Talking points for 18 April

Good morning, let’s start today with a comment from Insistent Verite on the World Today’s post about talking to terrorists, which comes from former US President Jimmy Carter’s talks with Hamas in Egypt, which he has had to defend. Insistent suggest we ask “What is a terrorist?” Alternatively we could keep it simple and find out if you think he’s right to talk to Hamas.

In Texas yesterday the custody hearing for 416 children removed from a breakaway Mormon sect began with chaotic scenes as 350 lawyers conferred with their young clients and their parents. The allegations of child abuse at the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) ranch are serious and would be abhorent if proven, but Judge Barbara Walther says her court “does not intend to rule about someone’s religious practices and their freedom of religion.” But you can: Polygamy is illegal in the United States and most Western countries, but should it be? The practice works in many cultures and perhaps outlawing it countributes to the situation at the Yearning for Zion ranch.

On Zimbabwe, should South Africa stop the reported arms shipment from passing over its territory? The government says it cannot intervene – and there is no suggestion that the cargo is illegal, but does the situation in Zimbabwe require extraordinary measures to be taken? And should President Mbeki step down as mediator in the dispute, as MDC leader Morgan Tsvangarai has demanded?

Things to think about already on the site this morning: What’s the problem with women politicians? – have a read of this from The Times – does Spain show the way with women making up more than half its Cabinet? – Can relationships with big age gaps work? and Is it right to glamorize extreme thinness?

But wait, there’s more: EU migrants in Ireland may get full voting rights – is this the way to encourage integration? And should mobile phones be banned from public transport? The Austrian city of Graz is joining others in having a go.

And I’m not sure what the question is, but this piece about Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s visit to Qatar makes interesting reading.

14 Responses to “Talking points for 18 April”

  1. April 18, 2008 at 09:57

    Some late addtions: Is enough done to help soldiers coming home with mental problems?

    Is Kenya an example to the rest of Africa? (Tsvangirai clearly thought so, since he says the MDC and Zanu-PF came close to agreeing a unity government.)

    And what about Kylie Minogue revealing that she’s accepted that she may never find a husband or have children? Is her tone defensive? Should she have to justify her decision?

  2. April 18, 2008 at 10:00

    Actually it occurs to me that Kenya could be an example to the rest of the world, not just Kenya. Certainly the Maoists in Nepal don’t sound very conciliatory.

  3. 3 Katharina in Ghent
    April 18, 2008 at 11:15

    Good morning,

    These are a lot of questions!

    Hamas: Yes, I think there should have been a lot more talk and a lot more effort to include them in a Palestenian solution. You cannot make an election and then, if you lose, declare the winner illegal. Hamas is certainly not innocent of the many problems there, but if we would manage to get them on our (=peaceful) side, then a solution might finally be possible.

    Polygamy: it’s a simple matter of math: about the same amount of boys and girls are born in any given year (except in Asia maybe, where they select for boys if they can). Therefore, if we allow polygamy, which normally is only for men valid, then a lot of young men will not be able to find a mate – and I’ve read quite a while ago about the community in Canada that this is indeed a problem. Basically the old, wealthy men high in the pecking order have it in their power to decide whether a young man may get married or not. On the other hand: if we allow it in both directions… I might get tempted (just kidding).

    Arms into Zimbabwe: No way! The last thing this country needs is a bunch of angry men with arms in their hands, haven’t they learned anything from Kenya???

    More women into the government: Absolutely, there’s no reason other than male preferences and “buddy networks” why women are still underrepresented in so many governments… and companies at the CEO level… and so forth.

    Big age gaps: can work, but there will be a lot of scrutiny from the outside, no one will believe that it’s really love from both partners, especially the younger one.

    Full voting rights: Probably not really a good idea, because most immigrants (myself included) wouldn’t even know what the parties stand for and who their representatives are.

    Less mobile phones: yes, please! Especially in Austria you can’t go anywhere without listening to at least five different people talking on their mobiles at the same time, many think that’s what public transport is actually for! “Got nothing to do right now, have to wait for my stop, so… let’s call someone.” I don’t think they even remember what life was like 15 years ago…

    Soldiers: Not enough done for them they get thrown into these horrifying situations and afterwards they are left alone to deal with the consequences. On the other hand, they signed up for duty, so I don’t feel too sorry for them.

    Kylie Minogue: it’s probably hard to find a serious relationship when you’re a superstar like her. I accept her sense of reality, it’s nothing else.

    That’s it for now…

  4. 4 Lubna
    April 18, 2008 at 12:03

    Dear Peter : Good morning from sunny and hot Baghdad. In the light of the piece you mentioned about the visit of Ms Livni to Qatar, I do believe the question that needs to be asked “How do you see the current Arab Israeli meetings ?!” or “Do you support the normalisation of the diplomatic relationships between the Arab World and Israel as it is now i.e. while Israel is still occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem ?!” or “Do you think the Arab League initiative is still a valid basis for reviving the peace process ?!”. As you know, the Arab League initiative offered a complete normalisation of the diplomatic relationships between Israel and the Arab World ON CONDITION that Israel must pull out from all the Arab lands it occupied in 1967.
    With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  5. 5 Yossri
    April 18, 2008 at 12:46

    In recent weeks it has been observed that incidents bringing bad name by a few waywardly representatives of one religious minority are splashed all over BBC with shouting headlines. However when it comes to any representatives from other religious followings, the stories are either overlooked or brushed under the carpet. A case in point is the rescue of allegedly abused 419 children and 139 women in Eldorado Texas.

    Why it so happens that Newsnight loses its sense of proportion and priority about what is newsworthy and instead digs from 2004 speeches by Trevor Brooks an electrician on benefits enjoying generous attention from Richard Watson riveted to rants of rabble rousers?

    This selective and subjective approach to overblow the wrongdoings of some fringe elements to tarnish the image of an entire otherwise law abiding community makes many readers uneasy.

    While the reporting should condemn the wrongdoings it should not malign the identity and roots of the community unless it is convincingly established and proven. This tantamounts to cause smearing of a community’s image with out regard for the majority’s law abiding practice in the society.

  6. 6 Priya - World Have Your say Producer
    April 18, 2008 at 13:45

    Tzipi Livni said this in Qatar about a code that the international community should adopt for all elections:

    “This code requires that all those seeking the legitimacy of a democratic process earn it by respecting such principles as state monopoly over the lawful use of force, the rejection of racism and violence, and the protection of the rights of others.”

    Should the state have a monopoly on the use of force?

  7. 7 VictorK
    April 18, 2008 at 13:52

    You are a terrorist if you habitually target civilians for violence, don’t follow the laws of war, and choose not to avail yourself of available civil processes for resolving your grievance..

    Terrorism isn’t always wrong, though. You are entitled to use terror when you represent the bulk of a nation and are operating on your own soil against an occupying force (including its civilian auxilliaries). The Tibetans would be entitled to use terror tactics in my view.

    The use of terror has no bearing in itself on the merits of the cause in question. The ANC was undoubtedly a terrorist organisation – though a pretty incompetent one – but that didn’t taint or compromise their cause. I don’t see how anybody can dispute right of the Taliban to use terrorist tactics, and probably also the Iraqi resistance. Occupiers have absolutely no rights at all, unless they are in a country with the consent of its legitimate government. Elections carried out under occupation – however free and fair – needn’t be taken seriously in this regard.

    What is unacceptable is the use of terror tactics against the very people whose support you need to legitimate your standing and your operations. Iraqis seem to be happy to see the Coalition subjected to terror attacks (junior members of the Iraqi government and heads of militias have in the past called for the Americans to be attacked) but less keen on being targetted themselves. I don’t think they can have it both ways. Part of the logic of targetting Iraqis is to give the coalition an incentive to leave, after which – we are supposed to believe – the attacks will stop. Insofar as Iraqis support the attacks on the coalition, they also implicitly support attacks on themselves as a means of encouraging the coalition to leave. Two sides of the same coin. The situation isn’t helped by the Iraqis also resenting the occupation but wanting it to continue. Overall, an impossible situation.

    Terrorist tactics can only ever justify a political response (negotiation, concession, etc) when they arise out of a national grievance and when the terrorists have the support of the majority, or plurality, of a nation. Otherwise the only proper response is to exterminate the terrorists (and there should be no recourse to the Geneva Conventions and the like in doing so). The Islamist terrorists in London are acting on a transnational, not a British, grievance and have miniscule support. They are completely lacking in legitimacy or any right to serious consideration. There cause is a matter for the courts, not politicians, to address.

    Israel’s defensive actions cannot meaningfully be called terrorism. Hamas’ indiscriminate launching of rockets into Israeli territory is undoubtedly terrorism. I’d be interested to hear from those who take a different view of these two points, and why.

    The Guardian piece on Livni’s Qatar visit was interesting. It oozed the usual bias of that paper. If there’s a question to be drawn from the visit it might be, ‘Will the Israeli’s learn from such experiences that they can never expect an open-minded and flexible approach to the Palestinian issue from their neighbours?’

    Of course polygamy should continue to be illegal in the West: it is not part of our tradition or consistent with it. In those parts of the world where polygamy is part of the cultural tradition then it’s fine – for them.

    South Africa could stop the arms if it wanted to; it just doesn’t want to. The Chinese are entitled to sell arms to any country that wants to buy them and isn’t engaging in genocide or an illegal war/occupation. China is right for once: what happens in Zimbabwe is a matter for Zimbabweans, not Chinese. The Chinese don’t care one way or the other for African lives, and there’s no reason why they should. It will be interesting to see if Africans remain as enthusiastic about China, though, following this story.

    The first requirement of a mediator is that he should be acceptable to all the parties whose interests he is mediating. Mbeki needs to be replaced since the MDC has clearly lost confidence in him.

    I’d much rather see voting rights restricted, even for citizens, than extended to migrants. At most migrants should be able to vote in local elections, but not in national ones. Only those with a genuine connection to a country should have any say in deciding its future.

    Kenya’s example is very specific. It can only be an example for other states whose problems closely resemble those that the Kenyans appear to have resolved. That doesn’t include Zimbabwe.

  8. 8 steve
    April 18, 2008 at 14:13

    I don’t see the problem with polygamy. I don’t see why the government even recognizes religion. It’s a religious institution. If you’re stupid enough to multiple divorces, then more power to you. Why should the law stop people from being stupid in this situation if we don’t have laws preventing women from being insecure due to magazines, or to stop women from sticking their fingers down their throats? I think people should be free to make bone headed decisions so long as they accept responsibility for stupid decisions and don’t blame others for those stupid choices.

  9. 9 selena
    April 18, 2008 at 14:16

    Polygamy is not the issue in Texas. The issue is children’s rights. As long as we live in a society that believes parents own their children and can bring them up in any way that they wish, we will have adults who are enmeshed in their religious beliefs and whose only desire is to promote such beliefs.

    From birth, children should be given access to the wider society. Children should be exposed to all religious beliefs and non beliefs. They should be given the material needed, as adults, to make informed choices .

    Unfortunately, polygamy is not the only religion that indoctrinates a way of life. As long as this is considered healthy in a society, the only thing that can be done is to respond to individual complaints of abuse.

    The wider abuse issue needs to be a priority for the wider society.

  10. April 18, 2008 at 14:41

    I don’t think the UK does enough to support its troops when they return from conflict zones. The fact that our country needs a charity such as Help for Hero’s demonstrates that the government is not providing enough support.


    A large percentage of homeless men in the UK have military backgrounds. This results from a lack of support once the men and women are discharged from the services. Considering we ask these people to make the ultimate sacrifice for our rights and country its shameful that we don’t provide them with enough support.

    Its also a great loss for our country, the americans have a long history of providing facilities and support for their troops once they return home. Their paralympic teams are full of ex soldiers who have recieved care and support when they return home. Its only very recently that Paralympic GB has started tapping this potential.

    Unfortunatly its not just the government who lets down our troops, in the uk members of the services have been asked to not wear their uniform when off base. They have been subjected to abuse from the public as a result of hostility to the UK’s invovlment in Afganistan and Iraq.

    At the end of the day they are just doing their jobs and should be supported not scorned.

  11. 11 selena
    April 18, 2008 at 15:00




    There are many websites that give an overview and history of the creation of the State of Israel. I just point you to the first two on Google.

    One thing persistent is that the promotion of such a state is supported by Christians. Many Christians believe their mission will not be complete until “God’s” people are back in Israel and every last one of them is converted to Christianity. Those people see the Arabs as infidels with no inherent right to the land.

    Throughout the centuries Christians (and Jews) have used terrorist tactics to enforce this belief. The time in which we live is not unique.

    History is why I understand the Arabs.

  12. 12 selena
    April 19, 2008 at 00:04

    Hannah, there seems to be quite a number of homeless vets in America.


  13. 13 john in Germany
    April 20, 2008 at 15:16

    How much food and medicine can one buy for 40 tons of armaments?????:

    Mugabe is now showing his real colour, if the other African nation do not stop him, or the west, them there will be a real big bang, and when the dust has settled we still will not be able to see.

    Most African leaders are not interested in trying to stop the man, and if he is allowed to go on, not tens will be killed, but thousands. DO SOMETHING NOW BEFORE IT IS TO LATE. Or are the lowly not worth a thing?, and remember not only white farmers will be displaced, but the whole of Zimbabwe. Think of the thousands of refugees you will have to look after, you border countries to Zimbabwe. Then there will be bleetings for the ex colonists to open up there purses and give.

    The Chinese seem to be asking for more attention, they know what the weapons were for, so why do they deliver?.

    Sunday the day of rest has turned into a day of angst.(worry).

    John in Germany

  14. 14 john in Germany
    April 21, 2008 at 09:27

    They are everywhere, the arms bandits. Iran has been supplied with parts for its atom development, and navigation systems for its rockets. i notice that whilst operating from Europe some of the names mentioned do not fit into the European norm.

    Are we supplying some of these rogues a safe operating area in Europe, and should our laws not be tightened up so tight that it is impossible to find a grey area, so that triggers are not declared as spare parts for Colts(so as to say).

    Well the weekend did bring some sun into our life’s, but that was all, the weather is getting to be more like Spring. But in Africa, there are heavy thunder clouds arising over the whole nation, and the storm is about to break. God help the Women and Children, the men that are willing to fight can look after themselves, as far as they are not pressed to fight.

    When listening to the supposed leaders opening there mouths, i can only wonder if they think we are all completely nuts to take in anything that they say.
    Sadly that is how they have fooled there own people for years, and if you do not educate the people, it is an easy task to manipulate them in to believing what they are being told.

    Im closing now for a long break, and wish the BEEB and all of you, Peace,goodhealth, and the strength to go on, even when it all seems useless.

    John in Germany.

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