Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Get Ready for Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign 2.0 as Labour Condemns Israeli Invasion of Palestine

June 29, 2020

This is going to be a real test of Starmer’s leadership. It was not lost on left-wing Labour supporters, bloggers and activists that RLB’s sacking from the Labour shadow cabinet for alleged ‘anti-Semitism’ came just before Israel’s planned annexation of a third of the West Bank this Wednesday. For many of these true Labour people, the message was clear: Starmer had signed up to the Board of Deputies wretched 10 Pledges on Anti-Semitism, which meant that he was committed to suppressing any criticism of Israel and its barbarous and malign treatment of the Palestinians. Because when the British Jewish establishment – the Board of Deputies, Chief Rabbinate, Jewish Leadership Council and their satellites in the Labour Party – Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement -say anti-Semitism, they really mean anti-Zionism.

The falsely named Campaign Against Anti-Semitism had precious little to say about real anti-Semitism, the vicious anti-Jewish hatred of the right and far right, which accounts for most the real anti-Semitic abuse and attacks in the UK. It was set up after the bombardment of Gaza to combat popular hostility to Israel, and most of its rantings were directed against Corbyn and its socialist critics. Ditto the equally wrongly named Jewish Labour Movement, whose members don’t have to be Jews or members of the Labour Party. This was founded from the moribund ashes of Paole Zion, again to defend Israel following a conversation its founder had with his friends in a cafe in Golders Green in 2012. And all of these organisations could be equally accused of anti-Semitism. They reserve their most bilious spleen for Jewish critics of Israel, whom they vilify as ‘Kapos’, ‘traitors’, ‘self-hating’ and worse. They are quite happy to see Jewish demonstrators against Israeli imperialism punched and beaten by the thugs of the Community Security Trust. And their supporters have a streak of racism a mile wide. After they attacked Jackie Walker for her stance on Israel, among the threatening and abusive messages she received were claims that she couldn’t be Jewish, because she was Black. This should be a new one to the Black Jewish communities in Ethiopia, and the Afro-Jewish peeps in America. An anti-racist friend of mine told me when I was studying Religious Education in college that one of Moses’ wives was a Cushite. Cush was a country in what is now Ethiopia, and Cushitic is a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, which includes the Semitic languages as well as Ancient Egyptian and the Berber tongues.

Now apparently the Board and Jewish press are preparing to kick off again. Lisa Nandy, one of the plotters against Corbyn, has dared to condemn the coming Israeli invasion of Palestine. According to a post just put up this morning by Zelo Street, Nandy has said:

The proposal to unilaterally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is an illegal act which will undermine the prospect of a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and has serious implications for the stability of the Middle East”.

It is a shameful proposition to which the UK cannot be a silent witness. Across the world concern is growing … So far the UK government has been conspicuously absent from this global response … This is now urgent. The government must be clear with the Israeli coalition government that concrete action will follow, including a ban on goods entering Britain from the illegal settlements in the West Bank”.

This is a major step, but such a blatant breach of international law must have consequences. It will take a level of courage that so far ministers have not been willing to show”.

Morally and legally, Nandy is quite correct. Zelo Street has made it plain that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is against international law under a series of United Nations resolutions passed after the 1967 Six Day War. But morality and international law counts for nothing where Israel is concerned. The Jewish Chronicle has published a piece by smear merchant Lee Harpin reporting that Marie van der Zyl has demanded that Starmer reject this proposal. She ranted “The tactic of BDS is divisive and seeks to strike at the very legitimacy of the State of Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish State”. Apologists for Israeli imperialism recite these tropes that its the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish state like its a mantra. As an argument against criticism, they have no validity. Israel’s an apartheid state where the indigenous Arabs are second-class residents, slowly being squeezed out by official Israeli expansionism. Israel cannot be considered genuinely democratic when institutionalized racism is enshrined in its law. Nor is it the Middle East’s only democracy. Lebanon is also democratic, though in a peculiar form which allocates certain roles in government to specific religions and ethnic groups in a system termed ‘consociality’. As for Israel being the world’s only Jewish state, that’s irrelevant. Israel’s actions would still be wrong and illegal regardless of the religion and ethnicity of its perpetrators.

As Zelo Street has pointed out, van der Zyl is really concerned about ‘BDS’ – the campaign to boycott goods produced in the Occupied Territories. The American government, both federal and state, has passed a series of legislation trying to outlaw the BDS movement as anti-Semitic. But a cursory glance should show that it is no such thing. It includes and has the staunch support of many self-respecting Jews, both observant and secular. It does not campaign against goods and services by Jews or even by Israel, just against goods produced in the Occupied Territories. It is against Israeli imperialism, not against Israel or Jews.

Nevertheless, the odious van der Zyl’s statement is a warning. If Starmer doesn’t do as she commands, they’ll start a fresh set of anti-Semitism allegations and smears. But the Street believes that Starmer is strong enough to defy them.

‘The problem that Ms van der Zyl faces, though, is that Keir Starmer does not bend to anyone else’s will. He did not hesitate to act last week, whatever the rights and wrongs of Rebecca Long Bailey’s actions, and he has already made up his mind on Palestine.

This is one game of Call My Bluff where Keir Starmer is not going to yield. End of story.’

I really wish that this is the case. Starmer has signed up to the Board’s wretched 10 Pledges, as they demanded, and got their patronising approval in return. But his sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey was an example of his weakness and willingness to comply with their demands, as Long Bailey was quite correct in her statement that it was the IDF who had trained the American police in the use of the knee-on-neck hold that killed George Floyd. But the truth, if it doesn’t make Israel look good, is always anti-Semitic to these horrors, and so they denounced her.

I hope Starmer stands firm and does not reprimand Nandy nor retract her demands. The organization in the weak position here is van der Zyl and the Board. But I fear he will, as he is also a member of the British establishment, and the British establishment as a whole backs Israel because of its role as a major agent of western influence and foreign policy in the Middle East.

I hope I’m wrong, but I can see this becoming very nasty very quickly. Starmer may well get the same treatment that was meted out to Corbyn. It’ll be very interesting to see if he stands up to them. And how his supporters will react when the weapon they used against Corbyn is now turned on them.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/palestine-labour-and-call-my-bluff.html

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Three

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Socialism and Marriage, Children, Liberty and Religion

Shaw also discusses what socialism would mean for marriage, liberty, children and the churches, and these are the most problematic sections of the book. He looks forward to marriage being a purely voluntary commitment, where people people can marry for love instead of financial advancement. This will produce biologically better children, because people will be able to choose the best partners, rather than be limited to only those from their class. At the same time incompatible partners will be able to divorce each other free of stigma.

He defines liberty in terms of personal freedom. Under socialism, people will be freer because the amount of time they will have for their personal amusement and recreation will be greater. Legislation might go down, because the laws currently needed to protect people will become unnecessary as socialism is established and society advances. Shaw also believes that greater free time would be enough to attract the top brains to management positions in the absence of the usual inducement of greater pay. Shaw realised that not everyone could run industries, and that it was necessary to hire the very best people, who would be a small minority. Giving them greater leisure time was the best way to do this, and he later criticises the Soviet government for not equalising incomes.

But this is sheer utopianism. The Bolsheviks had tried to equalise incomes, and it didn’t work, which is why they went back to higher rates of pay for managers and so on. And as we’ve seen, socialism doesn’t necessarily lead to greater free time and certainly not less legislation. The better argument is that socialism leads to greater liberty because under socialism people have better opportunities available to them for careers, sport, entertainment and personal improvement than they would if they were mere capitalist wage slaves.

Religious people will also object to his views on religion and the churches. While earlier in the book Shaw addressed the reader as a fellow Christian, his attitude in this section is one of a religious sceptic. The reader will have already been warned of this through the foreword by Toynbee. The Groaniad columnist is a high-ranking member of the both the Secular and Humanist Societies, and her columns and articles in just about every magazine or newspaper she wrote for contained sneers at religion. Shaw considers the various Christian denominations irreconcilable in their theologies, and pour scorn on orthodox Christian doctrines such as the Atonement, that Christ died for our sins. Religion should not be taught in school, because of the incompatibility of the account of the Creation in Genesis with modern science. Children should not be taught about religion at all under they are of the age of consent. If their parents do teach them, the children are to be removed from their care. This is the attitude of very aggressive secularists and atheists. Richard Dawkins had the same attitude, but eventually reversed it. It’s far too authoritarian for most people. Mike and I went to a church school, and received a very good education from teachers that did believe in evolution. Religion deals with ultimate questions of existence and morality that go far beyond science. I therefore strongly believe that parents have the right to bring their children up in their religion, as long as they are aware of the existence of other views and that those who hold them are not wicked simply for doing so. He also believed that instead of children having information pumped into them, the business should be to educate children to the basic level they need to be able to live and work in modern society, and then allow the child to choose for itself what it wants to study.

Communism and Fascism

This last section of the book includes Shaw’s observations on Russian Communism and Fascism. Shaw had visited the USSR in the early ’30s, and like the other Fabians had been duped by Stalin. He praised it as the new socialist society that was eradicating poverty and class differences. He also thought that its early history vindicated the Fabian approach of cautious nationalisation. Lenin had first nationalised everything, and then had to go back on it and restore capitalism and the capitalist managers under the New Economic Policy. But Russia was to be admired because it had done this reversal quite openly, while such changes were kept very quiet in capitalism. If there were problems in the country’s industrialisation, it was due to mass sabotage by the kulaks – the wealthy peasants – and the industrialists. He also recognised that the previous capitalist elite were disenfranchised, forced into manual labour, and their children denied education until the working class children had been served. At the same time, the Soviet leaders had been members of the upper classes themselves, and in order to present themselves as working class leaders had claimed working class parentage. These issues were, however, gradually working themselves out. The Soviet leaders no longer had need of such personal propaganda, and the former capitalists could reconcile themselves to the regime as members of the intellectual proletariat. And some of the industrialisation was being performed by criminals, but this was less arduous than the labour in our prisons.

Shaw is right about the NEP showing that nationalisation needs to be preceded by careful preparation. But he was obviously kept ignorant of the famine that was raging in the USSR through forced collectivisation and the mass murder of the kulaks. And rather than a few criminals in the gulags, the real figures were millions of forced labourers. They were innocent of any crime except Stalin’s paranoia and the need of his managers for cheap slave labour. It’s believed that about 30 millions died in Stalin’s purges, while 7 million died in the famine in the Ukraine.

Shaw’s treatment of Fascism seems to be based mostly on the career of Mussolini. He considers Fascism just a revival of the craze for absolute monarchy and military leadership, of the kind that had produced Henry VIII in England, Napoleon, and now Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, the Shah of Iran and Ataturk in Turkey. These new absolute rulers had started out as working class radicals, before find out that the changes they wanted would not come from the working class. They had therefore appealed to the respectable middle class, swept away democracy and the old municipal councils, which were really talking shops for elderly tradesmen which accomplished little. They had then embarked on a campaign against liberalism and the left, smashing those organisations and imprisoning their members. Some form of parliament had been retained in order to reassure the people. At the same time, wars were started to divert the population and stop them criticising the new generalissimo. Industry was approaching socialism by combining into trusts. However, the government would not introduce socialism or truly effective government because of middle class opposition. Fascist regimes wouldn’t last, because their leaders were, like the rest of us, only mortal. In fact Mussolini was overthrown by the other Fascists, who then surrendered to the Allies, partly because of his failing health. That, and his utter military incompetence which meant that Italy was very definitely losing the War and the Allies were steadily advancing up the peninsula. While this potted biography of the typical Fascist is true of Mussolini, it doesn’t really fit some of the others. The Shah, for example, was an Indian prince.

Anarchism and Syndicalism

Shaw is much less informed about anarchism. He really only discusses it in terms of ‘Communist Anarchism’, which he dismisses as a silly contradiction in terms. Communism meant more legislation, while anarchism clearly meant less. He should have the articles and books on Anarcho-communism by Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin believed that goods and services should be taken over by the whole community. However, rather than a complete absence of government and legislation, society would be managed instead by individual communities and federations.

He also dismisses syndicalism, in which industry would be taken over and run by the trade unions. He considers this just another form of capitalism, with the place of the managers being taken by the workers. These would still fleece the consumer, while at the same time leave the problem of the great inequality in the distribution of wealth untouched, as some industries would obviously be poorer than others. But the Guild Socialists did believe that there should be a kind of central authority to represent the interests of the consumer. And one of the reasons why nationalisation, in the view of some socialists, failed to gain the popular support needed to defend it against the privatisations of the Tories is because the workers in the nationalised industries after the War were disappointed in their hopes for a great role in their management. The Labour party merely wanted nationalisation to be a simple exchange of public for private management, with no profound changes to the management structure. In some cases the same personnel were left in place. Unions were to be given a role in management through the various planning bodies. But this was far less than many workers and trade unionists hoped. If nationalisation is to have any meaning, it must allow for a proper, expanded role of the workers themselves in the business of managing their companies and industries.

The book ends with a peroration and a discussion of the works that have influenced and interest Shaw. In the peroration Shaw exhorts the readers not to be upset by the mass poverty and misery of the time, but to deplore the waste of opportunities for health, prosperity and happiness of the time, and to look forward and work for a better, socialist future.

His ‘Instead of a Bibliography’ is a kind of potted history of books critical of capitalism and advocating socialism from David Ricardo’s formulation of capitalism in the 19th century. These also include literary figures like Ruskin, Carlyle and Dickens. He states that he has replaced Marx’s theory of surplus value with Jevons treatment of rent, in order to show how capitalism deprives workers of their rightful share of the profits.

 

 

Private Eye Sides with the Witch Hunters, Smear Merchants and Plotters in Article about Leaked Labour Document

May 9, 2020

I should have realised it wouldn’t last. Last fortnight’s Private Eye carried an article about the leaked Labour party document revealing the antics and intrigues of Blairite party bureaucrats to prevent the party winning the 2017 general election. Although the article accepted uncritically the leaked document’s false assumption that Labour was a hotbed of vicious anti-Jewish hatred, it nevertheless seemed to take seriously the document’s allegations that a series of highly placed Labour apparatchiks had been doing everything they could to sabotage its election chances in order to get rid of Corbyn. Now that attitude has been completely reversed.

In this fortnight’s Private Eye, for 8th – 21st May 2020, there’s another article about the document. Titled ‘Party Poopers’, this has returned to the magazine’s old line of pushing the anti-Semitism smears along with the rest of the lamestream media. The article views the leaked document as a series of terrible libels against people, who were genuinely exposing massive anti-Semitism. These people were also being victimised for their participation in the Panorama programme, ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’, were suffering vicious personal abuse, including being targeted by an online Nazi group. Fortunately they’re being defended by defamation and privacy specialist (sic) Mark Lewis.

The article runs

Like a retreating army planting booby traps, Labour’s routed Corbynistas have left Keir Starmer some unexploded bombs: most notably the 860-page report on the supposed complicity of anti-Corbyn officials in hindering investigations into anti-Semitism.

They have left the party open to investigations by the information commissioner and Inspector Knacker – and multiple actions for libel and breach of privacy. Not content with electing one lawyer as leader, Labour may soon be enriching more of them.

The report, commissioned by general secretary Jennie Formby, created a stab-in-the-back narrative by alleging that Labour lost the 2017 general election because, in the words of John McDonnell, staff undermined the leader in a “shocking act of treachery”. It implied that anti-Corbyn officials sat on complaints of racism to make him look bad. Criticising “whistleblowers” who appeared in a Panorama film about Labour and anti-Semitism, it said the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should “question the validity of the personal testimonies”.

Party lawyers advised Formby she couldn’t submit the report to the EHRC, let alone publish it. After an unknown Corbyn supporter leaked it over the Easter weekend, however, online activists were quick to share unredacted copies – including much confidential personal information.

A shower of writs is now about to descend on the party. At least 30 former Labour officials have contacted defamation and privacy specialist Mark Lewis – so many that Lewis has signed up other lawyers who are twiddling their thumbs in lockdown to deal with the backlog. Labour will ahve to deal with the fallout without Formby, who announced on Monday she was stepping down as general secretary.

The leaked report was based on 10,000 emails and private WhatsApp messages in which Labour employees bitched about their bosses, as employees tend to do. The information commissioner, who has the power to set multi-million-pound fines, is said to be taking the data breach seriously – all the more so because Labour has still not met its legal obligation to contact all the victims of the data breach to warn them that information they had the right to expect would remain private was in the public domain.

Equally angry are members of the public who are identified in the report as reporting incidents of anti-Jewish hatred – and whose names are now in the possession of neo-Nazi groups. The far-right website Unz Review used Formby’s dossier to name Labour members who complained and to denounce them as agents of “Jewish control” behind “the conspiracy to undermine and destroy Corbyn”. The group Labour Against Anti-Semitism has asked the police to investigate. Its lawyers have also hired private detectives to find who leaked the report.

One lawyer involved expects about 40 privacy and libel actions, estimating that even if Labour settles them at once, the cost to the party will be £2.5m. But Corbyn supporters on Labour’s national executive committee could try to block retractions and apologies. If so, the costs will explode.

Let’s deal with a few irritating little details Private Eye doesn’t mention. It claims that the plotters’ emails were leaked. They weren’t. The plotters did the intriguing using Labour’s computers, and duly handed them over when they were asked as part of the inquiry. They surrendered that information themselves. If they had wanted to keep it all private, they should have used their own machines.

They also went much, much further than bitching about their bosses. Their anti-Corbyn scams included mocking up fake videos to mislead Corbyn that the anti-Semitism allegations were being effectively handled, when they were allowing those same allegations to pile up. They ran two sets of campaigns in London with the intention of ensuring election victories solely for members of the Blairite right. They also suspended constituency Labour parties that were on the verge of deselecting the sitting MP, like Angela Eagle’s in Liverpool. Leading conspirators also acted as members and moderators on Tory online groups, and openly wished for Conservative and Lib Dem victories. This is against party rules, and the same conspirators had also thrown out other members of the party for doing the same, such as one individual who made the mistake of liking an internet comment by a Green politico.

The Panorama programme ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ was a farrago from start to finish. It’s producers were already biased against Corbyn, and it allowed members of the anti-Corbyn groups to make their allegations of anti-Semitism without revealing their membership of the same groups. Mike, Zelo Street and any number of other left-wing news sites and blogs have torn it to shreds.

Now look at the way it deliberately connects the leaked report with Nazism. The allegations of intrigue and plotting are described as a ‘stab-in-the-back- narrative. This is the same language historians use to describe the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that propelled Hitler to power: that Germany had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the Jews so that the country lost World War I. Then it brings in the real Nazis, Unz Review.

If innocent people are being target for anti-Semitic abuse and attack by real Nazis, then it is absolutely disgusting.

But the Eye is also hypocritical in not mentioning the abuse and intimidation heaped upon their victims by the anti-Semitism smear merchants. People like Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and Mike, who is still accused of being an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier, even though he won his IPSO complaint against the newspapers who so libelled him. Mike, and other victims of the anti-Semitism smears, also had their private information leaked to the press. Mike has also complained to the Information Commissioner about it, but so far the Commissioner has done nothing. This awkward fact also isn’t mentioned by the Eye, because Hislop’s mighty organ has also done everything it can to push the anti-Semitism smears. And some of the witch-hunters’ victims have suffered far worse than abuse and death threats. One commenter on Mike’s blog posted that he had also been smeared as an anti-Semite by David Collier, part of the GnasherJew troll farm. Not only did Collier smear him, but he also doxed him as well, putting his personal details up on his wretched website and then camping outside his door. Collier has so far not taken the information down.

No mention of any of this from Private Eye!

On then, to Mark Lewis. The Eye’s description of him as specialising in defamation and privacy issues is one way of viewing him. In fact, he’s Rachel Riley’s pet lawyer, and the one she uses whenever someone criticises her for smearing and bullying decent people as anti-Semites and Nazis simply because they support Corbyn.

And finally, there’s the whole issue of ‘Jewish control’ in the Labour party. In fact, a large number of the victims of the anti-Semitism smears are themselves Jewish, because the ultra-Zionists of the Israel lobby cannot tolerate the idea that any Jew does not support Israel and regards its ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians as abhorrent. Yet there are any number who do, from the Haredi who believe Jews must continue to live in galut – exile – until Israel is truly restored by the Messiah, to politically liberal Jews, who believe that Israel’s maltreatment of the Arabs violates the liberal principles they view as being intrinsic to Judaism. As the saying goes, ‘to be a Jew is always to identify with the oppressed, never the oppressor’. It violates the commandment in Deuteronomy that the Jews are not to maltreat the ‘stranger in the land, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’. These entirely decent, self-respecting people are smeared, insulted and sometimes physically attacked, like the non-Jews the witch-hunters have also targeted. Some of them have even been the victims of real anti-Semitic assault themselves, or, if non-Jewish, they’ve been attacked because they’ve dared to defend Jews or have Jewish friends, partners and relatives.

But no-one from the press, including Private Eye, has ever asked them about their experience.

And the talk about ‘Jewish control’ is designed to stop any objection to the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ demand for the right to interfere in the Labour party. By demanding that the Labour leadership contenders, including Starmer, sign up to their wretched 10 Pledges against anti-Semitism, the Board of Deputies of British Jews now exercises a very high level of control over the party. They want the right to decide who should be allowed membership, including seeing confidential personal information. They have also demanded that members should not be allowed to share platforms with those expelled for anti-Semitism.

These demands are unreasonable, dictatorial and one-sided. No such demands have been made of the Tory party, Lib Dems or anyone else. 

By talking about Nazis and their denunciation of the Blairites’ intrigues and plotting as ‘Jewish control’, the article is clearly intended to make any objection to the Board’s demands seem anti-Semitic. But the Board has overstepped the boundaries of reasonable criticism into comprehensive involvement with these demands. And there are party political motives at work here. Not only does the Board uncritically support Israel and its atrocities, but it is also partisan in its political support here. The Board’s president, Marie van der Zyl, has sent messages of support and congratulations to Tweezer when she took office as Prime Minister. It’s possible that individual members of the Board may not be Tories, but to me it looks extremely likely that Zyl and the Board will use the anti-Semitism smears to demand the expulsion of anyone, who either criticises Israel or seems serious about returning the party to its socialist roots.

I’ve said many times that Eye publishes some excellent stuff, but I am exasperated by its complicity in the anti-Semitism smears. I despise the way it, and the rest of the media, has steadfastly refused to cover the people, who have been unfairly defamed and threatened by the witch-hunters simply because they criticise Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians. And this article is another example of the same. I notice that the article is also unsigned. It is not credited to ‘Ratbiter’, perhaps because ‘Ratbiter’s’ real identity as Nick Cohen of the Guardian and Absurder is too well-known.

But like Cohen’s articles, this is yet another disgraceful smear and another vile attempt to keep the witch-hunt going and the witch-hunters safe from retribution for their foul activities.

Ian McCulloch – Ready to Continue the Witch Hunt?

February 4, 2020

This is another piece about the deputy leadership hustings in Bristol, and about one of the contentious issues that was inevitably raised there – anti-Semitism. All the candidates made it clear that they were determined to stamp out racism and Jew-hatred in the party, but it was the comments by Ian McCulloch and, to a lesser extent, Rosena Allin-Khan, that gave me concern. McCulloch seemed absolutely ruthless about it, stating that he would do anything to crush it in the party.

These are dangerous words, as the amount of real anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has been massively exaggerated. It exists, but it’s vanishingly small. Less than one per cent of Labour Party members have been found to be anti-Semitic. It’s far smaller than the amount of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism that’s very often openly displayed in the Tory party and among its supporters. The extent of anti-Semitism in Labour was played up purely for political reasons. The Tories, their media lackeys and the Blairites in Labour simply wanted to use it as a stick to beat and oust Corbyn. The Israel lobby, including the Jewish establishment – the Jewish papers, Board of Deputies, Chief Rabbis, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Jewish Labour Movement and so on, also wanted to overthrow Corbyn and purge the party of his supporters because they were afraid of the election of a national leader, who would genuinely defend the Palestinians. These organisations aren’t interested in defending Jews from real racial hatred. In their view, anti-Semitism is nearly synonymous with opposition to Israel. It was made very clear by Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, who wrote a piece declaring that Michal Kaminski, a far-right Polish MEP, wasn’t anti-Semitic because he was a ‘good friend to Israel’. It’s shown in the way the Israeli state greets and welcomes genuine far right leaders and heads of states so long as they trade with Israel and buy their arms.

As a result of these political intrigues, many hundreds of entirely innocent individuals, including self-respecting Jews, have been purged from the party simply for voicing opinions on Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. Opinions that the Thatcherite establishment and Israel lobby wish to suppress. Either that, or they’ve been thrown out simply for defending those, who’ve been libelled, suspended and expelled. The victims include Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth, Cyril Chilson, Mike Sivier, Martin Odoni, Ken Livingstone and many others. As you can see from this brief list, many of them are Jewish, and all are absolutely convinced anti-racists. But because they are genuinely anti-racist and are not prepared to exclude Israel from criticism and are concerned with historical truth, they’ve been victimised and expelled.

As the leadership elections commenced, the Board of Deputies sent the candidates a list of pledges they demanded them to commit to. These pledges, as Mike has made clear on his blog, give the Board and its subsidiary organisations total control over who is to be judged an anti-Semite, and the processes by which they are judged and punished or expelled. This is unacceptable for several reasons. The Board has been one of the parties pushing the anti-Semitism smears, and so is hardly a disinterested, objective party. It is also an outside organisation, not a part of nor responsible to the members of the party. Its interference in the party’s affairs is unacceptable purely on that account. All of the leadership candidates signed their wretched piece of paper, which means that instead of drawing a line under the anti-Semitism controversy, it will almost certainly result in further interference, smears and fake accusations by the Board.

It’s a pity that the candidates weren’t taking questions directly from the audience about their answers. I would have liked to have challenged McCulloch about this, made the point that majority of accusations were false, and asked him what he was going to do to make sure any accusation and trial were just. But this was not permitted by the format. Instead, McCulloch got thunderous applause from those present.

I was also rather concerned by Rosena Allin-Khan’s statement about anti-Semitism. She wanted it cleaned out because she had Jewish friends, who were considering joining and standing for the party. But they had been put off, and wondered if there was a place for Jews in it. Now I don’t doubt that this is true. There are many Jews within and outside the Labour party, who do realise what is going on and that the accusations are false. But nevertheless, the Jewish establishment have done an excellent job of scaring Britain’s Jews into believing that Corbyn and the Labour Party really are anti-Semitic and an ‘existential threat to Jewish life in Britain’. I wanted to ask Allin-Khan what she had done to calm their fears. Had she tried to refute them, to show that the vast majority of accusations were false, that nearly all of them were purely political in motivation? And was she concerned about the vast numbers of Jews inside and outside the party, who were being smeared as ‘the wrong kind of Jews’ by the Zionist Jewish establishment? Did she know, had she told them, that the Jewish Labour Movement was at the time tiny, and that most of its members were gentiles and that many of them weren’t even members of Party, against Jewish Voice for Labour, which was much bigger and the majority of whose members were, through its constitution, very definitely Jewish? Didn’t she point out and defend the Jews, who had been falsely accused, smeared and then expelled or bullied into leaving, who very definitely weren’t self-hating, or anti-Semitic? Quite the opposite, in fact. Many Jews despise Israel and its treatment of the Paletinians because they are Jewish. They include Torah-observant Jews, such as the Haredi, who object to it because the Torah and Talmud state that Israel can only be restored by the Messiah and the hand of the Almighty. Or they see liberal values as the moral core of Judaism, and object to Israel because it’s the same kind of ethnic state that persecuted them. And one Jewish journalist has said that British Jews are afraid to speak out against the Israel lobby. This is really persecution, but as it’s done by the self-professed British Jewish establishment, it’s totally ignored. It’s victims really are the ‘wrong kind of Jews’, you see.

I couldn’t ask these question, but they do need to be asked. I realise the candidates have to be very careful in the answers they give, because any sign that they don’t back Israel 100 per cent or that they believe the anti-Semitism accusations to be grossly inflated will result in further smears and accusations against them. I want a Labour government back in power. But I also want a party genuinely committed to justice, and not dominated on this or any other issue by an outside party acting primarily in the interests of another nation. I believe this can be done, if the party is prepared to stand together to rebut the lies and libels.

And I definitely don’t want to elect a leader, who will continue the witch hunt and wreck decent peoples’ lives, Jewish and gentile, by seeing them smeared as anti-Semites when they are absolutely not.

Ordinary British Jews Condemn Chief Rabbi’s Attack on Corbyn

November 28, 2019

Yesterday Mike put up a great piece yesterday reporting that after Tory Chief Rabbi and friend of Johnson and Netanyahu Ephraim Mirvis had taken to the pages of the Times to smear the Labour party once again, British Jews from right across society, from ordinary Brits to the noted actor Miriam Margolyes, had take to social media to condemn Mirvis’ comments. One of the first was an open letter which was circulating on the Net, which read:

Dear Chief Rabbi, you have shamed your office today and rendered the Jewish people even more vulnerable to real antisemitism by reinforcing the fake, media-induced antisemitism that you recklessly impute to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

To interfere politically at this point in an election in a way that could affect the only party that could bring hope and social justice to this country is beyond contempt and renders you unfit for office.

As a Jew and a Labour Party supporter, I am proud to be part of a venture that I see as a continuity of so many of my Jewish forbears who have fought for social justice here and in Europe.

You talk about ‘the soul of the nation being at stake’ yet have you not noticed what has happened to that soul over the last nine years where: 1. The poor have been vilified 2. The ill have been attacked 3. The mentally ill have suffered 4. Inequality has soared. 5. Greed and financial rapaciousness has flourished 6. Austerity has been unnecessarily applied after a financial crisis brought about by an out of control finance sector that has benefited the wealthiest.

Where was your voice about the nation’s soul then?

Yet you inveigh against a decent and honest man who, even now, maintains integrity in the face of manifest manipulation, deceit and digital sleight of hand from the Tories.

You have shamed your office, the justice-loving tradition of the Jewish people and laid the grounds for future tensions in the most irresponsible way. You seem to lack the acuity of intellect to even spot the most obvious use of this bogus antisemitism as a political weapon.

Justin Schlossberg of the Media Reform Coalition called the antisemitism saga ‘a disinformation paradigm’ and made a detailed study of the issue. The great scholar, Norman Finkelstein, likewise, sees this a purely politically motivated attack.

How dare you, amateurishly intervene in this, betraying the great Jewish scholarly tradition of intellectual and analytical acumen embodied in the Talmud and the exegetics of the Chumash.

The letter is signed, “With profound sadness and considerable disgust.”

Labour supporter Hasan Patel retweeted a piece from Margolyes’ comments about the affair on Channel 4. The actor said

I don’t think people are looking at the real issue. In Rabbi Mirvis’ statement, the word ‘Israel’ does not appear and that to me is the heart of the problem. People are not anti-Semitic, they are anti-Zionist as I am myself. It doesn’t mean that I’m anti-Semitic. I fight anti-Semitism and prejudice wherever I find it and so does Jeremy Corbyn and I think that the Chief Rabbi whom I respect because of his position is just making a terrible mistake. It is completely wrong to listen to what people are saying about Jeremy Corbyn. I just don’t understand it. I don’t believe that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic. I’m sure that he’s handled it badly. Everybody makes mistakes and I’m sure he’s made mistakes. But he hasn’t become an anti-Semite, he doesn’t support anti-Semitism, he loathes it, as every right-thinking person does. And I just feel desperate that we are prepared to take on board as Prime Minister a shoddy liar like Boris Johnson. How can you believe a thing he says? The man is a complete falsehood from start to finish. He’s a blustering bully, and I think if you have to choose between the two for goodness’ sake choose Jeremy Corbyn.

Margolyes has been a long-term critic of Israel’s barbarity towards the Palestinians. Nearly a decade ago she condemned the bombardment of Gaza ‘as a proud Jew, and an ashamed Jew’. She came out as a lesbian a few years ago, and works with a Jewish organisation aimed at combating anti-gay prejudice in the Jewish community, Gay Yids.

Children’s Poet Laureate David Rosenberg attack Mirvis’ silence on Tory racism. He tweeted

Chief Rabbi has had nothing to say on Tories hostile environment and Windrush Scandal, nor on formal Tory links with antisemitic gov’ts in Poland and Hungary. Think he’s sitting on his moral compass.

And ordinary Jewish Brits were also angry that Mirvis was using their community identity to attack Corbyn. Dr. Simon Goodman tweeted

Today I’m feeling terrible that my religious identity is being used to argue that an obvious anti-racist is an . is awful and must always be fought, but it is simply not the case that or is antisemitic.

And Juliette Emery said

Off for today
I need to calm down, it’s not healthy to be this angry 😡
Too many lies and mendacious attempts to undermine the only leader I know that wants peace, equality and a fairer society for us all whilst protecting this planet we all call home

Sleep well

Mike comments that British people dislike being told what to think, and this seems especially true of Jews. Exactly! I got the impression that Jews see themselves as a people particularly given to debate and argument. It’s been that way ever since the Talmud recorded the debates and disagreements over the Law by the rabbinical sages of antiquity. ‘Two Jews, three opinions’, as the Jewish saying goes. Years ago I bought an old book of papers from a wartime American academic conference, in which religious groups, philosophers, people of letters and scientists put forward arguments to show that their disciplines upheld and promoted the liberal, democratic values under threat from Fascism. A group of Jewish scholars put forward a fascinating paper to show that Judaism was intrinsically democratic. This included a piece from the Haggadah, extra-Biblical Jewish legend, which called for Jews in leadership positions to be concerned to create consensus and agreement, rather than impose their decision by fiat.

The story is that when God gave Moses the Torah, He commanded Moses to first go to the Jewish people to see if they would accept it. The Lawgiver replied that there was no need, because they would have to accept the Torah as the express word and law of the Almighty. ‘Nevertheless’, said God, ‘God to the people.’

They also argued their point on a remark about the Bible from one of the great rabbis, whose views are recorded in the Talmud. When asked what the most important sentence in the Hebrew Bible was, he replied ‘And these are the generations of men’. Not God, not Jews, but humanity as a whole. God’s revelation is intended to benefit all of us. Liberal Jews writing in the American radical magazine Counterpunch have said that they came to their values through the teachings of the Talmud, just like the author of the open letter at the start of this post. They stated that to be a Jew means always identifying with the oppressed, never the oppressor.

But Mirvis is defending the oppressor in seeking to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to smear Corbyn and his supporters. And to support a Tory party determined to impoverish and disenfranchise ordinary working people, whether they be Jews or gentiles. And for many British Jews, this is intolerable.

European Haredi Jewish Organisation Condemns Chief Rabbi’s Attack on Corbyn and Labour

November 27, 2019

Here’s a story from Mike’s blog that, as he points out, you won’t find in the mainstream press. A leading rabbi for the Haredi Jewish organisation, United European Jews, Mayer Weinberger, has written a letter on behalf of his organisation’s Executive Board condemning Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ attack on Jeremy Corbyn. Not only does Rabbi Weinberger defend Corbyn for his support of the British Jewish community, but actually thanks him.

Mike makes the point that this shouldn’t be too surprising, as the organisation comes from the True Torah Jews, which thoroughly rejects Zionism. True Torah and Haredi Jews believe that the Jewish people should stay in exile until – and only until – the coming of the Messiah. Only he has the divine right to restore the Jewish people to their ancient homeland. Until then they are to remain and, in the words of the Hebrew Bible, ‘pray for the health of the city’. That is, they are to live as members of the nations in which they live, working and praying for their common good.

R. Weinberger writes

I write to you on behalf of the Executive Board of the United European Jews organisation regarding an unusually disturbing declaration that was … reported in the media claiming that the overwhelming majority of British Jews are “gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour victory in the forthcoming general election.

Please not that we totally reject and condemn in no uncertain terms these remarks, which [do] not represent the views of the mainstream chareidi Jews that live in the UK.

We believe that such assertions are due to propaganda with a political and ideological agenda. An agenda which, I might add, is diametrically opposed to fundamental Jewish values as well as the opinions of tens of thousands of Jews in our community.

At this time, we also relay our gratefulness for your numerous acts of solidarity with the Jewish community over many years and also welcome your assurances that Labour will do everything necessary to defend the Jewish way of life and protect our rights to practise our religion.

For all this, we take this opportunity to say: Thank you! Mr Corbyn.

R. Weinberger is quite right when says that the Chief Rabbi’s remarks are propaganda based on a political and ideological agenda. The Chief Rabbi is a Zionist, as many Chief Rabbis before him have been. He is a friend of Netanyahu and Boris Johnson, and has made comments in the past supporting the bombing of Palestinians.

Mike reminds us in his post about the letter that this should show that R. Mirvis’ claims about the opinion of British Jews towards the Labour leader are not as conclusive as the Chief Rabbi claims.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/27/chief-rabbis-rant-condemned-as-political-and-ideological-propaganda/

Many Jews from all walks of life and all shades of religious opinion – from secular people to members of the clergy – have written or taken to social media to express their support for Jeremy Corbyn. Earlier today Mike put up a piece on his blog  about the messages of support for Corbyn and anger and condemnation Jewish Labour supporters had posted against Chief Rabbi Mirvis’ comments.

Unafraid: Jews respond to Chief Rabbi’s (and other) claims that they fear a Corbyn Labour government

And it is a mistake to assume that the Jews have a monolithic cultural or religious identity. The Talmud is full of the debates between the great rabbis of the past regarding the interpretation of Scripture and the Law. Even minority opinions are preserved, and many of these accounts end with no conclusion having been reached. The text simply says, ‘And so they disagreed’. And I think the Jewish people also see themselves as being particularly disputatious. There’s a Jewish saying, ‘Two Jews, three opinions’. I got the impression that debate is a vital part of the teaching at the yeshivas, the rabbinical colleges, so that the students can properly learn how to interpret scripture and form correct, reasonable opinions on its observance. The I stated in its coverage of Mirvis’ comments that he represents the United Synagogue, which they claimed was the largest Jewish denomination in Britain. That may be so, but the Jewish community also includes secular Jews, who obviously aren’t represented because they don’t attend synagogue, nor Orthodox Jews. And even within the United Synagogue you can wonder how many people he really speaks for. As Tony Greenstein and other Jewish critics have pointed out in their rebuttals to the Board of Deputies’ attacks on Corbyn, not all synagogues allow women to vote or stand for election as deputies, and some haven’t changed their deputies for years. Which means that even here, Mirvis may only be speaking for a Zionist, Tory clique.

However, the British media is determined not to show Jewish support for Corbyn and the Labour party. Some of the newspapers, including supposedly left-wing journals like the Observer, have refused to publish letters from Corbyn’s Jewish supporters. There is also a similar reluctance to cover anti-Zionist, or Israel-critical Jewish opinion generally. A few years ago I put up a video on this blog of a public meeting in New York of ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist Jews. I believe they were members of ‘True Torah’. The video claimed there were 30,000 people there. I don’t know if that’s true, but it was very clear that there were very many and the meeting was huge. But it received no press or media coverage, from what the video said.

I believe this also points to one of the underlying reasons why the British and American political and media establishments have been so keen to smear Corbyn on this side of the Atlantic as an anti-Semites, and left-wing Democrats, including supporters and staffers working for Bernie Sanders. Who is himself Jewish. It is not simply a profoundly Conservative establishment trying to discredit left-wing threats to its continued dominance. It is not only because of the power of the Israel lobby in our two countries. I think it is also because Israel has played a vital part in Western great power policy in the Middle East since the days of the British Mandate. Geopolitical considerations demand that Britain supports Israel in the Middle East as a way of maintaining power and influence in the region.

And to the supporters of this policy, Corbyn is a real threat. Not because he wants the destruction of Israel, but simply because he wants an end to Israeli apartheid and a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians. A policy supported by many Jews, who feel that to be Jewish means always identifying with the oppressed, never the oppressor.

And that means making sure that the Jewish voices supporting Labour must not be allowed real coverage by our Tory press and media.

 

Scared Johnson Now Reduced to Throwing Coarse Insults at Labour

November 13, 2019

Oo-er, Johnson must be getting scared! I have a rule of thumb that someone is winning an argument when their opponent turns to ad hominem insults or profanity. And by this standard, Johnson is losing, as today he hurled a coarse insult in Labour’s direction. Speaking at a manufacturer of electric vehicles today, our comedy prime minister was expected to make a speech referring to the ‘groundhoggery of Brexit’, the ‘horror show’ of a Corbyn government propped up by Nicola Sturgeon, and described the prospect of second referendums on Brexit and Scottish independence as ‘political onanism’. Onanism is a rather elevated term for masturbation. It comes from Onan, one of the figures in the Old Testament. ‘Groundhoggery’ simply comes from the film Groundhog Day, whose hero is condemned to relive the same day over and over until he finds some way of breaking the cycle.

The I’s Nigel Morris, in his article on the planned speech, ‘PM: I’ll pour cold water on Labhour’s Brexit ‘onanism’, said that Johnson would ‘risk accusations of resorting to crude insults’. Yes, he has. Mike put up a piece about it this morning, titled ‘Boris’ obscene insult with cement the nation’s opinion of him’.  Michael Rosen, the Children’s Poet Laureate, tweeted

Dear Dominic
Are you absolutely sure that I should drop one of these obscure obscenity bombs every few days?
Horatio pro fellatio
Boris

And the Independent commented that this wasn’t the first time Johnson had resorted to off-colour language in public. He described money spent on child abuse inquiries as ‘spaffed up the wall’, gay men as ‘tank-top wearing bum-boys’ and referred to the President of Turkey in a limerick with a word rhyming with ‘Ankara’. How statesmanlike! And I have to say, I find his smear of gay men rather bizarre. They’ve got a reputation for being rather well-turned out, otherwise we wouldn’t have the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, in which two gay men advise a straight bloke on how to dress better. And from what I remember, the tanktop was never an exclusively gay fashion. It appeared in the ’70s, and all kinds of men and boys wore it without any thought that it had anything to do with homosexuality. I had one. Lenny Henry had a joke about how he had one, and wondered why he couldn’t pick up women at the disco when wearing it. And it’s a bit rich for Johnson, who was educated at Eton, to make sneering remarks about homosexuals with the reputation public schools have for homosexuality.

Johnson was also expected to say that while Britain was admired and respected around the world, foreign countries would be baffled by our failure to get Brexit done. Mike concludes his piece by stating that

the leaders of those other countries that have caused Mr Johnson such concern will be even more “baffled” if he wins an election with language like this.

Boris Johnson’s obscene insult will merely cement the nation’s opinion – of him

Quite. Johnson is increasingly showing himself to be an incompetent buffoon, who can only stave off attacks on his government and conduct in office through coarse insult. And it belies the confidence the Tory press claim they have in a Conservative election victory. Today’s Times had its leading headline on the front page proclaiming that the Tories were 14 points in the lead over Labour. But yesterday’s I reported that there was confusion among politicians over the whether polls could be trusted.

Johnson’s little bit of crudity suggests he and his chief advisor, Dominic Cummins, don’t.

To paraphrase the old movie poster for the David Cronenberg remake of The Fly, they’r afraid. They’re very afraid.

Make them so and vote them out on December 12.

Review of Book on New Atheist Myths Now Up on Magonia Review Blog

November 1, 2019

The Magonia Review of Books blog is one of the online successors to the small press UFO journal, Magonia, published from the 1980s to the early part of this century. The Magonians took the psycho-social view of encounters with alien entities. This holds that they are essentially internal, psychological events which draw on folklore and the imagery of space and Science Fiction. Following the ideas of the French astronomer and computer scientist, Jacques Vallee, and the American journalist, John Keel, they also believed that UFO and other entity encounters were also part of the same phenomenon that had created fairies and other supernatural beings and events in the past. The magazine thus examined other, contemporary forms of vision and belief, such as the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare in the 1990s. It also reviewed books dealing with wide range of religious and paranormal topics. These included not just UFOs, but also the rise of apocalyptic religious faith in America, conspiracy theories, ghosts and vampires, cryptozoology and the Near Death Experience, for example. Although the magazine is no longer in print, the Magonia Review of Books continues reviewing books, and sometimes films, on the paranormal and is part of a group of other blogs, which archive articles from the magazine and its predecessor, the Merseyside UFO Bulletin (MUFOB), as well as news of other books on the subject.

I’ve had a number of articles published in Magonia and reviews on the Review of Books. The blog has just put my review of Nathan Johnstone’s The New Atheism, Myth and History: The Black Legends of Contemporary Anti-Religion (Palgrave MacMillan 2018).  The book is a critical attack on the abuse of history by New Atheist polemicists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and so on to attack religion. He shows that the retail extremely inaccurate accounts of historical atrocities like the witch hunts and persecution of heretics by the Christian church and the savage anti-religious campaign in the Soviet Union in order to condemn religion on the one hand, and try to show that atheism was not responsible for the atrocities committed in its name on the other. At the same time he is alarmed by the extremely vitriolic language used by Dawkins and co. about the religious. He draws comparisons between it and the language used to justify persecution in the past to warn that it too could have brutal consequences despite its authors’ commitment to humanity and free speech.

The article is at: http://pelicanist.blogspot.com/2019/10/believing-in-not-believing-new-atheists.html if you wish to read it at the Magonia Review site. I’ve also been asked to reblog it below. Here it is.

Nathan Johnstone. The New Atheism, Myth and History: The Black Legends of Contemporary Anti-Religion. Palgrave Macmillan 2018.

The New Atheists is a term coined to described the group of militant atheists that emerged after the shock of 9/11. Comprising the biologist Richard Dawkins, the journalist Christopher Hitchens, the philosophers Daniel C. Dennett and A.C. Grayling, the neuroscientist Sam Harris, the astronomer Victor Stenger, and others, they are known for their particularly bitter invective against all forms of religion. The above claim to stand for reason and science against irrationality and unreason. But while they are especially protective of science, and who gets to speak for it or use its findings, they are cavalier regarding theology and the humanities, including history.
Johnstone is appalled by this attitude. Instead of respecting history and its scholarship, he compares Dawkins, Harris et al to hunter-gatherers. They are not interested in exploring history, but rather using it as a grab-bag of examples of atrocities committed by the religious. In so doing they ignore what historians really say about the events and periods they cite, and retail myth as history. These he regards as a kind of ‘Black Legend’ of theism, using the term invented in the early twentieth century by the Spanish historian Julian Juderas to describe a type of anti-Spanish, anti-Roman Catholic polemic. He states his book is intended to be just a defence of history, and takes no stance on the issue of the existence of God. From his use of ‘we’ in certain points to describe atheists and Humanists, it could be concluded that Johnstone is one of the many of the latter, who are appalled by the New Atheists’ venom.
One such religious doubter was the broadcaster John Humphries,  the author of the defence of agnosticism, In God We Doubt. Humphries stated in the blurb for the book that he considered himself an agnostic before moving to atheism. Then he read one of the New Atheist texts and was so shocked by it he went back to being an agnostic. The group first made its debut several years ago now, and although New Atheism has lost some of its initial interest and support, they’re still around.
Hence Johnstone’s decision to publish this book. While Dawkins’ The God Delusion was published almost a decade ago, the New Atheists are still very much around. They and their followers are still on the internet, and their books on the shelves at Waterstones. Dawkins published his recent work of atheist polemics, Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide a few weeks ago at the beginning of October 2019. He accompanied its publication with an appearance at Cheltenham Literary Festival, where he was speaking about why everyone should turn atheist.
The events and the atrocities cited by the New Atheists as demonstrations of the intrinsic evil of religion are many, including the Inquisitions, the witch-hunts, anti-Semitism, the Crusades, the subjugation of women, colonialism, the slave trade and the genocide of the Indians, to which they also add human sacrifice, child abuse, censorship, sexual repression and resistance to science. These are too many to tackle in one book, and it confines itself instead to attacking and refuting New Atheist claims about the witch-hunts, the medieval persecution of heretics, and the question of whether Hitler was ever really Christian and the supposed Christian origins of Nazi anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
The book also tackles historical movements and figures, that the New Atheists have claimed as atheist heroes and forerunners – the ancient Greek Atomists and two opponents of the witch-hunts, Dietrich Flade and Friedrich Spee. It then moves on to examine Sam Harris’ endorsement of torture in the case of Islamist terrorists and atheist persecution in the former Soviet Union before considering the similarity of some New Atheist attitudes to that of religious believers. It concludes with an attack on the dangerous rhetoric of the New Atheists which vilifies and demonises religious believers, rhetoric which could easily provoke persecution, even if its authors themselves are humane men who don’t advocate it.
Johnstone traces these atheist myths back to their nineteenth and pre-nineteenth century origins, and some of the books cited by the New Atheists as the sources for their own writings. One of the most influential of these is Charles MacKay’s 1843 Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. In many instances he shows them to be using very dated, and now refuted texts. With some of the modern works they also draw on, examination shows that often they ignore the authors’ own conclusions, which may differ considerably, or even be the complete opposite of their own.
In the case of the witch-hunts, Johnstone traces the oft-quoted figure of over nine million victims to an early nineteenth century German author, Gottfried Christian Voigt, who extrapolated it from the murder of the thirty witches executed in his home town of Quedlinburg from 1569 to 1683. He assumed this was typical of all areas throughout the period of the witch-hunts. The figure was picked up by the radical neo-Pagan and feminist movements of the 1970s. But it’s false. The real figure, he claims, was 50,000. And its intensity varied considerably from place to place and over time. The Portuguese Inquisition, for example, only killed one witch c. 1627. In other places, the inquisitors were conscientious in giving the accused a fair trial. Convictions for witchcraft were overturned and evidence was taken to prove the accused’s innocence as well as guilt. The Roman Inquisition also demanded the accused to provide a list of their enemies, as their testimony would obviously be suspect.
In regions where the discussion of witchcraft had resulted in the mass trial and execution of the innocent, the religious authorities imposed silence about the subject. Johnstone rebuts the statement of some Christian apologists that the Church was only complicit in these atrocities, not responsible for them. But he shows that they were an anomaly. Nearly all societies have believed in the existence of witches throughout history, but the period of witch-hunting was very limited. The problem therefore is not that religion and belief in the supernatural leads inexorably to persecution, but how to explain that it doesn’t.
He shows that the Church moved from a position of initial scepticism towards full scale belief over a period of centuries. The witch-hunts arose when maleficium – black magic – became linked to heresy, and so became a kind of treason. As an example of how secular and political motives were also involved in the denunciations and trials, rather than just pure religious hatred, he cites the case of the priest Urbain Grandier. Grandier’s case was the basis for Aldous Huxley’s novel, The Devils of Loudoun, which was filmed by Ken Russell as The Devils. Here it appears the motives for the trial were political, as Grandier had been an opponent of the French minister, Cardinal Richelieu. Johnstone also considers that as secular societies have also persecuted those they consider to be politically or morally deviant there exists in humanity a need to persecute. This means finding and identifying an anti-group, directly opposed to conventional society, whose existence and opposition demonstrates the value of that society.
KEN RUSSELL’S ‘THE DEVILS’ (1971)
The medieval persecution of heretics may also have been due to a number of causes and not simply due to the malign attitudes of religious believers. There was a period of nearly 700 years between the execution of the Roman heretic, Priscillian, in the fourth century and the revival of persecution the early eleventh. This arose in the context of the emergence and development of states and the expansion of papal and royal power, which involved church and crown extending their power over local communities. At the same time, the papacy attempted reforming the church, at first in response to popular demand. However, it was then faced with the problem of clamping down on some of the popular reform movements when they threatened to run out of its control.
As the case of the Waldensians shows, the line between orthodoxy and heresy could be an extremely fine one. Johnstone also raises the question here of whether one of the most notorious medieval heretical groups, the Cathars, ever existed at all. It is possible that their existence is an illusion created by the categories of heresies the inquisitors had inherited from the Church Fathers. These were forced onto a group of local communities in the Languedoc, where popular piety centred around the Good Men and Women. These were highly respected members of the community, who were believed to live exemplary Christian lives. They were therefore due proper respect, which to the inquisitors looked like heretical veneration.
Hitler’s Christianity is also highly debatable. The little reliable testimony states that he was indeed Roman Catholic, but doesn’t provide any evidence of a deep faith. He certainly at times claimed he was a Christian and was acting in accordance with his religious beliefs. But an examination of some of these quotes shows that they were uttered as a rebuttal to others, who stated that their Christian beliefs meant that they could not support Nazism. This raises the question of whether they were anything more than a rhetorical gesture. There is evidence that Hitler was an atheist with a particular hatred of Christianity. This is mostly drawn from his Table Talk, and specifically the English edition produced by Hugh Trevor-Roper. The atheist polemicist, Richard Carrier, has shown that it is derived from a French language version, whose author significantly altered some of the quotes to insert an atheist meaning where none was present in the original. However, Carrier only identified a handful of such quotes, leaving forty requiring further investigation. Thus the question remains undecided.
Johnstone also examine the Nazi persecution of the Jews from the point of view of the theorists of political religion. These consider that humans are innately religious, but that once secularisation has broken the hold of supernatural religion, the objects of veneration changes to institutions like the state, free market capitalism, the New Man, Communism and so on. Those who follow this line differ in the extent to which they believe that the Nazis were influenced by religion. Some view it as a hydra, whose many heads stood for Christianity, but also Paganism in the case of Himmler and the SS. But underneath, the source of the real religious cult was the race, the nation and Hitler himself. If these theorists are correct, then Nazism may have been the result, not of a continued persecuting Christianity, but of secularisation.
He also considers the controversial view of the German historian, Richard Steigmann-Gall, whose The Holy Reich considered that the Nazis really were sincere in their Christianity. This has been criticised because some of the Nazis it examines as examples of Nazi Christian piety, like Rudolf Hess, were minor figures in the regime, against vehement anti-Christians like Alfred Rosenberg. He also shows how the peculiar views of the German Christians, the Nazi Christian sect demanding a new, Aryan Christianity, where Christ was blond and blue-eyed, and the Old Testament was to be expunged from the canon, were similar to certain trends within early twentieth century liberal Protestantism. But the German historian’s point in writing the book was not simply to put culpability for the Nazis’ horrors on Christianity. He wanted to attack the comfortable distance conventional society places between itself and the Nazis, in order to reassure people that they couldn’t have committed such crimes because the Nazis were different. His point was that they weren’t. They were instead uncomfortably normal.
DEMOCRITUS
The New Atheists celebrate the ancient Greek Atomists because their theories that matter is made up of tiny irreducible particles, first put forward by the philosophers Epicurus and Democritus, seem so similar to modern atomic theory. These ancient philosophers believed that these alone were responsible for the creation of a number of different worlds and the creatures that inhabited them by chance.
Some of these were forms that were incapable of surviving alone, and so died out. Thus, they appear to foreshadow Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection. New Atheist writers bitterly attack Aristotle, whose own rival theories of matter and physics gained ascendancy until Atomism was revived in the seventeenth century. The natural philosophers behind its revival are credited with being atheists, even though many of them were Christians and one, Pierre Gassendi, a Roman Catholic priest. Their Christianity is thus seen as nominal. One also takes the extreme view that Galileo’s prosecution was due to his embrace of the atomic theory, rather than his argument that the Earth moved around the Sun.
But scholars have shown that the ancient atomic theory grew out of particular debates in ancient Greece about the fundamental nature of matter, and cannot be removed from that context. They were very different to modern atomic theory. At the same time, they also held beliefs that are to us nonsense as science. For example, they believed that the early creatures produced by atoms were fed by the Earth with a milk-like substance. They also believed in the fixity of species. Even where they did believe in evolution, in the case of humanity, this was more Lamarckian than Darwinian. Aristotle’s views won out over theirs not because of religious narrow-mindedness or ignorance, but because Aristotle’s had great explanatory power.
The scientists, who revived it in the seventeenth century, including Boyle and Newton, were sincere Christians. They believed that atoms created objects through divine agency because the ancient Greek explanation – it was all chance without a theory of momentum – genuinely couldn’t explain how this could occur without God. As for Galileo, the historian who first suggested this extreme and largely discredited view, believed that he was a victim of papal politics, and that there had also been a party within the Vatican and the Church, which supported his theories.
Discussing the two witch-hunters celebrated by the New Atheists as atheist, or at least, Sceptical heroes, the book shows that this was not the case. Dietrich Flade seems to have been accused because he had fallen out with an ecclesiastical rival, Zandt, for being too lenient on the accused witches. But he also appears to have been protected by the church authorities until the accusations of witchcraft by accused witches became too many to ignore.
The other Sceptical hero, Friedrich Spee, was a Jesuit priest, who became convinced of the innocence of those accused of witchcraft through attending so many to the stake. He then wrote a book condemning the trials, the Cautio Crimenalis. But he was no sceptic. He believed wholeheartedly in witchcraft, but considered it rare. The use of torture was wrong, as it was leading to false confessions and false denunciations of others, which could not be retracted for fear of further torture. Thus the souls of the innocent were damned for this sin. But while good Christians were being burned as witches, many of the witch-hunters themselves were in league with Satan. They used the hunts and baseless accusations to destroy decent Christian society and charity.
But if the New Atheists are keen to ascribe a wide number of historical atrocities to religion without recognising the presence of other, social and political factors, they deny any such crimes can be attributed to atheism. Atheism is defined as a lack of belief in God, and so cannot be responsible for inspiring horrific acts. Johnstone states that in one sense, this is true, but it is also a question about the nature of the good life and the good society that must be constructed in the absence of a belief in God. And these become positive ideologies that are responsible for horrific crimes.
Johnstone goes on from this to attack Hector Avelos’ statement that the Soviet persecution of the Church was only a form of anti-clericalism, which all societies must go through. Johnstone rebuts this by describing the process and extent of Soviet persecution, from the separation of church and state in 1917 to the imposition of atheism by force. Churches and monasteries were closed and religious objects seized and desecrated, religious believers arrested, sent to the gulags or massacred. These persecutions occurred in cycles, and there were times, such as during the War, when a rapprochement was made with the Orthodox Church. But these periods of toleration were always temporary and established for entirely pragmatic and utilitarian purposes.
The goal was always the creation of an atheist state, and they were always followed, until the fall of Communism, by renewed persecution. The wartime rapprochement with the Church was purely to gain the support of believers for the campaign against the invading Nazis. It was also to establish state control through the church on Orthodox communities that had survived, or reappeared in border areas under Nazi occupation. Finally, the attack on the clergy, church buildings and religious objects and even collectivisation itself were done with the deliberate intention of undermining religious ritual and practice, which was considered the core of Orthodox life and worship.
Sam Harris has become particularly notorious for his suggestion that atheists should be trusted to torture terrorist suspects because of their superior rationality and morality compared to theists. Harris believed it was justified in the case of al-Qaeda suspects in order to prevent further attacks. But here Johnstone shows his logic was profoundly flawed. Torture was not introduced into medieval judicial practice in the twelfth century through bloodthirsty and sadistic ignorance. Rather it was intended as a reasonable alternative to the ordeal. Human reason, and the acquisition of evidence, was going to be sufficient to prove guilt or innocence without relying on supposed divine intervention. But the standards of evidence required were very high, and in the case of a crime like witchcraft, almost impossible without a confession.
The use of torture was initially strictly limited and highly regulated, but the sense of crisis produced by witchcraft resulted in the inquisitors abandoning these restraints. Similarly, Harris’ fear of terror attacks leads him to move from reasonable suspects, who may well be guilty, to those who are simply members of terrorist organisations. They are fitting subjects for torture because although they may be innocent of a particular offence, through their membership of a terrorist organisation or adherence to Islamist beliefs, they must be guilty of something. Finally, Harris also seems to see Islamism as synonymous with Islam, so that all Muslims everywhere are seen as enemies of the secular Western order. This is exactly the same logic as that which motivated the witch-hunts, in which witches were seen as the implacable enemies of Christian society, and so exempt from the mercy and humane treatment extended to other types of criminal.
From this Johnstone then goes on to consider how the New Atheists’ image of atheism and the process of abandoning belief in God resembles religious attitudes. Their belief that atheism must be guarded against the dangers of falling back into religious belief mirrors Christian fears of the temptation to false belief, such as those of the Protestant reformers towards the persistence of Roman Catholicism. At the same time, their ideas of abandoning God and so attaining the truth resembles the Christian process of conversion and membership of the elect. And the vitriol directed at the religious for continuing to believe in God despite repeated demonstrations of His nonexistence resembles the inquisitors’ attitude to heretics. Heresy differs from error in that the heretic refuses to be corrected, and so must be compelled to recant by force.
The book also shows the dangers inherent in some New Atheist rhetoric about religious believers. This runs in contrast to much New Atheist writing, which is genuinely progressive and expresses real sympathy with the marginalised and oppressed, and which advocates trying to see the world through their eyes. But no such sympathy is granted religious believers. They are described as children, who may not sit at the same table as adults. Or else, following the logic of religion as a virus, proposed by Dawkins, they are described as diseased, who do not realise that they have been infected and even love their condition.
Bringing children up religious is condemned as child abuse. A.C. Grayling is shown to have a utilitarian attitude in his own advocacy of secularisation. He first states that he supports it for creating multiculturalism, but then contradicts himself by stating that he looks forward to it undermining religion. This was the same attitude the Soviets initially adopted towards religion. When it didn’t disappear as they expected, they resorted to force. Peter Boghossian wants atheist ‘street epistemologists’ – the atheist version of religious street preachers – to attack believers’ religious beliefs in public. They are to take every opportunity, including following them into church, in order to initiate ‘Socratic’ discussions that will lead them to questioning their faith.
Johnstone states that this is an implicit denial of theists’ right to conduct their private business in public without atheist interference. It’s in line with the New Atheist demands that religion be driven from the public sphere, into the churches, or better yet, the home. The metaphor of disease and infection suggests that what is needed is for religious believers to be rounded up against their will and forcibly cured. It’s the same metaphor the Nazis used in their persecution of their victims.
He quotes the atheist philosopher Julian Baggini, who is dismayed when he hears atheists describing religion as a mental disease from which believers should be forcibly treated. As for the statement that religious upbringing equals child abuse, the seriousness of this charge raises the question of how seriously the New Atheists actually see it. If Dawkins and co. really believe that it is, then their lack of demand for state intervention to protect children from indoctrination, as they see it, from the parents shows that they don’t treat child abuse seriously.
The New Atheist rhetoric actually breaks with their concrete recommendations for what should be done to disavow believers of their religious views, which are actually quite mild. This is what Johnstone calls the ‘cavalierism of the unfinished thought’. They may not recommend coercion and persecution, but their rhetoric implies it. Johnstone states that he has discussed only one of several competing strands in New Atheist thinking and that there are others available. He concludes with the consideration that there isn’t a single atheism but a multiplicity of atheisms, all with differing responses to religious belief. Some of them will be comparably mild, but most will involve some kind of frustration at religion’s persistence. He recommends that atheists should identify which type of atheist they are, in order to avoid the violent intolerance inherent in New Atheist rhetoric. This agrees with his statement at the beginning of the book, where he hopes it will lead to an atheist response to religion which is properly informed by history and which genuinely respects religious believers.
The book is likely to be widely attacked by the New Atheists and their followers. Some of its conclusions Johnstone admits are controversial, such as the view that the Cathars never existed, or that the persecution of heretics was an integral part of the forging of the medieval state. But historians and sociologists of religion repeatedly show that in the persecutions and atrocities in which religion has been involved, religion is largely not the only, or in some cases even the most important reason. Johnstone’s views on witchcraft is supported by much contemporary popular and academic treatments. His statement that the figure of over nine million victims of the witch-hunt is grossly exaggerated is shared by Lois Martin in her The History of Witchcraft (Harpenden: Pocket Essentials 2002). The Harvard professor, Jeffrey Burton Russell in his Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1972) also shows how Christian attitudes towards witchcraft passed from the scepticism of the Canon Episcopi to belief as the responsibility for its persecution passed from the bishops to the Holy Office.
Early law codes treated maleficium – black or harmful magic – purely as a civil offence against persons or property. It became a religious crime with the development of the belief that witches attended sabbats where they parodied the Christian Eucharist and worshiped Satan. A paper describing the scrupulous legality and legal provisions for the accused’s defence in the Roman Inquisition can be found in the Athlone History of Witchcraft and Magic In Europe IV: The Period of the Witch Trials, Bengt Ankerloo and Stuart Clarke eds., (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press 2002). Other writers on religion have noted the similarity between the late medieval and early modern witch-hunts and paranoid fears about Freemasons, Jews and Communists in later centuries, including the Holocaust, Stalin’s purges and McCarthyism. They thus see it as one manifestation of the wider ‘myth of the organised conspiracy’. See Richard Cavendish, ‘Christianity’, in Richard Cavendish, ed., Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (London: Orbis 1980) 156-69 (168-9).
The Soviet persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church is described by Rev. Timothy Ware in his The Orthodox Church (London: Penguin 1963). Ludmilla Alexeyeva also describes the Soviet persecution of the Orthodox Church, along with other religions and national and political groups and movements in her Soviet Dissent: Contemporary Movements for National, Religious and Human Rights (Middletown, Connecticutt: Wesleyan University Press 1985). R.N. Carew Hunt’s The Theory and Practice of Communism (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1950) shows how leading Communists like Lenin believed atheism was an integral part of Communism and the Soviet state with a series of quotations from them. An example of Lenin’s demand for an aggressive atheism is his speech, ‘On the Significance of Militant Materialism’ in Lenin: Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers 1968). 653-60.
It is also entirely reasonable to talk about religious elements and attitudes within certain forms of atheism and secular ideologies. Peter Rogerson in many of his well-reasoned articles in Magonia pointed out how similar some of the sceptics’ attacks on superstition and the supernatural were to narratives of religious conversion. His attitude is shared with some academic sociologists, historians and political theorists. Peter Yinger’s section on ‘Secular Alternatives to Religion’ in The Religious Quest: A Reader, edited by Whitfield Foy (London: Open University Press 1978) 537-554, has articles on the ‘Religious Aspects of Postivism’, p. 544, ‘Faith in Science’, 546, ‘Religious Aspects of Marxism’, p. 547, ‘Totalitarian Messianism’ 549, and ‘Psychoanalysis as a Modern Faith’, 551. For some scholars, the similarities of some secular ideologies to religion is so strong, that they have termed them quasi-religions.
While some atheists resent atheism being described as religion, this term is meant to avoid such objections. It is not intended to describe them literally as religions, but only as ideologies that have some of the qualities of religion. See John E. Smith’s Quasi-Religions: Humanism, Marxism and Nationalism (Macmillan 1994). New Atheism also mimics religion in that several of the New Atheists have written statements of the atheist position and edited anthologies of atheist writings. These are A.C. Grayling’s The Good Book and Christopher Hitchens’ The Portable Atheist. The title of Grayling’s book is clearly a reference to the Bible. As I recall, it caused some controversy amongst atheists when it was published, as many of them complained that atheism was too individual and sceptical to have a definitive, foundational text. In their view, Grayling’s book showed the type of mindset they wanted to escape when they left religion.
The fears of the terrible potential consequences of New Atheist rhetoric despite the avowed intentions of its authors is well founded and timely. There have been sharp complaints about some of the vitriolic rhetoric used to attack particular politicians in debates about Brexit which has resulted in assault and harassment. At the same it was reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes spiked after the publication of Boris Johnson’s column in which he described women wearing the burqa as looking like letterboxes. Neither religion, nor secularism and atheism should be immune from criticism. But Johnstone is right in that it should be correctly historically informed and careful in the language used. Otherwise the consequences could be terrible, regardless of the authors’ own humane feelings and sympathies.

Dankula and Mates Make Nuisance Call to Black Pastor

October 27, 2019

Well, Halloween is upon us. This is the time of year, according to folklore, when the dead once again return to Earth, and witches and wizards pore over their cauldrons and spell books casting their magic. For most people, it’s simply an opportunity for a party, where people go dressed as witches, ghouls, demons, vampires and so on. Or else they watch a horror film at the flicks or on DVD. Or go and catch The Rocky Horror Show at the theatre, if it’s playing. Many Christians dislike it, as they are afraid it encourages a real interest in the occult with all its dangers. Some churches put on Light Parties instead. I remember as a child going to Halloween parties, where the only magicians were definitely of the stage variety, and everything was at the suitable level of the traditional folktale and children’s fantasy book. This was long before the occult scares and witch panics of the 1980s and ’90s, and the hysteria over ‘Harry Potter’.

Nevertheless some people do try dabbling with the supernatural. Some of it’s just kids legend tripping. This is the term folklorists use to describe teenagers and young people going to reputedly weird or haunted sites hoping to see something paranormal. Or just wanting to take it as an occasion to have an evening out with booze and their girlfriends. This can have unintended sinister consequences, when the wider community takes the evidence of what they’ve been doing too seriously, and concludes that real, Satanic witchcraft has been going on. This can generate rumours and accusations of child abuse and the torture and sacrifice of animals. When this happens, a full-scale witch hunt erupts with the fear and hatred of its medieval and 17th century predecessors. People can be falsely accused and children separated from their parents and taken into care based on nothing but highly dubious testimony and the righteous beliefs of the witch hunters. The witch panic effectively ended over here with the Fontaine Report in the 1990s that concluded that the multi-generational Satanic groups abusing children haunting the lurid imaginations of the witch hunters didn’t exist. But the people, who pushed the Satanism scare are still about, trying to peddle their views to anyone who will listen, and there’s a real threat it could return.

It’s with this in mind that I came across a video on his channel on YouTube by Mark Meechan, the notorious Count Dankula. He’s the bozo, you remember, who thought it would be jolly japes to train his girlfriend’s pug to make the Nazi salute when he shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ and ‘Gas the Jews’. He was therefore prosecuted and convicted of spreading anti-Semitic hate speech. Dankula’s posted a number of videos of himself trying to defend it as a stupid joke, which should have been allowed under freedom of speech. He was also one of the crew of extreme right-wing internet personalities, including Paul Joseph Watson and Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin, who joined UKIP. This resulted in some of the more liberal members leaving it and the party achieving a mighty 3.3% of the vote at the council elections.

The video I found dated from three years ago, 2016. It was of Dankula’s mates in a forest with a pentagram they had made on the ground out of tree branches. They’d also had some kind of fire, and were scattering the ashes around in order to make their pentagram look even more impressive. One of them also put a candle at one of the figure’s corners. They then phoned up a Black British pastor on a mobile and started swearing at him and trying to trick him with a bogus story about Satanists and human sacrifice.

The pastor was live streaming a Bible study of the Book of Jonah. Dankula’s mates first shouted ‘F**k!’ at him. One of them then put on a fake African accent and pretended to be a man waiting in the forest for Satanists to sacrifice him. The friend then said that there were no Satanists there, and he didn’t think they were going to turn up. But he personally had fought Satan last year on holiday in Spain, when the Devil had taken the form of a lizard. He’d killed the lizard, and roasted it in the ocean. This was accompanied by more swearing and puerile sniggering.

I’m not showing the video here or giving its address because I don’t want to give Dankula the publicity and the views. But it is out there. If you want to see, all you have to do use the search bar on YouTube.

Now Dankula claims not to be racist, and has said that he has Black friends. He may well be right. I also believe that there has been problems with some of the Pentecostal churches, which do promote the belief that witches and a Satanic conspiracy to undermine Christianity and decent society are all too real. It’s perfectly reasonable to criticise the preachers, White or Black, and secular individuals that promote this dangerous nonsense. But there was absolutely none of this here. The video gives no explanation for what they’re doing. It just shows a group of White yobs make a nuisance internet call to a Black pastor and telling a stupid, bogus story about Satanic sacrifice. It just seems to be a case of secular White kids sneering and mocking religious Blacks for their perceived credulity.

This undermines somewhat Dankula’s claim not to be racist. But it’s also an example of some of the pranks others might be making at this time of year. They also might be hoaxing evidence of occult rituals and Satanic practices, simply as a way of winding people up. Be warned, and don’t be taken in.

But whatever your beliefs or lack of them, I hope you have a great time this week. The most horrific thing I can think of is Boris Johnson and Brexit. Don’t have nightmares!

The Babylonian Condemnation of Libel and Slander

October 3, 2019

A few days ago I put up a few verses from the Old Testament, Exodus and Deuteronomy, which condemn telling lies. This was for the benefit of certain individuals, like Rachel Riley, who have been all too happy to make false accusations of anti-Semitism against others. When they themselves are criticised, however, they falsely accuse their critics of libelling them and threaten them with court action. Riley has done this to Mike and 16 others, after they blogged about how she and Tracey-Ann Oberman, in their view had bullied a sixteen year old schoolgirl with anxiety. The girl had put up a post supporting Jeremy Corbyn. This was then criticised by the two, who said they were going to ‘re-educate’ her and demanded that she meet them in London. The girl couldn’t as she had to be in school. They then accused her of anti-Semitism, and encouraged their supporters to pile in. When Mike put up his account of this sordid incident, Oberman appeared and claimed it was libelous. When Mike asked what was libelous about it, he received no reply. He was then informed that Riley was taking him to court.

The Babylonians, like the Hebrews, also condemned libel and slander. Their precept against it is preserved in the Counsels of Wisdom, a collection of short moral adages. These appear to have been copied sometime between 700 and 400 BC, although the texts themselves may date back to the period 1800-1000 BC. It runs

Do not utter libel, speak what is of good report,

Don say evil things, speak well of people.

One who utters libel and speaks evil,

Men will waylay him with the retribution of Shamash.

D. Winton Thomas, ed., Documents from Old Testament Times (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons 1958) 106.

Shamash was the Babylonian sun god.

Similar sentiments are expressed in the Ancient Egyptian The Teaching of Amenemope. The scroll of this held by the British Museum may date back to 1000-600 BC, but there is a fragment written on a potsherd which may date back 1100-946 BC. The precept against libel runs

Injure not a man, with pen upon papyrus-

O abomination of the god!

Bear not witness with lying words,

Nor seek another’s reverse with thy tongue.

(Page 182).

Thus, what Riley and Oberman appear to be doing to silence their critics, who seem to be mostly supporters of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn, is utterly wrong, even by Babylonian and Ancient Egyptian standards as well as those of Ancient Israel and today.