On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, António Guterres, the new UN Secretary-General, gave the following speech about Anti-Semitism

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, António Guterres, the new UN Secretary-General, gave the following speech about Anti-Semitism.

Today is a day to remember, reflect and look forward.

We are here to honour the victims of the Holocaust, an unparalleled crime against humanity.

We are together to mourn the loss of so many and of so much.

The world has a duty to remember that the Holocaust was a systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish people and so many others.

I am humbled by the presence here today of Holocaust survivors. Thank you for bearing witness across seven decades so that others may live in dignity. There is no better education for the future than the guarantee that we will always be able to remember the past and to honour the victims of the tragedies of that past.

I would like to pay tribute to one survivor in particular, Elie Wiesel, who passed away last year. He became one of the world’s most passionate voices for mutual respect and acceptance, and the United Nations was proud to have him as one of our Messengers of Peace.

It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis. On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred and discrimination targeting the Jews – what we now call anti-Semitism.

Imperial Rome not only destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, but also made Jews pariahs in many ways. The attacks and abuse grew worse through the triumph of Christianity and the propagation of the idea that the Jewish community should be punished for the death of Jesus – an absurdity that helped to trigger massacres and other tremendous crimes against Jews around the world for centuries to come.

The same happened in my own country, Portugal, reaching its height with the order by King Manuel in the 16th century expelling all Jews who refused to convert. This was a hideous crime and an act of enormous stupidity. It caused tremendous suffering to the Jewish community – and deprived Portugal of much of the country’s dynamism. Before long, the country entered a prolonged cycle of impoverishment.

Many Portuguese Jews eventually settled in the Netherlands. Lisbon’s loss was Amsterdam’s gain, as the Portuguese Jewish community played a key role in transforming the Netherlands into the global economic powerhouse of the 17th century.

The Portuguese example also demonstrates that anti-Semitism, more than a question of religion, is essentially an expression of racism. The proof is that the converted Jews, the so-called “new Christians”, faced discrimination by the old Christians, and suffered continued persecution by the Portuguese Inquisition.

When I became Prime Minister in 1995, I felt it was absolutely necessary, even if only with a symbolic gesture, to demonstrate my country’s rejection and repentance of Portugal’s merciless attacks against the Jewish community.

In 1996, our Parliament revoked the letter of expulsion. I then had the honour of visiting the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam to formally present a copy of that decree and apologize on behalf of my country. Tragically, that beautiful synagogue was almost empty, because the community Portugal had expelled was almost completely destroyed by the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism always tends to come back.

Portugal recently adopted a law allowing the descendants of those expelled in the 16th century to regain Portuguese nationality. And last year, more than 400 took advantage of this offer.

I am also very proud to note that just a few weeks ago, my wife signed, on behalf of the Lisbon Municipality, an agreement with the Israeli Community of Lisbon to establish the Lisbon Jewish Museum. This will be a way to pay tribute to the memory of those my country mistreated so badly.

History keeps moving forward, but anti-Semitism keeps coming back.

The renowned scholar Simon Schama has noted that in the 19th century, Jews were even blamed for modernity, including for disasters of international finance in which they themselves were among the first victims.

Schama also noted that Jews often faced a lose-lose situation. When they successfully integrated and came to “look like” anyone else, they became subjects of suspicion. Others who looked different were blamed for that, too. Both groups came together in the Nazi crematoria.

After the Holocaust, the world seemed eager to find a more cooperative path. The founding of the United Nations was one expression of that moment. The UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention enshrined a commitment to equality and human rights.

Humankind dared to believe that tribal identities would diminish in importance.

We were wrong. Those like me who grew up in the post-war era never imagined we would again face rising attacks on Jews in my own part of the world – in Europe.

Anti-Semitism is alive and kicking. Irrationality and intolerance are back.

We still see Holocaust denial, despite the facts. There is also a new trend of Holocaust revisionism, with the rewriting of history and even the honouring of disgraced officials from those days.

Hate speech and anti-Semitic imagery are proliferating across the Internet and social media.

Violent extremist groups use anti-Semitic appeals to rouse their forces and recruit new followers.

All this is in complete contrast to tolerance, the primacy of reason and universal values.

Moreover, as the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Lord Jonathan Sacks, said last year, “The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews”.

Today, we see anti-Semitism, along with racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance, triggered by populism. And I am extremely concerned at the discrimination faced by minorities, refugees and migrants across the world.

I find the stereotyping of Muslims deeply troubling. A “new normal” of public disclosure is taking hold, in which prejudice is given a free pass and the door is opened to even more extreme hatred.

Steps from this chamber, you will find a powerful exhibition on Nazi propaganda. It is called “State of deception” and is the product of our fruitful partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

As this exhibition details, propaganda helped erode the bonds of humanity. The word “Jewish” was used constantly in association with society’s ills. Hardship and instability created fertile ground for scapegoating. It is true that many citizens disapproved of discrimination. But a majority accepted such sentiments, even if only passively. Ultimately, indifference prevailed, dehumanizing took hold, and the descent into barbarity was quick.

These are lessons for our time, too.

We need to be vigilant. We need to invest in education and youth. We need to strengthen social cohesion so that people feel that diversity is a plus, not a threat.

The United Nations itself must do more to strengthen its human rights machinery, and to push for justice for the perpetrators of grave crimes.

Our “Together” campaign is focusing on countries hosting refugees and migrants. Our Holocaust Outreach Programme is active on all continents.

The Holocaust also saw great acts of heroism, from ordinary people who protected others to diplomats who, at grave risk to themselves, defied the Nazis to enable thousands of people to escape certain death. Some of these are well known – Sweden’s Raoul Wallenberg and Japan’s Chiune Sugihara. Some are less so — Iran’s Abdol Hossein Sardari and, I am proud to say, Portugal’s Consul in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes.

Today, we can be inspired by many cooperative efforts to bring diverse groups together. We need to deepen this solidarity.

After the horrors of the 20th century, there should be no room for intolerance in the 21st.

I guarantee you that as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will be in the frontline of the battle against anti-Semitism and all other forms of hatred.

That is the best way to build a future of dignity and equality for all – and the best way to honour the victims of the Holocaust we will never allow to be forgotten.

Thank you very much.

Overweight Dogs

three-boys

 

The photo here has nothing to do with what follows. I just wanted to put something here to break up the text.

When my wife Tamara and I discuss breeds of dogs that appeal to us, one dog that I have said I am not so keen on are Labradors. There is nothing wrong with them, I want to make that clear. I don’t have the right to say there is anything wrong with them. But they don’t appeal to me, and the reason is that often they are – at least to my eyes – fat.

There is nothing wrong with a fat dog. Well perhaps there is if it affects the dog’s health but that’s a different story. But from my point of view there is nothing ‘wrong’ with a fat dog, they just don’t appeal to me.

I love watching spaniels run. Their bodies are so full of movement. Nothing rigid, nothing tied down – they move like fluid energy unbounded.

Which is not to say I am fixated on spaniels. I like all kinds of dogs. I have to say though that I was a ‘small dog ignoramus’ until my wife got me to actually look at them. She is a very observant person. She notices colours and articles of clothing, and just notices things that pass me by.

She pointed out the immense variety in the way small dogs walk. Some walk like they are just so happy to be there that they would burst if life got any better.

Some walk on tiptoes like they are the bee’s knees. Or like they are just not going to sully themselves getting any nearer to the ground.

Some are very intense, very purposeful. I mentioned that to a man with a dog as I was passing. He smiled and agreed and said that one day he hoped his dog would find out what he was being so intense about.

So, back to Labradors. My wife makes fun of me when we see a Labrador. She says: ‘Look, there’s an overweight dog.’

But, and this is a big but – today I was looking at a recent issue of The Week and noticed an article entitled ‘Why are so many Labradors fat?’

I started reading it and then noticed that my wife had marked the margin for me to read the article. So, to complete a pun, we were on the same page about it…

The article was a reference to a study by Conor O’Donovan and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge, who found that Labradors having the highest rate of canine obesity and that 23 per cent of the dogs carried at least one copy of a mutant form of a gene called POMC, which encodes proteins that help switch off hunger after a meal.

And the gene mutation was much higher in Labradors used by blind people – accounted for because the desire for a food reward makes the animals easier to train.

So there is science behind the impression I had that Labradors are overweight.

Who knew?

Monetise Your Jetpack-Enabled, Self-Hosted WordPress Site

write-this-way

I bought a small job lot of old inkwells a few years ago. I stuck feathers in them and photographed them. I may get some more feathers and try again.

Do You Jetpack?

Did you get an email from Jetpack? You probably will have done if you have any self-hosted WordPress sites with Jetpack installed.

Jetpack is a plugin made by Automattic (the commercial arm of WordPress). It’s for self-hosted WordPress sites and it gives you:

  • Site stats & analytics
  • Automatic social network sharing
  • Related posts to keep visitors on your site longer
  • Enhanced distribution on WordPress.com
  • Protection from brute force attacks
  • 24/7 Uptime monitoring
  • Single sign-on
  • Automatic plugin updates
  • Centralized, cross-platform dashboard
  • Bulk installation & management of plugins
  • Automatic plugin updates
  • Streamlined content editor
  • High-speed content delivery network for images
  • Easy CSS editing
  • Contact forms
  • Custom image galleries

I have self-hosted sites with Jetpack installed and the main reason is for the nice Contact form and the social media sharing buttons built into the plugin.

The section in the email that interested me, was this:

Jetpack Ads is instantly available to all users who have purchased the Jetpack Premium plan — no approval process required. Once you’ve purchased the plan, activate the feature in the Engagement tab within Jetpack. You’ll start seeing ads on your site right away, and can tweak ad placement settings and view your earnings on WordPress.com.

It is interesting that as a website owner, Jetpack and WordAds doesn’t require that you have a certain minimum number of monthly visitors.

Nor does it require that your Alexa, or Klout, or Kred ranking are high, or that your content is high quality and not just ‘thin and spammy’.

Just pay for premium Jetpack and you are good to go.

And I am somewhat surprised at that because hitherto I have had the impression that WordPress is to some extent a gatekeeper of quality.

So what does Jetpack Premium ($9/month or just $99/year) give you? It gives you:

  • Automated, daily backups with one-click restores
  • Bulletproof spam filtering by Akismet
  • Daily, automated malware scanning
  • Dedicated priority security support

If you are running a self-hosted WordPress site, many web hosts offer backups and one-click restore. There are also a number of plugins that will backup your site off-site, such as to Dropbox.

Spam filtering by Akismet is free provided you are not monetising your site. So blogs get Akismet for free anyway. I guess that running WordAds implies the site is being monetised even if there is no other commercial aspect to the site – and so the spam filtering is justifiably described as a benefit.

Malware scanning is great, but preventing malware is better. Wordfence has a free version that gets good plaudits.

I can’t comment on dedicated security support as I don’t know what it entails or offers.

What is the competition – Google’s Adsense, of course. So this is a direct competitor to Google. Is it better?

What does ‘better’ mean?

For me it means this: Does it pay better and are the advertisements of higher quality? If the advertisements that appear on this WordPress.com site are anything to go by, I wouldn’t say so. I wrote about that a while ago under the title ‘Why, Dear WordPress, Oh Why?

I opened another browser to look at this site without me being logged in and currently I see advertisements for Expedia (a travel site), Very (a fashion outlet) and for something that I don’t want on my site because I strongly oppose the internet gambling laws in the UK. Here is a screen grab of the advertisement.

gamblead

Unlike some countries that keep a tight rein on online gambling the UK is full of advertisements for it on TV and it is a huge industry.

Meanwhile, household debt (credit card and loans) in the UK has gone through the roof. The average household debt excluding mortgage obligations is over £7,000.

I used to pay to not have Ads on this site. I stopped paying because I thought ‘Why am I doing this?’ – but now I figure that on next renewal I will pay just to keep gambling ads off the site.

In This Most Uncertain Of Times

This is a bit of a mishmash of a post, so forgive me if I wander into a different territory here.

Tamara and I have just been talking about the current state of the world – and this that follows touches on some of the things that we have been talking about.

The quote is from Isaiah Berlin’s 1957 Herbert Samuel lecture on Chaim Weizman, in which Berlin said:

Weizman had all his life believed that when great public issues are joined one must above all take sides; whatever one did, one must not remain neutral or uncommitted, one must always – as an absolute duty – identify oneself with some living force in the world, and take part in the world’s affairs with all the risk of blame and misrepresentation and misunderstanding of one’s motives and character which this almost invariably entails.

Consequently .. he (Weizman) called for no compromise, and denounced those who did. He regarded with contempt the withdrawal from life on the part of those to whom their personal integrity, or peace of mind, or purity of ideal, mattered more than the work upon which they are engaged and to which they were engaged and to which they were committed, the artistic, or scientific, or social, or political, or purely personal enterprises in which all men are willy-nilly involved.

He did not condone the abandonment of ultimate principles before the claims of expediency or of anything else; but political monasticism – a search for some private cave of Adullam to avoid being disappointed or tarnished, the taking up of consciously utopian or politically impossible positions, in order to remain true to some inner voice, or some unbreakable principle too pure for the wicked public world – that seemed to him a mixture of weakness and self-conceit, foolish and despicable.