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Gaza is still burning…

I just saw a CNN debate on the gaza crisis between Yishai Fleisher and David Levy (Sorry readers, I couldn’t get the link online). Yishai argued that Israel had a right to defend itself and what people around the world are calling ethnic cleansing is more an assertion of a state to flush out other people. I say ‘what’s the difference’. He also argued that Israel is merely claiming what is rightfully its territory and that it doesn’t matter is women and children are killed. Further stating that these facts are concocted by the Hamas in Gaza. Well this below should be evident of that;

David Levy on the other hand blamed the international community for not responding to the attacks. He urged the UN to take action and force Israel to a cease fire.

There is a perception that perhaps the UN isn’t doing anything because the United States of America plays a major role in it and uncle Sam has always supported Israel. For all the promise and hope Barrack Obama has given us about human freedoms and rights; even he hasn’t made a statement on the attacks.

While these killings are taking place in Gaza; Africa seems to be burning as it always does. 400 people were massacred by the Ugandan rebels in Congo in Xmas week. Still no reactions by the international community. Elie Wiesel put forth that when grave human rights violations take place, to be indifferent is a sin. Despite him being a jew himself and said in the context of the holocaust, his statement must be considered to ask the international community to interfere.

People now compare and see Israel having reminiscences of Nazi Germany. Alan Dershowtiz’s blog contains a comment that could be used as a reply to Yishai;


It’s exactly the same concept that the Nazis used to justify their racial policies — they called it “Blut und Boden” — blood and soil. Until the Nazis switched from emigration to massacre, German Zionists and German Nazis worked well together — they shared the same ridiculous idea that a people’s ancestry is somehow linked to particular “soil.” The fact that the “Aryan” people actually originated in western Asia illustrates how absurd this idea is.

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They came and destroyed my home, I ran away.
They came and killed my young brothers and sisters, I but mourned .
They surrounded us and stopped food and electricity supply to us, life went along.
Ten thousand bombs rained and I pretended that life went along.

Now when I stand up to fight for what I’ve lost, they say that I’m a  terrorist and attack me further.
(adaption of Bill haywood’s statement. Taken from the book ‘People v. Clarence Darrow’. )

365 deaths in the past three days as a result of Israeli air strikes and attacks on Gaza is not a joke. Especially when compared to the 11 killings by the hamas in Gaza on Israelis.365 deaths and the International community has not said anything official against Israel. Condolences come from all over the world but no state official has offered any.

Israel justifies these actions on their right to defend themselves. The jews are a community that have faced the most horrific crimes of humanity and perhaps can claim this right. But there has to be some limit on its use and this in no way extends to the killings of hundreds of people, blockades and the gravest human rights violations. Imagine having suffered as a race a few decades ago and then being the cause of the same suffering on another race now.

It is ironic that despite the gravest of crimes being committed against the palestinians, the international community has not raised any objection to the actions of Israel. There are still people in Sierra Leone and Khmer Rouge being tried for crimes of a similar nature if not far less graver. Perhaps it is a measure of the dominance of a race in the world today. The only sympathy shown by a international body has come in the form of a few paragraphs of the ICJ judgment on the Wall in palestine where it has shown some sympathy to the cause of palestine and condemning the acts of Israel.

The jurisprudence evolving from the Genocide cases in the International Criminal Court may lead it to draw inferences that states may be held liable for the committing of international crimes and human rights violations rather than the traditional perceptions that of only individuals being responsible. That Israel is responsible for its actions is left without doubt. The question that arises is whether the notion of self defence can be used to justify the killing of innocent people, women and children? Whether civilians can be targetted in a war between two armed groups ?

The Geneva Conventions and the additional protocols forbid such measures but Israel seems to be paying no heed to them. Even the United Nations has not said anything official on the issue. Mind you that about a year ago, the UN condemned Hamas strikes on Israel killing 28 people and nothing was said now when 365 are killed and numerous injured.

Maybe there will be a time when some concern is shown by the international community for the cause of the palestinians. Moving to the quote above, if this violence breeds revenge in the minds of a few palestinians, then why should they not rise up and protect themselves ? In as much as it may seem a little out of context, Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from Birmingham jail talks of the rise of the negroes to injustice. The quote below should help us answer and understand the questions posed;

“But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children……….

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience “

And when this impatience breeds revenge, it is not the revenge that is the crime but the act perpetrating it. Revenge is a mere justification. And an act of revenge cannot be used by the other to propogate more violence. Israel has vowed to destroy hamas with all its might. This action is itself a crime.

Lawrence posted an article by the LA times and states it to be “the most measured article on the subject”. Readers may read it here.

I would also suggest Mona- El- fara’s blog. It is by far the most touching blog on the palestinian conflict that I’ve read.

Read the rest of this entry »

I wish I could aptly descibe in words to the readers as to my experience at Law School, but I can’t. There are times when I can answer questions, but there are others when despite knowing the answer you wouldn’t want to give it out (and where’s my modesty gone?). For those who want to know how Law school works, this video gives a good picture.

I also would suggest readers to visit A Public Defender on the 10 things you don’t learn at law school.

……..

Manojna just tells me about a paper by Duncan Kennedy on “Legal Education as Training for Hierarchy” that gives a good idea of how law schools work. The link for the paper is here.

As the year is fizzling down to an economically weak finale, Satyam Computers has found itself in a deep mire, with the Maytas acquisition deal coming under strict scrutiny.  In an unrelated development, the World Bank later announced its intention to snap all business and development ties with Satyam following allegations of data theft in one of the Bank’s projects managed by the latter.

Many might be wondering why this seemingly plain-vanilla private sector transaction is figuring in a blog that addresses larger policy issues. However, the Satyam-Maytas deal throws critical aspects of efficient and ethical corporate governance into relief. Before I venture to speculate on the  Big Picture, here’s a primer on what really happened.

On December 16,  Satyam Computer Services, India’s fourth largest IT services provider, proposed to acquire Maytas Properties and 51 per cent stake in Maytas Infrastructure for a consideration of 8,000 Cr (Approx.). The deal, which surprised analysts and shareholders alike, was held out as a plan to ‘de-risk the core IT Business’ in the face of the ongoing economic downturn. On the other hand, it was no State secret that the Maytas (a palindrome for Satyam!) Group was controlled by the sons of Mr. Ramalinga Raju, Satyam’s Chairman. The proposal and its justification raised many eyebrows as the financial crunch was yet to show a perceivable impact on the software/IT industry.

Well, eyebrows were pretty much the only things raised by this deal, because every other financial index of Satyam plummeted. The next day, the ADR (American Depository Receipts) of Satyam Computer in the NYSE tumbled by over 50 per cent. In India, the scene was less dramatic, but the stock continued to be flat, indicating little interest from the shareholders. Consequently, Satyam was forced to call off the deal, all within a span of 24 hours. Mr. Raju said,

We have been surprised by the market reaction to this decision even though we were quite positive about the merits of the acquisition.

Thus, the shareholders and investors in the company were quick to shift gears into activist mode, evoking an incident hitherto unseen in Indian corporate history. From the outset, it was clear that the deal had thrown caution to the winds, materializing without any respect to shareholder sentiments. Despite the enormity of change proposed through diversification, Satyam failed to factor in public opinion on the matter that, prima facie, seems like a family affair.  The appalling lack of transparency has forced SEBI and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to take note of the matter and the watchdogs will certainly examining the nuances of this deal.

The issue brings the role of independent directors of a Company to the forefront; their opinion on such matters is expected to echo the views of a rational shareholder and not merely the interests of the promoter.
Business Line has an exceptional piece on the matter and the author goes on to say,

Questions will be raised rightly about the role of independent directors in issues such as this. The standards of corporate governance were sought to be raised when the stock market regulator insisted that independent directors should be in the majority on the boards of listed companies. Companies have in general complied with the rules, but the nagging doubt was whether independent directors appointed by a body of shareholders dominated by promoter can at all remain independent. The Satyam saga has brought the issue to the fore yet again.

Transparency in corporate governance is crucial as India is opening her markets to major foreign players.  If our domestic  segments cannot set an ethical example to its shareholders and investors, retail and institutional confidence is going to take a hit. Lifting the corporate veil in such cases is integral to sustain the company’s reputation and shareholder trust.

For the average shareholder/investor, the Satyam fiasco presents yet another reminder of the need to be activist and informed. The economic crisis might generate a number of transactions which are intended to be a quick-draw shortcut to ease monetary repercussions. Nonetheless, those at the receiving end have to be cautious, adopting a rational approach to the ‘lucrative’ deals that present themselves. The $50 billion Madoff fraud has left investors reeling; corporate accountability must be preserved to ensure a fair disposition of rights.

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann has called for a world ban on anyone defaming any religion. According to him, while there does exist a right to free speech and expression, the international community should aim towards the comity of religions. Notably,  there is a steady and worrisome trend of stories in Western countries restricting free speech in the name of tolerance of religion, sexual orientation and other values.For instance, in September criminal charges filed against leading French author Pierre Péan, who is charged with racial hatred for derogatory things said about Tutsis in a book in a book about Rwandan genocide.

Jonathan Turley puts forth the idea that this comment by the UNGA President is not way out of line as many Islamic states prosecute people for blasphemy and even issue fatwas against those who speak foul against their religion. He states;

A suspended Nicaraguan priest, D’Escoto is little concerned about the devastating blow to free speech and free press in such a rule — dangers already realized in various countries where speaking against a religion has resulted in criminal penalties and even death. In making this outrageous call, D’Escoto has given critics of international legal systems a great boost — showing the dangers of such rules in restricting cherished constitutional rights.

Looking at this in the context of Indian Law, the Indian Penal Code contains a series of sections from 295 where in words/ acts ‘deliberately’ said so as to hurt the feelings of any religion are a crime and punishable in law. However, in a series of case law, the Court has said that such acts would only constitute a crime when it is done ‘deliberately’, i.e. with an intent and tending to disrupt public order. This law is more of a synthesis between free speech and religious concerns.

The actions of the President, when not seen in isolation, as evidence to a general movement towards placing restrictions on rights in the name of public order and state security. We have seen that happening in India, the United States, UK and now coming from the President of the United Nations General Assembly.