A tale of two cities

In London, Baron Green of Hurstpierpoint  is the British Government’s Minister for Trade and Investment. Between 2003 and 2010 he was CEO and chairman of HSBC, the bank that laundered billions of dollars for drug cartels, terrorists and pariah states. He is also an ordained minister of the Church of England who wrote the 1996 book, Serving God? Serving Mammon. A reviewer wrote: “This book will be useful for young Christians considering a career in the City of London and weighing up various moral dilemmas in the light of Scripture.”

The Rev. Baron Green left the bank when David Cameron made him a life peer and a Cabinet minister. He took a bank payout worth more than £10 million.

Meanwhile in Athens at the Lamia General Hospital a 63-year-old doctor, a father of two, climbed onto the ledge of the fifth floor. He had only recently left his job as hospital director and was distressed because his retirement pension and lump sum severance money had not been paid to him. His family, friends, police and emergency services arrived at the scene and spent three hours trying to coax him back inside the building. The doctor, who was much loved and respected by his colleagues, jumped to his death.


There’s someone knocking at the door of the European Union (EU) wanting a bailout. Who is it this time? Cyprus, the Greek part.

Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias is working both sides of the street: he’s asked the EU and Russia for urgently needed loans to stop the divided island slipping into insolvency.

His government needs between five and 6.1 billion euros to overcome its debt crisis.

Cyprus matters because of its strategic location in the eastern Mediterranean. British air, navy and army personnel have been based there since World War Two and it is the site of highly sophisticated spy bases at Akrotiri and Dhekalia. The Brits secretly share all intelligence gathered with the US.

What complicates the financial negotiations is that Moscow-educated and Russian-speaking Christofias is a member of the pro-Moscow Cyprus Communist Party. Indeed, he is the only communist leader in the European Union.


He maintains the closest relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and received an emergency bailout loan from Moscow last year.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, Cyprus has become the resort of choice for Russia’s oligarchs and nouveau riche.

My Cypriot friends now living in Greece tell me Russians own most of the five-star resorts, many of the tourist hotels and the gleaming luxury yachts filling the marinas.

They own restaurants where menus appear in Russian, Greek and English, nightclubs, real estate agencies, delicatessens, DVD stores, a Russian-language newspaper and bookshops, hair salons, nail parlours and shopping arcades.

Putin is a master tactician. If Russia loses Syria, currently its lone asset in the Middle East, he will be hoping to move offshore to Cyprus.

While Brussels and London complain about the frightfully indecent diplomacy of the Cypriot leaders in claiming a Euro hand-out, Putin will be playing the long game.

Don’t be surprised if there is a renewed political campaign by Greek Cypriots to get rid of the British bases. (Christofias is on the record as calling them “a colonial bloodstain”). A push for their removal might be the price of Moscow bailing out the Nicosia Government.


A rather lurid piece has appeared in the New York Times by Liz Alderman under the headline: “As Far Right Rises in Greece, Anti-immigrant Violence Follows”.

It is a summary of the recent activities of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn which has leapt from the fringes of Greek politics into Parliament with 18 seats in the 300-seat chamber.

Ms Alderman listed all the recent hate crimes of the Golden Dawn bullies, including assaults on immigrants and their businesses.

It’s a pity that she didn’t expand the coverage of anti-immigrant phobia in Mediterranean countries and include Israel.

The Zionist state doesn’t have a Golden Dawn party, it has the Likud-dominated coalition government of Benyamin Netanyahu.

His regime has a simple policy towards illegal immigrants from Africa: it rounds them up and summarily deports them. Israeli courts have upheld the process which violates international conventions on refugees (not recognised by Israel).

Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai – who is not associated with Golden Dawn whose slogan is “Greece for the Greeks” – said recently he would use “all the tools to expel the foreigners” stating that “Israel belongs to the white man”.

Yishai, leader of the Shas party, argued that African refugees should not be allowed to settle permanently because they bring in “a range of diseases such as hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis and AIDS”.  He is also on the record as described homosexuality as “sick” and said that Hamas, the elected leadership party in Gaza, should be “wiped out”.


In most Western democracies such statements would probably result in the politician’s removal from office. But Likud was so impressed by Yishai’s qualities that in 2006 he was made a deputy prime minister, a position he has retained ever since.

Netanyahu is on record as saying that the presence of African refugees in Israel is “very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity”.

 Anyone heard this language from earlier historical times?

A recent Israeli newspaper report said: “Violence against African asylum seekers has increased in recent weeks. Molotov cocktails have been thrown at refugees’ apartments in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and right-wing Israelis have vandalised shops and attacked asylum-seekers during violent protests.”

Let’s hope Ms Alderman pursues the African immigrant crisis and files her next report on the Israeli Government’s handling of the issue.

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