|An Englishman, a German and a Frenchman are all in Saudi Arabia, sharing a smuggled crate of booze, when all of a sudden, Saudi police rush in and arrest them. The mere possession of alcohol is a severe offence in Saudi Arabia, so for this terrible crime they are all sentenced to 50 whip lashes each.
On the day of their punishment the Sheikh who will whip them announced: “It’s my wife’s birthday today, and she has asked me to allow each of you one wish before your whipping.” The German was first in line, he thought for a while and then said: “Please tie a pillow to my back.” This was done, but the pillow only lasted 20 lashes before the whip went through.
When the punishment was done the German had to be carried away bleeding and crying with pain. The Frenchman was next up. After watching the German in horror he said smugly: “Please fix two pillows to my back.” But even two pillows could only take 35 lashes before the whip went through again and the Frenchman was soon led away whimpering loudly.
The Englishman was the last one up, but before he could say anything, the Sheikh turned to him and said: “You are from a part of the world I really like. For this, you may have two wishes!”
“Thank you, your Most Royal and Merciful highness,” the Englishman replied. “In recognition of your kindness, my first wish is that you give me not 50, but 100 lashes.” “Not only are you an honorable, handsome and powerful man, you are also very brave,” the Sheikh said with an admiring look on his face. “If 100 lashes is what you desire, then so be it. And your second wish, what is it to be?” the Sheikh asked. The Englishman smiled and said, “Tie the Frenchman and the German to my back.”
It was 1942 when, one day, Hayim Alaton, a Jewish yarn importer in Istanbul, received two payment notices from the tax office: He was asked to pay 80,000 liras in total — a fortune at that time. He ran to the tax office to object, but was told to pay the whole amount within 15 days. It was the infamous Wealth Tax, passed on Nov. 11, 1942 and it remained in effect for a year and a half until it was repealed on March 14, 1944.
The Wealth Tax exclusively targeted Turkey’s non-Muslims at a time when 300,000 Orthodox Greeks and 100,000 Jews were living in Istanbul (where total population was one million). The law stated that the homes and workplaces of those non-Muslims who could not afford the tax would be sequestered. Alaton was able to pay no more than 11,000 liras. That was the start of “black years,” as Alaton’s son, 15 years old at that time, would later recall.
Before long, the Alaton’s home and store were sequestered. The merchandise in the store and the goods in stock were sold at auction. Every item in the Alaton home, including kitchen utensils, bed frames and lamps were seized and sold too. The family of six was left only with mattresses. In later days, Alaton was taken from his home and sent to a tent camp in Istanbul where he was kept for two months. There were no meals, so his children would bring him whatever food they could find. One day the 15-year-old Ishak went to the camp and saw his father’s tent empty. The Turkish authorities had put Alaton, along with many others, on a train bound for the town of Askale, in eastern Turkey, where the non-Muslims would be forced to perform physical labor, in this instance, cutting stones on a hill. Alaton would stay in the forced-labor camp for two hard winters and one summer.
“On conservative growth projections, China’s economy could well be bigger than the sum of all the G7 economies in real terms within the next decade,” writes Peter Drysdale, the editor of the popular East Asia Forum website.
Not everyone is as optimistic as Drysdale, but the general view is that China will work through a transitory period and enter a new phase of growth powered by consumer spending.
Are China’s economic problems merely temporary — a year or two at most — as the majority view suggests?
Perhaps, but there are also reasons to believe the country will have to endure prolonged hardship, either two or so decades of recession and stagnation or, more probably, a sharp 1930s-style crash followed by years of deep contraction.
Some 4,000 plush toys of rock-throwing men dressed in Palestinian garb were intercepted Tuesday at the Haifa port by Israeli authorities, who said the dolls were headed for the Palestinian Authority and were part of an incitement campaign.
Each toy has its face hidden by a keffiyah, with one arm raised and clutching a tiny toy rock. They hold banners in Palestinian colors proclaiming “Jerusalem is ours” and “Jerusalem we are coming.”
Customs officials found the dolls in a container that arrived from the United Arab Emirates and destined for the Palestinian Authority. According to the accompanying paperwork, the shipment was supposed to be clothing, rugs, and plastic products.
Despite security concerns, the city of Paris celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with the annual lighting of a 30-foot menorah on Sunday, as the Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, lit the first candle. It was a spectacle indeed: 6,000 attendees chomped down on beignets, a Hasidic rock band supplied the tunes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger danced with a bunch of rabbis.
Schwarzenegger, who was in town for the COP21 climate conference, stopped by the event to make a few bold statements to the packed audience before hitting the dance floor. “It is very important that light prevails over darkness and good prevails over evil,” he said, reported The Daily Beast. “And I stand there with you!”
Echoing those sentiments, the Austrian muscleman later tweeted a picture from the event, showing the former governator with the radiant backdrop of a lit-up menorah and a glowing eiffel tower. He captioned it: “Happy Hannukah from Paris! Light will always overcome darkness.” (Here’s a video of Schwarzenegger dancing the hora in 2010 in California, during his governorship)