld. In R. Rajagopal vs. State of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court firmly repelled the State of Tamil Nadu’s attempts to prohibit serialisation of the autobiography of Auto Shankar who stood condemned to death. It ruled: “We must accordingly hold that no such prior restraint or prohibition of publication can be imposed by the respondents upon the proposed publication of the alleged autobiography of “Auto Shankar” by the petitioners. This cannot be done either by the State or by its officials. In other words, neither the government nor the officials who apprehend that they may be defamed, have the right to impose a prior restraint upon the publication of the alleged autobiography of Auto Shankar.”

As in many other places, rape has always been present in India. Historically, it’s been covered up with various euphemisms. As a child, I wondered what “eve-teasing” was, and decided it was either whistling or ogling at girls. Never did it cross my mind that police blotters used the term for all manner of crimes, including rape, but they did.

Indian cinema has dealt with rape before, with varying degrees of sensitivity. The film Chan Pardesi is a (some would say the) Punjabi classic and revolves around the rape of a young bride who ends up raising the resulting child as her own. As do many others.

India digest: Third Party Landslide, transgendered communities and insight into village life

So this happened in India yesterday:

The Hindu (newspaper with a largely South Indian readership) writes: AAP ki sarkar: Kejriwal Rules Delhi

The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday swept to power with 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly, leaving only three to the Bharatiya Janata Party and nil to the Congress.The Congress had been in power for three consecutive terms in the State until 2013 and the BJP had won all seven Lok Sabha seats in May 2014.

To put this in US terms, it would be similar to one of Noam Chomsky’s acolytes splitting with him (as Kejriwal split with the activist Anna Hazare), forming a political party, and winning 95% of the seats in Washington DC and it’s suburbs (Delhi’s population is 10 million, about 0.8% of India’s.When they first ran for office in 2013, AAP won 28 of 70 seats in New Delhi’s legislative assembly, the BJP won slightly more but the AAP formed the government with support from Congress. Kejriwal resigned when it was clear he could not pass his anti-corruption agenda. At the time, he got a lot of flak for resigning, but the strategy seems to have been sound. It looks like every Delhiite who hesitated to vote for AAP for fear of “wasting” their votes overcame that hesitation in this cycle.

The AAP’s platform is decidedly populist, and they’ve won in large part on the strength of a promise to crack down on petty corruption. To emphasize the “cleaning house” theme, they chose a broom as their symbol (India’s political parties have campaigned with recognizable symbols to make life easier for illiterate voters). The AAP also had an interesting candidate selection strategy. Unlike the BJP/Congress who tend to reward party loyalists with nominations, the AAP picked younger candidates, many of them new to politics. They also relied heavily on campaign contributions from small donors. In contrast, most campaigns in India are financed with suitcases full of cash (seriously).

Here’s how other media outlets are covering the election:

NYTimes: India’s Aam Aadmi Party Sweeps Elections in Delhi

Mr. Kejriwal’s vow to crack down on small-scale corruption has particular resonance among slum dwellers. The vast majority of Delhi’s cycle rickshaw drivers and street hawkers, for example, do not have permits and are routinely pressured for small bribes by constables who often pay bribes to land their jobs.

Hindustan Times (North Indian readership and is Delhi’s local paper): Delhi election results: BJP trounced by Kejriwal’s AAP in blow to Modi, Cong fails to open account

The closely fought election saw a record turnout of 67.10% and 8.9 million of the city’s 13.3 million-strong electorate cast their votes.The 2013 elections had produced a hung assembly, and the AAP (with 28 MLAs) formed a government with the outside support of eight Congress legislators.

The AAP rode to victory on promises of cheaper electricity and water, and probity in government. The party also has a strident position against Delhi’s famed culture of privilege; in its last stint, one of its more popular moves was the outlawing of red beacons on official cars.

Its culture of handouts runs counter to the ruling principles of the BJP at the Centre, which espouses a market-friendly approach and wants to cut subsidies. Stock markets, which had fallen sharply on Monday after investors took fright from the exit polls, recovered in early trade as people chose to look ahead to this month’s union Budget.

The Guardian: Anti-corruption party sweeps Delhi elections in blow for Narendra Modi

The AAP held power briefly a year ago but resigned from government after a chaotic 49 days which saw Kejriwal slash the prices of power and water, reject police security details and take part in street protests.“Some say I am an anarchist, that I am spreading anarchy. I am willing to agree to that,” the then chief minister told reporters as he scuffled with police at one demonstration.

Local voters, particularly the poor in the sprawling metropolis, appear to have been willing to give the party another chance. The party’s symbol is a broom – a reference to its origins as an anti-graft campaign group. Key poll pledges included cheaper utility bills, a major attraction for those hit hard by soaring inflation in recent years.

Surveys show that those at the bottom of India’s tenacious social hierarchy of caste also support the AAP, as well as the capital’s large Muslim community.

The Times of India (national readership with a Bombay base): Delhi election results 2015: Don’t get such happiness daily, auto drivers sayTransgender issues and village life below the fold…

Meanwhile, in the world of letters, Granta published their Indian fiction issue (130) yesterday and two pieces stood out to me:

First, I urge everyone to read Snigdha Poonam’s revealing essay about an enterprising young man in an impoverished state in India (incidentally home to part of my family).  It’s titled The Fixer, go read it.

Second, Mona’s Story by Urvashi Butalia recounts the story of a trans-gendered man (Ahmed) who joined India’s large hijra community (eunuchs) and eventually surgically changed their gender to become Mona. The story is compelling and eye-opening, but one paragraph exemplified the chasm between the author and her subject:

What was it with all these men wanting to be women, I wondered. Here I was, a woman who thinks of herself as empathetic and quite open, surrounded by men who were doing their best to switch over to ‘my’ side, and I felt out of place, as if I did not belong. I was reminded of a conversation I’d once had with an Australian friend of mine, a lesbian and a feminist, as she and I stood and watched some hijras dance at a women’s conference. ‘I hate all this,’ she’d said to me. ‘We’ve fought so long and hard to carve out a little space for ourselves in society, to be able to make our voices heard, and here are these men pretending to be women, and they’ve come and taken it over.’ Until she said it in so many words, I hadn’t actually thought of it like that. Instead, I’d been wondering about what the experience of maleness and femaleness meant for the Monas of this world and how someone like me could understand it. Typically, Mona had the answer. ‘Arrey,’ she said, ‘why do you worry so much about this? What is there to think? I’m human, you’re human, I’m a woman but sometimes I can be a man – I don’t like being one, but sometimes it’s useful. And anyway, we have something more in common and that is that both you and I, we’re bachelors.’

Personally, I’m with Mona on this one and was taken aback by the author and the “Australian friend”‘s view. In some ways, India’s institutions are ahead of it’s society, the Supreme Court recognized transgendered people as a third gender last year.