We take it for granted sometimes that we enjoy freedom of speech, a strong democracy, a vibrant election system that enjoys the benefits of a free media and that any citizen can freely run for office.

I believe that we were all hoping that Russia would grow into this type of robust democracy just as some some of its former Eastern European (vassal) states have. Unfortunately, as we are learning, the shift to democracy and a free market did not go smoothly and Vladimir Putin has taken advantage over the past several years by solidifying his power, imprisoning opponents, playing dirty tricks with opposition parties and politicians, and doing everything in his power to turn Russia into a dictatorship that pretends to be a democracy.

Garry Kasparov, who was the world’s chess champion for many years and who is Jewish, could be living anywhere in the world and enjoying the fame and fortune he earned. Instead, bravely, he returned to Moscow and entered politics with the express purpose of defending the existence of Russian democracy. He has met numerous challenges, apparently state instigated, along the way. He has had demonstrations cancelled, has been shoved around by policemen, had speeches disrupted and crowds dispersed, and received subtle threats from authorities.

Undaunted, Kasparov has continued to run for office and has done his best to generate some publicity. His cause has been helped by the occasional media report in Western countries, but it has been a difficult uphill struggle. I would guess that it may even be a dangerous struggle if only because opponents of Putin’s regime have been jailed, beaten or possibly even killed.

Kasparov has just been released from a five day jail sentence where he was not permitted to speak to a lawyer. He was arrested for taking part in an opposition march at a time when Russian elections are pending. He predicts that if this type of governmental hubris continues, Russia will fall into chaos. I think he’s being optimistic and in truth very little will happen.

He is a brave man with his heart in the right place, not to mention a strong sense of justice and fairness. We wish him well.

It has to be noted as well that Russia has just backed out of an arms treaty with other European nations, because of its opposition to the placement of American arms systems on that continent.

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  • Democracy in Russia failed a long time ago. Boris Yeltsin’s 1996 victory was heavily manipulated for instance. Even under the supervision of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a number of villages in Chechnya for instance, previously bombed into oblivion, still managed to post election results 100% in favor of Yeltsin. So now that the reigns of power are in Putin’s hands, is it any wonder he’s not engaging in the same shenanigans as his predecessor? The only difference now is that his shenanigans are being done in opposition to Western interests. Oh well. Payback’s a bitch!

  • Meanwhile, in Israel:

    US Ambassador Richard Jones’s unprecedented meeting this week with Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch made clear that the US demands that Israeli courts interpret Israeli law in a prejudicial manner in order to demonize Israeli opponents of Palestinian statehood and the ethnic cleansing of the Jews from Judea and Samaria.

    Their meeting also signaled that the US expects Israel to treat lawful building activities by Jews in Judea and Samaria and even in sections of Jerusalem as criminal acts.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    … and we all know Beinisch and her leftie cohorts shut down anti-Oslo rallies and protests, and have not overturned “emergency” laws that suspend Israeli citizens’ basic rights – laws that have been selectively used to shut down patriotic Israeli radio stations and shut up right-wing individuals.

    But when this was brought to your attention, middle, you shrugged – and sometimes jeered – because you perceived these people as unsympathetic to your views on pluralism.

    This is how it starts.
    It’s so easy and appealing to justify these actions when the target is unpopular. That’s how those trying to undermine democracy package and sell their power grab – by demonizing target groups.

    Look down, middle – your own feet are already on the slippery slope.

  • While what you say about the conditions of Russia are true, you are confusing Democracy with limited Democracy.
    Democracy , from the Greek means majority rule. Unfortunately Plato and the historian Tytler were cynically correct in that it inexorably leads to tits own downfall.
    The founding fathers of the US intentionally limited democracy because it historically did not last and devolved into tyranny of the majority.
    Free speech and free media are not by nature democratic. If the majority are against such than their prohibition is democratic.
    If Putin is elected as dictator democratically, thna unfortunately this is democratic.

  • Ben David,

    This is what the Forward said:

    American activity on the settlement issue has increased in recent months, with both the embassy in Tel Aviv and the consulate in East Jerusalem looking into Israeli land annexations and expansion of existing settlements. Sources in the administration have told the Forward that in an unusual step, the American ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, met last month with Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch to discuss recent rulings regarding settlement activity.

    During the meeting, Jones asked Beinisch about rulings regarding the retroactive approval of illegal settlement neighborhoods and about the reasoning behind decisions relating to the route of the separation barrier. An Israeli source who confirmed that the meeting took place said it was seen as an American attempt to better understand recent decisions regarding settlement activity rather than criticize rulings made by the Israeli legal system.

    Jones and the embassy staff also made inquires into allegations about the further expansion of Israeli in recent weeks. Last month, an American cable from Tel Aviv reported a growing “concern that these actions will weaken” P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas and would “undermine Palestinian trust in Israel’s intentions.”

    According to both parties, the US ambassador as well as Beinisch, he was asking questions and she was answering. There is no hint of an attempt at influence and it seems unlikely that an American ambassador could influence the sitting chief justice of Israel’s high court – it’s not like he can threaten her career or job.

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about with regard to radio stations. There have been instances of illegal broadcasters getting permission to broadcast and illegal broadcasters being prevented from broadcasting. As I recall, Arutz Sheva got permission after violating laws. I don’t think this is selective. To remind you, Likud was in power prior to Barak and after Barak. Olmert is a child of the Likud.

    The slippery slope is a different one, Ben David. It is the one where as Arab numbers increase inside Israel and inside Judea and Samaria, the rights of these individuals to live equally with Jews are being challenged. Many difficult questions have already come up and will continue to come up. Fortunately, in this regard the High Court has been a source of justice for Israeli society.

  • middle:
    1. The meeting itself was indicative of pressure. Why is a foreign diplomat meeting with a representative of Israel’s judiciary rather than with its currently elected government? Can you recall the last time a diplomat met with another country’s supreme court justices? It’s usually the executive branch, isn’t it?

    2. The reality is that construction in Jewish settlements – even within established settlements – has been obstructed and shut down. Even for perfectly legal sites, you cannot bring trailers or pre-fab housing into Judea and Samaria – the flatbed trucks are stopped at the “border”.

    So the smarmy, sideways talk about “concern” is just so much propaganda.

    3. Arutz Sheva was never allowed to broadcast. For decades, the left-leaning “Voice of Peace” was allowed to broadcast from Israeli territorial waters without being stopped – and when Abie Nathan trashed the ship, causing environmental damage, nothing was done to him.

    This is where the settlers got the idea from. Arutz Sheva tried to operate in exactly the same way – but the government boarded the ship and confiscated the radio equipment several times, and initiated legal procedures against the broadcasters.

    And you don’t see anything “selective” about this?

    4. The discussion in Point 3 ignores the larger question – why is there a government monopoly on broadcast media in “democratic” Israel?

    5. The demographic myths have been dispelled in other threads and on other websites – so I will just address your bleeding-heart formulation about “the rights of these individuals to live equally with Jews”.

    Restrictions on the Arab population of Judea and Samaria are a direct result of violent action by those populations – actions taken by groups that were elected by a landslide on a platform of destroying Israel.

    People waging war against their neighbors will find their “rights” and “dignities” suspended.

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