“Please don’t write about Ya’ir Golan!” a friend begged me, “Anything a leftist like you writes will only harm him!”
So I abstained for some weeks. But I can’t keep quiet any longer.
General Ya’ir Golan, the deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, made a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day. Wearing his uniform, he read a prepared, well-considered text that triggered an uproar which has not yet died down.
Dozens of articles have been published in its wake, some condemning him, some lauding him. Seems that nobody could stay indifferent.
The main sentence was: “If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”
All hell broke loose. What!!! Traces of Nazism in Israel? A resemblance between what the Nazis did to us with what we are doing to the Palestinians?
90 years ago was 1926, one of the last years of the German republic. 80 years ago was 1936, three years after the Nazis came to power. 70 years ago was 1946, on the morrow of Hitler’s suicide and the end of the Nazi Reich.
I feel compelled to write about the general’s speech after all, because I was there.
As a child I was an eye-witness to the last years of the Weimar Republic (so called because its constitution was shaped in Weimar, the town of Goethe and Schiller). As a politically alert boy I witnessed the Nazi Machtergreifung (“taking power”) and the first half a year of Nazi rule.
I know what Golan was speaking about. Though we belong to two different generations, we share the same background. Both our families come from small towns in Western Germany. His father and I must have had a lot in common.
There is a strict moral commandment in Israel: nothing can be compared to the Holocaust. The Holocaust is unique. It happened to us, the Jews, because we are unique. (Religious Jews would add: “Because God has chosen us.”)
I have broken this commandment. Just before Golan was born, I published (in Hebrew) a book called “The Swastika,” in which I recounted my childhood memories and tried to draw conclusions from them. It was on the eve of the Eichmann trial, and I was shocked by the lack of knowledge about the Nazi era among young Israelis then.
My book did not deal with the Holocaust, which took place when I was already living in Palestine, but with a question which troubled me throughout the years, and even today: how could it happen that Germany, perhaps the most cultured nation on earth at the time, the homeland of Goethe, Beethoven and Kant, could democratically elect a raving psychopath like Adolf Hitler as its leader?
The last chapter of the book was entitled “It Can Happen Here!” The title was drawn from a book by the American novelist Sinclair Lewis, called ironically “It Can’t Happen Here,” in which he described a Nazi take-over of the United States.
In this chapter I discussed the possibility of a Jewish Nazi-like party coming to power in Israel. My conclusion was that a Nazi party can come to power in any country on earth, if the conditions are right. Yes, in Israel, too.
The book was largely ignored by the Israeli public, which at the time was overwhelmed by the storm of emotions evoked by the terrible disclosures of the Eichmann trial.
Now comes General Golan, an esteemed professional soldier, and says the same thing.
And not as an improvised remark, but on an official occasion, wearing his general’s uniform, reading from a prepared, well thought-out text.
The storm broke out, and has not passed yet.
Israelis have a self-protective habit: when confronted with inconvenient truths, they evade its essence and deal with a secondary, unimportant aspect. Of all the dozens and dozens of reactions in the written press, on TV and on political platforms, almost none confronted the general’s painful contention.
No, the furious debate that broke out concerns the questions: Is a high-ranking army officer allowed to voice an opinion about matters that concern the civilian establishment? And do so in army uniform? On an official occasion?
Should an army officer keep quiet about his political convictions? Or voice them only in closed sessions — “in relevant forums,” as a furious Binyamin Netanyahu phrased it?
General Golan enjoys a very high degree of respect in the army. As Deputy Chief of Staff he was until now almost certainly a candidate for Chief of Staff, when the incumbent leaves the office after the customary four years.
The fulfillment of this dream shared by every General Staff officer is now very remote. In practice, Golan has sacrificed his further advancement in order to utter his warning and giving it the widest possible resonance.
One can only respect such courage. I have never met General Golan, I believe, and I don’t know his political views. But I admire his act.
(Somehow I recall an article published by the British magazine Punch before World War I, when a group of junior army officers issued a statement opposing the government’s policy in Ireland. The magazine said that while disapproving the opinion expressed by the mutinous officers, it took pride in the fact that such youthful officers were ready to sacrifice their careers for their convictions.)
The Nazi march to power started in 1929, when a terrible world-wide economic crisis hit Germany. A tiny, ridiculous far-right party suddenly became a political force to be reckoned with. From there it took them four years to become the largest party in the country and to take over power (though it still needed a coalition).
I was there when it happened, a boy in a family in which politics became the main topic at the dinner table. I saw how the republic broke down, gradually, slowly, step by step. I saw our family friends hoisting the swastika flag. I saw my high-school teacher raising his arm when entering the class and saying “Heil Hitler” for the first time (and then reassuring me in private that nothing had changed).
I was the only Jew in the entire gymnasium (high school). When the hundreds of boys – all taller than I – raised their arms to sing the Nazi anthem, and I did not, they threatened to break my bones if it happened again. A few days later we left Germany for good.
General Golan was accused of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Nothing of the sort. A careful reading of his text shows that he compared developments in Israel to the events that led to the disintegration of the Weimar Republic. And that is a valid comparison.
Things happening in Israel, especially since the last election, bear a frightening similarity to those events. True, the process is quite different. German fascism arose from the humiliation of surrender in World War I, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium from 1923-25, the terrible economic crisis of 1929, the misery of millions of unemployed. Israel is victorious in its frequent military actions, we live comfortable lives. The dangers threatening us are of a quite different nature. They stem from our victories, not from our defeats.
Indeed, the differences between Israel today and Germany then are far greater than the similarities. But those similarities do exist, and the general was right to point them out.
The discrimination against the Palestinians in practically all spheres of life can be compared to the treatment of the Jews in the first phase of Nazi Germany. (The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories resembles more the treatment of the Czechs in the “protectorate” after the Munich betrayal.)
The rain of racist bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime. Some rabbis call for a boycott of Arab shops. Like then. The call “Death to the Arabs” (“Judah verrecke?”) is regularly heard at soccer matches. A member of parliament has called for the separation between Jewish and Arab newborns in hospital. A Chief Rabbi has declared that Goyim (non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews. Our Ministers of Education and Culture are busy subduing the schools, theater and arts to the extreme rightist line, something known in German as Gleichschaltung. The Supreme Court, the pride of Israel, is being relentlessly attacked by the Minister of Justice. The Gaza Strip is a huge ghetto.
Of course, no one in their right mind would even remotely compare Netanyahu to the Fuehrer, but there are political parties here which do 0 emit a strong fascist smell. The political riffraff peopling the present Netanyahu government could easily have found their place in the first Nazi government.
One of the main slogans of our present government is to replace the “old elite,” considered too liberal, with a new one. One of the main Nazi slogans was to replace “das System.”
By the way, when the Nazis came to power, almost all high-ranking officers of the German army were staunch anti-Nazis. They were even considering a putsch against Hitler. Their political leader was summarily executed a year later, when Hitler liquidated his opponents in his own party. We are told that General Golan is now protected by a personal bodyguard, something that has never happened to a general in the annals of Israel.
The general did not mention the occupation and the settlements, which are under army rule. But he did mention the episode which occurred shortly before he gave this speech, and which is still shaking Israel now: in occupied Hebron, under army rule, a soldier saw a seriously wounded Palestinian lying helplessly on the ground, approached him and killed him with a shot to the head. The victim had tried to attack some soldiers with a knife, but did not constitute a threat to anyone any more. This was a clear contravention of army standing orders, and the soldier has been hauled before a court martial.
A cry went up around the country: the soldier is a hero! He should be decorated! Netanyahu called his father to assure him of his support. Avigdor Lieberman entered the crowded courtroom in order to express his solidarity with the soldier. A few days later Netanyahu appointed Lieberman as Minister of Defense, the second most important office in Israel.
Before that, General Golan received robust support both from the Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon, and the Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot. Probably this was the immediate reason for the kicking out of Ya’alon and the appointment of Lieberman in his place. It resembled a putsch.
It seems that Golan is not only a courageous officer, but a prophet, too. The inclusion of Lieberman’s party in the government coalition confirms Golan’s blackest fears. This is another fatal blow to the Israeli democracy.
Am I condemned to witness the same process for the second time in my life?
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Serafina, una puerco de monte
con radio-collar en Panamá
por Sonia Tejada — STRI
El 10 de mayo Ricardo Moreno, Investigador Asociado del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales y fundador de Yaguará Panamá –junto a Ninon Meyer de Yaguará Panamá, el Colegio de la Frontera Sur, el equipo de Yaguará Panamá y los amigos del Pueblo de Pijibasal en Darién– capturaron y colocaron un collar transmisor a un puerco de monte por primera vez en la historia de Panamá.
La hembra a la que nombraron Serafina en honor al padre del asistente principal del grupo, Tilson Contreras (Serafín) de la Comunidad de Pijibasal en Darién, fue capturada cerca de la Estación del Ministerio de Ambiente en Rancho Frío.
Los puercos de monte (Tayassu pecari) en Panamá han sido poco estudiados y en la década de los 40 fueron cazados hasta ser eliminados en los bosques que existen en los alrededores de la cuenca del Canal de Panamá. Esta especie de puerco silvestre viaja en grandes grupos de entre 50 a 150 (o más) individuos si está en lugares prístinos, poco perturbados. Además es considerado como un arquitecto del bosque ya que remueven todo lo que está a su paso, “casi como el efecto que tiene un bulldozer en nuestros campos de agricultura,” comentó Moreno.
Los puercos de monte a su vez son una de las principales presas del jaguar y de los humanos, tienen amplias áreas de actividad y se ha encontrado en otras investigaciones que mucho de esto depende de la disponibilidad de alimento y el número de individuos de la manada “entre más individuos hay, necesitan más área para poder satisfacer las necesidades de todos. Es una nueva y gran aventura el poder rastrear en tierra y por satélite los movimientos de Serafina y su manada,” agregó Moreno.
La Fundación Yaguará Panamá y el Colegio de la Frontera Sur lideran el proyecto llamado “Evaluando la conectividad del Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano a través del uso de mamíferos clave en Panamá” con el apoyo financiero de SENACYT y la colaboración de Fundación Natura, GEMAS/Fondo Darién, Cat Heaven, Idea Wild y el Ministerio de Ambiente de Panamá, iniciaron la colocación de collares GPS para monitorear los movimientos reales y espaciales de los puercos de monte, jaguares, pumas y tapires en Darién.
Moreno espera con este proyecto, comenzar a llenar los vacíos de información y lograr convencer a los tomadores de decisiones para restablecer el corredor biológico panameño que ya está fracturado.
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WHO: Life expectancy increased by 5 years since 2000, but health inequalities persist
Dramatic gains in life expectancy have been made globally since 2000, but major inequalities persist within and among countries, according to this year’s “World Health Statistics: Monitoring Health for the SDGs.”
Life expectancy increased by five years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s. Those gains reverse declines during the 1990s, when life expectancy fell in Africa because of the AIDS epidemic and in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The increase was greatest in the African Region of WHO where life expectancy increased by 9.4 years to 60 years, driven mainly by improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to antiretrovirals for treatment of HIV.
“The world has made great strides in reducing the needless suffering and premature deaths that arise from preventable and treatable diseases,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “But the gains have been uneven. Supporting countries to move towards universal health coverage based on strong primary care is the best thing we can do to make sure no-one is left behind.”
Global life expectancy for children born in 2015 was 71.4 years (73.8 years for females and 69.1 years for males), but an individual child’s outlook depends on where he or she is born. The report shows that newborns in 29 countries – all of them high-income — have an average life expectancy of 80 years or more, while newborns in 22 others – all of them in sub-Saharan Africa — have life expectancy of less than 60 years.
With an average lifespan of 86.8 years, women in Japan can expect to live the longest. Switzerland enjoys the longest average survival for men, at 81.3 years. People in Sierra Leone have the world’s lowest life-expectancy for both sexes: 50.8 years for women and 49.3 years for men.
Healthy life expectancy, a measure of the number of years of good health that a newborn in 2015 can expect, stands at 63.1 years globally (64.6 years for females and 61.5 years for males).
This year’s World Health Statistics brings together the most recent data on the health-related targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. The report highlights significant data gaps that will need to be filled in order to reliably track progress towards the health-related SDGs. For example, an estimated 53 percent of deaths globally aren’t registered, although several countries – including Brazil, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, South Africa and Turkey – have made considerable progress in that area.
While the Millennium Development Goals focused on a narrow set of disease-specific health targets for 2015, the SDGs look to 2030 and are far broader in scope. For example, the SDGs include a broad health goal, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” and call for achieving universal health coverage. This year’s “World Health Statistics” shows that many countries are still far from universal health coverage as measured by an index of access to 16 essential services, especially in the African and eastern Mediterranean regions. Furthermore, a significant number of people who use services face catastrophic health expenses, defined as out-of-pocket health costs that exceed 25 percent of total household spending.
The report includes data that illustrate inequalities in access to health services within countries – between a given country’s poorest residents and the national average for a set of reproductive, maternal and child health services. Among a limited number of countries with recent data, Costa Rica, Jordan, Maldives, Mongolia, Swaziland, Thailand, and Uzbekistan lead their respective regions in having the most equal access to services for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.
The “World Health Statistics 2016” provides a comprehensive overview of the latest annual data in relation to the health-related targets in the SDGs, illustrating the scale of the challenge. Every year:
303,000 women die due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth; 5.9 million children die before their fifth birthday;
2 million people are newly infected with HIV, and there are 9.6 million new TB cases and 214 million malaria cases;
1.7 billion people need treatment for neglected tropical diseases;
more than 10 million people die before the age of 70 due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer;
800,000 people commit suicide;
1.25 million people die from road traffic injuries;
4.3 million people die due to air pollution caused by cooking fuels;
3 million people die due to outdoor pollution; and
475,000 people are murdered, 80% of them men.
Addressing those challenges will not be achieved without tackling the risk factors that contribute to disease. Around the world today:
1.1 billion people smoke tobacco
156 million children under 5 are stunted, and 42 million children under 5 are overweight
1.8 billion people drink contaminated water, and 946 million people defecate in the open
3.1 billion people rely primarily on polluting fuels for cooking
La divulgación de los ‘papeles’ de Mossack y Fonseca (M&F) está descubriendo mucho más de lo que la gente piensa. En una reciente entrevista, el economista norteamericano, Michael Hudson, explica cómo funcionan las lavadoras de dinero y el papel de centros financieros como Panamá. La entrevista que comentamos la hizo el periodista Sharmini Peries. Hudson es un profesor universitario y antiguo corredor de una firma en Wall Street.
Según Hudson, Panamá entra en el terreno del lavado de dinero hace casi cien años, prestándole servicios a la joven y pujante industria petrolera y derivados. “Lo descubrí hace cerca de 40 años, cuando estudiaba la balanza de pagos de la industria petrolera. Fui a Standard Oil, la empresa petrolera más grande del mundo en esa época, cuyo tesorero me mostró sus balances contables. Me dijo que ellos “le vendían el petróleo que compraban – en la Arabia Saudita o en el Medio Oriente – a precios muy baratos a empresas navieras registradas en Panamá o en Liberia. (A su vez, bajo la figura de la sociedad anónima) las compañías petroleras vendían el crudo a los distribuidores en EEUU o en Europa a precios altos, muy altos.” La diferencia se la embolsan los monopolios sin declararlo.
En Panamá no hay impuestos para las transacciones que ‘nacionales’ (por ejemplo, los barcos bajo bandera panameña) realizan fuera de su jurisdicción. Los grandes empresarios norteamericanos fueron pioneros en evadir el pago de los gravámenes. Los grandes monopolios petroleros y mineros evaden el pago bajo el manto de las sociedades anónimas que crean en los llamados paraísos fiscales.
Hudson también se refiere a otra trama para lavar dinero que se produjo durante la guerra de Vietnam. El problema que tenía Washington en la década de 1960 era el déficit de la balanza de pagos generado por el gasto militar. El Departamento de Estado propuso una idea para sanear el déficit militar. Consistía en convertir a EEUU en la nueva Suiza del mundo. “Se me pidió que calculara el volumen de capital criminal existente en el mundo. ¿Cuánto ganaban todos los delincuentes del planeta, cuánto dinero escondían los dictadores, los traficantes de drogas de todo el mundo, cuánto iba a parar a Suiza? Washington quería que las sucursales de los bancos transfirieran todo ese dinero a EEUU.”
Según Hudson, el gobierno de Washington desarrolló una estrategia con los bancos norteamericanos –con el Chase Manhattan a la cabeza– para que transfirieran todo el dinero sucio que tenían en sus sucursales en el mundo a EEUU. Washington, incluso, le pidió a Chase que creara un banco en Saigón, la entonces capital de Vietnam del Sur, para que el ejército norteamericano no tuviera que usar bancos franceses que repatriaban el dinero sucio a Francia. La conexión francesa fracasó porque el presidente De Gaulle convertía los dólares en oro, perjudicando a EEUU. Finalmente, Chase aceptó la propuesta de lavar dinero para el gobierno norteamericano.
Lo mismo ocurrió en el Caribe (las Islas Caimán y otras). Muchas islas habían sido colonias inglesas y su función principal era atraer hacia Inglaterra dinero sucio que circulaba por el mundo. Según Hudson, “se asociaron al Imperio, a fin de poder servir como intermediario del lavado de dinero. La idea era atraer todo ese dinero hacia EEUU o hacia su aliado, Gran Bretaña.
Es fácil seguir la pista de todo ese proceso que, en la actualidad, sigue vigente. Del dinero que administran las firmas de abogados en Panamá ni un centavo se queda en Panamá. Esos dineros no son sino pasivos de EEUU en Panamá o en otros centros bancarios.
Hudson explica que “la idea no es colocar directamente el dinero sucio en EEUU. ¿Qué hace un especulador o a un ladrón europeo o árabe que desea sacar de su país mil millones de dólares? Lo que no hará es ir directamente a un banco en los estados de Delaware o de Wyoming. Lo que tiene que hacer es primero lavar el dinero.”
Hay que pasar por numerosas etapas intermedias. Enviarán el dinero, pongamos por caso, a sociedades anónimas en el Caribe. De allí pasará a Panamá. Luego, de Panamá, ya bien escondido, irá finalmente a parar a una entidad de Delaware, EEUU.
Este es un primer artículo de un total de dos que pretende explicar mejor el funcionamiento de los ‘paraísos fiscales.’ La próxima semana continuará la segunda parte.
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There is much strange lore about the meat on a stick sold on the streets of Panama’s cities, but it’s generally safe to eat. We have a food safety system here that does inspections from the farm to the consumer.
We see some pitiful homeless dogs scrounging a living in this country’s rural and urban areas, and a lot of them show some serious health problems. But none of them have rabies.
Things are that way in part because Panama’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agricultural Development fields 246 veterinarians as part of the national public health defenses. They inspect the cattle herds, pigpens and poultry farms to detect and suppress disease outbreaks. They ensure that sick animals are not processed for human consumption through the nation’s slaughterhouses. They supervise and enforce the animal quarantines that are an annoyance to people taking dogs and cats into or out of Panama, but have kept this place rabies-free for many years.
These men and women are highly educated professionals, living a lower middle class existence that has been ravaged by inflation and made less secure by the political machinations of officials who tend to be less educated than themselves. And because he was a lame duck, defeated in his attempted proxy re-election despite massive illegal expenditures of public funds to boost his party’s campaign, a couple of weeks before leaving office in 2014 Ricardo Martinelli made them a promise that would not be up to him to keep or break. Executive Decree 168 of June 10, 2014 declared a pay raise for the nation’s public sector veterinarians, with a base pay for the newest and least qualified vets to be $1000 per month.
That was then, but now Panama’s present economy has slowed down and our prospects for the near future are more dismal than a lot of people or institutions care to admit. The Varela administration, which had implicitly ratified Martinelli’s degree by publishing it in the Gaceta Oficial, sought to go back on that pledge. With the public sector veterinarians’ contract expiring, the issue was brought to a head.
On May 16 the members of the Asociacion Panameña de Medicos Veterinarios reported for work, but did no work. Production at slaughterhouses was slowed but not stopped and the nation’s supermarkets and meat and poultry exporter expressed alarm at the prospect of a stoppage. Two days later, people were finding it impossible to bring dogs and cats into the country at our airports, seaports and border crossings. Later on May 19., the veterinarians and the government settled. The starting base pay for a veterinarian with a four-year degree will be $960 per month. Those with graduate degrees or certifications will have between $250 per month to $1000 per month added to that base pay, and beyond that there are raises based on seniority. The pay scales within and between the two affected ministries have varied and over the course of the coming year they will be equalized. There is also a commitment to parity between public and private sector veterinarians starting in 2018, but at first glance that would appear to be difficult to calculate and enforce.
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This is a quick reminder that tomorrow – Friday the 13th will be the Democrats Abroad Panama HappyHour at Sortis Hotel, Spa and Casino in Obarrio.
We hope that you can join us for some networking, socializing and fun.
Also, every organization must go through some growing pains and this is one of ours: As an official announcement and in accordance with the Bylaws of Democrats Abroad Panama (whereas 30 days’ notice must be given in the case of a motion for board removal), please accept this notice that a motion has been made by the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors to remove Eric Jackson from his position as At Large Board Member. The motion will be voted upon at the June 11 meeting.