Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Anti-Semitism Smear Merchant David Collier’s Pro-Tory Bias Exposed

November 11, 2019

Oh ho! Another wheel has come off the anti-Semitism witch-hunters’ malign clown car, and it couldn’t come too soon. Lee C has posted a little video on twitter of a conversation between David Collier, a member of the Gnasherjew ultra-Zionist troll farm, one of his friends and another man, who appears interested in joining his campaign to root out anti-Semitism. Collier’s mate, a man in the traditional Jewish kippa, tells the prospective recruit how they combat anti-Semitism across society and the political divide, in both Labour and the Conservatives.

Except they don’t. And the supposed recruit knows it. He asks Collier several times what he’s done to expose and combat anti-Semitism in the Tory party without getting an answer. Eventually, when the point has been glaringly made by Collier’s inability to answer the question, Collier tries to excuse his political bias by saying that he’s a member of Labour.

Lee C. comments

David Collier Exposed. The man behind Labour’s antisemitism smear campaign. Never calls it out when it’s from the right because it doesn’t fit his political agenda. It’s always been about removing pro Palestinian Jeremy Corbyn and nothing else.

See: https://twitter.com/leelizard4/status/1193287043612315648

The Sage of Crewe has written an excellent piece about it, and helpfully describes the conversation in the video, which goes as follows.

‘In the video, Collier, at right foreground, and his colleague at left are in conversation with an individual who they are seeking to persuade to join their campaign. But their potential recruit has a nasty surprise for Collier. First, he calls anti-Semitism “a disgraceful thing”.

Collier’s pal takes it from there. “So will you be an ally and join with me and David in the campaign against anti-Semitism, whether it’s in the Tory Party, whether it’s in UKIP, whether it’s in the Labour Party, will you help us to expose those that express anti-Jewish racism?” Then the potential recruit takes the mic, and it all goes wrong.

I have a wonderful question for David here. David, can you go through your routine … can you go to your record on exposing anti-Semitism in the Tory Party? Over to you, David”. After a pause, Collier responds “Do you think that’s a point?” NO COMMENT.

Back comes the question. “David, would you like to go through your record of exposing anti-Semitism in the Tory Party? Over to you David”. Collier’s response this time? “I’m not a member of the Tory Party”. Not going very well, is it? Back comes the question again. Except with a little more pointedness. “Anti-Semitism exists everywhere. If you are here to fight anti-Semitism, you fight anti-Semitism everywhere. You seem to specialise in anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Can you please tell me not why, but what your record is in exposing anti-Semitism in the Tory Party? Over to you, David”. Come on Dave!

Next excuse? “Again, your questions are disingenuous. Now if you’ll let me answer …” But the questioner had by now heard enough. “Disingenuous? It is because I asked a very straightforward question. What have you done to expose anti-Semitism in the Tory Party? Over to you David”. Collier bleated “I am a member of the Labour Party

The questioner’s conclusion? “He says he has done nothing”.

What also makes this exchange interesting is that Collier is friend and collaborator of Rachel Riley’s, as the Sage shows with a few highly illustrative tweets.

Zelo Street makes the point that Collier’s highly selective attitude towards anti-Semitism is simply not acceptable. You fight it wherever it exists, because if you ignore it in one place, it’ll just fester and grow. And Collier has shown he’s prepared to do this. And he also makes the point that you need to think when Riley appears bashing the Labour party again that she appears to share the same attitude. And her selective indifference to anti-Semitism is a frightening prospect to real anti-racists. He concludes

‘Ms Riley’s pal just gave the game away. It’s not exposing hatred. It’s just Labour bashing.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/rachel-rileys-anti-labour-pal-exposed.html

I think the clip came from a much longer video of Collier, his mate and Depik Rajgor in debate, posted on YouTube by the Israel Advocacy Movement. They seem to think it exposes Mr. Rajgor as ‘an anti-racist, who can’t help being racist’. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t comment, but I suspect their definition of racism is that someone is anti-Semitic, if they’re not prepared to support Israel’s brutal persecution of the Palestinians. Even if they are a fervent opponent of racism and anti-Semitism otherwise.

Of course, Collier’s selective attitude towards anti-Semitism should surprise no-one. It’s embedded throughout much of the pro-Israel movement. Tony Greenstein among very many others has shown that the laughably misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is far less concerned with anti-Semitism on the right, than it is about it in the Labour party and particularly Jeremy Corbyn.

Meanwhile, anti-Semitism in the Tories gets a free pass. Remember back in the summer when the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Jewish Labour Movement and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis were working themselves into a frenzy because Labour hadn’t signed up to the I.H.R.A.’s definition of anti-Semitism? The same definition, whose Zionist author, Kenneth Stern, had testified to the US Congress it was being used to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel? Well, the Tories hadn’t signed it, either. But there were no mobs of angry Zionists waving Israeli flags and screaming that the Tories were anti-Semites and ready to start the Holocaust again outside Tory HQ.

And anti-Semitism has always been much more prevalent on the right. The vicious anti-Semitism and islamophobia of two twitter/ Facebook groups, which respectively supported Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg was exposed a little while ago. The members of these groups were calling for the mass expulsion and murder of Muslims, particularly Sadiq Khan in London. But some of them also believed in the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which blames the Jews for the influx of Muslim and other non-White migrants. They’re doing this, according to the Nazis who believe this daft and murderous twaddle, as a deliberate plot to destroy the White race. The Tories have made noises about combating racism in their ranks, and some people have been suspended or expelled, it’s true. But as Matt Hancock’s ‘whitesplaining’ to Sayeeda Warsi about islamophobia shows, they’re not really interested in tackling it.

Meanwhile, David Collier and his ilk smear and libel genuine anti-racist people opposed to anti-Semitism in the Labour party, while ignoring the real anti-Semites on the right and far right.

Double Down News Video: Ken Loach Explains Why People Need to Vote Labour

November 10, 2019

I found this excellent video from the socialist, radical film director Ken Loach. It’s from Double Down News, another online news agency that’s there to tell the world the truth about the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn, ’cause the lamestream media won’t. Loach is the veteran director who made the films Dirty, Pretty Things, about the low-paid immigrant workers, who do the work we don’t want to, and I, Daniel Blake, about a man struggling with the obstructive, deliberately unhelpful bureaucracy of the Tories’ benefit system. He’s also another person they’ve tried to smear as an anti-Semite because he made a film a few years ago exposing the brutality of the Israeli state towards the Palestinians. However, Loach is demonstrably very far from anti-Semitic. I believe he made the film with an number of Jewish critics of Israel, and was given a rapturously welcome the other year when he appeared at a meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour. Despite what smear merchants like the Campaign AgainstAnti-Semitism, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Blairites, the Tories and the mendacious press would have you believe, Corbyn’s supporters are decent, self-respecting anti-racist people. The many Jews, who support him do so because they are, decent, self-respecting anti-racist people. They are not self-hating, and know that he has done much to support the Jewish community as he people from all racial, ethnic and religious groups in this countries. And so the folks at JVL would very definitely not give their applause to a genuine anti-Semite.

Loach begins the video by saying

The impact of Johnson is like the emperor has no clothes. We can see clearly what is amiss. Get out of Europe fast so that even the small protections that Europe provides in working conditions and the environment disappear, so that he can do deals with people like Trump, where it’ll open the door to the big American multinationals to take over our public services. And the biggest issue of all, climate change will be disregarded. If we care about the future for our kids, and grandchildren in my case, then that’s suicidal. Why are we destroying the planet? Why? Why do some areas of the country exist with nothing while other areas are overwhelmed with wealth? Why is the world like that? It doesn’t need to be like that. 

The Labour government of the past failed with its illegal wars, privatisations. We now have a chance with the beginnings of a policy that will regenerate our country, protect the environment, get rid of privatisation in the public services. Why should Richard Branson make a fortune out of the Health Service? It makes no sense. I mean, the questions are so obvious, of course young people will see it. And then they get confused with this fog of stupidity which you see in the press, broadcast every morning, so that politics becomes not the simple answer to simple questions, but becomes some arcane procedure in a tiny part of London by people, who speak a different language. Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell cut through that, that’s why they’re not allowed to speak. Empathy, solidarity, supporting each other, understanding each other – this is the essence of socialism. We’;re naturally good friends, we’re naturally neighbours, that’s the essence of our political system – it’s the opposite of their political system. 

The video ends with a statement by Loach about Double Down News, explaining that it’s an alternative news service, that doesn’t get funding from anyone except what it’s given. Even by old farts like him. He appeals to people to give to the organisation, offering them £20.

It’s a great video illustrated with some very pertinent images. This includes urban decay contrasted with the wealth of the City of London, Boris Johnson and Rees-Mogg in parliament, the arcane ceremony of the opening of parliament with Black Rod, the warmongers Bush and Blair together, Richard Branson toasting his good fortune, a collage formed by a newspaper photo of Osama bin Laden embracing a newspaper photo of Corbyn and the selection of tabloid front pages smearing the Labour leader. There’s also clips of Corbyn meeting ordinary members of the public, embracing a Muslim woman in a burqa, that’ll no doubt send Boris’ supporters bonkers, and writing messages of condolence to the people of Grenfell Tower.

This is an eloquent talk by one of Britain’s most gifted and critically acclaimed film-makers. He’s right, and especially about the way the concentration on the arcane ritual of parliament may be putting off young people. It certainly seems to me to be a way of dividing people into a politically-literate class of affluent people, who understand it and its jargon, and the rest of us.

Loach is getting on a bit, but he’s still active and his voice needs to be heard. We need to listen to him and organisations like DDN, and not to the lamestream media.

David Rosenberg’s Refutation of Latest Corbyn Anti-Semitism Smears

November 8, 2019

As I said a few days ago, the Tories must be desperate. They and their allies in the press have fallen back to the old smears of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn. A Reform Rabbi, Jonathan Romain, wrote an article in last Friday’s Times warning its readers not to vote for Labour, because he was afraid of the terrible consequences of a Corbyn-led government for Britain’s Jews. And Stephen Pollard, the non-Jewish, goysplaining editor of the Jewish Chronicle, has written an article aimed squarely at gentile Brits, urging us not to vote for Corbyn because ditto.

David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group has written another excellent reply to the latest round of smears. Rosenberg himself has been the subject of smear attacks and protests by ultra-rightwing Zionists. A few days ago Jonathan Hoffman, a former leader of the Zionist Federation, was doing his usual schtick of marching around screaming about anti-Semitism in protest at a talk Mr Rosenberg was given to the East London Humanists. Whom he also accused of anti-Semitism, because they’re militant atheists and are anti-Judaism. Well yes, they are. They are also anti-Christianity, anti-Islam, anti-Hinduism, and anti-religion generally. That does not mean that they stand for the persecution of Jews, or Christians, Muslims, Hindus or anyone else. As for Rosenberg being an anti-Semite himself, his piece, ‘Who’s Afraid of Jeremy Corbyn’, begins with him describing a journey he made as part of a group of sixty people on a four day educational visit to Poland. It was organised by Unite Against Racism and many of the people on it were trade unionists and members of the Labour party. They also ranged from sixth former to older people, including Holocaust survivors, some of whose terrible experiences he briefly describes. Rosenberg was a speaker at the event, but before he did, they were treated to a message by Jeremy Corbyn. It was not electioneering, but a private message, meant for the travelers alone. Rosenberg writes

But just before I spoke, we watched a video message that had been filmed in one of theScreen Shot 2019-11-06 at 17.22.31 busiest weeks of Jeremy Corbyn’s year. The election had only just been called but he found time to record a message to wish our group well on our visit. This was not electioneering. This was not a social media post to be broadcast by Labour’s Press Team for sharing far and wide. It was simply a private, personal, heartfelt message to our group, from someone who has spent their life confronting racism and fascism and posing an alternative to hatred.

“Your visit to Auschwitz,” Corbyn told us, “will be a poignant experience. I have been there myself.” He described antisemitism as an “evil cult that has to be destroyed in all forms.” He recalled a visit he made, in summer this year, “to a small Jewish museum in Romania next to a railway line, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were rounded up in 1944 and deported to their deaths.” He closed by calling on us to “unite as people to say we will not tolerate racism in any form in our society, be it antisemitism, be it Islamophobia, be it homophobia or any other kind of discrimination.”

Rosenberg goes on to criticise Romain’s article, which was part of the media’s general evidence-free argument against the Labour party. He also discusses how the Tories have been responsible for deliberately racist policies such as the Hostile Environment policy, and are now led by Boris Johnson and his vile remarks about ‘grinning picaninnies’ and women in hijabs. He also reminds voters thinking of switching from Labour to the Fib Dems because of the smears of racism just how racist the Lib Dems themselves are. They not only supported Tory austerity policies, which disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, they also supported the Hostile Environment. And they did some extremely racist campaigning themselves in Tower Hamlets. He writes

Some of us with longer memories might recall the role of the Liberal Democrats in Tower Hamlets in the early 1990s where Lib Dem leaflets linked the presence of Black and Asian people with the housing shortages, giving further credibility to the overtly racist BNP who were polling well. Other leaflets distributed by the Lib Dems accused Labour of diverting funds towards the area’s Asian communities. In the end the BNP won that seat, and the Lib Dems locally were widely seen as playing a despicable and racist role.

He also attacks the Torygraph article which quotes Conservative chairman James Cleverly that British Jews are preparing to flee Britain if Corbyn gets in. He notes that three years into Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, fewer Jews than ever are actually leaving for Israel. But he also notes the anti-Semitic undertones of the Torygraph and Jewish Chronicle’s article. Both stereotype Jews as rich capitalists. He writes

But the more serious point contained in this suggestion is the not-so-subtle antisemtism of both the Telegraph and Cleverly.

In essence they argue that a Corbyn government will launch a vengeful attack on wealth. Those most committed to private enterprise fear being squeezed by a radical Labour government, and the suggestion seems to be that the Jewish community, often stereotyped as an overwhelmingly rich, business-orientated community, will especially feel that pinch. It is an argument that has been rehearsed by the very right wing Jewish Chronicle editor, Stephen Pollard, who gave space in December 2018 for an appalling article in his paper by Alex Brummer with a headline you might have expected to see in a fascist journal: “The thought of Jeremy Corbyn as PM has Jewish investors running for the hills”.

Three months earlier, Pollard himself, had attacked a tweet by Jeremy Corbyn in which Corbyn said that the people who caused the financial crash of 2008 “call me a threat. They’re right. Labour is a threat to a damaging and failed system rigged for the few.” Pollard tweeted: “This is ‘nudge, nudge, you know who I’m talking about don’t you? And yes I do. It’s appalling” In response I tweeted: “Stephen Pollard and Jeremy Corbyn. One of them seems to think all bankers are Jews. Clue: it is not Jeremy Corbyn.”

But when I read this drivel, stereotyping the Jewish community as capitalists, I think of the many Jews I know well who work in the health service and caring professions who will be boosted by the prospect of a Labour government that is committed to funding their sectors rather than selling them off. I think of the struggling Jewish single parents and pensioners I know, and unemployed Jews, who have every reason to welcome a Corbyn-led government that would boost welfare payments rather than cut them, and would undertake other serious anti-poverty measures. I think of Jews I know who are users of mental health services, whose provision has been cut to the bone by the Tories. I think of elderly Jewish acquaintances living in the East End for whom repairs to their council housing and a well resourced health service are very high on their agendas. These people need a Labour government to be returned on December 12th as much as as their non-Jewish counterparts.

Absolutely. I’ve met Jews, who’ve despised the Tories for what they’ve done to the Health Service because they’ve, or their parents, have worked in it.

He also gives more news that you won’t find in the lamestream media. Apparently here are two new initiatives by British Jewish young people to tackle the Tories. One is Vashti Media, which states that it is a ‘microphone for the Jewish Left’, and another is ‘Jews Against Boris’.

He also discusses a talk the group were given by a Polish socialist and anti-fascist, who talked about the current political situation in his country and the mobilisation of anti-Fascists to combat the recent nationalist marches through Warsaw. His article concludes by commenting on the way the Fascist and Nationalist right in Poland and eastern Europe are being supported by right-wing forces across the continent, including Britain’s Tories.

As we sat in a cab driving to the airport on Monday, we passed a wall graffitied with a crossed out Star of David in a circle. The populist right and far right in Poland, and other countries central and eastern Europe, have been drawing support from right wingers in Western Europe including Britain’s Tory Party. Those elements in Britain that are leading the false charge against Jeremy Corbyn, as if he were some sort of threat to Jews in Britain, need to stop playing dangerous factional political games and face up to where the threats are really coming from.

https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/whos-afraid-of-jeremy-corbyn/

As Rosenberg and other, genuine anti-Fascist activists both Jewish and gentile have made clear, Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. Since he’s been leader of the Labour party, the level of anti-Semitism has been at the lowest its ever been for years. Anti-Semitism, like racism generally, is always strongest on the right. And that means the very same Tories, who are trying to smear Corbyn as a Jew-hater.

 

BBC Denies Political Bias and that Politicians’ Views Are Their Own

November 5, 2019

Ah, the allegations that the Tories are massively biased in favour of the Tories are clearly starting to upset the Beeb. The Corporation’s Director of News, Fran Unsworth, has appeared in the pages of today’s I newspaper for Tuesday, 5th November 2019, denying that the Beeb is biased and saying that allowing politicians to give their views is not platforming them. The I’s article by Richard Vaughan, ‘Political views are not our own, BBC tells viewers’, which reports her comments runs

The BBC news director has been forced to remind audiences that interviewing politicians does not mean the corporation endorses their political opinions.

Fran Unsworth told viewers that “interviewing is not platforming” and said that audiences will have their beliefs challenged as the country prepares for five weeks of generation election campaigning.

Journalists have been regularly booed and jeered at political events by audiences objecting to the line of questioning of a political leader.

Last week, an audience member at the launch of Labour’s election campaign catcalled the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, blaming her for the party’s failure to win a majority in the 2017 election.

When Ms Kuenssberg pointed out Jeremy Corbyn did not secure enough votes to gain a majority in 2017, an audience member shouted, “No thanks to you, Laura.”

During the Conservatives leadership campaign Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby was subjected to booing by Tory activists for asking Boris Johnson a question.

Ms Unsworth told audiences to expect a range of political opinions to be given air time by the BBC. She reiterated that airing political opinions is not endorsing them, and the BBC will not seek to create a false balance in its general election reporting.

She wrote: “We have one simple priority over the next few weeks – our audiences. They have a wide range of views, and political allegiances, and we are here to serve all of them, wherever they live, whatever they think, and however they choose to vote.

“We do not support ‘false balance’. There are facts and there are judgments to be made. And we will make them where that is appropriate.”

Ms Unsworth has cited Ofcom research indicating that audiences tended to shy away from spaces or programmes in which their opinions will be challenged.

Just who does Unsworth and the Beeb think they’re kidding? 

There is an abundance of evidence that the Beeb is extremely biased against Labour. I’ve blogged before about how the media monitoring units at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff universities found that the Beeb was far more likely to talk to Conservative politicians and spokesmen for the City about politics and the economy than Labour politicians and trade unionists. And Barry and Saville Kushner, the authors of  Who Needs the Cuts? attacking austerity, state that the Beeb and the media generally far prefers talking to Tories and other politicians and economists, who support the wretched Tory policy. They won’t have on trade unionists or politicians that oppose them. When these voices do appear, they are shouted down or rapidly cut short in what they have to say. The Beeb is very definitely platforming the Tories. Only the other day I reblogged a graphic from EL4JC showing just how biased the Tories were in their selection of guests for their news and politics panels. These are mostly Tory, but Centrist politicians are also included more than the Left. To deny that this is not platforming the Tories is ridiculous.

And then there’s the issue of the bias of the interviewers. Like regarding the anti-Semitism smears. In fact, Labour is the party with the least anti-Semites within it, as I’ve said. The witch hunt to root out anti-Semitism isn’t about Jew hatred at all. It’s a cynical ploy by the Blairites to purge the party of Corbyn’s supporters, which they’ve tried to do on risible, trumped up charges. As they’ve done to people like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni, Marc Wadsworth and Mike. The right-wing Zionists hate Corbyn and his supporters because they criticise Israel for its brutal treatment of the Palestinians. The Tories and the political and media establishment, on the other hand, are simply using the accusations as a useful tool to smear Labour, because they’re really afraid of a government that will overturn Thatcherism and actually help ordinary working people. Which naturally include Jews.

Hence whenever a Labour politician is interviewed, as John McDonnell was on Sunday, there are questions about the anti-Semitism issue. But the Tories have a higher level of anti-Semitism in the ranks, and a vicious strain of Islamophobia. But this is certainly not subjected to the same scrutiny.

And then there’s the insulting treatment they give ordinary Labour politicians, and the stunts they pull for the benefit of the right. Like the mass resignation of Blairite Labour MPs, which was announced on the Andrew Marr show, appears to have been planned with the show’s producer. Fiona Bruce has disgraced Question Time by gaslighting Diane Abbott and falsely claiming that the Leave campaign did not break electoral law. And when she did ask a tough question of a Conservative panelist, she tried to soothe it all over by telling him she was ‘just teasing’. And so on ad nauseam.

Unsworth’s comments about Ofcom don’t cut any ice either. Not when the Beeb has received a massive number of complaints about the flagrant bias of their Panorama documentary about anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Mike’s posted an extensive critique of this journalistic travesty, as have very many other left-wing blogs. And a complaint has been made to Ofcom or the relevant authorities. There’s even a documentary being made and about to be released about the programme’s bias.

Unsworth is, I believe, simply lying through her teeth when she claims that the Beeb is not biased. It is, and provably so. And she insults us by telling us that isn’t. But the fact that she has had to try to defend and rebut the accusations show how they’re biting.

Good. Let’s continue until every last shred of credibility the Beeb has for its news reporting is gone and the Corporation is forced to admit its bias and correct it.

If that’s possible.

Zionist Bigot Jonathan Hoffman Disrupts Humanist Meeting because of ‘Anti-Semitism’

November 5, 2019

Jonathan Hoffman is a fanatical Zionist activist, who regularly protests against and tries to disrupt pro-Palestinian meetings and events because they are, to him, ‘anti-Semitic’. Even when the events are organised by Jewish and other organisations, who are very careful to exclude real anti-Semites and neo-Nazis. He and his bizarre antics have been all too frequently discussed and documented by Tony Greenstein, not least because of the extreme right-wing company he keeps. Tony has many times put up photographs showing Hoffman parading around in the company of extremist, islamophobic outfits like the EDL and Britain First. He was photographed outside demonstrating against one pro-Palestinian meeting next to Paul Besser, Britain First’s intelligence officer. Which must surely be a contradiction in terms, coming from that organisation. A few months ago Hoffman and one of his mates, to my recollection, lost a court case and were convicted of harassment. According to Tony’s article today, it was of a Palestinian woman. But Hoffman evidently hasn’t learnt his lesson, because he’s been out disrupting meetings again.

This time it was the turn of East London Humanists, who are affiliated to the National Secular Society, who felt his ire. They’d committed the heinous crime of inviting David Rosenberg, of the Jewish Socialist Group, to speak about anti-Semitism. Hoffman duly lost his fragile mind once again, and turned up with six other ‘vigilantes’ as he describes them, to disrupt the meeting. Tony has a photo on his blog of him with a couple of them standing next to two Israeli flags. Why the anger? Because David Rosenberg’s another Jewish critic of Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. Thus, according to Hoffman, he’s an anti-Semite and a ‘renegade Jew’, and the East London Humanists are guilty of anti-Semitism for inviting him there, apparently. Hoffman complains that as the Humanists actively oppose religion, they are a pain to the Jews. As Tony himself points out in the article, the Humanists oppose all religions, not just Judaism. I certainly don’t support either Humanism or the National Secular Society, who, in my opinion, can be extremely intolerant in their attempts to force religion out of the public sphere. But I don’t think you can accuse them of racism. Nathan Johnstone’s book on New Atheist myths, which I reviewed a few days ago, attacked Dawkins and co. for their vitriolic rhetoric, which he believed could all too easily spark vicious persecution. But he acknowledged that Dawkins and the others, including Sam Harris, were actually humane people, who genuinely sympathised with the oppressed and marginalised. I also have the impression that there’s a split between the old-fashioned Humanists and the New Atheists about their rhetoric. Many Humanists and atheists are disgusted with the New Atheists because of their intolerance, which they associate with religion. So while I don’t doubt that Humanists object to Judaism as a religion, along with Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and the other faiths, I’m sure that they’re genuine supporters of the Jewish people’s right to live in peace, equality and safety, along with people of other races and ethnicities.

Also, David Rosenberg himself is very far from being any kind of ‘renegade Jew’ or anti-Semite. I’ve blogged about several articles from his excellent blog, Rebel Notes. Rosenberg is, like Tony, a very firm opponent of racism and anti-Semitism. He has spoken at meetings in Britain and abroad against racism and Fascism. He was in Warsaw a few months ago, attending a ceremony commemorating the heroes of the Jewish uprising against the Nazis. This included children from the local schools singing one of the rebels’ songs in Yiddish. He also posted another piece on his blog about the speech he gave at an anti-racism meeting in Manchester, in which he praised the local Jewish, Socialist, Communist and trade union activists in that great city for sticking it to Mosley and his stormtroopers when they tried to goosestep around it. He has also posted pieces about an exhibition at the London Jewish Museum on Marxism and Jewish identity, in which he viewed Marx as in the line of Jewish prophets and campaigners against oppression and exploitation. It’s glaringly obvious that Rosenberg wouldn’t do any of this, if he were a genuine anti-Semite.

But Hoffman and his fellows have decided Rosenberg is a Jew-hater, because his socialism is informed by the stance of the pre-War Jewish Bund. This was the Jewish socialist party in eastern Europe and the former Russian Empire. They saw the Jewish people’s homeland as whichever countries they lived in. They had no intention of supporting a separate Jewish state, and actively campaigned against Zionism. They demanded instead that Jews should live as equal fellow citizens with their gentile neighbours. This was by far the majority view of European Jewry at the time. But it runs counter to the right-Zionist message, which is that true Jews have always wanted their own state. And so Zionist extremists like Hoffman smear activists like Hoffman, Tony and Jackie Walker, as anti-Semites.

Hoffman is also upset ’cause he doesn’t like Tony mentioning how he keeps company with people, who could be described as Fascists. So Tony’s put up photos of him marching around with the EDL and their Jewish division, the JDL, as well as Paul Besser and a few other extreme right-wing Zionists.

Don’t be misled. It’s people like Hoffman and other extreme right-wing Zionists, both Jewish and gentile, who are behind the anti-Semitism smears against pro-Palestinian activists. Those they attack and smear are very frequently genuinely anti-racist opponents of anti-Semitism. Tony states that he has never seen Hoffman protest against genuine racists and Fascists. He has pointed out over and over again that the Zionist right will collaborate with real anti-Semites in order to advance their goals of getting more Jews to emigrate to Israel. Which is why the Conservative Jewish establishment in this country, like the Conservative establishment generally, has done everything it can to smear Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party as anti-Semites, even when Corbyn and they have a proud record of combating racism and supporting the Jewish community. And they can be especially vicious in their attacks on genuinely left-wing Jews, who support the Palestinians.

The real fanatical bigotry here didn’t come from Rosenberg or the East London Humanists. It comes from Hoffman and those like him. They’re responsible for smearing decent people, and their lies are being used by a right-wing political establishment and media to prevent a Corbyn government getting into power. Because it would actually do something for British working people, who naturally include Jews.

Don’t believe their lies.

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/11/another-feather-in-cap-of-jonathan.html

Desperate Tories Now Reduced to Anti-Semitism Smears Again

November 4, 2019

Do I scent fear hitting the Tory ranks? Surely not! But the proof is there, as the increasingly desperate Torygraph and the Jewish Chronicle are reviving the old smear that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. But they’re simply parroting the claim of James Cleverly, the Tory chairman – and Mike’s absolutely right that his monicker is a misnomer – that Jewish families are going to leave the UK, ’cause they’re afraid of what Corbyn’s going to do if he gets in.

Really? I don’t believe it!, to use Victor Meldrew’s old catchphrase. Has anybody asked the views of Corbyn’s many Jewish supporters? Like, you know, Jewish Voice for Labour? Jewdas, with whom Corbyn spent a Passover seder? Mr Shraga Stern and the Haredi community, who Corbyn gave his support to their campaign to save their historic London cemetery from redevelopment? Or just ordinary, grassroots Jewish Labour voters, like those, who have appeared on YouTube and in print stating clearly that there is anti-Semitism in the Labour party, but they personally haven’t experienced it.

No, clearly not, because this would undermine the narrative the British political establishment want to push: that Jeremy Corbyn is a vicious anti-Semite, and so are his supporters – decent, anti-racist women and men like Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth, Ken Livingstone, Mike, Martin Odoni and too many others. The pro-Israel right is pushing this for all it’s worth, because Corbyn isn’t an anti-Semite. But he does want a just peace in Israel with the Palestinians. And that can’t be tolerated. As for the Tories, they’re simply using any smear they can to destroy Labour, while it’s been repeated by the Blairites within the party as a way of ousting him and purging his supporters.

As for the two papers pushing this story, they’re going down the tubes at a rate of knots. The Torygraph has lost much of its readership, partly due to its mercenary editorial policy, which has seen it sacrifice journalistic integrity to the interests of its advertisers. And the Jewish Chronicle is under the helm of Stephen Pollard, who’s as Jewish as I am. Hence writer and academic Michael Rosen, who I think was Children’s Poet Laureate, has accused him of ‘Jewsplaining’. Yes, Pollard’s a non-Jew, who’s taken it upon himself to tell Jews what to believe as Jews. But he’s also a right-wing hack, who when he was with the Depress and similar rags wrote foam-flecked rants demanding the destruction of the welfare state, attacking the trade unions, and claiming that Labour and the Scary Muslims are going to destroy western civilisation.

The Tories have been pushing this line for a long time, ever since around about 9/11, I think. I remember Frederick Raphael giving a glowing review in the Spectator to a novel set a few years hence, in which the remains of the socialist parties in the EU and the Scary Muslims have joined together to begin a new Holocaust. And long before Corbyn won the Labour party leadership, the Right were already leveling accusations of anti-Semitism. Their target was Ed Miliband, who was, er, Jewish. And there was more than a shade of anti-Semitism in their attacks on him. Like the Mail’s article attacking his father, Ralph Miliband, as the ‘Man Who Hated Britain’. Miliband pere was a Belgian immigrant, who fled here from the Nazis. And unlike the father of former editor Paul Dacre, who stayed put in Britain as their society correspondent, Miliband fought for this country in the War. And then there’s the Mail’s own infamous history of supporting Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, and how the father of the newspaper’s current editor, Geordie Grieg, was a member of one of the pro-Nazi British societies before the War.

And the anti-Semitism continues, along with the islamophobia and bog-standard racism. Zelo Street has posted a very good riposte to Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show, where the show’s host interviewed John McDonnell. Of course Marr had to raise the question about what Labour was doing to allay the fears of the Jewish community about anti-Semitism. It’s now part of the standard set of questions the media now ask. But they don’t ask it of the Tories, despite the flagrant examples in the Tory ranks.

For example, how about Jacob Rees-Mogg calling John Bercow and Oliver Letwin ‘illuminati’ in parliament? As I’ve blogged previously, the Illuminati were a freethinking sect, who infiltrated the Freemasons in Bavaria. They are now at the centre of a bonkers conspiracy theory, which sees them as the secret force behind the world’s governments, manipulating politics and industry. Not all varieties of this theory are anti-Semitic. In some, they’re just the global elite, who are seen as Masonic Satanists. But it does merge with the stupid, murderous theories about Jewish bankers. The accusation so alarmed one Jewish academic, that he wrote an article about it revealing the anti-Semitic underpinnings behind the accusation. But it was about the Tories, so the media ignored it. Oh well, at least Mogg didn’t accuse Bercow and Letwin of being members of the Zionist Occupation Government.

Then there’s Priti Patel’s support of the Viktor Orban, the head of the viciously anti-Semitic and islamophobic Fidesz party of Hungary, and her denunciation of the ‘north London liberal elite’. Now she might be referring simply to rich liberals in that part of London. But it also sounds very much like an attack on a certain religious/ethnic group, who stereotypically live in Golders Green.

Gove has also tried to smear Labour again with another accusation of anti-Semitism, following a tweet from an individual, who wasn’t a member of the party. Apart from the fact that Labour can’t suspend people who aren’t members, Gove himself was also criticised by the Jewish Chronicle, amongst others, for opposing an attempt by the European Parliament to censure Orban’s government in Hungary for its anti-Semitism.

And this is all quite apart from the rabid islamophobia and racism of the various twitter and Facebook groups supporting Boris and Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Gove’s equally odious wife, Sarah Vine, declaring that the statement that there should be ‘less Islam in Britain’ was funny.

Going back to the claim that Jewish families are going to leave Britain to escape Corbyn, Mike points out on his blog how this resembles Phil Collins’ statement back in the early ’90s that if Labour won the election, he’d go to America. Well, he didn’t. The Tories won the ’92 election, so he didn’t have to. But he didn’t leave when they won the ’97 election either.

It also reminds me of the curious case of Danny Cohen. Cohen was a senior Beeb executive, who bogged off to Israel claiming that Labour was anti-Semitic and Britain was unsafe for Jews. Not that unsafe, however, as I think he’s come back. So much for the claim that contemporary Britain is like Germany in 1937. It isn’t, not by a very long chalk.

Treat all this as just more scaremongering from the Tories. It’s just more lies, from a desperate and lying party. And one that hopefully will be out of power after the election.

For more information, see: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/04/jewish-families-will-leave-this-nonsense-claim-is-the-upshot-of-the-labour-anti-semitism-witch-hunt/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/michael-gove-more-tory-anti-semitism.html

 

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.

17th Century Quaker Statement of Right to Freedom of Religion

October 30, 2019

I found this Quaker declaration of the freedom of religion in Documents of the Christian Church, selected and edited by Henry Bettenson, 2nd edition (Oxford: OUP 1963). It’s taken from The Chief Principles of the Christian Religion, as professed by the people called the Quakers, drawn up by Robert Barclay in 1678, and published in his Apology for the Quakers. Proposition XIV, Concerning the Power of the  Civil Magistrate in Matters purely Religious and Pertaining to Conscience, runs

‘Since God hath assumed to himself the power and dominion of the conscience, who alone can rightly instruct and govern it, therefore it is not lawful for any whatsoever, by virtue of any authority or principality they bear in the government of this world, to force the conscience of others;… provided always, that no man, under the pretence of conscience, prejudice his neighbour in his life or estate; or do anything destructive to, or inconsistent with, human society; in which case the law is for the transgressor, and justice to be administered upon all, without respect of persons.’

(p. 256).

It’s almost incredible to think that this was written in the 17th century, and that nearly 3 1/2 centuries later there are still countries in this world that don’t recognise it. Countries like Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China and Russia. In Saudi Arabia only Wahhabi Islam is permitted, and Shi’a Muslims viciously persecuted. A few years ago they also passed a law declaring that atheism was terrorism even without any violence or threats of violence being made. Russia is far more tolerant of religion than it was under Communism, when it was a persecuting atheist state. But even now, some religions are declared to be illegal. This includes not only extremist sects and beliefs, like Islamism, but also the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I admit they can be a pain when they come knocking on your door sometimes in their zeal to spread their version of Christianity, but a dangerous, radical extremist group? When, and to whom? The Nazis also persecuted them, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular Messiah.

It’s a disgrace that in the 21st century, freedom of religion and conscience still needs defending from persecutors across the world.

‘I’ Review of Movie About British Iraq War Whistleblower

October 25, 2019

One of the flicks coming to our cinemas, if it isn’t there already, is Official Secrets, the film about whistleblower Katharine Gun’s attempt to prevent Blair’s illegal and criminal invasion of Iraq by leaking government emails about it. The I printed a review of it by Demetrios Matheou in last Friday’s edition for the 18th October 2019. Entitled ‘Spies, lies and a drama that resonates’, this ran

Early in the political drama Official Secrets, Keira Knightley’s real-life whistle-blower Katharine Gun watches Tony Blair on television, giving his now-infamous justifcation for the impending Iraq War, namely the existence of weapons of mass destruction. “He keeps repeating the lie,” she cries. “Just because you’re the prime minister doesn’t mean you get to make up your own facts.”

There’s simply no escaping the resonance. The current occupant of No 10 isn’t the first to economical with the truth; the real shock is that we keep on putting up with it. And the power of the film resides in the fact that the idealistic, courageous Katharine Gun would not.

The film opens with Gun about to face trial for breaching the Official Secrets Act – Knightley’s face expressing the sheer terror of someone in that position – before winding back a year to explain how she got there.

Katharine is working as a Mandarin translator at the intelligence agency GCHQ in Cheltenham. One day, she and her colleagues receive a classified email from America’s National Security Agency, requesting that the Brits spy on delegates from the United Nations Security Council, with a view to blackmailing them to vote for the resolution in favour of war.

In the UK, the very idea of the war is historically unpopular with the public. And here is evidence of its illegality. Katharine secretly copies the memo and smuggles it out to a friend who is an anti-war activist, through whom it reaches Observer journalist Martin Bright (Matt Smith). 

Until now, the film has been operating on something of a whisper. Once Smith appears on screen – quickly followed by the equally energetic (nay, combustible) Rhys Ifans as fellow journalist Ed Vulliamy – there is a sonic boom. From her, the action switches urgently between the paper’s investigation of the memo’s authenticity and Katharine’s personal hell as the leak is revealed, which includes the threat of deportation from her Muslim husband, Yasar.

Gavin Hood is an intriguing director, alternating between mainstream fare (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and issues-based dramas charting government malfeasance, such as rendition (Rendition) and the use of drone strikes (Eye in the Sky). He is on strong form here, with a film that’s gripping, righteous, relevant, moving – in short, a very good yarn that just happens to be true.

At the heart of it is Knightley, impressively commanding as a woman who is principled and defiant, but also deeply vulnerable as the government cranks up its intimidation. Around his star, Hood has assembled a comprehensively find cast, with a particularly lovely turn by Ralph Fiennes as the lawyer determined to defend Gun against the odds. 

This looks like a brilliant movie, and I’d like to see it if and when it comes to my neck of the woods. Over one million people marched against the invasion, not just Muslims, but also people of all races and religions and none. One of the marchers was a priest from my local church. I’ve reviewed a book on this site presenting a very strong case that Blair’s invasion constitutes a war crime, for which the slimy creature should be prosecuted along with Bush. According to the late William Blum, there were attempts to do just that, but they were stymied by the British and American governments. The demonstrators’ chant is exactly right: ‘Blair lied, people died’. But despite this and subsequent books exposing his venality and legal tax-dodging through a complex mass of holding companies and off-shore tax havens, he still seems to think that he’s somehow the great champion of British politics. He’s been one of the figures behind the attempts to create a new ‘centrist’ party, and every now and again he pushes his head up from wherever pit in which he’s been hiding to make some comment about contemporary politics. Usually about Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. 

Hopefully this picture will remind people that ‘Teflon Tony’ wasn’t some kind of visionary statesman. He was a butcher, who backed the illegal invasion of a country for no better reason than the multinationals’ desire to loot their oil wealth and state industries. Oh yes, and cut off Hussein’s occasional support for the Palestinians. Thanks to him and his master, Bush, hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and the Middle East have died or been displaced, a country has been wrecked and its secular, welfare state dismantled and reduced to chaos and sectarian violence. This bloody, illegal war has also claimed the lives of good men and women in the forces and in the civilian organisations trying to rebuild the country.

As for the reason why people like Blair keep getting elected – if government in this country had been genuinely accountable, they wouldn’t. It shows a flaw in our political system, a system in which the media must take its share of the blame. Warmongers like Blair get elected because they have the full support, with some exceptions, of the Thatcherite press and Murdoch papers. The same papers that are trying to bring down Jeremy Corbyn. 

 

 

Private Eye Cheers Defunding Campaign Against the Canary

October 17, 2019

I’ve blogged many times before about Private Eye’s hatred of Jeremy Corbyn and their poisonous support for the anti-Semitism smear campaign against Labour. One of those pushing it in the Eye is ‘Ratbiter’, revealed by Tony Greenstein a little while ago to be the pseudonym of Groaniad/Absurder hack Nick Cohen. Cohen, who isn’t actually Jewish despite his name, is clearly one of those miffed that Labour has elected someone who’s actually going to do something for Britain’s working people, and isn’t prepare to ignore or support crimes committed by the British establishment’s favourite colonialist state in the Middle East. He’s the author of a piece, ‘Faking Hell…’ in this fortnight’s issue of the satirical rag for 18th-31st October 2019, praising the Stop Funding Fake News organisation for their campaign to stop advertisers using those social media sites they consider to be outlets for fake news. Cohen’s article starts by praising the site for doing what he believes Google should be doing in preventing firms advertising with extremist web sites. He starts off by describing how those on the extreme right have had their advertising revenues hit, as firms like Sky, Macmillan Cancer Care, Which?, the World Wide Fund for Nature, Manchester United, Chelsea, Ted Baker, Experian and Ebay have requested Google to take down their advertising on Breitbart, Westmonster, and TR, the site of the notorious islamophobe and jailbird Tommy Robinson. Thanks to their campaign, Robinson’s site has lost 70 per cent of its income. Which might stop some of his jaunts abroad for a little while. But almost inevitable, the article goes on to attack The Canary. This has been a particular bete noir of the Eye for some time. They really don’t seem able to stand the idea that there are any social media sites supporting Corbyn, not least because they’re also a rival to the lamestream media. Which also includes Private Eye. Describing SFFN’s attacks on The Canary and its effects, Cohen says

While far-right sites target Muslim immigrants, far-left sites target Jews. “The Canary”, the campaign tells its followers and advertisers, “regularly publishes fake news and attempts to justify anti-Semitism”. it also feeds the conspiracy theories of the far left. One hideous example came when the campaign discovered that Unicef, which tends to the victims of the Syrian and Venezuelan regimes, was advertising on the Canary, which has denied the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and pretended that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad did not use chemical weapons against Syrian civilians in Douma. In August, the Canary cut its staff from 25 to seven. Perhaps inevitably, it blamed “political Zionists” targeting advertisers.

The toppling of the Canary is “the strongest evidence yet that the clickbait business model can be defeated”, the campaign said. Combine it with changes to Facebook’s algorithms to reduce the prominence of media businesses, and fake news in the UK is taking a hit.

Let’s go through and critique this pile of driveling hogwash. 

Firstly, the Canary isn’t a ‘far left’ site. As I understand it, it supports Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s programme of nationalisation, the restoration of the NHS, welfare state, worker’s rights and trade unions, isn’t extreme left, except in the addled brains of convinced Thatcherites. It’s actually a return to the social democratic consensus, which was actually the centre left before the appearance of Thatcher and her campaign of privatisation, deregulation and the destruction of the welfare state and the decimation of working class organisations.

Secondly, it doesn’t promote anti-Semitism. What it has done is attack, rebut and refute the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party and specifically Corbyn’s and his supporters. And these are very much politically motivated. It comes from the Blairites, who are determined to cling to power whatever the cost, the British political and media establishment, which is simply terrified of anyone giving back any power to working people, and the Israel lobby. And a large part of it comes from the Israel lobby. Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Asa Winstanley of the Electronic Intifada, and the Jewish American academic and critic of Israel, Norman Finkelstein,  have described at length how Israel and its supporters have been smearing any and all critics of Israel as anti-Semites since the 1980s, even when they are anything but Jew-haters, as in the case of those above. It’s their only defence against the justifiable criticism and condemnation of Israel’s government for its crimes against the Palestinians. It’s hasbara, the Hebrew term for Israeli civilian propaganda. The campaign against Israel’s critics, including Corbyn, is run by a special department of the Israeli state. This is why one of those smeared as an anti-Semite is Cyril Chilson. Mr Chilson is the son of a Russian Red Army pilot and a holocaust survivor.  He’s Israeli, and served in the IDF and then an intelligence unit producing such propaganda. It’s because of his work for the Israeli military that he recognised the attacks on Corbyn and his supporters for what it was, and denounced it. And as result, this man, the son of people whose resistance and survival of Nazism was truly heroic, has been smeared as a Jew-hater. Disgusting.

Thirdly, the Anglo-American media have been producing fake news about Venezuela and Syria. Some of the footage of refugees supposedly fleeing persecution by Maduro’s regime was faked. Independent experts analysing the footage and evidence of the chemical weapons attack at Douma have come to the conclusion that this was also faked. Assad is a monster, who has killed and tortured in order to maintain power, and he does oppress his country’s Sunni Muslim population. But it doesn’t look like he was responsible for that atrocity. That lies instead with the ‘freedom fighters’ – ahem- which we’re supporting. You know, groups connected with ISIS and what evolved from the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. But the neocons have been pushing for the overthrow of the Syrian regime since the 1990s, because Assad is a Shi’a, like the Iranian regime, although of a much more radical branch of that faith. He’s therefore allied to Iran, which the Americans also want to overthrow. See the pieces produced by the Jimmy Dore Show about this.

Cohen in his attack on the Canary for rightly rejecting the received view of these events is therefore parroting Neocon propaganda.

Zelo Street has written extensively about Stop Funding Fake News, exposing how it attacks decent left-wing social media sites, while at the same time remaining very shadowy itself. No-one knows who runs it, as their identities and connections are very much hidden. The Sage of Crewe has therefore advised companies not to be influenced by their misinformation and pronouncements, until they themselves become much more transparent.

And then there’s Private Eye’s hypocrisy for printing this drivel.

Ian Hislop, the magazine’s editor, appeared on Radio 4 a few years ago in a piece about satire down the centuries, explaining that what his magazine attacked was humbug, double standards. Private Eye is one of the few mainstream magazines that tries to bring the public the news behind the news, exposing double-dealing, lies and hypocrisy in the press, the government and industry. But publishing this attack on the Canary is very hypocritical, consisting as it does of nothing but lies and propaganda.

The Defunding of Arab Satirists Al-Hudood

And it’s especially hypocritical as a few pages before Cohen’s wretched piece, there’s a little article in the magazine’s ‘Street of Shame’ column, ‘Joke Now, Pay Later’, about how the Arabic satirical website, Al-Hudood, was experiencing a funding crisis. Metro Bank has told them it will no longer act as their bank, and they have not been able to find anyone else to do so. There has been no explanation from the banks for this refusal to deal with them.

This seems to be the same tactics Stop Funding Fake News are taking with the Canary and other left-wing bloggers and vloggers: try to take them down through preventing people from supporting them financially. Perhaps whichever oppressive regime or organisation has leant on the banks to withdraw their support for al-Hudood also considers that they’re ‘fake news’ and a dangerous, extremist organisation.

Private Eye does much good in its exposure of some of the underhand dealings in Britain and around the world. But this attack on the Canary is, like their attacks on Corbyn and his supporters, just pure hypocritical establishment lies.