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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, November 30, 2007

Bears of little brain

'This sad little Sudanese tale is part of a larger story, from the Rushdie affair to the storm over the Danish cartoons, in which some Muslims, and some Muslim governments, seem to be almost searching for slights and fights, to be almost determined to be insulted, pushing aside those ready to take a more tolerant and relaxed view.

'There are objective reasons why Muslims are now more prickly about their rights and about what non-Muslims say about them than they used to be. But the resulting process is one in which the lines which non-Muslims must not cross are being repeatedly redefined, always more restrictively, at times with dire penalties threatened. The majority of Muslims may be much less concerned than the activists and radicals, but it is the activists and radicals who often set the pace. This constant raising of the bar does not increase respect for Islam but instead makes it appear coercive and threatening. In Sudan, it is not the bear which is of little brain.'

You can push even the Grauniad (for that, believe it or not, is the source of the above) too far. Norm comments perceptively.

A major reservation: the last sentence only follows from the one before on the assumption that the Sudanese government's concern is with increasing respect for Islam. On the contrary, it is very happy to appear coercive and threatening, because that is precisely what it is.

Happy Anniversary

Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the UN vote that created the state of Israel. It did not go unmarked by Hamas:-

"Palestine is Arab Islamic land, from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem... there is no room in it for the Jews." (from the Jerusalem Post via Norm)

...or in still more emphatic form here, from a source evidently close to the horse's mouth:-

'Hamas affirmed that Palestine is an Arab, Islamic country since time immemorial and Jews have no right whatsoever in the land of Palestine, and stressed that Palestine is an inseparable whole that is not for partitioning.'

Not exactly nuanced, is it?

These people want Hamas to be involved in 'dialogue and reconciliation' and granted the freedom to acquire more lethal firepower so they can kill Israeli civilians. Whether the reconciliation takes place on the basis of the Fatah line or the Hamas line (see above) doesn't seem to matter particularly.

You may like to note that CAFOD and Oxfam, though a lot closer than they should be to Christian Aid on this issue, are at least not signatories to this deplorable document. Oxfam has stated:-

'For its part, Hamas has failed to stop armed Palestinian groups from undertaking indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel. These attacks are unacceptable and must end.'

It's bad enough that this credits Hamas with wanting to stop the rocket attacks; if anything still worse that the statement that the attacks are 'unacceptable' is immediately cancelled out by the demand that Israel end its blockade of Gaza, and thus 'accept' not just these attacks, but also attacks using the far more deadly weaponry which the attackers could then acquire; but it's still more change than you'll get out of Christian Aid at present.

In the deepest and truest sense

As my spiritual leader speaks out, the Teddy Mo affair continues to render satire redundant:-

'ABC: Well as I’ve said I don’t think the Sudanese government has done itself any favours with this, as indeed with other policies of theirs in recent years. It would be very good if this sentence were in some ways set aside, if Julie [sic] Gibbons were allowed to return home promptly. I think everyone here is bound to be thinking with enormous compassion and sensitivity, and indeed some indignation about her situation. I hope she knows how strongly she’s supported and how many people are bearing her in mind at this time.'

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Bear Named Mo

I keep pinching myself, but I really do seem to be awake and registering the real world.

Good news from the Beeb, though...

'Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, also said it appeared to have been a "quite horrible misunderstanding" and Ms Gibbons should never have been arrested.

'There was no apparent intention to offend Islamic sensibilities or defame the honour and name of the Prophet Muhammad, he said.'

So there are circumstances when it would have been a non-horrible correct understanding, but - apparently, at least - they don't apply. Thank you for setting our minds at rest, Mr B.

Also, don't miss the Beeb's po-faced disquisition on the theology of soft toy naming.

As ever, the defaming of the honour and name of poor old Mo is in the capable hands of folk who call themselves his followers. Memo to Ed Husain: when things like this happen nobody needs Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Martin Amis to tell them that there's a problem. I have great respect for you, Ed; how much I respect your religion depends on how representative of it people like you are. Please don't go down the blind alley of trying to blame its image problem on a conspiracy of Islam-bashers.

The tyranny of hurt feelings

"What oft was thought but ne'er (not often,anyway) so well expressed"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mearsheimer and Walt: an Anglican footnote

Coming upon a stack of Mearsheimer and Walts (in English) in Berlin's top bookshop, I wanted to check whether a particular passage in their London Review of Books article had made it into the book. It had, and thanks to it I am able to save myself a lot of time and expense. It seems reasonable to say that if you find you can't trust what a book says about a subject you know something about, you've no reason to trust what it says about anything else. So I have made up my mind about The Israel Lobby. It stinks.

Here is the offending passage from the article; I did not notice any significant alteration in the book:-

'Israel’s advocates, when pressed to go beyond mere assertion, claim that there is a ‘new anti-semitism’, which they equate with criticism of Israel. In other words, criticise Israeli policy and you are by definition an anti-semite. When the synod of the Church of England recently voted to divest from Caterpillar Inc on the grounds that it manufactures the bulldozers used by the Israelis to demolish Palestinian homes, the Chief Rabbi complained that this would ‘have the most adverse repercussions on . . . Jewish-Christian relations in Britain’, while Rabbi Tony Bayfield, the head of the Reform movement, said: ‘There is a clear problem of anti-Zionist – verging on anti-semitic – attitudes emerging in the grass-roots, and even in the middle ranks of the Church.’ But the Church was guilty merely of protesting against Israeli government policy.'

So: a church takes a perfectly innocent stand on a human rights issue, and a couple of rabbis make wild accusations of anti-Semitism in a transparent attempt to morally blackmail non-Jews into silence over Israel's crimes. Should we not applaud Mearsheimer and Walt for their courage in exposing this for the racket that it is?

As a member of the Church of England who took a close interest in these events when they happened, the only thing I feel like applauding is the authors' skill in cramming so many half truths and misrepresentations into four sentences. Apologies to readers pushed for time for my inability to produce an equally concise refutation, but I must crave your patience...

Critics of critics of critics

The claim that there is a new anti-Semitism abroad may indeed be made by some people who treat all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic; it is certainly made by a great many people who do nothing of the kind. If you doubt this, spend some time at the Engage website; to represent Engage's position as 'criticise Israeli policy and you are by definition an anti-semite' would be a straightforward lie.

The smear against those sincerely concerned about the new anti-Semitism is followed by the sentence quoting the two rabbis' warnings of anti-Semitism in response to a particular campaign against Israel. The unwary reader is being invited to assume that the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, and Rabbi Tony Bayfield take the 'criticise Israeli policy and you are by definition an anti-semite' line. In both gentlemen's cases this is, once again, totally untrue.1

Who's complaining?

A further assumption to which our unwary reader is implicitly invited: since it was just a couple of rabbis who attacked the Synod resolution, Zionist special pleading must have been the only possible grounds for making such a criticism. Why do the authors not see fit to mention that (among other non-Jewish critical voices) the resolution was also sharply condemned by no less an Anglican than the former Archbishop of Canterbury? Lord Carey said it made him 'ashamed to be an Anglican'. Should we ascribe this omission (which has certainly not been corrected in the book) to sloppy research, or deliberate misrepresentation?

Criticism versus demonization

So why did a disparate coalition of Jewish and non-Jewish voices speak out against the resolution? 'But the Church was guilty merely of protesting against Israeli government policy', the authors tell us with affected artlessness, as if that was enough to dispose conclusively of any possibility of anti-Semitism. It wasn't about Jews, it was 'merely' about a state which 'merely' happens to be the only Jewish one in the world.

This is not about analysis or persuasion, but about playing to the gallery - a gallery where 'it isn't anti-Semitic to criticize Israel' is a mantra for keeping minds closed and terminating debate.

And it won't do. It really, really won't. Criticism of Israel can be fair and justified. It can also demonize Israel and in demonizing Israel demonize the Jewish people. It does this when it applies double standards - as General Synod did with a 'protest' which was certainly anything but 'mere'. I distinguish two types of double standard; one might describe them as local and global.

The local double standard: telling one side of the story

Mearsheimer and Walt themselves apply the first category of double standard in exactly the same way that General Synod did. Caterpillar bulldozers were 'used by the Israelis to demolish Palestinian homes'. Well, any particular homes? Any particular Palestinians? Any particular reason? Or just randomly, for the sheer hell of it?

The answer is, of course, that the Israeli government had a policy of demolishing the homes of suicide bombers who had attacked Israel. Call it illegal, call it vindictive, call it counterproductive - fine, so long as you acknowledge that a terrorism which demolishes not just real estate but lives is part of the equation. That simple acknowledgement is too much for Mearsheimer and Walt, just as it was for General Synod.

The global double standard: singling out

It so happens that the demand for divestment from Caterpillar displayed the second category of double standard with a particularly stark clarity. General Synod met in February 2006. During 2005 the government of Zimbabwe had carried out a demolition programme which, according to UN estimates, left some 700,000 people homeless - people whose crime was, essentially, being poor.

As I wrote at the time, Synod failed to show '[a]ny interest in finding out who provided Robert Mugabe with technical backup for a house demolition campaign which dwarfed all the Israelis’ efforts.' Well, I can now answer my own question thanks (ironically, given my views about the magazine's Middle East coverage) to Christian Aid News, which published a photo of a bulldozer demolishing a shack which had been a family's home. The bulldozer was bright yellow, and the maker's logo was somewhat blurred but clearly began with a 'C'.

Has there been a campaign within the Church of England to persuade Caterpillar that it should not sell its products to Zimbabwe? No, there has not - let alone a divestment campaign.2

A historical thought experiment

If it's still not clear what this has to do with anti-Semitism, let me offer an analogy from - surprise, surprise - Germany. Under the 1918-33 Weimar Republic there were a number of financial scandals in which wealthy Jews were implicated. Let's imagine how different newspapers might have covered these stories.

A paper of the radical Left might have used them as illustrations of the rottenness of the capitalist system. So long as it gave equal prominence and similar treatment to scandals where no Jews were involved, it would have had no case to answer if anyone accused it of anti-Semitism.

A Nazi paper, on the other hand, would obviously have highlighted just those scandals involving Jews, and made sure its readers couldn't overlook the fact that they were Jewish. There would be no room for doubt as to what its agenda was.

But what would we make of a paper which consistently highlighted only the scandals involving Jews, but which, if taken to task over this, insisted that it was just a critique of the excesses of capitalism and nothing whatever to do with anti-Semitism? Would we not be forced to see this either a peculiar form of moral blindness or simple bad faith? Would we want to defend the editors indignantly against any suggestion that they were not perfectly good socialists, good liberals or good Christians?

In search of real anti-Semitism

But I'm not sure that it's much use arguing this point with Mearsheimer and Walt. As regards their attitude to anti-Semitism, there's a sentence from the previous paragraph in the article which gives the game away in glorious Technicolor. I certainly won't be the first fisker whose attention this has attracted:-

'No one would deny that there is anti-semitism among European Muslims, some of it provoked by Israel’s conduct towards the Palestinians and some of it straightforwardly racist.'

So there you have it: there are two kinds of anti-Semitism, and one is racist, but the other has been provoked. Any Jew in London, Berlin or Paris who gets beaten up by Muslims infuriated by Israel's conduct towards the Palestinians can take comfort in the knowledge that his/her assailants were not straightforward racists.

If authentic, 'racist' anti-Semitism has to involve a complete absence of provocation, we can pretty much say that it has rarely, if ever, existed. Jews have provoked Gentiles by being responsible for capitalism, communism, anarchism, Germany's defeat in the First World War, the Black Death and the killing of Christ... The list goes on. And now Israel. If only they would behave themselves!

Imagine that Mearsheimer and Walt had suggested that hatred of black people in general, or Arabs, or Muslims, is sometimes 'provoked' and therefore not 'straightforwardly' racist. Can you also imagine them being able to make a triumphal progress round Britain's universities, propounding these views to adoring audiences of left-wing students and academics?

Lobby (UK section) exposed?

Let's come back to the Synod resolution. What is the relevance of this story to Mearsheimer and Walt's central thesis? The Chief Rabbi had a spat with the Church of England over Israel - what's that got to do with the price of fish? It's pretty clear that the authors would like very much to include Britain in the picture they paint of America - a Britain under the thumb of the Lobby, in which would-be critics of Israel are silenced by the wielding of the 'anti-Semitism club' (as some people in Germany see fit to call it). But it's equally clear that to offer the case of the Synod resolution as evidence for this is absurd. For the resolution was indeed easily carried. Those voting for it were evidently not deterred by the fear of accusations of anti-Semitism, and I know of no evidence that any of them has since been cowed by the Chief Rabbi's strictures.

Perhaps we are meant to think that this was a bold, maverick action on the part of General Synod. But that's plainly nonsense, too. For a start, it's just not the C of E's style, and never has been. These days the established church is about as cosy in its relationship with the left-liberal establishment as it used to be with the landed gentry (only the ever-infuriating Evangelicals disturb the harmony).

No, as I hardly need to inform British readers, the vote reflects a media environment, both secular and Christian, in which hostile coverage of Israel is routine and pervasive. You'd be safe in guessing that among the Synod members who voted for the resolution there was a healthy majority of Guardian and Independent readers. Neither paper displays the slightest reluctance to criticize Israel. Most will also have been exposed to Christian Aid's persistent propaganda campaign against Israel. And practically all of them will have been consumers of the not exactly Israel-friendly BBC's news and current affairs programming.

Tony Blair and the logic of the Lobby thesis

My impression, then, is that Mearsheimer and Walt are not particularly well-informed about Britain. That's fair enough - I certainly don't know as much as I could know about the USA. But Britain is nevertheless crucial to their thesis. They need Britain to be, like America, firmly in the grip of the Lobby. For how, otherwise, is the Blair government's decision to join in the invasion of Iraq to be explained? On the principle of Occam's Razor, the explanatory force of the Lobby thesis depends on the assumption that Bush's decision to go to war was so perverse, irrational and immoral that only the malign influence of the Lobby can satisfactorily account for it. And if Blair's choice - irrespective of whether it was right or wrong - was truly his own, then that assumption falls. So he, no less than Bush, must be a pliant creature of the Lobby.

And that, I think, is why the General Synod of the Church of England makes its brief appearance as a heroic resistance movement against the intellectual reign of terror exercised by Jonathan Sacks and Tony Bayfield. Conclusion of my footnote: this book is toxic.

Footnotes to the footnote

1. From the Chief Rabbi's Address to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 21 September 2003:-

'Is criticism of Israel anti-Semitism? No. Are false accusations against Israel anti-Semitism? No. Is Britain an anti-Semitic country? No and no again. This is a good, decent and tolerant country, a society of chessed which we love and to which we have loyally contributed for 350 years.

'But we say to every responsible citizen of Europe - Zakhor, remember. Remember how one thing leads to another. Remember how centuries of prejudice against Jews were captured and turned to evil by evil men for evil ends. Remember that the road to hell begins with a single step. For the love of G-d, or for the love of humanity, stand up and say "No".

'You do not have to support the current or any other Government of Israel in order to protest the demonisation of Zion and the Jewish people. You do not have to take sides in the current conflict in order to be able to say to people, "You are stirring up hatred which is wrong, dangerous and unacceptable."'

Rabbi Tony Bayfield, writing in Comment is Free on 26 June 2007:-

'I am a moderate when it comes to Israel but not, I hope, vacuous. It is an uncomfortable position with traffic coming at me from both sides. I am a Zionist and define Zionism as a non-negotiable commitment to the right of the state of Israel to exist and an equal commitment to the pursuit of peace as the highest value, to democracy and human rights. That exposes me to the rage of Israel's critics on the one side and to the Jewish "realists" and cynics on the other.'

2. The C of E's brand of anti-colonialist anti-racism evidently makes it less reluctant to vilify the Jewish state than to take a stand against a black African despot - even though his victims are also black Africans.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A religious sort of guy

'"if he sees a very attractive woman his eye will wander and all that stuff, he doesn't look like your classic religious sort of guy,"'

- Alastair Campbell on Tony Blair.

Oh boy, do we religious guys have an image problem.

I admit that Origen is said to have castrated himself in obedience to an over-literal reading of Matthew 19:12, but these days it's optional. Honestly.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Scholarship, truth and Middle Eastern politics

Another aspect of the politics of Near Eastern archaeology - though in fact one which complements the one I covered the other day rather neatly...

'Is this Columbia University? A professor of anthropology calls for a million Mogadishus, a professor of Arabic and Islamic Science tells a girl she isn't a Semite because her eyes are green, and a professor of Persian hails the destruction of the World Trade Center as the castrating of a double phallus. The most recent tenured addition to this rogues' gallery is to be an anthropologist, the principal thrust of whose magnum opus is the suggestion that archaeology in Israel is a sort of con game meant to persuade the unwary that Jews lived there in antiquity.'

More details here; read all three articles, or at least the one by James R. Russell, from which I've taken the quote above.

I suppose get more or less worked up about most of what I write about, but there's something peculiarly nightmarish about this. At Columbia, which is not just any old university, you can get tenure for writing a book about a subject you basically know sod all about (David Rosen asks 'How can a work that apparently demonstrates an impaired understanding of the archeological sciences be regarded as good anthropology?'). All you need is to know plenty about 'discourse', and to have a thesis which lends itself to approved political uses.

You'd only need to shift the boundary a little further to enable Holocaust denial to come in from the cold and become an acceptable 'anti-imperialist narrative'.

I once browsed a book in which Holocaust denial was subjected to a Postmodern analysis. Its triumphant conclusion was that, whilst one couldn't meaningfully insist that the Holocaust had really happened, one could at least confidently assert that denying it was racist. Phew!

But such a judgment is an eminently movable feast. It assumes, on the one hand, that Jews enjoy unchallenged victim status and, on the other hand, that Holocaust denial is the preserve of scary white men with drastic haircuts and jackboots. If, however, a group with a higher victimhood rating than the Jews should appropriate Holocaust denial as a convenient weapon against the legitimacy of Israel, nothing could be easier than to stand the verdict on its head. Nothing, after all, is real except politics.

(hat tip: Engage)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Muslim dead

'This is not the only manner in which [Ronan] Bennett gives himself away. He refers to the "Muslim dead from Iraq to Afghanistan" and conscripts them for what he imagines is his side. How dare he? Has he even begun to tot up the number of Muslims murdered by the Taliban? Or the total slaughtered in Iraq since al-Qaida began its campaign to level the Shi'a mosques? Does he think that the forces of the Northern Alliance, or the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who fight on "our" side against barbarism, are somehow inauthentic Muslims because they prefer Bush and Blair to Mullah Omar or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Something in his tone makes me suspect that this may well be his problem, just as I might have preferred him to mention that it was also the Provisional IRA, and not just the 1974 Prevention of Terrorism Act, that left "the Irish community in Britain feeling like a suspect nation".'

- C. Hitchens in cracking form in the Guardian. Read it all.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Christian Aid accused on anti-Israel bias

Dr Irene Lancaster had a meeting with Christian Aid heads in Jerusalem last week. Here she reports on it, and here she follows up with a memo to CA. Required reading.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

‘Help Me I’m A Socialist’

"We know a lot of bloggertarian bullying goes on. A report we commissioned showed that nine out of 10 people with leftist beliefs have been fisked," he said. "Anything which makes it more difficult to do that is good."

Read more about the latest legislative proposal for making us all better people.

Two states: a North European parable

A short frontier runs across the Jutland peninsula, dividing the former Duchy of Schleswig between Germany and Denmark. The region's mixed population is not altogether neatly divided by the borderline; there are Danish-speaking people on the German side and German-speaking people on the Danish side.

The members of both of these minority communities enjoy full citizenship rights, and official recognition for their languages. Which is obviously as it should be.

Would anyone dispute that Denmark exists to provide the culturally distinct group of people called Danes with their own state? Would anyone argue that it has no right to be any more Danish than German? Isn't it clear that anyone who feels their identity is unacceptably compromised by living in a Danish state rather than a German one has only to cross the border and take up residence on the other side?

These are reflections prompted by a piece examining the small print accompanying some versions of the two-state solution. Palestine must have no Jews living in it because it is to be an Arab state; Israel must not be a Jewish state because it has Arabs living in it. Even though there is no shortage of Arab states, but (like Denmark) only one Israel for Jews to call their own.

The Third Destruction of the Temple

An aspect of conflict in the Middle East which is completely new to me: allegations that the archaelogical evidence proving the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was a Jewish holy place long before it was a Muslim one is being systematically destroyed. But how can that be, you may be wondering - hasn't Israel run the whole of Jerusalem since 1967? In fact the Israelis left control of the Mount in the hands of an Arab Muslim body, the Wafq, and it is they who are charged with responsibility for the vandalism.

Melanie Phillips has more details.

Would I have remained ignorance for so long if the roles were reversed, and it was Jews trashing Muslim stuff? Somehow I doubt it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Left that Doesn't Learn

Mitchell Cohen's article in Dissent magazine, 'Anti-Semitism and the Left that Doesn’t Learn' has been noticed by a lot of the blogs I read, and deservedly so. It contains some leftist assumptions which I no longer share, but I guess that makes it all the more of a must-read for folk who do share them. Mick Hartley has the concluding money quote.

Ken the Unrepentant

I promised more on Mayor Ken, and I just know you've been waiting with bated breath.

Well, we're still on the Oliver Feingold case, about which I blogged here and here. Pandora of the Independent suggested that he had wasted a substantial amount of public money (£198,000, to be precise) by his failure to apologize for comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard.

Ken's reaction in full:-

'Sir: Pandora (31 October) fails to mention that I won my High Court appeal because the judge found that I had not brought the office of Mayor into disrepute and the decision to suspend me was wrong. Mr Justice Collins found that the Adjudication Panel for England had misdirected itself. The sole reason therefore that there is now a cost to the public purse is that the Adjudication Panel launched an action against me that was proved totally without merit. Your complaint about cost should therefore be directed against the Adjudication Panel.'


Which is being interpreted, f*** off. So the mayoral lips still refuse to form the magic word 'sorry', and Oliver Feingold is still like a concentration guard. If you're Jewish and offended, f*** off. If you think that, whatever the letter of the law may say, Ken's unrepentant tailoring of personal abuse to the ethnicity of the abusee brings him and much of what he professes to stand for into disrepute, f*** off.

That 'sorry' might have enabled me to regard Ken's commissioning of a report on Islamophobia as something more than a piece of cynical vote-grabbing. Though it would still have been difficult, given that one of the report's authors is Inayat Bunglawala of the MCB. Mr Bunglawala, of course, could do a lot to counter Islamophobia by simply keeping his trap shut.

I'd still like to see Ken quizzed on the contrast between his fate and that of Councillor Miles of Wellingborough, but nobody other than yours truly seems to have picked up on it. Doesn't anybody do any research these days?

As I wrote last year, if Ken had been mayor of Berlin he'd long since have become the ex-mayor. Not because Germany is under the thumb of the Lobby, but because the country which produced concentration camp guards has managed to learn a thing or two from its history. Unlike Ken.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To church with Einstein on Remembrance Sunday

During the years following the First World War Albert Einstein was a committed pacifist, campaigning for universal disarmament and encouraging conscientious objection. In 1933, however, he immediately recognized the Nazi regime in Germany as a threat to peace which could only be countered by the threat or use of force. He appealed to the democracies to take preventive action before it was too late.

In a speech in 1940 Joseph Goebbels taunted the defeated French with their failure to march into Germany and overthrow Hitler as soon as he had come to power. They had avoided conflict until German rearmament had put them at a decisive disadvantage. It was exactly what Einstein had said.

To many of his former comrades in the pacifist movement Einstein was a traitor. But who really did more for the cause of peace?

In fact his commitment to peace was undiminished, as demonstrated by the final decade of his life, during which he campaigned for the prevention of nuclear war by bringing all nuclear weapons under the control of a world government.

If Einstein could have shared a pew with me at my church's Remembrance Day service on Sunday, he would have heard many reminders of the pity of war and the imperative of peace-making, and unquestionably he would have approved. But I suspect he might have missed the note of gratitude towards those who, when fighting was the least evil, gave everything that others might live. He might have sensed a certain halfheartedness about the proceedings, as if we resented the annual invasion of our space by these uncouth outsiders with their uniforms and medals and flags (in fact most of our regulars simply didn't show up). He might have wondered at the Christian left's reluctance to acknowledge that, if there is ever such a thing as a just war, there are therefore times and places in which the martial virtues become Christian virtues.

(my information on Einstein comes from an article by Prof. Wolfram Wette of Freiburg University in the September issue of the German history magazine Damals)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Six dead, liberal love affair with Hamas unharmed

Deadly clash at Arafat Gaza rally

Six dead after shootout at Arafat rally

Five killed during Arafat rally

Security forces open fire on stone-throwing Palestinian protesters, six killed. Stand by for global outcry over disproportionate use of force by Israel.

Or, as it happens, not. Even if you didn't already know, there'd be a whopping great clue in the coyness of the headlines above about who was doing the shooting. Can you guess which major British media outlets they come from? (Compare and contrast with this and this)

One of the three economy-with-the-truthers redeems itself somewhat by carrying another piece of news from Gaza which is fairly difficult to blame on the Israelis. Not a dicky bird from the the other two, however.

Is it any wonder that well-meaning liberal Christians are prejudiced against Israel?

What's on a man's mind

'Brown needs big beasts in his lame menagerie'

- thus the link to a comment piece in the Sunday Times.

It took me a second or so before I realised that the fourth word did not contain an 'r'. I need new glasses. Or something.

PS If you're disposed to take this seriously, maybe I was thinking along the right lines after all.

¿Por qué no te callas?

Don't be lost for words next time you bump into a ranting demagogue and befriender of Holocaust deniers and pogromists who does his ranting in Spanish.

Worried about the pronunciation? Watch the video here and listen along with a monarch who has just acquired hero status at Grumpy's place.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A little mediaeval theology

Big day for the Grumpies: five years since eyes met over the spag bol, etc, etc, etc. Five years which have done little to cure me of my romantic tendencies, says he with insufferable smugness.

But you don't want to know about that, so I'm handing the rest of the post over to a fifteenth century German monk - for no better reason than that it's something I happened to read today and which moved me.

We Should Offer Ourselves and All That We Have to God, Praying for All

The Disciple
ALL things in heaven and on earth, O Lord, are Yours. I long to give myself to You as a voluntary offering to remain forever Yours. With a sincere heart I offer myself this day to You, O Lord, to Your eternal service, to Your homage, and as a sacrifice of everlasting praise. Receive me with this holy offering of Your precious Body which also I make to You this day, in the presence of angels invisibly attending, for my salvation and that of all Your people.

O Lord, upon Your altar of reconciliation, I offer You all the sins and offenses I have committed in Your presence and in the presence of Your holy angels, from the day when I first could sin until this hour, that You may burn and consume them all in the fire of Your love, that You may wipe away their every stain, cleanse my conscience of every fault, and restore to me Your grace which I lost in sin by granting full pardon for all and receiving me mercifully with the kiss of peace.

What can I do for all my sins but humbly confess and lament them, and implore Your mercy without ceasing? In Your mercy, I implore You, hear me when I stand before You, my God. All my sins are utterly hateful to me. I wish never to commit them again. I am sorry for them and will be sorry as long as I live. I am ready to do penance and make satisfaction to the utmost of my power.

Forgive me, O God, forgive me my sins for Your Holy Name's sake. Save my soul which You have redeemed by Your most precious Blood. See, I place myself at Your mercy. I commit myself to Your hands. Deal with me according to Your goodness, not according to my malicious and evil ways.

I offer to You also all the good I have, small and imperfect though it be, that You may make it more pure and more holy, that You may make it dear and acceptable to You, and raise it continually towards perfection, and finally that You may lead me, stubborn and unprofitable servant as I am, to a worthy and blessed end.

I offer You also all the holy desires of Your devoted servants, the needs of my parents, friends, brothers, sisters, and all who are dear to me; of all who for Your sake have been kind to me or to others; of all who have wished and asked my prayers and Masses for them and theirs, whether they yet live in the flesh or are now departed from this world, that they may all experience the help of Your grace, the strength of Your consolation, protection from dangers, deliverance from punishment to come, and that, freed from all evils, they may gladly give abundant thanks to You.

I offer You also these prayers and the Sacrifice of Propitiation for those especially who have in any way injured, saddened, or slandered me, inflicted loss or pain upon me, and also for all those whom I have at any time saddened, disturbed, offended, and abused by word or deed, willfully or in ignorance. May it please You to forgive us all alike our sins and offenses against one another.

Take away from our hearts, O Lord, all suspicion, anger, wrath, contention, and whatever may injure charity and lessen brotherly love. Have mercy, O Lord, have mercy on those who ask Your mercy, give grace to those who sorely need it, and make us such that we may be worthy to enjoy Your favor and gain eternal life.

- Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book 4, Chapter 9 (source here, though I've made a few changes where I prefer the Penguin translation; the Latin original is here)

My sins burnt away to nothing in the fire of God's love, and all I have to do is place them on the altar. I find it a very reassuring image.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Rubbish plans flawed, says mayor

Thus a BBC headline. So I was a little disappointed not to find a report on a tense meeting of Ken's election campaign team. Boom, boom! OK, sorry, but please understand that Grumpy is still a child at heart. And he does have perfectly serious reasons for not trusting Ken further than he can throw him - more on that anon.

The way we were

A perfect inter-generational stand-off. First off Johann Hari (enough material for an entire blog, but have no fear, I'm not volunteering), reminding us that his generation is the most righteous and enlightened ever to have inhabited our planet:-

'In the contempt for these shows, there is also a disguised longing for the age of emotional repression, when British people didn't cry or shout or scream on television. But that world had horrible flaws that far outweigh ours. Watch the 1945 film Brief Encounter now and it seems like the record of two deeply mentally-ill people. Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson meet on a train, fall in love and realise they are perfect for each other – but they are so deeply repressed they can't even bring themselves to touch, and return to miserable, wasted lives, wondering what might have been. This squalid stoicism made women feel obliged to stay with men who beat them too: the stiff upper lip was intimately connected to the bruised upper lip.'

But then there was Helen Maclenan, a decidedly atypical Indie reader whom I take to be of a certain age:-

'Sir: Johann Hari entirely misses the point of Brief Encounter, where the characters make the choice to return to their responsibilities and not to destroy the lives of their families.

'This may seem odd to Hari, as a member of the "me" generation, but there was a time when it was considered reasonable to consider the needs of others before one's own desires.'

Now, ain't that the truth? While we still can, we must cherish those who can tell us how it was before the Great Cultural Revolution. One day we will only have the films, their strangeness confronting us like Stonehenge or the writings of the Etruscans, and the Haris to interpret them for us (when they're not too busy designing Superpersons).

PS I don't want to gild Ms Maclenan's lily, but I do think it's revealing to chart the evolution of the concept of repression. It starts with Freud, of course, and for him it means the ways we prevent urges which we feel to be unacceptable from becoming conscious. But even Johann Hari surely cannot believe that the hero and heroine of Brief Encounter are unconscious of their feelings for each other. No, what he is saying is that their emotional health depends not merely on being aware that they're dying to shag each other, but on acting on that awareness. As if the point of psychoanalysis was not just to bring your Oedipus complex into the light of consciousness, but also to put it into practice. In Hariland morality only ****s you up.

Word of the Week

Indie reader Calvin Aitkin has coined the delightful portmanteau word 'talismatic'. Blending 'talismanic' and 'charismatic', it admirably describes what tigers are. When viewed from a safe distance, of course.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Something for the weekend

This may not quite be the last word in bizarre sports, but it can't be far off.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A candle for Rami

Depending on where you are, you may still have time to act on this suggestion from Christian Friends of Israel, and mark All Souls' Day by commemorating a martyr to religious intolerance. If not, do it a day late!

Wishful thinking

In my programme of Koran reading I've recently covered Surah 4, verse 34 (I've actually read a lot more than that would suggest - I took the short surahs at the end in reverse order, for which a stern punishment must await me, I've no doubt).

'What's all this about Surah 4, verse 34?', I hear you cry.

In N J Dawood's splendid Penguin translation, which I'm reading:

'Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to their beds and beat them. Then, if they obey you, take no further action against them. God is high, supreme.'

Or if you prefer, this is from a lavish edition (gold leaf and all) which Frau Grumpy acquired second-hand the other day, presented to its previous owner with the compliments of the late King Fahd:

'Men are the protectors
And maintainers of women
Because Allah has given
The one more (strength)
Than the other, and because
They support them
From their means.
Therefore the righteous women
Are devoutly obedient, and guard
In (the husband's) absence
What Allah would have them guard.
As to those women
On whose part ye fear
Disloyalty and ill-conduct,
Admonish them (first),
(Next), refuse to share their beds,
(And last) beat them (lightly);
But if they return to obedience,
Seek not against them
Means (of annoyance).
For Allah is Most High,
Great (above you all).'

Well, the pseudo-Jacobean English is more than a little cheesy for my taste, but it's obviously nice to see the beating qualified as 'light'; a footnote amplifies this into 'some slight physical correction', and observes that 'all authorities are unanimous in deprecating any sort of cruelty'. Can't say fairer than that, can you?

You might like a third opinion. So here's a brand-new paraphrase from a non-Muslim celeb:

'It is not laid down in the Koran that women can be beaten by their husbands'

So this is not, surprising as it may seem, a Muslim-bashing piece - though it is certainly a reminder of the limits of 'moderation' in those whose theology remains ultimately fundamentalist. Goodness knows, there's some decidedly pre-feminist stuff in the Bible (though, religiophobes please note, nothing about wife-beating being OK). No, this outburst has actually been provoked by the spectacle of someone who earns untold squillions wearing a funny wig being apparently too addicted to wishful thinking to get a basic fact right. Guess who.

She has some sensible things to say too, I admit, but as Damian Thompson says,

'I’m sorry, but that is exactly the sort slippery misinterpretation of the Koran produced by Western liberals who are embarrassed by what the Islamic scriptures actually say.'

...and who imagine that if we keep on pretending that it doesn't say what it does say, we will somehow magically induce Muslims to pretend it says what we would like it to say. A conviction which (I submit, M'Lud) suffers from the disadvantages of being (a) grossly patronizing and (b) wrong.

PS My source, the 'blood-crazed ferret' Damian Thompson, now takes his rightful place in my blogroll.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Talking of religious intolerance...

Scenario: you've just written a swingeing exposé of Muslim fundamentalist bigotry. Your satisfaction is mixed with a certain unease: suppose your friends or your boss accuse you of Islamophobia? What to do? Easy - have a go at the Christians too! Can't think of anything to have a go about? Well, make something up, for goodness' sake!

'If Christian fundamentalists were doing this – as they used to, and would like to again – none of us would hesitate in erupting in rage.'

We're talking here about women being stoned to death and ex-Muslims receiving death threats. I would indeed erupt in something as close to rage as a well-meaning woolly Anglican can permit himself, and what's more I'd like to erupt here and now against the folk who hold these disgracefully un-Christian sentiments. So, go on, tell me more. Some names, some damning quotes. A Web address for Christians for the Execution of Apostates.

The writer who (you will perhaps not be too surprised to learn) fails to provide any such details is not merely some crazed blogger who's been overdosing on Dawkins, but Johann Hari of the allegedly liberal Independent.