Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Would Jewish Emancipation Activist David Friedlaender Be Considered an Anti-Semite Under the I.H.R.A. Definition

November 23, 2020

David Friedlaender is one of the major figures of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment. This was a movement of the 18th and 19th centuries in which Jews strove to reconcile their religion and ethnicity with contemporary western culture in order to take their place alongside their gentile fellow countrymen as full and equal citizens. According to the entry on him in John Bowker, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford: OUP 1997) Friedlaender (1750-1834) was

A forerunner of Reform Judaism. Through his marriage he became part of a distinguished Prussian family of Court Jews and he was one of Moses Mendelssohn’s circle. He believed the Jews were ‘destined from time immemorial to guard and teach by example the pure doctrine of unity and sanctity of God, unknown to other people.’ He argued that prayers for friends and country should be substituted for the messianic hope, and that secular law should be studied rather than Talmud. He also was tireless in his efforts for Jewish political and civil rights in Prussia. (p. 359.

Reform Judaism is a particularly radical reformulation of Judaism, which took over some features of Protestant Christian worship. In contrast to more traditional forms of Jewish worship, such as Orthodox Judaism, prayers are held in the vernacular rather than Hebrew and include choirs. The movement originally believed strongly that Jews should work to become full members of the countries in which they lived, and rejected Zionism. Reform Judaism’s essential doctrines in the US were stated in 1885 in Pittsburgh, when the rabbis there declared

We recognise in the modern era of universal culture of heart and intellect the approach of the realisation of Israel’s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice and peace among all men … We recognise in Judaism a progressive religion, ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason … We accept as binding only the moral laws and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilisation.

This suggests that instead of viewing the Messianic hope as the appearance of a Messiah to redeem Israel, they saw it as the inauguration of the new era of peace and justice throughout humanity. Their views on tradition and mdoern culture were modified at a meeting in Columbus and 1937, and the movement has since discarded its anti-Zionism. In Germany the movement accepted changes in the liturgy while remaining theologically conservative.

The article on them in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions also says

Reform congregations are united in the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and rabbis are trained at the Hebrew Union College in the USA and Leo Baeck College in the UK. Reform Judaism has no official status in Israel (though it has a few congregations and kibbutzim), because only Orthodox rabbis are recognised; and the Orthodox repudiate such Reform organisations as the ordination (semikhah) of women as rabbis. (p. 809.

This hostility undoubtedly explains why the late Jonathan Sacks, when he was Chief Rabbi, declared that Reform Jews were ‘enemies of the faith’. This was the language of religious bigotry, the type of statement made by the fanatically intolerant before beginning their persecution and violence against their religious enemies.

As for the ordination of women, one American Jewish community made the news last year through their ground-breaking step of ordaining a Black woman as rabbi. Which should be a riposte to the racists out there who claimed that Jackie Walker, one of the peeps smeared as an anti-Semite by the fanatics in the Israel lobby, couldn’t be a Jew because of her skin colour.

The I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism permits reasonable criticism of Israel, but claims that denying Jews their national right to a homeland is anti-Semitic. This is highly questionable for a number of reasons. There are a number of other nations, who at the moment don’t have their own state despite their aspirations. These include the Basques and Catalans in Spain, and the Scots in Britain. Yet there is no international declaration that states that refusal to recognise their aspirations for a homeland constitutes a form of racism.

There have also been different movements in Judaism, that rejected Zionism. On the one hand there are the ultra-traditional Haredi, who reject Israel on the theological grounds that it can only be founded by divine action through the Messiah. On the other there were Reform Jews and their predecessors, who rejected Zionism because the saw the Jews’ real homelands as the current countries in which the lived. Jewish anti-Zionist bloggers such as David Rosenberg and Tony Greenstein have pointed out that Zionism was very much a minority position amongst European Jewry before the horrors of the Second World War. In America there was little interest in Israel among Jews until the late 1960s and the emergency of Neo-Conservatism. Greenstein and the Israeli historian and critic of his country’s barbarous maltreatment of the Palestinians, Ilan Pappe have shown that rather than being pro-Jewish, Zionism has been itself tinged with anti-Semitism. Many gentile Zionists supported the movement as a way of removing Jews from their countries. It’s why Hitler initially signed the Ha’avara agreement with the Zionist leaders to permit and encourage Jewish emigration to Palestine. Pappe in his book Ten Myths About Israel includes an episode that clearly demonstrates this link between anti-Semitism and Zionism. In the 1920s Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, approached a German nobleman for his support. He noted that the man had taken an interest in it, and asked him why he didn’t support it. The aristo replied that he hadn’t, because he didn’t want people to think he was an anti-Semite.

And many of the opponents of Israel’s persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, both Torah-observant and secular, are self-respecting Jews. But they’re smeared as self-hating and anti-Semitic by the country’s fiercely intolerant defenders.

But the example of David Friedlaender shows that if denial of Jewish nationalism is defined as anti-Semitic, then some of Jewry’s most ardent and tireless workers for emancipation, dignity and equality, who believed passionately in their religion and their people’s destiny and witness to the God of their ancestors, are Jew-haters. Which is ridiculous and absurd, or so it seems to my non-Jewish eyes.

I’m sure that some criticism of Israel is undoubtedly anti-Semitic. That of real Nazis, for example. Their hatred of Israel is part of a general, virulent, genocidal hatred of Jews. But the rejection or just simple criticism of Zionism by self-respecting Jews and their gentile allies, who genuinely despise anti-Semitism along with other forms of racism and Fascism, is clearly very different.

It strikes me that the inclusion of anti-Zionism in the I.H.R.A.’s definition of anti-Semitism is simply sectarian bigotry. Some Jews are supporters of Israel, others, who may be no less Jewish, aren’t. Just as some of the gentile critics and opponents of Zionism may the Jews’ most committed defenders and supporters.

A far better definition of anti-Semitism, and one that needs no examples to clarify it, is the simplest. It’s hatred of Jews as Jews, regardless of religion or ideology. That was definition used by the man who coined the term ‘anti-Semitism’, Wilhelm Marr, founder of the Bund Antisemiten in 19th century Germany.

The Board of Deputies, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Chief Rabbinate and other Zionist organisations have no business trying to foist such a partisan and highly discriminatory definition on the Labour Party or anyone, whether Jew or gentile.

A 17th Century Anglican Plea for Religious Toleration

November 21, 2020

Jeremy Taylor was the chaplain of King Charles I and the rector of Uppingham. After the royalists were defeated in the British Civil War, he fled to Carmarthenshire in Wales, where he wrote his book arguing for religious freedom, The Liberty of Prophesying. After the Restoration he was appointed bishop of Down and Connor. He was also the author of a number of devotional works and sermons, but it’s his defence of religious freedom that I find particularly interesting. He said ‘they were excellent words which St. Ambrose said in attestation of this great truth, that the civil authority has no right to interdict the liberty of speaking, nor the sacerdotal to prevent speaking what you think.’

See the article on him in John Bowker, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford: OUP 1997) 958.

I’m very much aware that throughout Christian history there has been very little freedom of religion and conscience, and that the Anglican church’s toleration of Dissenters was very limited until the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in the 19th century. Until then Protestant nonconformists were excluded from the grammar schools, universities and government, and could only hold their services five miles away from towns. Atheism and Roman Catholicism were illegal again until the 19th century. But it was clergymen like Taylor and his fellows in the Nonconformist churches, like the Quaker William Penn and a number of Presbyterian ministers, who laid the foundations for the British and American tradition of religious tolerance. The most famous of the works calling for religious freedom from this period is Milton’s Areopagitica.

Despite the passage of the centuries, their message is still acutely relevant. Many countries still don’t have freedom of conscious or religious liberty in the 20th century. The Communists attempted to destroy religious and viciously persecuted people of faith, while the Nazis, apart from trying to exterminate the Jews, also sent their other religious opponents, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the concentration camps.

We have recently seen a French teacher murdered for showing schoolchildren the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed in a class about free speech, and mass demonstrations against France for permitting the cartoons in Muslim countries. To many people, their calls for legislation against such disrespect seem like demands for Muslim blasphemy laws. Christians and members of other religious minorities, such as Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims have been murdered in Pakistan as well as orthodox Sunni Muslims because of supposed blasphemy. This is banned in Pakistan and punishable with the death penalty. The only permitted religion in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi Islam, and a few years ago the Saudis declared that atheism was terrorism. This was just atheist unbelief itself, regardless of any act of genuine terror, such as killing people or destroying property.

I’m sympathetic to Muslims regarding the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. I don’t like the way Christianity and Christ are mocked by certain sections of the media and the entertainment business either. I’ve also heard the argument that Charlie Hebdo is a nasty rag. It’s not left-wing, but right, apparently, and its targets also include Roman Catholicism and immigrants.

But there’s a greater principle of free speech and the sanctity of human life here. All religions and ideologies, including atheism, should be up for debate, with people free to choose as they will. They’re fundamental human rights, the violation of which either leads or is part of tyranny.

Israeli Politicos Went Bug-Eyed at Jack Straw ‘Cos He Mentioned Palestinians

November 18, 2020

On Monday, the ultra-Zionist smear sheet the Jewish Chronicle returned to its old tricks of denouncing perfectly decent people as ‘anti-Semites’ because they dare to criticise Israel. Their latest victim is the Labour MP for mid-Sussex, Gemma Bolton, because she had issued a series of tweets describing Israel as an apartheid state, calling for the deselection of MPs who had been disloyal to Corbyn and supporting the BDS campaign against Israel. Aaagh! What a monster! Except, as Zelo Street has shown, there’s absolutely no anti-Semitism there. These are all criticisms of Israel, not Jews or Judaism.

They’re also entirely justified. Israel is an apartheid state. 95 per cent of property in Israel is owned by the Jewish National Fund, which will only let it to Jews. Palestinians are subject to choking legislation deliberately designed to strangle their businesses and agriculture. Arabs travelling into Israel to work have to use separate roads from Israelis, in which they are subject to frequent stops at checkpoints. It doesn’t matter how upset the Board, the Chief Rabbi and the inmates of the United Synagogue get about having Israel described as an apartheid state, an apartheid state is precisely what it is. Demanding that it’s critics see it otherwise is just bullying and brainwashing, like the torture scene in Orwell’s 1984 when O’Brien attempts to get Winston Smith to say that the wrong number of lights are shining.

As for the BDS campaign being against Israel, this is a deliberate half-truth. It’s not against Israel. It is against goods produced in the occupied territories. These belong to the Palestinians, but the Likudniks and their ultra-nationalistic allies and supporters believe they should be part of Israel. The BDS campaign is thus against Israeli expansionism and apartheid, not against Israel and certainly not against Jews. Indeed, the BDS campaign has the staunch support of many Jews outraged at what the country is doing to the Palestinians in their name.

For a detailed critique of the Chronicle’s smears against Bolton, see https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/11/gemma-bolton-wheres-anti-semitism.html

But then, you can’t expect common sense and sweet reasonableness from the Chronicle, nor any of the other institutional defenders of the Likudniks and the current ultra-Zionist regime. Even the mildest criticism of their country sends them off into what Molesworth would sa was a ‘fearful bate’. And any mention of the Palestinians has them climbing the walls and chewing the furniture. This was shown in a very telling story from Jack Straw, which Lobster head honcho Robin Ramsay has included in a piece about the UAE-Israel rapprochement in his ‘View from the Bridge’ column, ‘Forget the Palestinians’. Straw’s a Christian of Jewish heritage. In his memoirs he describes how various Israeli officials flew off the handle at him simply because he had referred to the Palestinians in an article.

‘One Israeli Cabinet minister described this was as an “obscenity” and
“pornographic”. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon expressed “anger,
outrage and disappointment”. Israeli president Moshe Katzav cancelled a
meeting with me. Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres cancelled a formal
banquet.’

These people are fanatics and racial supremacists, not statesmen or respectable politicians. And the Board, the Chief Rabbianate and right-wing rags like the Jewish Chronicle share that irrational fanaticism.

It is they, rather than Israel’s decent, reasonable critics, like Gemma Bolton, who should be held in contempt.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster80/lob80-view-from-the-bridge.pdf?cache=226

Are Israeli Politicos Afraid of Personal Prosecution for War Crimes?

November 9, 2020

I found this fascinating little snippet in William Blum’s America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, which I think may explain some of the sheer panic and personal vindictiveness of the Israel lobby. Israel’s ministers and politicians responsible for the slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians may be afraid that if a genuinely pro-Palestinian government ever takes power in Europe, they personally are up before the beak facing charges of war crimes.

Just before the publication of Blum’s book in 2014, the Spanish announced they were launching a war crimes investigation into seven high-ranking Israeli officials over the assassination of a Hamas commander in 2002. Blum writes

Lastly, Spain’s High Court recently announced it would launch a war crimes investigation into an Israeli ex-defense minister and six other top security officials for their role in a 2002 attack that killed a Hamas commander and fourteen civilians in Gaza. Spain has for some time been the world’s leading practitioner of ‘universal jurisdiction’ for human-rights violations, such as their indictment of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet a decade ago. The Israeli case involved the dropping of a bomb on the home of the Hamas leader; most of those killed were children. (p. 118)).

I remember the arrest and attempted extradition of General Pinochet. I don’t know if the laws are still in force, but the Spanish granted their investigating magistrates wide and extraordinary powers to prosecute human rights abusers around the world. They wanted Pinochet because for his government’s arrest and murder of a young Spanish man. The old brute was over here at the time visiting his friend Maggie Thatcher. Blair responded positively to the Spanish warrant for his arrest and extradition by placing him under house arrest, and there was much talk about packing him off to Spain for trial. Obviously it was a much controversy at the time, with Thatcher crying publicly how awful it was that such a friend of Britain should be treated so terribly. Well, yes, Pinochet had given us aid against Argentina during the Falklands War. But his regime was also responsible for the arrest of a number of British citizens, including women, who were carted off to be tortured in horrific ways I cannot decently describe. The use of electrodes on the eyes and genitals by these thugs is just the start.

I don’t know what happened to that case. It may have collapsed, because of procedural errors by the Blair administration. Talking about the affair on The News Quiz, the comedian and lawyer Clive Anderson said that before governments can order the arrest of prominent foreign citizens, they need to issue statements that the alleged criminal would not be welcome in their country and would face arrest if they did so. Blair didn’t, hence Anderson believed that the case would fall through.

I haven’t heard any more of the attempted prosecution of the Israeli officials. In fact I only know about it from reading Blum’s book. It’s possible that case could have been dropped too. But it does suggest that some of the Israeli politicos funding and aiding the attacks on the country’s critics and opponents may be motivated by personal desperation for avoid their own prosecution. The Spanish investigation was launched, I’d guess, c. 2012. That was when groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism were set up. This vile outfit of inveterate liars and smear-merchants was founded, I believe, by Gerald Falter, who was frightened by the way the British public had become critical of Israel over its bombing of Gaza. Or so I believe. I don’t doubt that Falter and his fellows were frightened at the prospect of the former defence minister and his accomplices facing prosecution in a Spanish court.

It also partly explains the sheer venom behind the Israel lobby’s smears of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites. Blissex, one of the great commenters on this blog, has repeatedly pointed out that Corbyn isn’t anti-Israel. Just as he very definitely is no, absolutely no kind of anti-Semite. But he is genuinely keen for the Palestinians to receive justice and equality. Hence a Labour government with him at the head would do what it could to stop more Israeli atrocities against the country’s indigenous Arabs. And like Blair’s attempt to arrest and extradite Pinochet, that could lead to senior Israeli officials and ministers getting the same treatment over here.

I also wonder about Starmer’s motivations as well. A few days ago he suspended Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour party simply for stating, quite correctly, that the incidence of anti-Semitism in the Labour was extremely low. He didn’t deny it was a problem, or claim that it didn’t exist. He just stated the factual truth that it was low. This was too much for Starmer, who claimed that he had to suspend the former Labour leader because of the hurt his comments had cause the Jewish community. He’s now trying to stop ordinary Labour members discussing this massively unjust decision. Starmer’s a Blairite, and it looks like he’s using allegations of anti-Semitism to purge the party not just of Corbyn, but also of his left-wing supporters.

Starmer is also a former director of public prosecutions, and while he was in that post met senior members of the American judiciary and Republican politicians. There have therefore been questions about just what he discussed with them. I wonder if Starmer’s also worried from a professional viewpoint as a senior government lawyer that if Corbyn, or someone like him gets in, Israel’s Likud politicos and their allies would face prosecution for crimes against humanity.

Before anybody says anything, I don’t doubt that Hamas is an Islamist party that wants the destruction of Israel. But that doesn’t justify the killing of civilians or the institutional racist brutalisation of the entire Palestinian people. I think the Spanish High Court was quite right to wish to investigate the Israeli minister and officials for war crimes. I wish all of the Israeli politicos responsible for the atrocities against the Palestinians were in the dock being prosecuted in the International Court of Human Rights in the Hague or wherever. Along with all the other murderous butchers around the world, like the Chinese criminals responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the Uighurs.

And I’d like those, who use allegations of anti-Semitism to try and defend the regime, to be similarly exposed as their aiders and abettors.

Trump’s Accusations of Electoral Fraud and the Elections that Put the Fascists in Government

November 6, 2020

Yesterday Trump started flinging around accusations of voter fraud. He had already won, he declared, and so counting should stop. He also claimed that there was massive electoral fraud in states like Nevada and Georgia, where he’d lost to Biden, and stated that he was taking legal action against those states over the result and demanding recounts. These accusations seem to be utterly false, and his proposed lawsuit against Georgia has already been thrown out by the supreme court or whatever. There’s absolutely no basis to these accusations. They’re just an attempt by the megalomaniac man-baby to hang on to power any way he can. But it’s provoked demonstrations by his supporters up and down America, who are demanding that the authorities do exactly as he says.

This is all absolutely astonishing. It amazes me, because it’s less like the actions of an accomplished politician so much as a petulant child demanding that they’ve won a game and that everyone should therefore give in to them. Because. But it’s also a logical progression of Republican attitudes and policies towards voting. I put up a post a week or so ago reproducing and commenting on an article in the I, which reported that in some southern states like Mississippi Blacks and other sections of the population were being prevented from exercising their democratic rights by local legislation. Some of this dated from the era of Jim Crow, and was deliberately intended to limit the Black vote. A few years ago, The Young Turks put up a video attacking legislation the Republicans had put in place. This was ostensibly to combat voter fraud, but there was no real need for it. It’s real purpose was to exclude the poor, Blacks and students from voting. One southern Republican even gave the game away by saying that they passed these laws to stop the Democrats getting in.

It reminds me somewhat of the supposedly democratic election in Italy in the 1920s which saw Mussolini’s Fascists voted into power. At the time none of the parties in the Italian parliament had a clear majority. It had been hoped by Italy’s ruling liberal politicians that by inviting into government, they could form a coalition sufficiently strong to break this deadlock. But Mussolini didn’t want to be a junior partner. He wanted all of it. And so legislation was passed that defined Italy as a single constituency. Whichever party got the most votes nationally, would take something like three-quarters or so of the seats in parliament. The rest would be shared among the other parties. The Fascists won the election, though in many places they lost spectacularly. One of these, ironically, was Mussolini’s home town of Predappia, where he only got 2 per cent of the vote or less. Well, he had an obvious disadvantage there: they knew him.

But the result was that the Fascists became the overwhelmingly dominant party, and Italy began its journey towards dictatorship.

Mussolini had used constitutional methods, as well as brutal force, to gain power. Hitler did the same later in Germany, when the German president similarly hoped that he could break a similar political deadlock there by including the Nazis in a coalition government.

Trump’s wild, unsubstantiated accusations of electoral fraud and demands that voting should be stopped are an attack on democracy. They aren’t as flagrant or grotesque as the colossal gerrymandering that gave Mussolini control of Italy, but they’re definitely on the way there.

I don’t think Trump will get his way with his demands. But they do mark another stage in the gradual undermining of American democracy. And I’m afraid that if Trump does win, he will try to put in place legislation that will further further weaken it so that the Republicans can keep on winning unfairly. And the endpoint of all this, as in Germany and Italy, will be a right-wing dictatorship.

But it will be cloaked in the language of democracy, and protecting the will of the people.

The German Communist Party’s 1931 Demands for Women’s Equality

November 4, 2020

One of the other books I’ve been reading during the lockdown is The German Left and the Weimar Republic: Selection of Documents, edited by Ben Fowkes, (Chicago: Haymarket Books 2014). The Weimar Republic was the name given to Germany for the all too brief period from the end of the First World War to the the Nazi seizure of power in 1933/4. It was a tumultuous period which saw the brief rise of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ council seize power briefly, the brutal suppression of soviet republics up and down Germany by the Freikorps, the rise of the Nazis, and splits in the majority Germany socialist, the SPD, which produced the USPD (Independent Socialist Party of Germany), the SAP (Socialist Workers’ Party) and the German Communist Party. The book collects a number of documents from these left-wing parties and movements, which reveal their policies and attitudes towards some of the most important issues of the day.

In 1931 the KPD proposed a law to protect and give full equal rights to working women. I’m putting this up, because while I’m very definitely not a Communist, these demands show how far ahead of their time the Communists were. Women’s right to work was attacked by the Nazis, who saw women’s proper sphere as ‘Kinder, Kirche, Kuche’ – children, church and kitchen. And although governments now are keen, or claim to be keen, to promote women’s equality in politics, culture, industry and science, the laws protection working women from exploitation and arbitrary dismissal have been and are being rolled back. This is line with the general attack on worker’s employment rights and job security.

The KPD proposals ran

We call on the Reichstag to demand that the government introduce a bill to protect and give full equality of rights to working women according to the following principles:

  1. Establishment of complete economic, cultural and political equality of rights between women and men. All laws and emergency ordinances that contradict this are to be abrogated with immediate effect.
  2. Women in all enterprises in industry and agriculture, doing the same work as men, are to be paid wages at the same level as men. The longest daily working time for women is to be set at seven hours, with full wage equality, while for unhealthy and heavy work, as well as for young females below the age of 18, it is to be set at six hours.
  3. (Similar provisions for office workers).
  4. Working women are to have a fully equal right to occupy all posts in all professions. Women workers, office employees and civil service officials are not be dismissed because they are married. All working women are to receive free professional training appropriate to their professional capacity.
  5. All unemployed women must have a legal right to full unemployment insurance payments without means testing or reference to the income of family members. Every kind of compulsory labour or compulsory re-training is prohibited. The right to receive social insurance during the whole period of unemployment is to be guaranteed.
  6. All working women employed in industry, agriculture, commerce and transport and domestic work as well as women in the so -called free professions, housewives and the female relatives or working peasants are to be included in the social insurance system.
  7. Dismissal of pregnant women is legally prohibited up to the 12th month after the birth of the child. The pregnant woman is to receive full pay and be exempt from work from eight weeks before until eight weeks after the birth. Nursing mothers are to receive half and hour twice a day for breast-feeding their children, without any reduction in wages. Maternity homes in sufficient numbers are to be made available to all working women, also creches for babies and children up to three years old, nurseries for children from three to school age. These services are to be provided free of payment. They are to be directed and supervised by control committees made up of delegates from the working population, mainly women.
  8. The interruption of pregnancy is to be permitted by law. The contrary paragraphs of the penal code (184 Section 3 and 28) are to be abolished. All persons condemned under the previous abortion paragraphs are to be amnestied immediately, and all current cases are to be terminated. Abortion carried out by a doctor and the provision of the means to avoid pregnancy count as medicate help in the national system of insurance.
  9. When entering marriage, the woman retains her right to decide independently in all legal and personal matters. She is not dependent on the husband in any of her decisions. After marriage, the women may take the name of her husband, but she may also continue to be known under her maiden name. She has the same parental power over her children as the man.
  10. All exceptional provisions dealing with the unmarried mother and the illegitimate child are removed. Every unmarried women has the right to be bear the title of ‘Frau’. In mixed marriages, the choice of nationality is left to the woman.

Obviously, abortion rights are still extremely controversial today. And one of the reasons for the introduction of zero hours contracts and firms insisting that their employees should sign documents stating that they are self-employed is deny women rights like maternity leave. And unemployed women and men are required to go for compulsory retraining and work under Blair’s wretched ‘welfare to work’ initiative. Which is another Tory idea taken from the Americans.

The reduction of the working day for women would be controversial today. More women work part-time than men because they do the majority of work rearing children and running the home. A week or so ago someone proposed that women’s working day should therefore be shortened generally for those reasons. But one of the drawbacks of this would be that women would need to be paid more than men in order to close the gender income gap. Many men on the political right already feel that they will be discriminated against regarding pay rates because of this.

The KPD made these demands nearly 90 years ago, and despite many of them having been introduced over the following decades, we still need to follow their recommendations to defend the rights of all working women along with workers generally.

Blasphemy Laws and the Muslim Protests Against France

November 3, 2020

Over the past week or so we’ve seen mass protests across the Islamic world, including the Islamic community in Britain, over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. These have followed the assassination of school teacher Samuel Paty for simply showing his class the cartoon as part of a lesson about free speech. It’s been pointed out in articles in the I that Paty was far from a racist or Islamophobe. He had taken lessons in Islam in order to understand his Muslim students better, and had warned the Muslims in his class what he was about to do so they could leave to avoid being offended. One girl remained, told her father, her father told the local mosque, the mosque told the community. And a Chechen Islamist heard them, and took matters into his own hands. Other Islamists have carried out further attacks on innocents, who had absolutely no part in the affair. Three people, including a priest, were stabbed to death in a church, simply for being Christians, and there have been shootings in other nations.

The murders of these innocents has not been denounced by the Muslim protesters, however. Instead we have seen former cricketer Imran Khan, now leader of an Islamic party and the president of Pakistan, denounce Macron for the publication of the cartoon. He has been joined by Turkish president Erdogan, another leader of a Muslim party Who wouldn’t know free speech if it came up and bit him on the elbow. Tunisia has also denounced France, and when I looked online last night, Islamists in Bangladesh were giving their government a few hours to sever links with France.

It’s been reported that Khan has been complaining about the hurt felt by Muslims around the world about the publication of the cartoons. Supposedly the right to free speech does not mean the right to offend. But others have pointed out over and over again that that is precisely what it means. The type of free speech that only permits what is inoffensive is no free speech at all.

At the heart of this are the Muslim blasphemy laws. This is an attempt to impose them on France and, by implication, other western nations. However, Muslim are a minority in Europe and so the only arguments Khan and the others can use against Europeans is that their feelings are hurt, and that there will be political repercussions.

I looked up the article on blasphemy in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, ed. by John Bowker (Oxford: OUP 1997). This provides information on the concept of blasphemy in Christian, Judaism and Islam, its punishments, and the problems of enforcing such laws in Britain. It runs

Blasphemy (Gk: ‘speaking evil’ ). Impious or profane talk, especially against God; and in many western legal systems , the offence of reviling God or Jesus Christ or an established church. To be blasphemous a publication must be intended to shock and endanger the moral fabric of society; one that is merely anti-religious (e.g. denying the existence of God) is not. In England in 1977 the editor of Gay News was convicted of blasphemous libel for publishing a poem which portrayed Christ as a practicing homosexual. This was the first successful prosecution for blasphemy since 1922, and showed the difficulty of objectively applying the common law definition. The appearance of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, raised the issue whether blasphemy should be extended to become a more general offence (in the UK), or whether it is an offence in the domain of inciting unrest.

‘In Judaism, ‘blasphemy’ is speaking scornfully of God (Heb. gidduf, heruf) and is described euphemistically as birkat ha-shem (‘blessing the name’, i.e. God). According to Leviticus 24. 10-23, the penalty for cursing God is death, but in discussing this passage, the rabbis defined blasphemy in such a way that it became an improbable crime-and thus the death penalty did not need to be invoked. Excommunication (herem) became the punishment in any case once legal autonomy had been lost…

‘The nearest equivalent in Islam is sabb, offering an insult to God. Qur’an 9.74 condemns those who sear by God that they said nothing but in fact spoke a word of rejection (kalimat al-kufr) after they had become Muslims. This relates blasphemy closely to apostasy (ridda). The expression of contempt for God, the Prophet Mohammed, the angels, or the traditional explications of revelation constitute the offence. Accidental blasphemy is not usually excusable (though Malikites allow it if it is expressed by a recent convert to Islam).. The punishment varies between different Schools of Islamic Law -e.g. the Hanafites remove the offenders legal rights, declare his marriage invalid, and declare any claims to inheritance or property void; the Malikites demand immediate execution of the death penalty.,’

The British prosecution for blasphemy mentioned in the article was brought by Mary Whitehouse, who made it her professional duty to be offended about everything. The gays on the opposite side took this as an attack on them, and launched their own protests against Whitehouse. There’s a comic aspect to this, as Whitehouse recalled that she woke up one morning to find militant gays marching about her garden waving placards.

I think the enforcement of the blasphemy laws is more or less impossible. They’re a dead letter, if they haven’t been repealed. As an example, just consider how many TV comedians since then have expressed their own contempt for Christ and his followers. The comedians Lee and Herring regularly did so on their BBC 2 programme, Fist of Fun. It came as a surprise to me a few years ago when Muslims around the world were again up in arms demanding the execution of blasphemers because of something Pope Benedict said about Mohammed in a speech when one of the two appeared on television attacking Islam. When they were interviewed by the short-lived mag Comedy Revue in the 1990s, they were asked about their attacks on Christianity and whether they would do the same to Islam. They laughingly made it clear that they definitely wouldn’t because they were afraid of violence and attempts on their lives. And thought themselves very clever for doing so. Which shows the British media establishments general attitude to Christianity.

The Muslim blasphemy laws are extremely dangerous. At the moment there are 200 people on death row in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy. Most of these are probably entirely spurious. They’re brought for entirely cynical reasons, such as getting rid of an opponent in a dispute over a completely unrelated issue. Muslims have also claimed that their attacks on Christians were also motivated by the outrage they felt at blasphemies committed by their victims. But some of it seems to me to be an attempt to enforce the Pakistani caste system. Indian and Pakistan Islam has a caste system like Hinduism, only not as severe. Most of the Christian community in Pakistan are of the lowest caste, and many are bonded labourers in brickyards, effectively slaves. One of the Christian women accused of blasphemy was accused after she brought water from a well to a group of Muslim women. Along the way she took a sip of the water. It looks to me that the real crime here was that she broke their laws of caste purity, and that the accusation of blasphemy was added on after this offence.

The ex-Muslim vloggers the Apostate Prophet and Harris Sultan have also pointed out the hypocrisy in Khan’s denunciations. When western countries have criticised Pakistan for human rights abuses, Pakistan has simply told them to mind their own business. But when France defends the publication of cartoons Pakistan and its Islamic leadership find offensive, suddenly he’s justified in interfering in their affairs. He has also denounced the closure of radical mosques and the expulsion of extremist imams as an attack on Islam. It isn’t. It is simply France protecting itself against Islamist violence, in the same way right-wing terrorist groups are banned. And Khan is again being hypocritical in his denunciations. When the Taliban made a series of bloody attacks in Pakistan a few years ago, the armed forces and security services cracked down hard. According to the two above vloggers, they went from house to house in the province of Waziristan arresting anyone with a beard. I haven’t linked to the two because I don’t want to offend any Muslims reading this blog. But you can Google the articles on YouTube if you want to find out more.

Macron should stand firm against all this. Blasphemy laws are a severe attack on free speech, and the penalties inflicted for it and the flagrant abuse of such accusations are particularly dangerous. Freedom of speech and conscience, including that of Muslims, is far too important to be sacrificed because of hurt feelings and outrage.

New Labour’s Connections to Fascism

October 30, 2020

Yesterday the EHRC’s report into anti-Semitism in the Labour party was published, and was spun for all it was worth as confirmation that Jeremy Corbyn was anti-Semitic and so was the party under him. Except for all those brave, Zionist Blairites that spoke out and denounced him and his followers, of course. Followers that included large, vocal numbers of entirely self-respecting Jews, who were attacked and vilified as self-hating anti-Semites themselves.

One of those, who decided to put his oar into all this was Ed Balls, a former New Labour cabinet minister. As Mike has pointed out on his blog, this is very much a case of a man in a glass house throwing stones. Not only did Balls once turn up at a party dressed as a Nazi, he also presented a BBC programme a year ago in which he met real Nazis. Apparently he even said he liked them, and that they were nice. So there’s just a little touch of hypocrisy here.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/10/28/ed-balls-speaks-out-about-labour-anti-semitism-who-cares/

Now dressing up as a Nazi for a student party is obviously tasteless and offensive, but doesn’t necessarily mean that someone’s a Nazi. But some of the accusations of anti-Semitism used against Corbyn’s supporters were far less substantial than such pranks. For example, there was the lad, who posted an image of a Jobcentre with the slogan ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ on its sign. This was supposed to be anti-Semitic for disrespecting Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. But this ignores the fact that the slogan was used on all concentration camps, including those housing gentile political prisoners. And the slogan accurately describes the Tory mentality towards the disabled and long term sick. Iain Duncan Smith actually said so in an online article, before someone told him that quoting the Nazis approvingly doesn’t look good, and he removed the offending paragraph.

If you want a second example, consider the press feeding frenzy which occurred when Corbyn was seen to nod in agreement when Heijo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor, said that Israel was doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to him. Oh, the anti-Semitism! What foul perfidy and Jew-hatred! Except that Nazis don’t usually agree with Holocaust survivors. The Nazi strategy is to try to deny that the Shoah ever happened, or claim that it was somehow smaller than it really was. They don’t usually support Holocaust survivors, who speak about their experiences.

And there’s obviously a profound difference between Israel and Jews. The two definitely aren’t synonymous, and according to the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism which the Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbi were so desperate to foist upon the party, it is anti-Semitic to confuse the two. Which is very obviously the case with Corbyn’s accusers. It isn’t anti-Semitic to criticise Israel for its crimes against the Palestinians, any more than attacking Saudi Arabia for its human rights record automatically means that you hate Arabs.

As for meeting Nazis and describing them as nice people, unfortunately, I can well believe that some of them are personally nice people. A German Jewish bloke, who infiltrated a neo-Nazi organisation leading to its exposure in the German media, said the same about some of them when he was interviewed. He said that amongst the Nazis he met were ordinary, otherwise decent Germans, who believed the Holocaust never happened. That’s part of the danger. Murderous, dangerous ideas can be held by otherwise entirely decent people. One of the Islamist scumbags who murdered Lee Rigby all those years ago put up a video telling the world that he was really a nice person, who would help old ladies up the stairs. And I dare say he was right. If all Nazis and jihadis were antisocial, ranting, bullying maniacs, nobody would join them or stay in their organisations for very long. They’d leave because of their noxious personalities. But unfortunately, Nazis and other murderous extremists don’t always behave like their stereotypes, and this does mean that they can appear plausible. That fact that Ed Balls personally liked some of them doesn’t mean that Balls is a Nazi. Just like the fact that because Corbyn appeared alongside Palestinian activists, who had terrible views on killing Israelis, doesn’t mean that Corbyn supported their views. But no such doubts were extended to the Labour leader.

It was almost to be expected that Balls or one of his New Labour colleagues was going to comment about all this. Not only was Balls a former cabinet minister under Blair and Brown, but like Blair and other members of the New Labour clique, he’s also an alumnus of BAP – the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, to give it its full title. This was a Reaganite scheme in which promising British politicos from all parties were sought out and given opportunities to work and study in America in order to cement the Atlantic alliance. After going on one of these BAP jaunts to meet American right-wingers, Blair returned to England convinced of the need to retain our nuclear deterrent, while previously he had believed in getting rid of it.

America supports Israel, and Blair and Brown were ardent supporters of America, and so it follows that they too would support Israel. Apart from the fact that they supported Israel anyway, for which Blair received funding from pro-Israel Jewish businessmen. This was garnered through the efforts of Lord Levi, who Blair met at a gathering at the Israeli embassy. And mentioning that doesn’t make you an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist either.

But Blair also had personal connections to Fascism. He was mates with Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party was in coalition with the Alleanza Nazionale. The Allianza Nazionale were former Fascists, after the neo-Fascist party, the Movimiento Sociale Italiano or Italian Social Movement, was dissolved by its leader, Gianfranco Fini, and reformed as a centre-right Conservative party. The best comment I’ve seen on Fini was in the pages of a book I read on Fascism years ago. It showed a photo of Fini when the Fascists were discarding the black shirts and adopting business suits in an attempt to make themselves look respectably middle class. It was called ‘filofascismo’, presumably a portmanteau of the Italian for filofax and Fascism. Fini appeared in a suit and round-rimmed glasses with business jacket slung casually over his shoulder. The photo was captioned ‘Would you buy a used ideology from this man?’ The answer is, ‘No, no, I definitely wouldn’t. Not even dressed up as Conservatism’.

More sinisterly, David Mills, the husband of New Labour minister Tessa Jowell, was a lawyer engaged to defend a genuine Fascist. I got a feeling this guy was one of those responsible for the Bologna railway bombing in the late ’70s. This was a Fascist terrorist atrocity in which the squadristi bombed that Italian town’s railway station, killing and maiming something like 121 people.

This shows up New Labour’s hypocrisy and that of the Tories and their accomplices in the media even more. Corbyn, like other members of the Labour left, was smeared as a supporter of the IRA because of his concern for a just peace in Northern Ireland. He wasn’t, and various Ulster Loyalists have said that he was fair and perfectly civil and friendly towards them. But this was ignored in the scramble to vilify him as a supporter of Irish nationalist terrorism. But obviously, as David Mills’ example shows, it’s perfectly acceptable to the British right for the spouses of New Labour ministers to work for genuine Fascists responsible for killing and mutilation of over a hundred innocents.

And that should also raise genuine questions of anti-Semitism. The Italian Fascists originally hadn’t been anti-Semitic. Mussolini himself had ridiculed Hitler’s biological racism, but as Nazism took over from Italian Fascism as the more influential movement, Mussolini tried to ingratiate himself and his regime by adopting racism. In 1937 the Fascists published their manifesto on race and passed legislation defining the Italian people as Aryans, and banning Jews from certain professions. The Charter of Verona, which set out the ideology of Mussolini’s rump Fascist state in Salo, declared that Jews weren’t part of the Italian nation. And contemporary Italian Fascists, like Fascists everyone, are violently anti-immigrant and racist.

Considering Blair’s and co.’s connections to real Fascism, Balls has got absolutely no business accusing Corbyn and his supporters of anti-Semitism whatsoever.

‘I’ Article on the Laws Deterring Blacks from Voting in the Southern USA

October 29, 2020

As America gets ready to decide whether they want the Orange Generalissimo or Joe Biden in the White House for the next four years, it seems that many Black citizens in the American south are being put off voting by restrictive legislation. These laws, including one dating from the era of Jim Crow in Mississippi serve to disenfranchise the poor and minorities, and have prevented people of colour from being elected to government office in the state. The I published a report about this by Tim Sulllivan, ‘Laws continue to deter black voters in southern states’ in last Friday’s edition for 23rd October 2020. This ran

The weight of history and current laws are deterring the black vote in some southern states.

The opposition to black votes in Mississippi has changed since the 1960s, but it has not ended. There are no poll taxes any more, no tests on the state constitution. But on the eve for the most divisive presidential election in decades, voters face obstacles such as state-mandated ID laws that mostly affect poor and minority communities and the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of former prisoners.

And despite Mississippi having the largest percentage of black people of any state, a Jim Crow-era election law has ensured a black person has not been elected to statewide office in 130 years. Even today, the state has broad restrictions on absentee voting or online registration, absentee ballots that must be witnessed by notaries and voter ID laws that overwhelmingly affect the poor and minorities. Nearly a third of black people here live below the poverty line, and taking a day off work to vote can be too expensive. Then there are felony voting restrictions, which in Mississippi have disenfranchised almost 16 per cent of the black population, researchers say.

Distrust of the government runs deep. As a result, black politicians have long been fighting an apathy born of generations of frustration.

Anthony Boggan sometimes votes, but is sitting it out this year, disgusted at the choices. A 49-year-old black Jackson resident with a small moving company, Mr Boggan likes how the economy boomed during the Trump years, but cannot vote for a man known for his insults. As for Joe Biden, he and Donald Trump both “got dementia”, he says, and he hates how the former Vice President tries to curry favour in the black community. “They’re all going to tell you the same thing,” he said. “Anything to get elected.”

Some of these laws were put in place quite recently by the Republicans with the ostensible intention of reducing voter fraud. They chiefly affect the poor, Blacks and students, the section of the population most likely to vote Democrat. The Young Turks produced a report about them a few years ago, noting that one Republican politico let the cat out of the bag and actually admitted that they were intended to stop people voting for the Democrats.

Unfortunately, Mississippi isn’t the only southern state nor the Republicans the only party to rig regulations to stop Blacks voting. A few years ago the Democrats in Florida did something similar, manipulating the electoral rolls so that Blacks and Hispanics couldn’t vote.

And what the Republicans do, the Tory party copies. The Tories have also passed legislation supposedly designed to prevent voter fraud, but which also acts to prevent the poor, Blacks and other ethnic minorities from voting over here. Mike has published several articles on this, noting that the actual incidence of electoral fraud in this country is minuscule and covering reports that describe how they have operated to prevent people from voting. And it isn’t a coincidence that the sections of the population they prevent are those which also traditionally favour the Labour party.

It’s long past time these laws were repealed in both America and Britain. But this will require the election of genuinely reforming left-wing governments in each country. And I don’t see that happening any time soon with the corporatist right in control of the Democrats in America and Labour over here.

‘I’ Obituary for Stage Magician and Sceptic James Randi

October 26, 2020

Last Tuesday, 20th October 2020, the stage magician and sceptic James Randi passed away at the age of 92. Randy was a controversial. After starting out as a stage magician, Randi turned to exposing fake psychics. He was a prominent member of the Sceptics’ organisation CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal, along with scientist and broadcaster Carl Sagan and the mathematician Martin Gardner. CSICOP’s founders were alarmed at the growth of interest in the occult. Sagan, a Humanist, published his attack on the supernatural in the Demon Haunted World. He seemed to be frightened that we were entering a new Dark Age of superstition, where science and rationality would be forgotten, and in which people would begin their day by poring over their horoscopes.

The I published this obituary of Randi in their weekend edition for 24th-25th October 2020, reprinted from the Washington Post. It runs

James Randi, who has died aged 92, was an internationally acclaimed magician and escape artist who spent much of his career debunking all things paranormal – from spoon bending and water dowsing to spirit channelling and faith healing.

Randall James Ham Hamilton Zwinge was born in Toronto in 1928. A child prodigy, he was shy and often lonely. Bored by rote classroom learning, he sought refuge in the library. At a young age, he developed an interest in magic, and at 17 he dropped out of high school, turned down several college scholarships and joined a travelling carnival as junior magician.

He overcame a stammer and fear of speaking in public, affected a turban and goatee, and honed his illusionist skills under a series of stage names, including Zo-Ran, Prince Iblis, Telepath and the Great Randall.

After a stint at faking clairvoyance, in which many took his prophecies seriously – he correctly predicted the winner of baseball’s World Series in 1949, for example – he said he was unable to persuade believerss that his powers were strictly terrestrial. He said he “couldn’t live that kind of lie” and returned to conventional magic as The Amazing Randi.

He also became an escape artist and held Guinness world records for surviving the longest time inside a block of ice (55 minutes) and for being sealed the longest in an underwater coffin (one hour and 44 minutes), breaking a record set by Harry Houdini.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Randi’s many appearances on television made him a fixture of prime time entertainment. In 1973 he toured with heavy metal rock star Alice Cooper as an executioner simulating the beheading of the singer at each performance.

Randi cheerfully described himself as a “liar” and “cheat” in mock recognition of his magician’s skills at duping people into thinking they had seen something inexplicable when it was, in fact, the result of simple physical deception. He was equally dismissive of psychics, seers and soothsayers. “The difference between them and me,” Randi told The New York Times in 1981, “is that I admit that I’m a charlatan. They don’t. I don’t have time for things that go bump in the night.”

Randi and the research organisation he helped found in 1976, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, offered payouts ranging up to $1m (£77,000) to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal phenomenon under controlled conditions. While he had many takers, he said, none of them earned a cent.

In 2010, at the age of 81, Randi publicly announced he was gay. He married a Venezuelan artist, Deyvi Pena in 2013. The following year, film-maker Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein released An Honest Liar, a documentary of Randi’s life.

I first became aware of Randi in the early 1980s, when he appeared in the pages of the Absurder attacking Doris Stokes. Stokes was a medium, who was then in news, much like Derek Acorah and other celebrity psychics a few years ago. Randi showed that much of her comments and remarks when she was supposedly getting in touch with the dead were ‘bunkum statements’. They sounded true and unique to the reader or listener, but they were actually vague and described the way most people felt. Her descriptions of the deceased and the questions she asked her audience were also so vague that they would apply to someone there, who would then become convinced that Stokes was genuinely in contact with a dead friend or relative.

Several times Randi’s own outspoken comment about those he judged to be frauds landed him in legal. In one case, he was sued for libel by a man he claimed was called by the police ‘the shopping mall molester’. Er, not quite. The target of Randi’s wrath had been arrested for sexually assaulting a 12 or 13 year old girl in a shopping centre. But he hadn’t been charged with the offence, as it was dropped due to plea bargaining. And because he hadn’t been charged with it, Randi’s comments were technically libel.

He also got into similar trouble with Uri Geller. He called him a fraud, at which Geller sued him in every country in the world. This resulted in Randi settling out of court with the notorious spoon-bender.

Actually, I think Randi is probably right here. Geller’s most famous trick of bending spoons has been around since at least in the 18th century. It’s mentioned in a book of such amusements from that time, Rational Recreations. Geller was also successfully sued in the 1970s or so by an Israeli engineering student for misleading advertising. Geller’s publicity claimed his act presented overwhelming proof of the paranormal. The student went to see it and wasn’t impressed. He sued, claiming that all he’d seen was standard stage magic. The beak concurred, and judged in his favour.

There was also a scandal a few years ago when it turned out that Randi’s partner was actually an illegal immigrant, who was living in the US under an identity he’d stolen.

Randi was a colourful figure, but I was never a fan of his. While I agree that fake psychics and mediums certainly exist, and should be exposed because of the way they exploit the grieving and vulnerable, I don’t share his dismissal of the supernatural. I think it’s genuine, but that its very nature makes scientific verification extremely difficult, if not impossible. CSICOP also came off as arrogant, smug and vindictive in their attacks on the paranormal and its believers and practitioners. So much so that they were seen as a kind of scientific witch hunt by their victims. A few years ago the organisation changed its name to CSI, which stands for the Committee for Scientific Investigation. And not Crime Scene Investigation. The name change was not occasioned because there was a cop drama with that acronym as its title playing at the time.

So RIP James Randi. He was a colourful character, who entertained millions, particularly in his bust-up with Geller. Gray Barker, the former Ufologist who began the Men In Black myth with his book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, took great pleasure in Randi’s antics, calling him ‘the Amusing Randi’. But I leave to the reader to decide for themselves whether the paranormal exists. And not everybody who believes in it deserves sneers and ridicule.