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Archive for the category “Balkans”

Yet another reason to boycott Nestlé

Over the years there have been several calls to boycott Nestlé, the Switzerland-based food firm, which was originally known for producing chocolate, but has since branched out, more controversially, into baby food, bottled water, instant coffee and a few other things.

The latest boycott call, however, arises not from their products, but from their advertising and packaging — Orthodox Leaders Call for Boycott of Lidl, Nestle for Airbrushing Out Christian Symbols on Products:

Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church are asking worshipers to boycott Lidl and Nestlé, which removed Christian symbols from their food packaging in an attempt to be “religiously neutral.”

Earlier this month, shoppers noticed that the German supermarket chain Lidl had used photo editing software to remove crosses on top of an iconic Greek church on its food packaging. Swiss food giant Nestlé and the local dairy producer Mevgal have also removed religious imagery from their Greek yogurts.

In response, the Orthodox Church in Athens is urging its members through sermons and on the internet to boycott Lidl, Nestlé and Mevgal, according to The Sunday Times, whom a spokesperson of the Church told the issue will be raised at a special synodical meeting next month.

In this, they seem to be trying to go out of their way to be offensive. The cosmetics firm Dove recently stirred up controversy by racially offensive ads. Now these firms, or at least two of them, are being religiously offensive. Perhaps Lidl didn’t intend their packaging to be offensive, but it was only after it had stirred up controversy that Mevgal and Nestlé introduced theirs as well.

No one is compelling these firms to put pictures of churches on their packaging. If they don’t like churches and what they stand for, then they could quite easily show pictures of something else. There are plenty of picturesque sights in Greece other than churches.

Some, especially those in the secular West, might wonder what all the fuss is about. It is easy for such people to forget that in the 20th century just about every country in Europe with a majority (or substantial minority) of Orthodox Christians was under communist rule until the 1990s. For people who remember that, and especially those who lived through it, removing crosses from churches is a bit like putting up a Whites Only sign in post-1994 South Africa. People will get offended, because they recall that the Bolsheviks removed the crosses from churches (and in some cases replaced them with red stars). Removal of the crosses thus has a flavour of arrogant bullying authoritarianism.

For the Bolsheviks in Russia there was a kind of standard procedure. First they would knock the crosses off, then the bells, and then they would urge (sometimes forcibly) the members of the congregation to chop up the ikons for firewood. Then they would convert the buildings to stables, warehouses, flats etc. Of course they themselves didn’t see it as oppression — in their minds they were liberating the peasants from superstition, but the peasants themselves didn’t see it as any kind of liberation, just as oppression worse than the Tsar’s.

When I visited Russia in 1995 many temples had only recently been handed back to the Church by the government, and most of them were in poor condition, needing extensive repairs. But almost invariably the first step in repairing them was the replacement of the cross on the highest dome. There could be cheap paper ikons stuck up with sticky tape; the paint could be peeling and the plaster crumbling; worshippers could be making their way across an unsurfaced floor all over steel reinforcing and electrical conduits, but at the top of the highest dome was a golden cross. Restoring it was a priority. Crosses were the first things the Bolsheviks broke down, and were the first things that the Christians replaced. For Orthodox Christians, removing crosses from temples is not trivial.

Today many countries in Europe are no longer under Bolshevik rule, but in the Middle East many Christians in countries with Islamist governments are not allowed to display crosses on their churches, and when commercial firms start displaying the same oppressive attitude, yes, it is offensive. And in the post-Cold War world it can also look like a bit of in-your-face Clash of Civilizations oneupmanship.

As one Greek bishop said:

Imagine the same thing happening in Russia, with products parcelled and plastered with pictures of Moscow’s gold domes, only without their crosses. They [the companies] would be paying each and every person there millions in damages. But here, they have not only stolen us of our voice … but they know that the cost of damage caused in this small country will be small.

So you can add this to the reasons for boycotting Nestlé. At least one Christian blogger I know displays this logo, and perhaps others should start doing so too. Here is a reminder of some of the other reasons for boycotting: 5 shocking scandals that prove it’s time to boycott Nestlé | The Daily Dot:

The company’s abuse of California’s resources is reason enough to be angry at Nestlé, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg for a firm with decades of controversy behind it. It’s been the target of multiple boycotts and protests, Twitter campaigns against the company, making it an almost irresistible target for ire among Californians angry about water bottling practices in the state.

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PR firms: igniting the fires of ethnic hatred

The public relations firm of Bell Pottinger have just apologised for fanning the flames of racial hatred in South Africa, for money. Bell Pottinger’s full, unequivocal, absolute apology for selling Gupta lies – BizNews.com:

LONDON — Here’s a very big win for the good guys. The £100 000 a month London agency which promoted the Gupta agenda in South Africa – including instigating a threat to use the UK courts to close down Biznews – has suddenly seen the error of its ways. After steadfastly denying any wrongdoing by his company and claiming its clients were innocent victims, Bell Pottinger’s owner and CEO James Henderson today issued a grovelling apology: “full, unequivocal and absolute” to quote from the statement. News like this takes time to digest. Nice. But given the damage this firm’s dark media arts has created in South Africa, and the personal attacks and despicable social media deeds conducted under its instruction, I’m pretty sure this doesn’t close matter. But perhaps, to paraphrase Churchill, it is the end of the beginning. – Alec Hogg

That’s all very well. It’s fine for the arsonist to apologise for starting the fire, but the flames are still burning, and the apology does not put them out.

This is also not the first time that a PR firm has made a handsome profit from fanning the flames of ethnic hatred, and it probably won’t be the last. But to my knowledge it is the first time that a PR firm has apologised for its role in this.

Victoria Geoghegan, MD Financial and Corporate at Bell Pottinger.

The secret to PR spin is not to tell absolute lies, but to put a spin on the truth.

To put it crudely, what Bell Pottinger were paid to do was to bring about “radical economic transformation” in South Africa by promoting the replacement of White Monopoly Capital by Indian Monopoly Capital (the latter represented by the Gupta family).

Some might think that “radical economic transformation” should begin by questioning the role of monopoly capital in the economy, regardless of the race, ethnicity or nationality of the capitalists. The truth that is at the basis of the spin is that historically there has been white monopoly capital in South Africa, and part of the “white privilege” narrative is that it has had sufficient clout to fight back and wrest a public apology from Bell Pottinger.

Those who don’t have that kind of clout aren’t so lucky.

I’ve yet to see an apology from the firm of Ruder Finn for their role in fanning the flames of ethnic hatred that led to the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession, for example. Ruder Finn’s work for Croatia – SourceWatch:

On 12 August 1991, the Croatian government hired the American public relations firm Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs to “develop and carry out strategies and tactics for communication with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate as well as with officials of the U.S. government including the State Department, the National Security Council and other relevant agencies and departments of the U.S. government as well as with American and international news media”. On 12 November 1991, Ruder Finn’s contract was renewed to include lobbying in relation to diplomatic recognition, sanctions, and embargoes, as well as briefings for officials of the first Bush administration and preparation of special background material, press releases, both reactive and proactive articles and letters to the editors to appear in major newspapers, briefings for journalists, columnists, and commentators. In January and February 1992, Ruder Finn organized trips to Croatia for U.S. Congressmen. The United States recognized Croatia as an independent state on 7 April 1992.

Truth is the first casualty in PR offensive | The Independent:

The Ruder Finn strategy has been to build a congressional and Senate coalition in the US in support of Croatia. The strategy has included mobilising the 2.5 million Croats in the US to lobby their own representatives in Congress.

Central to all this activity was equating the Serbian forces with Communism and the Croats with Western freedom and democracy.

In October 1992, Ruder Finn took up the job of public relations for the ethnic Albanian separatists in the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Bell Pottinger’s work in South Africa hasn’t yet led to death and destruction on that scale, but the story isn’t over yet, and the flames fanned by Bell Pottinger are still burning.

 

Trial by media trumps truth and justice

The warmongering mendacity of the Western “mainstream” media just became a whole lot more obvious. They lied about the Iraq War, and several other wars, but at least they did report on the Chilcot report, which exposed many of their lies as just that.

But they are still covering up the lies they told about the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession, which they assiduously promoted. They lied about Slobodan Milosevic, the former President of Serbia, calling him “The Butcher of the Balkans”, a “mass murderer” and saying he was responsible for the deaths of 250 000 people. They brainwashed a lot of people, especially in the West, into believing these lies, which is presumably why none of them have said a word about this — ICTY Exonerates Slobodan Milosevic for War Crimes | InSerbia News:

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has determined that the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was not responsible for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

In a stunning ruling, the trial chamber that convicted former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadzic of war crimes and sentenced him to 40 years in prison, unanimously concluded that Slobodan Milosevic was not part of a “joint criminal enterprise” to victimize Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war.

Why should we worry about this?

Slobodan Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic died more than 10 years ago, the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession ended nearly 15 years ago — why not let the past stay in the past? What purpose can be served by dragging all this stuff out of the past?

It is almost a cliche to say that those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it, but what the Western media did to Slobodan Milosevic 15-20 years ago helped to promote a regional war, and what they did to Milosevic back then they are now doing to Vladimir Putin, where the stakes are higher. It is not just a regional war they are trying to promote, but global thermonuclear war.

Here is one example of an obituary in the Western “mainstream” media — Slobodan Milosevic, 64, Former Yugoslav Leader Accused of War Crimes, Dies – The New York Times:

As he rose and then clung to power by resurrecting old nationalist grudges and inciting dreams of a Greater Serbia, Mr. Milosevic became the prime engineer of wars that pitted his fellow Serbs against the Slovenes, the Croats, the Bosnians, the Albanians of Kosovo and ultimately the combined forces of the entire NATO alliance.

By stirring a dormant but incendiary nationalism, he succeeded in rallying support for himself in the late 1980’s, at a time when Communism in the rest of Eastern Europe was in its death throes.

At the time of Milosevic’s death most of the obituaries accused Milosevic of “engineering” or “orchestrating” these wars. I wrote more on this at the time of his death here Will the real “Butcher of the Balkans” please stand up? – Methodius Hayes’s journal. The stories treated these accusations not as allegations, but as established facts, though the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has now shown that most of these accusations were groundless.

As for the “orchestrating”, a contemporary American policy analyst, Samuel Huntington, describes the orchestration as follows (in his book The Clash of Civilizations):

The breakup of Yugoslavia began in 1991 when Slovenia and Croatia moved toward independence and pleaded with Western European powers for support. The response of the West was defined by Germany, and the response of Germany was in large part defined by the Catholic connection. The Bonn government came under pressure to act from the German Catholic hierarchy, its coalition partner the Christian Social Union Party in Bavaria, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and other media. The Bavarian media, in particular, played a crucial role in developing German public sentiment for recognition. ‘Bavarian TV’, Flora Lewis noted, ‘much weighed upon by the very conservative Bavarian government and the strong, assertive Bavarian Catholic Church which had close connections with the church in Croatia, provided the television reports for all of Germany when the war began in earnest. The coverage was very one-sided’…

Germany pressured the European Union to recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, and then, having secured that, pushed forward on its own to recognize them before the Union did in December 1991.

And the first violent act in the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession was the seizure of customs posts along the Austrian border by Slovenian nationalists — did Milosevic really “engineer” that? One of the better obituaries of Milosevic in the Western media is to be found here — Scapegoat, R.I.P.:

Slobodan Milosevic’s obituaries are damning. In death, as in the last years of his life, the former Serbian president is being blamed for all of the death and destruction that accompanied the breakup of the Yugoslav Federation in the early 1990s. He has been described as the “Butcher of the Balkans.” He is accused of masterminding four wars, of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing. These charges have been repeated so many times that they have become part of received wisdom. Yet the facts tell a different story.

And among the facts that the author, James Bisset, adduces are:

But it was not the Serbians and “Slobo” who started the wars in Yugoslavia. The fighting started because Slovenia, then a Yugoslav republic, declared unilateral independence and used force to seize customs posts along the Austrian border.

The federal prime minister of Yugoslavia, Ante Markovic, who happened to be a Croatian, ordered the army into Slovenia to restore order. The army was met by armed resistance and retired to barracks in Croatia to avoid further bloodshed. The Croatian security and paramilitary forces then surrounded the federal barracks and fighting broke out in Croatia. At this time, Milosevic, as president of Serbia, had no control over the federal army. (Incidentally, the federal minister of defence at the time was also a Croatian, as was the foreign minister.)

Later, when the army lost all of its non-Serbian soldiers, it did become a Serb-dominated force. But when the federal government collapsed, it was none other than Milosevic who ordered all Serbian soldiers out of Bosnia.

Bisset goes on to point out that Milosevic was not a very nice man. He was an unreconstructed communist leader, but so were Tudjman and Izetbegovic, who were backed by the West. But he was not a war criminal, the accusation used by the leaders of Nato at the time as a casus belli.

The Western media are not just spinning, they are spinning out of control, and I urge anyone with any concern for truth and justice to tweet and retweet and share this until the Western media acknowledge that they lied, and start publishing the truth for a change.

Iraq Inquiry witness lies through his teeth

A top Foreign Office legal advisor, Sir Michael Wood, told the British Iraq inquiry that the invasion of Iraq had no basis in international law, and that he had told government ministers that.

Fair enough, so far, so good.

But then he went on to contrast it with the 1999 Nato attack on Yugoslavia, which he said was justified because of the humanitarian situation, with hundreds of thousands of people being driven from their homes.

That is pure propaganda spin.

Yes, thousands of people were driven from their homes in that conflict, but only after the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia had begun.

That doesn’t mean that driving people from their homes was a good thing, but the historical fact is that it was in retaliation for the Nato bombing, it was not the cause of reason for the Nato bombing.

Sir Michael Wood lied through his teeth.

The ugly face of US imperialism just got uglier

The ugly face of US imperialism just got a whole lot uglier.

Notes from a Common-place Book: Time to Move On, We’re Told

Condeleeza Rice is losing patience with Serbia.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was time for Serbs to accept that Kosovo is no longer theirs. She also suggested it was time to drop centuries of grievance and sentimentality in the Balkans. ‘We believe that the resolution of Kosovo’s status will really, finally, let the Balkans begin to put its terrible history behind it,’ Dr. Rice said Friday.

Oh, really. Her message to Serbia seems to be something like this: We are America and we know what is best for you. We have divvied-up your country in a manner we think best, and it is high time for you to stop your whining and learn to live with it.

But I have saved the best for last. Rice continues:

‘I mean, after all, we’re talking about something from 1389 – 1389! It’s time to move forward.’

With the President out of the country–last seen getting-down, so to speak, with some Liberian tribal dancers–this statement is easily the most inane commentary coming from the Bush administration in recent memory.

Of course, unlike the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan, this one was not created by the Bush administration, but was one they inherited from the previous Clinton administration. But they seem to be handling it just as ineptly.

Any doubts that the USA saw its role as bully to the world have now been laid to rest — we’ve just had it from the horse’s mouth.

Kosovo UDI a headache for Canada

clipped from www.reuters.com

Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia is a headache for Canada, which needs to find a way of recognizing the new state without boosting the fortunes of separatists in its French-speaking province of Quebec.

Polls indicate that around half of Quebecers support the idea of independence for the province of 7.5 million.

The Parti Quebecois, now in opposition in the provincial legislature, said that if Canada recognizes a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo it would have to treat a similar move by Quebec the same way.

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And then, of course, there was the speedy recognition granted to Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, and “homelands” like Transkei, Bophuthatswana, etc.

Disingenuous "fact" file on Kosovo

clipped from www.reuters.com
Here is a brief profile of Kosovo, an ethnic crossroads in the heart of the Balkans and the cause of NATO’s first “humanitarian war” in 1999.
WAR * Albanians have officially demanded independence since renegade elections in 1992 made pacifist leader Ibrahim Rugova president of a self-declared republic. The demand was ignored as Serbs fought for pieces of Croatia and Bosnia, and support shifted to armed struggle by the Kosovo Liberation Army, a guerrilla force. Serb forces hit back so hard in 1998 that 100,000 Albanians fled to the hills and NATO powers warned Milosevic they would not tolerate another round of “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans. Peace talks in France failed and in March 1999 NATO started bombing to force Serbia to withdraw. Some 800,000 Albanians fled or were expelled to Macedonia and Albania before Milosevic gave in 78 days later. As his forces pulled out, up to 200,000 Serbs and other ethnic minorities left as well.
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“Peace talks in France failed and in March 1999 NATO started bombing to force Serbia to withdraw.”

What’s hidden in that bland statement is that the reason that peace talks failed was the intransigence of Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State, who was determined to have a war.

Russian Church on Kosovo UDI

The West and Nato opted for military rather than diplomatic solutions to the tensions in the former Yugoslavia, which simply exacerbated the tensions. .

South Africa, which abandoned apartheid and had a Truth and Reconciliation Commision, perhaps has a better mo0del to offer than apartheid and UDI.

The Russian Orthodox Church has called on Albanians in Kosovo to understand disastrous consequences of the unilateral recognition of the region’s independence.
“We would like the Albanian side, which admitted this, to understand that this path is disastrous and to seek reconciliation with Serbians,” priest Georgy Ryabykh, a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, told Interfax-Religion.
Any decision concerning several parties cannot be made unilaterally, as it could lead to the escalation of the conflict, he said. “That is why in case of the escalation of the situation in Kosovo, the responsibility will lie with the Albanian side that dared for this unilateral step,” the priest said.

Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia has many times stated that the Kosovo status issue should not be solved disregarding the opinion f the Serbian people.

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Kosovo UDI: the Clinton legacy

Notes from a Common-place Book: Kosovo: The Real Clinton Legacy just about says it all.

According to Kosovo Travelogue this is certainly not one of the things that Hillary Clinton is hoping to reverse. Under Bill Clinton the US bombed Belgrade and under Bush the US bombed Baghdad, and there is really little difference. Is that one of the things Barack Obama wants to change? I hope so.

Links to a news report with my own comments on the Kosovo UDI are in my Khanya blog.

Other comments:

  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle compares the Kosovo UDI to Sudetenland.
  • Jams O Donnell in The Poor Mouth: UDI says “I hope to God it’s peaceful”
  • A Lanson Boy worries that it might be an unviable state and a drain on Western taxpayers
  • David Lindsay criticises the BBC for giving a wholly-false version of the history of Yugoslavia
  • Chekov writes of the hypocrisy of the Western cheerleaders for Kosovo’s independence
  • The Western Confucian is sickened by the USA’s siding with terrorism and pravoslavophobia.

One thing that needs to be borne in mind is that though the majority of the population of Kosovo speak Albanian, they lack the religious tolerance of Albania.

The Albanian government deported Iranian Islamist teachers who incited young people attending a Muslim youth camp at Voskopoje to destroy Christian ikons that had survived the Turks and the Communists. In Kosovo dozens of Christian churches have been destroyed under the noses of Nato troops.

EU states vow not to recognise Kosovo’s independence bid

Several EU member states are worried that if a Kosovo UDI is recognised by other states it will destabilise the Balkans again, and also set a precedent for minorities in other countries to do something similar.

As the European Union struggles for a unified response to Kosovo’s expected
declaration of independence, several EU states – mainly those near the Serb
province – fear the move could destabilise the historically volatile Balkan
region.


Romania, Cyprus and
Slovakia were the loudest to state their opposition this week, all vowing not to
recognise Kosovo if it declares
independence.


Greece and
Bulgaria are also wary of potentially explosive border changes in their area
while Spain and Slovakia cannot ignore the possible effects on their respective
Basque and Hungarian
minorities.


Spain faces an
additional challenge as its northeastern region of Catalonia has long sought
greater autonomy.

Cyprus – which holds
elections on February 17 – has seen all this
before.


The island has been
divided into ethnic Greek and Turkish parts since 1974, and the breakaway
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) declared independence in 1983, though
it is only recognised by
Turkey.
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And then, of course there is the possibility that a UDI will be followed by a resumption of ethnic cleansing.

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