The voiceless Ukrainians

banderitas
For the past two weeks, since all this problem sprung in Ukraine when their prime minister stepped back about some commercial agreements with Europe, presumedly influenced by Russia, and the ultra nationalists rioted and took the streets (with or without legitimate reasons, this I cannot tell), leading their own kin to predictable — almost suicidal deaths, and their country to the verge of a civil war, my Facebook wall has been overcrowded — virtually overwhelmed with posts from my Ukrainian contacts, which are quite a few.
Indeed, along the three months I spent in Ukraine I met lots of people, most of them quite nice and friendly; diverse people from different parts of the country, different backgrounds and, of course, different political views. And, among these acquaintances, rarely there was any who did not clasify themselves as pro-Russian or pro-European. Despite sharing, as I perceived them, the same character and culture (with some exceptions), I got the notion (accurate, I hope) that their political views were clearly divided in basically two groups: those who believed in a new country, totally diferentiated from Russia in any possible way, specially the language (though they’re so similar that I could understand Ukrainian despite being studying Russian), and those who longed for their Sovietic era and wouldn’t mind — when not clearly desire, to become again a part of Russia, or much closer partners.
But there was also an essential, though subtle, difference between my friends from one type and the other: in general, there were more students and young people among the “staunch independentists”, and more workers and older people among the “Russia nostalgics”, so to say. Consequently, I also met better English speakers among my West Ukraine acquaintances, who were also sensibly more into the internet and social media, and worse-to-no English speakers among the East Ukraine ones, who also were more alien to the new technologies; the former had the time, age and resources for being in the “global world”, whereas the latter were perhaps too busy working in their ugly industrial cities.
This approach may seem too simplistic, but it’s not so; as a matter of fact, I got twenty times more Facebook contacts among the pro-Europeans than among the pro-Russians (if I’m allowed this reduction).
divisiónlinguistica
Now, where am I heading? My point is simple: based on my own experience I’d venture the thesis that the perception we’re getting in Europe about the events nowadays shaking Ukraine, is far from being representative of the Ukrainian reality. It’s too biased, too incomplete. We’re mostly hearing the voice of West Ukraine, the pro-European ones, the stalwark independentists; the others don’t reach us, they don’t speak English, they don’t use Facebook nor Twitter, not in English at least, nor in German. Their voices can’t be heard by us Europeans, or westerners in general.
They’re the voiceless Ukrainians; but I’d like to hear their opinions too. Otherwise I won’t be able to get anything close to an accurate idea about what’s going on in Ukraine.

European foulness about Ukraine ·

The hypocrisy of Europe with regard to the events in Ukraine is twofold and significant.
On the one hand, most of the media–and probably society as well–goad (with an insane, innermost elation) those Ukrainians who are fighting and dying for an aproach to Euroope despite no country in the EU wants Ukraine to join the club. From our unbearable superiority complex, we idioticly smile at the naïve Europeism of Ukrainian society (but mark!: only part of that society) and we threaten with sanctions to their Government–democratically elected, let’s not forget–for doing what we don’t dare to do (at least in Spain): to crush ilegitimate violence with legitimate violence.
On the other hand, we constantly congratulate ourselves with insufferable satisfaction for condemning anything neighbouring the extreme right opinions or attitudes, and we boast of our protective and grantful systems, supporters of oppressed monorities, while at the same time we chose to ignore that these riots in Ukraine are backed–no, flamed by precisely the extreme right, that they involve a radical nationalism, and that since the very independence of Ukraine one half of the society (the now protestants) discriminates against, and thrash, the only natural right of the russophone third of the population (one third!) to be officially acknowledged their language same as Ukrainian is: Russian–perhaps many Europeans ignore–is not an official language in Ukraine despite being the mother tongue of seventeen million Ukrainians.
Thus, meanwhile we clap the irredeemable Slavic romanticism and harbour the shameful, unhealthy desire to witness a revolt bathed in blood, they die by the dozens on the icy cobbles of their cities with the recklessness only Slavics are able to face death with.

Repression in Ukraine: languacide of Russian

banderaUcrania

These are some facts:
A) According to annual surveys by the Ukrainian Institute of Sociology (of the National Academy of Sciences) throughout 1994 to 2005:
1.- Average 36% of the Ukrainian population are native Russian speakers.
2.- Average 34% of the population speak mainly Russian in family (at home), while 26% speak both Russian and Ukrainian. This amounts to 60% of the Ukrainians speak often Russian at home, more than half of which speak only Russian.
3.- Average 47% of the respondents deemed necessary to make Russian an official language, whereas 34% didn’t.
B) According to the official Ukrainian census of 2001, the Russian language is native for over 29.3% of the population. However,
C) According to a 2004 poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, the number of people using Russian at home considerably exceeds those who so declared in the census: Russian would be used in family by 43–46% of the country’s population (a similar proportion to Ukrainian speakers).
D) According to a 2012 poll by RATING (an Ukrainian NGO), 40% of the surveyed citizens of age stated that their native language is rather Russian, and 55% rather Ukrainian.
E) When Ukraine gained its independence, in August 1991, the newly formed Government decreed that Ukrainian would be the only state language. Since then, and to this day, the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine forms the largest linguistic group in modern Europe with its language being non-official in the state.
This is my opinion:
This is what I call a languacide; repression; sheer revenge on people who were not guilty of the prior russification of Ukraine. This is to be condemned, reproved, and even fought against. The fact that Ukraine had been long repressed by Russia is no excuse for retaliation on others. This levels the Ukrainians with the Russians, thus losing all moral strength.
Hence, in sight of the recent events in Ukraine and lacking non-biased information, I wonder who are the oppressors and who the oppressed.

Bethlehem of Galilee, Jesus' birthplace?

.

While yahooing “Bethlehem” on the internet, a couple of results stating a curious theory caught my eye: namely, that Jesus’ birthplace might not have been the famous Bethlehem of Judea, but a much smaller–and closer to Nazareth–Bethlehem of Galilee (Beit Lehem Haglilit). Further research rendered abuntant results, though all of them lead to the same character: Aviram Oshri, a Jewish archeologist. According to Wikipedia

“it was originally known as Bethlehem of Zebulun […] Archaeological findings from the early Roman Period show it was a prosperous city. Due to its proximity to Nazareth, Aviram Oshri, a senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, believes that this is the Bethlehem where Jesus was born.”

Whereas, with an excessive touristic zeal, IsraelTraveler.org says that

“it is perhaps one of the more picturesque places in the whole of Israel […] a place of a prominent European atmosphere, with its elegant stone houses, the impressive tile roofs and the wide main street into which everything flows. Here one can find today Zimmers, a unique Visitors Center, restaurants and cafés, small shops, art galleries and a large herbs farm rich in scents. It is recommended to visit the historic House of the People and the impressive round water tower at the top of which is a water pool.”

So I decided to visit the place. I was curious about this discovery and, sojourning in Nazareth by that time, I didn’t want to lose the opportunity of stepping on perhaps the real land that saw the birth of  Jesus.

However, though barely six miles away from Nazareth as the crow flies, to get there without my own vehicle was not such a simple task as it looked. To start with, none of the locals I asked seemed to know the place, and even a man who drove daily along the nearby road had never realized its existence. This shocked me a bit, having taken for granted that, at least around Nazareth, everyone should be aware of a neighbouring location competing for such a honour as being the birthplace of God’s son. But I was resolved to go; so I had to device my own route. GPS in hand, I first took a bus to Haifa and asked the driver to drop me at the junction with road 7626, where I could hitchhike or, if unlucky, walk the three remaining miles to the village. Under a merciless sun, it took me quite a while to get a ride. A young Jewish guy, honest enough to admit that it was easier to hitchhike in this region because Muslims were friendlier, picked me up and dropped me at highway 77, little more than one mile away from my destination. Yet, no sign of it was to be seen.

As a side note, let me say here that most of the population in the North District of Israel, whose capital is Nazareth, are Arabs (70% Muslims and 30% Christians, pacifically coexisting) who submitted to the Israeli occupation of their land in 1948, and consequently disapprove of the Jewish as much as they can. During my short stay in Nazareth I could sometimes hear words of animosity and even hatred, and I understood why my Jewish friend from Jerusalem used to tell me that it was not particularly safe for her to travel to some parts of the country.

So, there I was, standing by highway 77 and GPSing my way to a presumed landmark of universal importance that, notwithstanding, didn’t even have a road sign pointing to it. As a matter of fact, shortly after a quarter of a mile, and much to my astonishment, I had to leave the asphalt and take the dirt road supposedly leading to this mysterious Bethlehem. For the moment, all I could see of it was an isolated gardening shed. At both sides of the road lay meager farming lots and famine olive tree orchards. Finally I came to a fence whereof the gate stopped the way to vehicles. A town behind a wire fence?, I asked to myself.


View Larger Map

Beyond the gate the road was paved again. I passed by a few scattered houses (not older than two or three decades), most of which had some or other kind of dog, not altogether friendly, guarding the property. I could hear one of them growling behind me along thirty endless steps. Yet not a soul appeared to my sight. Further on, the street forked and I kept walking along what I then clearly realized was an urbanization, on a layout much like what you can find all over North America: plot, house, garage, yard, grass, spread out toys, mailbox, little gate; then another plot, and another one… At length, I came across an old couple walking a dog, people  sitting at their front yard’s table, someone driving a huge 4WD or a group holding a jolly meeting under somebody’s tree. Voices could be heard speaking in Hebrew, others in USan English, and the children in a playground were fair haired like angels. Contrary to what happened in Nazareth, nobody nodded nor said hello to me, much after the riches’ stiff ways. Then I understood the fence and the gate: this was a hostile Jewish-American settlement in the middle of a hostile Arab territory; a fistful of wealthy families living in relatively expensive houses one mile away from average low class Muslim populations. Why here? God knows, as there are much nicer places in Israel where to build a country house rather than this dry, bare and ugly land. Maybe they’re subsidized by the Israeli government same as the settlements in Palestine?

However it be, after walking along the whole place -around 3/4 ml long- I didn’t find any sign whatsoever of ancient remnants or archaeological sites, nor an information board mentioning anything related to Jesus’ birth or a former settlement. Needless to say that I also didn’t find any of the picturesque things mentioned in IsraelTraveler.org: no European atmosphere, no elegant stone houses, no restaurants or cafés, no art galleries and no nothing flowing into the wide main street… So, what the hell was all that? A bad joke?

On my way back to Nazareth, helped by three Arab drivers, I was meditating. Perhaps there was some hidden corner within the urbanization where excavations had been done? Perhaps there were remains of a two thousand year old village, now wholly extinguished, two meters below the ground? Or perhaps this claim for the real birthplace of Jesus is only the whim of  a zealot Jew too willing to take from the Palestinians the relevance of their Bethlehem? Unless further information be published in the future, the incognita about this place’s authenticity will remain.

.

Cuando buscaba “Belén” en internet, me llamaron la atención un par de resultados que hablaban de una curiosa teoría: a saber, que Jesús podría no haber nacido en la famosa Belén de Judea, sino en una mucho más pequeña (y cercana a Nazaret) Belén de Galilea (Beit Lehem Haglilit). Una búsqueda más en profundidad me mostró abundancia de otros resultados, aunque todos parecen llevar hacia el mismo personaje, un arqueólogo judío llamado Aviram Oshri. Así, según la Wikipedia, Belén de Galilea

“se llamó originalmente Belén de Zebulón […] Descubrimientos arqueológicos del período romano temprano muestran que era una ciudad próspera. A causa de su proximidad a Nazaret, Aviram Oshri, un arqueólogo de la Autoridad de Antigüedades Israelíes, cree que este es el Belén donde Jesús nació.

Mientras, con un excesivo fervor turístico, la web IsraelTraveler.org dice que

“es quizá uno de los lugares más pintorescos de todo Israel […] un lugar de predominante atmósfera europea, con sus elegantes casas de piedra, los impresionantes tejados de tejas y la amplia calle principal hacia la que todo fluye. Aquí puede uno encontrar Zimmers, un Centro de Visitantes único, restaurantes y cafés, pequeñas tiendas, galerías de arte y un gran semillero de hierbas rico en aromas. Se recomienda visitar la histórica Casa del Pueblo y la impresionante torre redonda de agua en cuyo tope hay un depósito de agua.”

Así que decidí hacerle una visita. Me resultaba curioso este descubrimiento y, puesto que pasaba esos días en Nazaret, no quise perder la oportunidad de pisar la misma tierra que quizá fue donde verdaderamente nació el Salvador.

Esta empresa, sin embargo, no era tan sencilla como parecía sin tener vehículo propio, pese a estar el pueblo sólo a diez kilómetros en línea recta de Nazaret. Para empezar, ninguno de los lugareños a quienes pregunté parecía conocer el lugar, e incluso un hombre que pasaba por allí a diario con su coche nunca había advertido su existencia. Esto me sorprendió un tanto, ya que di por sentado que alrededor de Nazaret todo el mundo estaría familiarizado con la cercana ubicación de una localidad que competía por el honor de, nada menos, haber sido la cuna del hijo de Dios. Pero yo estaba resuelto a ir, y tuve que trazar mi propia ruta. Con el GPS en la mano, cogí primero un autobús que iba hacia Haiffa y le pedí al conductor que me dejara en el cruce con la carretera 7626, desde donde podía intentar ir a dedo o incluso caminar hasta Belén, a sólo cinco quilómetros del cruce. Un joven judío, lo bastante honesto como para admitir que era más fácil hacer dedo en esta región porque los musulmanes son más amables, me acercó con su coche hasta la autovía 77, ya a sólo quilómetro y medio de mi destino. Pero aún no había ni una señal de éste.

Como nota aparte, conviene apuntar que la mayoría de la población en el distrito Norte de Israel, cuya capital es Nazaret, son árabes (70% musulmanes y 30% cristianos, ambos en pacífica coexistencia) que se sometieron a la ocupación israelí de su tierra en el 1948 y que, por tanto, detestan a los judíos tanto como pueden. Durante mi breve estancia en Nazaret pude a veces escuchar palabras de animadversión e incluso de odio, y comprendí por qué mi amiga judía de Jerusalén solía decirme que no era especialmente seguro para ella viajar por algunas partes del país.

De modo que ahí estaba yo, de pie junto a la autovía 77 y tratando de encontrar, con el GPS, mi camino hacia un supuesto hito de importancia universal que, no obstante, no tenía ni un letrero que lo indicase. De hecho, al cabo de unos de cientos de metros de camino, para mi asombro tuve que dejar el asfalto y coger por un camino de tierra que, al parecer, llevaba a esta misteriosa Belén. Al principio, todo lo que pude ver de la villa era una especie de gran invernadero de plástico. A ambos lados del camino había algunos barbechos de pobre tierra y unas estacadas de enclenques olivos con riego por goteo. Al final, llegué hasta una valla cuya puerta cerraba el paso a los vehículos. ¿Un pueblo vallado?, me pregunté.


View Larger Map

Pasada la puerta, el camino era de nuevo pavimentado. Dejé atrás algunas casas dispersas, de construcción más bien contemporánea, que en su mayoría tenían algún perro guardián muy poco amistoso. Pude escuchar a uno de ellos gruñéndome tras los tobillos a lo largo de treinta inacabables pasos… Pero aún no se mostró ni un alma ante mi vista. Más adelante, la calle se bifurcaba y continué andando a lo largo de que, ahora, se me aparecía ya claramente como una urbanización, de estructura muy similar a cualquier vecindario norteamericano: parcela, casa, cochera, jardín, juguetes esparcidos por el césped, buzón sobre un poste, pequeña cancela de paso; y luego otra parcela, y otra… Por fin me crucé con alguna gente: un viejo matrimonio que paseaba al perro, gente sentada a la mesa de su jardín delantero, algún que otro gigante 4×4 por la calle, o un grupo en alegre francachela bajo el árbol de algún vecino. De las voces que escuché, unas hablaban en hebreo y otras en inglés norteamericano; y los niños en unos columpios cercanos eran rubios como querubines. Al contrario de lo que ocurría en Nazaret, aquí nadie me hacía un gesto con la cabeza ni me saludaba, como es frecuente entre la gente rica y estirada. Entonces comprendí la valla y la puerta: se trataba de un asentamiento hostil judío-americano en mitad de un territorio hostil árabe; un puñado de familias adineradas que vivían en casas relativamente caras a tan sólo dos quilómetros de poblaciones musulmanas de clase baja. ¿Y por qué aquí? Dios sabrá, porque hay lugares mucho más bonitos en Israel donde construir un chalet, antes que en esta tierra seca, desnuda y fea. ¿Quizá estén subvencionados por el gobierno israelí como lo están los asentamientos dentro de Palestina?

Sea como sea, tras caminar por toda la urbanización, que tendría un quilómetro de largo, no encontré el menor signo de ruinas antiguas ni de excavaciones arqueológicas, ni un cartel informativo respecto a ese tipo de actividad, o relacionado con el nacimiento de Jesús, o un asentamiento anterior. Y no es necesario que diga que, desde luego, tampoco vi ninguna de las cosas “pintorescas” mencionadas en IsraelTraveler.org: ni la menor atmósfera europea, ni casas de piedra elegantes, ni restaurantes ni cafés, ni galerías de artes, ni nada que fluyera hacia la amplia calle principal… Así que, ¿de qué iba todo eso? ¿Se trataba de un chiste malo?

De vuelta a Nazaret, que corrió a cargo de tres conductores árabes, iba yo meditando. ¿Tal vez había alguna esquina escondida en la urbanización con los restos de las excavaciones que se hubieran hecho? ¿Puede que hubiera ruinas de un asentamiento de hace dos mil años, ya del todo extinguido, yaciendo tres metros bajo el suelo? ¿O acaso esta pretensión sobre el verdadero lugar donde nació Jesús no pasaba de ser la fantasía de un entusiasta judío con demasiado interés en quitarles a los palestinos la relevancia de su Belén? No creo que llegue a saberlo, salvo que en un futuro se reabran las investigaciones al respecto y nos lleguen nuevas noticias en un sentido o en otro. Mientras tanto, permanece la incógnita sobre la autenticidad de este sitio.

The disarmament of ETA

imperioFarsaSince Le Tribunal d’Estrasburg declared illegal the polemic Parot doctrine used by Spain for impeding the early redemption of terrorists and other dangerous criminals, and the Spanish National Court started to promptly and suspiciously release ETA murderers -along with anoother scum as a side effect-, it became clear to me that Spanish prime minister Rajoy’s Government was behind all that; and every time I heard or read in the media the same question over and over: why such a hurry?, I wondered if journalists and alike professionals could possibly ignore the obvious answer: because it’s a part of the Government’s course of action for the agreements on ETA’s disarmament.
It’s a well known fact in Europe that Strasbourg Tribunal’s resolutions are extremely often ignored, by the affected governments, without any consequences, because the member’s obligation to put them into practice is highly debatable; there are thousands of such resolutions yet to be carried out, among others, by Spanish authorities. But, even admitting that we’re bound to obey them, it remains unquestionable that nothing forced us to release those criminals so promptly and with such priority over other, much older cases; therefore, there is no denying that the Pouplar Party’s government has consented to the releasements.
But then, why the Spanish right wing has acquiesced to such unpopular move among not only their supporters but also most of the nation’s will? Nothing in politics happens by chance. Qui prod est? Obviously the Populars mean to electorally profit the move and -who knows?- perhaps some good will also come by the way to the people. But, for the moment, there’s only a social group to which the numerous releases benefit: ETA and their sociopolitical setting. Thus, we already have to essential elements to achieve the conclusion, because a Government’s move to the advantage of ETA and the abertzale must be paid with a reciprocal move to the advantage of the Government. Doesn’t it smell desarmament?
And, lo and behold!, quite coincidentally there’s now an announcement that ETA will partially deliver their weapons by the end of this year. Well… white and bottled: milk. Do we need more evidence? It seems unequivocal that our present Government gives in to some of the terrorist band’s demands in exchange of an electorally profitable -and socially desirable- desarmament. Whether the Popular Party has been behind these negotiation since its beginning, side by side with Zapatero (the previous Prime minister), or is just carrying it on motu propio, that I can’t tell; but it can’t be denied that everything belongs to the same story.
Not that I’m convinced that negotiating with terrorists should be absolutely rebuked: when facing such a severe social problem as terrorism, I understand that a Government may yield to the temptation of making deals with the criminals, instead of fighting them with more violence; but what makes me puke is to witness the Populars staging a farce with conmiseration and grief for the victims, hiding behind Strasburg and falsely stating their helplessness about the releasements, because all what Rajoy’s Executive is telling us since these started smells rotten. And it turns out rather ironical that, thanks to ETA’s disarmament, Rajoy’s going to pick the Y lo más irónico es que, con el desarme de ETA, Rajoy is going to pick, and show off, the only medal that might have belonged to Zapatero during his pathetic eight years’ rule.imperioFarsaDesde que el tribunal de Estrasburgo resolvió en contra de la polémica doctrina Parot (con bastante justicia, hasta donde se me alcanza) y la Audiencia Nacional empezó a excarcelar etarras con sospechosa y desusada celeridad, no me cupo la menor duda de que el gobierno de Rajoy estaba detrás de ello; y cada vez que escuchaba o leía en los medios la repetida pregunta: ¿por qué tanta prisa?, no dejaba de cuestionarme si era posible que los profesionales de la información no fueran capaces de apuntarnos la obvia respuesta: porque la excarcelación forma parte de la línea de acuerdos con ETA para llegar a su disolución.
Parece ser del dominio general que la obligación de acatar las resoluciones del Tribunal de Estrasburgo es más que dudosa, y ya sabemos que miles de ellas no han sido ejecutadas, teniendo España varias aún pendientes de ejecución. Pero incluso admitiendo que tuviésemos el compromiso de hacerlo, lo indudable es que nada nos obligaba a darles curso acelerado y cauce prioritario a las excarcelaciones resultantes de la “desautorización” de la doctrina Parot; de modo que, si así se ha hecho, ha tenido que ser con la total aquiescencia del gobierno del PP.
Pero, ¿por qué la derecha española se presta a una medida tan impopular, no sólo entre sus votantes, sino entre la mayoría de la población? ¿Qui prod est? Nada en política es casual. Sin duda planearán sacarle rentabilidad electoral y -¿quién sabe?- quizá también, de rebote, pueda resultar un beneficio para la nación. Mas, de momento, sólo hay un grupo social a quien la colectiva excarcelación de etarras beneficie: ETA y su entorno sociopolítico, que no es pequeño. De manera que tenemos ya dos elementos esenciales para llegar a la conclusión, puesto que una jugada del Gobierno que beneficia a ETA y al movimiento abertzale ha de estar compensada por una jugada recíproca que beneficie al Gobierno. ¿No huele el lector ya a desarme?
Pues precisamente ahora se anuncia un desarme parcial de ETA para, al parecer, finales de año. ¿Hace falta más evidencia? Parece claro que nuestro Gobierno actual cede ante algunas reivindicaciones de la banda terrorista (o de su brazo político) para acercarse, a cambio, a un desarme electoralmente rentable y, desde luego, socialmente deseable. Si el PP ha estado detrás de esta línea de negociación desde sus mismos inicios, codo con codo con Zapatero, o si sencillamente la está continuando de motu propio, es cuestión a la que mis conjeturas ya no llegan; pero lo que me resulta indudable es que todo forma parte de la misma historia.
Por lo demás, no es que yo sea un convencido detractor de las negociaciones con los terroristas: comprendo que frente a un problema social tan grave un Gobierno ceda a la tentación de pactar acuerdos en lugar de aniquilar al enemigo a riesgo de espirales de violencia; pero lo que me parece inaceptable es que el PP monte la farsa de las condolencias y la empatía hacia las víctimas, de los golpes de pecho y de las solemnes declaraciones de impotencia respecto a la resolución de Estrasburgo. Todo lo que el Ejecutivo lleva diciéndonos desde que comenzaron las excarcelaciones hiede a podrido. Y lo irónico es que, con el desarme de ETA, Rajoy va a colgarse la única medalla que, dado el caso, podría haberle correspondido a Zapatero en sus ocho años de nefasto gobierno.