For author David Chariandy, it’s not a matter of whether to discuss race with children, but how – The Globe and Mail

Nice and insightful review of his new book by Denise Balkissoon:

David Chariandy and his family have no interest in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

On a sunny afternoon about a month before the mad, multimillion-dollar wedding, I ask the novelist, his wife and their two children what they thought about Markle, a biracial black woman, marrying into one of the world’s most aristocratic white families.

“I’m tempted to say … so what?” he replies.

“I don’t really follow the Royal Family,” adds his 13-year-old daughter. Chariandy’s wife and 10-year-old son similarly shrug.

The question was stirred by Chariandy’s new book, I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You, a memoir about his experiences with race that is written as a letter to his daughter. In it, he notes that his children’s ancestry combines a variety of genealogies that have historically been kept divided: on his side, they are descended from enslaved Africans and indentured South Asian labourers in the Caribbean. Through their white mother, their lineage includes Sir William Mackenzie, who, in the 19th century, made his fortune in railways, an industry that was known to often exploit Chinese labourers.

In making this observation, Chariandy rejects the idea that combining disparate families could homogenize us all into one happy, beige-skinned world. It’s a sentiment I’ve come across in celebrations of Harry and Meghan – the idea that all is forgiven and forgotten now that a man whose ancestors were slavers is marrying a woman whose ancestors were enslaved.

“Even if he has married this person of colour, it doesn’t mean racism is over or anything,” Chariandy’s daughter observes. Or, as her father puts it in his memoir, “The future I yearn for is not one in which we will all be clothed in sameness, but is one in which we will finally learn to both read and respectfully discuss our differences.”

Chariandy’s two novels, Soucouyant and Brother, both draw on his Trinidadian heritage and centre on fragile family ties. This is his first work of non-fiction, which he was compelled to write after his daughter began asking hard questions about Donald Trump’s racist speeches and policies, as well the realities and politics of race in Canada. “She was asking very explicit questions,” said Chariandy, who grew up in Scarborough, Ont., and now lives in Vancouver.

In attempting to answer those questions thoroughly and honestly, Chariandy is endorsing a contemporary parenting philosophy – that it’s better to be honest when tackling difficult subjects with children rather than duck their questions or give dissatisfying answers. It’s a different approach than that usually taken by older generations, especially immigrants who came here expecting a multicultural Canadian dream.

“‘We just simply want to be Canadian, we don’t want to talk about questions of race,’” Chariandy imagines his own parents thinking. “Perhaps they wanted to protect their children against a difficult truth about the past. I understand that – at the same time I think one has to arm one’s children against the realities that surround them.” For him, the question isn’t whether to discuss race and racism, but how: how to explain prejudice, but keep his children feeling safe, and how to respect that they’re of a new generation, and will experience the world differently than him no matter what.

The result is poetic and moving, a slim but weighty book that excavates things often left unsaid. Chariandy shares the anxiety-inducing experience of meeting his wife’s learned, established family, (“That was a Get Out moment,” he says, and they both laugh) and the internal conflicts that arise visiting Trinidad as a moneyed Westerner. He details the parental heartbreak that comes with watching one’s children experience prejudice: the rush of anger and despair, and the attempt to soothe their pain while simultaneously treating reopened wounds from one’s own youth.

The book is endearingly intimate and full of love, and the author says he’s much more tentative about releasing it into the world than his previous work.

“I’ve written two books and I’ve never found this degree of profound vulnerability,” he says. “The only thing I say to myself is, we live out the politics of race. From the very beginning, it is a public encounter. Sometimes it feels like I don’t have a choice but to be public, because that’s how the game is played.”

This memoir comes three years after African-American journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, an equally unflinching passing-on of an unwanted inheritance written as a letter to his son. Both Coates and Chariandy were inspired by James Baldwin’s 1963 work The Fire Next Time, written in part as a letter to his nephew, which criticizes not just white Americans but Christianity and helped cement Baldwin as a revolutionary thinker and civil rights activist.

It’s a heady legacy, but Chariandy doesn’t see himself as following in other footsteps as much as contributing another voice to an important chorus. “I actually think there must be many, many more books like this,” he says. “I think that this exercise ought to be done many, many, many more times.” Each family’s history and present is particular, after all, and each choice to create a new one is an attempt to weave together scattered threads into something whole and secure, with a future.

Which is why Prince Harry’s personal mission is only beginning, should he choose to accept it. “Does Prince Harry do his homework?” Chariandy asks. “Has he made an effort, a genuine effort to understand things that may correspond to the person he loves or purports to love? That to me is the more interesting question.” Not that interesting though: He and his family are much more engaged in writing their own story, a fresh one for them, Canada and the world.

via For author David Chariandy, it’s not a matter of whether to discuss race with children, but how – The Globe and Mail

Germany Acts to Tame Facebook, Learning From Its Own History of Hate – The New York Times

Good long and interesting read, highlighting a number of the issues and practical aspects involved:

Security is tight at this brick building on the western edge of Berlin. Inside, a sign warns: “Everybody without a badge is a potential spy!”

Spread over five floors, hundreds of men and women sit in rows of six scanning their computer screens. All have signed nondisclosure agreements. Four trauma specialists are at their disposal seven days a week.

They are the agents of Facebook. And they have the power to decide what is free speech and what is hate speech.

This is a deletion center, one of Facebook’s largest, with more than 1,200 content moderators. They are cleaning up content — from terrorist propaganda to Nazi symbols to child abuse — that violates the law or the company’s community standards.

Germany, home to a tough new online hate speech law, has become a laboratory for one of the most pressing issues for governments today: how and whether to regulate the world’s biggest social network.

Around the world, Facebook and other social networking platforms are facing a backlash over their failures to safeguard privacy, disinformation campaigns and the digital reach of hate groups.

In India, seven people were beaten to death after a false viral message on the Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp. In Myanmar, violence against the Rohingya minority was fueled, in part, by misinformation spread on Facebook. In the United States, Congress called Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to testify about the company’s inability to protect its users’ privacy.

As the world confronts these rising forces, Europe, and Germany in particular, have emerged as the de facto regulators of the industry, exerting influence beyond their own borders. Berlin’s digital crackdown on hate speech, which took effect on Jan. 1, is being closely watched by other countries. And German officials are playing a major role behind one of Europe’s most aggressive moves to rein in technology companies, strict data privacy rules that take effect across the European Union on May 25 and are prompting global changes.

“For them, data is the raw material that makes them money,” said Gerd Billen, secretary of state in Germany’s Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. “For us, data protection is a fundamental right that underpins our democratic institutions.”

Germany’s troubled history has placed it on the front line of a modern tug-of-war between democracies and digital platforms.

In the country of the Holocaust, the commitment against hate speech is as fierce as the commitment to free speech. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is only available in an annotated version. Swastikas are illegal. Inciting hatred is punishable by up to five years in jail.

But banned posts, pictures and videos have routinely lingered on Facebook and other social media platforms. Now companies that systematically fail to remove “obviously illegal” content within 24 hours face fines of up to 50 million euros.

The deletion center predates the legislation, but its efforts have taken on new urgency. Every day content moderators in Berlin, hired by a third-party firm and working exclusively on Facebook, pore over thousands of posts flagged by users as upsetting or potentially illegal and make a judgment: Ignore, delete or, in particularly tricky cases, “escalate” to a global team of Facebook lawyers with expertise in German regulation.

Some decisions to delete are easy. Posts about Holocaust denial and genocidal rants against particular groups like refugees are obvious ones for taking down.

Others are less so. On Dec. 31, the day before the new law took effect, a far-right lawmaker reacted to an Arabic New Year’s tweet from the Cologne police, accusing them of appeasing “barbaric, Muslim, gang-raping groups of men.”

The request to block a screenshot of the lawmaker’s post wound up in the queue of Nils, a 35-year-old agent in the Berlin deletion center. His judgment was to let it stand. A colleague thought it should come down. Ultimately, the post was sent to lawyers in Dublin, London, Silicon Valley and Hamburg. By the afternoon it had been deleted, prompting a storm of criticism about the new legislation, known here as the “Facebook Law.”

“A lot of stuff is clear-cut,” Nils said. Facebook, citing his safety, did not allow him to give his surname. “But then there is the borderline stuff.”

Complicated cases have raised concerns that the threat of the new rules’ steep fines and 24-hour window for making decisions encourage “over-blocking” by companies, a sort of defensive censorship of content that is not actually illegal.

The far-right Alternative of Germany, a noisy and prolific user of social media, has been quick to proclaim “the end of free speech.” Human rights organizations have warned that the legislation was inspiring authoritarian governments to copy it.

Other people argue that the law simply gives a private company too much authority to decide what constitutes illegal hate speech in a democracy, an argument that Facebook, which favored voluntary guidelines, made against the law.

“It is perfectly appropriate for the German government to set standards,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy. “But we think it’s a bad idea for the German government to outsource the decision of what is lawful and what is not.”

Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president for public policy in Europe and the leader of the company’s lobbying effort against the German legislation, put it more simply: “We don’t want to be the arbiters of free speech.”

German officials counter that social media platforms are the arbiters anyway.

It all boils down to one question, said Mr. Billen, who helped draw up the new legislation: “Who is sovereign? Parliament or Facebook?”

Learning From (German) History

When Nils applied for a job at the deletion center, the first question the recruiter asked him was: “Do you know what you will see here?”

Nils has seen it all. Child torture. Mutilations. Suicides. Even murder: He once saw a video of a man cutting a heart out of a living human being.

And then there is hate.

“You see all the ugliness of the world here,” Nils said. “Everyone is against everyone else. Everyone is complaining about that other group. And everyone is saying the same horrible things.”

The issue is deeply personal for Nils. He has a 4-year-old daughter. “I’m also doing this for her,” he said.

The center here is run by Arvato, a German service provider owned by the conglomerate Bertelsmann. The agents have a broad purview, reviewing content from a half-dozen countries. Those with a focus on Germany must know Facebook’s community standards and, as of January, the basics of German hate speech and defamation law.

“Two agents looking at the same post should come up with the same decision,” says Karsten König, who manages Arvato’s partnership with Facebook.

The Berlin center opened with 200 employees in 2015, as Germany was opening its doors to hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Anas Modamani, a Syrian refugee, posed with Chancellor Angela Merkel and posted the image on Facebook. It instantly became a symbol of her decision to allowing in hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Soon it also became a symbol of the backlash.

The image showed up in false reports linking Mr. Modamani to terrorist attacks in Brussels and on a Christmas market in Berlin. He sought an injunction against Facebook to stop such posts from being shared but eventually lost.

The arrival of nearly 1.4 million migrants in Germany has tested the country’s resolve to keep a tight lid on hate speech. The law on illegal speech was long-established but enforcement in the digital realm was scattershot before the new legislation.

Posts calling refugees rapists, Neanderthals and scum survived for weeks, according to jugendschutz.net, a publicly funded internet safety organization. Many were never taken down. Researchers at jugendschutz.net reported a tripling in observed hate speech in the second half of 2015.

Mr. Billen, the secretary of state in charge of the new law, was alarmed. In September 2015, he convened executives from Facebook and other social media sites at the justice ministry, a building that was once the epicenter of state propaganda for the Communist East. A task force for fighting hate speech was created. A couple of months later, Facebook and other companies signed a joint declaration, promising to “examine flagged content and block or delete the majority of illegal posts within 24 hours.”

But the problem did not go away. Over the 15 months that followed, independent researchers, hired by the government, twice posed as ordinary users and flagged illegal hate speech. During the tests, they found that Facebook had deleted 46 percent and 39 percent.

“They knew that they were a platform for criminal behavior and for calls to commit criminal acts, but they presented themselves to us as a wolf in sheep skin,” said Mr. Billen, a poker-faced civil servant with stern black frames on his glasses.

By March 2017, the German government had lost patience and started drafting legislation. The Network Enforcement Law was born, setting out 21 types of content that are “manifestly illegal” and requiring social media platforms to act quickly.

Officials say early indications suggest the rules have served their purpose. Facebook’s performance on removing illegal hate speech in Germany rose to 100 percent over the past year, according to the latest spot check of the European Union.

Platforms must publish biannual reports on their efforts. The first is expected in July.

At Facebook’s Berlin offices, Mr. Allan acknowledged that under the earlier voluntary agreement, the company had not acted decisively enough at first.

“It was too little and it was too slow,” he said. But, he added, “that has changed.”

He cited another independent report for the European Commission from last summer that showed Facebook was by then removing 80 percent of hate speech posts in Germany.

The reason for the improvement was not German legislation, he said, but a voluntary code of conduct with the European Union. Facebook’s results have improved in all European countries, not just in Germany, Mr. Allan said.

“There was no need for legislation,” he said.

Mr. Billen disagrees.

“They could have prevented the law,” he said. YouTube scored 90 percent in last year’s monitoring exercise. If other platforms had done the same, there would be no law today, he said.

A Regulatory Dilemma

Germany’s hard-line approach to hate speech and data privacy once made it an outlier in Europe. The country’s stance is now more mainstream, an evolution seen in the justice commissioner in Brussels.

Vera Jourova, the justice commissioner, deleted her Facebook account in 2015 because she could not stand the hate anymore.

“It felt good,” she said about pressing the button. She added: “It felt like taking back control.”

But Ms. Jourova, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in what is now the Czech Republic, had long been skeptical about governments legislating any aspect of free speech, including hate speech. Her father lost his job after making a disparaging comment about the Soviet invasion in 1968, barring her from going to university until she married and took her husband’s name.

“I lived half my life in the atmosphere driven by Soviet propaganda,” she said. “The golden principle was: If you repeat a lie a hundred times it becomes the truth.”

When Germany started considering a law, she instead preferred a voluntary code of conduct. In 2016, platforms like Facebook promised European users easy reporting tools and committed to removing most illegal posts brought to their attention within 24 hours.

The approach worked well enough, Ms. Jourova said. It was also the quickest way to act because the 28 member states in the European Union differed so much about whether and how to legislate.

But the stance of many governments toward Facebook has hardened since it emerged that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of up to 87 million users. Representatives of the European Parliament have asked Mr. Zuckerberg to come to Brussels to “clarify issues related to the use of personal data” and he has agreed to come as soon as next week.

Ms. Jourova, whose job is to protect the data of over 500 million Europeans, has hardened her stance as well.

“Our current system relies on trust and this did nothing to improve trust,” she said. “The question now is how do we continue?”

The European Commission is considering German-style legislation for online content related to terrorism, violent extremism and child pornography, including a provision that would include fines for platforms that did not remove illegal content within an hour of being alerted to it.

Several countries — France, Israel, Italy, and Canada among them — have sent queries to the German government about the impact of the new hate speech law.

And Germany’s influence is evident in Europe’s new privacy regulation, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R.. The rules give people control over how their information is collected and used.

Inspired in part by German data protection laws written in the 1980s, the regulation has been shaped by a number of prominent Germans. Ms. Jourova’s chief of staff, Renate Nikolay, is German, as is her predecessor’s chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, now the European Commission’s secretary general. The lawmaker in charge of the regulation in the European Parliament is German, too.

“We have built on the German tradition of data protection as a constitutional right and created the most modern piece of regulation of the digital economy,” Ms. Nikolay said.

“To succeed in the long-term companies needs the trust of customers,” she said. “At the latest since Cambridge Analytica it has become clear that data protection is not just some nutty European idea, but a matter of competitiveness.”

On March 26, Ms. Jourova wrote a letter — by post, not email — to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.

“Is there a need for stricter rules for platforms like those that exist for traditional media?” she asked.

“Is the data of Europeans affected by the current scandal?” she added, referring to the Cambridge Analytica episode. And, if so, “How do you plan to inform the user about this?”

She demanded a reply within two weeks, and she got one. Some 2.7 million Europeans were affected, Ms. Sandberg wrote.

But she never answered Ms. Jourova’s question on regulation.

“There is now a sense of urgency and the conviction that we are dealing with something very dangerous that may threaten the development of free democracies,” said Ms. Jourova, who is also trying to find ways to clamp down on fake news and disinformation campaigns.

“We want the tech giants to respect and follow our legislation,” she added. “We want them to show social responsibility both on data protection and on hate speech.”

So do many Facebook employees, Mr. Allan, the company executive, said.

“We employ very thoughtful and principled people,” he said. “They work here because they want to make the world a better place, so when an assumption is made that the product they work on is harming people it is impactful.”

“People have felt this criticism very deeply,” he said.

A Visual Onslaught

Nils works eight-hour shifts. On busy days, 1,500 user reports are in his queue. Other days, there are only 300. Some of his colleagues have nightmares about what they see.

Every so often someone breaks down. A mother recently left her desk in tears after watching a video of a child being sexually abused. A young man felt physically sick after seeing a video of a dog being tortured. The agents watch teenagers self-mutilating and girls recounting rape.

They have weekly group sessions with a psychologist and the trauma specialists on standby. In more serious cases, the center teams up with clinics in Berlin.

In the office, which is adorned with Facebook logos, fresh fruit is at the agents’ disposal in a small room where subdued colors and decorative moss growing on the walls are meant to calm fraying nerves.

To decompress, the agents sometimes report each other’s posts, not because they are controversial, but “just for a laugh,” said another agent, the son of a Lebanese refugee and an Arabic-speaker who has had to deal with content related to terrorism generally and the Islamic State specifically. By now, he said, images of “weird skin diseases” affected him more than those of a beheading. Nils finds sports injuries like breaking bones particularly disturbing.

There is a camaraderie in the office and a real sense of mission: Nils said the agents were proud to “help clean up the hate.”

The definition of hate is constantly evolving.

The agents, who initially take a three-week training course, get frequent refreshers. Their guidelines are revised to reflect hate speech culture. Events change the meaning of words. New hashtags and online trends must be put in context.

“Slurs can become socialized,” Mr. Allan of Facebook explained.

“Refugee” became a group protected from the broad hate speech rules only in 2015. “Nafri” was a term used by the German police that year to describe North Africans who sexually harassed hundreds of women, attacking and, in some cases, raping them. Since then, Nafri has become a popular insult among the far-right.

Nils and his colleagues must determine whether hateful content is singling out an ethnic group or individuals.

That was the challenge with a message on Twitter that was later posted to Facebook as a screenshot by Beatrix von Storch, deputy floor leader of the far-right party, AfD.

“What the hell is wrong with this country?” Ms. von Storch wrote on Dec. 31. “Why is an official police account tweeting in Arabic?”

“Do you think that will appease the barbaric murdering Muslim group-raping gangs of men?” she continued.

A user reported the post as a violation of German law, and it landed in Nils’s queue. He initially decided to ignore the request because he felt Ms. von Storch was directing her insults at the men who had sexually assaulted women two years earlier.

Separately, a user reported the post as a violation of community standards. Another agent leaned toward deleting it, taking it as directed at Muslims in general.

They conferred with their “subject matter expert,” who escalated it to a team in Dublin.

For 24 hours, the post kept Facebook lawyers from Silicon Valley to Hamburg busy. The Dublin team decided that the post did not violate community standards but sent it on for legal assessment by outside lawyers hired by Facebook in Germany.

Within hours of news that the German police were opening a criminal investigation into Ms. von Storch over her comments, Facebook restricted access to the post. The user who reported the content was notified that it had been blocked for a violation of section 130 of the German criminal code, incitement to hatred. Ms. von Storch was also notified too.

In the first few days of the year, it looked like the platforms were erring on the side of censorship. On Jan. 2, a day after Ms. von Storch’s post was deleted, the satirical magazine Titanic quipped that she would be its new guest tweeter. Two of the magazine’s subsequent Twitter posts mocking her were deleted. When Titanic published them again, its account was temporarily suspended.

Since then, things have calmed down. And even Mr. Allan conceded: “The law has not materially changed the amount of content that is deleted.”

via Germany Acts to Tame Facebook, Learning From Its Own History of Hate – The New York Times

How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism – The Washington Post

A narrower and more focussed definition than the one adopted by IHRA (Working Definition of Antisemitism) and a number of governments:

So how can you tell the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism? Here are five useful markers.

Seeing Jews as insidious influencers behind the scenes of world events

On the left and the right, anti-Semitism often manifests in a nefarious belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy that wields outsize power. On the right, it’s “globalists” and “elites” who manipulate events. On the left, it’s “Zionists.” The terms may differ, but the fundamental conspiracy theory is the same. For example, after news broke that a private investigative firm made up of former Mossad officers had been digging up dirt on Obama administration officials who helped broker the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, Columbia University professor Hamid Dabashi tweeted, “Every dirty treacherous ugly and pernicious act happening in the world just wait for a few days and the ugly name of ‘Israel’ will [pop up].” This language parallels the last ad of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, which flashed pictures of George Soros, Lloyd Blankfein and Janet Yellen while warning of a “global power structure” that had damaged the U.S. economy. In another case, when professor Steven Salaita was denied a tenured position at the University of Illinois after a series of anti-Israel tweets, he wrote: “Support for Israel . . . exists in sites of authority, often an omnipresent but invisible accoutrement to swivel chairs, mineral water, and mahogany tables.”

Also in this category is the theory, popular on the left, that Israeli trainers are to blame for racism and violence against people of color by U.S. police. (Durham, N.C., for instance, recently barred its police department from partnering with the Israeli police or military for training, citing this notion.) This includes insinuationsthat American Jewish organizations that help send U.S. police officers to Israel for counterterrorism training should be held responsible for the shootings of unarmed people of color. American police have used violence against marginalized people since long before Israel existed. White people have never needed Jews to teach them how to brutalize people of color on American soil. There are reasonable questions to ask about the content of training programs in Israel, but the suggestion — absent supporting evidence — that Jews bear guilt for U.S. police killings merely updates the old anti-Semitic trope that falsely accused Jews of managing the global slave trade .

Using the word “Zionist” as code for “Jew” or “Israeli”

“Zionism” denotes a movement, forged in the late 19th century and evolving ever since, for the existence of a modern Jewish state in the land of Israel. A Zionist, as I define myself, supports one or more of the many variations on this vision, which differ wildly in their political, religious and cultural emphases.

Critics of Israel sometimes use “Zionist” to assert a global power structure without specifically calling out Jews as its masterminds. After Salaita, the Illinois professor, also lost a position at the American University of Beirut, he wrote, “I was shocked that Zionist pressure could succeed in the Arab World.” The Nation of Islam’s Final Call newspaper asserts that “Zionist pressure ” will not stop Louis Farrakhan from continuing his anti-Semitic pronouncements, which have included calling Jews the “synagogue of Satan.”

The “Zionist” label attempts to reduce a state full of living, breathing humans to a simplistic political notion. It’s common for Palestinians and their supporters to refer to “Zionist occupation forces” instead of the “Israeli army,” or to the “Zionist entity” instead of “Israel.” At a demonstration I walked by this past week, protesters held signs mourning 70 years of “Israel,” in quotes.

One may disagree with the decision of the United Nations to recognize Israel decades ago, wish that the state had never come to be or aspire to the establishment of a binational state in its place without necessarily stepping into anti-Semitism. But refusing to call Israel or Israelis by their internationally accepted names denies the very existence of the state and its people’s identities. These coy linguistic tricks are as unacceptable as the right-wing penchant for denying the existence of Palestinians and Palestinian identity.

Denying Jewish history

As a means of rejecting the legitimacy of Israel, some stoop to asserting that Jews have no national history there — that they are, in other words, nothing more than European colonizers. For instance, the website Middle East Monitor referred recently to the “alleged Temple” in ancient Jerusalem (the ruins are still there). Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, likewise, resurrected the old canard that today’s Jews descend from Khazar converts in arecent and much-criticized speech.

The Jewish connection to Israel goes back millennia. After their expulsion by the Romans in 70 A.D., Jews continued to pray for a return to the land and to observe four fast days each year to mourn the exile. Zionism’s revolution came not in creating a new connection between Jews and the land of Israel, but in suggesting that a return to the land could be achieved through modern political means, rather than by waiting for the messiah.

Some critics also reduce Judaism to religion, in the mold of Western Christianity, rather than acknowledging our more complex sense of ourselves as a people with a history and an ancestral land, as well as religious and cultural practices. This includes dismissing Zionism as “white supremacy,” as the Chicago Dyke March did last year when its organizers argued that Zionism had no place in an anti-racist movement and that it “represents an ideology that uses legacies of Jewish struggle to justify violence.” Statements like these ignore the fact that, unlike most white people here and elsewhere, Jews have been subject to racially based discrimination — and that more than half of Israeli Jews are not Ashkenazi, meaning their families did not come from Europe.

Finally, disregard for Jewish history may take the form of using Nazi imagery to depict Israel or its army. This tactic cynically manipulates the greatest modern trauma of Jewish history to attack us, while minimizing the genocide of 6 million Jews. Israel may be violating its human rights obligations, but is not carrying out a Nazi-style extermination operation.

Dismissing the humanity of Israelis

In a conversation about terrorist attacks by Palestinians, one young activist told me, “I can’t judge how other people carry out their liberation movements.” Such lack of concern for Israeli lives is evident in failures to condemn rocket attacks against civilians, in the rejection of the term “terrorist” for anyone who acts against Israelis and in statements blaming Israelis for their own deaths. A movement motivated by concern for human rights requires caring about the dignity, well-being, concerns and self-determination of all people.

This means opposing the military occupation of the Palestinians, with its attending violence, as well as rejecting terrorism or rocket fire against Israelis. Human Rights Watch, which right-leaning groups often accuse of being anti-Israel, has modeled such an approach by regularly condemning Hamas for launching rockets at Israeli civilians. This approach also means standing with Israeli human rights leaders, who increasingly find themselves the targets of dangerous incitement by the country’s political leaders.

Assuming that the Israeli government speaks for all Jews

Rabbis who speak at rallies on domestic issues (the Trump travel ban, police killings, etc.) regularly tell me that audience members shout at them, “What about Palestine?” An explicit disavowal of a connection to Israel shouldn’t be a prerequisite for Jewish involvement in broader social justice issues, as has become the norm on college campuses and in many progressive spaces.

Imagine assuming that all Americans support President Trump’s policies, or asking Americans to expressly disown their own country before engaging in any international human rights campaigns. Reasonable people may disagree about Israeli policy, about nationalism or about whether the solution to the conflict should involve one state or two. But Jews who care about Israel — many of whom revile Netanyahu and his politics — should not be excluded from progressive spaces based on their answers to such questions.

Jews, along with other groups, must fight for human rights, in the United States and abroad. This work means insisting that Israel, like other countries, live up to its human rights commitments. The case can be made without bigotry and hate speech.

via How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism – The Washington Post

Trump’s ‘Animals’ Remark Is Threatening to Immigrants – The Atlantic

Good article with its conclusion on the longer-term implications:

The true peril of Trump’s comments on Wednesday is this: that the state will be further empowered to suspend human rights. Dehumanization is not just a buzzword, but a descriptor of a specific and well-known psychological and sociological process, by which people are conditioned to accept inflicting increasingly inhumane conditions and punishments on other people. Taking from the well-worn lessons of American racism, dehumanization means both a broadening of what’s acceptable and just who is unacceptable.

The dangers of that broadening were evident in another recent viral moment. In a video clip that made the rounds on social media, 42-year-old New York lawyer Aaron Schlossberg was seen ranting to a restaurant employee and customer for speaking Spanish to each other. With no evidence that anyone present was an unauthorized immigrant—or that a crime was taking place—Schlossberg threatened to call ICE against the employees and the restaurant. Given what is known about the routine processes of ICE arrest and detention, this was at best a threat of disruption, and at worst a threat of violence.

The most likely outcome of Trump’s “animals” rhetoric isn’t a return to some mythological Pax Americana, as his supporters might suggest. Quite the opposite: It could fuel more informing on neighbors, more regular harassment for people of color, a deeper and wider dragnet, and an increased acceptance of brutality and extralegal practices. That’s what happens when people stop being people.

via Trump’s ‘Animals’ Remark Is Threatening to Immigrants – The Atlantic

Black Britons and belonging: Meghan Markle versus the Windrush generation: Balkissoon

Appropriate and sharp contrast:

There are two big stories right now about black migrants in Britain, but only one is fun to pay attention to.

That would be that Meghan Markle, an American with a black mother and white father, is marrying Prince Harry. A beautiful, biracial commoner starring in a royal wedding is a fairy tale about race and Britishness the Crown can get behind. It’s a much better image than half a million black and brown citizens facing possible deportation.

But that, too, is currently happening: In fact, the Windrush scandal, as it’s known, became public around the same time as the Royal engagement, last November. That’s when The Guardian began publishing stories about people losing their health benefits, being put into immigration detention or being deported even though they had been citizens since birth.

These Britons were born in pre-independence Commonwealth countries, once considered far-flung parts of Britain itself. After the Second World War, when the U.K. was hit with a serious labour shortage, it appealed to the Queen’s global subjects to fill the void. Among the thousands that answered the call were the passengers of the MV Empire Windrush, which landed in June 1948 full of British citizens from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean islands.

That ship’s name has become a rallying cry for a generation: West Indians, South Asians and others who were told that arriving before the early 1970s gave them “the right to remain” in their supposed mother country. The problem is that now, decades later, much of the Windrush generation don’t have the paperwork to prove when they got there.

Many were children when they arrived, travelling on their parents’ passports. Few knew that the government was in possession of ship landing cards that could prove their arrival date – or that in 2010, the U.K. Border Agency began destroying them.

Two years after legal proof that thousands of mostly non-white people had a right to be in the U.K. disappeared, then-Home Secretary (or immigration minister) Theresa May introduced “hostile environment” policies meant to deter unwanted migrants. At least 50,000 of the over 500,000 Commonwealth citizens who moved to the U.K. in the Windrush period don’t have British passports: thousands of lives have been disrupted.

Sylvester Marshall, for example, learned he was an “illegal immigrant” when he went to replace a lost driver’s license. Mr. Marshall, who has worked and paid taxes in the U.K. for 44 years, had his cancer treatment delayed when he suddenly became ineligible for health-care.

Most of these people are senior citizens now, and many have lost their jobs or their rental homes or been put into immigration detention. At least 63 people seem to have been wrongfully deported, dark-skinned collateral damage in Ms. May’s anti-immigration offensive.

Meanwhile, Kensington Palace has bravely embraced its first openly non-white family member (rumours swirl about the possible African ancestry of Queen Charlotte, born in 1744). Prince Harry told the tabloids to stop being mean to his girlfriend, Princess Michael of Kent was made to apologize for wearing racist jewellery and the rest of us are supposed to be impressed.

Many are accepting these crumbs from the royal table, such as young Tshego Lengolo, who lives in working-class southeast London. The 11-year-old told the New York Times that she knows what it’s like to move to a new country, and that she’s ready to be Ms. Markle’s friend. My heart hurts for children fooled by such sad scraps of belonging, but I have no time for adult women penning paeans to the first “black princess.”

First of all, Ms. Markle will likely be given the title of duchess, which is a yawn. More importantly, like Kate Middleton and Diana Spencer before her, she’ll be giving up her career to be a wife. None of the bridesmaids in her wedding party will be little black girls like Tshego, and any children she bears will never reach the throne.

As far as updating the monarchy as a symbol for the modern world, these nuptials are fairly surface level − especially in a country coping with a scandal like Windrush.

Ms. Markle isn’t jumping the citizenship queue: becoming officially British will take her about three years. Perhaps that’s enough time for the Windrush generation to achieve fairness. There’s been a flurry of apologies and resignations, and talk of compensation is growing louder.

Will those who lost their jobs be given back pay? Will Mr. Marshall survive his cancer? By 2021, Ms. Markle will officially be a black Briton and, maybe, the Windrushers who were sent away will have made it back home.

via Black Britons and belonging: Meghan Markle versus the Windrush generation – The Globe and Mail

Canadian government comes to the defence of Nazi SS and Nazi collaborators but why?

Good question:

In late April more than 50 members of the U.S. Congress condemned the government of Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to glorify “Nazi collaborators.”

The letter, signed by both Republicans and Democrats, outlined concerns about ongoing ceremonies to glorify leaders of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army as well as 14th SS Galizien Division (aka 1stGalician/Galizien or the 1st Ukrainian Division). “It’s particularly troubling that much of the Nazi glorification in Ukraine is government-supported,” noted the letter to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. The letter was initiated by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

Contrast that to how the Canadian government handled a related issue last year when the Russian Embassy in Ottawa tweeted out that, “There are monumets (sic) to Nazi collaborators in Canada and nobody is doing anything about it.”

A monument in Oakville commemorates those who served with the 14th SS Galizien Division. Another monument in Edmonton honors Roman Shukhevych, the leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

As my Postmedia colleague Marie-Danielle Smith discovered, the Russian tweet sent bureaucrats at Global Affairs Canada into overdrive as they tried to defend the SS unit and Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. Documents she received through the Access to Information law show government officials were under a lot of pressure from the “Centre” (the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister’s Office) to counter the news about the monuments to Nazi collaborators. The bureaucrats came up with a strategy. The would label the tweet as “disinformation” and they came up with a plan to spread the word to the news media as part of their efforts to defend Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators.

Now as I have written before, the Russians are more than happy to try to embarrass the Canadian government, which has steadfastly stood behind the Ukrainian government in the ongoing conflict in the region. Suggesting that Canada allows monuments to Nazi collaborators seems to fit that bill.

But in this case the Russian tweets aren’t “fake news” or “disinformation.” They are accurate.

As those members of the U.S. Congress have pointed out, the Ukrainians who served in the SS Galizien Division were indeed Nazi collaborators.

So too was Roman Shukhevych.

Before going to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Shukhevych was commander of the Ukrainian battalion called Nachtigall. The men of Nachtigall rounded up Jews in Lviv in June 1941, massacring men, women and children. The Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates that the Nachtigall Battalion, along with their German military counterparts, managed to murder around 4,000 Jews in Lviv. Other historians put the estimate at around 6,000.

Shukhevych was later assigned to a new unit whose role in Germany’s war, according to one Holocaust expert, was “fighting partisans and killing Jews.” Shukhevych later turned against the Nazis.

Then there is the SS Galizien Division. They were eager Nazi collaborators. Some 80,000 Ukrainians volunteered to join the SS but only those who could meet the strict requirements were selected.

The SS used some of its most seasoned killers to oversee the development of its new division. SS Gen. Jurgen Stroop, who would later be executed as a war criminal for his brutal destruction of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, was brought on as an advisor.

Other commanders of the division were all versed in the murder of Jews throughout occupied territories in eastern Europe. “Many of the Ukrainian officers, like SS- Haupsturmfuhrer Michael Brygidryr, had previously served in SS Schuma battalions, routinely used to kill partisans, burn down villages and, when the opportunity arose, murder Jews,” wrote award-winning author Christopher Hale in his 2011 ground-breaking book, Hitler’s Foreign Executioners.

SS Galizien Division was used by the Nazis in a variety of operations, one of the most controversial being the 1944 destruction of the village of Huta Pieniacka. Huta Pieniacka was considered a “Polish” village that just months before had been the shelter for several hundred Jews, Hale noted. The SS units surrounded the village. Men, women and children, who had taken refuge in the village church, were taken outside in groups and murdered. Kids were executed in front of their parents, their heads smashed against tree trunks, one witness testified. Others were burned alive in houses. Around 850 people were murdered.

Some Ukrainians dispute that the SS Galizien Division took part in the killings or they argue that only small elements from the unit – and under Nazi command – were involved.

A Ukrainian military board heard testimony in 1944 that members of the Galizien Division did take part in the attack. But that action was justified, the board was told since the inhabitants of Huta Pieniacka had been killing Ukrainian peasants. “By the way, the Jews were hiding in the village,” a Ukrainian officer added in his testimony describing the destruction of the village inhabitants.

Some Ukrainians see Shukhevych and SS Galizien Division members as heroes. They argue that those individuals served the Nazis because they saw them as liberators from the Russians. Their ultimate goal was an independent Ukraine.

But to claim that these individuals were not Nazi collaborators is something else. They served Hitler.

In May 1944, SS leader Heinrich Himmler addressed the Ukrainian SS recruits in a speech.  “Your homeland has become more beautiful since you have lost – on our initiative, I must say – the residents who were so often a dirty blemish on Galicia’s good name – namely the Jews,” said Himmler. “I know that if I ordered you to liquidate the Poles, I would be giving you permission to do what you are eager to do anyway.”

Himmler speech was greeted with cheers from the Ukrainian recruits.

Equally disturbing are the details contained in the book, The Holocaust Chronicle, published in 2003 and written by 7 top scholars in the field of Holocaust studies. They noted that Ukrainian SS were also sent to help kill Jews during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Chronicle published a photo of two of Ukrainian SS members standing over the bodies of Jews murdered during that uprising. See the photo below:

But this issue of Ukrainian collaboration with the Nazis is not new. Since 1986 the Nazi-hunters with The Simon Wiesenthal Center have warned about efforts from those in Ukraine and in the Ukrainian community in Canada who want to deny involvement of the SS Galizien Division with the Nazis.

The Latvian government is also trying to use the “fake news” label to whitewash the reality of Latvian collaboration with the Nazis.

My colleague Scott Taylor has recently written several articles about the Latvian Legion (15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian) et al) and Latvian killers like war criminal Herberts Cukurs as well as the members of the Arajs Kommando, who murdered an estimated 26,000 Jews.

According to Karlis Eihenbaums, Latvia’s Ambassador to Canada, Taylor is spreading “fake news” and “disinformation.” Eihenbaums has also tried to smear Taylor by suggesting that he is under the “influence” of the Russian government.

Taylor’s research into the Latvian SS Legion and the Latvian murderers of Jewish men, women and children is solid.  It is a well-documented historical fact that many of the killers from the Arajs Kommando went to the Latvian Legion. These Latvians served Hitler. No number of claims of “fake news” can change that fact.

Photo below shows Latvian SS:

The controversy over the Latvian Legion and the annual parade held in Riga to celebrate these Nazi collaborators is well known and has been going on for two decades, long before the term “fake news” was even coined. In 1998 the parade caused a storm of protests around the world, particularly in Israel, where Holocaust survivors couldn’t understand Latvia’s desire to celebrate such ruthless killers. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac were among those that year to protest the Latvian parade. The Times of Israel reported on this year’s Latvian SS parade in Riga, which took place mid-March.

So much for “fake news.” Did Helmut Kohl and Jacques Chirac spread “disinformation” when they denounced the SS parade in Latvia? Of course not.

This whole issue isn’t about “fake news” or Russian “disinformation.” It is about nations trying to whitewash their Nazi collaboration and rewrite history, while attacking journalists who don’t want to let that happen.

It is a positive development that members of the U.S. Congress could see through these efforts to glorify members of the SS. They are speaking out.

But in Canada, the federal government is more than happy to play along with defending Himmler’s SS divisions and Nazi collaborators.

What would our soldiers who fought during the Second World War to help rid the world of this scourge think about that?

Source: Canadian government comes to the defence of Nazi SS and Nazi collaborators but why?

Countering the rise of radicalism in private Islamic schools in Indonesia – Opinion – The Jakarta Post

More on increased radicalization in Indonesia and the influence of Islamic schools, with a useful breakdown of the different types:

A series of terrorist acts has rocked Indonesia in the past week. Starting from a clash in a detention centre at the Police Mobile Brigade headquarters in Depok, West Java, last week, attackers then bombed three churches in Surabaya, East Java, last Sunday, followed by another terrorist bombing at Surabaya Police Headquarters. Dozens were killed and wounded.

In response, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has reiterated the government’s commitment to exterminate terrorism down to its roots.

We must appreciate Jokowi’s statement. However, terrorism is a complex issue because there is no single factor that can explain why a person becomes a terrorist.

The importance of schools to prevent radicalism

One of the strategies that the government can use to stop terrorism in Indonesia is to take preventive steps using educational institutions to promote tolerance, which can eventually stop the spread of radical thoughts.

But what is happening in Indonesia is the opposite. Many schools in Indonesia have become fertile ground for radicalism.

The latest surveys from the Wahid Institute, Pusat Pengkajian Islam Masyarakat and the Centre for Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) and Setara Institute have indicated the spread of intolerance and radical values in educational institutions in Indonesia.

A student tolerance survey from Setara Institute in 2016 revealed that 35.7% of the students showed a tendency to intolerance in their minds, 2.4% were involved in acts of intolerance, and 0.3% had the potential to become terrorists. The survey was based on 760 respondents who enrolled in public high schools in Jakarta and Bandung, West Java.

Surveys from the Wahid Institute and PPIM have shown the same worrying trend.

The characteristics of schools prone to radicalism

In 2017, I was involved in research on efforts to respond to radicalism at 20 private Islamic schools in Central Java. The research involved academics from Monash University in Australia, Walisongo State Islamic University in Semarang, Central Java, and Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta with funding support from the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

We managed to identify three types of schools that are prone to radicalism. In accordance with confidentiality principles, we will not publish the schools’ names in this article.

These three types of schools are:

1. Closed schools

Instead of embracing changes, this type of school offers students a narrow perspective and tends to shut them off from foreign ideas.

We interviewed one of the headmasters from these schools. He explained the importance of Islamic civilisation to protect students against Western values.

Aside from see Islam and the West as being in conflict, closed schools also stress the importance of practising their version of Islamic teachings and reject the moderate Islam that most Muslims adhere to in Indonesia.

2. Separated schools

These schools can be identified from their teacher recruitment system and their limited participation in social activities.

The teacher recruitment process in these schools is very strict, especially the recruitment of religion teachers. In addition, these schools do not want to participate in social activities that they deem to be against their values.

This type of school is very different from other Islamic schools that are affiliated with the country’s more traditional Muslim organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) or Muhammadiyah. Whereas separated schools recruit religion teachers from their own groups only and will use their networks to recruit alumni who share the same Islamic values, NU and Muhammadiyah schools will not consider differences in their teachings as an issue. For example, one of the headmasters from a NU-affiliated school stated that his school also recruited teachers from Muhammadiyah.

NU and Muhammadiyah schools are also active in social activities, including interfaith activities. Separated schools are not.

3. Schools with pure Islamic identity

The third type can be identified by the way they create students’ Islamic identity. The schools that are prone to radicalism tend to build in a student a single Islamic identity, refusing other identities.

This understanding is different from other Islamic schools, which tend to consider that a person’s identity as a Muslim is not against his/her other identity. Moderate Islamic schools do not see a conflict between their students’ identity as Muslims and as Indonesian citizens.

When a school builds this single Muslim identity, that school will also foster radical attitudes among students as they only believe in a single Islamic interpretation that is in line with their values.

Headmasters from this type of school usually order their students to follow all religious rituals at schools, despite the students’ different religious background.

A headmaster told us that his students with a NU background must abandon their prayer ritual in the morning called qunut when they are enrolled in his schools.

This policy is different from other schools that allow flexibility for their students in their religious practices.

In addition, the rejection of other identities creates a “we versus them” attitude not only between different religions but also within the larger Islamic community itself.

What we can do

These three types of schools contribute to the growth of intolerance as well as radicalism at schools, which can lead to terrorist acts.

Therefore, we believe that the recent terrorist attacks should give momentum to the government to plan preventive measures to promote diversity, social integrity and diverse identities in various schools across the country.

The government’s campaign on tolerance should reach different educational institutions via the Culture and Education Ministry as well as Religious Affairs Ministry.

The government must also provide platforms and programs to promote tolerance. Apart from that, related government institutions in the regions must develop the capacity to identify schools that are prone to radicalism and apply persuasive approaches to prevent the spread of radicalism in those schools.

via Countering the rise of radicalism in private Islamic schools in Indonesia – Opinion – The Jakarta Post

Hungarian PM Accused George Soros of Fueling Anti-Semitism, MTI Reports – Bloomberg

Might be time for former PM Harper to reconsider his congratulatory message in his capacity as head of the International Democrat Union (IDU):

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused George Soros, the Jewish billionaire philanthropist who survived Nazi persecution, of fomenting anti-Semitism by helping immigrants come to Europe, MTI state news service reported.

Soros and his Open Society Foundations, which funds dozens of NGOs in Hungary, “bear responsibility for the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe,” Orban said in a letter to Ronald S. Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, MTI reported Friday. Soros, 87, who eventually emigrated to the U.S. after World War II, said last year that Orban used Nazi-era propaganda methods to try to discredit him in a national billboard campaign.

Orban has built a border fence to keep immigrants out in a vow to protect Hungary from people he’s called “Muslim invaders.” In the letter, he said immigrants to Europe included those whose “political and religious views markedly increased the sense of insecurity in Jewish communities.”

Orban won a fourth term as prime minister last month and has become a ringleader for anti-immigrant populist forces in Europe. Open Society Foundations said this week that it was moving its staff from Budapest to Berlin, citing a government crackdown on NGOs.

via Hungarian PM Accused George Soros of Fueling Anti-Semitism, MTI Reports – Bloomberg

‘A very critical clash of cultures’: Plea deal over honour killing threats saves Syrian couple from deportation

Interesting case and judgement and some of the integration challenges. On balance, reasonable deal.

Hopefully, lesson learned, both for the family concerned and more broadly:

A Syrian refugee couple who threatened their adult daughter with an honour killing for dating a Canadian man have made a plea deal with New Brunswick prosecutors that will save them from possible deportation back to their war-ravaged homeland.

Ahmad Ayoub, 52, and his wife Faten, 48, were freed this week after 72 days in jail, after pleading guilty to uttering threats as a summary conviction offence, and being sentenced to time served.

If they had been convicted of the more serious indictable offence of uttering threats, for which a trial was scheduled in the summer, they would have faced a sentence in the range of six months to a year, up to a maximum of two years.

More importantly, they would have faced the possibility of also being sent back to Syria, from which they escaped through Jordan, eventually settling in Fredericton in 2016, sponsored by the federal government.

“That’s the main thing that we gained,” said David Lutz, Ahmad’s lawyer. “Nobody who is a refugee wants to be convicted of any indictable offence, because it’s going to bring them under the purview of deportation.”

Lutz called the case a “very critical clash of cultures” that has sent a clear message to the Syrian community in Canada that even empty threats are taken seriously by the police and courts.

“Their words were taken literally instead of figuratively,” Lutz said. “In my interaction with the entire family, I came to the conclusion that this is a manner of speech that they never really intend to carry any of this out, but they do it so to say, ‘You should mind me, because this is what I think’.”

The Ayoubs have one adult child who remains in Jordan, and five others, one as young as 10, in Fredericton. Both have post-secondary education. Ahmad has worked in business, and Faten as a cook, but neither are employed yet in Canada.

No one answered the phone at their home on Wednesday. George Kalinowski, Faten Ayoub’s lawyer, declined to comment.

The threats were made against their daughter Bayan, 25. They were spoken in Arabic, once face to face, otherwise on the phone, and they only came to light when Bayan told her Canadian boyfriend, who encouraged her to go to police. She soon recanted, however, and was described in court by prosecutor Claude Haché as a reluctant participant in the prosecution.

“Throughout the time from which her parents were arrested and detained, (Bayan) was recanting and saying ‘All this is my fault.’ But of course, just like in domestic assaults, the police — and rightly so — don’t take the recanting seriously,” Lutz said.

Or, if they take it seriously, they see it as a symptom of the same problem, he added.

Bayan went to police in February. This prompted the threat by her mother, who urged her to tell police she lied, otherwise she would be killed. This threat was made on a phone call that Bayan recorded.

According to reporting by Don MacPherson of The Fredericton Daily Gleaner, who was in court for the sentencing, the first threat was made in April 2016, soon after the family arrived in Canada. Ahmad was angry that his daughter won an iPad in a contest, and threatened to poison her food. He also said he wanted to limit her contact with local men.

The second threat came last summer, when Bayan’s parents learned she was communicating with a Canadian man on social media, and her father said that “for his own dignity, it would be better to slaughter her,” the prosecutor said.

A third threat from Ahmad was prompted by her use of a smartphone, and his concern she was communicating with people she met at a work placement at a food bank.

Lutz said the more serious indictable offence of uttering threats is generally used in cases where there is evidence the offender had the ability or means to do it. In this case, he said their words were hyperbolic, exaggerated and non-literal.

He said the Ayoubs’ threats were “careless, bordering on reckless, and they have learned from this experience that his kind of language may be acceptable in Syria and Afghanistan, but now they know, better than most, that it’s not acceptable in Canada. And the entire Syrian community in New Brunswick knows it too.”

MacPherson’s report noted that the parents embraced their daughter outside court, and Ahmad shook her boyfriend’s hand. They will be on probation for a year.

Source: ‘A very critical clash of cultures’: Plea deal over honour killing threats saves Syrian couple from deportation

Data disproves the idea that Central American immigrants in the US don’t assimilate

Some good and revealing data:

The Trump administration has cited a variety of reasons to justify its drive to stop illegal immigration. The latest, as explained by White House chief of staff John Kelly in an interview last week: The immigrants who are coming to the US these days are too uneducated and poor to successfully integrate into society.

Kelly, who was speaking to NPR, was referring to Central American immigrants, whose numbers have swelled in recent years as conditions in their home countries have deteriorated. “They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing. … They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills,” he said.

Many have pointed out that Kelly could have been speaking about his own ancestors, who came to the US from Ireland and Italy. Like the recent Central American arrivals, members of previous immigrant waves to the US were poor and had low levels of education. Many did not speak English. Kelly is a testament to their eventual assimilation.

Data compiled by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, show that Central Americans, too, have integrated into the US. And they are doing so despite facing harsher immigration restrictions than their predecessors.

“Integration of Central American immigrants is occurring despite the best efforts of the United States government to prevent it,” Cato policy analyst David Bier wrote in a report outlining the data.

“They don’t speak English”

It’s true that most Central American immigrants don’t speak English when they arrive to the US, but they tend to learn over time. The share of immigrants who don’t speak English well shrinks with each passing year in the US, as the chart below shows.

“They don’t have skills”

For people with no skills, Central American immigrants get jobs relatively quickly. In 2016, about half of those who had been in the US for less than a year were working. Those who had been in the US for a year or more were working at nearly the same rate or higher than the country’s overall adult population, according to the Cato report.

“Fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations”

About half of the Central American immigrants in the US in 2016 did not have a high school diploma, supporting Kelly’s claim. But the US-born descendants of Central American immigrants had similar years of schooling as other Americans.

And despite their low education levels, many are able to go up the socioeconomic ladder over time. The poverty rate for Central Americans declines the longer they are in the US.

“They don’t integrate well”

It’s hard to measure “Americanness,” but voluntarily enlisting in the military arguably is a telling sign of a person’s commitment to a country. The Cato report shows that Americans of Central American descent are more than twice as likely to be active duty members than other US-born people.

It’s a commitment that should resonate with Kelly, a retired four-star general.

Source: Data disproves the idea that Central American immigrants in the US don’t assimilate