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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Seeing and believing: an icon for the scapegoaters

Coming to the second Melanie Phillips post, scapegoating needs its icons as well as its legends. A boy dies in his father's arms, deliberately shot by a callous Israeli soldier. Or did he? If TV station France 2 can be compelled to release the footage it has refused to make public, we may be able to pass a definitive judgment on claim that the whole thing was a fake - a latter-day Blood Libel. The story is still live, Melanie has posted again on it and will doubtless continue to do so.

But how much difference will it make if the claims are proven? Millions - perhaps billions - have seen and believed. Neo-Nazis, Muslims and nice, liberal, Guardian-reading Anglicans united in their indignation. And the last, having seen and believed, became that much more of a receptive audience for Mearsheimer and Walt.

It's part of the price Israel pays for being a democracy. Regimes which take the shooting-innocent-civilians thing seriously take care to shoot a foreign photographer or two before unplugging their country from the Internet.

Mearsheimer and Walt: the Shove in the Back Legend

Have no fear, I haven't given up in disgust, it's just that practically all of this month has been taken up with holiday and illness. Evidently staying at home is the healthy option.

So now I'm busy trawling through about 50,000 posts on my favourite blogs. Where to start? Well, an important and frightening place to start is with a couple of posts from Melanie Phillips.

In the first she quotes the wise words of LA Times writer Timothy Rutten reviewing Mearsheimer and Walt's The Israel Lobby. Rutter in turn quotes New Yorker editor David Remnick, who says that the Iraq fiasco 'has left Americans furious and demanding explanations. Mearsheimer and Walt provide one: the Israel lobby.' Rutter then concludes:-

'In fact, if you accept the analysis put forward in this book, it’s impossible not to conclude that the United States was, in fact, tricked into a disastrous war in Iraq by a domestic Fifth Column and that the ranks of that subversive formation are filled with Jews, their friends and willing dupes.

'Mearsheimer and Walt go to great pains to proclaim their disinterested benevolence toward all and to attach the word ‘realist’ to their argument. The only adjective that comes to this reader’s mind is "sinister."'

Not only sinister, but chillingly familiar. Germany, November1918: after the failure of its last big offensive the army is on the verge of being routed on the Western Front; on the home front despair finds an outlet in a wave of strikes; the Kaiser acknowledges the hopelessness of the situation and abdicates. The power vacuum is filled by politicians of the democratic Left, who form a provisional government, grasp the nettle of suing for peace, and then draft the democratic constitution of the ill-fated Weimar Republic. A weary, humiliated, angry people look for explanations.

Now it so happens that some of the most prominent personalities among these democratic politicians are Jews. As are a significant number of the radical socialists who led the strikes.

Or does it? Could it be that this fact provides the key to what's really been going on? Namely, that the Fatherland's heroic forces were on the verge of a glorious victory, only to have it snatched from them by a fiendishly cunning plan to foment unrest behind the lines, and thus smooth the way to power for a clique of politicians, revolutionary agitators and profiteers, united beneath their superficial differences by their lack of patriotism, their unscrupulousness - and their Jewishness.

So ran the Stab in the Back Legend (Dolchsto├člegende), which began gaining adherents immediately after the events of November 1918. One man may or may not have believed in the legend, but certainly believed it had an indispensible part to play in realizing his own dreams of power. Enjoying comfortable board and lodging at the state's expense (officially a prison cell) after his first attempt at seizing power, he wrote a book setting the Stab in the Back in its wider context of Jewish bestiality. The rest, as they say, is history.

And history has a way of repeating itself. Of course, the details are different. Then, a stab in the back to cheat a nation of its victory. Now, a shove in the back to ensure that a nation fights a war which is not in its interest. And of course Mearsheimer and Walt are not Hitlers.

But the Stab in the Back Legend came in many versions, some relatively 'sophisticated' and not - at least overtly - anti-Semitic. Once the logic of scapegoating is established, however, it tends to be the most consistent and ruthless scapegoaters who reap the rewards.

For the other Melanie Phillips post, see my next.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Was your research really necessary?

A couple of gems from the social scientists.

Item one:-

'Social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace are unlikely to help users build close new friendships, a researcher said Tuesday.

'This is because people feel they need face-to-face contact in order to develop trust, said Doctor Will Reader, from Sheffield Hallam University.'

Well, duh, as everyone seems to be saying lately.

Item two:-

'People are willing to dish out more dough to live in neighborhoods with others of the same race and education level, a new study finds.'

Yes, right across the board: both white and black, both the college-educated and (this, I admit, is perhaps not a total 'well, duh') the non-college-educated.

Rich neighbours are popular with everyone, though. Furthermore...

'Those with higher income, as well as a higher education level, also were willing to pay more to live in a neighborhood served by better schools, a factor that could lead to exclusion eventually of lower-income families from "good" school districts, the researchers stated.

'"Our estimates suggest that the improvement in a school's quality would disproportionately attract more highly educated households to the neighborhood, in turn making the neighborhood even more attractive to higher-income, highly educated households, and raising prices further," Patrick Bayer of Duke University and his co-authors said in a prepared statement.'

Who'd have thought it? Well, OK, maybe not the zealous egalitarians who gave Britain its comprehensive school system.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Calling Technical Support

Do any Blogger users know how I can cure the editor's infuriating habit of splattering posts with blank lines every time they're opened?

Any suggestions gratefully received.

Pukka sahibs

Here in Germany the commercial Advent has been with us since 1 September, when the traditional Christmas calorie bombs - Stollen, Lebkuchen and Spekulatius biscuits - appeared in the supermarkets. Hence the following question is already seasonal.

Would you buy your Christmas cards from a company responsible for supplying poisoned water to 70 million people?

No? Would it make any difference, then, if it was not a company but a development agency like, for instance, UNICEF?

Theodore Dalrymple ponders the case of the well-digging programme in Bangladesh which has exposed up to half of the country's population to arsenic poisoning (hat tip: Laban). He offers the provocative thesis that aid workers are today's colonial administrators - and certainly their level of accountability to the "natives"* when they screw up would seem to be comparable. Or, indeed, their level of accountability to anyone. Check out any big aid charity's annual report, and see if you can find any attempt at quantifying the cost-effectiveness of its work in terms of the number of people it has permanently lifted out of poverty.

If you think that I take no prisoners, as a loyal reader has commented, how about this from Dalrymple:-

'As I quickly discovered in Tanzania and elsewhere, foreign aid offers a lucrative career in good working conditions to middle class people of the developed world who want a little adventure in their lives, and who would once have been colonial officers; and it offers tempting opportunities for malversation of funds to their bureaucratic counterparts in the Third World. This symbiosis is the natural consequence of asking precisely the wrong question: not where wealth comes from, but where poverty comes from.

'As far as I am aware, not a single country has ever been lifted from poverty to prosperity by foreign aid, though no doubt many individuals have been so lifted. I do not mean any personal asperity when I remark that, when Professor Graziano told The Lancet that working with the multidisciplinary team which is trying to solve the arsenic poisoning of Bangladesh was

one of the most wonderful experiences of my life,

'I could not help but think of that line from the old Flanders and Swann song to the effect that

It all makes work for the working man to do.'

*Dear reader, I apologize for the quotation marks, and do assure you that I credit you with enough intelligence to understand that the use of this word is ironic. However, I feel I should err on the side of caution just in case I ever want to run for Mayor of London.