An online poll on Malta Today shows that some 67% of respondents agree with Joseph Muscat’s proposed push-back policy. It’s just a poll, not a scientific study, however it’s indicative of public sentiment. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that 67% of the Maltese agree with such policy.

One might argue that if the majority is behind Muscat, implementing push back (on which he himself is now backing off indicating he was only using it to threaten the EU) would be democratic.

Thankfully it doesn’t work that way. A majority, even confirmed by elections does not in itself make a democracy. For instance both Putin in Russia and Erdogan in Turkey, were elected with a majority yet both cannot claim to be democratic. The rampant breaches of human rights, especially the persecution of political opponents and journalists make any of these leaders’ claims to be democratic nothing more than a joke, even though they got a majority in the polls.

I remember reading a quote (unfortunately I forgot its author’s name) that depicts all this in a single sentence:

“Would it still be a democracy if 51% of the population voted for the right to kill the other 49% with impunity?”

I think the answer is pretty obvious.

This may sound extreme and hopefully no country will ever arrive in such a dire situation. However it makes a point very clear: Having the support of the majority is still undemocratic if the basic rights of minorities are not respected.

This argument holds true for push-back. For a simple reason. What Muscat proposed was not the deportation of failed asylum seekers (which is completely legitimate) but a deportation that would have been carried out before they even had a right to file for asylum. And asking for asylum is a fundamental human right.

And while I do find the majority on the issue as worrying, I also find them irrelevant. They could have been 90% and still, implementing push back before one even had the chance to ask for asylum would be not only illegal but undemocratic.

It would, among other things, have turned the Maltese government into a very serious human rights abuser that wouldn’t mind breaking my own rights if it’s politically convenient.

Both Mohamed Bouazizi and Anders Breivik did not like the society they were living in and wanted to change it. The similarities between the two men stop there. otherwise they are each other’s exact opposite.

Suffering chronic unemployment the young Tunisian tried to make a living as a street vendor. This wasn’t easy either, due to the regular harassment from the much hated Tunisian police for failing to pay bribes. One day he had enough. After being slapped in the face by a police officer and having his scales confiscated, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. His act was a catalyst for the Arab Spring.

What Anders Brevik didn’t like in his society was neither chronic unemployment nor harassment by the police but Middle Eastern looking people walking down the street. He despised the Labour Party for being “culturally Marxist” as well as his own parents for supporting it. On the 22nd July of 2011 Breivik shocked the whole of Europe when he killed 77 Labour supporters and injuring 151 by a car-bomb in a government building and a shoot out at Utoya island at a Labour Party camp.

Unlike Mohamed Bouazizi whose desperate act was triggered by the savagery of the Ben Ali regime, Anders Breivik enjoyed every right granted in a democracy. In fact, one reason why his acts of terror were so shocking is due to the fact that they took place in Norway, the country voted as most democratic in the world for consecutive years. Unlike Bouazizi, Breivik could have worked to change society by supporting a political party, or even form his own if none of the available parties supported his ideology.

Yet, the most striking difference between these two men is the result of their actions. Bouazizi probably knew his actions would have some kind of political impact, but I’m more than sure that he wouldn’t have predicted the whole of North Africa rising up against it’s tyrants following his self-immolation. On the other hand, Breivik’s utter failure resulted in a more united Norway instead of the one based on the apartheid and segregation he dreamt of.

My concern is that Europe has thousands of Breiviks. People who not only hate other human beings on the basis of race, culture or religion but also the very foundations of democracy.

The same democratic foundations that Mohemed Bouazizi and millions of North Africans are craving and spilling their own blood for.

The first time I voted, I cast my No1 to a random PN candidate and my No2 to AD.

I didn’t like the PN much but considered them as a lesser evil. Then I realized that I should give my No 1 to support the part and principles I believed in because at the end of the day, the world will not end if either the PN and PL is in government and my no 1 vote gives a very strong message – a message against blind tribalism. After my first election I am proud to have given my number 1 vote to AD each and every election with no regrets.

By the time, my interest in politics grew, and the more I came to know about Alternattiva Demokratika, the more I liked them. To the extent of eventually joining the party, and will be contesting Local Elections on Mosta next March.

If one had to ask me what I find different in AD, I will point mainly towards two things, which I will call Freedom and Direction.

Freedom

No one in AD has his hands tied. It doesn’t accept donations from people/companies it may have a conflict of interest with and no one in the party has any personal interest that may jeopardise his position in politics, be it with a construction magnate, a contractor or a North African tyrant.

In other words we are free. We say what we believe is right because no one is pulling our strings.

Direction

In modern Europe, one hears about political ideology much less than before. In a way this is good. Fewer people are fossilized into ideologies of both left and right and many try to avoid any of the two extremes. This is partly due to the atrocities committed by both sides in our not-so-distant history.

However, in many European countries ideology has died completely, to the extent that democracy is not undermined by tyrants who oppose free and fair elections but by the fact voting for a party or another doesn’t actually make any difference.

This can’t be more true than in Malta where I describe both parties’ ideology as a “mad rush to where they think the votes are

They use the term “rainbow party” as if it is some kind of compliment! In MEP elections, you could have voted for hunters advocate Perici Calascione or environmentalist Alan Deidun, both contesting on the same party ticket (PN). On the other hand, in the same PL opposition, you have ultra-conservative Adrian Vassallo but can still vote for a liberal like Evarist Bartolo. So on and so forth.

I don’t consider that as a rainbow but a complete mess.

Needless to say, we in AD do not always agree on everything. That would be against human nature. We do have our squabbles. However these are usually sorted out in a short time and without any resentment, not only because we mean well but also because unlike in the examples mentioned above, we don’t have people who are diametrically opposed to each other.

In short I think of Green ideology as left of center, liberal and one that puts a lot of weight on ecological issues. That said, this is not (and should not be) shrouded in dogma and a refusal to make a compromise, but a clear direction.

We do not promise a quick-fix for Malta’s problems like populist parties. Anyone who proposes that is either lying or hallucinating.

However, we do offer something different. A change that while I’m sure there are people who honestly mean it in both PN and PL, for the reasons mentioned above, can never deliver it.

National Pride has different meanings for different people. It can be healthy – supporting your country’s football team or feeling pleased when a co-national makes a groundbreaking scientific discovery. It can be sick – idealizing your culture no matter what (As if I can ever feel proud we fight in the village festa). It can also be destructive, especially when one discriminates on people coming from a different country or have a different ethnicity.

Discussions between Maltese people on the Libyan revolution be it on a bus-stop, at the pub and most of all on the Internet are demonstrating a lot of healthy Maltese pride.

Sure, some people are in panic. This is very close to Malta, co-nationals find themselves in Libya, some in risky situations, and a large amount of asylum seekers are to be expected. Even worse, the man still in power in Libya is utterly crazy. A crazy man with not much more to lose – a deadly combination. One of the risks of this is that he may bomb oil rigs (something which he has already threatening), creating a natural disaster in the Mediterranean.

However, talk between Maltese people isn’t just about the consequences we may face and our (many times realistic though sometimes inflated) fears but also a deep desire to do something to stop the massacre. As well as solidarity with people at present in our country who have friends and relatives being butchered or living in terror in Libya.

Many options are being considered. In spite of the fears (the mad-dog might want to retaliate in some way), most Maltese are demanding sanctions on Gaddafi and that we refuse to send him back the jets of two defectors – which he might use again on innocent people. Democracy in Libya and the whole region is also being discussed a lot, not only because we will benefit from it personally but also because we believe in it and would like others to have it.

Obviously such things are not the concern of everyone. Negative traits of some Maltese are coming out. One of the most disgusting is that for some this has become a pointing fingers at “the other party” be it PN or PL with the your-leaders-are-better-friends-of the-tyrant-than-mine attitude. The pathetic attitude of tribal way of seeing politics some of us have.

However, I honestly believe this country has moved on a lot these past two decades. Gone are the days when we say “bhal ta barra” when we see a successful Maltese musician on television. We are believing, more than ever that we can and do have voice in the international community, even if we’re a tiny island.

This kind of pride is healthy, very healthy.

“When you spit in the face of a weakling, he pretends it is raining. Does this apply to the president of the most powerful country in the world?”

These are the words of Uri Avreny an Israeli who is a fierce critic of his government when it comes to the Palestinian issue (considered as a ‘traitor’ by Zionists). He is referring to the continuing building of settlements in Palestinian territories, shunned down by the US. He calls it a spit in the face of the United States because no matter what Israel does, the US keeps up its support for it. What many people, including most Americans don’t know is that in reality the President of the United States is a weakling.

The way politics is done in most European countries is not that enviable. One of the reasons is that money is an important factor to who gets in power. However, in the US the situation is much worse. Money is the only factor that gets senators, congress members and Presidents elected. Here in Europe we can state what we believe in, and up to a certain extent this has some effect on the outcome of elections. In the US it is only a couple of extremely powerful lobbyists that make or break elections. They lobby by financing politicians. If a politician refuses to please them, he’s finished. One of the major lobbyists is the Zionist one. A group that also has a powerful stronghold on the media.

Unlike in Western Europe most Americans have not dwindled in their support for Israel’s state terrorism. How can one blame them when the media deliberately keeps them misinformed? And what can those who seek and manage to find the truth manage to do anyway? However we, Western Europeans can. Not only raise our voices, but also influence our governments’ decisions.

I welcomed the Stand for Palestine Malta Movement above all because it is soothing to watch people, whom I proudly say are friends of mine, getting involved in justice for others. I also welcomed it because I wanted Palestinians living in Malta, most of whom have relatives still being butchered in the Middle East, to know we can understand their pain.

However, the more I read about the issue, the more I realise is that our voice is not just one of support. It can send a political message to our government that we care about our Mediterranean brothers and sisters being humiliated, robbed and murdered in Palestine. I can also proudly say that at times our government has raised its voice on the ordeal of Palestinians.

I invite anyone who believes in social justice to join Stand for Palestine’s Facebook group and learn more about the issue:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?v=info&ref=mf&gid=84041703845

If not us, living in a Mediterranean, democratic European country, who is in a better position to raise his voice against the atrocities committed on the Palestinian people?

1,2,3
Arriva Pinochet
4,5,6
A morte gli Ebrei
789
Il negro non commuove
Seig Heil
Apartheid

What makes this ‘slogan’ worrying is the fact that it wasn’t sung by a couple of disoriented teenagers. It was sung by police, the ‘forze del ordine’ of what many consider a democratic country – Italy. These words were chanted while the Police were beating people (the absolute majority of whom were non-violent) who protested against the G8 summit in Italy, July 2001.

More than 300,000 people turned up to protest against the way eight countries were deciding the fate of the world between the 20th and 22nh July 2001 in Genova. They came from various groups and organisations, Catholics, Greens, pacifists, leftists and human rights activists. None of them had any violent intentions except for a small group of 500, the black bloc. With whom the latter were affiliated is still a mistery. The reason for this is chilling in itself, since after the riots, after the police brutality and murder of Carlo Guiliani, out of the 250 people arrested there was not a single ‘black bloc’ member.

Different movements demonstrated in different streets. The 500 black bloc divided themselves and infiltrated all the groups. They went, created a riot and vanished in a couple of minutes. Yet, after they left the violence continued, In many circumstances, especially regarding Catholic movements, the protestors did not offer any resistance, yet they were savagely beaten by the Italian police.

Some other movements retaliated to this abuse. One of them was Carlo Giuliani’s movement, Carlo being the only fatality in the whole episode (towards which two police officers were intercepted saying ‘uno a zero per noi’). Giuliani’s group believed in passive resistance. They were considered as ‘disobedient’ but not violent. At least not before the police started assaulting them with tear gas, beating them and chanting slogans like the one mentioned above.

Yet, there was more to come. Groups of demonstrators rested (with permission) in schools, most notably Scuola Diaz. The police infiltrated the schools and beat the shit out of them, not only the demonstrators but also journalists and medics who happened to be there. Not a single person of them was black bloc.

There is still speculation who the black bloc really were. Some think they were infiltrated within the police, others claim they are neo-fascists with the deliberate intention of disrupting the protests. Others believe they were just hooligans. Whoever they were is not really important now. What is very significant though, is the fact, that when these people committed illegalities, even before the riots started (including destroying the pavement and collecting large stones as ammunition) the ‘forze dell ordine’ did absolutely nothing.

Such repression is expected (though never justified) in countries where there is a dictatorship or a brutal regime in power such as Iran, China or Myanmar. However it is extremely disturbing that all this happened in a so called democratic European country only nine years ago. It is also worth mentioning that Italy is under the same Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, in the present day.

The attacks on democracy on July 2001 should never be forgotten, definitely not in the near future. They are a reminder that even in a European democracy a government can use an iron fist on civilians just exercising their fundamental rights of assembly and expression.

The only good thing that could come out of this tragedy is learning from it.

 

They never bothered me. Every Saturday evening they gather in a place just a couple of streets behind my house and pray, somewhat loudly. Why not? This is at 7.00 in the evening, we’re all allowed to make some noise. They spend a couple of ours praising God. Being agnostic doesn’t mean that I’m against freedom of worship. Far from that. To be honest I actually admire they way they regularly commit themselves towards what they believe in.

 

Yet, last Saturday, for the first time the singing and clapping did bother me. Mind you, the worshippers did nothing wrong, and they have nothing to blame if I was bothered.

 

The reason for getting annoyed was the fact that I remembered the fuss that was created a couple of weeks ago because a group of Muslims decided to praise God in public. Like the worshippers in my neighbourhood, the Muslims obtained a Police license and prayed during acceptable hours (as regards noise).

 

Yet their prayers MADE NEWS. The fact that they prayed in public was a news item on the Times of Malta at least twice. Worse still, on the online version of the times it was one of the most commented issues. To be fair, more than 50% of those putting comments, stated there was nothing wrong about this and that we are making a fuss out of nothing.

 

However the problem is not this. WHY SHOULD THE FACT THAT A GROUP OF PEOPLE LEGALLY EXERCISING THEIR RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE AND WORSHIP BE NEWSWORTHY? I’m not blaming the Times, far from that. The goal of the newspaper is profit and if many readers find this newsworthy they did their job and delivered the news.

 

May I ask why Catholic worshippers, no matter whether they pray in public or make noise are never on the news? The answer is obvious – they are only doing what the law entitles them to do. Yet, saying ‘praise the Lord Jesus’ is acceptable, even admirable, but saying ‘Allah hu Akbar’ sends shivers down some people’s spine.

 

I think I’ve made my point, but would like to add something more. The fear of Muslims, especially after 9/11 is having an effect on quite some Maltese. However, if things were like some want us to believe, isn’t it strange that the main stakeholder – the Catholic Church – not only refraining from discriminating and passing vicious comments, but collaborating with the Muslim church.

 

Am I asking too much, from this society that unless the law is broken, a group of people who decide to assemble and pray can do so at peace?