Posts Tagged ‘Cemeteries’

Anti-Semitism Witch-Hunter Margaret Hodge Accused of Anti-Semitism

July 24, 2019

This is a very interesting development in the anti-Semitism furore that has engulfed the Labour Party. Margaret Hodge, who so delights in accusing Corbyn supporters of anti-Semitism, and called Corbyn himself a ‘fucking anti-Semite’, has been accused herself of anti-Semitism. Her accusers is Shraga Stern, a Haredi Jew, a member and supporter of the Labour Party. Mr Stern met Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour MP Dan Carden at Portcullis House in Westminster. Where he was photographed by Hodge, who then tweeted the picture to one of Murdoch’s journalistic minions. She added the caption

Having lunch & wondering why Corbyn wants to be seen talking to an anti-LGBT activist who doesn’t represent the mainstream Jewish community yet chooses to sideline groups like Jewish Labour Movement.

Stern told the Jewish Chronicle that the picture’s appearance made him feel ‘quite intimidated’. He’s been the subject of recent claims that he’s against the LGBT community because of his activism in the area of sex education. However, Stern himself has replied to the accusation by saying that he isn’t against gays, but simply wants Orthodox children to be given their sex education at home, in accordance with their tradition. He was also offended at being described as a ‘non-mainstream Jew’. He therefore sent her an email objecting to her comments, and a formal complaint to the Labour Party. He states in his letter

The evidence proves the intention of the attack was for maintaining Jewish traditions.

It is ok, to be hurt and assaulted for simply living in the UK as a Charedi Jew? 

Is it acceptable for a party member to suffer from stress due to anti-Semitic assaults for being a Charedi Jew? 

Is it ok, for a Member of Parliament to assault a fellow Jew just for the reason that his external appearances are different? 

Last but not least, why is it wrong for Jeremy Corbyn to speak to a second-class Jew. (Your words).

In his complaint to the Labour Party, Stern complains that Hodge defamed him as an anti-LGBT activist. He states firmly that he is not, and that he is against all sex teaching in the classroom, as this should be done by the parents at home according to Charedi Jewish custom. He states that he made this clear throughout his campaign. He says

‘She is attacking me for continuing my religious Jewish tradition … This is pure religious anti-Semitism against me my religion and my rabbis.’

He also passed on a dossier of information relating to her time as leader of Islington council, which he believes indicates a negative attitude towards Orthodox Jews. This is reproduced in the Skwawkbox article about the incident. They seem to relate to the plans by West London Synagogue to redevelop the Jewish cemetery for housing and a playground. This was strongly opposed by Orthodox Jews, although the scheme was supported by the council. The protesters, however, had the support of Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn, whom the Orthodox community publicly thanked for their stance.

See: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/07/23/hodge-subject-of-formal-antisemitism-complaint-by-orthodox-jewish-labour-member/

The Skwawkbox notes that there are about 67,000 Charedi Jews in the UK, who make up a quarter of the Jewish population. This is expected to increase to half within fifteen years.

Mike in his article about this says that it will test the Labour Party’s complaints team, who try to protect all party representatives like Hodge from all complaints against them. He wonders whether they will try to sweep her anti-Semitic attack – one that appears to be part of a series going back decades – under the carpet. He also observes that this shows the highly partisan nature of the lamestream media that it hasn’t been widely reported in the national press. He illustrates this point with a tweet from the Prole Star, which accurately points out that if a Corbyn ally had been accused instead, it would be on every news outlet for weeks. The tweets states

Their silence is pretty strange considering they love to talk about anti-Semitism so much. The mainstream media have proven they don’t really care about racism. It’s just a weapon to smear their opponents. Absolutely disgusting.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/07/24/witch-hunter-accused-of-anti-semitic-attack-isnt-it-odd-that-the-mass-media-

Absolutely right. The French Philosophical Feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, showed this very clearly in a post from the 7th of this month responding to Gordon Brown’s comments about the anti-Semitism accusations. Brown supported them, so the Cat pointed out the various racist incidents in the Labour Party against Blacks and Asians that Brown chose to ignore, not to mention that against Roma and other Travellers. He then went on to state, absolutely correctly, that there is a hierarchy of racism in this country and that the racism Blacks experience comes a very distant second, third or fourth place behind the anti-Semitism smears. And that even real anti-Semitic incidents are ignored instead of the smears. He showed this very clearly with a report about a Far Right terrorist, Tristan Morgan, who had been sentenced to be locked up in hospital indefinitely. Morgan had tried to burn down an 18th century synagogue in Exeter, Devon, on the 18th July 2018, a day commemorating the Holocaust. Morgan himself laughed when he committed the attack, though he was put on fire by the blast from the fire he started.

See: https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/gordon-browns-selective-anti-racism/

I’m not surprised that Hodge targeted Mr Stern with this nasty sneer. Stern’s a very staunch supporter of Corbyn. I believe he was among the people, who met the Labour leader when he visited a London mosque a few months ago, whose members had been victims of a White Islamophobic terrorist attack. I also recall that he was involved with a letter sent by a number of Haredi rabbis to the papers defending Corbyn, and stating that he has been a good friend to British Jews to the papers, as well as other efforts showing that Corbyn actually has widespread support amongst British Jews. Which the Jewish Chronicle has tried its very best to invalidate through quibbles about the right of some of those, who signed to be credited as proper representatives of British Jewry. But it does seem that Diane Abbott and Corbyn are genuinely held in high regard by the Orthodox community for their support over Islington council’s plan to redevelop the community’s cemetery.

And it’s more than a little rich for Hodge to accuse Mr Stern of not being a mainstream Jew, when the Jewish Labour Movement can in truth be accurately described as a fringe organisation. Jewish bloggers have pointed out that it seems to have less than 200 members, that over half of these aren’t Jewish. Unlike Jewish Voice for Labour, which appears to be a genuinely Jewish organisation. But Jewish Voice for Labour is ignored or vilified by the lamestream media and the Jewish establishment in this country as they’re pro-Corbyn, and so don’t count as ‘proper’ Jews. Which is very definitely an anti-Semitic stance.

Hodge herself has also been massively indifferent to the rise of very real racism. When Derek Beacon and his storm troopers in the BNP got elected on Tower Hamlets council, they rewarded Hodge for her lack of efforts to oppose them by sending her a bouquet. As an MP she was so lackadaisical and unimpressive that the Jewish Chronicle was calling on her to resign. But now she’s screaming that she’s terribly concerned about anti-Semitism in the Labour party, of which she is a victim, despite all evidence to the contrary.

It will be very interesting to see how the Labour complaints team handle this, and I wish Mr Stern every success.

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Conspiracy Book’s Debunking of Anti-Semitic Forgery ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’

September 19, 2018

A week or so ago I put up a post about The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups by Jon E. Lewis, and its chapter roundly debunking Holocaust denial. The book is a popular volume on conspiracy theories, describing and frequently debunking 100 such conspiratorial beliefs about the death of Princess Diana, the Men In Black, the assassination of J.F.K., and Martin Luther King, Area 51, Ronald Reagan, the Priory of Zion of Holy Blood, Holy Grail infamy and many more, including Holocaust denial.

Another infamous anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, that also gets thoroughly disproven, is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which the book gives in its full title, the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and deals with on pages 433 to 450. The Protocols are a notorious forgery, concocted by the tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana, to encourage Nicholas II to be even more anti-Semitic and persecute the Jews even worse than he already was. It is one of the leading sources of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and was read and influenced many Fascists. It was proven to be a forgery as long ago as the 1920, but even after this was revealed, some of those, who had read it continued to be maintain that it was symbolically true, even if it wasn’t factually. Unfortunately, the book continues to have a very wide circulation, particularly in the Middle East and in eastern Europe.

The history of this vile book is briefly described on pages 433-5. The chapter states that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was first published in 1897 as an appendix to the book, The Antichrist Is Near At Hand by the Russian writer, Sergei Nilus. It claims to be an instruction manual for a cabal of anonymous Jews planning to conquer and subdue the Christian world.

It states that the chief points of the Protocols are that the plot will remain invisible until it is so strong it cannot be overcome; government is to be increasingly centralized; press freedoms shall be restricted; gentile are to be distracted by games and amusements; and all non-Jewish religions will be swept away.

The book was immensely popular in Russia and the rest of the world. One enthusiast was the industrialist Henry Ford, of motor industry fame, who printed sections in his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. He believed it exactly described the world situation as it was in his time, and used them to try to influence the US senate to stop America joining the League of Nations.

The first person to show that the Protocols were a forgery was Lucien Wolf. In his The Jewish Bogey and the Forged Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion of 1920 showed that sections of the Protocols had been lifted with only very minor changes from a satire written by a French lawyer, Maurice Joly, Dialogue aux Enfers entre Montesquieu et Machiavelli (“Dialogue in Hell between Montesquieu and Machiavelli”). This was itself influenced by Eugene Sue’s 1843 conspiracy novel, The Mysteries of Paris. The Protocols was also based on the 1868 novel, Biarritz, by the German spy Hermann Goedsche, written under the pseudonym Sir John Retcliffe. This had a chapter describing how a fictitious group of rabbis met at midnight every century in a cemetery to plan the further progress of Jewish world domination.

Lewis suggests the Protocols were probably forged by Matvei Golovinski, one of the agents of the Okhrana. He hoped to justify the tsarist regime’s persecution of the Jews by whipping up a scare about revolutionaries in the pay of the Jews planning the downfall of the monarchy. As a result, pogroms were launched against the Jews in 1905-6. And the truth of the conspiracy described by the Protocols was seen by all too many people as confirmed by the Russian Revolution of 1917, some of whose leaders happened to be Jews.

After the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, Adolf Hitler made the Protocols compulsory reading in schools. Lewis goes to describe how, despite or because of their influence in causing the Holocaust, the Protocols continue to be held as ‘fact’. Egyptian television broadcast a series in 2000 that claimed there was a connection between the Protocols and the foundation of Israel. The Protocols could also been found in al-Qaeda training camps. They’re also popular with Hamas, and in America they’re distributed by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. That section of the chapter ends

In fact, wherever anti-Semites gather you’ll find well-thumbed copies of the Protocols. That any of these organisations or their adherents could not discover within at most thirty seconds’ worth of research that the Protocols are, as a Swiss court described them as long ago as 1935, “ridiculous nonsense”, forgeries and plagiarism, beggars belief.

The book gives each conspiracy a threat level, according to how apparently plausible they are. You won’t be surprised to find that the threat level of the Protocols is zero.

The chapter also lists for further reading the following:

Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, 1996.

Daniel Pipes, The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy, 1998.

Lucien Wolf, The Jewish Bogey and the Forged Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, 1920.

The book provides extracts from the main documents behind or about the various conspiracies, so that readers can make up their own minds. This includes the Protocols, extracts from which are reproduced on pages 436-50. Lewis obviously trusts his readers to follow his entirely correct judgement of the Protocols, and similarly realise that they are a forgery. This is also useful, because opponents of anti-Semitism, racism and Fascism can read them without having to give money to Nazis, anti-Semites and Islamists.

I wondered if they’re shouldn’t be a proper, scholarly edition of the Protocols, written by orthodox historians and opponents of anti-Semitism, aimed not just at debunking the Protocols, but also for decent people interested in its noxious influence on Nazism and other anti-Semitic ideologies. The Bavarian government did something like this a little while ago to Mein Kampf after it came out of copyright. The government had used its ownership of the book’s copyright to prevent its publication in Germany. When this expired, they decided that the best way to combat its adoption once again by neo-Nazis would be to prepare a properly annotated version by mainstream historian of the Third Reich.

The problem with suppressed literature is that it acquires a glamour simply by being forbidden. I doubt very many people in Britain have even heard of the Protocols, but they are published and read by Nazis, and briefly appeared on the shelves of one bookshop in the north of England during the conspiracy craze of the 1990s because they were cited by one of the UFO conspiracy theorists, Bill English, in his book, Behold a Pale Horse. In this situation, it is very good that apart from general books on Fascism and Nazism, there are works specifically dedicated to exposing and debunking this vile, murderous hoax.

Books on Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean Archaeology

December 30, 2017

A few months ago I got through the post the 2017 archaeology catalogue for Eurospan University Presses. Amongst some of the fascinating books listed were several on the archaeology of Black communities in America and the Caribbean. As you’ll see, they’re at prices well beyond what ordinary readers can afford. They’re really available only to the rich and academic libraries. If you’ve got access to one near you, then I recommend you try to borrow it from there. Some universities do lend to members of the public in the summer holidays when most of the students have gone home. It might also be possible to get it on interlibrary loan, although this can also mean a long wait and isn’t cheap either. The last time I enquired about it at Bristol, I was told the price was £5 per book. Which means that if you want to borrow more than one, it can become very expensive very quickly. Dam’ Tories and their cuts! I don’t know, but it may also be that some of these books may be available in PDF form over the Net at a cheaper rate. This isn’t mentioned in the catalogue, but it might be so. Alternatively, you could see if there are secondhand copies on Amazon. On the other hand, it might be worth waiting to see if a paperback edition comes out, which may be cheaper.

Here are the books I found interesting, and the blurbs for them in the catalogue.

Archaeologies of African American Life in the Upper Mid-Atlantic, edited by Michael J. Gall & Richard F. Veit
9780817319656 Hardback £74.50

Provides insights into the archaeology and cultural history of African-American life from a collection of sites in the northeastern US. This volume explores the archaeology of African-American life and cultures in the Upper Mid-Atlantic region, suing sites dating from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries.

University of Alabama Press.

Before the Pioneers: Indians, Settlers, Slaves and the Founding of Miami, Andre F. Krank, 9780813054513, hardback £18.50

Formed seemingly out of steel, glass, and concrete with millions of residents from around the globe, Miami has ancient roots that can be hard to imagine today. This work takes readers back through forgotten eras to the stories of the people who shaped the land along the Miami River long before most modern histories of the city begin.

University of Florida Press.

Honoring Ancestors in Sacred Space: The Archaeology of an Eighteenth Century African Bahamian Cemetery, Grace Turner, 9781683400202, hardback £79.50.

Throughout life, black Africans in the Bahamas possessed material items of various degrees of importance to them and within their culture. St. Matthews was a cemetery in Nassau at the water’s edge – or sometimes slightly below. This project emerged from archaeological excavations at this site to identify and recover materials associated with the interned before the area was completely redeveloped.

University Press of Florida.

The Rosewood Massacre: An archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence, Edward Gonzalez Tennant. 9780813056784, £84.95.

Investigates the 1923 massacre that devastated the predominantly African American community of Rosewood, Florida. The author draws on cutting edge GIS technology, census data, artefacts from excavations, and archaeological theory to explore the local circumstances and broader socio-political power structures that led to the massacre.

University Press of Florida.

Simplicity, Equality and Slavery: An Archaeology of Quakerism in the British Virgin Islands, 1740-1780, John M. Chenoweth, 9781683400110 hardback, £79.50.

Inspired by the Quaker ideals of simplicity, equality, and peace, a group of White planters formed a community in the British Virgin Islands during the eighteenth century. Here, the author examines how the community navigated the contradictions of Quakerism and plantation ownership.

University Press of Florida.

These books sound very interesting. There have been a lot of research into the homes and communities of Black Americans over the past couple of decades. They’ve been excavated in New York, and also the slave communities owned by the Founding Fathers, like Benjamin Franklin. In the case of excavating cemeteries, it’s obviously a particularly sensitive area, and the archaeologists involved have obviously had to be particularly careful in their negotiations of the host Black community and the surviving relatives of the deceased. As you should when excavating any human remains.

From what I gather from reading elsewhere, cemeteries and burial grounds are of particular importance in Afro-Caribbean culture, where it’s associated not only with personal heritage and family history and identity but also occupation of the land.

I remember correctly, the 1923 Rosewood massacre was White supremacist pogrom against the Black community in Rosewood, their politicians and their White supporters and allies. This was before McCarthyism, when the American Left was still very strong, and the Republican party the more left-wing of the two main political parties. The town’s mayor was Black, and the town council included Socialists. Even the Republicans issued a statement condemning the treatment of the poor, the corrupt corporate politics keeping them there, and declaring healthcare and education a right. Obviously the Conservatives and the Klan really couldn’t tolerate that, and stirred up resentment until it boiled over into organised violence.

As for the Quaker plantation in the British Virgin Islands, the Quakers very early denounced and condemned slavery as fundamentally opposed to their principles. John Fox, the sect’s founder, denounced and by their laws no member could own slaves. Nevertheless, the acceptance of slavery was so deeply ingrained in European society, that its rejection was not easy for many to accept. And although they were condemned from owning or dealing in slaves, some Quakers did make their cash through supplying the slave ships. If you want to know more about the Quakers, their ideals in this period, then I recommend you read David Dabydeen’s history of the Quakers in the 17th and 18th centuries, Sugar and Slaves.

David Pakman on Anti-Semitic and Racist Republican Candidate Escorted Offstage at Kentucky University

February 23, 2017

In my last post, I discussed the rise in racism in this country and America, as reported in Mike’s recent post about the fall in immigration and rise in hate crime following Brexit, and the anti-Semitic desecration of a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis. This incident has had a more positive sequel, in that a Muslim organisation has so far raised $71,000 to be spent on repairing the cemetery and other Jewish communities, that have suffered similar attacks.

Discussing the American attacks, Ben Mankiewicz and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks made the point that they were part of the wave of hate that has been unleashed by Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and campaigning. While Trump has a Jewish son-in-law, whom his daughter converted to Judaism to marry, and denies that he is anti-Semitic, his supporters include Steve Bannon of Breitbart, an anti-Semite and White supremacist, and Richard Spencer, the leader of the Alt-Right, which comprises anti-Semites, White Supremacists and other far-right bigots.

Unfortunately, there has been a racist strain in the Republican party for a very long time. Ever since, in fact, Richard Nixon devised the ‘Southern Strategy’ to keep hold of the South by playing on the racist fears of White voters after desegregation. One of the leading Republican politicos is David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. And I can remember how Joe Queenan on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Postcard from Gotham, greeted the electoral victory of Pat Buchanan in New Hampshire with the statement that the only thing you could now in that state were cries of ‘Duce! Duce!’ after Mussolini.

In this piece from 2014, David Pakman reports on a speech at Kentucky University’s ‘Constitution Day’, which resulted in the speaker being escorted off stage by university staff. This was Robert Edward Rensdell, a rising Republican candidate for the senate with appalling anti-Semitic and White separatist views. Rensdell had previously put placards up with his slogan ‘With Jews we lose’ all over Cincinnati. He has also called Blacks ‘savages’ and looked back to the racist past as a time when ‘Blacks knew better’ than to pick on White people, particularly women and children.

Instead of the speech on the American Constitution they were no doubt expecting, the university’s students got a racist rant.

Pakman himself also warns about treating Rensdell and his antics too lightly, as if he represented no more of a threat than a few tasteless comments. He talks about how he had on his programme Frasier Glen Miller another racist Republican senator ten years before. Miller was openly anti-Semitic on his show, insulting Pakman personally with remarks about his Jewish heritage. Miller has since been convicted of the murder of two Jewish people at different Jewish community centres. Pakman points out that the racism expressed and promoted by people like Rensdell and Miller has terrible real world consequences, and can very quickly turn to violence.

Muslims Come to the Aid of Vandalised Jewish Cemetery

February 23, 2017

The election of Donald Trump in America and the Brexit vote in Britain last year has led to a massive growth in racial bigotry and intolerance in both countries. Mike has put up on his blog today a critique of the government’s statement that migration to the UK has gone down. He points out that this is hardly surprising, given that hate crime has risen by 41 per cent. This includes assaults, arson attacks and canine excrement thrown at doors or shoved through letter boxes. He wonders if any of the Tory and UKIP politicos – David Cameron, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove are really worried about this. It is, after all, not them or their class that’s being attacked, but Johnny Foreigner. Mike reminds us that Jo Cox, a politician, was murdered in a racist attack by Thomas Mair, and notes that the Commons yesterday cheered a move to commemorate the anniversary of her murder with the Great Get-Together, an initiative intended to bring communities together.

But he also remarks that there’s a bit of hypocrisy in their support for it, saying that

It would be hypocritical for them to applaud a drop in net migration fuelled by the same hate that ended Mrs Cox’s life.

The fact that violence is the real reason net migration has fallen means this is not a success for the United Kingdom and Theresa May.

As a nation, we should be ashamed.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/23/of-course-immigration-fell-after-the-brexit-vote-hate-crime-has-increased-dramatically/

The Young Turks on Tuesday reported the anti-Semitic desecration of about 200 graves in a Jewish cemetery in University City near St. Louis. One elderly lady from the community states that she no longer feels safe after the attack. This is not the only Jewish community has been attacked. So far 54 Jewish community centres have been threatened this year, including 11 in the past week. Discussing the incident, the two presenters, Ben Mankiewicz and Ana Kasparian, make the point that this hate has partly been unleashed by Donald Trump and his rhetoric and campaigns against Muslims and other groups, with Kasparian mentioning the misogyny in his speeches. They make the point that it is no accident that Trump’s cabinet includes Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, an anti-Semite and White supremacist, and his supporters include Richard Spencer, the leader of the Alt-Right. Spencer was interviewed by the left-wing news host, David Pakman, on his show. While Spencer denies being a Nazi, he refused to denounce Adolf Hitler. He said instead that he wasn’t ‘going to play those games’. He did state that the Third Reich was a failure. Which is something, but not the same as condemning it or Nazism. They also note that in his speech for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump somehow forgot to mention the Jews. Despite his own denial that he is anti-Semitic, Trump was very reluctant to disavow the support of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Mankiewicz and Kasparian make the point that the people listening to Trump’s hate, and who feel emboldened and encouraged by it, aren’t going to limit their own hatred and attacks merely to the groups he’s selected. So even though Trump has denied that he is anti-Semitic, pointing out that his son-in-law is Jewish, and his daughter converted to Judaism to marry him, Trump’s own racist campaigning is responsible for encouraging these attacks on Jewish communities.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has drawn fire for her father’s opponents, as she has tweeted a statement condemning the attack, which points out, quite rightly, that America was founded on religious toleration, and that we need to defend each others houses of worship.

There have also been an attempt by one right-wing journalist to blame the Left for the attack. Wolf Blitzer claimed that the cemetery was desecrated by Progressives. This seems to me to be complete and utter bilge. The Left, by and large, is very anti-racist. This accusation just seems to me to come from that part of the Republican and Libertarian ideologies that think that the Nazis were Socialists, ’cause Hitler put ‘Socialism’ in their name. He did, but only to draw some supporters away from the parties of the Left, such as the Social Democrats, the German equivalent of the Labour party, by making it appear that they were socialists. See the appropriate page in Joachim C. Fest’s biography of the nauseating little man, Hitler. And Hitler had to overcome the resistance of the other, founding members of the Nazi party, who bitterly despised Socialism and very definitely did not want their party to be associated with it. It also seems to me that the smear also owes something to continuing attempts to attack the BDS campaign against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This is an anti-racist campaign, supported by very many Jews as well as gentiles. But the Zionist lobby have always responded to criticism of Israeli imperialism and racism by smearing their opponents as anti-Semites. Many progressives as doubtless involved in the BDS movement as part of their general campaign against all forms of racism. But for the Israel lobby and their journalistic supporters, the progressives involved in the BDS campaign and similar movements must be anti-Semites. And from their it’s only a short leap to claiming that Progressives must somehow be responsible for this and similar attacks.

More positively, a Muslim organisation has come forward and raised money for the cemetery’s repair. Linda Sarsour, a Muslim activist, and one of the four principal organisers of the Women’s March on Washington, set up a website to raise the money. She wanted to get $20,000. Instead she raised $71,000. This is more than is needed for the cemetery in St. Louis, so the money will also be used to help other Jewish communities that have suffered attacks. The website states that it was set up to send a clear message from the Muslim and Jewish communities against such intolerance.

The programme’s hosts, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian state that this shows the best of America, and that people are coming together to defend other victims of intolerance, whether it is over skin colour or religion. Kasparian states that she feels that there isn’t enough coverage of movements and events like this, as quite often the focus is dominated by the negative things now happening. But this makes her feel more positive and hopeful.

I don’t think this is the only incident in which the members of one religion have reached out to aid those from others, which are in need. There have been cases like it in this country, one of the most recent examples being the decision of some Asian restaurants and takeaways in Britain to stay open on Christmas Day to supply meals for the homeless. The Get-Together campaign cheered in the Commons yesterday is only the latest and most prominent of these events and movements. And there will undoubtedly be more of them, as more people come together to tackle the intolerance and Fascism unleashed by Trump and Brexit.

Commemorating Christian Martyrdom: The Armenian Genocide

April 24, 2015

Armenian Gospels

Armenian Gospel Book from the Monastery of Gladjor, c. 1321

Today is the centenary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. This was a series of massacres carried out by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian people. The Armenians had risen up, like the other, majority Christians subject nations in the Balkans across the Black Sea to gain their freedom from the decaying Turkish empire. To counter this, the last Turkish sultan, Talat Pasha issued a firman ordering that the Armenians should be rounded up and slaughtered. 1.5 million Armenians, men, women and children were butchered.

The Pope caused controversy earlier this week when he marked the massacres, calling it the first genocide of the 20th century. I’m not sure if this is quite true, as I think about ten years or so previously the German colonial authorities in East Africa had also organised a genocide of the indigenous Herrero people. The occasion has a wider, European significance than just its attempt to exterminate the Armenians. Hitler noted the way the other European powers remained silent and did not act to stop it. This convinced him that they also wouldn’t act to save the Jews when the Nazi state began to persecute and murder them in turn. As he said ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’

Denial of Genocide by Turkish Authorities

Unfortunately, the genocide is still controversial. Robert Fisk in his article in Monday’s Independent discussed the Turkish government’s refusal to recognise the massacres as a genocide. Pope Francis’ comments sparked outrage amongst the Turkish authorities, and the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned to meet the prime minister. Fisk himself recalled the abuse he had received from Turks outraged by his discussion of the genocide. He stated he began receiving mail about the issue when he personally dug the bones of some of the Armenians out of the sands of the Syrian desert in 1992. He stated that some of the letters were supportive. Most were, in his words, ‘little short of pernicious’.

In Turkey any discussion or depiction of the Armenian genocide as genocide was brutally suppressed. A few years ago, the Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was killed for writing about them. Liberal Turks, who wish their nation face up to this dark episode of their history, have been imprisoned. The great Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk, was sent to jail a few years ago. His writing on the genocide was judged to be ‘insulting to Turkish nationhood’, a criminal offence.

Fatih Arkin, Turkish Director, on Movie about Genocide

Dink’s assassination has, however, acted to promote a greater discussion and awareness of the genocide, and a large number of both Armenians and Turks are now pressing for the Turkish government to recognise it as such. Indeed, the Turkish-German film director, Fatih Arkin, made a film about the genocide, The Cut which premiered in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, in January.

In the interview below, Mr Arkin talks about he was moved to make the film following Dink’s assassination, and the number of Turks, who also join with the Armenians in demanding their government officially recognise the atrocity. Among those is the grandson of one of the leading perpetrators. What is interesting is that the film received a wide release in Turkey with no opposition or move to ban it.

Fisk on Turks Who Saved Armenians

This seems to show a new openness amongst the Turkish people as a whole about the genocide. And Fisk in his article notes that there many courageous and humane Turks, who refused to comply with Sultan’s orders, and saved Armenians. He stated in his article that these included at least one provincial governor, as well as lesser Turkish soldiers and policemen. Fisk felt that the Armenians should compile a list of these heroes, not least because it would make it harder for politicians like Erdogan, the country’s prime minister, not to sign a book of condolences, which included their names.

And these men were courageous: they risked their lives to save others from the carnage. There is absolutely no reason why they should not also be commemorated. In Judaism, I understand that righteous gentiles, who save Jews from persecution, are commemorated and believed to have a part in the olam ha-ba, the world to come. There is a section of the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, which displays the names of such righteous gentiles, who saved Jews during the Third Reich.

Syriac Evangelistary

The Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda, from a Syriac Evangelistary

Massacre of Syriac Christians as Part of Wider Pattern of Massacres

The massacre of the Empire’s Christian minorities was not confined to the Armenians, although they are the best known victims. Other Christian peoples, including the Syriac-speaking churches in what is now Iraq and Syria, were also attacked and massacred, in what has become known as ‘the Day of the Sword’. The massacres also spread into Iran, where the Christian communities there also suffered massacres. They too deserve commemoration.

Peaceful Relations between Christians and Muslims Normal in Ottoman Empire

Historians of the Turkish Empire have pointed out that the Armenian genocide, and similar massacres committed by the Ottoman forces in the Balkans during the nationalist wars of the 19th century, were largely the exception. For most of the time Christian and Muslim lived peacefully side by side. Quite often Muslims and Christians shared the same cemeteries. And in one part of Bosnia, at least, the local Roman Catholic church stood bang right next to the local mosque. There were even a small group of worshippers, who seem not to have differentiated between Christianity and Islam.

There’s a story that one orthodox priest, while officiating mass at his church, noticed a group of people at the back wearing Muslim dress. He went and asked them why they were attending a Christian church, if they were Muslims. The people replied that they didn’t really make much difference between the two faiths. On Friday, they prayed at the mosque, and on Sunday they went to church.

Historical Bias and Nationalist Violence by Christians in 19th century Balkans

Historians of the Balkans have also pointed out the dangers of religious bias when discussing the various nationalist wars in the 19th century. In the 1870s the Ottoman Turks committed a series of atrocities suppressing a nationalist uprising in Bulgaria. This outraged public opinion in England, and provoked the Liberal prime minister, Gladstone, to demand that the Turks be ‘thrown out of Europe, bag and baggage’. Other British and American observers noted that atrocities were hardly one sided. Christians also committed them, but these were ignored by the West. One author of a book on the Balkans I read back in the 1990s argued that the various atrocities committed in this period were caused not so much by religious differences, but from nationalism, and so were no different from other atrocities committed by other countries across the world, and in western Europe today as part of ethnic and nationalist conflicts, such as Northern Ireland.

British Empire and Atrocities in Kenya

Other decaying empires have also committed horrific atrocities, and attempted to cover them up. It was only after a very long legal campaign, for example, that the British government admitted the existence and complicity in the regimes of mass murder, torture, mutilation and internment in Kenya to suppress the Mao Mao rebellion. See the book, Africa’s Secret Gulags, for a complete history of this.

ISIS and the Massacre of Christians

The commemoration of the genocide of the Armenians, and by extension the other Christian subject peoples of the Ottoman and Persian Empires at the time, has become pressing relevant because the persecution today of Christians in the region by the resurgent Islamist movements, like ISIS, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Yet these groups differ in their attitude to the massacre of non-Muslim civilians from that of the Turkish government. The official Turkish attitude has been silence and an attempt to suppress or rebut the genocide’s existence. This points to an attitude of shame towards them. ISIS, which last Monday murdered 30 Ethiopian Coptic Christians, shows absolutely no shame whatsoever. Far from it: they actually boast about their murder and enslavement of innocent civilians.

Conversion of Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians by Force, and Murder of Civilians Contrary to Muslim Law

I was taught at College that their actions contravene sharia law. Islamic law also has a set of regulations for the conduct of warfare, which rule out the conversion of the ‘Peoples of the Book’ – Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians – by force. Nor may women, children and non-combatants be harmed. And this has been invoked by the ulema in the past to protect Christian and other minorities in the Ottoman Empire. In the 17th century one of the Turkish sultans decided he was going to use military force to make the Christians in the Balkans convert to Islam. He sought approval for his course of action from the majlis, the governing assembly of leading Muslim clerics, who issued legal opinions on questions of Muslim law and practice. They refused, on the grounds that it was un-Islamic. The sultan backed down, and his planned campaigns against his Christian subjects were abandoned.

ISIS Also Butcher Muslims and Yezidis

Nor do ISIS, and similar Islamist movements limit themselves to attacking Christians. We’ve also seen them butcher and enslave the Yezidis, as well as other Muslims, simply for being the ‘wrong’ type of Muslim. For ISIS, they, and only they, represent true Islam. The rest are part of the ‘juhailiyya’, the world of darkness and ignorance, who must be fought and conquered.

Need to Commemorate All Victims of Atrocities

The Armenian genocide and its victims should rightly be remembered, as should so many other holocausts since then. Not only is this owed to the victims and history itself, but also to stop similar massacres occurring. And we need to remember that the capacity for such evil is not confined to particular nations, but can be found throughout history and humanity.