DOUBLE STANDARDS

On Monday it was announced that the accommodation website Airbnb intends to blacklist Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria because they are built on so-called occupied territories on the West Bank. On the surface this seems fair.

There has been a concentrated campaign drawing attention to Airbnb listings on the occupied territories. Questions have been posed regarding Airbnb’s legal position in profiting from the rentals. If the residences have been built illegally according to international law, there is also a moral argument against listing them and allowing the owners to profit from their construction.AirbnbAirbnb faced an intensive attack over a number of years, including threats of being listed in the forthcoming UN HRC ‘blacklist’, boycotts and other forms of negative publicity. In the press release announcing its move, the company acknowledged that offering listings in West Bank ‘settlements’ was not illegal: this clearly indicates that its decision was the result of political pressure. Continue reading “DOUBLE STANDARDS”

INFAMY, INFAMY

There is no pride in being a particular nationality. Why should I be proud that I am Scottish? After all, my supreme achievement in bringing that about was being born, and I wasn’t consulted about that. There are times, however, when we can be embarrassed about our nationality.

When some Scot does or says something stupid we can cringe. When Mary Bain Lockhart, Scottish Labour councillor for Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty in Fife,pronounces her considered opinion on serious matters of internal Labour disputes and geo-politics we want to pull the bedcovers over our heads and pretend we are Latvian, Chinese, Zulu, anything but Scottish.

Lockhart
                                                                                            Mary Bain Lockhart

Continue reading “INFAMY, INFAMY”

THE BITER BIT

It happens so rarely that on those exceptional instances when a politician clearly says what they mean he or she should be applauded. The higher up the greasy pole a politician climbs the more the tongue is guarded for fear of giving offence. It is easy to get the impression that presidents or prime ministers consult focus groups before ordering breakfast and if they ask for muesli will almost immediately issue an apology to, ‘all those hardworking people who begin the day with cornflakes’.

Many thought that the end of WWII put the nail into the coffin of anti-Semitism. We were mistaken. There has been an alarming rise of anti-Semitic attacks in countries across Europe. These range from verbal abuse all the way up to the murder last month of three Jewish people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels by a Kalachnikov toting jihadist.

jewish-cemetery

Political leaders say they are aware of the problem of anti-Semitism and are determined to act. In November, French President François Hollande said that ‘the struggle against anti-Semitism is a top priority’. Angela Merkel used the same words a few weeks later in Germany. In the beginning of December, after a spike in verbal and physical anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, David Cameron said that he wanted to ‘tackle anti-Semitism head on’.

Little, however, has actually been done to confront the core of the issue. The reason most politicians limit themselves to platitudes about this appalling situation is fear of giving offence to those who uphold the source of these attacks. It is generally accepted, but rarely stated, that the rise in such attacks in Europe is largely due to the rise of Islam in Europe.

Milos Zeman President of the Czech Republic
Milos Zeman
President of the Czech Republic

Czech president Milos Zeman, however, is made of sterner stuff. He went to the heart of the matter and confronted the source of much of today’s European anti-Semitism, the teaching of the Koran. ‘I am not reassured by the claims that this is the work of only a small fringe group. Quite the contrary. I believe that xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism stems from the essential ideology that these fanatical groups are based on.’

‘And let me provide a proof of this assertion in a quote from one of its sacred texts. “The Jews will hide behind stones and trees. Then the tree will call out, ‘A Jew hides behind me, come and kill him.’ The stone will call out, ‘A Jew hides behind me, come and kill him.”’

Naturally this aroused a howl of protest and demands for a retraction and an apology. Iyad Madani, Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, was quickly off the mark. Madani labelled the Czech president ‘Islamophobic’ and said that ‘Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance’. Perhaps he was under the impression that current events in Nigeria, Iraq, Kenya and numerous other countries had been perpetrated by rogue Quakers.

Madani who makes such an impassioned claim of tolerance is based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a country where no churches or synagogues may be built and where non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the city of Mecca. A 2010-2011 textbook on Islamic Studies issued by the Saudi Ministry of Education states: ‘They are the people of the Sabbath, whose young people God turned into apes, and whose old people God turned into swine to punish them. As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews, the keepers of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christian infidels of the communion of Jesus.’

The OIC press release continued, ‘It is only appropriate that President Milōs Zeman apologizes to the millions of Muslims worldwide for his deeply offensive and hateful anti Islam statements’.

President Zeman is clearly a politician of a different stamp. Instead of making an apology his spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček issued a statement saying:‘President Zeman definitely does not intend to apologise. For the president would consider it blasphemy to apologise for the quotation of a sacred Islamic text.’

WHY ISRAEL?

There is no lack of vile regimes which subjugate their own citizens and spread terror abroad. This is especially true of the Middle East where there appears to be little to choose between hereditary dictatorships, military juntas and Islamo-Fascist theocracies. Democracy is a fragile flower in even the best of Arab countries.

A report issued by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) this week criticized the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas for assaults on human rights and freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The report lists cases of torture and mistreatment in PA and Hamas prisons. ICHR pointed particularly to an increase in the number of torture cases in prisons belonging to the PA’s much-feared Preventive Security Service in the West Bank.

It appears that during January alone ICHR received 56 complaints about torture and mistreatment in Palestinian prisons: 36 in the Gaza Strip and 19 in the West Bank. In addition, they received innumerable complaints about arbitrary and unlawful arrests of Palestinians by the PA and Hamas.

Palestinian Police Deal with Peacfull Protestors In Ramallah
Palestinian Police Deal with Peacefull Protestors In Ramallah

The PA police force have a rather direct way with demonstrators. On January 12, 2014, PA policemen used force to break up a protest by Palestinian youths north of Ramallah. Between 60-70 protesters, the report states, were wounded in the head and legs after policemen attacked them with clubs and stun grenades. According to the report on January 28, 2014, PA policemen used live ammunition to disperse stone-throwers in the centre of Ramallah.

You must remember watching the TV news reports about this and reading about it in the newspapers. Perhaps if you missed these you picked it up on the BBC Radio 4 documentary about conditions in Gaza and the West Bank. No?

Don’t beat yourself up. There was no media coverage of the report, just as there is little media coverage of corruption in the Palestine Authority. An EU report found that financial corruption in the PA led to the ‘loss’ of aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the period 2008 to 2012 amounting to around €2 billion.

Yet we all know, because we are constantly told so, that the bad boy in the Middle East and the cause of all the suffering of the Palestinian people is Israel.

Why in a world replete with corrupt and violent regimes should our progressive elites demonise the one regime in the Middle East which actually dares to be democratic? Arab citizens of Israel enjoy more human and political rights than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East. They serve in the Knesset, in the Judiciary, in the Foreign Service, in higher education, and in business. They are free to criticize Israel and to support its enemies. Israeli universities are hot beds of anti-Israel rhetoric, advocacy and even teaching.

Moreover, anyone—Jew, Muslim or Christian—dissatisfied with Israeli actions can express that dissatisfaction in the courts, and in the media, both at home and abroad. This freedom does not exist in any Arab country, nor in many non-Arab countries.

Yet it is Israel alone which is being threatened with boycott, disinvestment and sanctions. Israel and the plight of the Palestinians have become the progressive cause de jour.

There are many reasons held in varying degrees, none having much to do with the facts. There is the herd mentality. Our fiercely individualistic progressives have evolved into what Harold Rosenburg termed a ‘herd of independent minds’.

Long before Rosenburg, Thomas Huxley (Darwin’s Bulldog) wrestled with the inherent contradiction between  man’s ‘innate tendency to self-assertion … as the condition of victory in the struggle for existence and the obvious fact that in the struggle for survival loners are losers and individuals who banded together increased their chances of survival.’ Huxley came to the conclusion that the glue holding individuals together in a group is the collective shaming code.

The shared code binds members of the group as one.  They share disgust, anger, delight and shame of the same things. The unanimity of their visceral response provides a powerful sense of collective identity. They become the tribal ‘Us’, as opposed to those tribes who are not disgusted, angered or shamed as ‘We’ are. A group sharing a powerful visceral code inhibiting the natural tendency of the individual to self-assertion presents a united front against its enemies. To step outside that group is a betrayal of the group, more importantly it is a betrayal of one’s identity.

There are also the great many armchair warriors. Sitting in suburbia or a student union bar the armchair warrior can obtain the thrill of engagement merely by voicing support for the Palestinians. There need be no actual engagement but virtual participation brings with it a sense of taking part in the struggle. North Americans of supposedly Irish descent found the same in their support of Irish terrorism, a dollar in the collecting tin for the ‘bhoys’ and they were on the front line, never mind the innocent shoppers blown to bits by bombs.

Israel is far from perfect but when criticism is focussed on a state with strong democratic credentials, and that nation happens to be the state of the Jewish people, the suspicion of bigotry must be considered. Declarations that ‘I’m not anti-Semitic but ant-Zionist’, sound alarmingly like those statements beginning, ‘I’m not a racist, but …’

No Anti-Semitism Here, Move Along
No Anti-Semitism Here, Move Along

Dr Martin Luther King said: ‘Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so.’

Despite Dr king’s assertion it is possible to be anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic, but it is increasingly difficult especially when the side you support has a view of the Jews which would get Hitler’s stamp of approval. Your position is seriously undermined when the people you support or work alongside are virulently anti-Semitic.

Cliff Hanley believes 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy; Sammi Ibrahem supports the Holocaust and refers to the Nazis as “martyrs”; Ellie Merton reckons the Breivik massacre in Norway was ‘an Israeli Govt sponsored operation’; and Gill Kaffash believes the Holocaust is a lie. The common factor? They have all chaired or held other prominent positions in the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organisation which makes the barking mad BNP seem like a group of hand-wringing moderates.

There is also the anti-colonialist’s self-hatred. At the end of the day the problem with the Israeli’s is that they are just too like us.

THANK GOD FOR ATHEISTS

You can always count on them. Subtlety is not their hallmark. Atheists can always be counted on to overstep the mark.

Take the flag-bearer of atheist fundamentalism, Richard Dawkins. In The God Delusion Dawkins lays a source of Hitler’s insanity on the fact that he was a Catholic. This is a claim which even our rust complexioned compatriots across the Irish Sea would hesitate to make. It could be said with greater accuracy that Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox were Catholics. The atheist Hitler was born and began his political career in a social milieu where Catholicism was the folk religion, nothing more. Martin Luther and the other Reformers were, at one time, conviction Catholics.

But give them an opportunity and today’s atheists cannot resist the temptation to score an own goal. Thoughtful restraint does not loom large on their psychological horizons. The latest screaming insanity from the atheist front line comes from Ohio. This is a large chunk of real estate in the Midwest USA with a population of 11.5 million, most of whom are relatively sane.

Ohio Statehouse
Ohio Statehouse

The local branch of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a die-hard bunch of fundamentalist atheists, has demanded that a Star of David be removed from a monument proposed for the Statehouse in Columbus, a Holocaust memorial. FFRF argue that others and not just Jews died in the Holocaust.

Six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis simply and solely because they were Jews and the atheists of Ohio launch a campaign because the proposed memorial features an instantly recognisable symbol of Judaism, the Star of David.

The cut out six pointed star is to be incorporated in the memorial by Daniel Libeskind not to proclaim Jewish religious belief but to invoke, among other things, memories of the badge that the Nazis compelled Jews to wear on their clothing to identify themselves, the revival of a vile practice going back to the Middle Ages.

jude-star-of-david-jpg

Others fed the ovens, but none more than the Jews. Others were victims, but only the Jews en masse because of their racial identity. The Holocaust marks the ultimate in racism, and a bunch of atheists, so wrapped up in their own obsession, wish to remove the mark of that racism. The proposition that you can have a Holocaust memorial without reference to Judaism is a preposterous insult.

There is no movement deploying pseudo-scholarship and conspiracy theories, which seeks to deny Nazi crimes against Slavs, gypsies, homosexuals, the handicapped — and, indeed, Christians. Holocaust denial has the specific meaning of minimizing, covering up, or altogether denying the reality of the war against the Jews, a war that animated Hitler from the very outset of his political career and played a large part in German military planning and strategy even to the last days of World War II. This is a form of Holocaust denial lite.

We can ridicule them, poke fun at their inanities, pick holes in their flimsy arguments, point out their prejudices and bigotry, but we can also just let the talk. Eventually they will find themselves with a gun and a foot and will be unable to resist. Thank God for atheists.

Free Speech

A judgement of the Supreme Court of the United States on Wednesday protected the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church to continue its nauseous activities. For the past twenty years Westboro has regularly picketed military funerals with “God Hate Fags” signs.

Those Cigarettes Will Kill You

Give them their due the members of Westboro Baptist Church do not discriminate in their discrimination. They are of the opinion that God hates a great many people. Seemingly He has it in for the entire Roman Catholic Church because of priestly abuse.

Westboro also pickets synagogues because God apparently also hates Jews, pity about His Son. According to Fred Phelps the pastor of the church “Homosexuals and Jews dominated Nazi Germany … The Jews now wander the earth despised, smitten with moral and spiritual blindness by a divine judicial stroke … And God has smitten Jews with a certain unique madness … Jews, thus perverted, out of all proportion to their numbers energise the militant sodomite agenda… Jews are the real Nazis.” We are clearly not dealing with Mensa material here.

In 2006, in the incident that led to the court case, Westboro members travelled all the way from Topeka, Kansas to Maryland solely in order to picket the funeral of Matthew Snyder, a Marine Corps Lance Corporal killed in Iraq. We must admit that this 71 member church, mostly the Phelps family, are sincerely dedicated in their vitriol. Their annual travel budget for the purposes of picketing amounts to more than $250,000.

In accordance with local law the Westboro pickets stood on public land 1,000 feet from the church where Snyder’s funeral was held. They displayed signs stating: “Thank God for dead soldiers,” Thank God for IEDs,” “FAGS doom nations” (falsely implying that Snyder was homosexual), “God hates you,” “America is doomed,” “Priests rape boys,” and “You are going to hell.”

Snyder’s father sued the church in the state court for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a jury held Westboro liable, with damages subsequently reduced to $5 million. At some point free speech becomes criminal harassment.

Yesterday, in an 8–1 decision, a Supreme Court held that as the protesters were speaking to a matter of public concern, had engaged in no violence, and were following the instructions of local law-enforcement officers, the church is not liable to pay damages to the grieving father.

Supreme Court Justice John G Roberts Jr, who wrote the judgment, endorsed the First Amendment’s protection of even distasteful expression. Roberts called “startling and dangerous” the government’s argument that the value of certain categories of speech should be weighed against their societal costs when protecting free speech.

The one dissenting voice in the decision was that of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr who argued, “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”

The activities of the Westboro Baptist Church are repellent and are rejected by most decent people. They are especially abhorrent to Christians as this abuse was perpetrated in the name of Christ.

Most have little idea of the complexities of American constitutional law. We are, however, confronted with general questions. Was such a judgement necessary in order to protect free speech with regard to public issues? Must we view this case as a choice between: a) abandon free speech or b) accept the most hateful speech imaginable directed at the most innocent parties at their moment of greatest vulnerability?

When does free speech becomes hate speech? Is it when individuals are offended, or perhaps when they are distressed, or maybe when they are brought to tears? Perhaps it is when a group are held in expressed disregard liable to expose them to rejection by others? Could it be when the speech offends against the held morality of the majority of the people constituting the state?

The fundamental questions is: Do we have free speech when its freedoms are only applied to those with whom we agree?

In this case, much as I dislike saying so, I think that the Supreme Court got it right. I personally find the activities of British totalitarian organisations such as the BNP and Hizb-ut-Tahir abhorrent. In order to freely express my abhorrence of such groups and those who share their philosophy I feel morally obliged to allow them freedom to express their squalid beliefs.

In the 19th century Thomas Chalmers the great Scottish evangelical leader took the unpopular step of arguing for Catholic emancipation. He did this on the grounds of strengthening the institutional church. When challenged about dangerous errors in Catholicism he replied that if he had the Bible in his hand error would always be defeated.

Another False Equivalency

I have now had a chance to read the full text of Baroness Warsi’s speech at Leicester University. In it she makes positive references to Christianity and Judaism for which we should be grateful. I particularly appreciated her statement that faith and reason go hand in hand. This is an area where many in the Church have bought into the strident accusations of the increasingly intolerant Dawkins and his ilk and retreated from reason into blind spirituality.

However, and more worryingly, Baroness Warsi clearly attempts to equate Judaism with Islam and Islamophobia with anti-Semitism.  It is true that certain passages in the Old Testament have pretty drastic punishments for adultery, Sabbath breaking, being disobedient to parents etc. Whilst I would admit that at times I have had a sneaking appreciation of Lev 20:9, stoning to death for unruly children would seem to be a somewhat radical solution to the problem.

Whilst death is not unknown as the punishment for adultery under Islam today when was the last time anyone was put to death under Judaism for adultery or Sabbath breaking? Are these punishments which are advocated by main stream Judaism, or any form of Judaism, today? Can anyone seriously imagine Lord Sachs, the chief Rabbi, standing up and demanding the death penalty for someone who spoke slightingly of Moses? The experience of Salman Rushdie shows us that Islamic leaders here in the UK as well as in Iran are willing to do just that if anyone speaks less than respectfully of Mohammed.

Judaism has more than two millennia of rabbinical mediation by which they interpret such passages. Islam doesn’t. The insinuation that Islam is no more a danger to western values such a liberty, human rights and democracy than is Judaism is a clear distortion of the evidence. There is a totalitarian element in Islam which does not exist in Judaism.

The equation of Islamophobia with Jew-hatred is false, they are not equivalent. The prime example of anti-Semitism is of course Nazi Germany. There Jews were held in suspicion because, although thought of as ‘aliens’ by the Nazis, they had so successfully integrated. The great danger they posed was held to be that they were trying to become indistinguishable from ‘true’ Germans.

This is why they enacted the notorious Nuremberg Laws prohibiting intermarriage and sexual relations between Jews and Aryans, forbidding Jews to practice certain professions etc. The great crime of the Jews in the eyes of the Nazi’s was that they had too successfully integrated into German society.

Any suspicion of Islam in the West today is fuelled by the impression that many Muslims simply refuse to integrate. There is not only a determination to maintain their religion, a determination most Christians share, but there is a determination to maintain the sometimes medieval cultural standards of the rural Middle East and Asia which most reject.

A phobia is an unreasoning fear of something. Those who are wary of Islam are not Islamophobic. I am sure that most people in the UK couldn’t care less what or how Muslims worship. However, they have every reason to be suspicious of a theological and cultural ideology which desires to radically alter our way of life.

You can have no idea how much this pains me but if we were to accept Baroness Warsi’s understanding of Islamophobia then I would forced to admit, probably for the first time in my life, that I agree with Polly Toynbee, “I am an Islamophobe, and proud of it.”