Voices from Russia

Saturday, 22 September 2012

This is Why Israel Isn’t Going to Attack Iran Any Time Soon (Or, Any Time Later): In Israel, Time Change Unleashes Culture Clash

Protesters in Tel Aviv against ultra-religious imposition of early shift to Winter Time in Israel


The forecast for Israel on Sunday: balmy late-summer temperatures, uncomfortable humidity along the Mediterranean coast and … darkness at 18.00? Israel moves its clocks back by an hour overnight, putting the country on its winter clock more than a month ahead of Europe and the USA, adding to the rising anger that many mainstream Israelis feel toward the ultra-Orthodox minority. Many Israelis believe the time change, meant to make it easier to fast on the upcoming Yom Kippur holy day, unnecessarily disrupts life, and it costs the economy millions of dollars. They say the early onset of darkness raises electricity costs, causes more car accidents, and gives children less time to play after school.

Whilst the custom has long bred resentment, the premature arrival of winter hours comes at an especially sensitive time, given the rising backlash against what is widely seen as religious coercion by ultra-Orthodox leaders. Raanan Lidji, a 34-year-old high-tech worker from Tel Aviv, said, “Its ridiculous. It’s just a power play by the ultra-Orthodox to show who’s in charge. There is no reason for it being this early”. The move to winter time ahead of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and holiest date on the Jewish calendar, has been standard practice for decades and enshrined in law since 2005. Yom Kippur, which begins on Tuesday evening, is marked by a sundown-to-sundown fast. Orthodox religious parties, which have always held key swing votes in Israel’s political system, are behind the time change, wanting to decrease the number of waking hours for those fasting.

Although the length of the fast doesn’t change, the sun sets an hour earlier with the winter clock, shortening the more difficult end of the fast. In a similar custom, neighbouring Muslim countries sometimes adjust their clocks, even in the middle of summer, during Ramadan to make the month-long fasting period easier to manage. However, the clocks return to summer time after Ramadan ends. In Israel, the seemingly premature clock change elicits complaints every year from secular and Modern Orthodox Israelis, who make up some 90 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. Nevertheless, this year, a variety of factors heightened the anger. Yom Kippur, which falls on a different date each year based on the Jewish calendar, arrives relatively early this year, making the change all the more noticeable.

It also comes against the backdrop of rising tensions between the secular masses and the politically-powerful ultra-Orthodox minority. Much of the anger is directed at Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose ultra-Orthodox Shas Party played a key role in shaping the law. Yishai resisted repeated calls to push back the change. In 2010, when it came even earlier in September, nearly 400,000 people signed a petition urging him to change the system. Following the outcry, Yishai appointed a committee to study the matter. However, he never implemented its recommendation that the summer clock remain in effect until early October.

Nehemia Shtrasler, an economics affairs columnist at Haaretz wrote, “He simply wants to build up the special form of régime to be found in Israel… a religious ‘minocracy’. It’s not a democracy that represents the majority and takes the minority into account, rather, it’s a minority that controls the majority and doesn’t care a damn about it”. A spokesman from the Shas party didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment. A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also had no immediate comment.

Ultra-Orthodox parties such as Shas, whilst representing less than 10 percent of the general population, have long served as kingmakers in Israel’s fragmented political system. With this power, rabbinical authorities control the rules for marriages, divorces, and burials, and ultra-Orthodox males have long received exemptions from compulsory military service in order to pursue religious studies. Ultra-Orthodox men often continue their studies well into adulthood, living off welfare subsidies as their secular counterparts work and pay taxes. The draft exemptions and study subsidies have become a central issue in Israeli politics. Early this year, the Supreme Court ruled the exemptions illegal and ordered the government to change the law.

However, attempts in parliament to reform the nation’s draft law deadlocked; it caused one of Netanyahu’s coalition partners to quit, and the government missed a deadline to draw up new legislation. With religious leaders saying that they’ll resist any change to the old arrangement, Defence Minister Ehud Barak is currently struggling to figure out a new draft system. Adding to the tensions, in recent months, extremist sects within the ultra-Orthodox community came under fire for attempts to ban the mixing of sexes on buses, sidewalks, and other public spaces. In Jerusalem, because of fears that extremists will vandalise them, advertisements depicting women are gone from billboards and buses.

These attempts at coercion fuelled a brewing cultural clash between two Israels. On one hand, the country continues to be a high-tech powerhouse with liberal values, turning Tel Aviv into a gay mecca. On the other hand, the ultra-Orthodox, with their high birth-rates, have grown increasingly outspoken and assertive. With Netanyahu expected to call early parliamentary elections in the coming months, the country’s opposition is likely to use the controversies over the draft and religious coercion against him. Ronit Tirosh, a lawmaker from the opposition Kadima Party, said, “Israel’s proving, once again, that it’s living in the dark”.

22 September 2012

Associated Press

As quoted in Wenatchee (WA) World


Editor’s Note:

By the way, the coalition partner that left Bibi the Bobo over his coddling of the ultra-religious was Kadima, which is an offshoot of the Likud. You see, they woke up and saw reason… they’re unwilling to bend over and suck up to the ultra-religious. Bibi’s in the deep doo-doo… his talk is just that… big talk, no action. Israel isn’t united behind him. That sounds like the Republicans in the USA, sucking up to the loudest and most unrepresentative “religious” voices in the country. That’s why President Obama’s going to win… most Americans don’t want a theocracy run by a set of unsmiling ignorant yahoos. Well, it shows that the rightwingers in both Israel and the USA coddle pietistic draft-dodgers… and kiss up to loudmouthed “religious authorities”. Do you want polygamous Mormons and hardshell Southern Baptists dictating to the rest of us? Vote Republican, then… the rest of us can vote against that (the Prez has an almost-certain lock on re-election, thank God). That’s why all the talk of Israel or the USA attacking Iran is hot air and arrant bullshit. It’s “bollocks on stilts”, as the English say. The whole megillah’s just a political Kabuki play, with no relation to the real world. In short, much ado about nothing…

As for me, I have much sympathy for Modern Orthodox Judaism… I find that my attitude to the Church is quite similar. I utterly reject the Über-Orthodox and konvertsy paths… just as some of my Modern Orthodox Jewish friends reject the Haredi path. Both are dangerous and godless perversions of Holy Tradition. We should have the courage of our convictions and speak up… after all, the nutters make a loud racket, don’t they? Don’t let them monopolise the online discussion… join in… you’re NOT alone!



Obama Ahead in the Polls

The situation hasn’t changed much… which is BAD NEWS for Willy


US President Barack Obama has a 5 percent advantage in the polls over Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Currently, Obama has the support of 48% of voters whilst his rival has 43 percent according to the results of a Reuters /Ipsos poll. Obama has led the polls since 7 September. Ipsos expert Julia Clark said, “At first, one could explain this by his growth in popularity after the Democratic convention”. Over the last seven days, Obama’s position hasn’t changed, whilst Romney’s popularity declined, in connection with the publication of a video where the Republican contender compared recipients of state benefits to freeloaders. According to experts, Obama has a 70 to 80 percent chance of retaining the White House.

21 September 2012

Voice of Russia World Service


Voter Fraud in the USA: The Same Tricks as in the Former USSR


Ironically, as the American presidential election draws nearer, concerns raised by public interest groups about the election’s fairness and integrity are starting to mirror concerns routinely raised by Western-supported NGOs in Russia. Ballot box stuffing, bussing suspicious-looking groups of people from one polling station to another, strange things happening during early voting… you name it. Interestingly, the same “political technologies” that the USA accused Russia or Belarus of using are now used in the USA… the American press reports it, albeit with less fanfare than when reporting similar irregularities in the former USSR.

For example, the New York Times, citing True the Vote, a citizens’ group focusing on combating election fraud, reported there were several buses “carrying dozens of voters showing up at polling stations during the recent Wisconsin election”. Catherine Engelbrecht, the head of True the Vote, said, “Magically, all of them needed to register and vote at the same time. Do you think, maybe, they registered under false pretences? Probably so”. Another True the Vote activist told a conservative activists’ meeting that her colleagues saw a bus during a recent vote in San Diego that unloaded “organised” voters “who didn’t appear to be from this country”.

Sounds familiar? What about a report of the Pew Center on various states in the USA, issued in February this year, which found out that more than 1.8 million dead people remained on the voter rolls and that about 2.8 million people registered in more than one state? These figures look actually more impressive than all the Russian opposition’s reports on irregularities during the Russian presidential election in March, which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton considered big enough to name our elections “neither free nor fair” one day after the vote. Moreover, the opposition reported massive fraud during absentee voting and dead people on voter rolls, but not in the millions. In the USA, the matter actually concerns TENS OF MILLIONS… 12 million registrations contained flawed addresses, the Pew Center report said.

Facing such irregularities (some would call it outright fraud), Americans want more controls over the election’s fairness. This is the cause for the controversy around voter registration IDs. Republicans push for new laws that’d require voters to have a valid picture ID when voting. Democrats, for their part, accuse the GOP of trying to disenfranchise poor voters, as well as ethnic minorities, which are more likely to vote Democratic than WASPs with excellent IDs. In recent years, 11 states passed voter ID requirements, thus, weakening the old American freedom of not having to carry a passport inside your own country. The US Supreme Court struck down several such laws on voter IDs as discriminatory or carrying risks of “voter disenfranchisement”.

VOR interviewed Alfred Santangelo, the author of a book on voter suppression during the 2012 election. According to Mr Santangelo, voters have to travel hundreds of miles to get valid voter ID in some states in the USA. He saw it as a part of a larger voter suppression policy, denounced by the American Civil Liberties’ Union (ACLU), widely blamed for the defeats of Democratic candidates Al Gore and John Kerry in  2000 and 2004. In 2012, ironically, the rightwing of the political spectrum accused the authorities of tampering with the vote’s results. Ms Engelbrecht’s True the Vote group grew out of a Tea Party support association, King Street Patriots. Now, as the New York Times claimed, there’s a “variety of well-financed organisations, many unabashed in their desire to defeat President Obama”.

Just recently, in Russia, we saw a much larger number of better-financed organisations unabashed in their desire to facilitate the defeat of President Vladimir Putin. However, somehow, even mentioning this fact was a sign of “bad taste” in the mainstream Western press. Obviously, the press worldwide has greater problems reporting such things closer to home than in some distant venue.

21 September 2012

Dmitri Babich

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

For the USA to point fingers at others about voting irregularities is sheer hypocrisy and hubris. I need only mention the “conservative” “Solid South”… it was “solid” and “conservative” because of stuffed ballot boxes, racist voting restrictions, and general societal dishonesty (“Landslide Lyndon”, anyone?). On the other side of the political coin, I need only mention Cook County and Tammany Hall. “I saw my opportunities, and I took ‘em”, as George Washington Plunkitt put it. The Newark machine was so famous for voting the dead that an editorial cartoon showed the local Dem boss blowing a trumpet and the dead rising from the grave… on Election Day. Things haven’t changed, particularly, not in Republican areas. The current GOP is an amoral godless buccaneer organisation dedicated to the enrichment and empowerment of the Affluent Effluent at all costs… its motto is, “The Public be Damned”.

Orthodox people should be aware that the loud konvertsy support the Mammon-worshipping New GOP… that means that they spit on everything that Orthodox people fought for in America. In short, they’re either bosses, boss-wannabes, or lickspittles of the bosses (mostly, the last sort, who’re a far worse set than the first two)… with an “attitude” to match. Do we really need such immoral and effectively-atheist greedsters amongst us?


22 September 2012. A Point to Ponder. Is He a Saint… The Church Says “Yes”… The Uniates Say “No”


Those who honour St Maksim’s podvig LOVE Christ and His Church… what does that tell us about those who minimise or deny that podvig? That’s why we have nothing in common with Uniates… they deny such manifest holiness and reality. Don’t hate them… but pay no heed to their lying propaganda of an “Eastern Church”… it does NOT exist. St Maksim died because he refused to dilute the Unity of Christ’s Church. We should do likewise. We forget tserkovnost (“churchmindedness” is a very pale translation of this central Orthodox concept) at our own peril.


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