An Educated Guess as to Why the Pope Lost Out to Shirin Ebadi for the Nobel Peace PrizeNews Abroad
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has done it again. With the press proclaiming Pope John Paul II as a runaway favorite, and Vaclav Havel, leader of the "velvet revolution" against the communist state, also a possible choice, the Committee surprised Peace Prize watchers by choosing Shirin Ebadi, a Muslim woman of Iran, "for her efforts for democracy and human rights," concentrating "on the struggle for the rights of women and children."
The Pope had been a 5 to 2 favorite in the books of an Australia-based betting agency, and the odds on Havel were 7 to 1. On nominees President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, the odds were 100 to 1, and no bettors. The long odds on Shirin Ebadi , who was little known outside her own country, were 21 to 1.
|This short account of why the Nobel Committee selected her rather than the
Pope is based, as much history is, on some fact and much speculation.|
The Committee makes public the number of nominees, in 2003 a record 165, but not their names. The press release, its only public document on the decision, which the chairman reads in announcing a prize, gives the reasons for it. Members seek consensus, so that all can sign this statement, but no report is made of a divided vote. How the discussion went in this Committee, currently three women and two men, each from one of Norway's leading political parties, we cannot know. Regulations forbid the taking of minutes, and members are pledged to silence, most always keeping this pledge.
Consequently, disagreement in the Committee has become known only rarely Space
permits only a few examples. We learned much later from a member's diary that
in 1919 there was opposition to a prize for Woodrow Wilson because of the punitive
Versailles Treaty, and the prize was postponed. In 1920 he was awarded the 1919
prize but only by a 3-2 vote. In 1973 the prizes for Henry Kissinger and Le
Duc Tho of North Vietnam were also approved by 3-2. The two who had wanted Archbishop
Helder Camara of Brazil resigned when the Committee chair gave the press the
impression that the decision had been unanimous, and one of them published an
article about this in later years, breaking his pledge. In 1994, the vote for
Arafat, Peres and Rabin was 4-1. and the member who was pro-Israeli and against
Arafat resigned. Last year when the chairman told the press that the Jimmy Carter
prize was intended as a criticism of the Bush administration, two Committee
members declared publicly that the Committee had not agreed to such an interpretation.
In the present case, Chairman Ole Mjoes told the press that it had been an "easy decision," probably meaning reached by consensus. If a Committee cannot reach agreement, or if it needs more information, that prize can be reserved for the next year. A Committee has two fundamental alternatives, either to reward a past achievement or to engage in peacemaking by honoring an on-going peace process.
We can only speculate as to why the Committee did not choose the Pope for his noteworthy achievements for peace. During his long reign the Pope opposed totalitarianism, sought understanding between religions and promoted peaceful resolution of international and national conflicts, including the Iraq war. In view of his declining health, this would probably have been his last chance.
The London Times cited Vatican sources as saying that two weeks before the announcement the Nobel Committee had asked if the Pope would accept the prize if chosen and go to Oslo for the award ceremony. Such a rumor may have circulated among wishful thinkers in the Vatican, but it is not likely that the Nobel Committee would have done this. Hopes were high at the Vatican, and disappointment was much evident there when the prize went elsewhere.
The Committee may have been influenced by many critics of Pope John Paul II who feel that his strong advocacy of traditional doctrine has prevented the Catholic Church from responding effectively to the needs of today's world. Or in a time of conflict in the Muslim Middle East, a prize for the head of a Western-based religion might not have seemed timely. It is also known that a former influential Committee member had been much opposed to the Pope's candidacy. The Committee has never been accused of anti-Catholicism. Previous prizes have gone to Mother Teresa, the Dominican Father Pire and the Bishop Belo of East Timor.
For whatever reason, reward for achievement was trumped by possible peacemaking, as was the case for Havel. Havel's major achievement was many years ago. Moreover, although his eloquent voice had long been raised for democracy and peace, and he recently had won the Gandhi Peace Prize, as president of the Czech Republic he was not considered to have played a major role for peace.
Peacemaking by promoting human rights, a basic foundation for an enduring peace, has increasingly been a Committee choice in recent years. From 1960 to 2002 there have been fifteen such prizes, with three since 1991. Also in that period reference to human rights was made in six other prizes in the announcement or in the presentation address at the award ceremony in December.
For peacemaking, an award to Shirin Ebadi was most attractive. She is currently in the midst of the struggle for democracy and human rights in a country in a major area of conflict, and as a Muslim reformer, she represented an opportunity to strengthen positive forces in her own country and in the entire Islamic area, as well as to promote more tolerant understanding in the West of the followers of Islam.
President Bush placed Iran in the "axis of evil" in his "with-us or-against-us" war against terrorism. He has led the United States into a war with Muslim Iraq and he eyes Muslim Iran's atomic development with great suspicion, while Iran itself has to be alarmed by the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war.
|In the midst of this volatile situation, to choose Shirin, which means "sweet"
in her own language, would have seemed to the Nobel Committee like a "sweet"
prize. She has a small replica of the Statue of Liberty on her desk, but she
has criticized United States intervention in Muslim countries, as has a majority
of Norwegian public opinion, and she believes that the reformers in Iraq can
succeed without such compromising help.|
The Nobel Committee declared, "She sees no conflict between Islam and fundamental human rights. It is important to her that the dialogue between the different cultures and religions of the world should take as its point of departure their shared values." Thus she conceives of no fatal "clash between civilizations," and as the Committee noted, "She has consistently supported nonviolence."
The Committee not only found a Muslim in Iran significantly working for human rights, but another woman laureate, the fourth woman prize winner since 1991, although the total since 1901 is only eleven.
When Ebadi returned to Iran from Paris, where she had first heard the news, more than ten thousand supporters welcomed her at the airport. The votes are with the reformers, but the power is with the conservative clerics. Ebadi's biography released by the Nobel Committee tells us that she "argues for a new interpretation of Islamic law, which is in harmony with vital human rights such as democracy, equality before the law, religious freedom and freedom of speech." A committed Muslim, she has shown her willingness and ability to cooperate with secular reformers.. She has a normal family life, with a supportive husband and two grown-up daughters. As a lawyer she has worked for the legal rights of women and children and courageously defended victims persecuted by the clerics, spending time in prison for her actions. As the Committee recognized, she "has never heeded the threats to her own safety." She has explained, "Any person who pursues human rights in Iran must live with fear, but I have overcome this fear."
In its conclusion the Committee expressed the hope that the prize for Shirin Ebadi "will be an inspiration for all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the Muslim world, and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support." A peacemaking prize indeed!
The New York Times of October 11 had two pictures of Shirin Ebadi, one of a grim faced Shirin, in the required Islamic garb with head scarf after her release from prison in July 2000, the other of the joyous Shirin in Paris after learning of her prize, her hands triumphantly in the air, clothed in a black suit open at the neck with her short brown hair uncovered and well coifed. It is the hope of those of us who rejoice at her Nobel prize that such a photograph of her could one day be taken in her own country.
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F.H. Thomas - 11/10/2003
This article is based on the premise that the Holy Father was not selected for the Nobel Peace prize because of his traditional and conservative religious views. The article evinces an unfortunate sneering tone.
Certain respondents then posted a slanderous attack evincing ignorance, not only of the Holy Father and of the Catholic faith, but of the third world, particularly Africa. These sneerers first posit a falsehood that the Catholic third world is in a state of disaster, then they blame John Paul II for the disaster. In this they show not just ignorance of the most basic facts, but also a mastery of the logical fallacy.
My posts above, “Blithering Ignorance, etc.” deal with the facts in Africa, and the issue of anti-Catholic bigotry. Part of this anti-Catholic bigotry is anti-Polish bigotry against the Polish Pope. It stems from the fact that Polish Jews and Christian Poles have historically been at odds, ergo present Jewish antagonism to a Polish Pope, clearly evident among the sneering comments.
Mr. Greenland responded that all of the Polish-Jewish antagonism was all on one side, and that the Polish Jews were always and ever innocent victims, and further that the Catholic Church was centrally responsible for any and all persecution.
A review of the pertinent history from 1200 forward to my light shows that, until the Pale was ceded to Russia, there was little or no antagonism between the groups, certainly none fostered by the Church. “Pogrom”, after all, is a Russian word, not a Polish one. I pointed out that the principal inter-group antagonism came from the post WW II Communist period, in which the oppressors of the Poles were a small but well placed group of what Winston Churchill termed “atheistic and internationalist Jews”.
Now, these were a tiny, murderous minority, very much a product of their specific Russian Pale environment, and surely not like anyone you or I have ever met, but their evil deeds and their existence are historic facts, and those evil deeds in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe are impossible to excuse.
Other Jews, particularly religious Jews, and all religious Christians, were among those held in contempt by this atheistic minority. Mr. Greenland correctly noted that “a great majority of Czarist Russian Jews were opposed to communism during the Russian Revolution." Certainly for the religious, that was true.
But the existence of this small, vicious group, concentrated in the state organs of oppression of all European Communist states, was denied. I have no desire to offend any Jewish partisan, although some have greatly offended me by offending truth and slandering my Pope, but the greater duty is to truth, so let’s examine the actual facts. Since the Russian post-revolution communist model was employed in Poland, we must start with Russia first, hopefully in enough detail that all doubts will be answered.
In Russia, as Winston Churchill has reported in 1921, the Soviet government was dominated by this minority. In the first Politbureau, there was only one non-Jew, Bubnov. Most important, these thugs took over the state organs of oppression, and, from Apfelbaum (Zinoviev) right up to Yuri Andropov, they monopolized oppression and mass murder in the Soviet Union, as heads and department leaders of the CHEKA, GRU, GULAG, NKVD, KGB, etc. Notable among these criminals are the following:
Leon Bronstein (Trotsky) Leningrad Soviet, “liquidated” hundreds of thousands of “counterrevolutionaries”.
Grigory Apfelbaum (Zinoviev): CHEKA. Created Famine of 1924, from first forced collectivization program: 4-5 million dead.
Jacob Sverdlov: Sverdlov ordered the massacre of the Czar's family, including 5 children, in Yekaterinburg, which was renamed Sverdlovsk in 1924 in his “honor”. Much Russian anti-semitism was inspired by this foully ugly act of familicide, so Boris Yeltzin had the house demolished in the ‘70’s. Orthodox Russians still come to the site and pray, sharing a strong hatred for those who could do such a thing.
Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich: CHEKA mass murderer for Stalin, killed overall 15 million during the 1930s, principally by the induced famine of 1932. Ordered wholesale destruction of Christian churches, including the great Cathedral of Christ the Savior, most venerated in Russia. Standing in the ruins of the church, he said "Mother Russia is cast down. We have ripped away her skirts! (ie raped her-rape was a particular obsession with these thugs). Kaganovich was a walking billboard for anti-semitism.
Mikhail Kaganovich: GULAG commissar-millions dead of overwork, exposure and starvation.
Genrikh Yagoda: second most important mass murderer, after Kaganovich: 3-4 million dead in 1930’s and 1940s purges.
Ilya Ehrenburg, Minister of Soviet Propaganda and “poet”. Examples of “poetry”: "...the Germans are not human beings...nothing gives us so much joy as German corpses."; 'Soldiers of the Red Army! Kill the Germans! Kill all Germans! Kill! Kill! Kill!"; “Rape her, rape her again, then kill her, the blond hag is in for a bad time!” During the ethnic cleansing of East Prussia, Danzig, Pomerania, Sudetenland, and Silesia, 3.5 million Germans were indeed murdered, as Ehrenberg demanded. Willed his papers to the Israeli Yad Vashem (Holocaust) Museum, demonstrating an embarassing connection between Soviet and Irgun mass murderers.
Leiba Lazarevich Feldbin (Aleksandr Orlov): Soviet Army, Secret Police, consulted and supervised liquidation of Catholic priests and conservative peasants during Spanish Civil War.
Yuri Andropov: KGB, Chairman Central Committee. Kept the oppression alive a little longer.
The total dead in the Soviet Union, at the hands of these thugs, was 61,911,000 from 1917 to 1987, per Rummel, “Death by Government”, 1994. (Summary at “Hawaii.edu” under "power kills".)
So Russia was a 70-year reign of horror under these atheistic, internationalist Jews, who any other Jew should loudly denounce. What about Poland?
During the period 1940-41, the Nazi-Soviet pact, the Soviets committed exactly the same pattern of murders and purges in its part of Poland as they had in Russia. Andrei Vyschensky, NKVD specialist murderer, also one of the same group, notably supervised the murder of 14,000 priests, teachers, officers and politicians at Katyn Forest. (Vyschensky later showed up as a “prosecutor” at Nuremberg.)
Poland was relatively free of these Soviet style murders of Poles until early 1945, when the Soviet Army rolled through again and imposed a regime, which consciously imitated the early days of Soviet tyranny. Here again, the murderers were again almost all atheistic, internationalist Jews, and they came after the Church with particular venom. The key players were:
Jacob Berman, chairman of politbureau
Jacek Rozanski, Head of the Secret Police
Commissars Minc, Specht and Spychalski, who controlled state security and purges.
Army Commander Romkowski, who provided the necessary force behind the terror
Records from the period 1945-1947 were never published, and may be lost, but estimates are that about 1 million Poles died or were deported during this period, principally Catholics and clergy. After that period, records indicate that at least 72,000 were sent to the Kolyma death camp in the Soviet Arctic, where they were worked to death. Very many of these were priests. The anti church activities included destruction of churches and other buildings, denying jobs and promotions to those who were devout, etc. This lightened a little after the uprising of 1952, but still remained onerous.
"In 1945 many Poles felt (and not without reason) that Jews ran the Office of State Security...the chief of the Office was … a Jew, and all or almost all the department heads were Jews….75% of the officers of the Communist Secret Police in Silesia were Jews…”. (John Sack, The New Republic, Feb. 14, 1994.) "The average Pole could not but notice in the Stalinist era that the two most powerful men in the country-Berman and Minc-were both Jewish as was the dreaded security official Rozanski." (Piotr S. Wandycz, Yale University, N.Y. Times Review of Books, Aug. 18, 1983, p. 51).
If one wanted to inspire anti-Semitism, one could not have chosen better methods than were chosen in Poland, in this horrific oppression of Christians and other religious by this tiny, vicious atheistic, internationalist minority.
Mr. Greenland has asserted:
"And as to "evening the score" (which you haven't proven, and you never seem to muster the numbers to prove)"
"The communists were never primarily Jewish, and Soviet CP leadership became even less Jewish due to the late 1930s purges"
“There was no "Jews vs Catholic Poles" conflict or "Jews versus people of German descent" conflict (as you've asserted in previous fora) nor "Jews versus the gentile world."
I would respectfully counter that these assertions are not sustainable, given the facts.
Jonathan Dresner - 11/9/2003
That theory isn't too convincing. If that was the case, why didn't the US stop the prize from going to Carter last year? Carter was a much more vocal opponent to our Iraq policy (and more effective, given his resume), and several members of the committee publicly said they intended it as a rebuke to the US.
Surely, if the Pope had won it this year, his opposition to our Iraq policy would have been very low on the list of things people talked about as contributing to his victory. Now, if you want to argue that the US opposed the Pope's selection because of his position on capital punishment, you might have some ground to stand on....
Jonathan Dresner - 11/9/2003
No, I don't agree that the Catholic Church can be held blameless because the Popes had some political problems. The Church is more than the Pope, and the Church had centuries to do something about its teachings before they metastasized in the modern era. But no, at every turn, from the Pope on down, Jews were legally and socially ostracized, left politically and personally vulnerable, and the teaching of deicide was standard.
My impression, that you were engaging in "atrocity balancing," is based on your own description of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe as the natural result of the participation of Jews in early Soviet government. At the very least, this grossly minimizes both the long-term anti-semitism of Russian/Polish society and the deliberate nature of the Holocaust.
I have never taught the Holocaust without including *all* the victims of Germany's racial cleansing, including Gypsies, Poles and Russians, not to mention the victims of German ideological totalitarianism, including Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses and leftists. The only way the true horror of Nazism can be understood is by seeing how it wasn't just Germans against Jews, but a comprehensive totalitarian racial supremicism making the best use of the intellectual and technologial tools of modernity to inflict massive and continuing pain on the world. As far as I'm concerned, the rest of the world is damned lucky that the Nazis were as fixated on Jews as they were: can you imagine what Hitler's regime could have accomplished with the participation and support of Germany's Jewish scientists (who would have had the bomb first?), businessmen, writers, not to mention hundreds of thousands of soldiers from a people who had participated fully and vigorously in German uniform in WWI; can you imagine how far Hitler would have gone if he hadn't wasted time and energy and resources with forced migrations and death camps and execution squads?
Josh Narins - 11/8/2003
The US still has a ton of influence, and the Pope has spoken out against the recent stupid War.
Of course, every major religion on Earth, except Bush's own Southern Baptists, was officially against the war, along with 70-90% of the human population.
Josh Greenland - 11/7/2003
""...Jews have been the victims of Polish gentile anti-Semitism for hundreds of years, through World War II. Jews as a group haven't persecuted gentile Poles."
"As we discussed earlier, the Jewish revenge was oppressive communism. How oppressive? Read Illia Ehrenburg, Soviet poet laureate, the prophet of mass murder and killing of clergy. It was so vicious that it more than evened the score, and then went way beyond that, in my understanding."
Mr. Thomas, a great majority of Czarist Russian Jews were opposed to communism during the Russian Revolution. It was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious movement, as per its ideology, so saying communism was "the Jewish revenge" is just anti-Semitic nut talk.
And tell me how Soviet communism is supposed to be revenge against Polish Catholic anti-Semites? Are you saying the evil Jews planned so far ahead that they took over one country with their horrible movement just so, decades later, they could dominate another?
And as to "evening the score" (which you haven't proven, and you never seem to muster the numbers to prove), there is no back and forth combat between Jews and non-Jews, only greater and lesser periods of anti-Jewish persecution. The communists were never primarily Jewish, and Soviet CP leadership became even less Jewish due to the late 1930s purges, so Soviet Communism can't truthfully, informedly and rationally be seen as "Jewish".
There was no "Jews vs Catholic Poles" conflict or "Jews versus people of German descent" conflict (as you've asserted in previous fora) nor "Jews versus the gentile world." Jews before 1948 have never been unified in the ways you have claimed, but they have been oppressed minorities within bigotted majorities, and they have been demonized and worse by anti-Jewish organizations made up of gentiles.
Your case for the greater evil of communism and Jews as a self-willed social unit that can harm others is pretty weak if you have to rely on a poet to bolster it.
F.H. Thomas - 11/7/2003
Thank you for your thoughtful and learned comments.
Some further thoughts:
(more trivia) This decision was implemented when most priests were married, which led to the widespread practice of simply continuing the preexisting connubial status on a less official, but nonetheless open basis.
"As far as the extent of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church... but I don't think we're going to bridge the interpretive gap."
Actually, we may.
My implicit point was that the poor pope, as a hunted man (by one side or the other) did not have much time to devote to being anti anything, this particularly so in lately evangelized kingdoms such as Poland and the Ukraine. It was not until the enlightenment that the Pope had a chance to even breathe. Point of agreement, sir?
"And Churchill's comments may be germane to a discussion of the rise of modern Russian anti-semitism...".
Agreed partially. Unfortunately, Russia became the Soviet Union, and spread whatever internal evils it had all over Eastern Europe, post war II.
"...but it still doesn't answer my question or absolve you of the atrocity-balancing you seem to be attempting."
Jonathan, I take offense at the characterization of historical inquiry as "atrocity balancing", just because I believe that one murdered man is as much a tragedy as another, be he Jew or non Jew. You seem at times to imply that only murdered Jews may be mourned, accounted and remembered. I say, mourn them all.
The crimes of certain groups of Jews, including CHEKA and Zionist mass murderers, while admittedly distinct radical minorities, are real, and must be condemned as harshly as the crimes of any other mass murderers. Evenhandedness is never more important than in historical inquiry, I think you will agree.
Thank you again for your comments.
Jonathan Dresner - 11/7/2003
I did know that priestly celibacy was a relatively late innovation, though I would have credited influence from the hermitic movements rather than political reform (if I had to guess without looking it up). I don't know who you had the bet with or who wins a split decision, but there it is.
As far as the extent of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, I would point out your own words "emperors, kings and dukes struggled to suppress or use for their own purposes any moral authority which the pope had." That suggests to me that the Roman Catholic Church indeed had a great deal of moral authority, enough so that autocrats in their own territories had to struggle against it. I don't think we really disagree that much on facts, but I don't think we're going to bridge the interpretive gap.
And Churchill's comments may be germane to a discussion of the rise of modern Russian anti-semitism (though I think it's more likely that he was being optimistic in 1921 and hoping that anti-semitism would provide the backbone for an anti-communist counterrevolution than he was presaging Polish complicity in the Holocaust or the intense suppression of Jews and Jewish life under Stalin, Brezhnev, Kruschev, etc.) but it still doesn't answer my question or absolve you of the atrocity-balancing you seem to be attempting.
F.H. Thomas - 11/6/2003
On the other hand, all ignorance implies second degree scholarship, does it not?
Professor, please see my post below, "..on subject..", appropos your comments above.
F.H. Thomas - 11/6/2003
...my dear Professor?
The subject was the article on His Holiness, and the Noble Prize, and various comments on it.
Nonetheless, responsive to your comments:
"Remind me again how good Communism was for Jews?"
With your permission, I will let Winston Churchill do that:
QUOTE: "There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these ** international and for the most part atheistical ** Jews. It is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews. Moreover, the principal inspiration and driving power comes from the Jewish leaders. Thus Tchitcherin, a pure Russian, is eclipsed by his nominal subordinate, Litvinoff, and the influence of Russians like Bukharin or Lunacharski cannot be compared with the power of Trotsky, or of Zinovieff, the Dictator of the Red Citadel (Petrograd), or of Krassin or Radek -- all Jews. In the Soviet institutions the predominance of Jews is even more astonishing. And the prominent, if not indeed the principal, part in the system of terrorism applied by the Extraordinary Commissions for Combatting Counter-Revolution [the Cheka] has been taken by Jews, and in some notable cases by Jewesses. Needless to say, the most intense passions of revenge have been excited in the breasts of the Russian people."
UNQUOTE (Times of London, 1921)
Please note that the characterization which Mr. Churchill makes would probably exclude any Jews you or I have ever known, but it properly nails a small ruthless athiestic element which practiced great crimes against humanity, and had a dominant position in the Soviet state security organs. Further to this, please see my comment on Illya Ehrenberg, the mouthpiece of mass murder, Katyn Forest, etc., and remember the great Warsaw betrayal of 1945. Revenge? Revenge enough.
"Not to mention the inherently offensive and nihilistic score-keeping approach."
The subject of score, which I find tedious, was not brought up by me. Further I find Nietsche even more tedious. If you would like to see what rings my chimes in philosophy, you must go to the enlightenment, the time of truly great minds and thoughts.
"Yes, the Catholic Church had little political authority. But it had immense moral and cultural authority...".
Well, if you really believe that, then we shall have to rewrite the history of the middle ages, when emperors, kings and dukes struggled to suppress or use for their own purposes any moral authority which the pope had. The greatest example is surely the series of holy Roman (German, actually) emperors siding with the Franciscans, that mildest and gentlest of orders, against the Benedictines, who were aligned with the King of France, with the institution of the papacy being the battleground. This fight resulted in two popes at one point, with one of them, Jacques Cohors, a literal henchman (executioner) of the king of France.
As an aside, I bet that you did not know that the doctrine of priestly celibacy was actually invented only in the 13th century, to prevent the abuse of inheritable Church lands by the sons of great lords? (Please advise if I win that bet.)
This ain't no simple and straightforward church history.
In this specific case, Poland, Catholicism did not gel for the majority until the amazing Queen (and Saint) Hedwige, during the early Renaissance. This woman was reputedly so charismatic that she inspired affection even before she began to speak. The surviving portraits of her show why, combining beauty with great perceptiveness. She alone, it seems, was able to peacefully convince the pagan inhabitants of "Greater Poland", then including Lithuania and the Pale, that if Christianity was good enough for her, that they should also follow it. I believe that the big problems for the Jews of Poland came much later, around the time when the Pale was ceded to Russia (pogroms, etc.).
"And most Orthodox and Liberal Jews follow the tradition that birth control is acceptable, though not desirable, after a couple has had two children (prefereably one of each sex)."
Thank you. You enlighten me.
"The Chasidim are no more the definitive Jewish tradition than Opus Dei is mainstream Catholicism".
Agreed. It is frightening to consider the power which they appear to posess in Israel, however, and the murderous ways in which that power is exercised (Rabin, murders of Arabs, etc.) Tom Friedman's Times article of a few months ago comes to mind: (paraphrase) "...they will continue with their bloody intentions to the point when the arabs obtain small nuclear weapons. Then Israel will be no more."
At some point you must explain to me the proper English transliteration of the "chai".
Thank you for your comments.
Jonathan Dresner - 11/5/2003
OK, I was trying to be quick and glossed over some important details.
You're right about the rise of anti-Semitism in Russian and Polish areas, but part of the reason for that was the expulsion of Jews from Catholic-dominated Western Europe (in Spain, 1492; elsewhere generally a little later). It was the precursors to Poland and Russia that welcomed in many of the refugees, as well as the Muslim Ottoman Empire.
And it's worth noting that anti-Semitism in Poland and Russia largely arises with the rise of Catholic influence (in Poland) and the influence of the Western Enlightenment (in Russia), which combine to create The Pale of Settlement from which my ancestors escaped.
I've never seen references to anti-semitism being particularly strong within Christian Orthodoxy. I think because the tradition is more metaphorical than literal....
John Kipper - 11/4/2003
Instead the only places Jews found safe haven, where Jewish life and culture thrived, were in areas influenced or controlled by Muslims and by Orthodox Christians.
Is that why the word 'pogrom" is of Russian origin? Just curious.
Jonathan Dresner - 11/4/2003
Mr. Thomas writes "...the Jewish revenge was oppressive communism."
Remind me again how good Communism was for Jews? How supportive the Soviet Union was of Israel? I'm sorry, I must have missed an issue of the Bulletin of the Elders of Zion. Not to mention the inherently offensive and nihilistic score-keeping approach.
Yes, the Catholic Church had little political authority. But it had immense moral and cultural authority: if the Church seriously opposed anti-semitism, it could have been eradicated from Western Europe. Instead it flourished and festered and spread. Instead the only places Jews found safe haven, where Jewish life and culture thrived, were in areas influenced or controlled by Muslims and by Orthodox Christians.
And most Orthodox and Liberal Jews follow the tradition that birth control is acceptable, though not desirable, after a couple has had two children (prefereably one of each sex). The Chasidim are no more the definitive Jewish tradition than Opus Dei is mainstream Catholicism.
Ralph E. Luker - 11/4/2003
"As we discussed earlier, the Jewish revenge was oppressive communism." Mr. Thomas -- Your ethnic generalizations are a source of offense here. Whether you praise "the Iboes" -- only to condemn other Africans by contrast -- or here condemn "the Jews" -- this is nonsense. It is the basis of bigotry, the soil in which it flourishes.
Ralph E. Luker - 11/4/2003
I've read your tributes to the Iboes before. If you think the church is going to teach people not to screw around, you're whistling dixie. Or was that last week? Birds do it, bees do it, even educated flees do it. People do it. Better to put a rubber on it.
F.H. Thomas - 11/4/2003
Josh, my thanks for a response more notable for spreading light than heat, something I cannot say for Mr. Moner's remarks. As one good retort deserves another:
"At least one Polish king took the Catholic church to task for trying to push its anti-Semitism there. But with help of the priests, the bigot bug eventually caught on in Poland."
I believe you are making a leap too far in this logic. Who are, exactly, "the priests" whom you mention? Remember that Poland came late to Christianity, really not firmly so until the 1400's reign of Jagellon and the marvelously charismatic (Saint) Hedwige, quite beyond the first Jewish experience there, which you correctly note followed the first crusade, in the 1200's.
"The Catholic church has played a villainous historical role in promulgating anti-Semitism, at least until Vatican II."
I believe that we may disagree widely as to the extent of anti-semitic teachings in Catholicism, which in any case never directly held the temporal power to do anything about it, except in the (tiny) Papal states, during the late mideaval and early Renaissance periods. Any nasty acts of anti-semitism were for the temporal authorities to perform, which did indeed happen, despite the love-hate relationship which existed between them and their Jewish communities.
I note, however, that Martin Luther was one Christian Leader who did openly promote hatred of Jews, by publishing in German the most offensive (to Christians) sections of the Talmud.
"...Jews have been the victims of Polish gentile anti-Semitism for hundreds of years, through World War II. Jews as a group haven't persecuted gentile Poles."
As we discussed earlier, the Jewish revenge was oppressive communism. How oppressive? Read Illia Ehrenburg, Soviet poet laureate, the prophet of mass murder and killing of clergy. It was so vicious that it more than evened the score, and then went way beyond that, in my understanding.
"Also, you've mentioned Catholic sexual policies. From what I've read, the Catholic church is alone among influential organizations in asserting that condoms won't prevent AIDS. And in this country at least, "abstinence only" sex education has been shown not to work. And the Catholic church is against contraception in all circumstances. These policies promote worldwide poverty, suffering and premature death."
(Please also see my answer to Mr.Luker on this same point.) First, nobody ever said that "condoms won't prevent AIDS". That is so silly that I am surprised that you said it. The teaching is that artificial birth control is immoral, not so different from what many Hasidem practice.
Biologically, one does not catch AIDS if one has chaste sex habits, whether defined by Bible, Q'ran, or Talmud. The African IBO's are heart and soul of the great upsurgence of the African Catholic Church, and they have been chaste and family oriented since the (very impressed) Portugese first met them 500 years ago. These are the guys who are sometime called "The Jews of Africa", for their amazing literacy. Take a look at UN AIDS edpidemiological data, and cross relate that to Catholic predominance. (Note that the Nigerian Muslims also have low incidence of AIDS for the saem reason. Of course, they also stone sex offenders.) Chastity works, unless you can't or won't practice it. Practically all of the huge AIDS upsurgence is outside of the "strongly religious" areas, notably South Africa.
Thanks again for your comments.
Josh Greenland - 11/3/2003
"Let's get the bigotry animus out on the table. Catholic Poles and Polish Jews have never been on an amicable footing, so a Polish Pope is not surprizingly assailed here, even though there is plenty of guilt to go around. Is that about it?"
From what I've read, Poland was (around 1200AD) a good place for Jews to move to and live. At least one Polish king took the Catholic church to task for trying to push its anti-Semitism there. But with help of the priests, the bigot bug eventually caught on in Poland.
The Catholic church has played a villainous historical role in promulgating anti-Semitism, at least until Vatican II.
Your assertion of a mutual animosity notwithstanding, Jews have been the victims of Polish gentile anti-Semitism for hundreds of years, through World War II. Jews as a group haven't persecuted gentile Poles.
Also, you've mentioned Catholic sexual policies. From what I've read, the Catholic church is alone among influential organizations in asserting that condoms won't prevent AIDS. And in this country at least, "abstinence only" sex education has been shown not to work. And the Catholic church is against contraception in all circumstances. These policies promote worldwide poverty, suffering and premature death. I don't see anything laudable about that.
F.H. Thomas - 11/3/2003
Thanks for your comments. A brief rejoinder:
"I am confident that if traditional Roman Catholic teachings on sex and the family are "solving the health problems" of Africans that they will be happy to be informed of that."
Ralph, I know that this is not news to you, but biology teaches us it is generally not possible to get AIDS if one does not screw around. The Ibos of Nigeria did not screw around even when the Portugese first met them 500 years ago, and it is the tough teachings of this group which dominate African Christianity. It is very concerning that so few understand anything about that continent or its peoples.
Ralph E. Luker - 11/3/2003
I will accept _your_ stipulations when I decide to and not before then. I am confident that if traditional Roman Catholic teachings on sex and the family are "solving the health problems" of Africans that they will be happy to be informed of that. The teaching against contraceptives will surely do much to prevent the spread of AIDS. There is something genuinely "unworldly" in such beliefs, the kind of unworldliness that informed Mother Theresa's teaching that poverty and disease are blessings -- that if they were not, they would not be so prevalent.
Bob Harper - 11/3/2003
A hearty AMEN to this posting. As someone has recently observed, this Holy Father is far larger than the Nobel Peace Prize. I would hope, however forlornly, that this forum would cease to be a venue for small-minded anti-Catholic bigotry.
As for the recipient of this year's Prize, it would appear that she is eminently deserving, and all men and women of good will should hope her efforts are successful.
F.H. Thomas - 11/3/2003
My animus is directed principally toward the tone and content of Mr. Moner's remarks, not principally toward the author's article. I do take issue with the author's statement:
"The Committee may have been influenced by many critics of Pope John Paul II who feel that his strong advocacy of traditional doctrine has prevented the Catholic Church from responding effectively to the needs of today's world. Or in a time of conflict in the Muslim Middle East, a prize for the head of a Western-based religion might not have seemed timely."
This statement was made by the author, not attributed to anyone else. It is ignorant of the facts as regards both the greatly improved relationships with Muslims under this Pope (see Cardinal Arinze paragraph in my previous comment).
Secondly, as I describe at length, that "traditional doctrine" so deprecated by the author is exactly what is stregthening political systems, economies, (Nigeria) and solving the health problems (Aids) of Africans from the equatorial regions of Africa. The author, I presume, prefers things otherwise, and for that reason I referred to his article as "sneering".
As to the old animus between Polish Catholics and Jews, that has been well enough discussed and agreed to by learned contributors to HNN that I suggest that you accept my stipulation.
I thank you for not attempting to defend Mr. Moner's bigoted and factually ludicrous arguments.
Ralph E. Luker - 11/3/2003
Mr. Thomas, I take exception to your remarks in statements such as these:
"I find it unseemly, to say the least, that this sneering article should have been published"
"Let's get the bigotry animus out on the table. Catholic Poles and Polish Jews have never been on an amicable footing, so a Polish Pope is not surprizingly assailed here..."
Professor Irwin Abrams happens to be _the_ expert on the history of the Nobel Prizes. I know him personally. He is a remarkable man. To dismiss the article as a mere function of Jewish anti-Catholicism is disgraceful. Your ethnic explanations for things somehow can't account for the article's appreciation of the real worthiness of an Iranian award winner.
F.H. Thomas - 11/3/2003
I find it unseemly, to say the least, that this sneering article should have been published, or that a Greek chorus of sneerers has appeared to make matters worse.
Let's get the bigotry animus out on the table. Catholic Poles and Polish Jews have never been on an amicable footing, so a Polish Pope is not surprizingly assailed here, even though there is plenty of guilt to go around. Is that about it?
Aside from that, Mr. Moner may have set a new HNN record for non-scholarship, and shows blithering ignorance of the Third world:
"Crusading missionaries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have kept millions of people wallowing in misery and disease. For example, when they convert people in Africa they use them as soldiers to combat the spread of Islam maintaining perpetual conflicts in places like Sudan and Nigeria."
What planet are you from, Mr. Moner?
Let's take Nigeria. The Ibo minority, devoutedly Christian and almost 100% literate since 1507, which was horribly abused during the 1966 civil war, by the majority Muslim Hausa, is today in peaceful charge of this huge country by consensus. Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, their brilliant and charismatic leader, was recently elected President of the whole country with 94% of the vote, including 90% of the Muslim Hausa vote. How's that for reaching out? He is the man who contributed troops to quell the civil war in Liberia, on the UN's request, and for that may have himself been on on the Nobel short list.
Foment wars? Dream on.
The brilliant Cardinal Francis Arinze, leader of Nigeria's Catholics, is the present favorite to succeed John Paul II. He is also the president of the Catholic Interfaith Commission, and was responsible for John Paul II's first ever visit to a Mosque. Largely because of Arinze, relations between Islam and Roman Catholicism have never been better or more cordial, as reflected in Nigeria's peaceful and progressive recent history. Arinze may also have been on the Nobel short list, for precisely this reason. Fomenter of wars? Crudader Priest? Get a life.
Mr. Moner is perhaps distressed by the enormous success of Roman Catholic Christianity in modern Africa, with tens of millions of new converts, over the last three decades, showing no signs of slacking off. Perhaps he is distressed that these Catholics are strict, and abstain from unmarried sex, radically reducing AIDS in Catholic areas. Perhaps he is distressed that they do not practice killing of their own children. Perhaps he is distressed that Nigeria has never been more prosperous, or interfaith communication so good. Perhaps he is distressed that there is peace as a result.
(The Ibos, by the way, are sometimes called "the Jews of Africa" because of their historic near-100% literacy.)
Somalia, has a simple and sad recent history. A Taliban party of Northern Muslims siezed power, in a coup, and attempted to forcibly convert the Southern Christians. Those who refuse are even today killed or enslaved, and sold to Muslim masters.
John Paul II responsible? Are you for real, man?
"No, this man, despite all the propaganda about emboldening the Polish resistance, has done more harm than good for the world’s people."
Get a life, Moner. He had a serious part in making that happen. If you do not understand how, you will never understand the power and workings of the Catholic Church in Poland, nor Solidarnosch, nor the operations of the CIA under Reagan.
"The Nobel issue aside, he should be retired from public view as his deteriorating health presents a lamentable spectacle and it is often depressing and disconcerting to watch a man in this condition used and manipulated for propaganda and sympathy"
There are many who think the spectacle is one of enormous bravery and devotion in the face of his impending death.
Don't like it? Don't watch.
Dave Livingston - 11/2/2003
An illustration that Ralph is correct to say the Christian presence in Africa is nothing new is offered by the voyage of Vaso de Gama. When de Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope & on across the Indian Ocean to the west coast of India he found there tens of thousands of Christians.
But that finding was no surprise to de Gama, nor to the priests he carried on board his ship as envoys from the Vatican. After Pentecost whilst Peter, Andrew & Paul evangelized to the west, into the Romnan Empire, most of the rest of the Apostles went evangelizing eastward, throughout the Middle East and much of western & southern Asia. Their efforts produced vigorous Christian communities that exist even unto today.
For instance, it is largely through the efforts of St. Bartholomew that Armenia was made Christian. St Thomas, ole Doubting Thomas, went wobbling through the Middle East & eventually ended up in southern India. Thomas was an extremely effect evangelist. For instance, when de Gama reached the Malabar Coast of India thre reason those Christians found there, today sometimes called the Sons of Thomas, had been in frequent contact with Vatican from the approximately the mid-fourth Century until the line of communications, the overland line, had been cut by the rise of militant Islam.
But neither the Vatican nor the Malabar Christians had forgotten one another in the intervening centuries, until the sea route to the East was found.
There is a little joke about a sincere, but ignorant of history, Protestant missionary in modern southern India askinbg a Malabarese"Don't you want to be Christian?" The Malabarese responses, "My people have been Christian for 2,000 years. Thank you, anyway."
Dave Livingston - 11/2/2003
You object to Christian evangelization, eh? But object flies in face of 2,000 years of Christian evangelization. Of course, we are bidden by our Lord to spead the Gospel. Us Christians should ignore the admonishmision of God made man? Fat f...ing chance! Moslems don't attempt to spread their faith too? Of course, they do, but as often via the sword as by preaching.
Evidence of that latter is offered by the histories of Central Asia & the Middle East, both of which were largely Christian--but faced with losing one's head many of us are weak enough to sat, "O.K., Boss, I'll convert to Islam(Submission, as the word means)."
It seems a bit of a miracle to me that even today the Catholic community of Iran survives, albeit a mere 25,000 souls. But that is up from the 21,000 of a few years ago. It seems an equal miracle that the Nestorian Christian community, Assyrian Christians, although widely scattered, yet survives in much of Central Asia & the Middle East. Reportedly, anything from 5 to 10% of Iraqis are Catholic, Chaldean rite.
Even today, 58% of the Lebanonese are Christian, mostly Catholic, but including some Nestorians & some Orthodox.
Gus, us Christians should foresake our faith because you fear Christianity?
Dave Livingston - 11/2/2003
More often than not, I agree with Gus & disagree with Ralph, but this time IMHO ralph is correct & Gus resentfully blind to someon's, Karl Wojtyla's (AKA John Paul II) digging his heels against the values of the secular world that arein opposition to Christian ones, principlely license called freedom, the growing culture of death, abortion, euthanasia, judical murder by goverments,& so-called voluntary suicide.
Students of history should hardly forget the fall of the Soviet empire was triggered by the election of this man to the Chair of Peter. His election gave motivation to the founding of Solidarty, which in turn caused a snowball effect of effective opposition in the Soviet Ruropean colonies, aided & abbetted of course by Ronald Reagan.
There too were the actions of M. Gorbachev in bringing about the dissolution of the Soviet Union. IMO based on the "If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, it probably is a duck" I long ago concluded that far from accidently losing control of events in the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was (& probably is) a sub rosa Chiristian who pulled the plug on the Soviet Union deliberately. My reasons for thinking this:
It was while he was Chairman, CPSU that,
1. The Mass was celebrated inside the Kremlin for the first time since the Red Revolution. Moreover, the Mass was televised showing Gorbachev in attendance at the Mass.
2. For the first time since the Revolution the Bible was published, some 75,000 copies in the first run, as I recall.
3. Much property, churches, monasterties, convents, seminaries & schools was restored to not only the Orthodox Church, but also to the Catholic Church.
4. During the Polish crisis Gorbachev made four, 04, publicly announced visits with John Paul II in the Vatican. Moreover, because John Paul II speaks fluent Russian, their meetings could have been, not that they necessarily were, made sans interpreters, thereby making their consultations VERY private.
5. Upon her death, Gorbachev's mother's remain were not buried in the walls of the Kremlin, an option surely open to the Chairman, CPSU, but rather in hallowed ground, a church cemetery via a Christian Requim Mass.
How did it come to be he was & is Christian? For starters, his grandparents on both sides of the family were practicing Christians. His father throughout his life went to Mass of a Sunday, his mother went to daily Mass, most ironically whilst he was Chsirman of the militant antiChristian political party, the CPSU.
Too, when Gorbachev was a youngster in his grandparents', on his father's side of the family, as I recall, house there was a secret know only within the family. There were on the walls the obligatory pictures of the Communist saints, Marx & Lennin & of the then current Chairman, CPSU, but behind each picture of a Communist there was a Christian icon. Anyone who thinks that alone wasn't a very powerful influence on the young Gorbachev has never been young himself, nor had children.
Josh Greenland - 11/2/2003
If by lefties you mean everyone left of center, they don't generally hate Karol Wojtyla for his anti-communist activities. The great majority of such lefties in the USA are liberals, and almost all American liberals are anti-communist, their relative unreadiness to redbait those they disagree with notwithstanding.
If by lefties you mean left-wingers, many of those are anti-communist as well.
Ralph E. Luker - 11/1/2003
Mr. Moner, I notice that you didn't make slavery the example of offensive practices by Moslems in the Sudan and Nigeria. They enslave Christians and animists in both places. Moreover, if Christianity is an intrusive influence in both places, the intrusion took place 500 years ago in Nigeria and at least a thousand years before that in east Africa. In other words, we are not talking about conflict which is recently caused by Christian missionaries converting native peoples and sending them off to war afresh. These conflicts are ancient ones in east Africa and early modern in west Africa. Undoubtedly, Christians in both places have sought support from Christians beyond Africa. If I were a slave in either place, I'd ask you to do something about it.
Jonathan Dresner - 11/1/2003
There is no reason the Nobel committee can't consider his pre-papal career, but his anti-communist activism was part of his early papacy as well, so there's really no reason it can't be considered.
Even (especially?) lefties like me (more democrat than leninist) didn't sympathize with the totalitarian aspects of the Soviet and Polish regimes. I was thrilled at Walesa's 1983 Nobel, deeply excited at the fall of the Berlin Wall, etc., etc.
That doesn't mean I think the Pope should or shouldn't get the Prize. I'm very pleased that the prize went to someone whose work has been deeply courageous and will be enhanced further by the prize. I have no mixed feelings about the decision this year, which I certainly would have if soon-to-be-St. John Paul won.
F.H. Thomas - 11/1/2003
..but it has to do with what he did before be became Pope, and the Nobel Committee cannot consider that.
This was the Cardinal who, working with Lech Walensa and the CIA in the Reagan administration, was instrumental in bringing down Soviet Communism. Think that did not help the cause of peace?
Naturally, that achievement would make anyone who sympathizes with that dead form of government upset. I find it also rather predictable that the ideology of killing the unborn, and embracing atheism, is considered the mark of a peaceful man.
Many thanks to Mr. Greenland for emphasizing the great positive in Ms. Ebadi's receipt of the prize.
Gus Moner - 11/1/2003
You have raised a reasonable argument regarding the deficiencies of a Muslim Sharia Law ruled state. To accept the premise, however, I would divorce Muslim religious practices from your argument; they are tribal, not Muslim sanctioned behaviour. That being said, one who intervenes uninvited in the affairs of others, their nations, culture and social fabric is meddling in other people’s affairs. Would you agree with that? If you were having a row with your spouse and the neighbour came round to settle it, change the dynamics of the relationship and make over the relationship you have with your spouse, you’d probably be indignant at least.
Let’s take it a step beyond. What if, for example, Muslims began to impose Sharia law in your state?
You might be moved to resist, at whatever level you felt you had to, according to how opposed you were to this change. You might start a peaceful resistance. You might publish a newspaper to broadcast the opposition. You might attack one of their temples. You might kill their leader, or try. You might organise a group to perform more coordinated and intensive resistance activities. All or any of these would be your responses. They’d be hard to argue with.
But then, what if Hindus then began to send missionaries to convert Christians in your state to Hinduism and then send your children off to fight the Muslims? An alien people, culture, religion and social system would take over yours, change how you interact with family, friends and society and direct your struggle to suit its ambitions or needs.
That, sir, is in my view, what is happening in Africa. I mean not to be prejudicial. I oppose high-minded egocentric intervention by people in other people and nation’s affairs. Some think we can change the world. Some think we ought to change the world. Some think we ought to change those bits of the world that we dislike (ideologically, usually) and tolerate similar regimes with different ideologies (closer to ours). Such is the case when we support or look the other way at the despotic regimes in the ex-USSR republics. There, ex-Communist oligarchs are stifling freedom, controlling all economic activities for the benefits of the ex-Communists and where boiling your political opponents is acceptable torture. Hardly a word of opposition to our involvement and assistance to these failed states is uttered because they let us play in their aerodromes. Yet the same people vehemently oppose, for one example, Castro, for ideological motives.
In the end, it’s hypocritical and egocentric behaviour that leads to broken social structures in impoverished places, hunger, disease, war and mayhem. I cannot approve of Sharia law; it is against my personal principles. However, it is not my right or duty to go there and change their social fabric or to bring my religious morals and change their world.
Ralph E. Luker - 11/1/2003
Gus, This sentence,
"For example, when they convert people in Africa they use them as soldiers to combat the spread of Islam maintaining perpetual conflicts in places like Sudan and Nigeria." strikes me as unusually prejudicial. In the Sudan and in Nigeria, Islamic forces continue to practice slavery, sharia law, and clitoral circumcision. I don't know that armed resistance to such practices is altogether unreasonable. It doesn't win Nobel Peace Prizes, but it may be the more humane alternative to fairly barbaric conditions.
Jonathan Dresner - 10/31/2003
I think you're probably right about the Nobel committee's avoidance of the inevitably mixed legacy of the Pope. I don't agree that his attempts to make peace with other traditions and his opposition to communism are irrelevant (though I might agree with overstated), but Catholic social policy and Catholic theology certainly aren't pushing in the direction of "peace."
Besides, he's going to be one of the fastest canonized saints in history: who needs a Nobel Prize when you're going to be the object of eternal veneration?
Gus Moner - 10/31/2003
I suspect the Pope was not granted the Peace Prize because while he preaches peace, his policies on AIDS, abortion and the crusading missionaries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are fomenting local conflicts, cultural dislocation and social disasters.
The Pope has left us a legacy of conflict, disease and social disintegration in the so-called Third World that is not worthy of a Peace Prize. He preaches peace, however his church’s actions belie the message.
Crusading missionaries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have kept millions of people wallowing in misery and disease. For example, when they convert people in Africa they use them as soldiers to combat the spread of Islam maintaining perpetual conflicts in places like Sudan and Nigeria. The press reports these events as ‘tribal’ or ‘ethnic’ conflicts.
No, this man, despite all the propaganda about emboldening the Polish resistance, has done more harm than good for the world’s people.
The Nobel issue aside, he should be retired from public view as his deteriorating health presents a lamentable spectacle and it is often depressing and disconcerting to watch a man in this condition used and manipulated for propaganda and sympathy.
Josh Greenland - 10/28/2003
This blog is authored by an Iranian highschool girl and is the only English-language Iranian blog that I know of. Its entries from October 10-20 inclusive give "Iranian Girl's" thoughts and some reactions of the regime to Ms. Ebadi winning the Nobel Prize:
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