A Hamas David vs. an Israeli Goliath

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By Jayantha Dhanapala* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint

KANDY, Sri Lanka (IDN) - After an earlier eruption of one-sided warfare in Gaza, I wrote a piece titled “Eyeless in Gaza” in December 2012 referring appropriately to an Old Testament story in the Bible, resonant with both the Jewish Israeli and the Christian Palestinian, and recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s warning that an eye for an eye will make us all blind. I concluded that, “A peaceful settlement of the illegal occupation of Gaza by Israel and an end to the scandalous conditions of its 1.7 million citizens is still very far away.”

Of course no peaceful settlement has taken place. Instead we have had brutal and relentless ground and air attacks by Israel and exchanges of fire finally ending after 50 days of suffering and destruction with a ceasefire on August 27. There is no guarantee that this will be a sustainable ceasefire unless the root causes are addressed.

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UN Report Faults Humanitarian Vigilance In Response To Nuke Detonations

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By Jamshed Baruah | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BERLIN (IDN) - About 22,000 nuclear weapons continue to threaten humankind’s survival nearly 70 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and more than 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted to date, according to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). But the world is far from prepared to effectively respond to nuclear weapons detonations, “even at basic levels of preparedness, let alone a large-scale nuclear war”.

This perturbing view has been expressed in a study by the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) undertaken in cooperation with OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and UNDP (UN Development Programme) ahead of the first International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26.

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Squaring the ‘Islamic Democracy’ Circle in Tunisia

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By Eric Walberg* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

The self-immolation of a 26-year-old Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, in December 2010, was the spark that set off the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Do events there since prove or disprove those who see the Arab Spring as an important turning point in the Middle East?

TORONTO (IDN) - In an irony of imperialism witnessed throughout the region, Islamists in Tunisia (11 million, 98% Sunni) were repressed more after ‘independence’ in 196, than before under the French imperialists. The French handed power to secularist President Habib Bourguiba, who was pushed aside in a coup in 1988, and his corrupt and ruthless successor Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, was president for the next 23 years.

Contrast with Egypt

Just as Egypt’s Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak initially courted the Islamists only to turn against them, members of Tunisia’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked group Ennahda (founded in 1981, meaning Renaissance) were allowed to participate in the 1989 elections as independents and, despite blatant repression and vote rigging during the elections, garnered 17% of the vote.

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UN Aid Reaches Displaced Civilians in Libya

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By UN News | IDN-InDepth NewsReport

NEW YORK (IDN) - The United Nations refugee agency said August 18 it had, for the first time, begun sending aid into western Libya from Tunisia to help some of the tens of thousands of people displaced by weeks of fighting in Tripoli.

A first convoy carrying urgently needed medical supplies and relief items from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was organized by the International Medical Corps (IMC) on August 16.

The two trucks set off from Medinine and crossed the border at Ras Ajdir before heading to the town of Zawiya, where some 12,000 people have sought shelter from the fighting in Libya’s capital.

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Development Includes Disaster Risk Management

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By J C Suresh  | IDN-InDepth NewsReport

TORONTO (IDN) - Two thousand cities around the globe have signed on a United Nations global campaign – launched in 2010 for a period of five years until 2015 – to take on the challenge of integrating disaster risk management into their development processes.

The global campaign, Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready! is promoted by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). Presently, about 25 per cent of the participating cities are located in the Americas, and approximately 11 per cent (or 226) of all cities are situated in Brazil.

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Austrian Parliament Backs Government Efforts For Nuclear Disarmament

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By Jamshed Baruah | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

VIENNA (IDN) - As the Austrian government prepares to host the third international conference on the humanitarian consequences of atomic weapons on December 8-9 in Vienna, the county’s parliament has provided it the legal basis for its commitment to usher in a world without nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

The forthcoming gathering in Vienna will be the third since the March 2013 conference in Oslo convened by the Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide who said the Conference had “provided an arena for a fact-based discussion of the humanitarian and developmental consequences of a nuclear weapons detonation”.

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Freedom Of Religion Or Belief Crucial To EU’s External Policy

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By Valentina Gasbarri* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

ROME (IDN) - Fundamental freedoms and human rights are at the heart of the founding treaties of the European Union (EU) and these are protected under member states’ national legislation. The Charter on Fundamental Rights also sets out the civil, political, economic and social rights of European citizens and all persons resident in the EU.

In November 2012, the Norwegian Nobel Committee acknowledged the commitment and activities of the EU in reconciliation, democracy, promotion of human rights and enlarging the area of peace and stability across the continent, and awarded it the Nobel Peace Prize.

As a universal human right, freedom of religion or belief (FORB) is a priority under the EU human rights policy. The EU defends and promotes freedom of religion or belief as a fundamental right to which everyone is entitled, within and outside the EU. The EU Guidelines on FORB, adopted early in 2013, underline the 28-nation bloc’s strong commitment to the promotion and protection of this universal human right without any discrimination.

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69 Years On: Need To Tread A Nuke Free Road

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By Akira Kawasaki* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint

August 6, 2014 marked the 69th anniversary of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon over Japan. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki held ceremonies commemorating those hundreds of thousands who perished in the two nuclear attacks in 1945, and the countless more whose lives would forever be affected. But in these past decades, can we say that we have truly learned from the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is our recognition of the suffering inflicted upon those cities matched with the concrete action to ensure that it can never be repeated? Akira Kawasaki answers these and other questions in a contribution to IDN partner Pressenza

TOKYO (IDN) - While the numbers of nuclear weapons are down significantly from the days of the Cold War – when it seemed as though another Hiroshima or Nagasaki could be imminent – we are far from having secured our future against another such unspeakable human tragedy.

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69 Years On: A Survivor Account of the Hiroshima Bombing

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By Setsuko Thurlow | IDN-InDepth NewsDocument*

At the Little White House in Key West Florida, on 16 May 2014, atomic bomb testimony was delivered in an official forum on Truman ground for the first time. Together with Clifton Truman Daniel, Hibakusha Stories organized an event where Setsuko Thurlow and Yasuaki Yamashita were able to share their experience of being children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. Thanks to support from the Truman Family, The Little White House and The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, atomic bomb survivors are now on the official record defending the position that nuclear weapons are immoral no matter in whose hands.  The following is Setsuko Thurlow’s speech from that evening.

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What Russia Learnt From Chechnya Before Ukraine Foray

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By Brenna Owen | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

KINGSTON, Canada (IDN) - The view that Russian President Vladimir Putin has consolidated and strengthened Moscow’s power is commonly held and, indeed, holds much truth.

Domestically speaking, Putin has effectively reconstituted Russian state power – aided in part by the appeal of his charismatic ‘strongman’ image. What has emerged is a system of competitive authoritarianism in which Putin governs through formal democratic institutions, but violates rules and processes to such an extent that his regime fails to meet universally accepted democratic standards.

In addition to an iron-fisted grip on domestic politics, the perception exists that Putin’s foreign policy is a testament to Moscow’s strength. For instance, Putin’s close association with the relative stabilization of Chechnya conferred on him the mantle of legitimacy and lent him popular electoral support.

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Indian Army’s Modernisation Needs Huge Investment

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By Arun Sahgal* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint

NEW DELHI (IDN | IDSA) - The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government – headed by Prime Minister Narenda Modi – has identified defence reforms and building a self sustaining defence industrial base as a priority reform sector. To transform this into reality, it is not so much of the government commitment but its ability to take policy decisions and put processes in place by spurring public and private sector investments through higher indigenisation, transfer of technology, simplifying procedures, etc.

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