Why they don’t want you to know Arabic

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Education Minister Shay Piron doesn’t want school kids to learn Arabic. Of course, he doesn’t say this out loud, and if he is asked about it, not only would he not deny it, but he would also pratter on about how important it is to speak Arabic and how learning the language would serve as a cultural bridge and blah, blah, blah, just like the minister knows how to do.

In practice, though, he doesn’t want us to learn Arabic. He wants Arabic studies to last no longer than three years so that he could slash the budgets allocated to teaching the language.

Could this reform be part of the new policy introduced recently by the Education Ministry, which seems to be encouraging kids towards ignorance while teaching them a whole lot of nothing? At the same time, it is worth wondering whether there is anything special about learning Arabic.

It appears that there is. Whoever knows Arabic is likely to listen to Arab news media, surf Palestinian websites, and read Arabic newspapers. Then they are likely to discover the truth: the other side is awash with such a virulent stream of anti-Semitic racism that all talk of peace here is delusional.

The party to which the education minister belongs is entrenched firmly in what is inexplicably referred to as “the peace camp.” Knowing the Arabic language is anathema to this camp. The more Arab-language speakers there are, the less supporters.

Thus spake Abu Mazen

“The woman known as ‘the Maiden of Ludmir,’ Hannah Rachel Verbermacher, who became famous because of her outstanding studiousness and her becoming the only female rebbe in the history of the Hasidic movement, was, of course, a Palestinian.”

(Mahmoud Abbas, a doctor in history, from his book “How the Palestinians Created the World”)

Segmenting society

Polls in Israel consistently show that most Mizrahi Jews are on the Right side of the political spectrum, while a large chunk of Ashkenazim lean toward the Left. There are sociologists who have nurtured ridiculous theories in order to explain this state of affairs. The only thing they overlook is the most basic fact: a large chunk of Mizrahim speak Arabic.

Now, perhaps, just perhaps, that this is what lies beneath one of John Kerry’s bluffs, the one that says that a peace deal with the Palestinians would include monetary compensation for Jews kicked out of Muslim countries.

This is a bold-faced lie, and Kerry knows it. The agreement on which he is working, if it is ever signed, will be between Israel and the Palestinians. It won’t be with Iraq. It won’t be with Egypt. it won’t be with Syria or with Yemen. They won’t be party to the agreement, and they won’t pay billions. This conflict isn’t theirs.

Let us assume for a moment that they persuaded Syria to pay compensation. Where would the money come from? From hemorrhaging Yemen? An Iraq in ruins? Will it come from Egypt, where tens of millions of their citizens don’t know from where they’re going to get their next dry slice of bread?

Kerry knows that in the best case scenario, it’s a media fabrication for purposes of spin. In the worst case scenario, it’s a bluff. So why did he say it? Here’s a wild guess, which is certainly not true but in any case is worth mentioning just so that it’s clear what didn’t happen.

One day, one of Kerry’s advisers walked into his room and explained to him how Israeli society was structured and which of our various groupings are on the political right. “Jews love money. Should we try to buy them?” he asked one of his aides.

Again, we should emphasize that it is inconceivable for this to be a motivating factor in creating this compensation bluff.

Abu Mazen strikes again

“Three-thousand years prior to the Israelis, the Palestinians had already given the world the Patrick Kim pulp fiction series of books and they had documented the first-ever prescription for a congealed leg.”

(Abu Mazen, from his book “The Dawn of Humanity”)

Questions that will never be asked

Achinoam Nini, if you refuse to go on stage alongside a person who can’t stand homosexuals, then how is it that you performed in front of the pope?

Yisrael Shiran and Esti Brand, two individuals who were fired from the Education Ministry because of harboring right-wing views, will you agree to have your photo taken for the front-page of Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth?

Dear Sudanese migrant, if Israel is such a racist country, why are you fighting to stay here?

John Kerry, could you ask Mr. Obama what he would think about a proposal that would ban blacks from living in eastern Washington, DC? What about Jews in east Jerusalem?

Dear justice minister, as part of the campaign pushed by your ministry against racism and discrimination, will you also demand that Jews be permitted to pray on Temple Mount?

A reminder from Abu Mazen

“The Palestinian immigrants drained the swamps by planting eucalyptus trees. In short time, clashes erupted between the Palestinian pioneers and the clerks of Hebron.”

(Abu Mazen, from his book, “The Palestinian Pioneers”)

Trouble at home

On the order of the grand rebbe of Satmar, this Hassidic dynasty has begun a campaign against the Whatsapp application. They have a catchy slogan for their campaign: Press 1 for destroying the house.

It’s interesting to note that until now I was certain that Ariel Sharon destroyed more houses.

Just a minute, Abu Mazen is talking

“The Palestinians sat alone in the dark for at least 1800 years before the Poles.”

(Abu Mazen, from his book, “The Palestinians in the Krakow Ghetto”)

On the other hand

A photographer from another newspaper told me that Achinoam Nini asked him one time not to photograph her from the left, but to only get her right side. That’s because her left is the less photogenic side.

By chance, Achinoam Nini showed off her left side this week. She’s right. It really doesn’t look all that great.

Abu Mazen is just getting started

“Even Mordechai the Jew, Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, Hershele Ostropoler, and The Flying Matchmaker were all Palestinians.”

(Dr. Abu Mazen, from his book, “Gideon Levy Reveals”)

What do they want?

Last year, two ultra-Orthodox members of Knesset threatened that if this “wicked government” continued in its ways, they will not agree to accept budgets from the state. This week, the High Court of Justice took them up on their offer. What exactly is wrong with this?

One more

“The Palestinians arrived on the scene 2,000 years before the Palestinians.”

(Abu Mazen, from his book, “Conversations with Ilan Lukach”)

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Jacob Zuma The Cost Cutter… vote for anyone else

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Jacob Zuma accused of corruption ‘on a grand scale’ in South Africa

Opposition say president should be investigated if preliminary findings that he misspent huge sums of public money are upheld



Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma’s aides said they ‘cannot comment on a report that his not been handed to us’. Photograph: Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

Opposition parties have accused President Jacob Zuma of being at the centre of one of the biggest corruption scandals in democratic SouthAfrica, after reports that millions of rand of taxpayers’ money were spent on a swimming pool and other facilities at his private home.

Zuma was accused of deceiving parliament about the expense and scope of the security upgrade to his residence in a scathing draft report by the country’s anti-graft watchdog, entitled ‘Opulence on a Grand Scale’, that was leaked to the Mail & Guardian newspaper. Opposition parties said that, if the findings are upheld in the final report, the president should face a parliamentary investigation with the potential to lead to his impeachment.

The scandal over state-sponsored construction at Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla, a modest rural town in KwaZulu-Natal province, has been rumbling since a December 2009 article in the Mail & Guardian about a 65m rand (£3.9m) “splurge” there.

The cost soared in the intervening years to 215m rand, with a further 31m rand in works outstanding, triggering intense media scrutiny and public condemnation, as well as an investigation by official public protector Thuli Madonsela. The acrimony over “Nkandlagate” has intensified in recent weeks as ministers went to court in an attempt to block the release of her report, while newspapers published photos of the home in defiance of a government warning that this might break security laws.

Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home 4/11/13Villagers’ huts in front of security fencing surrounding Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home. Photograph: Rogan Ward/ReutersThen came Friday’s Mail & Guardian with a front-page cartoon depicting Zuma floating on a swimming pool full of cash. The paper published details of Madonsela’s provisional report, saying she found that Zuma had derived “substantial” personal gain from the security upgrade at “enormous cost” to the taxpayer, and that he must repay the state.

Officials have repeatedly sought to justify the millions spent on Nkandla, insisting it was essential to provide Zuma with security befitting a head of state. But according to Madonsela, the improvements included a visitors’ centre, amphitheatre, cattle enclosure, marquee area, extensive paving, new houses for relocated relatives and a swimming pool – referred to in official documents as a “fire pool” on the pretext it could double up as a water reservoir for firefighting purposes.

The Mail & Guardian estimated that these facilities added up to 20m rand (£1.2m) of taxpayers’ money – a striking revelation in a country where the average black-headed household earns 5,051 rand (£302) a month.

In what “may be Zuma’s greatest embarrassment since taking office”, the paper added, Madonsela recommends that parliament call him to account for violating the executive ethics code on two counts: failing to protect state resources, and misleading parliament for suggesting he and his family had paid for all structures unrelated to security.

Zuma told parliament a year ago: “All the buildings and every room we use in that residence was built by ourselves as family and not by government.”

The report also said Zuma ordered that his private architect be drafted in as “principal agent” to oversee the upgrade, even though he was not a security expert. This led to an “uncontrolled creep” of the project and eightfold increase in the cost, with elements such as an underground bunker going way over budget.

The 215m rand spent on Zuma’s home is in stark contrast to state money spent on improving the security of previous presidents, the Mail and Guardian said. FW de Klerk, South Africa‘s last white president, who left office in 1994, received 236,000 rand (£14,179) for upgrades to his house, while 32m rand (£1.9m) was spent on Nelson Mandela’s home.

The opposition Democratic Alliance said the provisional findings contained in the report “are so damning that, if accurate, they would warrant the most severe sanction of president Jacob Zuma’s conduct“.

Lindiwe Mazibuko, its parliamentary leader, said she would consider tabling a parliamentary motion to investigate Zuma. “As more and more details surrounding Nkandlagate emerge, it is becoming increasingly clear that President Zuma is at the centre of one of the biggest corruption scandals in democratic South Africa,” she said. “He must be accordingly held accountable by parliament for his actions.”

Thabo Leshilo, a spokesman for Agang SA, said the facilities “were purely intended to ensure the president and his family can live in the lap of luxury at taxpayers’ expense”.

He added: “President Zuma should pay back every rand of public money improperly spent on making him live like the monarchy he fancies himself to be, which is out of kilter with the behaviour expected to the head of government in a constitutional democracy accountable to the public.”

Zuma’s political career has been littered with scandals. More than 700 corruption, fraud, money-laundering and racketeering charges against him were dropped shortly before his election in 2009. The following year he fathered a child out of wedlock. But the Nkandlagate saga has particular resonance in a nation whose elite are often accused of betraying the principles of the liberation struggle and showing disregard for the poor. It could also define his presidency just six months before a national election.

Justice Malala, a political commentator, said: “It’s going to be the main motif of the election. Every single politician in the opposition will grab the microphone to say ‘Nkandla’ and that will say it all. It’s going to be a big liability for the ANC and it will run and run.”

On Friday Madonsela condemned the leaking of her draft report as unlawful. She is yet to give the interested and affected parties, including Zuma, a right to reply, which may affect her final findings.

Jackson Mthembu, national spokesman for the ANC, urged South Africans to show restraint until the final report is published, adding: “As the ANC, we continue to have confidence in our president and we believe and know that he is not responsible for any wrongdoing with regard to the Nkandla security upgrade.”

A source close to Zuma said: “We cannot comment on a report that has not been handed to us. I think this is on the edge of undermining the justice system.”