Monday, March 21, 2016


The quote below is from a Feb. 26 AFP report:

"Palestinian wanted by Israel found dead in Bulgaria
Sofia (AFP) - A Palestinian activist wanted by Israel over the killing of a Jewish settler 30 years ago was found dead Friday in Bulgaria, local police and the Palestinian Authority said. Omar Nayef Zayed, 51, was discovered in the courtyard of the Palestinian embassy in Sofia, police said. Bulgarian radio reported that he had fallen from the fourth floor...

The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), of which Nayef was a member, cited in a statement his family as calling his death an "assassination". It said that Nayef, originally from Jenin in the West Bank, had sought refuge in the Palestinian embassy in Sofia two months ago and had "received threats"...

Nayef was convicted in 1986 over a murder case but escaped in 1990 during a visit to a Bethlehem hospital. He fled to Bulgaria in 1994 and married a local woman with whom he had three children.

Late last year Bulgarian authorities agreed to examine an Israeli extradition request, but a December 14 hearing was postponed because Nayef was not at his address, the Bulgarian interior ministry said. His death came a day after Prime Minister Boyko Borisov returned from a trip to Israel. Borisov said he discussed Nayef with both Israeli and Palestinian officials during the visit."

Please mention how the the ATP describes Zayed's victim as "Jewish settler", as if rationalizing the murder. Al Jazeera, in a March 2 report, gives more details: "Zayed was sentenced by an Israeli court to life in prison after being charged with killing a yeshiva student in occupied East Jerusalem in 1986. Four years into his sentence, he managed to escape Israeli custody during a hospital visit. He ended up in Sofia in 1994, and was granted residency, starting a family. Zayed's quiet life running a grocery store with his wife and three children turned upside down a couple of months ago, when the Israeli embassy in Sofia requested that the Bulgarian government extradite him on December 15."

I had to to turn to an Israeli source to find the victim's name: Eliyahu Amedi.

Zayed's family, the PFLP and the Palestinian community in Sofia are praising him as hero and demanding "the truth" about his death. Bulgarian sources are more elaborate about these reactions than English-language media, but I prefer not to translate. This support of a murderer is just pathetic and paints a nihilistic picture of the human race. These arrogant, despicable Palestinians should be thankful that we in Europe do not follow Mr. Zayed's example and do not rush to murder "settlers" whom we do not like.

Most commentators suspect that Mossad is responsible for Zayed's death. However, I would not exclude the Palestinians themselves from suspicion. According to Al Jazeera, "neither Zayed's family, nor the PFLP, spared the Palestinian Authority from blame. Besides failing to save his life, they claim Omar was under pressure from within the Palestinian embassy to leave its premises." The fugitive was clearly a liability for the embassy, exposing the true face of "Palestine" as a terror organization rather than a state, complicating their relations with Bulgaria and using their coffee, toothpaste, blankets, shower etc. So I find it quite possible that someone in the embassy decided to get rid of him in the same manner as the Islamic State deals with suspected gays

Al Jazeera also reports that "a few dozen Palestinians protested outside the Bulgarian Representative office in Ramallah amid a heavy security presence. The protesters held a banner threatening that "the crime of assassinating Al Nayef (Zayed) won't go unpunished"..."We came here to deliver a clear message to the Bulgarian representative; that they are responsible for this heinous crime," Ahmad Zayed, Omar's brother told Al Jazeera." (This brother was an accomplice in the 1986 murder.) I find it possible that our authorities turned a blind eye, but I don't think they assassinated Zayed - they are usually not so proactive.

Anyway, whoever did it, I like this ending of the case.

I wish to live in a world in which the life of each human being is valued by all others, and murder is never considered by anyone as a solution to any problem.

But, because I am not granted this, I want the next best thing: a world in which murder brings retribution.

I hope that Eliyahu Amedi's parents are alive and have heard the good news.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pros and cons of emigration

(Bulgarians can read this post here.)

Let me first copy parts of a March 7 report by Balint Szlanko, Associated Press:

"Iraqi migrants return after Europe disappoints

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) — Surkaw Omar and Rebien Abdullah quit their jobs and spent their life savings to migrate to Europe, only to find crowded asylum camps, hunger and freezing weather. Now back home in northern Iraq, they describe their quest for a better life as a disaster.

Many of the hundreds of thousands of people heading to Europe have no choice but to brave such hardships because they are refugees from places gripped by war, where their lives are in danger. But Omar and Abdullah come from Iraq's northern Kurdish region, which has been largely spared from fighting with the Islamic State group.

They each spent some $8,000 on the trip, much of it on smugglers, only to get stuck in asylum-seekers' camps in Germany and Sweden for months on end, where they say they were given very little food or money.

"It was very bad," Omar, 25, said of the German camp. "Honestly, we were starving there. We ran away because of hunger. They gave us only cheese and tea, and our weekly allowance was 30 euros."

They decided to try their luck in Sweden instead, but that didn't work either. "When we arrived there, it was winter. It was freezing. They put me in a room with three Syrians. I couldn't speak Arabic and they couldn't speak Kurdish. We were communicating like deaf people," Omar said. After trying Germany one more time, they gave up.

"We said to each other, let's go home. It's better than anywhere else," he said.

They are among what experts say is a growing number of migrants who are returning home because of the difficulty of finding housing and employment in Europe...

Maurizio Albahari, an anthropology professor at Notre Dame University who studies migration to Europe, said a number of European countries are "actively seeking to discourage asylum-seekers from staying, at least indirectly."...

Omar had worked as a day laborer in restaurants and supermarkets, while Abdullah had driven a taxi, which he sold to help finance his trip. They say their decision to migrate was mainly driven by peer pressure.

"I saw that everybody was leaving and they were saying, 'It's like this and that (in Europe).' But when I went there it wasn't like that at all," Omar said.

"Life in Europe is really hard," Abdullah said. "You have to wait. And we couldn't wait. We couldn't wait because we were so attached and loyal to our land, our families, to our mothers and relatives. And honestly, Europe and a residency card are not worth leaving your family and risking your life for."

Soran Omar, head of the human rights committee in the Kurdish regional parliament, said their experience is not uncommon... But he said the greater exodus from the region shows no sign of slowing down. "A lot of people may be coming back. But the opposite current is much, much bigger," he said..."

Let me first mention that Soran Omar is 100% right. Once a herd behavior gains momentum, it perpetuates itself even if it brings no advantage. So Europeans should not hope that they can reverse the flow of migration just by "indirect discouragement". Instead, they must think how to guard their borders, which has been a prerequisite for the long-term survival of any human community since prehistoric times. However, the purpose of this post is not to remind a forgotten banal truth.

If English is a foreign language for you, as it is for me, the above report may string a familiar chord. People emigrate because everyone is emigrating or planning to. They are carried away by the wave. Those who remain in their homeland are looked upon as foolish, lazy and good-for-nothing, until they finally believe it themselves. My Bulgaria has suffered from the same malaise ever since 1989, when communist dictatorship was dismantled and the borders were opened.

Many people have tried to persuade me to try to live in the West. "Go and see for yourself, and you will like it; and if you do not, you can always return." To me, this sounded like, "It doesn't matter that you do not like Peter. Marry him and you will begin to like him, and if you do not, you can always divorce!" The weak spot of this logic is that we have only one life, and it is not long enough to be wasted on such experiments.

In 1997, I was invited by a cousin in America to stay with her for a month. When I returned, a lot of people asked me why. I picked the easiest answer: "I had no permission to stay longer." Then most of them hinted that in this situation every remotely intelligent and decent Bulgarian, instead of returning home, would overstay her visa, remain illegally and wait in mile-long queues to ask immigration officials for mercy.

We who opted to remain in Bulgaria did not brag about our choice. How could we defend it? We were ruled by notoriously incompetent and corrupt governments, worked for meager wages and could not buy shiny cars. We were indeed good for nothing! A friend has told me that her fellow students, when they saw her by chance, looked at her disparagingly and asked, "Are you still in Bulgaria?" I have even heard a theory that we are bad parents because we conceive children without trying to give them a nice future, that is, a future abroad.

Today, a quarter of a century after the borders were opened, I can say that those members of my generation who remained are, on average, better off than those who left. I try to share this precious knowledge with young people, but they do not believe me. And how could they? The most prestigious secondary schools in Bulgaria are the "language secondary schools", where all subjects except Bulgarian language and literature are taught in English or another Western language. A friend whose daughter is attending such a school told me, "Most students in her class are ambitious and want to emigrate." This is not my idea of ambition. As some commentator said, mass emigration is inevitable when you have reporters asking 16-yr-old kids what keeps them in the country.

I am glad for Surkaw Omar and Rebien Abdullah, the Iraqis featured in the AP report. They have "seen world", as we say, and have returned poorer but wiser. They have realized that thinking with your own head if far better than letting peer pressure drive your life. Especially if peer pressure tells you to turn your only life upside down, move to a foreign place, leave your loved ones behind, disconnect from your native language and bend over backwards to convince locals to accept you. Unfortunately, the two young men haven't had the opportunity to see the best of Europe - I suppose they haven't visited even a single museum. I hope that they have at least photos of nice facades and shop-windows, and these souvenirs will last longer than the unpleasant memories of their adventure.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Better late than never

(Firework image from Wikimedia.)

Five and a half years ago, a colleague of mine did something which should have costed him the job - or at least most people around him, myself included, thought so.

He was ordered to stop teaching "until the case is clarified", but continued to receive his paychecks while we were doing his work.

With time, he was only becoming more useless and arrogant.

Yesterday, the case was finally clarified and his contract was terminated. The spirits at my workplace are high, we are literally celebrating. Few things bring as much relief and joy as getting rid of toxic people.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Bad countries persecute atheists

It is well known that Muslim-majority countries have a problem with atheists, particularly with those who have been Muslims and have renounced their faith. It is easily understandable. As Islamist theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi candidly stated in an Al-Jazeera show in 2013, the death penalty for those who leave Islam has been a necessity since the 15th century, because "if they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment Islam wouldn't exist today".

Of course, the tendency can be observed in a pure form in Saudi Arabia. Last November, the Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh (35) was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam. As the Guardian reports, Mr. Fayadh "was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, a city in the south-west of the ultraconservative kingdom, in May 2014. But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried earlier this month and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution." This sinister pattern of giving a severe sentence to an innocent person and then replacing it with an even more severe one after appeal is already familiar to us from the cases of Raif Badawi and his lawyer Waleed Abulkhair, both still in prison.

What about rogue non-Muslim countries such as Russia? One wouldn't expect persecution of atheists there. The traditional religion in Russia is Orthodox Christianity. The Christian establishment has been made unable to deal with atheists a long time ago (which of course has led to further secularization of Christian societies and to the decision of the likes of al-Qaradawi not to allow the same process in Muslim societies). Moreover, after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Russia was made officially atheistic and its subjects could get in serious trouble just for owning a Bible.

However, non-democratic countries are notorious for easily switching from one extremity to its exact opposite. Putin's Russia has been demonstrating Orthodox fanaticism for some time, and this should not be dismissed as mere posturing. Christopher Miller reports in Mashable:

"Russian Viktor Krasnov, 38, could be jailed over an Internet exchange with two strangers in an online community during which he said that God doesn't exist. 

On Wednesday, Krasnov appeared in court in the southern city of Stavropol, where he stands accused of violating a 2013 law that made it a crime to offend the sentiments of religious people, news site Meduza reported. Lawmakers introduced the ban after Pussy Riot's infamous punk protest inside a Moscow cathedral and the trial that followed. If convicted, Krasnov could be sentenced to one year in a Russian prison. 

During the exchange in question, which occurred on the Russian social network Vkontakte (In Contact) in October 2014, Krasnov wrote, "There is no God"... Krasnov also used some derogatory words to describe Jews and called the Bible a "collection of Jewish fairy tales." But he's not in trouble with the law for those remarks. 

While Krasnov wrote the comments in 2014, charges were only brought against him in early 2015, and he didn't learn of them until April 2015, Meduza reported. Later, Krasnov was forced to spend a month in a psychiatric facility, where doctors observed his mental state, the MediaZona news site reported..."

It seems that in today's world, atheists are among the first groups of people to be targeted by rogue regimes, like miner's canaries.