Category Archives: history

Monkey business no laughing matter

Racist skull analysis

This rather offensive picture comes from Josiah Clark Nott and George Robert Gliddon, Indigenous races of the earth (First published 1857). It illustrates scientific theories of racism in the 19th century, which continued into the early 20th century. Essentially, the theory is that Aryan “races” are superior in evolutionary terms to Black “races”, and that people of African descent are more genetically related to monkeys than Aryan races. Personally I think that Apollo Belvidere looks like a bit of freak, and I’d rather be more closely related to the chimp than him, but maybe that’s just me. Such theories were used to justify colonialism, slavery, apartheid and racial discrimination by Europeans towards other races.

India

Cricket has been marred recently by allegations that Indian Harbhajan Singh called Australian Andrew Symonds a “monkey” during the recent test at the SCG. Three Australian players backed up Symonds, whereas Singh denies that he said Symonds was a monkey, and Tendulkar backs him up. Oh, and an important detail: although Symonds was brought up in Australia by his adoptive parents, he is part West Indian. There was a history behind this, with Symonds being repeatedly taunted by the Indian crowd in Mumbai last year, who made monkey gestures at him. Symonds alleges that Singh also called him a monkey during that match, but he preferred to settle it “man to man”, going to Singh after the match and asking him not to do it again. Singh also denied saying such a thing on that occasion, but apologised.

In the recent incident, match referee Mike Procter accepted the allegations of the Australian team and suspended Singh for 3 matches. Indian officials then threatened to abandon the Indian cricket team’s tour of Australia, saying that the allegations against Singh were unfair. In India, effigies of the test umpires and the Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, were burned. There were calls for Ponting to be sacked as captain, in part because he “dobbed” Singh into the umpires. One of the umpires, West Indian Steve Bucknor, was made to stand down for the next test in Perth, prompting outrage from the West Indies. Brad Hogg was then accused by the Indians of calling Anil Kumble and Mahendra Dhoni “bastards”, scarcely a term of offense in Australia (more a term of affection), but much more offensive in India. The Indians now say that “monkey” is not an offensive term in India. In any case, the Test will now go ahead after the ICC acceded to the Indian team’s demands.

There’s a few things here. Both the Indian and the Australian cricket teams have at times behaved badly. Neither team are perfect. Both have complained about the other appealing too many times. Both have sledged.

In Sydney, India lost a match which it looked like it was going to win, in part because of some refereeing decisions. I think this is why the decision to ban Singh provoked such passion. It was mixed up with frustration and disappointment. Certainly, I would have been very disappointed if I was an Indian fan after the Sydney test. Australia has been the dominant force in cricket in the recent decade (very much like the West Indies during my youth), and there is a perception by the Indians that Australia thinks it can rule the roost as a result. By the same token, the Indian cricket authorities are using their economic power to get their way in a bullying fashion, but if anyone questions it, they claim Australians don’t like the thought of “brown” people controlling the game. I don’t care who controls the game, as long as whoever controls it treats everyone equally, regardless of whether they are black, brown or white, and regardless of how much money they put into the game. That’s a fundamental principle of justice – no favour should be given to race, religion or class. The adjudication should merely be on the merits.

On the merits of the matter, there are two conflicting accounts of events, both with esteemed players backing up their sides’ account, which makes it very difficult to adjudicate. I’m reluctant to come down on any particular side or the other without a full view of the evidence. What is important is the lesson to be learned about sledging and the appropriateness of “friendly” rivalry. I’ve never been a fan of sledging and taunting the other team. I really don’t think it’s very sportsmanlike, whoever does it.

The Australian team should be aware that in other countries, the term “bastard” is far more offensive than it is in Australia. I know that when I went to live in the UK, my father warned me not to use the term. But the other teams should also be aware that if an Aussie calls someone a bastard, it’s often more affectionate than nasty.

By the other token, I think that Indians should be aware that there is an entire racist discourse behind calling a person with West Indian background as a “monkey”. It may be culturally acceptable in India to call someone a monkey, but as the picture at the beginning of this post shows, to single out the only black man in a team for that name has some very unpleasant connotations. If it’s not racist, why did the Mumbai crowd single out Symonds? Why were the other (white) team members not called monkeys too? I suggest the only answer can be racism. It ill behooves a group of people who have been under the colonial yoke to adopt racist colonial stereotypes. There is a certain fallacious logic to some of the responses that “brown people can’t be racists”. Anyone can be racist. Racism is present in all societies. It so happens that in most continents, for reasons of “luck” or historical happenstance (rather than because of any intrinsic superiority), Europeans colonised and subjugated other people. But it could just as easily have been a different ethnic group if the conditions had been right.

To call a man of partial West Indian descent a “monkey” could be said to suggest, in accordance with 19th century scientific racism, that black people are somehow less than human. So it’s far worse than just an insult. It’s a justification for slavery and genocide. It’s like teasing a Jew with a swastika and saying it’s an innocent Hindu symbol – the racist subtext of the swastika makes it non-innocent. I note that in the Hindustan Times, many Indians have written justifying the use of the word “monkey” towards Symonds. Those Indians should look at the picture at the start of the post and think carefully about that claim, because there is a deep racism ingrained in that insult. In my opinion, regardless of whether or not Singh actually called Symonds a monkey, it should be made clear to all cricketers and cricketing fans that racist terms such as this are simply unacceptable, and to say it was “just a friendly term” is disingenous.

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Stolen Generation Success

I was interested to read the recent case of Trevorrow v State of South Australia (No. 5) (2007) SASC 285. Put briefly, the plaintiff was taken from his parents as an infant, and consequently had a troubled childhood and adolescence. He succeeded in his efforts to sue the South Australian government. I think that this was a just result.

It’s a sad story. The plaintiff was cared for by his mother and his father. His mother separated from his father, and left three of the children with the father over Christmas. When he was a little over a year old, the plaintiff contracted gastroenteritis and his father did not have transport by which to get him to hospital. The police could not help. So the father got the local garage proprietors to take the boy to hospital.  The plaintiff was cured, but instead of being returned to either parent, he was then fostered out with a non-indigenous family. Neither parent knew what had happened to the boy. The mother tried to get the boy returned to her, but was told that there was nothing she could do. Meanwhile, the plaintiff was fostered out to a non-indigenous household and brought up as a child of the house. Once the plaintiff found out that he was not related to his family, he began to act up and steal things. He was returned to his mother when he was 10 years old, but found it extremely difficult as he did not know his family and did not know Ngarrindjerri language or customs. He then got into trouble with the law, and became an alcoholic. In comparison, his brothers and sisters who were not taken from their parents seem to have overcome childhood difficulties and poverty. One brother of the plaintiff is a respected Ngarrindjerri elder.

The Court was prepared to extend the limitation of actions period in the circumstances.  Gray J found that the plaintiff was not removed from his parents in accordance with prescribed statutory processes. There was a foreseeable risk of harm to the plaintiff. Accordingly, the South Australian government was liable for a number of claims:

  • tort of misfeasance in the public office;
  • tort of false imprisonment;
  • tort of negligence
  • possible breach of fiduciary duty (for which damages would be the same as for common law actions;

The plaintiff was awarded $450,000 damages for the breaches of the duties above, and $75,000 in exemplary damages.

It seems to me that this case is a fair one. As I’ve outlined in a past post, I don’t take a hard and fast attitude towards the Stolen Generation. There are at least two conflicting motives at play. I’m sure that some probably did have the best interests of children at heart. But there was also an explicit desire to “Westernise” indigenous children and a racist aim of “wiping out” indigenous culture. Both motives were often combined.

As I have also explained, I have known indigenous people who were taken from their parents or had relatives who were taken from their parents. Their stories lead me to believe that great pain has been visited on these people, but that in some cases there were valid reasons for them being taken from their parents. The scenarios are complicated and not well suited to the adversarial arena of the court room.  In one instance, a student’s mother was taken from her tribe because the majority of the tribe wanted to kill the baby (a “half-caste” child who was the product of a rape). The mother of the child did not want her to die, and so she relinquished the child to authorities after it transpired that she could not protect the girl. Another friend was taken from her mother because her mother was physically abusive. Her mother lacked parenting skills, in part presumably because she herself had been taken from her parents. However, unfortunately, my friend was also abused in the foster homes in which she was subsequently placed. She has suffered lasting psychological damage.

I agree with Julian Burnside QC that there can be no blanket response to this issue: it all depends on the facts of each case. For example, in the Cubillo case, the plaintiffs failed in large part because their factual allegations could not be made out.  In comparison, in this case, the plaintiff succeeded because he could point to the fact that his removal was not authorised, and he could also establish that his psychiatric problems arose because of his placement in a foster home. I presume that it was highly relevant that his siblings seem not to have had these kind of problems, even though they also had a difficult upbringing.

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Fighting the Good Fight?

What happens, say, when two devoutly religious football teams play a match, and the captain of each team prays to God that his team will win? Do the devoutly religious believe He balances the competing prayers, and that the winner is the more righteous before God?

The doctrine of free will would say that He doesn’t directly intervene in human affairs in that way, or at least, that He can’t be depended upon to do so. So whether one wins or not depends upon skill and effort.

But what if you believe that God will intervene in human affairs? This is the kind of question that I wonder about from time to time.

I couldn’t help thinking of this question when I read that Ken Ham and his US based Answers in Genesis ministry are being sued by the Brisbane-based Creation Ministries International for misleading and deceptive conduct with regard to his dealings with the Australian organisation. If you’re thinking that Ken Ham’s name sounds familiar, he’s an expatriot Australian and former science teacher who also happens to be the CEO of the Creation Museum in Kentucky (the one with the dinosaurs with saddles along with Adam and Eve).

Hence my thoughts at the start of this post. Will both sides be praying to win the legal case? It all sounds very un-Christian and unpleasant to me.

(Via A Roll of the Dice)

Update

For a very detailed background to the legal proceedings, have a look at this blog post at Duae Quartunciae. Very interesting indeed.

Duae Quartunciae has backed up his analysis with copious copies of documentation. It sounds like Answers in Genesis will need to provide some answers to a secular judge before too long. As Duae Quartunciae says, when people who take the high moral ground behave in ways that seem distinctly immoral, it reeks of hypocrisy. Not much evidence of loving thy neighbour here. It’s all about power, not love.

Update 2

A commenter below has suggested that Matthew 5:40 provides guidance to Mr Ham and his ministry:

“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.”

Somehow I don’t think Creation Ministries will be getting Ken Ham’s cloak.

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National Day of Secularism

Bruce has tagged me for the National Day of Secularism meme.

He’s interested to see what I will say because of a comment I made to him when discussing those stupid citizenship questions…namely:

The Ten Commandments can be regarded as forming one of the precedents for modern law, canon law, and all kinds of other law. So to the extent, our legal tradition is based in part upon notions expressed in the Old Testament (which is broadly equivalent to the Tanakh), we can be said to have a legal system which depends on “Judaeo-Christian” values and notions.

Now, those of you who read my blog know that I was not brought up with any particular religion. I must confess to a bit of an obsession with millennial cults and heresies. I love it when people predict the end of the world or the arrival of a new Messiah and it doesn’t happen. Maybe I’m just mean. But I always wonder how the cult leader explains it away. I imagine, for example, the Fifth Monarchy Men during Oliver Cromwell’s rule of England, standing on a hill waiting for the Rapture to pick them up. Apparently they had their hands in the air all night, waiting for the Second Coming. What happened the next day? Apart from, of course, the fact that they had sore arms? How did they explain it? (“Oh, we must have made a mistake, the Second Coming is a month away….oops, no, a month after that…“)

So Bruce has asked me to put my money where my mouth is. Do I think religion has a place in the law? Do I think it has a place in our wider society?

As Paul at A Roll of the Dice has pointed out, s 116 of the Australian Constitution states:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

This is a good thing. I support the separation of church and state in Australian society and law. It means that everyone can be equal in Australia, regardless of whether they believe in one God, many Gods or no God at all. This is how it should be.

What position, then, does religion play in the law? On a practical level, the main way in which religion still comes into the law is in relation to the oaths people swear upon giving evidence. These days, you don’t have to swear upon the Bible. There are procedures for many different religions, and affirmations for those who choose not to swear an oath at all. Personally, I’m an “affirmer” which is always a little bit controversial, even in these secular days, but if I swore on the Bible I feel like a hypocrite. In the Victorian Supreme Court, sometimes the Tipstaff also announces “God Save the Queen! I now declare this honourable court open.” Those are the only two ways in which religion comes into the courtroom.

When I was young and angry, I used to be a staunch atheist. I would go so far as to say that I was a fundamentalist atheist. I think this arose in a number of ways:

  • The prominence of science and reason in my upbringing.
  • In Grade 2, a Religious Education teacher told Cherryripe and I that our parents were going to go to hell. It put me off religion big time (and, if I’m not mistaken, Cherryripe was put off as well). I decided that if the teacher was right, I’d rather be in hell with Mum and Dad than in heaven with her, and if she was wrong, well, it didn’t matter.
  • In Grade 4, a Religious Education teacher told me that Jesus resurrected her dead goldfish after she prayed to Him. She had placed the goldfish in a saucepan and stirred it with a wooden spoon, praying as she stirred. (No, I’m not being funny here, this really happened. Cherryripe will back me up. We had some doozies).
  • Some bad experiences with religious people who talked about holiness, but were all about hate and excluding others.
  • A dislike of groups, and a natural desire to be contrary.
  • A perception that religion led to hatred and war (the Middle East, Northern Ireland) as well as bad treatment of women, homosexuals and minorities.
  • That old chestnut: Why do bad things happen to good people? How can there be a just God or Gods if He/She/They let bad things happen to good people? (I’ve explored this a little already in my post on the Virginia Tech shootings)

It was only really until I got to university that I mellowed. I looked at my friends, who come from very varied backgrounds, and saw that religion can be both a positive and a negative. It can inspire people to great deeds and creations. Some religious figures can be truly inspirational and good people. But religion can also give people an excuse or a reason to do great cruelty. It can screw with people’s minds totally, for example, where someone who is religious discovers they are homosexual, but this is not sanctioned by their religion. However, atheism can also be both a positive and a negative. A fundamentalist atheist is as bad as a fundamentalist anything else. These days, I would say I am agnostic. I am accepting of all religions, as long as those who follow them are accepting of me and my traditions and background. I have found that people are very welcoming if you are open and ready to learn. I have been a bridesmaid at a Jewish wedding and a Muslim wedding in the same month. I have gone to Sunday lunches, Eid celebrations, Passover seders, Sikh weddings, Buddhist weddings, Christian funerals…you get the picture. I do think that religion has an important part in our society, and I would not want to deny that.

What of religion and the law? I see the place of religion in our law as a historical one. In Australia, we do not have religious courts or religious laws that we have to follow, unless we choose to submit to the dictates of a particular religious body (eg, the Jewish Beth Din in Australia). I do think, however, that religion has had an important historical impact on the development of the law. The thing which amazed me when I studied the halakah (Jewish religious laws), the hadith (Islamic religious laws) and a little bit of canon law is the similarity which they bore to modern day laws. Much of the subject matter was the same as that which comes up every day in courts today. When is it okay to break a contractual agreement? When is murder legal, if ever? What is the penalty for stealing a man’s cow? Is divorce permitted? How many witnesses are required to prove certain things? Funnily enough, they each developed in an organic way which is very similar to the English common law.

Religion has played a important part in the way in which our law has developed, and it cannot be fully understood without knowing something about that historical background. Many religions provide moral guidelines for how we live our lives, and I believe that the notions expressed in the Old Testament or Tanakh and the New Testament have been an important influence on the way in which our law and our notions of governance have developed, along with many other factors. I am not suggesting that we should rely on the Bible or the Talmud for legal precedent in this modern day and age. (Dare I say, “God Forbid!”? ;-D) I am just noting a historical fact.

I am glad our present-day law and our state are secular. If the state privileges a particular religious ideal, this means that those who do not believe in that ideal are somehow less a part of the state.

That being said, I am wary of relying too much on reason as a source of law. As a lawyer, I know how easily reason can be manipulated. After all, us lawyers make a living from trying to persuade people that the unreasonable is actually reasonable. Reason cannot be the be all and end all of our law. Even if we do not believe that religious ideals should presently inform our law, there must be some kind of moral basis to it. This tension is known in legal circles as the divide between positivism and natural law. Positivism says that the law is what you say it is. If a statute is properly enacted, it is legal, regardless of the content of that statute. Natural law says that the law is what is good and moral. If a statute does something that is immoral, it cannot be law, even if it is validly enacted. I do believe that there are some things which are fundamentally wrong or immoral. That is why I believe in human rights. To me, an element of morality or natural law is essential – not for religious reasons, but just because it’s the right thing to do.

Update – 27/5/07

Just watched the second half of Richard Dawkins’ television series, The Root of Evil. It was interesting. I think Dawkins is a little too hardcore for me.

I don’t have a problem with religion generally, as long as it doesn’t prevent people from questioning why things are. Some of those people in that documentary were pretty scary – they were so sure that they had the absolute truth, and that one could not question it.

Religion gives those with an inflexible mind a schedule to which to adhere, but I wonder whether religion is to blame. I suspect that if they didn’t have religion, they’d find some other doctrine to which they had to adhere (political or otherwise). I am reminded of a friend who was brought up in a very strict religious household. He rejected his upbringing, but kept seeking substitutes. At one point he was an evangelical scuba diver, and tried to convince me to become a scuba diver too. I think he was just evangelical in general, regardless of religion.

Update 2

Feel like having a bet both ways? Apparently a US Creationist museum has put two dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark. Craziness.

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The Middle East – How has it come to this?

I have been inspired by CeeCee’s post on the topic of the Middle East. How have things reached the point where there is open warfare in the Middle East?

This is not a rant, but a layperson’s guide to Middle Eastern history and an exploration of how matters have escalated. I am attempting to provide an unbiased factual account. I am not an expert in this field by any means, and I accept that I may have made errors in my account of history. If you are aware of any errors, please let me know. I am not “judging” any of the parties or taking sides. I am attempting to paint a picture of how things have come to this pass. There is a very involved history behind the conflict, which reaches back (at least) to World War I.

History of the formation of Israel

From the 1920s, Palestine was under British mandate with the support of the League of Nations. This was as a result of World War I, when Britain captured this area, which had previously been under Turkish control. The root of the current conflict lies in a number of different promises as to whom the land would be given:

  • Hussein-McMahon Correspondence: Correspondence between Hussein ibn Ali, Sharif of Mecca and Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt. In a letter dated 24 October 1915, McMahon stated that Britain agreed to cede to the Arabs all areas requested by Hussein, except for “the districts of Mersin and Alexandretta, and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo…” The letter does not specifically mention what was to happen to the Sanjak of Jerusalem, the Ottoman administrative division that covered most of Palestine.
  • Sykes-Picot Agreement: A secret agreement made 16 May 1916 between Britain and France which established how the Palestinian territories were to be divided up under British and French control. It appears that Sykes was not aware of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, and it was not taken into account in dividing up the area. This was the agreement which was subsequently ratified by the League of Nations.
  • Balfour Declaration: Made 2 November 1917. The British government stated to the Zionist Federation in Britain by letter that it favoured the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine provided that civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine were not prejudiced.

The Jews regard Israel as their ancestral and spiritual homeland. They had been expelled from Judaea in 135AD by the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, following a Jewish revolution led by Bar Kokhba. This led to the Diaspora, where Jewish populations were scattered all over the world. As a result of anti-semitism in Europe, by the 19th and early 20th century, many Jews became convinced that the only way to escape persecution was to have their own state. After World War II and the Holocaust, the movement for a Jewish state gained international support.

Britain relinquished its mandate over Palestine after World War II. On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181). This proposed to partition the territory into separate Jewish and Arab states, with the Greater Jerusalem area (including Bethlehem) to come under international control. Jewish leaders accepted the plan, while Palestinian Arab leaders rejected it. Neighboring Arab and Muslim states also rejected the partition plan. The British mandate ended on 15 May 1948 and the State of Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948.

The neighboring Arab states (Transjordan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) and local Palestinian Arab paramilitaries immediately attacked Israel following its declaration of independence, and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War ensued. Consequently, the partition plan was never implemented. Instead, the 1949 Armistice eliminated “Palestine” as a distinct territory. It was divided between Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

As a result of the 1948 War, many Palestinians fled, emigrated or were expelled from their homes to other parts of Israel or to neighbouring countries. The issue of Palestinian refugees and whether they should be allowed to return remains a major bone of contention between Israel, the Palestine Territories and other Arab countries. In December 1948, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 which declared (amongst other things) that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so” and that “compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return.” However, parts of the resolution were never implemented. After the 1948 War, Israel expelled many Palestinian Arabs. Similarly, Arab countries expelled many Jews living in their territories.

In 1967, a further Arab-Israeli War occurred, sometimes called “the Six Days War”, involving Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria. By the end of the war, Israel had gained control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. Israel continues to hold the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

In 1973, the Yom Kippur War occurred (also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War). It was fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab nations led by Egypt and Syria . The war began on the day of Yom Kippur, with a surprise joint attack by Egypt and Syria. They invaded the Sinai and Golan Heights respectively, which had been captured by Israel in 1967.

In 1982, Israel became involved in the Lebanese Civil War. This war had started in 1975 involved the conflict between various religious, ethnic and political groups in Lebanon. Israel entered the war to end the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s growing presence in Lebanon. In 1983 – 1984, Israel effectively withdrew from Lebanon, leaving a small residual force which was finally withdrawn in 1990.

Attempts to find a peaceful solution

There have been attempts to find a peaceful solution on both sides. Most recently, in the early 1990s, Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation entered into peace talks which culminated in the Oslo Accords. As a result of the Oslo Accords, in 1994, the Palestinian National Authority was created. It was envisaged as an interim administrative organization that governs parts of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip. Five years after its formation, the parties were to negotiate who should have final control of areas. The final status agreement was supposed to be concluded by 1999 but has never been concluded.

There have been a number of subsequent attempts to conciliate between the parties, including the following:

  • The 2000 Camp David Summit (involving, among others, Yasser Arafat, Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton);
  • The 2001 Taba Summit (involving, among others, Yasser Arafat, Ehud Barak, Bill Clinton, the EU); and
  • The unofficial Geneva Accords (involving some Israeli and Palestinian politicians).

A difficulty in resolving the issue is that in September 2000, the “Second Intifada” began. It has often stated to have been sparked off by Ariel Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque. Essentially, it sparked off riots by Palestinians, as well as terrorist and rocket attacks on Israel and followed by retaliatory attacks on the Palestinian Territories by the Israeli army.

The present conflict

Apart from Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, the other players in the present conflict are as follows:

  • Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist organization formed by Sheikh Yassin. Hamas is know for its suicide bombings. Article 13 of Hamas’ Covenant states: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with.” Hamas formed the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people in early 2006. It entered goverment as a result of widespread corruption of the secular Fatah faction, formerly headed by Yasser Arafat.
  • Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shia Islamic group and political party, with a military arm and a civilian arm. It was founded with the aid of Iran and is apparently funded by Iran and Syria. Hezbollah follows the ideology developed by Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The present conflict was started when on 9 June 2006, 8 Palestinians were killed by an explosion at a beach near the municipality of Beit Lahia in the Gaza Strip. There is still disagreement as to whether the explosion was caused by the Israeli army or unexploded ordnance. As a result of this explosion, Hamas withdrew from its 16 month old truce with Israel. On 10 June 2006, Hamas admitted it had fired rockets into Israel.

On 24 June 2006, Hamas initiated raids into Israel from the Gaza strip and captured an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. Shalit’s captors call for the release of all Palestinian women and children under the age of 18 held in Israeli prisons in return for information about Shalit. Israel refused to negotiate. As a result on 28 June 2006, the Israeli Defence Forces initiated Operation Summer Rains where they entered the Gaza Strip and arrested of various members of Hamas, as well as destroying of a number of government offices.

On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah initiated “Operation Truthful Promise”, named for a “promise” by its leader to capture Israeli soldiers and swap them for the remaining three Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. The early morning raid into Israeli territory resulted the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the death of eight Israeli soldiers. This was an apparent “copy-cat” attempt to emulate Hamas’ kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. The Israeli Army commenced an attack on Lebanon in response to the Hezbollah attack. It has now commenced an air and sea blockade of Lebanon, and has bombed the main Beirut–Damascus highway.

This is where matters now stand. I hope that this is a helpful and measured account of what is happening and how history has contributed to the present situation.

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