Cacti & Succulent Obsession: The Dark Side
In recent years, the love for indoor plants has boomed, giving a massive spike to the nursery business. 2020 especially witnessed millions of lone souls trapped indoors stepping into the trendy plant-keeping hobby. Today, the cacti & succulent placed on study tables and window sills are ruling Instagram. But, this close-to-nature hobby is endangering many cacti and rare plant species around the world, pushing them to the verge of extinction.
Let’s understand how plant-keeping hobbies have given rise to black marketing of cacti and succulents? What are the implications of the theft? And how we, as plant-keepers can know if the plant we are purchasing is smuggled or not?
The Outbursting Love For Cacti & Succulent
In early February, a woman was arrested from New Zealand’s airport for a very peculiar smuggling attempt. 38-years old Wenquing Li was trying to smuggle 1,000 different cactus, plants, and seeds species, out of the country. It consisted of eight of the most endangered or threatened species of cacti, and the entire material cost above $7,000. This weird smuggling attempt caught global medias’ focus on the increasing demand triggered black marketing of the rarest species of home plants, especially succulents from their native ground. This was not the first time when someone was trying to smuggle a plant out of a country. In 2014 alone, the U.S. border seized about 2,600 stolen cacti.
The inspecting officer, Simon Anderson, said, ” (Wenquing Li’s case is) a good reminder that anyone who smuggles plants or other endangered species into New Zealand can expect to be prosecuted.”
According to a study by Conservation Biology, house plant obsession has put one-fifth of all the cactus species at risk of endangerment; some are on the brink of extinction. The booming black market triggered by skyrocketing demand of these unique groups of spiny plant species is causing severe habitat loss, invasive bugs, and poaching.
Why Are People Extensively Drawn Towards Indoor Planting?
The house plant obsession is not more than a decade old. In the U.S. alone, about six million residents, especially millennials, adopted gardening in 2015. Today, the obsession with plant-keeping hobbies has skyrocketed, especially by the COVID-triggered lockdowns. It gave the people time to decorate their homes, and the social media trend of plants, made cacti & succulents the apple of everyone’s eye.
Between 2012 and 2017, the market of cacti and succulent have surged by 64%, and now worth millions of dollars. The pandemic increased the sale of house plants by 84% in the U.S. and near about a 32% increase in the nursery business.
Experts believe that the house plant demand has surged mainly because of the climate crisis. Keeping live plants is a form of repercussion for centuries of damaged done to the environment. This newest global obsession is a way of relieving ourselves from the guilt of wrecking the planet. Furthermore, along with beautifying our houses, having plants around us makes us feel more connected to our planet.
Cacti & Succulent Obsession: The Dark Side
But, the out bursting love of indoor plants has overwhelmed the market, thus making ways for black marketers to smuggle the rare species of plants, especially cacti and succulents. A few cactus species could take decades to reach their full size, like Saguaros, which can take more than 70 years to reach the 6 feet benchmark, which makes such species more susceptible to be smuggled. Poachers have been extensively smuggling the taller Saguaros, thus making it one of the most costly cactus, $100 for one foot.
Researchers fear that the growing black market might result in the complete extinction of many rare cacti species from the wild. In the past, the hipped demand of Tulip resulted in Tulipomania, which turned many Tulip gardens into bare land. In the 1800s, the craze for Fern gave way to decades of Fern theft. Air plant, Orchid, and Venus Fly Trap are the most recent examples of how increased demands led to voracious black marketing of plants from their native lands.
The living rock cactus that is native to Texas, U.S., faces grave danger of extinction. Given the fact, it grows nowhere else, makes it an immediate target of smugglers. This little cactus can take a decade to mature fully, and this would mean that once they are out of their natural habitat, it would take decades to repopulate the land with the cacti.
The extinction of a plant species from its natural habitat affects the cohabiting species of animals, reptiles, and birds in the region. Cactus is the source of food, water, and shelter to birds and invertebrates, and their endangerment is severely affecting the life cycle of the deserted regions.
Cacti & Succulent: The Bigger Concern
The biggest problem is that this black marketing is not happening in the quote-unquote darknet but on online shopping sites like eBay, Amazon, etc. It is tough to recognize which plant is smuggled and which is grown from seeds in the nursery. The fact that these cacti species can stay without water for a longer time makes their smuggling easy.
So, is there any way we can find whether the cacti we are purchasing is grown in a nursery or illegally smuggled? Though it is difficult to say for sure that any plant is grown, or smuggled, there is some precaution that we can keep while buying these spiny plants:
- It is advisable not to buy cacti & succulent from an international seller who does not possess a permit from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
- If buying online, try to go for the domestic seller, who clearly shows that their plants are grown from seed.
- While buying from the nursery, you can ask where the cacti is from. Also, look out for scrappy-looking cacti, as they have higher chances of being smuggled because the nursery grows succulents, and cactus are mostly symmetrical.
“The Kerela Story” Controversy in India
A recent Indian movie- The Kerela Story has stirred a huge controversy in India. The film professes to portray the tale of Hindu and Christian women who were persuaded to join the Islamic State (IS) organisation has caused a huge uproar in India. Many opposition leaders have denounced the film The Kerala Story, which is based in the southern state of Kerala. Some have referred to it as propaganda and an effort to sabotage religious harmony of India. The Kerala Story is the most talked-about movie right now, followed by The Kashmir Files. The movie is being viewed through many different lenses; where some people want it to be banned, while others want it to be promoted across all of India.
Also, read UN Defender Demands End to Crackdown on Kashmiri Activists
The Kerela Story Controversy Over Misrepresentation of Facts
The Kerela Story, which was released on May 5, has become embroiled in controversy over misinterpretation of facts. Months before it was released, The Kerala Story started to cause controversy. When the preview of the movie claimed it presented the “heart-breaking and gut-wrenching stories of 32,000 females” from Kerala who had joined the IS, some legislators from that state urged for its ban in November. This was refuted by the fact-checking website Alt News after a thorough investigation that found “no evidence” to support the claimed number.
Women who converted to Islam are the main subject of the movie. As the film’s release date approached in April, it was confronted with legal issues and growing criticism. The Kerala High Court declined to block the distribution, but the film’s producers agreed to take out the controversial 32,000 women number from the teaser. “The compilation of the true stories of three young girls from different parts of Kerala” was added to the description of the video on YouTube. This sparked numerous complaints from online users over claimed misinterpretations. Now that these facts have been brought forth, producer Vipul Shah has responded by saying that they are irrelevant and that these figures don’t matter.
Many acts of violence, including rape culture, hand-chopping, beheading, and trauma perpetrated to defenceless women, are graphically depicted in the film in the context of the Muslim culture and promotes islamophobia.
The film, according to a number of politicians in Kerela and Muslim leaders, would jeopardise religious harmony, demonise Muslims, promote Islamophobia, and might also humiliate the southern state.
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The Kerela Story Receives Both Criticism and Praise
According to analyst Taran Adarsh, the film’s box office success has been “extraordinary” for a low-budget production without any major performers. He thinks that it has made more than 560 million rupees ($6.8 million, £5.4 million) in five days, which he describes as “a feat for any new release”. On the other hand, many mainstream critics have criticised the movie for its performances and “lack of nuance”. One of the critics said that the movie’s ideas about Islam and [religious] conversion appeared to have come from hate-filled WhatsApp groups.
Audiences of The Kerela Story have praised and criticised the film, respectively, from various social groups. The “Kerala Story” has now sparked a major political uproar throughout the nation. While some states have made the movie tax-free, others have outrightly condemned it and proposed to ban it. It appears to be a point of disagreement between the states governed by the BJP and the opposition parties. A number of political organisations and parties, including the TMC, INC, and DMK, as well as some Muslim political groups, have been condemning the release of the film.
Also, Read Israeli Filmmaker Nadav Lapid Sparks Outrage in India after calling <em>The Kashmir Files</em> “Vulgar Propaganda”
West Bengal on The Kerela Story
West Bengal is one of the first states that has banned the controversial movie. It is West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee herself that has imposed a ban on the Sudipto Sen-directed movie “The Kerala Story.” “This is to avoid any incident of hatred and violence, and to maintain peace in the state. What is ‘The Kashmir Files?’ it is to humiliate one section. What is ‘The Kerala Story? It is a distorted story,” Banerjee said.
However, The Kerala Story is currently playing across the nation without incident, thus the Supreme Court today demanded to know why film was being banned in West Bengal.
The West Bengal government responded to the Supreme Court’s order banning the screening of the movie “The Kerala Story” in the state on Tuesday. The government defended themselves by claiming that the movie contains hate speech and is based on fabricated information, which may cause racial strife and problems with law and order in the state.
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Tamil Nadu on The Kerela Story
In the state of Tamil Nadu, The Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association decided to halt the film’s screening on Sunday as “a precautionary measure”. The action has been taken to uphold law and order and safeguard their properties against forces opposed to the movie’s subject. Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners’ Association president Tiruppur M. Subramaniam said, “The film has been taken out of almost all theatres. The film was screened only in the cities. Since it is a Hindi film and has no recognisable faces, it will not have patronage.”
Also, read UN Defender Demands End to Crackdown on Kashmiri Activists
Madhya Pradesh and Kerela on The Kerela Story
On the other hand, the state of the BJP-ruled state of Madhya Pradesh has made the film tax-free. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said “The film shows how the (life of) daughters who get entangled in the trap of love jihad gets destroyed. It also exposes the design of terrorism. While we have already brought a law against (forced) conversion, the film creates awareness about the issue. This film should be watched by all and that’s why the Madhya Pradesh government is declaring the film tax-free.”
Moreover, the Kerala High Court has refused to ban the release of the movie stating that the film is “inspired by true events”.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that The Kerela Story has gained the support of senior members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gave it a favourable review at a recent political rally. Additionally, some party members have held screenings and given away free tickets.
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What the Filmmakers of The Kerela Story Have to Say?
Sudipto Sen, the Kerala Story’s director, claimed that the film’s objective goes beyond the purview of traditional cinematic creativity. Additionally, he claimed that the nation had long been in denial about the long-running Kerala problem. Sen told a group of Indian American reporters during a virtual news conference that “The country was in denial of the long-existing issue in the state of Kerala. The Kerala Story is a mission which is beyond the creative boundaries of cinema, a movement that should reach the masses all over the world and raise awareness,”.
“The film’s subject was hidden from the masses and deserved to be told. We made the film to initiate deliberation worldwide,” said the producer of the film, Vipul Shah.
“This is a very bold, honest and true film which in the beginning got no support, today stands at the point of releasing worldwide with a spectacular box office success in just 6 days,” added Vipul Shah.
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The Kerela Story draws Parallels with The Kashmir Files
The Kashmir Files, another controversial film with deep polarising representation of Kashmiri Muslims, that became one of last year’s biggest hits from Bollywood, has been compared to The Kerala Story. That movie, which focused on the 1990s exodus of Hindus from Kashmir, had a small production cost and no big actors, and was praised by Mr. Modi and other BJP leaders despite receiving mixed reviews.
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Zionist hate march in Arab East-Jerusalem Reminiscent of the Skokie Nazi march- 1978
I am not particularly infatuated with holding comparisons between religious Zionism and Nazi ideology. However, When I see with my eyes and hear with my ears thousands of religious Zionists who claim to be followers of Moses (peace upon him) shout in a hate march “death to Arabs” in the streets of an Arab-Muslim town, then I must call the spade a spade.
What is more outrageous is that the Israeli political establishment tolerates and tacitly encourages this hatred which reminds us of Kristallnacht.
I know such comparisons are annoying for many Jews. But is this my fault? Should I compare this repulsive racism and hateful incitement to Mother Teresa’s charitable work in India?
In July 1978, the American Social Nationalist party (the Nazi party) announced it would organize a march of several hundred members to the small predominantly Jewish town of Skokie in the suburbs of Chicago.
The planned march was widely seen as a brazen provocation. Not the least by Skokie’s Jewish inhabitants, many of them are Holocaust survivors.
Many non-Jewish people from all over the United States voiced their solidarity with the town. Their solidarity came as vociferous demonstrations were held in Chicago and other places in protest against the despicable Nazi feat.
Despite the negative publicity and widespread opposition to the planned march, a Federal District judge allowed the march to proceed if certain conditions and restrictions were met. Moreover, the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) voiced its strong support for the march on the basis of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US constitution.
Eventually, the US Supreme Court declined to stay the order of Federal District Judge George N. Leighton, allowing the Nazis to demonstrate at Skokie. This, coupled with other factors. The factors including imposing a hefty fee on the organizers led to the cancellation of the march in Skokie.
This really brought a sigh of relief to anti-fascism forces, not only in the US but all over the world.
Hate March in Jerusalem: “death to Arabs“
I was still a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma when the Skokie story dominated Prime-time newscasts on the three major American TV networks namely ABC, CBS and NBC.
In class discussion, I remember I expressed my complete solidarity with the people of Skokie, especially its estimated 700 Holocaust survivors. After all, the Nazis were behaving beyond Chutzpah and adding insult to injury towards these people, who had survived despite history.
“Death to Arabs” means “death to Arabs,” not “death to Martians.”
Today, we are once again being affronted by another Skokie-style hate march. Last week, an Israeli court allowed extremist Jewish fanatics to hold a provocative rally in Arab-East Jerusalem, still under the Israel military occupation since 1967.
Last year, participants in the annual so-called “Jerusalem Day,”/a hate march marking the annual anniversary of the occupation of the Arab-Islamic holy city, cursed the Prophet of Islam (may peace be upon him), shouted “mavet le Arabim” or death to the Arabs, and called for the expulsion of Muslims and Christians from Palestine.
Read More: Israel is and will always be a crime against humanity
God knows that using epithets like fanatics and extremists to describe these haters is a serious understatement and a scandalous trivialization of reality.
However, we all must understand that there are limits to the use of euphemisms to communicate an otherwise ugly reality.
The world didn’t lecture Jews on how to relate to their tormenters and grave-diggers. Likewise, we will not allow anyone to dictate to us how we should relate to our own tormentors and grave-diggers. After all, death to the Arabs means death to the Arabs, not death to Martians.
Government of settlers, for settlers, and by settlers
The Israeli government thinks twice before upsetting these fanatics/religious Zionists who adopt a decidedly toxic ideology, based on a venomous combination of racism, bigotry, hatred, violence, vindictiveness, and ethno-religious superiority against Arabs.
Many of them are graduates of Talmudic schools known as “Yeshivot” which indoctrinates them in the genocidal, racist ideology of religious Zionism.
Interestingly, these extremists/ religious-Zionist constitute the main electoral base for right-wing Israeli parties, including Yamina, the party of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet.
Hence, Bennet is very careful not to alienate them.
Read: RABBIS WHO BRING SHAME TO JUDAISM
The ideology of Religious Zionism (RZ), the official ideology of Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, has been dominant in Israel ever since the Likud reached power for the first time in 1977. It is much more than just racist against non-Jews. It is actually more or less genocidal. I wouldn’t go that far if I didn’t know what I was talking about.
In May 2007, Mordechai Elyahu, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel, issued an edict that would permit the Israeli army to murder hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Arabs.
“If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand. And if they don’t stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000. Even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop.”
Also Read: Israel has killed 55 Palestinian journalists since 2000
Humane Jewish traditions
I don’t believe that this repulsive extremism represents true Judaism, the Judaism that is based on the Ten Commandments.
Jewish traditions relate the story of a heathen who came to Shammai with the request to be accepted as a convert on the condition that he was taught the whole Torah while he stood on one foot. Shammai drove him away with the yard-stick he was holding. Then the man went to Hillel with the same request. Hillel told the man “what is hateful to yourself don’t do to your fellow human being. That is the whole of the Torah and the rest is commentary.”
Unfortunately, the rabbis of religious Zionism, including the so-called Chabadim who have effectively replaced the Torah with a notoriously racist manual called “Hatanya,” pay no attention to such traditions. And when they are reminded of them, they arrogantly claim that words such as “man” or “human being” refer solely and exclusively to the “Jew.”
Earlier this week, the Bennet government refused an American request to reconsider the route of the planned March. One Palestinian official commented on this matter, saying “If Israel could say “No” to its guardian-ally, on such a small and trivial matter, and with the utmost contempt, it should be absolutely futile to expect the US to pressure Israel to end the occupation and allow for the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state.
Israel is and will always be a crime against humanity
Israel, the misbegotten Zionist entity, on Wednesday, May 5 celebrated the 74th anniversary of its birthday, an allusion to the usurpation by brutal military force of the Arab-Muslim land of Palestine.
In the process, Zionist gangs, armed and funded by wealthy Jews and colonialist Western powers, such as the UK, carried out a well-devised terrorist campaign of indiscriminate murder and violence against the virtually-unarmed and defenseless Palestinian community, during which dozens of hideous massacres, like Dir Yasin, were perpetrated by Zionist gangs, like the Hagana, Irgun, Stern, and others.
Also Read: The most brutal massacres of the “Zionist gangs” in Palestine in 1948
The grisly atrocities forced the vast majority of Palestine’s population at that time, in 1948, to flee their villages lest they face the same fate that the people of Dir Yasin, Tantura, Dawaymeh, and many other hamlets and villages had just faced.
The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948, when 130 Jewish terrorists from the paramilitary terror groups of Irgun and Lehi stormed Dir Yasin near Jerusalem and murdered 107 Palestinian civilians. Other sources, like New York Times, put the number of victims at 200.
Also Read: Israel having free season on Palestinian civilians including Children and Journalists
In his Memoirs, the Rvolt, Menachem Begin, the head of the Irgun terror group, who eventually became Israel’s Prime minister, described the Dir Yasin massacre as a real miracle because it cast terror in the hearts of the Palestinian populace, prompting them to leave. Even before Dir Yasin, Begin was branded by the British government as “leader of the notorious terrorist organization and banned from entering the UK.”
Since Dir Yasin 74 years ago, Zionist massacres of Palestinians have never really stopped as successive Zionist governments retained and maintained the original Zionist strategy toward the people of Palestine. This genocidal strategy was aimed at achieving three main goals: Expulsion of the bulk of Palestinians. (There are 7 million Palestinian refugees today), enslaving Palestinians as as “water carriers and wood hewers,” (apartheid), or outright physical extermination. This is not propaganda or media hypes. This is the un-official but authentic ideology of the ruling Zionist establishment, even today.
Also Read: Religious Fascism in India & Israel: Tweedledum and Tweedledee
In 1967, Israel launched the 6-days war, during which it seized the rest of mandatory Palestine, namely the West Bank which was under the Jordanian rule, and the Gaza Strip, under the Egyptian rule. Thus, Islam’s first Qibla and third holiest religious place, al-Aqsqa, fell under the Zionist occupation.
When East Jerusalem was seized from Jordan, the Israeli army’s rabbi Moshe Goren, strongly advised army generals to blow up the gold-gilded Dome of the Rock, which is part of the Aqsa Mosque. However, a prominent general refused to heed Goren’s exhortations.
Ever since that time, Israel transferred hundreds of thousands of its citizens into the West Bank to live on land that belongs to another people. The purpose of this criminal act is to re-enact the White settlements of the defunct apartheid regime in South Africa and former Rhodesia as well as the Russian demographic presence in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, pending the annexation of the territory and possible expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.
Also Read: Palestine-Vs. Ukraine: Stark Western hypocrisy on Palestine and Ukraine
Numerous UN resolutions were issued, ruling that the settlements were illegal and in a brazen violation of international law. Furthermore, Israel consistently refused to consider the West Bank as an occupied territory, insisting that the region was a “disputed” rather than “occupied” land. The Israeli defiance of the UN and its Security Council’s resolutions is attributed to the almost total American submission to the Zionist entity.
A few years ago during a televised debate with an Israeli official, I confronted him with the settlements problem as he claimed that it was Israel that really wanted peace and that the Palestinians were the party that displayed intransigence. I asked him rather tersely if he thought that a peace-loving country would build 300 colonies on occupied territories and transfer hundreds of thousands of its citizens to live on land that didn’t belong to them. He was dumbfounded.
Clearly, the brazen Israeli insolence and arrogance of power stem from the absolute, unlimited, and total backing the Jewish state receives from the United States due to the overwhelming influence of American Jewry on the US government, congress, and political life in America.
Also Read: “Jewish State”: A Nazi Concept Implying another final Nakba
I remember one American writer saying half-jokingly that the Palestinians will not be liberated from the Israeli occupation until America is freed from Zionist domination. The Zionist stranglehold on the American government was described amply and analyzed elaborately by the late Jewish intellectual Alfred Lilienthal in his monumental book “The Zionist Connection: What price peace.”
The Palestinians remain the ultimate reversioner
Despite its military might, economic prosperity, and international connections, Israel still lacks the legal and moral legitimacy.
In ancient times and the Middle Ages, military conquests gave conquerors sovereignty over occupied territories. However, in the modern era, sovereignty, especially de jure sovereignty, can not be acquired or gained through war. Otherwise, the occupation by Nazi Germany of 8 European states would have been perfectly legal and compatible with international law. The same thing applies to the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait nearly 30 years ago. The same thing can be said about the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
So what makes the Israeli occupation of Palestine, both in 1948 and 1967, different from the Nazi occupation of Europe, the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, and the Russian occupation of Ukraine. In truth, Israel and the Zionist movement have no convincing answer for this crucial question. Instead, they indulge in legalistic sophistry, historical prevarication, and verbal juggling
Also Read: Israel should stop trying to force-feed the Holocaust down people’s throats as bloody repression of Palestinians goes on unabated
Some Zionist apologists try to outsmart themselves by arguing that Israel came under attack and that the occupied territory were won in a war of self-defense.
However, international law experts make it very clear that coming under attack gives a country the right to repel the attack, but not occupy territories. Thus, the acquisition of territory by military force is absolutely illegal under the international law. This is the reason most countries don’t recognize Israeli sovereignty over both East and West Jerusalem as the city, indeed the entirety of Palestine was conquered by military force, which gave Israel only a de facto sovereignty, but no de Jure sovereign whatsoever.
Needless to say, authentic de jure sovereignty would require all the normal qualifications of sovereignty, which Israel obviously lacks.
Hence, Israel should be viewed as a belligerent occupying power, irrespective of how many countries recognize it and have diplomatic and economic relations with it.
According to Hal Draper ” At the present time Israel is a belligerent occupant of the city (Jerusalem) and is bound by the laws governing such occupation.”
Headly Cook, an international law expert believes that Israel among all countries of the world possesses not a single inch of territory which she could assuredly proclaim to be her own in perpetuity.(2)
This is why, Palestinians, and Muslims in general, are strongly advised not to ascribe any legal or moral legitimacy to Israel, an entity that has been and continues to be a crime against humanity. (end)
(1) Draper, Hal. the Status of Jerusalem, p. 163
(2)” (Cook, Headly, Israel: A blessing and Curse, London 1960, p. 168)
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