Latest posts on Christian Aid

Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

Places Christians shouldn't go A quick tour of Christian Hate?'s case against Christian Aid

Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Season's greetings

Long range posting forecast: occasional light showers possible towards the end of next week, otherwise remaining dry until mid-January.

The seasonal spirit has not quite reached Mr Grumpy yet, and he won't let me sign off without telling you that my Mum, travelling to us bearing a jar of her home-made marmelade, had it unceremoniously removed from her hand luggage at Gatwick yesterday. Marmelade doessn't actually seem to be mentioned in the list of forbidden substances, but doubtless the security man would, if pressed, have argued that it is 'of similar consistency' to hair gel. Which may be true of some marmelades, but emphatically not my Mum's.

Says Grumpy, she's obviously just the kind of suspicious character they need to keep a an eye on, as opposed to murderers fleeing the country in Islamic drag.

Enough! I wish all readers peace and blessings this Christmastide.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Goodwill to men (Jews need not apply)

There's an important post from Melanie Phillips on British Christian attitudes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If you believe that the left-liberal worldview is the only game in town - and you're not Jewish - you will almost certainly think her attack on the churches is way over the top, not to say paranoid. In which case I'd like to refer you to the Tablet's opinion poll quoted at the end of the post.

The usual caveats about on-line polls apply. The "sample" is entirely self-selecting, and its composition could have been heavily distorted by other sites pointing their readers to the poll. There is no way of knowing for sure that they were not all Peruvian Scientologists. Nevertheless, I'd say a total of 2,815 responses is not so suspiciously large as to make it doubtful that most of them are genuine Tablet readers.

So we're talking about the high and liberal area of the theological spectrum: Catholics, Roman or Anglo, Guardian and Independent readers to a (wo)man. People who would vehemently reject the suggeston that they are in any way anti-Semitic.

But if look at the responses to just two of the questions we find something that takes us beyond the realm of woolly, well-meaning liberalism. 77.6% agree that the churches should 'campaign for the dismantling of the security wall'. Just 57.3% think they should 'call on the Palestinians to recognise Israel and renounce violence'. The difference between these two figures represents slightly more than a fifth of the respondents who positively support the killing of Israeli civilians by Palestinian militants/terrorists. A shocking statement, but it's a matter of simple logic. They don't think the terrorists should stop, and they don't think the Israelis should be allowed to stop them.

I think there's an urgent need for research on the precise mentality and psychology that's coming into play here. But whatever it may be, the end result is clear. Like the Crusaders who rampaged through the Rhineland in 1096 - themselves the radicals of their day - these people have found their way to a reason why killing Jews is a Good Thing.

I have another piece of evidence that the poll is not an aberration. Two years ago Christian Aid were running their 'Child of Bethlehem' Christmas appeal. In one of my early posts I pointed out how this drew for emotional appeal on the archetype of Christian anti-Semitism: the Jews as Christ-killers.

And emotional appeal it certainly had. In their annual trustees' report and accounts (accessible via the Charity Commission but apparently not on CA's own site - transparency?) CA note with satisfaction:-

'The 2004 Child of Bethlehem Christmas appeal featured Jessica Safar, a seven-year-old injured during fighting in the region, .whose family is learning to live with the Israeli separation barrier.

The appeal used this single powerful case study across all communications . The result was a significant increase in donations - income from churches doubled compared to the previous year.'

Doubled from £1.1m to £2.2m. There's evidently quite a market among churchgoers for the notion that poverty and oppression are especially appalling when they can be blamed on Jews.

Theological liberals tend to be optimistic about human nature (Pelagianism is the technical term). In the political sphere this translates into a confidence that their own enlightened attitudes constitute a gnosis enabling them to discern a simple moral dichotomy of right and wrong, exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed, in the most intractable of political problems. 'If only everyone was like us...'

But when the old Adam peeps out like this from their most passionately held moral certainties, they provide what for me at least is a devastating critique of their own theology. 'We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies', says the Book of Common Prayer, which I am coming increasingly to value.

Just 5.7% of the poll respondents thought the churches should 'not intervene and simply pray for peace'. Perhaps the rest objected to the Tablet's theologically revealing notion that prayer is not 'intervention'. Or perhaps not. There can be no authentically Christian intervention that is not rooted in prayer: prayer for peace, yes, prayer that holds up all sides in the conflict before the Lord, but also prayer that acknowledges our own fallibility and prejudices through which, left to our own devices, we can all too easily make matters worse rather than better.

Didn't happen but should have done

Howard Jacobson writes magnificently about Ahmadinejad's jamboree for Holocaust deniers in Saturday's Indie. This is the point about the logic of Holocaust denial that can't be made too often:-

'Everything the Nazis said about the Jews, in other words, has been borne out after the event and would have justified a Holocaust had there only been one. By which reasoning it was only by a sort of historical oversight - the inadequacy of the railway lines running into Auschwitz, the shortcomings of the gas chambers - that there wasn't. Which oversight, if he gets his bomb, Ahmadinejad all but promises to rectify.'

There are no excuses left for anyone who makes excuses for this man.

Monday, December 18, 2006

German Jews under siege - from whom?

The SPIEGEL performs a valuable service in highlighting the increasing insecurity of Germany's Jewish community. Unfortunately the article also reflects an equivocation about the source of the danger which British readers may find familiar.

For a start, there's this:-

'Berlin's state parliament lists 62 reported cases under the category "(right-wing) extremism" in its study "Indicators of Violence at Berlin's Schools, 2004/2005." That's a steep increase in comparison with the previous year, when only 39 cases were registered. The category "(right-wing) extremism" includes "anti-Semitic, racist / xenophobic and right-wing extremist remarks" by children and adolescents, in addition to remarks that "incite racial hatred or express fundamentalist / Islamist fundamentalist views."'

So Muslim anti-Semites are lumped in with neo-Nazi ones - a positively Livingstonian sleight of hand by Berlin's 'Red-Red' (i.e. Social Democrat and Socialist) ruling coalition. And it seems they're less than keen on providing a breakdown...

'The incidents prompted Peter Trapp, a member of the Christian Democrat Party (CDU) in Berlin's parliament, to submit a formal query: Trapp wants to know how many such incidents have occurred recently. He also wants to know how many of those incidents can be attributed to "the right-wing extremist camp" and how many can be traced to adolescents "of non-German origin." Trapp has yet to receive a reply -- indeed, the CDU complains that it is taking unusually long.'

If Herr Trapp ever gets his answer, what will it show? My guess would be based on the following factors:

1. Berlin is home to by far the largest Jewish community in Germany.

2. The neo-Nazi strongholds in Berlin are the bleak working-class estates on the edges of the former East Berlin - and these are not areas where you will find many Jews. Rather, it is black people who become easy targets for the skinhead thugs. The rest of the city is, relatively speaking, mercifully free from the neo-Nazi problem.

3. Berlin has a vast Muslim (mainly Turkish and Arab) population - several times the size of the Jewish community in the whole of Germany, let alone in Berlin. Inner-city areas close to the city centre, such as Kreuzberg, have overwhelmingly Muslim populations. But these are also areas where many of the recent Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union have settled.

So, lots of Muslims, and lots of Muslim votes to be lost by left-wing politicians if they were to speak out too plainly against Muslim anti-Semitism. Much better to fudge the statistics. Any of this sound familiar?

Or to redefine it as something that isn't quite anti-Semitism as such. Again, you may be reminded of Ken 'concentration camp' Livingstone. The report quotes one Peter Wagenknecht from 'the Kreuzberg-based project "Educational Building Blocks Against Anti-Semitism"' (I'm pretty sure it sounds better in the original German). I'm reluctant to knock what must surely be an eminently worthy project, but all the same it's depressing to see how the Left's betrayal of the Jews has been internalized even by somebody working in total good faith to combat anti-Semitism (or is this just the SPIEGEL reporter's spin?):-

'Students from Arab or Turkish families have been politicized by the conflict in the Middle East such that their "anti-Israeli" attitude sometimes crosses over into open anti-Semitism'

Sorry, but the Israel-demonizing 'politics' which these kids have absorbed wouldn't 'cross over' into the beating up of a Berlin schoolgirl if it wasn't itself anti-Semitic at its core. It emanates largely from countries which are Jew-free and glad to be so. If it had anything to do with human rights they'd be beating themselves up too in protest against the Iraqi insurgency and the Janjaweed. And even if every last Jew in Israel were dripping with Palestinian blood, such an attack would not be one jot less racist. Just as it would be racist to brand all of Germany's Turks and Arabs as rabid anti-Semites on the strength of the actions of a small minority, or to inflict 'collective punishment' on them for the crimes committed by Islamic regimes. Anyone who has failed to grasp this has simply not understood what racism is and what is wrong with it.

For there are always reasons for anti-Semitism. Once there was a man who wrote a book full of them. He attracted a following among ordinary people who had been 'politicized' by the bitter experiences of defeat, hyperinflation and mass unemployment. How many of today's lefties, if they'd been around in 1933, would have declared that it was all very worrying and unpleasant but not really anti-Semitism?

Monday, December 11, 2006

More killers

This doesn't sound much like an accident, either. Never mind, though, I'm sure Archbishop Tutu will be along soon to sort it all out.

The Denier and the Truth-teller

Remember how my mate President Ahmadinejad wasn't actually denying the Holocaust, just wanting a no-holds-barred examination of the evidence (see his bizarre letter to Chancellor Merkel offering the Germans solidarity against the Zionist foe)? Brace yourselves for a shock: it turns out he's a lying hypocrite.

If I wanted to make a really cheap point, I could drag in Mahmoud's penchant for scantily-clad (faces out for the lads!) dancers of the female persuasion. Over this distressingly sordid topic, however, I prefer to draw a veil.

Whereas, not for the first time, this blog takes off its hat to the decency and courage of Palestinian Holocaust-affirmer Khaled Kasab Mahameed. If there's an atom of justice in this world the man will get the Nobel Peace Prize.

The child-killers

This doesn't sound very much like an accident.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

George and the dragophobes

'If St George was a Liberal, he'd have teamed up with the dragon then insisted we celebrate his bravery in taking on a dangerous maiden.'

'I wish I'd said that!'

'You will, Grumpy, you will...'

Not that I've given up on liberalism - the real thing - yet. But Dumb Jon once again has your average self-styled lib bang to rights.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Redefinition of ceasefire holds

Inevitable follow-up to the Beeb report quoted here: the ceasefire in which Hamas have kindly reduced the number of rockets fired at Sderot has now been broken by... yes, you guessed. The bastards. The utter bastards.

(update: sorry, I forgot to include the link. Here it is)

Letter from America

'Sir: I'm glad your Christmas Appeal will help needy people, but I'm troubled by your approach. The Palestinians in your article of 5 December are humanised individuals: the souk merchant, the grieving survivor, the odd-job man. Israel, on the other hand, is the "other", a capricious force that shells houses and terrorises children. Israeli opinions are only honoured when they criticise their government. Palestinians en masse are always "dispossessed" and "abandoned". Just in time for Christmas, we have a morality tale.

'But there are two sides to this issue, even one in which Palestinians are complicit in their travails. The Gaza pullout was a chance for autonomy and growth. Instead, the Palestinians chose martyrdom and elected Hamas. They selected extremist representatives and a violent platform, which inevitably invited retaliation.

'Please continue to help people who need it. But spare us the one-sided tale of good vs evil.'

- a splendid (as I hope regular commenter Fran will agree) letter from America in today's Indie. The one immediately before it isn't too bad either, says he modestly.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wrong kind of imperialism

'Sadly, the anti-imperialist left will not be joining us. They don't support the West Papuan freedom struggle. The Indonesian killers are the wrong race, the wrong nationality and the wrong religion. In other words, they are not white Christian American killers.'

Nor Jewish ones, one might add. My one-sided relationship with Peter Tatchell is somewhat of the love-hate variety, but here he's spot on. (via)

Exit Her Ladyship

How can she be a fit person to act as a trustee of a major Christian charity?

- I asked concerning Baroness Tonge's relationship with Christian Aid in October.

Answer: she can't.

My call for some transparency as to who thought it was a good idea to have her on board in the first place still stands (and by the way, you wouldn't know from CA's website that they've mislaid a trustee). But, whatever has led to her resignation, it sends a very welcome signal.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Who's watching who?

A 'study' by 'think tank' Demos (yes, I know, that's more than enough ironic quotes) repeats the accusation that UK government ministers have told Muslims to 'spy on their children' (read more).

What a wealth of emotional manipulation is contained in that little phrase! All must watch on Big Brother's behalf. Perfect nourishment for the already not exactly underdeveloped Muslim sense of victimhood. You'd think Maddy of the Sorrows was still in the tank.

I have one little question for Demos and all those of like mind. If you can remember as far back as August 2002, you might recall that in that month a Florida man was arrested and charged with planning a series of bomb attacks on mosques. How did the police catch up with him in time? His wife turned him in, that's how. So, Demos, MCB et al, did she deserve praise for very possibly saving many lives? Or censure for 'spying' on her nearest and dearest?

Lexicographers note: Beeb redefines 'ceasefire'

A free drudgery-saving service to the lexicography community...

'The ceasefire has put an end to five months of intense fighting in Gaza and raised hopes it could lead to a renewal of long-stalled peace talks.

'Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza and the number of home-made rockets being fired at Israeli civilian targets has drastically reduced.'


On the positive side, the article has news of changes in Israel's approach to operations on the West Bank which are welcome and, many would say, long overdue. Let's see if there is reciprocation.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


If you've ever thought of getting into this blogging lark yourself, the Indie offers handy hints and tips. There are all sorts of aspects you may not have thought of, such as...

'"One of the secrets of being successful is injecting your own personality, because the worst thing a blog can be is ambivalent," he says. "You've got to have an opinion and encourage dialogue with readers."'

You may also not have realised that we're all making stacks of money out of it. Just slip in the occasional post that, like, advertises stuff, and you can put your feet up and watch the big bucks rolling in!

'You could be looking at £2,000 a month'

Reviewing our recent posts, me and Cyrus reckon we may, alas, have blown our chances of a cheque from BA. Whoever said 'careless talk costs major corporate clients' never spoke a truer word. But we remain buoyant, and look forward to an early communication from Howard Jacobson's literary agent.

No, seriously folks, we bloggers are by Dr Johnson's definition a community of blockheads. And anyone who imagines otherwise is an even bigger one.

Oh, before I sign off, can I just remind you to be sure to have a read of the Independent? It's really awfully good.

Independent and free at last!

There is, of course, no reason on earth why one should expect as a matter of principle to be able to read a newspaper without paying for it. So it's curious to note the strength of the irritation felt when the Indie's comment pages vanished behind a subscription wall. It wasn't so much the money - for a fiver you could have a day's access to the lot, archives and all. But somehow you just felt they shouldn't be encouraged. Well, I did, anyway.

So does the fall of the subscription wall feel like Christmas come early? Up to a point. The down side, of course, is that there is now a wider audience for pieces like this, in which the assassination of yet another Lebanese politician by Syrian spooks becomes a peg on which to hang an attack on... Israel and America, as if I needed to tell you. Pierre Gemayel: 'Another casualty of the Syrian-Israeli war'. Caught in the crossfire, you see, almost as if they got together and killed him jointly. Six of one and half a dozen of the other. The symmetry is perhaps slightly spoilt by the absence of attacks on Syria by Israeli-armed Lebanese forces committed to wiping the country off the map. But let's not nitpick.

And that's before we get started on the one and only accept-no-substitutes Fisk himself. I really haven't the heart to tackle him just now.

Let me instead remind you what the very best thing about free access to the Indie is: the magnificent, magisterial prose of Howard Jacobson. He doesn't just do Israel and anti-Semitism, naturally. He is the universal scourge of the fools, prigs, zealots, fashion victims and philistines of our age. Read him, for instance, on Richard Dawkins' rewrite of the Seventh Commandment.

But when he does turn to the contemporary Jew Question, a.k.a. Anti-Zionism... I don't think anyone else - notwithstanding honourable mentions for Melanie Phillips, David Aaronovitch and Jonathan Freedland - was more instrumental for me in crystallizing a vague unease into a conviction that the deafening silence of Gentile left/liberals must be broken. Hence this blog.

By way of a sample, here he is in July 2002, training his guns on Mona Baker after her remarks accusing Israel of 'some kind of Holocaust'. It would be nice to believe that the inanity of this sentiment had become more shockingly obvious over the last four years, but I fear that, at least for the average reader of the Independent, quite the opposite is true.

Whilst here he takes on fellow columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown:-

'The standard line all parties have tried to take is that it isn't anti-Semitic to criticise Israel. Nor is it. Nor should it be. Enough Jews criticise Israel, both within it and without. We look a little silly, though, we Jews of the new hard-skinned variety, being careful not to cry wolf – of course it isn't anti-Semitism, of course it isn't! – when substantial numbers of Muslims think otherwise. And not just in the mosques. In schools all over the Arab world anti-Semitic literature, some of it of Nazi origin, is required reading. Click on to the Radio Islam website and you will find that fraudulent exposé of Jewish world-domination, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which Egyptian television, too, has recently disinterred for the behoof of I do not know how many gullible viewers. But one would be too many.

'Thus have we adopted an ingenious quid pro quo of race relations: you don't like Jews, but we don't like saying you don't like Jews, therefore you do like Jews.'

- and again the passage of three and a half years has done nothing to diminish the urgent relevance of his words.

Finally here he is writing in August this year on the synergy between Western Islamists and Western media:-

'Myself, I think it is easy to show that they can get confirmation of their fantasies at far less expense from the front pages of our newspapers. If we are searching for a source of poisonous anti-western propaganda we need look no further than ourselves. It is we who peddle that "hegemonic single-narrative" which, for the politically naive and inflammable, explains history.

'There is hysteria abroad. That no experts on the psychology of extremism are putting their minds to this hysteria can only be explained by their not noticing it is there. And that is because it looks perfectly normal now to talk of Bush and Blair as though they are Stalin and Pol Pot. Iraq is no longer a tragic blunder, or even a cynical and selfish manipulation of truth; let any embryo terrorist see it as a wilful attempt to eviscerate Iraq of its Muslim population and there is nobody to tell him he is wrong. Afghanistan, as we narrate it, is going the same way.

'As for Israel and Lebanon, a new arrival from Mars would never guess that the conflict had causes which are at least open to conflicting interpretations. The front pages of our national newspapers depict sadism for the sake of it. Photographs show dead children. Reporters describe the slaughter of innocents as though their deaths were not only intentional but the sole purpose of the war. No context, no history, no intractable complexities. Just another story of obliteration to confirm the obliteration mindset of barely adult bombers who discern in us nothing but the same monster of solipsism that consumes them.'

(read it all)

Money talks

The solution turns out to be even simpler than the one I proposed. Who says the C of E is no longer a power in the land?

Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke

News from Germany: one of the eight members of the neo-Nazi NPD in the regional parliament of Saxony has resigned his seat. 29-year-old Matthias Paul was facing an investigation into alleged possession of child pornography.

(German source here)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Problem solved

While on the subject of jewellery, here is part of British Airways' justification of its decision not to allow employee Nadia Eweida to wear a visible cross necklace:-

'The policy does not ban staff from wearing a cross. It lays down that personal items of jewellery, including crosses may be worn - but underneath the uniform. Other airlines have the same policy.

'The policy recognises that it is not practical for some religious symbols - such as turbans and hijabs - to be worn underneath the uniform. This is purely a question of practicality. There is no discrimination between faiths.'


Remorselessly logical, I think you'll agree. And so, accordingly, is the solution to Ms Eweida's problem. She must inform BA that her faith moves her to wear a headdress topped by a two-foot-high crucifix. Since BA do not discriminate between faiths they will, of course, have to agree to this. Then, having dressed as described for a week or two, she can open negotiations. Wouldn't they, if they're completely honest about it, really prefer that she wore something just a little more discreet? Like, for instance, a necklace?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dialectical materialism today

Norm fills us in on the Chinese girl's best friend.

University Challenge

'There I was last Thursday night, addressing the Cambridge Union, going at it like a locomotive with a mouth, and telling them that, no, you couldn’t blame terrorism on US foreign policy. I mean, take the Istanbul bombings, two of which were exploded at Turkish synagogues, killing Turkish Jews, how could those . . . “Point of information!” came from my left, in the tones — I rather thought — of Berkshire. “Was it not the case, Mr Aaronovitch, that the successful murdering of Istanbul Jews was motivated by a revulsion to Israeli policy, a policy supported by the Americans?” And there was applause.

'Applause, readers, not just a nodding of heads at a true, if sad, analysis — but a clapping as of a rhetorical victory gained.'

- reports David Aaronovitch. And yes, readers, your eyes do not deceive you: the venue was not the Luton campus of the University of Bedfordshire, but the Cambridge Union. Some bad things are done by some Jews somewhere, therefore there is a rationale for any bad things that are done to any Jews anywhere. Because, clearly, it's not about Jews, it's about the Jews.

That, at any rate, is the view from the university ranked second in the world.

Friday, November 17, 2006

No but theoretically maybe

What's to be done about Rowan Williams?

An interviewer asks him if the C 0f E might have a rethink on women priests. The correct and comprehensive answer: 'No'. Interviewer has another try. The correct answer: a polite variation on 'Which part of "No" didn't you understand?' The hopelessly wrong answer: a rambling excursus on 'No' which cries out to be misunderstood by eventually veering off into 'No but theoretically maybe'.

This is, it seems to me, a man with some serious people-pleasing issues. The interview was for the Catholic Herald (you can read it all here if you're quick), and he is off to Rome next week. Did he imagine that, having read his copy of the CH, the Pope would be nicer to him? If so his hope was in vain, since Benedetto is well-briefed and knows perfectly well what the score is in the C of E. There will be some tough talking to be done on this question, and hinting at an ambivalence which he then promptly has to disown will not have altered that one jot.

Try to please everyone and you please nobody. Can you imagine how this has played with the by now thousands of women whose boss RW is? He is a long way from being Frau Grumpy's favourite prelate right now, I can tell you.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Anglicans for eugenics

'Sir, The Dean of Southwark Cathedral, the Ven Colin Slee, summarises and endorses a report calling for allowing very sick children to die, with the couplet “Thou shalt not kill, but need’st not strive/ officiously to keep alive”.

'Mr Slee seems not to have noticed that this is not “King James Version language” (as he puts it), but a quotation from the Victorian poet Arthur Hugh Clough. In his poem The Latest Decalogue, Clough parodied attempts to update each of the Ten Commandments in turn, with such couplets as “Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat/ When it’s so lucrative to cheat”, or the one quoted above, and they are obviously deeply ironic.

'It is doubly ironic, therefore, that Mr Slee seems unaware that the lines he quotes were written to subvert and pillory the very liberalising tendency he represents.'

- a letter in the Times. The fact that the writer is a Rev gives one some faint hope that it is worth keeping the C of E on its life support machine.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wanted: tlc for politicians

Comedians and other media types promoting cynicism about elected politicians without actually having any alternatives of their own to offer: a profoundly dangerous game and a fairly definitive instance of power exercised without responsibility. All power corrupts and being a TV celeb corrupts absolutely... David Aaronovitch blows the whistle on behalf of a very unfashionable but vitally important cause.

Aaro sometimes overdoes the Nazi analogies, but here he would have been entirely justified in invoking the fourth-rate painter with the toothbrush moustache. For promoting the message that democratic politicians were, per se, morally contemptible was an essential ingredient in his rise to power. The Nazis and the Communists between them did a great job of making this view fashionable, ensuring that even those who voted for the democrats did so with less and less conviction.

Of course all politicians are crap some of the time and some are crap all of the time. Like comedians. Or journalists. Or bloggers. It's called being human. Which is why the 'why can't we get rid of them all?' mentality is lazy, self-indulgent wishful thinking, a recipe for replacing the good enough with the worst.

I dropped out of party political activism not least because I came to realize that I simply didn't have what it takes to make an effective politician. And I don't regard that as something to be proud of.

The Bible, the pool of blood and the PC Plods

Which reminds me of something I didn't get round to posting about a week or two ago. Namely, the Gay Police Association's 'Bible and pool of blood' advert. When Brett posted in support of the GPA, a certain irascible commenter challenged him to say how many of the 'incidents' referred to in the ad actually involved violence motivated by Christian faith. Answer came there none, nor, more significantly, did it from the GPA when they were hauled up before the Advertising Standards Authority:-

'While we appreciated that hard-hitting images such as splashes of blood were likely to be eye-catching, we understood that some of the incidents referred to might not involve violence. We considered that, by featuring spilled blood prominently, the ad suggested that all the reported incidents involved physical injury.'
Did any of the incidents involve physical injury? The GPA seem to have been quite exceptionally coy...

'Although we noted the GPA's assertion that they held evidence to support their claim, we considered that, to date, we had not seen it.'

Brett revisited the topic to relay the news that the Crown Prosecution Service had decided there was no case for the GPA to answer, but had evidently lost interest when the ASA delivered its adjudication a couple of weeks later.

Reflect for a moment, if you will, on what kind of model for the policing of a plural society we have here. Coppers belonging to a minority group form a pressure group. Fair enough in itself. They set up a phone line which can be used for reporting 'incidents'. Still fair enough. They then use the calls they get as a basis for producing their own home-made not-quite-crime statistics. Might be OK, might not. Then, finally, they grossly misrepresent their statistics in order to stereotype members of another minority group as violent criminals. Well out of order. And the sting in the tail: coppers belonging to minority group no. 2 decide they can play the PC Plod game too, and try to turn the tables on minority group no. 1 by having them nicked them for 'hate crime'.

One doesn't need to see the history of policing through Dixon of Dock Green glasses to think that none of this is leading anywhere very good. The logic of it is that we end up with a police force divided into a patchwork of warring minority interest groups, each upholding a version of the law suitably edited to conform to its private agenda. What, then, becomes of the principle of 'one law for everyone'? And what happens when, for instance, the BNP Supporters Police Association stake their claim to a slice of the action?

PS A final aside: the complainants to the ASA were all evangelical groups. Why am I not surprised that the GPA's association of the Christian gospel with violent intolerance provoked not so much as a whisper of protest from, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury? What a wonderful thing liberal guilt is! 'OK, it may not actually be true, but if it's their perception of us we must be to blame'.

Tolerance cuts both ways

Israel is, rather obviously, the only country in the Middle East where the holding of a Gay Pride march would be thinkable. I'm with Brett of Harry's Place in feeling that this is something to be celebrated.

Israel is also a country where you are free to be the kind of religious conservative who thinks that a Gay Pride march is a bad thing - on condition, of course, that you express this belief without violence. But I'm not so sure that Brett is with me in feeling that this is also something to be celebrated.

I'm getting rather fed up with gay campaigners' instant resort to the guilt by association tactic. Any suggestion that gay sex is, in any circumstances, not the best thing since sliced bread gets met with a kneejerk 'oh, so you'd like to send us all to the gas chambers, then' reaction. It's more or less a mirror image of the 'gay=paedophile' type of prejudice.

Thus if there's been some thuggery from (apparently) some members of Jerusalem's Muslim religious police, the Papal Nuntio must be an accomplice - he 'seemed to egg this sort of reaction on', says Brett. I can't find the full text of what he said, but there's nothing like quoting half a sentence out of context for making people 'seem' to confirm our prejudices about them, is there, Brett?

The touchiness is understandable in view of the weight of homophobic tradition which gays are up against and the violence which it too often generates, but it really is time for people like Brett to start setting an example of the tolerance they demand from others.

For instance, they are fully entitled to disagree with the statement released today by the US Catholic bishops' conference. But not to represent the bishops as advocates of homophobic violence. They aren't.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Anti-Israel bias: a challenge to the Episcopal Church

Anglicans for Israel link to letters which CAMERA (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) has sent to leading figures in the Episcopal Church, pointing out manifestations of anti-Israel bias on the Church's website. This is entirely familiar territory for me, very much of a piece with my reactions to material from Christian Aid, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland etc.

I await the replies of Presiding Bishop-Elect Schori and Canon Grieves with interest, as they say. But I can already predict that they will reflect the assumption that, since CAMERA can be identified with the political Right (and therefore indirectly with the theological Right within TEC), it need not be taken seriously. I hope to be proved wrong by a response informed more by Christianity than by secular political side-taking.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Racist bigot - but legal

Headless chicken time. It's legal to say nasty, offensive things about other people's beliefs! Quick, let's change the law!

Then we can lock up A C Grayling, who evidently thinks that all religions are wicked and vicious and doesn't give two hoots whether anyone is offended by his saying so.

Are there any liberals left?

PS I've been debating the Grayling piece here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Climate change: Grumpy's verdict

I haven't done climate change yet. It's high time I told you all what to think. Pay attention, please.

I was reading Melanie Phillips' latest on this, and I thought I'd check out some of the stuff that impresses her. Hmmm...

Item one: Christopher Monckton in the Sunday Torygraph. He assures us that, although he's advised Margaret Thatcher, he's had 'not a red cent from Exxon'. That's good to know. I'd be even more reassured to be told that he's had no red cents from any lobby organization, think tank or whatever funded by the oil industry. I mean, I never imagined that climate change sceptics get plain brown envelopes stuffed with notes handed over personally by oil company operatives. As it stands the disclaimer is just a little reminiscent of the Gorgeous One's protestations that he's 'never seen a barrel of oil'.

Some of his scientific case looks quite impressive. When I read an expert refutation I am sure that will also look impressive. So I'll stick to two little details that caught my eye. Firstly, Mr Monckton makes much of the 'medieval warm period', and cites a piece of evidence for this: 'There was little ice at the North Pole: a Chinese naval squadron sailed right round the Arctic in 1421 and found none.' The relevance of this is not quite clear given that it appears just after a graph which shows that by 1421 the warm period was well and truly over and the climate had plummeted to well below the 20th century average.

Then there's this:

'And the snows of Kilimanjaro are vanishing not because summit temperature is rising (it isn't) but because post-colonial deforestation has dried the air.'

- where I'm just interested in that throwaway 'post-colonial'. It may be that this is something Mr Monckton has researched thoroughly, and that he could demonstrate, if pressed, that the colonial administration in Kenya had a strictly enforced 'no felling trees around Kilimanjaro' policy, whereas the timber started falling as soon as the country gained its independence. Or it may be that this is just his ideological slip showing. And I'm not sure how much confidence I want to place in the views on climate change of a man who still hasn't got over the end of Empire.

Item two: Mel links to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. What is supposed to be so authoritative about this particular bunch of (until today) Republican politicos remains unclear. One of the gems of information they offer us is:

'On April 6, 2006, 60 scientists wrote a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister asserting that the science is deteriorating from underneath global warming alarmists.'

Well, I've got wise to these Round Robin letters. Go to the source and you'll find the signatories artfully arranged. If you were in a hurry you might look down the first few names and conclude that these are 60 Canadian climatologists. Pretty weighty. But if you scroll down a bit you find that the net has been cast a wee bit wider than that. By the time you reach the professor of social anthropology at Liverpool John Moores University it doesn't look quite so impressive. When I did a bit of social anthropology in my first year at uni I learned all kinds of fascinating stuff about kinship systems, but bugger all about climate change.

None of this is meant to suggest that dodginess is confined to the sceptics. Shuggy has a good post on the idiocies emanating from the other side. Possessed as he is of a neat turn of phrase (he's a teacher, you know), he characterizes George Monbiot as an 'annoying twat'. Ah, yes, I think that must be why I stopped reading him. The thing is, of course, that that doesn't necessarily mean the science he quotes is wrong.

There's an increasingly shrill and emotive debate being conducted by people who haven't a hope in hell of evaluating the science but have taken sides based on their ideological predispositions. It seems to me that as a layman all I can do is hold on to the apparently undisputed fact that a majority of the experts believe:

(a) global warming is happening

(b) its net effects will (notwithstanding the sunny prospects for English winemakers) be harmful

and (c) it is to a significant degree manmade.

The science is evolving and the consensus may change, but that seems to be where we are today. Pace Shuggy, the Galileo analogy is not really apposite. The consensus he was up against had precious little to do with science. Rather, it was based on theology at best and religious power politics at worst.

Unless, of course, that is precisely why the analogy is apposite. The challenge for Melanie Phillips, Christopher Monckton and their ilk is to convince me that:

(a) the majority are faking it to curry favour with left-wing ideologues

whereas (b) the dissentient minority can be trusted even though what they say is so congenial to both right-wing ideologues and big business.

I think that is a tall order, but I'm open to persuasion.

Three Glasgow men guilty of excessive vibrancy

How could it have happened in what 'should have been' a multicultural utopia? A BBC scribe is so completely at a loss for ways of processing the Kriss Donald murder in terms of the Corporation's hegemonic ideology that he's even prepared to contemplate blaming gangster rap. 'US gangster rap', be it noted - no longer an ingredient of the rich vibrant mix, but a sinister cultural imperialist import.

It would be funny if it wasn't tragic. It's precisely those who want to salvage a viable form of coexistence from the multicultural dream who need to start demanding a Beeb that understands a little less about what should be and a little more about what is. A programme for change might, for instance, include sending Stephen Stewart to live in Pollokshields for a year or two.

PS Elsewhere in the Beeb's coverage, we discover that it may not be such a clever idea after all to categorize crimes as racist on the basis of the victim's perception. Bet you can't guess why. The further you step outside the Beeb worldview, the more Pavlovian this kind of stuff looks.

PPS The more you read the more bizarre it gets. They've been canvassing the views of 'community figures'. Is the community, perhaps, feeling collectively victimized by the verdicts? No, the news is reassuring. Says Habib Malik, manager of Islamic Relief, 'Asian people [...] are happy justice has been done and they can move on.'

Monday, November 06, 2006

Melanie Phillips, Christianity and the defence of the west

Melanie Phillips has put the cat among the pigeons in a rather bigger than usual way with one of her recent posts. And specifically among a little flock waiting for trains to Glasgow, Manchester and other Eustonian destinations.

The cause of offence is this:

'[T]he collapse of Christianity in Britain and Europe and its steady replacement by secularisation is so catastrophic for the defence of the west. The useful idiots who believe that only a secular society can hold off the forces of irrational belief at the heart of the Islamic jihad have got this diametrically the wrong way round. Secularisation produces cultural enfeeblement, because the pursuit of personal happiness trumps absolutely everything else. The here and now is all that matters. Dying for a cause, however noble, becomes an absolute no-no. It's better to be dhimmi than dead - the view that has now effectively prevailed in Britain and Europe.
'And that is why I, a British Jew, argue that it is vital that Britain and Europe re-Christianise if they are to have any chance of defending western values.'

- as quoted by Shuggy, who comments a little tetchily:

'So if Melanie Phillips wants Europe to re-Christianize, her energies would be better spent trying to make converts by preaching the Gospel.'

Well, I'm never quite sure how religious Mel is (though in her normblog profile she refers to 'The Torah, which defines my moral outlook'). She's certainly enough of a realist not to expect mass conversions to Judaism. But in any case there's nothing inconsistent about seeing religious belief as producing benefits in purely secular terms. It's a much more intellectually serious stance than the Dawkinsite 'I don't believe, therefore everything about belief must stink' one. In a way Mel's in the position of a GP who can diagnose a heart condition but can't perform open heart surgery. She may or may not be right, but her position is not inherently absurd. And a non-believer who arrives at the same position can at least lay off knocking religion for the sake of it and start saying positive as well as negative things about the Christian cultural heritage which as Europeans we all share, whether believers or not.

One of the things I like about Norm is that he is consistently ready to see good in beliefs which he doesn't share. It's the mark of an authentic liberal. So although he endorses Shuggy's critique, he takes Mel seriously to this extent:

'There is, however, a serious question wrapped up in all this. Can there be a robust defence of liberal and secular values? Or are these, as Phillips thinks, too infected by the good life for their adherents to be willing to put up a fight for them? Anecdotal evidence from the Nazi death camps suggests that the prisoners most able to preserve some sort of moral direction in the hellish conditions of those places were people of fervent belief - Jehovah's Witnesses, rabbis, communists, etc - and that others educated in the virtues of rationality and sceptical enquiry found this much more difficult. I point that out not because I think it answers the questions just posed, but merely by way of reporting something I've come across that is obliquely relevant.'

'Liberalism and secularism need the strength also of a fighting self-belief', he concludes, having pretty much conceded that that, at present, is precisely what they don't have.

david t, however, evidently feels his manhood has been called into question:

'Liberals aren't wusses. They will stand and defend their values.'

David strikes me as a genuine, principled and courageous liberal. But is what he says here about liberals in general actually true, or is it wishful thinking? Is it, for a start, literally true? A question for Eustonian interventionist liberals: how many of you can honestly say that you ever seriously considered a career in the armed forces? (And, where applicable, would you encourage your children to do so?)

Here's my answer: as far as I can remember it last looked to me like a good idea when I was about eight years old, and the Army had a recruitment stand in Bentalls department store in Kingston with some really cool hardware on display. I'm a baby-boomer who grew up at a time when liberal values stood in great need of being defended against the totalitarian system on the other side of the Iron Curtain. One of my formative political experiences was watching the news on the day the tanks rolled into Prague. But when I was of an age to take the Queen's Shilling, I was more interested in overthrowing the bourgeois state (or at least sitting in meetings talking about overthrowing it) than in fighting for it. So if I talk tough on Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever, I'm making a brave principled stand with other peoples' lives.

That's how much of a non-wuss muscular liberal Mr Grumpy is. How about the folk waiting on Platform 11?

Bioethics for the Intellectually Challenged

“We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?”

- says John Harris, a member of the government’s Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University, quoted in the Sunday Times.

What do people think has happened between when a baby's just been born and when it's a day old? What do people think has happened between when it's a day old and when it's two days old? What do people think has happened between when it's two days old and when it's a week old? What do people think...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Motes and beams time

Sorry, I know it's terribly un-Christian, and I promise to do appropriate penance by reflecting intensively on my manifold sins and wickedness, but really it's one of those occasions when you would need a heart of stone not to laugh.

Tee hee.


Scenario: you're the parent of a young child. You've been callously dumped by your partner. You're depressed. So depressed that you decide to take your child's life.

Are you:

(a) a sad victim who has been punished more than enough by a couple of years on remand and now mainly needs help?


(b) an evil killer who should be locked up for at least fifteen years?

It all depends.

Friday, October 27, 2006

There is no God and Richard Dawkins is his prophet

In which the author of the Summa Atheologica is caught with his trousers down. A snippet from a debate on Irish radio:-

Dawkins: [...] I do not believe we are controlled wholly by our genes. Let me go back to the really important thing that Mr. Quinn says.

Quinn: How are we independent of our genes by your reckoning? What allows us to be independent of our genes? Where is this coming from?

Dawkins: Environment, for a start.

Quinn: But hang on, but that is also a product of, if you like, matter, OK?

Dawkins: Yes, but it's not genes.

Quinn: OK, what part of us allows us to have free will?

Dawkins: Free will is a very difficult philosophical question, and it is not one that has anything to do with religion, contrary to what Mr. Quinn says.

Quinn: It has an awful lot to do with religion, because if there is no God, there is no free will, because we are completely phenomena.

Dawkins: Who says there is no free will if there is no God? That is a ridiculous thing to say.

Quinn: William Provine for one, whom you quote in your book. I have a quote here from him. Other scientists as well believe the same thing, that everything that goes on in our heads is a product of genes, entity, environment and chemical reactions, that there is no room for free will.

And Richard, if you haven't got to grips with that, you seriously need to, because many of your colleagues have, and they deny outright the existence of free will, and they are hardened materialists like yourself.

Tubridy: OK, Richard Dawkins, your rebuke to that note if you wish.

Dawkins: I am not interested in free will.

(read the whole thing here and here - via)

So much for Dawkins denouncing religion as the root of all moral evil (God as “misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”). As it turns out, it doesn't bother him that morality may be just as illusory as he says God is. Which of course it would be if we had no free will. To quote Bertie Wooster, one looks askance at this kind of in-and-out running. At least, one does if one believes one can meaningfully talk about virtues and that consistency is one of them.

One of Frau Grumpy's favourite theology professors simply says that atheists are lazy and stupid. Now there's a debate I'd pay good money to listen in on...

New kid on the blog

By popular demand (well, he keeps pestering me) Mr Grumpy joins me from today as a contributor to the blog.

If you're not interested in his off-topic ravings, fear not. Thanks to the wonders of Blogger Beta, every post will get a 'Cyrus' or 'Mr Grumpy' label, so you can filter him out by going to But if you use the site feed I suspect you're stuck with him.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Unseen helper

Isn't it nice when you find that somebody else has taken care of one of those tedious little jobs that you never get round to? Like rationalizing the irritation you feel whenever you read a piece by Karen Armstrong in the Grauniad. So thanks, Norm; I don't suppose you fancy cleaning the fridge for me, do you?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Al-Quds Day counter-demo: I was there (almost)

Foiled again! By the time I'd caught up with the last-minute change of venue a couple of posters were all the evidence left that anything had happened.

The organizers claim a turnout of around 250 - other events in Berlin on the same day, including a counter-demo against a neo-Nazi rally, may have had some adverse effect on the numbers. Plus people going to the wrong location...

Harry's Place reports entertainingly, if that's an appropriate word, on the goings-on in London. A propos the sane and moderate gentleman from the MCB, I have a link to a blog called MCB Watch, which started promisingly last year but then went dead. Somebody really ought to have a go at reviving it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Baroness Tonge and Christian Aid

Most of what is rotten in the state of Christian Aid is encapsulated in the Jewish Chronicle's revelation (read it via Engage) that Baroness Tonge was appointed as a trustee of the charity in April.

Admittedly, in April her foray into conspiracy theory at the Lib-Dem conference still lay in the future. Nor had she written to the Independent complaining about the effectiveness of the Israeli security barrier in excluding terrorists. But she had already been sacked from the party's front bench for her comments expressing 'understanding' for Palestinian terrorists.

It's a little odd that the appointment of a trustee first becomes public knowledge when a newspaper reveals it five months later (there's no mention of it on the CA website). Not exactly a great example of transparency.

And what of the CA spokesman's damage limitation exercise?

'The areas on which she was speaking are outside the remit of a development organisation which deals with issues of poverty and humanitarian relief.'

Oh, yeah? Sorry, but this is not a branch of the Missionaries of Charity we're talking about. In reality, as CA inform us on their FAQ page...

'Does Christian Aid get involved in politics?
'Christian Aid is never party-political, and always works within the law. But we believe that it is our duty to address the causes of poverty. Many of these causes, such as debt or trade, are essentially political or economic in origin.' which end they spend 12% of their income on 'campaigning, education, advocacy'. As I've documented ad nauseam here, Israel and Palestine feature more prominently in their 'advocacy' work than any other area of the globe, and they spend a lot more time advocating Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories than they do advocating repudiation of terrorism and recognition of Israel by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Which, of course, just happens to be the way Baroness Tonge sees things. And she made a direct contribution to CA's advocacy campaign when she visited Gaza as their guest in 2003 (read how this was written up in Christian Aid News here).

So are we to believe all this is coincidental to Baroness Tonge's appointment as a CA trustee? Trustees are officially nominated by CA's sponsoring churches. Since there are 39 of these it could in theory be a distinctly cumbersome process. But anyone with inside experience of the ways of bureaucracies will have little difficulty imagining how the wheels get oiled in practice. If CA were to give the odd informal hint as to who they thought would make a good trustee, matters would be a whole lot more straightforward. And if they had an ongoing relationship with a politician who (a) had some time on her hands having been put out to grass in the Lords and (b) regularly said the kind of thing they like to hear about one of their pet political issues...

OK, I'm speculating. It's time for some real transparency as to how and why Baroness Tonge got the job. This is a woman whose extremist utterances have got her sacked by one party leader and disowned by his successor. The director of the Council of Christians and Jews sees her latest outburst as displaying 'dangerous paranoia'. How can she be a fit person to act as a trustee of a major Christian charity?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Demonstrate against Al-Quds Day

The upgrade seems to have been reasonably painless. It will have at least one benefit for you the reader, namely a subject index - compilation to begin soon.

A date for your diary if you happen to live anywhere near Berlin. Next Saturday (21 October) will be 'Al-Quds Day', when friends of the regime in Iran will take to the streets to demand the destruction of the state of Israel. As last year there is a counter-demonstration, an initiative supported by politicians from all the main parties from the Christian Democrats to the Left Party - details here. Hopefully this time I'll remember to take my camera.

Also as per last year, there's an Al-Quds Day march in London (on the 22nd), but apparently no counter-demo. Wake up over there!

Service announcement

Sorry, the posting break has been rather longer than advertised. Should be some posts this week.

I'll be upgrading to the latest version of Blogger over the next day or two. Apologies in advance if this should temporarily make things worse rather than better - in my experience of software upgrades such things are not wholly unknown...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This really is the last for a fortnight

Israel 'trains Iraqi Kurd forces'

A jaw-droppingly, mind-bogglingly bad thing. Because the Arabs don't like it, you see. Says the Beeb's 'Arab affairs analyst'. What do you mean, it isn't an Arab affair?

Can't think why they feel they need military training, anyway. Can you?

Still Time for a Quickie

'The Pope's expression of regret is welcome, even if there is some doubt as to whether it goes far enough to soothe Muslim sensibilities. Several burnt-out churches and a dead nun have, we must hope, taught him a painful but necessary lesson. Any utterance which can be interpreted as implying that Islam is an intrinsically violent religion is as unwise and unhelpful as it is incorrect.'

(all the usual suspects)

'How many fingers, Winston?'

Update: the first quote was kindly produced for me by my personal copy of the Grauniad Editorial Generator. Whereas this is the genuine article:

'When he digs out a 700-year-old sentence that could not be more damning of Islam - "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached" - he has to know there will be consequences.'

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Time off

I'm heading back to England for a fortnight on Thursday, so probably won't manage any more posting till I get back.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Muslims in 'Pope is a Catholic' storm

Well, I'd been planning to link to the Pope's Regensburg lecture since I saw him delivering it live on TV. In my humble opinion it's a fine piece of theological reasoning. I was also impressed by the sermon he preached earlier the same day.

And, yes, I did have a feeling there was going to be trouble. Funny, isn't it, that although the lecture contains a lot more criticism of western secularism than of Islam, it somehow never occurred to me that the trouble might come in the form of enraged atheists firebombing churches? Or that Catholics would interpret the lecture as giving them the green light to shoot an imam or two?

It's one of those occasions when I look to the bloggers to preserve my sanity.

At Harry's Place Brownie simply puts the 'offending' quote in context and asks 'So...what exactly is the problem?'

Shuggy is spot on:-

'At the close of his speech he said:

'"It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university."

'It wouldn't be this task of the university - to join the general conversation of mankind - that the Islamists are afraid of, would it?

'No doubt the usual 'liberals' will, in that special pained sort of way they have, 'regret' the insensitivity of the Pope's remarks. In anticipation of this I can only insist on the following. We are not talking about a few infantile cartoons being published in a provincial European newspaper now, this shifts it to fundamentals: you either believe in free speech or you do not; you either believe in academic and intellectual freedom or you do not; and you either believe in the freedom of religion or you do not. And if you chose the censorious path, let's hear a respectable intellectual argument that does not rest solely on accusations of racism. Oh, and don't call yourself a liberal - don't you dare.'

As is Laban Tall:-

'Because this isn't about peaceful co-existence. This is about imposing one's will on the spiritual enemy. In fact, the greater the apology, the less likely it is to be accepted - because it's taken as a sign of weakness, to be exploited further.

'No religion has been mocked and vilified more in the last 40 years than Christianity. And it continues - because the consequences don't involve bodies with knives pinning notes to their chests, decapitation, explosions, burning buildings or trains.

'Faced with such things, Western society retreats, draws back, self-censors - engendering a sense among the bad hats (and among those who share the aim even while having reservations about the method) that there is no limit to the retreat - no ground on which the enemy will turn, stand and fight.'

In a situation where the Pope is simultaneously being compared with Hitler and accused of Zionism, satire is pretty much superfluous here, but Simply Jews are not to be deterred.

Thank heaven for the blogs, because without them we'd be left at the mercy of the msm.

Take, for instance, today's al-Grauniad. Not only do we have Karen Armstrong grinding out her one tune (Islam is peaceful, and if it's not it's our fault) but John Hooper is encouraging the Jews to show a bit of solidarity with the Muslims. Because now the Pope's been quoting the rabidly anti-Semitic St Paul. This must take the biscuit for cynical opportunism even by al-G standards. Mr Hooper prefers not to spoil his point by mentioning that Paul was, like Jesus, his disciples and all the authors of the New Testament, Jewish.

Ruth Gledhill in the Times claims that the Pope's Quranic scholarship is suspect. Well, that's fair enough, and he's positively inviting dialogue with Muslim scholars on that level. But let's spell out once again the precondition for that kind of conversation: all sides are free to speak their mind without facing the threat of violence. In Ms Gledhill's piece that takes a back seat to Pope-bashing.

In the real world outside the blogosphere, is there anybody manning the barricades for freedom?

Not the trendy Christian liberals who've seized the opportunity to stick the boot into Ratzi -dishonourable mentions for Giles Fraser, chaplain to al-Grauniad, and the Pope's old antagonist Hans Küng (see the Ruth Gledhill piece). Here's a vintage Fraserism:

'For in claiming that Islam may be beyond reason, and then to claim that to act without reason is to act contrary to the will of God, is pretty close to the assertion that this religion is godless. And that's not how different faiths ought to speak to each other - especially when we all have each other's blood on our hands.'

So, Dr Fraser, scourge of the conservative evangelicals: when Iranian zealots string up gay teenagers, do they serve the living God or an idol of their own imagining? Tricky one, huh? Remember: engage brain before opening mouth.

Who's manning the barricades? In German politics, not Renate Künast, leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, who called for an apology, and thinks that the Pope has not only the Crusades but the Irish civil war (sic) and the invasion of Iraq on his conscience (German source here). Bad news for Germans who want to save the planet without surrendering their democratic rights.

You'd expect the Christian Democrats to do better and they do. Chancellor Angela Merkel has stood up for the Pope, whilst the party's General Secretary, Ronald Pofalla, says: 'All those who are now attacking him don't want dialogue, but an intimidated and silenced West'. (German source here)

Credit is due too, perhaps less predictably, to Lale Akgün, Muslim Affairs spokesman for the Social Democrats:

'Look, there are three and a half million Muslims living in Germany, over 20 million in Europe. These are not small numbers. That means we have no alternative to convincing the majority of comparatively apathetic Muslims of the need to accept and show the peaceful face of Islam. [...] We must simply ensure that those who are rather indifferent to religion, who tend to fight shy of religion, take an active stand, that we persuade them to join with us in developing an Islam in Europe which is compatible with democracy, with human rights, with women's rights. And which is also prepared to submit itself to discussion, prepared to accept other opinions or at least agree to disagree.'

(my translation, original here)

OK, it's not a great advertisement for a belief system if you have to look to the apathetic to salvage some basic decency. Never mind, he's on the right side.

Returning to the UK papers, the Observer's Will Hutton gives us a mixed bag. He's been reading a book by a progressive Muslim, and he desperately wants to believe its message:-

'Nor is Islam less able [than Christianity or Judaism] to accommodate reason or Enlightenment values.'

Well, I'd very much like to believe it too. Mr Hutton should carry on reading, and if he will add the New Testament and the Quran to his reading list he can, I hope, correct his impression that they are both equally guilty of glorifying violence (see below).

Still, he does get it to this extent...

'Aslan is persuasive, but the reaction of some Islamic leaders to the Pope's incitement belies his optimism. They can choose to ignore the pontiff, challenge him or demonstrate through reference to Islam's own teachings that he is wrong. Instead, they stress the enormous offence that has been given. There is no sense here of a commitment to pluralism or mutual tolerance.


'The principle of tolerance is one on which the West can never compromise. The Pope was right on one thing, though; the West, its religions included, accepts the grandeur of reason. So, ultimately, must Islam.'

And there's William Rees-Mogg in today's Times. 10 out of 10. I fear he may be a little long in the tooth to be manning the barricades, but then so is the Holy Father, and with so many 'liberals' deserting the cause of liberty we need everyone we can get...

'The Pope’s actual quotation is not just a medieval point of view. It is a common modern view; even if it seldom reaches print; it can certainly be found on the internet. “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and then you shall find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

'Is it true that the Koran contains such a command, and has it influenced modern terrorists? The answers, unfortunately, are “yes” and “yes”.

'The so-called Sword Verse from Chapter 9 must have been in the emperor’s mind: “So when the sacred months have passed away, Then slay the idolaters wherever you find them.

'“And take them captive and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in every ambush.”

'This does shock many Muslims: extremists are angered by the implied criticism of those who quote it, while moderates who cannot disavow the terms of the Koran prefer more evasive interpretations. The shock it creates shows the importance of the doctrine.'

Lest the barricades stuff comes across as a mite hysterical, let a correspondent to the same paper have the final word:-

'Sir, The Pope did not give offence (reports, Comment and leading article, Sept 16): his enemies took it.

'Taking offence is a blackmail strategy and any excuse, real or imagined, will do: it is seen in the belligerent drunk, growling “What are you lookin’ at?” or the gang member who draws a knife because he has been “dissed”. It works because polite, educated respondents try to treat this as a real question, to apologise and negotiate.

'You cannot negotiate with a drunk or a knife, and you cannot negotiate with those who manufacture offence as a weapon.'

Evil breeding evil: neo-Nazis on the march

The local election results in Germany send a shiver down the spine. The fears voiced here have proved justified, with the neo-Nazi NPD repeating their success in Saxony two years ago by picking up over 7% of the vote in the coastal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with German politics, it should be stressed that this is not (at least not yet) a German problem. It is an East German problem. So far the NPD's derisory showing in the West has ensured that they're kept out of the Bundestag. But in the East they are doubly the beneficiaries of four decades of communist misrule. Firstly, because they're benefitting from the economic collapse which the communist regime engineered - unemployment is running at over 20%, and people are looking for scapegoats. And secondly because, in stark contrast with the West, the regime suppressed honest discussion of the Nazi past, instead presenting themselves as the heirs to a mythical mass anti-fascist resistance movement - and in doing so succeeding in glamourizing Nazism in the eyes of many young people. Everyone knew they were being ruled by congenital liars, so it was a natural reflex to believe the opposite to whatever the official propaganda said. The more the rhetoric of international solidarity was prostituted to deny the reality of the country's status as a Soviet colony, the more credibility was lent to the opposite extreme of aggressive nationalism.

Thus does evil breed evil.

It's Religion of Peace time again

'You can bet your life that by the time you read this, some Catholic priest toiling away in a godforsaken, dusty hellhole — Sudan, perhaps, or Turkey — will have been smacked about a bit, or had his church burnt down or been arrested without charge. The Pope should have been aware that Islam always reacts to western allegations that it is not a peaceful religion by mass outbreaks of vituperation, denunciation and acts of jihadic violence.'

- Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times.

It was Somalia, actually. She was an elderly nun. The scene was a children's hospital. She was shot three times in the back. The burnt down churches hardly seem worth mentioning - they can be rebuilt, after all.

This is what Christians understand by the word 'martyrdom'. If you think it is islamophobic to suggest that the Muslim understanding is somewhat different, I respectfully recommend that you go and read the Quran.

And Muslims who sincerely wish to demonstrate that theirs is a religion of peace have now really got something to protest about, haven't they?

The gunmen knew not what they did, I dare say. Somalia is among the most brutalized societies on Earth, and the average level of education is not high. Those who have been orchestrating the protests from more comfortable locations know very well what they are doing. May God have mercy on their souls.

More soon.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A letter to the Independent

Published today. Provoked by the letters here and here...

'Sir: I find your letters page increasingly disturbing. It seems you have no problem with publishing letters accusing Israel of being a genocidal Nazi state provided you balance them with a roughly equal number of letters pointing out that this is nonsense. Thus does a notion that belongs on the lunatic fringe creep stealthily into the mainstream. The 'Nazi' tag appears to require no justification beyond evidence that injustice has been done and the writer's feelings of indignation.

'Meanwhile the butchers of Khartoum go about their business undisturbed by censure from your readers. If you publish this letter it will be the second containing the word "Darfur" in the last three months.'

The second paragraph got the chop. I suppose I must be charitable in view of the fact that the paper ran a major Darfur feature today, but I can't help feeling that was all the more reason to leave it in.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

School's out, there's a war on

'Education in Southern Sudan is almost non-existent,
due to over two decades of war. More than 1.5 million
people have been killed and about four million forced
to flee to the north or to other countries. Many of
them have still not been able to return.The education
system and infrastructure have been totally destroyed.

'Over the last ten years, ad hoc education programmes
have been set up by local communities, NGOs and
faith-based organisations, but the Ministry of Education
is run by volunteers and teachers are untrained, unpaid
and often have had very little schooling themselves.
Going to school, for those children who do, means
sitting under a tree or in a grass hut, with no water
or toilets, without even the most basic teaching and
learning materials.

'The children of Southern Sudan have the least access
to primary education in the world. Around 20 per cent
of children enrol in school, with only 2 per cent
completing primary education.The situation is even
worse for girls. In a population of between six and
seven million, 500 girls finish primary school each year.

'Now that a separate government has been set up
and a fragile peace negotiated, people are beginning
to return to the south, placing an even greater strain
on a non-functioning education system.'

- from Save the Children's report 'Rewrite the Future: Education for children in conflict-affected countries' (pdf via StC and the BBC)

My gloss on this, which StC might or might not agree with, concerns the mainstream-media-eye view of the world. These are forgotten victims of a forgotten conflict - except that 'forgotten' is the wrong word since it was almost totally ignored by the media while it was raging.

Probably most of what I know about Darfur comes from the blogs I read regularly (honourable mention to Mick Hartley), but over the last few months the msm have finally started to wake up. The BBC website is reasonably good (I suspect the Nine O'Clock News is a different story, though) and the Telegraph's David Blair is outstanding (I never thought I'd live to see the day when I put 'Telegraph' and 'outstanding' into the same sentence).

That awakening never happened in twenty years of carnage in the South.

Darfur is Muslim on Muslim. The South was Muslim on non-Muslim. 1.5 million dead (some say 2 million) are quite a lot of exceptions to fit into the theory that the West is engaged in an anti-Muslim crusade. But you couldn't know that if you never read about them or saw them on TV.

The StC report mentions Palestine once for the sake of form - well, you have to keep the lefties happy. Of course the education problem exists there, but since it isn't isn't quantified you can be sure that it pales into insignificance in comparison with vast swathes of Africa. Vast, reporter-free swathes of Africa.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Christian Aid and the Hindu vicar

From the Times comes the curious story of the Church of England priest who thinks he should keep his job - despite having become a Hindu. I'm reminded of the late Alan Watts, counter-culture guru of 1960s California, who was ordained as an Episcopalian priest when he was already a convinced Buddhist (it's probably relevant that America was at war with Japan at the time, so that openly embracing one of that country's national religions was not likely to be a popular move).

This would belong in my off-topic blog were it not for the fact that there is a Christian Aid connection. Naturally it would be unreasonable to conclude anything about the organization from one individual who once held a post in it. Let's just say that if one was already wondering quite how Christian CA really is, one might not find this episode particularly reassuring. One might also ask whether the step taken by Mr Hart is not a logical conclusion of a mindset which rules out anything as culturally imperialistic as preaching the Gospel to the poor. I say that in full awareness of the issues raised when comparatively rich and powerful people proselytize poor and vulnerable people. But there is such a thing as throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Anglican news, mostly good

Anglicans for Israel bring the wondeful news of the joint Declaration signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the two Chief Rabbis of Israel. AFI have issued a statement welcoming the Declaration which I heartily endorse. It is enormously to the Archbishop's credit, notwithstanding my past criticisms of his stance.

It is tempting to write that one of the best things about the declaration is that it has made Bishop Riah Abu al-Assal hopping mad. The temptation is to be resisted because actually it's pretty tragic that the Bishop of Jerusalem, of all people, can't be looked to to play a positive role in Anglican-Jewish dialogue. But his reaction makes it very clear why it was right and necessary to bypass him.

It would be good to hear a more welcoming response from Anglicans across the pond. The Episcopal Church's history of anti-Israel bias is documented here (via). Once again I'm staggered by TEC's double standards. This the church which is prepared to risk schism in the name of a stand of principle on gay rights. And yet it is repeatedly laying into the one country in the Middle East where gay rights exist in any shape or form.

A country where they emphatically don't exist is Iran. But that's apparently no reason why former President Mohammad Khatami shouldn't be an honoured guest of Washington's National Cathedral. I'm glad to see that some TEC liberals have drawn the line at this.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lebanon latest

Remember how stable and democratic Lebanon was before the wicked Israelis trampled on its sovereignty?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Question of Zion

The latest issue of the journal Democratiya has a devastating, and very informative, review by Shalom Lappin of Jacqueline Rose's book The Question of Zion.

We hear complaints that in America serious criticism of Israel is silenced by kneejerk accusations of anti-Semitism. Yet here is one of the country's leading academic presses publishing a polemic against Israel by someone who is unaware that 'Pentateuch' and 'Torah' are two names for the same thing. This would seem to suggest that the real problem is quite the opposite.

(via Harry's Place)

Monday, September 04, 2006

People in glass houses

Every so often a certain member of the South African government pops up in the Guardian to help beef up the campaign to brand Israel as an apartheid state (here's a sample of his writing for the domestic audience, and here's a fisk of a previous article by a SA blogger who earns immediate inclusion on my blogroll). Well, next time an article by Ronnie Kasrils appears in al-Grauniad, perhaps some readers will remember what the paper's man in Jo'burg had to say about the glass house from which Mr Kasrils throws his stones.

How many lives have been lost as a direct consequence of the criminally incompetent handling of the HIV/Aids crisis by Thabo Mbeki and his 'health minister'? Tens of thousands? Or more? Some might feel this is in itself sufficient grounds for a boycott.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Cluster bombs

'Still, I cannot find a way of justifying Israel's widespread use of cluster bombs, especially in the final days of the war.'

- writes Gene of Harry's Place, who is no Israel-basher. I read this shortly after being challenged by Mrs Cyrus to post on this topic. So, very simply: I agree with this and with everything else in Gene's post. Defending Israel against unfair criticism does not entail denying that any criticism is ever justified.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dear Angela

President Ahmadinejad has written to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, thoughtfully offering her solidarity in the struggle to liberate Germany from the tyranny of the you-know-who's. Harry's Place has highlights and an appropriate link.

Making a wilderness and calling it victory

Alan Johnson of the BBC surveys the fate of the former Israeli settlements in Gaza. It's a sorry tale and of course, Alan Johnson of the BBC being Alan Johnson of the BBC, it's largely the Israelis' fault. If only they'd stop overreacting to those 'crudely-made' rockets that only 'rarely' kill anybody... They should realize that it's their responsibility to fix it so that the Palestinians can play with rockets to their hearts' content and have a viable economy.

Reading the article, it dawned on me that there was something missing. If land which was illegally occupied has been vacated, what would you expect to happen to it? Surely it should be restored to its rightful owners. But it seems that's not on the agenda at all. Why not? Could it possibly be that before the settlers came this land was so unproductive that nobody ever thought of staking a claim to it?

Can the BBC settle this point, on which I am genuinely in ignorance? The evidence on offer is circumstantial at best, and I strongly suspect that that is in itself a clue to the answer. Here's a settler speaking last August:-

'"When we got to Gush Katif in the 1970s, there was nothing; just sand dunes 15 metres high," he says.

'"It was desert all around, with a smattering of Bedouins who worked with us. We didn't occupy anything. We developed these farmlands. From the sand, we created a paradise."'

(the article from which this comes is an eye-opener on the PA's determination to cut its nose off to spite its face: some settlers were willing to sell their farms as going concerns, but the PA were refusing to pay even if someone else gave them the cash)

On the other hand, a PA employee who, also last August, wrote a diary for the BBC website (balance, you see), had this to say:-

'Now we are looking to what happens afterwards. Once military control has ended there will be a special court appointed by the Palestinian authorities.

'It will ask people who owned land near or inside the settlements to prove their ownership with papers, then they will get it back.'

So how's the special court coming along a year later? Our correspondent Alan Johnson is on the line from Gaza. Over to you, Alan...

Maybe there is a parallel universe in which the settlers were invited to stay on and help kickstart the Gazan economy. Having consented, they are buying goods and services from Palestinian businesses and paying taxes to the Palestinian authorities. Meanwhile the rockets have stopped in reciprocation for the Israeli withdrawal, and exports flow freely across Gaza's borders.

In our universe, of course, the settlers had to go - not because they were thieves, but because they were Jews in a place where all political factions agree that no Jews are wanted. Something to bear in mind next time you hear that Israel is a racist apartheid state.

Or to put it another way: what do you call someone who doesn't want any Arabs living next door? A racist. What do you call an Arab who doesn't want any Jews living next door? An anti-imperialist resistance fighter. They're a laugh a minute, the anti-Zionist left.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Christians: Israel didn't finish the job

An Australian newspaper report offers a corrective to the claim (often made, one suspects, by people who really want it to be true) that the Israelis have succeeded in turning everyone in Lebanon into Hezbollah supporters. (via Stephen Pollard)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Underlying causes

Back at Christian Aid, meanwhile, head of propaganda - sorry, 'advocacy officer' - William Bell congratulates himself that 'We have impressed upon government ministers the importance of dealing with the underlying causes of conflict and poverty in the region'. These comprising:-

1. the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories

2. corruption within the Palestinian Authority

3. the existential threat to Israel from terrorist organizations with racist ideologies.

Only kidding. I made up no. 3. It really has become very difficult to find anything in CA 'advocacy' to which Hamas could object. I can only hope Tony Blair's chat with Dr Mukarji was a little more enlightening - if not, the PM must have wondered why he bothered.

To reprise a point I've made before, when Mr Bell does his twisting of elected politicians' arms, he does so on behalf of an organization subsidized by the UK taxpayer to the tune of over £8 million a year (source).