All posts by josh_n_stein

Hey, my name is Joshua Stein and I am an undergraduate student at the Univeristy of Edinburgh. Dedicated follower to the Black Keys, keen writer and journalist and saxophonist, I write weekly for The Student newspaper and present for Fresh Air News on a Wednesday afternoon. I have also written for The Columnist, a new circular produced at the University. I have also been published by Student Voices UK. I have a key interest in the Middle East and the development of nationalism, have been to marches against racism and recently found myself driving a tiny car driving around the Kruger park (South Africa) chased by hyenas and elephants. My twitter: @josh_n_stein

No platform policies: they don’t always work

Right wing, anti-immigrant politics have entered the realm of political legitimacy. And it is this realm of political legitimacy which restricts the effect of a ‘no platform policy’. It is too late to ignore and push out this type of politics; instead we must confront these opinions on the political front as one unit. No platforming a legitimised politician does nothing but give that politician fuel to feed their campaigns and room to grow into.

 

Along with the rise of Donald Trump we have had attempts in Britain to block his entrance into the country, to block his attempts to speak. In essence to delegitimize his presence. However the anti establishment aims of Donald Trump, along with so many other anti-establishment leaders, feed and fester on this opportunity. It must be understood that Trump’s appeal to many is that he presents himself as a victim of society, alongside any other American who feels victimized by the apparent influx of refugees or who feels alienated by the present governmental system. It is too late to delegitimize his presence.

 

In fact Trump’s entire politically ambitious rhetoric is about removing himself from the crowd, about leading a campaign, completely independent of other businesses and individuals. He has been able to twist his position as the richest candidate in history to suggest the individuality and independence of his ideas. Although it is now clear that he is not completely funding his campaign, he readily comments on how the other candidates become little more than puppets to the people who are supporting them. In December 2015 he rejected funding from the Republican Jewish Coalition, exclaiming that he didn’t want their money and “did they know the money I have turned down”. Supposedly in contrast to himself he highlighted Jeb Bush and the fact that he raised ‘$125 million [through donations], which means he is controlled totally […] by the people who gave him the money’. Decisions to limit Trump’s access to countries and so on play into his hands, his objective is to be seen as the victim. And more importantly, the victim who is as far away from being a politician as is possible. In the same speech in December, Trump commented that politicians ‘generally aren’t competent and the one thing they are good at is getting elected’. In no sense of the word does Trump want to be seen as a politician. Rather he would be seen as a radical, daring revolutionary. Banning him from a university campus or even a country would effectively hand this title to him.

 

A more influential way of opposing him would be to let him put forward his warped political ambitions. Firstly this would place him in the same group with other politicians, he would not have the revolutionary collar he wears now. Secondly it would enable us to argue his propositions down, to push him into an embarrassing and revealing corner which would reduce his reputation to a smouldering pile of nothingness.

 

The same goes for any other politician or figurehead who has crossed the line which distinguishes politically fragile and laughable charter from supported and tragically legitimate political figurehead. Once there is a movement in place a safe space policy does not dilute their influence. Rather it does the opposite. Look at Nigel Farage. Deliberately distancing himself from other politicians through the way he sits, through his method of meeting enthusiastic followers in the local pubs, he relishes at the prospect of a safe space policy. It enables him to complain, to make a fuss and not only does this increase his air time, but it also draws anyone who may be disillusioned with the current political framework towards him.

 

The safe space policy is however a huge benefit to our society in many ways. Take Roosh V, who advocates legalizing rape so that “a girl will protect her body in the same manner that she protects her purse and smartphone”. His opinions and statements are vile and horrific, his following across the world is however minute. He is by no means a serious political or social figure. His reputation is non existent and thus a safe space policy and a means of shutting down his attempts to have meetings are necessary and effective.

 

The safe space policy is a very effective way of shutting down certain dangerous groups of people who hold abhorrent and disgraceful views which are not wanted or welcome. However an attempt to use the safe space policy every time a controversial figure comes into play actually restricts our ability to combat the controversial and dangerous opinions which have gathered support. Rather than pushing a problem like Donald Trump to one side, we should be fighting his every claim. Rather than simply ignoring him, we should contest his ideas on the political stage, make it clear that his opinions are not revolutionary or new, rather dangerous and brutal.

 

 

 

 

 

German pride-still quashed by history

The ability for Germans to feel a connection to their country is still hindered by history; there is still the sense that they are linked to racism.

German pride is a curious thing. What with the history of the country, there is still a sense that patriotism is a hard thing to legitimize following the events of the mid 20th century.

It is improving, no doubt- it is easier now to feel pride in one’s identity as a German, as the influence of time has allowed the potential perpetrators and supporters of the Nazi regime to give way to new fresher generations, each with a more positive outlook on how to move forward. That is not to say that the Holocaust or Second World War have been forgotten, or that guilt has been absolved; all German children are required by law to visit a concentration camp during their time at school. History is a fundamental part of the country’s education; there is a continuous effort to educate the population about the events of the 1930s and 40s.

But it must be said that Germany has transformed remarkably; arguably to one of the most progressive countries in the world. The racist and discriminatory scene had dwindled considerably until the recent emergence of PEGIDA, however regardless the right wing in Germany have been sufficiently marginalized in comparison to other countries on mainland Europe.

However the overall stereotype of Germans as Nazis has regrettably not vanished. There is still a general association of far right politics with the country, due to the events of the Holocaust. And thus a stigma of Germans as racist lives on, perpetuated by articles such as this, which make it seem unlikely that any Germans stood up to the Nazi regime.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-32622651

The article suggests that “one of the most unlikely battles of World War Two took place, at Itter in the Austrian Alps”, between an alliance of Germans and Americans, united against the Nazis. This is ultimately patronising and stereotypical; it wows at the possibility that there were Germans who did not support the Nazi regime, and in fact fought directly against it.

These suggestions, declarations and criticisms constrict the possibility of a new rhetoric on the German people, a German people who are predominantly accepting of all races, religions and cultures. Just like the majority of countries. It is not to say that racism in Germany has been extinguished; it is ridiculously naïve and presumptuous to say that racism does not feature in any particular country. The fight must continue across the board.

Yet Germany receives the harsh treatment due to it’s past. There are many countries throughout Europe, where racist parties pose a real threat to the stability of the nations. The Front National in France have been steadily rising in the polls for the 2017 general election, with a high of 33 per cent of the vote being recorded in January. Of course this is a poll, which cannot be taken as fool proof. But the polls do set the tone; racism is on the rise in France, and the country is in need of some international focus to combat this issue.

Stereotyping is an archaic principle; it found its height in the 19th and 20th centuries. It has no place in the current climate, the current age. Stigmatisation of the German people is unfounded and damaging, the mould of associating Germany with racism does not belong in the 21th century.

Scotland is about to see huge change

Edinburgh South represents a key battle seat between Labour and the SNP. But what does the election represent for Scotland?

Today there is huge hope. Not just in Edinburgh South, but in the entirety of Scotland. There is hope that this election will bring the voice Scots have been anticipating for so long.
Edinburgh South is a classic key battle seat. Labour and the SNP. Old against new. Last time out in 2010 Labour won a victory. Not a comfortable victory, but that time they were closely fought until the end by the Liberal Democrats. Ian Murray became an MP with his heart in his mouth and sweat binding his forehead, but he knew it would be a close call. This time there will be stress again, but Ian Murray may not be back in control of Edinburgh South.
From 2010 to 2015 the fortunes of the SNP have drastically changed. In Edinburgh South in 2010, they had just 8 per cent in the vote and won just six seats throughout Scotland. At the election last time out, Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Tavish Scott laughed off the SNP manifesto, naming and shaming it as “a true Alex in Wonderland performance”. The Labour leader of Holyrood, Iain Gray, claimed that the SNP had just one policy, and that it was “fundamentally weak”. The SNP were mocked, discarded as irrelevant and laughable.
But the change implicit in Scottish politics has changed all that. Like other parties across Britain, like Plaid Cymru and the Green party, increasing support has made these parties invincible to these attacks. Claims that these parties are illegitimate are presently unfounded, purely because of the amount of support they have received in recent weeks.
SNP cars are the norm at the moment in Edinburgh. They hum through the streets somewhat quietly every day, with the Saltire and the SNP symbol adorning the window and back windscreen. They sense Edinburgh South is moving swiftly over to support the SNP, and that Neil Hay will quite possibly be the next candidate successfully sitting in the House of Commons.
This is the state Scottish politics are in. And yes some may call it a revolution, because parliamentary change is on the horizon, whether Labour and the Conservatives will admit it or not. The question for the whole of Great Britain is whether this change will be limited to Scotland, or whether the next election will see the emergence of a party who will have a significant say in the politics of Westminster. The hope is that the rest of Britain will see change is possible and imminent, and that other parties and other priorities can be representative in government. Other parties and priorities which fully match what people want coming out of Westminster.

Israel has a right to exist, not to attack-25 April 2015 (https://www.the-newshub.com/international/photo-israel-has-a-right-to-exist-not-to-attack)

Israel’s right to exist continues to be called into question. Their treatment of Gaza is seen as a legitimate reason to reject their right to exist as a nation.

The Question of the State of Israel keeps coming back to haunt us, to bite at our ankles. With more coverage of the Israeli crimes against the Palestinians comes a concordant increase in the rejection of the right to have a Jewish state. This is not only foolish; it is also dangerous and further provokes the prolongation of the war in the Middle East, which has claimed so many lives.
A recent debate between Mehdi Hasan and Professor Robert Wistrich, an expert in anti-Semitism highlighted the trend to view anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism is the criticism of the actions of the Israeli government, and whilst it can lead to anti-Semitic attacks, it does not represent the new form of anti-Semitism. Israel does not have the right to hide behind anti-Semitism, as a way to ward off legitimate protest and criticism of its actions. Calls to question the legitimacy for the State of Israel to exist, however are a form of anti-Semitism, for they ignore the principle reasons for the state to exist.
A step back in time to the 1930s and 40s provides the cornerstone of the reasons for a State of Israel to exist. The destruction of not just the Jewish people, but also of the Jewish identity and the Jewish sense of belonging created a situation in which return to their homes in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe was completely impossible, not to mention suicidal.
The Kielce pogrom of 1946 saw an attempt by a group of Jewish people to return to Poland, to salvage what they could from the life they had been forced out of all those years ago. For Poland was their home; they couldn’t imagine leaving to another, anonymous, unknown ‘homeland’.
The following year saw huge brutality against the returning Jews, with over 500 being killed throughout Poland. Thus the idea of returning to their previous home was discounted; if their ex neighbours would treat them like that, who could blame them?
An article by The National discusses the increasing migration of Muslims from France to the United Arab Emirates; a direct response to the spike in Islamophobia particularly prevalent throughout France.
Unprecedented attacks on Muslim women especially have poisoned Islamic France to the core, so far that Muslims cannot bear to live there anymore, for constant fear that the next persecution will be aimed at them or their families. Migration feels like the only option for families who are constantly victimized for their beliefs and are not even able to wear hijabs in public.
And this is true. Throughout the article, there is constant mention of the sense of belonging Muslims have in France. Despite the repression, and despite the discrimination, if they have spent the majority of their life there they are more than likely to identify with the country. However, in fear of what may happen to them or their children, and in disgust at the treatment they receive in France, the reluctant decision is taken by so many Muslims to move out and move to other countries. For example, the UAE.
It is this almost forced and entirely legitimate Muslim emigration from France which makes the rejection of a State of Israel so damaging and hypocritical. The State of Israel was established following the Second World War to provide a sanctuary for the Jews who could no longer live in Eastern Europe. Before the war, however the Jewish peoples had built up communities and identities throughout Eastern Europe. But the repression of the Second World War and the subsequent discrimination required that a place be conceived as a Jewish homeland, somewhere for a new identity to be established and nurtured. The nature of the Holocaust was one in which not only the majority of the Jewish people were murdered, but where the Jewish sense of belonging was tarnished to the point that it was no longer viable to revive it.
Anne Frank’s diary illustrates the complete loss of identity suffered by the Jewish people during the Second World War. She writes in 1942; “Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans, and to think I’m actually one of them! No, that’s not true, Hitler took away our nationality long ago.” She continues in 1944: “Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up until now? […]We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English or representatives of any country for that matter. We will always remain Jews.” The feeling of partial belonging was swept aside by the violence and genocide of the SS to the point that rather than self-identifying as German Jewish, or Polish Jewish, the religion and a particular European nationality could not be synonymous.
Calls to laugh off the legitimacy of the Israeli state are synonymous with calls for the bloodshed in Gaza to stop. Whilst the aggression of the Israeli government should legitimately be condoned, to relate this to a complete rejection of the Jewish state is to miss the point that Israel was set up as a sanctuary to a people who were stigmatized and targeted.
It is shocking that the events of the 1940s have to be alluded to again and again, it is shocking that the genocide of the Jewish people is not seen as worthy cause for a Jewish state to be formed. For the question has to be: where else would the Jewish people have gone after the events of the 1940s? And, more importantly, could they be expected to go back to Eastern Europe where a large majority of them had just been murdered?
The State of Israel was established as a sanctuary for the Jewish people who had suffered the biggest genocide the world has ever know. Regardless of the inhumane actions of the Israeli government, it is incredibly provocative and senseless to question the legitimacy of the Jewish state, for a people who were victimized to the point that over 6 million of them were killed. To deny them the right to a new life following the Holocaust and the Kielce pogrom, as a means of highlighting the discriminatory and illegitimate actions of the Israeli government is a global hypocrisy.
It also serves to prolong the Israel-Palestinian conflict, as delegitimizing the Jewish state does not serve to provoke peaceful and productive discussion. Rather, it hardens any Israeli resolve to ignore pro-Palestinian sentiment, for this anti-Israeli rhetoric of is easily equated, in any Israeli’s mind, to pro-Palestinian sentiment. When calls for an end to the Jewish state and a return to the Europe which is seeing the highest levels of anti-Semitism seen in a generation are made, the peace deal which is still possible in the Middle East is pushed further and further into the abyss.
A recognition of the right to have a Jewish state is not synonymous with Zionism. For Zionism is the support for all actions taken by the Israeli state with regards to Gaza and Palestine. Supporting the right for a Jewish state to exist is simply to recognize that the Jewish situation in the 1940s was one in which returning to Europe was impossible. It is not supporting the right of the Israelis to continually displace Palestinians and establish Jewish settlements. Thus conferences, such as the one planned at the University of Southampton, discussing the legitimacy of a Jewish state, are both foolhardy and rejections of simple facts.

Challenge to the established order in Israel

Binyamin Netanyahu is running for re election. Again. He has represented the right wing of Israeli politics for over two decades and seemingly waltzed back into premiership in 2005. He led the Israeli political sphere in the 90s and there have increasingly been doubts of him ever being replaced as leader in Israel. Politics outside Likud (his party) have been far too fragmented, with various party leaders squabbling amongst eachother and thus leaving his political sphere untouched and unchallenged.

In an article by CBS News, it is announced that Netanyahu will accomplish one of the following in the forthcoming election: to ‘make history or become history’. Sure enough, another term in office would allow Netanyahu to surmount David Ben Gurion as having the longest time in office of any Israel president. But the elections on Tuesday represent a watershed moment for Israel, Middle Eastern politics and international politics in general. For all Netanyahu stands for and professes is to be contested and potentially defeated by the centre-left coalition, which has slowly cemented a common understanding between them. It is this coalition which forced the calling of the second batch of snap elections in the space of two years. ‘Bibi’ s comfortable hold on Israeli politics has been contested more and more over the past few years, and it is this Tuesday when he will wake up with a sick feeling in his stomach.

Bibi, as Israelis fondly have named him, wormed his way into politics from a very conservative family. He represents the stalwarts of the Israeli society, consistently calling for the removal of Hamas leaders and projecting the ‘victimisation of Israel’ by the West, by the Middle East, basically anyone who has challenged his treatment of Gaza and Palestine. With Bibi in power, the Middle East has been locked in conflict over the very question of settlement in Gaza. He frequently applauds Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory, rendered illegal by the United Nations and condemned by all Western nations. His rejection of negotiations with the Palestinians, who he has collectively named as ‘terrorists’ makes a peaceful solution to the conflict completely unattainable.

His obsession with the defence budget has alienated many and polarised popular opinion against him. Israeli economy and education have completely collapsed, all at the expense of a huge defence budget. Bibi’s agenda is swamped by a dedication to radically increasing the military budget even further than before. 5.6 per cent of the budget is spent on military, in comparison to the 2.2 per cent spent in the UK.

Relations between Obama and Netanyahu have declined to the point that Netanyahu must go to the US Congress to receive cheers and open support. The fragile nature of their relationship means a veritable solution to the ongoing problems in the Middle East is probably further away than ever.

But Israeli politics have evolved into something which could finally challenge Bibi’s control of the situation in the Middle East. The development of the ‘Zionist Union’ who despite their name, have repeatedly challenged Netanyahu’s treatment of Gaza and the Palestinians, and, even more remarkably, the Arab Joint List, now pose a threat to what was previously seen as a lost case for politics; the biggest and most blatant example of dull one party affairs.

His sole focus on ‘national security’ has meant the cost of Israeli living has spiralled out of control. We are seeing a domestic atmosphere incredibly hostile to Netanyahu. One which could and should finish the prospect of reelection.

The Zionist Front is a coalition between the Labour party, traditional opponents to Netanyahu, and the Hatnua party. Together, with a host of other parties, they have built up a coalition, the first effective coalition in the last few decades, which has the potential to challenge the monotony of Israeli politics and introduce another layer into the political cake of Israel. Livni, head of the Hatnua party, is openly pro-cooperation with Palestine to the point that she was chucked out of her role in Netanyahu’s party a few years ago. So she also has a personal point to prove. She is also hugely liberal in her general approach; she represents the first major Israeli politician who is openly for gay rights. Together with Yitzhak Herzog, she has amassed a coalition which has the potential to challenge Netanyahu’s authority.

The recently formed Arab Joint List is the first representation of Arabs in Israeli politics with any real say in the political system. This breath of fresh air, led by Ayman Odeh, has refused to take part in any Israeli government, because of the exploitation of Gaza’s residents, but its recent rise to proficiency highlights the development of Israeli thought. Trust in Netanyahu is no longer maintained to the degree that it was; the younger generations especially are rejecting his treatment of the Gaza strip as inhumane and illegal. The small number of Arabs living in Israel, who make up 15 per cent of the populace, are poised to be represented in government for the first time.

We can’t pretend they are the saviours of the situation. They have stated they will “take action to weaken and isolate these in order to bring about the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.” As of yet we don’t know what this will bring, what sort of ‘action’ they are promising. But negotiations and an aim to negotiate is a step forward from the current situation.

Netanyahu represents the established order. But a challenge to his authority by the centre left would reshape the possibility for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. A government led by the Zionist Union would be much less inclined to direct missiles into the Gaza strip. This opportunity represents a potential incision in the vicious circle of defensive aggression that has plagued the Middle East for so many decades. An attack by Netanyahu is met by retaliation from the Gaza strip, and vice-versa. Netanyahu’s refusal to negotiate has hardened, even strengthened Palestinian resolve to fight back against his oppression. But were a government such as the Zionist Union to come in, we could see a dramatic fall in support for Hamas in Palestine, for the pure reason that Israel would offer alternatives to a continuation of violence.

Holocaust denial-the ins and outs and why it should be illegalised

Denying the holocaust has been prevalent in society since the 1940s. It has plagued modern society with its claims and arguments, further harming people who were directly and indirectly affected by it. Deniers of the Holocaust claim that certain areas of the Third Reich were not taken up by concentration camps, and that therefore the Holocaust did not happen.

Alright it’s more complicated than that-but the fact is history has proven the Holocaust occurred. And there shouldn’t need to be proof. Not to show it happened; a conversation with any Holocaust survivor or anyone affected by the genocidal crime is more than enough to prove that so many people were killed in a barbaric and senseless manner.

Mere words like ‘barbaric’ and ‘senseless’ can’t really describe what happened in the Holocaust, no word can do enough to capture the horrific events which took place across Europe in the 1930s and 40s.

But the issue here is whether holocaust denial should remain legal, or whether it should be illegalized. The main argument for allowing Holocaust denial is that freedom of speech is an inherent part of our society and that to ban or punish Holocaust denial would perpetuate this fundamental right. The debate about whether holocaust denial should be allowed is particularly thematic now, not only because Tuesday (27th January 2015) marked 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, but also because the recent Charlie Hebdo massacres and the relevant responses threw the question of freedom of speech and it’s limits right into the limelight. Do Charlie Hebdo have the right to publish editions portraying, amongst other controversies, Muhammed, something which is forbidden throughout Islam? Or is this beyond the ‘line’, the ‘line’ separating freedom of speech from pure disrespect and insult.

The same issue resides with Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial has transcended the ‘freedom of speech’ we support and has become a pure insult to the memory of the 11 million people who were killed, and the countless others who were permanently affected by it. The extent of the Holocaust and the effect it has on present day politics and life in general makes it’s denial a gross injustice to the people who went through so much in the camps, and in Nazi Germany in general.

Another argument against punishing Holocaust denial is that a legal punishment would not necessarily end the problem. And of course, this is right. With the modern methods of communication and the infinite resources available to us all online, yes some of these sentiments will get through. But a partial restraint on Holocaust denial is better than no restraint whatsoever. The argument that Holocaust denial should be allowed because its restriction would not lead to the end of the problem is fundamentally flawed, as the majority of measures we take in our society do not solve problems completely.

A few examples: the use of fossil fuels, hunger, disease-the failure to eradicate a problem off the face of the earth does not render that problem unimportant or undeserving of attention. The same comes with Holocaust denial.

Freedom of speech, the kind discussed following the American, French and other revolutions, is not a bottomless concept. Freedom of speech does not denote that anyone can say what they want, where they want, when they want. The principle of freedom of speech is that which allows someone to voice an opinion which does not a) grossly offend a people or peoples b) argue a cause which is factually inaccurate. The ticking of one of these conditions would render an issue subject to criminalization. The fact is that Holocaust denial actually ticks both these boxes.

What we have to do here is to examine various topics which are punishable in our society and compare these to others which are not. An argument that Holocaust denial should remain legal would mean there is something more in elements of society which are not allowed.

Nazi propaganda is banned all over Europe. If a photo of Nazi propaganda is posted without any reference to historical education, this person can be arrested. And why? What we have here is a reference to history. For very good reason, Nazi propaganda walks hand in hand with the Holocaust and cannot be separated from it. Any reference to Nazi propaganda can so easily be linked to the atrocities of the 1930s and 40s.

The reason this is banned is because of the historical context it has. What is confusing about the Holocaust denial is that it is also inextricably linked to the atrocities of the 1940s. This represents one of the flaws of our society, there is no trend or ground rule. Although both Nazi propaganda and Holocaust denial are inextricably linked to the genocide, one is banned when the other is not. If freedom of speech were a “bottomless concept” then Nazi propaganda would not be banned. However to make that legal would be a breach of human rights. Every Jewish person, Roma, Sinti, disabled, homosexual and Pole (amongst others) has the right to live their life without seeing a representation of the atrocities which befell their family and friends.

In the same way, allowing Holocaust denial to flourish and spread through coverage in the form of books, and other medium readily available for consumption is a breach of human rights. The reality that the Holocaust did occur means these views should not be shared, the only consequence is the insult to the memory of those who died and those who survived.

Another example rests with the conduct of the Scottish Defense League. Last year at a counter protest against them in front of the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, some members of the SDL were arrested for shouting out slogans such as ‘All Muslims are paedos’. They were arrested as they deserved to be, this is a deeply shameful and disgusting act which no Muslim should ever have to bear witness to or accept.

The question is where the main difference between these two examples and Holocasut denial are. These events all have the explicit purpose to harm and disgust the individual they are aimed against. However the notion of holocaust denial remains legal.

The notion that education of Holocaust deniers would be a better response is strong. The view, however, that opinions can be changed with a ‘telling off’ by society is extremely naïve. The aim of banning Holocaust denial would be to halt the spread of Holocaust denial in our society. A limit on the influence Holocaust denial has on out society would inevitably cause its spread to be more difficult to achieve. Education has its boundaries and, although effective, it cannot be expected to synthesize every holocaust denier. What the illegalization of Holocaust denial would offer is a limit on the spread of Holocaust denial.

The fact of my Jewish heritage means that I am open to the accusation of being ‘biased’. And so I am. But there is a fundamental flaw in society if only the unaffected are listened to. The opinion of the affected is hugely significant, because while the ‘unaffected’ can sympathise with the feelings of the ‘affected’, empathy is not possible. To allow Holocaust denial to continue to proliferate in our society is to give rise to the beliefs that Holocaust deniers project out. Moreover, the fact of the matter is that Holocaust denial is more often than not coupled with anti-semitic, and generally racist and discriminatory views. To provide a platform for Holocaust denial is to effectively provide a platform for racist views to spread. The two are intrinsically linked, the majority of Holocaust deniers also maintain extremely right-wing views, and Holocaust denial is their method of disassociating themselves with the Nazis and the atrocities they brought with them.

http://www.diffen.com/difference/Empathy_vs_Sympathy

There are also various elements which are banned in our society, however there is little, if any, specific differentiation between these forbidden elements and Holocaust denial. To post a Nazi cartoon, for example, crudely depicting ‘Jewish people’ is illegal. Even in the British justice system, the 1986 Public Order Act prohibits any act which has the aim of causing ‘a person harassment, alarm or distress’ using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour,’ or displaying ‘any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,’.

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/02/03/nazi-anti-jewish-propaganda/

Obviously publicising a cartoon like the one above comes under the second condition, as it is a direct reference to the Nazi period and their propaganda against the Jewish people.

However, Holocaust denial is a discourse which comes projects an exact replica of this rhetoric. The sole intention of Holocaust deniers is to insult, and cause ‘alarm or distress’. The differentiation of these two ‘crimes’ from one another is non existent-the aims and practice of them are both to insult and distress, and yet the notion of ‘freedom of speech’ allows Holocaust denial to grow and infect today.

Freedom of speech, as a blanket term, is not limitless. It too has boundaries, which, if transcended, enter the realm of pure insult and intent to distress. The line dividing these two concepts stops just short of Holocaust denial, and the concept of Holocaust denial is thereby not an infringement of the ‘human right’ to speak, it is an infringement on the victims of the Holocaust to live their lives without seeing a group of people deny an event which brought so much pain to their families.

Guns in America: the real problem?

The US is consistently seen as one of the most democratic countries in the world, a model for all countries to follow. Since the Second World War, it has occupied a talismanic stance in the UN and in world politics. It’s economy has become one of the strongest in the world and it fulfills most of what we see as the ‘democratic checklist’. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, free elections, and so on and so forth.

But recent events have overcast these views. The murders of Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, to name but a few, have shocked the world, plunging us into a state of antipathy and anger. Iconic protest lines have been thrown up across the USA and beyond, ‘I can’t breathe’ among them.

The video taken of Eric Garner and his unprovoked killing exemplifies the huge problems which surround the American legal and police systems. The unprovoked and undeserved brutality with which he was treated, and his subsequent death, sparked outrage across the US. It seems like the flame of institutional racism is alive and well, still kindled by the archaic structure of the police and the courts.

David Pantaleo’s public indictment, and his subsequent release without charge is a gross mistake by the police, a clear indication of the continuing corruption of the police forces and overall political institution. What is just as shocking is the immediate defense Pantaleo received from his fellow officers on PoliceOne, one officer remarking that “He was not choked to death. He was taken down by the neck after refusing to comply with the lawful arrest of officers of the NYPD.”

What can we see from this? Firstly we have an over-blatant lie, in what way was Garner not choked to death? The video proves this to everyone-the fact that a self-respecting police officer, who let’s remember, is meant to defend the population against harm, can deny something so obviously evident should be a wake up call to us. The corruption of the police extends to other police officers lying to prevent the indictment of their fellow officers.

Secondly, we have to ask what a ‘lawful’ arrest is. As defined on uslegal.com, this is “the legal custody of a person under warrant or under a probable cause. Probable cause includes the belief of commission of crime, or an arrest demanded under civil process.”

This suggests precisely that the accused or arrested has to be made aware of the terms for his arrest. If this cannot be related to the arrested how can there be a “probable cause?”

Not once is Eric Garner told why he is being arrested. Not once does he receive a legitimate reason for his arrest. So this “statement” by an American police officer can be immediately discounted.

There have been various responses to these deaths. And some are more shocking and disgraceful that others. The obvious response has been the protests, which are fully legitimate and significant. However, only a few weeks ago, Senator Barbara Boxer suggested that toy guns should be painted a luminous colour or have some form of fluorescent cap on them, to prevent further shootings. Ms Boxer stated that “Any modifications you can make to the existing toy gun standards that will help ensure that law enforcement officers are able to distinguish fake guns from real firearms are much appreciated.”

This is an obvious reference to the death of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old African-American who was shot dead because the relevant officers mistook his toy gun for a real one. First things first, there was no warning. There are absolutely no reports of a warning to Rice,.Secondly, in the video captured by CCTV we can clearly see that the toy gun is not even raised when the police officer opens fire. Then we have the obvious contradiction that this is a 12 year old boy we are talking about. If it was a white 12 year old boy with a gun would he have been shot without warning? I somehow doubt it. The reasoning for his death is both irrelevant and discriminatory.

What we have here is a complete ignorance of the problem at hand. The racist component of the American police force and a police officer’s virtual immunity are obvious causes for concern, and these must be addressed. But something which is much more easily contained, which would without a doubt cause a reduction in deaths to civilians ‘suspected of carrying guns’ is to ban the sale of guns. This is a simple process.

Black Friday in the US a few weeks ago witnessed an overall drop in sales, yet one which was accompanied by a spike in the sale of guns. The FBI reported that Black Friday saw over 175,000 background checks prior to the sale of guns, more than has ever been recorded before on that date. Rather than being shocked at the increase in background checks, FBI Manager Kimberley del Greco praised the competence of gun sellers in coping with the increasing demand for weaponry, saying “This means saving lives and protecting people from harm—by not letting guns fall into the wrong hands.”

So here we go again. “Not letting guns fall into the wrong hands”, what would in any way constitute the “right hands”. Which American citizen has more of a right to carry guns than others? What this seems to ignore is the basic psyche of a criminal, that a criminal has to commit his first crime with a clean slate, the same clean slate that you or I have. It is foolish, naïve and unethical to allow possession of a weapon such as a gun because the person in question has not yet committed a crime.

And then we look at these most recent cases. Tamir Rice was shot because he was holding what looked like a fully equipped and fully functional gun. And the answer the police, and Ms Boxer give, is that toy guns have to have luminous patterns on them, so that they are easily distinguishable from real guns. This does not solve the problem in two ways. Firstly what is to stop anyone from wrapping any kind of material around the luminous tip, to make it look more genuine? This is both practical and insensitive reasoning for why their policy would not work. More importantly, it is as if Tamir Rice should somehow take full responsibility for his death. There is a deliberate aversion from the real problem at hand, time and time again the police and the government seem to skirt away from the problem of guns, and point towards other, comparatively minor and unimportant factors.

For example following the massacre of American schoolchildren in Connecticut in December, the consensus among politicians and police seemed to be that the answer was bulletproof vests for children and an arming of every school teacher in the US. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21721518

The main question which arises from the various incidents, and the constant continuation of shootings across the US, be it by the US police or a member of the public, is how this has been allowed to continue for so long. It suggests there is something exclusively intrinsic to the American psyche, which demands a constant assurance of self-defence? Why is it that other countries, which take up the same status as America, ‘great power’, ‘economic stalwart’ etc. etc., can control their country and live in relative peace without guns? Why is it that America is about the only leading country where gun possession is still common among citizens? Where 34 per cent of Americans still own a handgun.

This is a constantly topical question, since the possession of guns leads to tragedies all the time, they are just not as evident in the press. In the last few weeks there was a story of a 2 year old shooting and killing his mother in a restaurant after he found her gun in her handbag and mistakenly let it off.

The question we must ask in response to these desperate disasters is not whether ‘too many’ Americans are getting access to guns, it is whether any at all should be accessing guns. The American gun culture has to change, I would’ve thought that the death of all these innocent people would awaken the American population to see the uniqueness of their situation.

This graph should show Americans there is no developed country in the world which can compete, if that is the right word, with America for country with the highest rate of gun murder. We need a repeal of the gun laws, the NRA are an archaic group who don’t have a place in the ‘democratic, modernistic’ society the US is meant to represent. deaths in america from guns - Google Search