To the uninitiated, the sight of a motley bunch of around three dozen odd foreigners — men, women and children — piling on to a train in Zurich might not have appeared extraordinary. But there was a crowd on the platform.
Early last month, there was a glimmer of hope in Hungary. Implored to vote in a referendum intended to effectively sanctify the nation’s brutal hostility to refugees from the Middle East, a majority of the eligible electorate opted to disengage from the process, rendering it invalid.
It was at least partly a case of unfortunate timing: had the referendum on the Colombian government’s peace deal with Latin America’s most resilient guerrilla force been held shortly after President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week, its outcome may well have been different.
Many of the far-right political parties in Europe that are riding a wave of misguided anti-refugee sentiment are inclined to view Australia as a role model. They look across the sea and fawn upon a nation whose navy turns back rickety vessels overflowing with desperate asylum-seekers. They see a nation that has decreed that no one who reaches its shores by boat will ever find refuge in a country whose national anthem declares: “For those who’ve come across the seas/ We’ve boundless plains to share.”
As I sat down to write this yesterday morning, there was breaking news of a mass killing at a residential facility for the disabled not far from Tokyo. The perpetrator was apparently a 26-year-old former employee of the care home who subsequently handed himself over to the police after murdering 19 people and injuring dozens of others.
AGITATED markets, a tumbling pound-sterling, a downgraded credit rating: none of these should have been an unexpected outcome of the British electorate’s decision last weekend to opt out of the European Union.
There was the incredible Ali Shuffle in the 1960s when a restless young athlete danced around his opponents in the boxing ring, delivering potent blows but taking few in return, the heavyweight champion of the whole world, as he frequently liked to put it.
After Uruguay`s former president José Mujica last week declared that Nicolás Maduro was `mad as a goat`, the latter chose to wear the insult as a badge of honour, announcing at a rally: `Yes, I`m as mad as a goat, it`s true. I`m mad with love for Venezuela, for the Bolivarian revolution, for Chavez and his example.
In a speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, the Israeli army`s deputy chief of staff offered his compatriots an uncomfortable reminder.
`If there`s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance,` Maj-Gen Yair Golan noted, `it`s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then 70, 80 and 90 years ago and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.
It is wise of Angela Merkel not to have panicked in the wake of setbacks for her Christian Democrats (CDU) in Sunday`s three regional elections. The German chancellor acknowledged the blow, but discounted the likelihood of abrupt changes to her government`s policy on refugees.
In one of his books, Mohamed Heikal, the Egyptian journalist who died last month at the age of 92, records an extraordinary encounter in 1964 between Gamal Abdel Nasser and Nikita Khrushchev.