Saturday, July 30, 2005
Does anyone else remember coming across 'The Socialist Sixth of the World' by Hewlett Johnson, the 'Red Dean of Canterbury', in second-hand bookshops? Browsing through it I came across a phrase which has stuck with me ever since: he says he was struck by 'the complete absence of fear in the faces of the people' - he is talking about his visit to Stalin's Soviet Union! The conjunction of good intentions and hopeless gullibility is a well-established tradition within politicized Anglicanism.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
A response to 'Dialogue is the only way to end this cycle of violence' by Jonathan Glover (Guardian, 27 July 2005)
'Jonathan Glover teaches human values and contemporary global ethics at King's College London' it says at the bottom of his article. Oh dear. Ruminating on how 'human values and contemporary global ethics' might differ from plain, boring old ethics, I'm reminded of how, in the days of the Cold War, a 'Democratic Republic' was one with no democracy, a 'People's Republic' was one where the people had no say, and the 'Democratic People's Republic of Korea' was (and is) possibly the vilest tyranny on earth.
I digress. Moral equivalence is, predictably, the name of Mr Glover's game. Like this:
'Several years ago there were two episodes between Israelis and Palestinians. Pictures went round the world showing a 12-year-old Palestinian boy crouching behind his father, trying to avoid the Israeli bullets that killed him. A week or two later two young Israeli men crossed a boundary into Palestinian territory. They were killed, torn apart by an angry crowd.
'We feel the horror and the tragedy of these events. But the tragedy has an extra dimension. The Palestinian narrative will remember the first episode and the Israeli one the second. The stories reinforce the stereotypes that maintain the conflict. ("They deliberately kill our children." "They are savages.")'
Six of one, half a dozen of the other - so simple. Why do Israeli soldiers open fire in the Occupied Territories? Basically, because they are operating against organizations which try to kill Israeli Jews as a means to destroying to destroying the Israeli state. It is plainly the case that innocent people frequently get killed as a result, and that not everything which could be done is done to avoid such deaths.
Why, on the other hand, were the two Israelis 'torn apart'? In a nutshell, because they didn't look like Arabs and must therefore have been Jews. A racist lynching. End of story. But from the standpoint of contemporary global ethics there is no difference - just two 'stories'.
Or this old chestnut: 'We allowed Falluja to be destroyed like Guernica.' In our contemporary global ethics, you see, there is no difference at all between fascists bombing a defenceless city in the process of overthrowing a democratic republic, and the forces of a democratic republic bombarding a stronghold of the fascists who will stop at nothing to strangle Iraqi democracy at birth.
'Dialogue is the only way to end this cycle of violence', says the headline. Well, yes and no. Seeking a parallel to the Islamists' resentments, Mr Glover tells us that 'The anger that blazes through Mein Kampf was a backlash against the humiliations of the 1918 defeat and subsequent peace.'
Dialogue with the author in question didn't exactly get Neville Chamberlain very far, did it, Mr Glover? Or is the idea that we should have kept on talking - when Poland was invaded; when France was invaded; when Coventry was bombed; when the Soviet Union was invaded; when Auschwitz opened its gates?
Mr Glover's prescription for a thoroughly contemporary Munich goes like this:
'Tackling the deep psychology of conflict involves persuading groups to listen to each other's stories and to look for the possibility of a narrative that does justice to the truths in both...
'What is needed is not a one-sided dialogue in which "we" undermine "their" fanaticism...
'The right kind of talk opens chinks that let in doubts. And in religion and politics doubts about beliefs save lives.'
Well, I don't claim to be more than a layman in the field of human values and contemporary global ethics, but it seems to me we're tied up in knots here. For our value system (and no, the absence of ironic quotation marks around the possessive pronoun is not accidental) is already founded on the acceptance of doubt. You doubt that my religion has anything to do with God? Find yourself one that suits you. You doubt that Tony Blair is telling you the truth? Vote for Michael Howard, or George Galloway, or whoever takes your fancy. You doubt that my blog is anything more than the ravings of an obsessive nutter? Find yourself a better one.
Whereas their value system (again, no quotes) isn't. So what happens when we talk? If we come to the table convinced that doubt is the key, we are going to have to try to persuade them to think more like us - oops, cultural imperialism, can't have that. But if we come doubting our doubt and they come certain of their certainty, we may as well run up the white flag straight away and ask them exactly which variant of Sharia law they want us to introduce and how they would like us to dispose of our Jews.
And yes, we do need to talk - but not to the terrorists - not now. We need to talk warmly and supportively to Muslims who, seeing western pluralism and tolerance as virtues to be practised and not exploited, are already part of ‘us’. We need to talk sensitively and persuasively to decent, peaceful Muslims caught between two cultures, making no bones about the fact that we are not perfect and all too often betray our own values. And once we have helped mainstream western Islam to clarify its values, insulate itself from the appeal of terrorism, and embrace its status as one of the component groups of a plural society, with the rights and responsibilities that implies - then we can find a way for the radicals to save face without actually getting the things that, at the moment, they think they want.
Easy to say. Not so easy to do. The talking needs to happen at every possible level. For churchgoers like me, for instance, it means developing contacts with the local mosque, and there are good and bad ways of doing that. The wrong way is the soft option of getting together to congratulate each other on believing in God and tut-tut about how awful George Bush is. The right way involves, sooner or later, engaging honestly with each other at the level of core values – much less comfortable.
'Talk will not stop the killing tomorrow. But we need long-term thinking too.' says Mr Glover, and on this we can agree. But if we are to get there without surrendering our basic values we face blood, sweat and tears in the short to medium term, and we will need more than doubt to see us through it.
and now the e-mails...
Thanks for thinking of us. I'm sorry but we're not going to use it.
One of the things that we are really trying to avoid on Engage is a world view of 'us' in the 'west' and 'them' in the 'muslim world'. I just don't think that it corresponds well to reality; I think that it misses the point. I think that there are many world-views, many political and social identities in both what you call the 'west' and in the 'muslim world'. It is the Islamists who insist on the distinction between 'our culture' and 'their culture' - and I think that we need to get inside that distinction and take it apart.
And I am in favour of dialogue and negotiation between Israel and Palestine - I am in favour of them doing a deal. Most Palestinians voted against Hamas and for Abu Mazen. And I think that Israel bears a greater responsibility for the outcome of the conflict, since it has state power, since it is the occupying power, since it has tanks and planes and guns.
I'm sorry you feel there is such a divergence between my position and Engage's. While I may have expressed myself rather more intemperately, I think I am saying substantially the same things about Jonathan Glover's article as Norman Geras does here.
I certainly haven't made myself clear enough if I appear to oppose talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The Guardian piece was specifically on 'dialogue' with the terrorists.
Re us and them, I don't mean non-Muslims versus Muslims, and I do believe I made that clear enough. My 'us' is a society which practises pluralism and tolerance because there is an overarching culture and value system in which these are non-negotiable. Many Muslims are already part of this, many more need to be. If your position is a multiculturalist one I think that is where we have to agree to differ. I don't believe you get pluralism and tolerance in any secure way simply as a result of horse-trading between disparate groups pursuing private agendas and acknowledging no responsibilty for the whole.
I heard a Dutchman on the radio yesterday saying that Holland's multicultural experiment died with Theo van Gogh. The assumption that Moroccan immigrants would somehow automatically absorb Dutch liberal values has broken down completely - the second generation is more hostile to the majority culture than the first. This is the challenge facing what I would unapologetically call 'the west' (although an interesting observation which I've seen lately is that the US hasn't so far produced home-grown Islamist terrorists - it's worth considering why).
Anyway, I still believe we're basically on the same side, and wish you and Engage well.
I think you're right - that there isn't a huge distance between us.
I think that Engage has to carve out its niche carefully - and its not only against antisemitism but its also trying to forge a new way to be against antisemitism. The old ways - which often responded to the demonisation of Israel with a defence of everything Israel did - were not right and neither were they effective.
The Jewish and Israeli establishment was caught on the hop by the AUT boycott campaign - and didn't know how to oppose it rigorously and effectively.
So Engage both defines itself against antisemitism on the left but also against the Jewish & Israeli nationalist right. We are in the business of arming people against antisemitism - and that is why we have to be sharp and clear against any hint of demonisation of Islam or Arabs or anybody else. The political struggle is partly about helping to arm Muslims with decent politics - and supporting those Muslims who are fighting for decent politics.
'The West' has produced Nazism, Fasicsm, colonialism, racism - etc. Its not about supporting 'The West' and 'its values' against 'others'.
The truth is that the world is not divided like that anyway. There people who fight for democracy and human rights all over the world. Its not geographical, ethnic or religious - its political.
I don't know much about Dutch Muslims, but 1) as a community they are clearly under a serious amount of racist threat - the left has to stand with them against this racist threat - but with decent politics. This is the problem with Galloway - he's good at standing with muslims against racism - but he does it on the basis of a set of stinking politics.
That was the trick that we pulled off with the AUT campaign - we stood with the Jewish community and with Israel against the racist threat - but we did so with a clear set of politics that did not compromise with Sharon & Netanyahu.
and 2) I would assume that, like Muslims anywhere else, Dutch Muslims have a whole range of hybridised and inter-linked identities, and a whole range of political world-views. I'm skeptical about the claim that 'the second generation' is this or that... I would imagine that lots of the 'second generation' are busy becoming doctors, lawyers and accountants - some of those will buy into Islamist politics, some won't.
I think for these reasons, that we need real clarity in our writing. And your piece - partly self-consciously - wasn't clear...
The first thing that strikes me about your response is how very constrained you feel yourself to be in what you can say as a Jewish left-wing academic, and what Engage can say as a group putting a left-wing case for Israel. And I find that terribly disturbing. It's as if the mere fact of standing up for Israel has put you and your collaborators in Engage so far beyond the pale that a word out of place about Arab culture or Islam would be (political? professional? social?) suicide. It makes me feel very relieved to be a Christian ex-socialist non-academic who can speak his mind in his blog without (I hope!) risking anything more than the occasional semi-literate comment accusing me of being a fascist.
I hope I'm not in the business of demonising anybody, but I think there are things to be said about the crisis within Arab culture today (I am well aware of its historical glories) and its ripple effects on the whole of Islam. They are things that are being said by Arab scholars, and they matter not just because suicide bombers on tube trains are part of the ripple effect, but because the outcome of the crisis will determine whether or not millions of ordinary Arabs continue to live in conditions of backwardness and oppression.
One of the key features of this crisis is the way popular frustration is channelled, with the encouragement of the political elites, into hatred of Israel. The fine article by Matthias Küntzel which you publicized last week [note to blog readers: highly recommended site] shows just how pathological that hatred is, with the second most popular TV station in the Middle East churning out anti-Semitic propaganda whose themes come straight out of the Third Reich. Thanks to this displacement activity democratic movements in the region are actually very weak, with the ironic consequence that the best chance Arabs in the Middle East get of voting in democratic elections is either to live in Israel or to be under military occupation (in the OPT or Iraq). It really won't do to blame this situation all on imperialist interference. In Latin America the CIA conspired to overthrow democratic governments; in the Middle East there haven't (since Iran 1953 - and of course we will never know how democratic Mossadegh would have turned out to be) been any for them to overthrow.
Another constraint I perceive is that there is one group for whom demonisation seems to be mandatory, namely the Israeli right. The first thing to be said here is that the term in itself lumps together religious extremists with democratic right-of-centre politicians such as one would expect to find in any mature democracy. Israel has a right and a left because that is what you generally get in a democracy. We may not care for what Sharon and Netanyahu do, but I think it's important to make the point that it's not fundamentally different from what most equivalent politicians would do faced with the same circumstances - it's pretty obvious what road those who think them uniquely wicked are headed down. And they are certainly not worse than Hamas, or Saddam Hussein, or al-Zarqawi, for all of whom you can be an apologist without running any risk of an AUT boycott. So it seems to me that if you demonise them you are conceding too much ground to the delegitimisation of Israel itself.
In talking of 'the west', I'm not putting it forward as a paragon of all virtues, but I am saying that certain values (sorry, but not 'values') such as democracy, rule of law, freedom of the media, academic freedom, unrestricted religious pluralism, support for the principle of gender equality and sexual tolerance are, for whatever complex historical reasons, a lot more typical of 'western' societies than of societies where Islam is the dominant religion. Of course you are right that the west has produced Nazism, but the democratic Germany I live in today is the product of a re-engagement with these western values, and not (as in the case of Japan) of importing new ones from somewhere else. I have never seen it suggested that drawing on Muslim, or any other non-western, political culture would have eased Germany's task of dragging itself out of the abyss of 1945. Meanwhile, as already mentioned, the legacy of National Socialism is alive and well in the Middle East.
Or take another evil commonly used by the left as a stick to beat the west with. Innumerable societies have owned slaves, but only one culture, to my knowledge, has ever spontaneously come to the conviction that doing so is a moral evil which should be outlawed.
The paradox is that the values I have listed are actually, I believe, universal ones, but they need specific cultures to embody them. Can Islam become such a culture? I don't pretend to know the answer, but I am fairly certain that politics, though clearly vital, is not the only factor needed. My wife has been reading Irshad Manji and telling me about her call for an Islamic Reformation. There is something pretty artificial about the distinction between Islam and Islamism, even if it has practical value in combatting Islamophobia. Islam is a religion with political consequences, and if you want to change the politics you have to change the theology.
I don't claim to be an expert on Muslims in Holland either, but I have had an interest in the topic since I chanced to be working in The Hague the week Theo van Gogh was killed. I think what has been unmistakeable in Holland is the sense of stunned disbelief that somebody born and bred in Amsterdam should have demonstrated such utter contempt for the culture of tolerance from which he had personally benefitted so much.
When your immediate reaction to the situation is to talk in terms of the 'racist threat' to Muslims, I fear you are getting caught in exactly the mindset which leads so many on the left to the assumption that it is progressive to be anti-Israel. Whilst of course any generalization about a social group will be unfair to individuals, I think we have to be able to say that as a group the Dutch Muslim community is generating more 'threat' than it is suffering. Plainly there are only a small minority of actively murderous Islamists, but the ideology that spurs them on is far more widely diffused. If the legendary tolerance of the Dutch is in danger of being exhausted I think we owe it to them to ask seriously why that has happened rather than jump to the conclusion that they must have been racists all along.
I must confess to a certain irritation when I read about the explosion of "faith hate" crimes in Britain since 7/7. Clearly none of this acceptable, and the serious assaults that have occurred are of great concern. But if I am expected to feel in some way accountable when a Neanderthal who happens to share my skin colour spits at a woman wearing a hijab, I think it is a fortiori mandatory for British Muslims as a community to accept responsibility for combatting the infinitely more dangerous (to them, never mind to anyone else) hate criminals who gave us 7/7 and 21/7 in the name of their faith. And for everybody's sake that needs to be a lot more than a half-hearted and defensive damage limitation exercise; it is heartening that some Muslim leaders recognize this, but more need to join them...
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
'Standing defiantly in front of the battered remains of a small building in East Jerusalem, Israeli human rights activist Angela Godfrey-Goldstein holds up her phone and clicks the shutter. Within seconds an image of the partly demolished home arrives in the Pressureworks inbox.
Angela is part of a new project designed to let people on the ground in troubled areas show you how history is unfolding before their eyes.
Last month we gave three mobile phones equipped with cameras to people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT): two in the West Bank and one in the city of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.The idea: to document daily experiences in the OPT as the attention of the international community is focused on Israel's 'disengagement' from the Gaza Strip.
'The first act we’ll be documenting this way is the ongoing demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, including the impending demolition of 88 homes in the Silwan area. The Israeli city’s government says it must tear the buildings down to make way for an archaeological park, but such a move could leave more than 1,000 Palestinians homeless.Over time, there will be other issues, and we hope that the phones will provide a real connection to what is happening in the occupied territories.'
Can't see any snapshots of the aftermath of the suicide bombing at Netanya a fortnight ago, or of Sharm al-Shaikh. Not much defiant standing from the victims there.
Hits from a search of Pressureworks for 'Mugabe': still zero.
If you're still reading at Christian Aid, I have a simple question. Why?
'Your briefing on Dilpazier Aslam (22 July) is commendably honest, but what it boils down to is this: he could have continued indefinitely using the Guardian as a platform for the views of an organization regarded by the Home Office as anti-Semitic and banned in three major European countries, if only he had managed to conceal his membership from the blogosphere. Please stop blaming the bloggers for doing your job for you, and concentrate on sorting out the crisis of management which this sorry affair plainly reveals.
For a highly entertaining account of the background to this, see Scott Burgess's blog. He it was who unearthed Mr Aslam's extra-curricular activities, and the Grauniad is not pleased with him. Having made a reasonably dignified clean breast of its errors, it proceeded to blow the credibility it had salvaged by publishing - anonymously - a vituperative and ludicrously misleading personal attack on him.
The Guardian is read by lots of liberal Christians. I trust it has had lots of angry letters from liberal Christians.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Dear Dr Mukarji,
On 2 February 2003 I wrote to you expressing concern about Christian Aid’s approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and specifically the one-sided criticism of Israel made in a postcard your supporters were invited to send to Tony Blair. I told you that I felt it necessary to discontinue my previous support for Christian Aid in the light of this. You wrote me a substantial and courteous reply, but this did not adequately address my concerns, especially as I found a consistent pattern of anti-Israel bias displayed in Christian Aid News and other Christian Aid media. On 20 August 2004 I wrote a second letter to you, to which I did not receive a reply. It now seems clear to me that Christian Aid’s position on this issue is one which it has adopted consciously and deliberately and which it has no intention of reviewing. Consequently I now feel it is appropriate to make my concerns public, and so I have set up a website where I document my charge of bias in extensive detail.
Please note that I do not charge Christian Aid with conscious anti-Semitism. However, I agree with the International Council of Christians and Jews when they apply this standard to criticism of Israel: ‘Voicing opposition to Israeli Government policy is not of itself anti-Semitic. But criticism which demonises and de-legitimises the Jewish state alone, often by applying double standards, acts as a contributory factor to antisemitism’. On this basis I find Christian Aid’s current position wholly unacceptable.
I am aware that similar concerns have been raised by members of the Jewish community, and I have read with interest your reply to them in the Jewish Chronicle of 11 March 2005. I am naturally pleased to note your unreserved condemnation of suicide bombings. It would, it seems to me, only be necessary for you to go a little further in order to supply the Jewish community with the really substantial reassurance it is looking for. I am now inviting you to take this further step.
Will you name, and condemn by name, the organizations which mastermind suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians?
Will you condemn them for denying Israel the right to exist? Will you acknowledge that your assertion that ‘Israel’s right to recognition and safety for all its citizens, as well as the right to independent economic development, is not in question’ is simply false as far as they are concerned – and that it can only be genuinely true of Christian Aid if you are prepared to speak out against those who disagree?
Will you condemn their explicitly anti-Semitic ideologies?
Will you condemn them for the massive contribution they make to the impoverishment of their fellow-Palestinians? Will you make it clear that the drastic deterioration in Palestinians’ living standards which you rightly seek to address has occurred since these organizations launched a systematic campaign of murder and terror against Israeli civilians?
Will you acknowledge the Palestinian contribution to the failure of the Oslo peace process, rather than pointing solely to Israel’s responsibility?
‘Christian Aid unreservedly condemns the suicide bombings and attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians, as do our partners in both the occupied territories and Israel’, you say. Will you ensure that your partners do not just bury their condemning somewhere in a policy document, but do it loud and clear – e.g. in prominent positions on their websites? Will you tell the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, for instance, that amid its detailed documentation of alleged Israeli human rights violations it must at least mention the existence of Israeli civilians killed by terrorists?
A clear and positive response from you on these points would also serve to reassure me that your condemnation of terrorist attacks is more than just the bare minimum you judge to be necessary in order to safeguard Christian Aid’s status as a registered charity, an official agency of the Churches and a recipient of substantial government and European Union funding. At a time when we are confronting the reality of British suicide bombers selecting British citizens as targets I believe it would also be welcomed by very many of your Christian supporters.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Christian Aid News No. 28 (Summer 2005)What needs to happen for Christian Aid News to give Israel a break? A very particular combination of factors, it appears: the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history; an impending G8 summit; the approach of Christian Aid Week; and a conflict in Africa which, for once, has caught the attention of the media, as well as having directly subjected Christian Aid’s local partners to human rights abuses. One might wonder whether a certain bold initiative from Ariel Sharon is also a contributing factor (better to say nothing at all than to acknowledge a positive development from the Israeli side).
For any Christian Aid supporters suffering withdrawal symptoms, there is this weekend's ‘Retreat conference’ on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Four speakers are billed:-
- Graham Sparkes of the Baptist Union is a trustee of Christian Aid
- Sarah Malian works for Christian Aid
- Pat Rantisi lives in Ramallah and is the widow of a Palestinian Christian priest
- Richard Burden MP is chair of the All Party Britain-Palestine Group in Parliament
Interviewed in the feature on Darfur, Christian Aid’s Neill Garvie takes the media to task. ‘Today, Darfur has vanished from our television screens’, he complains, and then ‘Who cares about two million people after they’re out of the headlines’. As I have documented on this site, Sudan has not exactly featured very much in Christian Aid’s headlines in the first place – in fact this one feature takes up about as much space as was given to Sudan in the previous seven issues of the magazine (see also my last posting on Pressureworks). ‘Sanctimonious claptrap’ is, I’m afraid, the phrase I am inclined to coin here. Zimbabwe gets a brief article to itself – the first time in the eight issues I’ve surveyed. We learn that Zimbabweans are very poor, but in spite of Christian Aid’s stated commitment to ‘expose the structures and systems that make and keep people poor’ there is a remarkable coyness about naming the guilty man. In fact, the M-word doesn’t appear at all, and we are told that ‘Zimbabweans … re-elected the government’ without any mention of the massive flaws in this ‘election’. It looks as if Christian Aid’s Manichaean worldview has almost insuperable difficulty in accommodating an African nation that was made prosperous by a tiny minority of white farmers and then reduced to penury by a black despot. In the Christian Aid blame game the Israelis make much more satisfying villains.
'Maybe you should read Christian Aid News a little more carefully, or check out the website with a little more vigour. Perhaps you should leave aside your apparent bitterness at the organisation whilst doing that, because I really can't see this 'hate' you say is so obvious in Christian Aid.
'Also I find it interesting that the organisation bothers you this much! You're showing quite a lot of committment to 'critiquing' it's publications etc. They really have got up your nose, but why 'Christian Hate' - I winced when I saw it. Hate is such a strong word and has such depth of feeling behind it, I dunno, its a powerful word and shouldn't be used lightly.
Thank you for your comment. Many people have left comments and sent me e-mails expressing their appreciation of this site, but of course it is your perfect right to disagree with them. Maybe you will leave another comment explaining why.
Your remarks leave me uncertain as to whether you think that I am making too much of a meal of this, or whether you think that I haven’t done my homework thoroughly enough. I assure you that I have read the relevant sections of Christian Aid News very thoroughly indeed before writing about them.
Can I point out to you that ‘Christian Hate?’ ends with a question mark? I am not accusing anyone in Christian Aid of hatred – I have no ‘window into men’s souls’ here, and it is for readers of the blog to make their own judgments about what motivates them. What I am doing is warning of a danger, and, yes, I plead guilty to feeling strongly about it.
I am currently reading a book called ‘Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland’, by Jan Tomasz Gross. Jedwabne is a small town in Poland. In 1941 it had around 3000 inhabitants of whom roughly half were Catholic Poles and half Jews. A few days after German troops entered the Soviet-occupied half of Poland in which Jedwabne was located, members of the Polish population drove the town’s Jews into the town square, herded them into a nearby barn, and set the barn alight. One man managed to escape from the barn; a dozen or so people had fled from the town and hidden in the surrounding countryside; a few, by a grotesque irony, saved themselves by taking refuge with the German police; seven were hidden by a Polish farmer’s wife for the rest of the war. The remainder of the town’s Jewish population perished. The perpetrators were plainly aware that the German authorities would not object to their action, but the evidence shows overwhelmingly that they were acting on their own initiative, and not on German orders. The town’s Catholic priest turned away the Jews who appealed to him for help, and did nothing.
And the connection with my case against Christian Aid? Elsewhere on the site I quote the following from the International Council of Christians and Jews, “Voicing opposition to Israeli Government policy is not of itself anti-Semitic. But criticism which demonises and de-legitimises the Jewish state alone, often by applying double standards, acts as a contributory factor to antisemitism”.
As I write this I am listening to the latest news from London. You are right to say that hate is a powerful word. It is a basic emotion common to all of us, but when it is clothed in an ideology of grievance and intolerance it is deadly.
I hope you will reflect on this response and perhaps post your reaction to it.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
What struck me on reading this was the similarities between the MCB position and that of Christian Aid...
- The refusal to condemn Hamas explicitly.
- The way an invitation to condemn terrorism is deflected by a blandly general statement that 'we always condemned the taking of innocent life anywhere', immediately followed by vehement criticism of the Israeli occupation.
- Mr Bunglawala's assertion concerning suicide bombings that 'many of our own columnists, even members of parliament, have said that if they were Palestinians, if they were living under those conditions, if they were seeing their children humiliated in the way that Israelis humiliate their children, if they saw their children being blown to pieces, they would consider doing what the Palestinians do'. One (ex-)MP who has indeed spoken in this vein (and was very properly sacked from her party's front bench for doing so) is Jenny Tonge, whose visit with Christian Aid to Gaza was featured in Christian Aid News no. 22.
- The way Israel is held to the standards of international law, whilst Hamas's flagrant breaches of international law are passed over in silence.
Friday, July 15, 2005
For pities sake - ISRAEL DID NOT EXIST UNTIL THE BRITISH CREATED IT AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR!
JEWS DO NOT HAVE A "HOMELAND" OTHER THAN THAT THEY DEMANDED WAS CREATED AFTER THE WAR (CITING THE HOLOCAUST).
PALESTINIANS HAVE HAD THEIR LAND TAKEN FROM THEM - NO COMPENSATION, NOT EXPLANATION.
ISRAEL IS SO WORRIED IT WILL DISAPPEAR IT PAYS PEOPLE TO MOVE THERE.
IT'S TIME TO GIVE PALESTINE BACK TO THE PALESTINIANS - IF JEWS WANT TO STAY, FINE - IF THEY DON'T WELL THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF OTHER COUNTRIES THEY CAN LIVE IN.
JUDAISM IS A RELIGION - NOT A RACE.
GET A GRIP AND STOP BEING SO FACIST IN YOUR UNBLINKING SUPPORT OF ZIONIST NEO CONSERVATIVE SENTIMENT
A letter to Rowan Williams from the International Council of Christians and Jews:-
HE The Most Rev. Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
28 September 2004
Dear Archbishop Williams,
I write in the name of the Executive Board of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) to express deep concern about the report that the Anglican International Justice and Peace Committee will recommend disinvestment from Israel along the lines of the declaration recently adopted by the Presbyterian Church in the United States.
We at the ICCJ feel that such a step by the Anglican Communion would undercut its ability to engage constructively in the Middle East peace process. The ICCJ has strongly supported the Alexandria Declaration process in which your church has played such an important role.
But should the Anglican Communion support the disinvestment proposal it would be undercutting its role as a genuine peacemaker in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Justice and Peace Commission's report strikes us as extremely one-sided. It discusses only injustices against Palestinians without in any way raising criticism of the actions of the Palestinian leadership which has supported terror attacks against Israel. And the Commission's report did not involve any substantive conversations with Israeli representatives, including several of the ICCJ's leadership such as Vice-President Rabbi Ehud Bandel and Honorary President Rabbi Prof. David Rosen who have worked tirelessly over the years on the peace process.
We at the ICCJ are not saying that there must be no criticism of concrete Israeli Policy. But if the Anglican Church hopes to serve as an authentic peacemaker that criticism has to be extended to the Palestinian side as well. The recent book by Middle East peace negotiator Ambassador Dennis Ross is one example of a balanced critique that also proposes constructive actions towards a peaceful settlement.
We at the ICCJ urge you to exercise leadership in this situation and prevent this extremely one-sided assessment from becoming policy for the Anglican Communion. Only in this way will the Anglican Church be able to maintain its important record on constructive Christian-Jewish relations as well as continue its leadership role in Middle East peacemaking.
Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, Ph.D.
President International Council of Christians and Jews
I find it incomprehensible that Rowan Williams did not take these views on board - or that, at best, he thought they could be accommodated by minor changes to the wording of the APJN resolution. Its symbolic force has not been changed.
In my source for the letter it is followed by a document from two ECUSA bigwigs in which, astoundingly, they refer to the APJN as 'representing the full 77 million member Anglican Communion'. Reverend Sirs, it most certainly does not represent me (nor, as she has asked me to add, my wife)! And if it has any mechanism of accountability to the Anglican Communion as a whole, neither the Anglican Communion website nor the ECUSA site appears to know anything about it.
Lastly, an item from the CaNN blog:
Friday, July 08, 2005
Compare and Contrast: Griswold & Benedict XVI
PB Griswold -My prayers and those of the Episcopal Church in the United States embrace all who have died and have been injured in yesterday's attacks in London. We pray as well for their families and friends. Through this tragedy we are put in mind once again of our common vulnerability.
In order to win the "war on terrorism" we must address its underlying causes and win peace in the Middle East. The three Abrahamic faiths are called to be the servants of God's peace which embraces all people and alone can overcome the fears and hatreds that divide us and prevent us from regarding one another as God's beloved children. May all who call God Father and the Compassionate One be drawn together in a renewed commitment to peacemaking for the sake of God's world.
Pope Benedict -"Deeply saddened by the news of the terrorist attacks in central London the Holy Father offers fervent prayers for the victims and for all those who mourn. While he deplores these barbaric acts against humanity he asks you to convey to the families of the injured his spiritual closeness at this time of grief. Upon the people of Great Britain he invokes the consolation that only God can give in such circumstances."
Note well the date: 8th July. Presiding Bishop Griswold is so sure he knows what the 'underlying causes' are, and so keen to tell us that we are All To Blame, that he could make this statement before anybody had any idea who the bombers were or where they come from. Is he still so certain?
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
So when the New Statesman has some gongs to hand out, you’d hope it might be a little careful about choosing the recipients. Not so, unfortunately.
Last night the NS held its New Media Awards bash. The Advocacy award went to the Pressureworks website. Here’s the citation:-
Pressureworks, produced by Christian Aid, describes itself as "a website for a TV/consumer generation that's tired of being lied to". It aims to use "the tools of popular culture . . . to wake the world up". The site provides tools and tips on how to campaign for peace, economic justice, the root causes of poverty and basic rights for all. This is the ideal starting point for anyone wanting to make a difference, whether in the G8 summit protests, the Make Poverty History campaign, or more generally. Stylish, powerful and informative, it embraces new media - and the unique potential it offers - to bring its messages to a wider audience.
The tub-thumping populism of the stuff about the “generation that’s tired of being lied to” should put us on our guard straight away. Pressureworks knows exactly what the world’s problems are, and who is to blame for each of them. Here’s how it goes:
Problem: Third World debt. To blame: The West
Problem: unfair trade. To blame: The West
Problem: HIV/AIDS. To blame: The West
Problem: arms sales. To blame: The West
Problem: Palestinian poverty. To blame: Israel
Yes, that’s all there is to speak of. A search for “Mugabe” throws up no results at all. “Sudan” produces six hits, from which we learn that it’s one of the countries where HIV has been exacerbated by conflict; that there is a lot of oil, and greedy oil companies are to blame for most of the country’s problems; and that people are suffering because the government has to pay so much interest on its debts. Might the Sudanese government’s debts have anything to do with its conducting a genocidal civil war over two decades? That’s just being picky, and it’s all the oil companies’ fault anyway, plus our fault for selling them arms (OK, actually it’s the Chinese who sell them arms, but that’s being really, really picky).
“Palestine” produces 354 hits, and of course it’s the usual story. The Palestinians are poor because of the Occupation, and therefore it’s all Israel’s fault. They have got much poorer since the start of the second Intifada, and that’s still all Israel’s fault – nothing to do with militant/terrorist groups starting a campaign of murder and forcing Israel to step up its security.
A timeline of the conflict is a bit more subtle in its bias than most Christian Aid material. 1948 and 1967 are the litmus tests for evaluating this kind of production. It does concede that in 1948 the Arab states invaded Israel in an attempt to crush it. But to admit that they had exactly the same intention in 1967 would evidently be going too far. So we get the bland statement that “The Six Day War was the inevitable conclusion of years of tension between Israel and its Arab neighbours”.
The site advertises Christian Aid’s Retreat Conference later this month, at which they are “pleased to offer you the chance to learn and pray about Israel and The Occupied Palestinian Territories. No, I’m not joking, the anti-Israel propaganda doesn’t let up even when you go on retreat. When’s the Democratic Republic of the Congo retreat? Be serious.
So that is how Christian Aid seeks to win young hearts and minds with the money it raises from ordinary Christians. All in all, a superb choice for people who might fear that the media are controlled by a shadowy Zionist lobby. Whatever interest it’s serving, it certainly isn’t the truth. It’s time Christian Aid faced some pressure themselves.
Monday, July 11, 2005
- 'As the situation in the Middle East grows ever more volatile, the international community must find a just and peaceful solution which addresses both the threat of war in Iraq and the escalating conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The international community must ensure that UN resolutions are upheld by Israel as well as by Iraq.
'A key to lasting peace and justice in the Middle East is an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories through a peace process based on international law.'
- 'Israel is a constant source of threat vis-a-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.'
Answers in my comment.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Saturday, July 09, 2005
And here is the Jerusalem Post's reaction to a similar resolution passed by the United Church of Christ.
Friday, July 08, 2005
A favourite theme of anti-Israeli propaganda is that Palestinian children are being killed in much greater numbers than Israeli children (160 and 8 respectively in 2004, according to one source). Well, the (comparatively) low figure on the Israeli side might just have something to do with the hated security barrier. As for the Palestinian children, here’s one more to add to the stats – a young lad shot dead just because he was going through that difficult shooting at worshippers phase.
A word to Christian Aid, who, so a little electronic bird tells me, seem to have been nosing around Christian Hate? just lately (you’re very welcome). I imagine your partners in the Palestinian Centre for Human (meaning Palestinian) Rights will be logging this as another unprovoked human rights violation. Myself, I’d say that on the evidence to hand the primary responsibility for this boy’s senseless death rests with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (just as the primary responsibility for the carnage in London does not rest with Tony Blair). Care to leave a comment?
Finally a couple of links for anyone needing an antidote to today's Guardian and Independent: here is the latest from Norman Geras, and here is Mr Grumpy (suspected by some of being Hyde to Cyrus's Jekyll).
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
When the Church of England was in the process of selecting a successor to George Carey, I had my fingers tightly crossed. When the news came that you really had got the job, I was over the moon. So you will, I hope, appreciate that this letter gives me absolutely no pleasure to write.
I am also very much aware of the weight of responsibility on your shoulders at this time of crisis in the Anglican Communion, and that it’s very easy by comparison for people like me to play the armchair critic. You deserve the prayerful support of all Anglicans, whatever their stance on the controversies within the church.
On the question of the ACC’s resolution on Israel, however, I am really convinced that silence is not an option for me. Whilst ‘prophetic witness’ seems to me to be a phrase that is much too lightly used, I do have a certain sense of the burning coal having touched my lips.
On 20 August last year I wrote to Dr Daleep Mukarji, Director of Christian Aid, to complain about that organization’s anti-Israel bias, and I sent you a copy of the letter. I received an acknowledgment from your office, but have not received the promised reply from you. That in itself would be no more than a small but salutary mortification of my vanity. However, apart from the fact that a visitor to my website reports having the same experience, what I am now finding really troubling is this: I particularly wanted to draw to your attention the way Christian Aid News had quoted a sentence out of context from a lecture you gave in Jerusalem, making you appear to be criticizing the security fence without also condemning terrorism. I find it hard to conceive that if, as Patron of Christian Aid, you had asked them to print an apology, they would have felt able to refuse you. Should I conclude that you are content for your words to be used in this way?
Coming to the ACC’s proceedings, do you really believe it is acceptable for the Anglican Communion to ‘welcome’, even if it does not ‘receive and adopt’, a report which compares the ‘concrete walls of Palestine’ with ‘the barbed-wire fence of the Buchenwald camp’.
The Church Times quotes you as saying of the situation in Zimbabwe, ‘I think effective intervention is bound to come in African terms, rather than in any sort of pseudo-colonial framework… That has been a great weakness in some ways: criticism from outside can so easily be interpreted as colonialist.’ That suggests that you would not think a week-long visit to the country qualified you to make sweeping pronouncements about the solutions to its problems. Here, however, is New Zealander Dr Jenny Te Paa proposing the AJPN resolution following an 8-day visit to Israel: ‘We claim to represent to you the absolute truth we witnessed’.
Again from the Church Times: ‘Sylvia Scarf, one of the representatives from the Church in Wales, described her visit to a Palestinian home destroyed by the Israeli army, and summed up the feeling of the group: "You feel angry, and you feel impotent, and you feel so many emotions that you have to do something."’
It would appear that the party did not witness body parts being picked up off the street after a suicide bombing, but even that is not the most crucial point here. You would, I hope, agree that one of the glories of the Anglican tradition is that it grants reason equal esteem with Scripture and tradition. How low have we fallen if we are prepared to order our relationship with the brothers and sisters of Jesus, as Bonhoeffer called them, on the basis of this dogmatic, self-righteous and emotionally self-indulgent kind of indignation tourism?
Here is part of what Canon Andrew White, who was until recently Director of the Peace Centre at Coventry Cathedral, and is the Church of England's principal peace-maker in the Middle East, had to say about the resolution:-
'Making peace is not quick or easy work. The Israeli Palestinian conflict has been going on for years. Despite the difficulties in the progress toward peace at long last things are moving in the right directions. If the leader of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazin was prepared to sit down last week with Ariel Sharon, why was this group not prepared to meet with the Government of Israel? All too often delegations come out for a few days and write definitive reports. I have spent years in the land and even now do not understand many of its complexities.
'This is not a prophetic action but the corporate action of a group of people who are too scared to take seriously the challenge to be true peace makers. This action will be seen as being not only anti Zionist but also anti-Semitic and I know for certain I will never be party to such action.'
Don’t you think these words of a dedicated and experienced peace-maker carry a lot of weight? The reaction from both Jews and Christians to my website confirms the truth of his last sentence.
I read that ‘Bishop Riah told the delegates “the resolution has nothing to do with punishing Israel” as “Israel has enough support from the American Administration and the Jewish lobby”.’ How did you feel hearing a bishop use this language? Bishop Riah has also been quoted as saying: ‘We are the true Israel… no-one can deny me the right to inherit the promises, and after all the promises were first given to Abraham and Abraham is never spoken of in the Bible as a Jew…He is the father of the faithful.’ I don’t imagine for a moment that you share these views, but what I want to ask you is: do you believe that a church which fails to repudiate them at its highest level can avoid catastrophic damage to its trustworthiness in the eyes of the Jewish people?
You responded to a question on bridge-building with the Jewish community by saying ‘I don’t see this at all as an issue between the Church and the Jewish community. There are many members of the Jewish community who understand these issues really profoundly. There are people in the Israeli government who understand these issues. I would be very sad if I thought this shut off the dialogue.’
Can you understand my feeling that this comes across as distinctly patronizing? Is the Chief Rabbi one of those who understand the issues profoundly, or has his understanding not quite reached the level achieved by Dr Te Paa and Ms Scarf after their 8-day fact-finding tour? As the campaign in the AUT to overturn the academic boycott has demonstrated, a great many Jews understand all too well that Israel has failings, but are not willing to see it assigned a unique status as a pariah state on the basis of ignorance, prejudice and gross double standards.
Your opening address to the ACC talks of the tension between prophetic witness and unity. I find it hard to avoid the impression that, having over-indulged in dissension over the sexuality issue, the Council was seeking to compensate by uniting in criticism of Israel. Given the historical precedents, this is a profoundly frightening perception. If it is not too hypocritical of me to indulge in a little emotionalism myself: a comment was left on my website by a Jewish woman who relates that her father was in Auschwitz, where most of his family perished, whilst her mother was driven out of Nasser’s Egypt. How do you think the Anglican Communion looks to her right now?
Your address reflects thoughtfully on how Christians should deal with deep differences of opinion in such a way that they can be held within the Body of Christ. That is excellent as far as it goes. It seems to me, however, that there is a challenge to post-Holocaust Christian theology that is still far from having been fully addressed: how do we reach an understanding of the concept of the Body of Christ which does not make it a pretext for exclusivity and for being satisfied with a lesser standard of relatedness with our Jewish brothers and sisters? I hope and pray that we may see future gatherings of the ACC concerning themselves with that question.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Two groups of school students were travelling on a train, each under the supervision of a female teacher. One group was from a Jewish school, the others were Muslim. Trouble started when some of the Jewish students spoke to the Muslims in Russian (the majority of Jews in Berlin are of Russian origin). The Muslims responded by abusing the Jews with anti-Semitic hate slogans. Their teacher was unable to restrain them.
The Muslim students came from a school which prides itself on being a “school without racism”. They were persuaded to apologize in writing. However, when a meeting between the two groups was arranged a month later, aggressive outbursts from the Muslims demonstrated that they still had no sense of having done anything wrong.
An attack like this is still exceptional, says the paper. But a new study of the attitudes of 9-14-year-olds from Arab and Turkish families confirms the extent of anti-Semitism:-
‘The result: for most, “Jew” is a swearword. “If a Jew came to our school, he’d get beaten to a pulp”, says one boy. A 13-year-old thinks all Jews should get out of Palestine, and never mind where to, just so long as they don’t come back. An 18-year-old Turk hates Jews “because they’re murderers”. If he met one, he’d beat him up at once, he claims.’
There was a minority who thought that the Middle East conflict should be resolved peacefully, and that Jews should not be equated with the state of Israel. On the other hand the prejudices of the majority are by no means restricted to young Muslims. In December the Tagesspiegel reported on a survey of 3000 Germans which found that 50% believed the behaviour of Israel towards the Palestinians was comparable with that of the Nazis towards the Jews.