Posts Tagged ‘Colonialism’

Boris Johnson Declared Islamophobia ‘Natural Reaction’ to Islam

November 28, 2019

Mike also put up another excellent piece, pointing out that while the Tories are misdirecting people to look for massively over-exaggerated anti-Semitism in the Labour party, they have been actively promoting hatred against Muslims. According to the magazine Business Insider, in 2005 our comedy prime minister wrote in the Spectator that

To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers.

This was in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings, and Johnson questioned the loyalty of British Muslims and said that the country must realise that ‘Islam is the problem’.

Mike concludes ‘He’s not my prime minister. He is racist filth.’

Boris Johnson believes Islamophobia is a ‘natural reaction’ to Muslims. Let’s vote this racist OUT

No argument there from me, especially after Mates Jacobs has released a dossier of rabidly islamophobic, racist and anti-Semitic comments from the supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and our buffoonish Prime Minister. Not after Sayeeda Warsi has repeatedly demanding investigations into islamophobia in her party, and been condescendingly told that there’s little to worry about. Not when an inquiry into it has been pushed back after the General Election – presumably so that it won’t embarrass Johnson when it uncovers massive prejudice and hatred.

Now let’s put Johnson’s comments into their context. Many Brits understandably were worried about the possible danger from Islam after the 7/7 bombings on the London Underground and on buses. This was also a period when alienated Muslim youths marched through the street waving placards against the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, proclaiming that Islam would dominate the West and promising more violence and terrorism. But it is a mistake to claim that this alienation and rage represents true Islam, or comes from the pages of the Qu’ran.

In fact Islamism is the product of a distinct set of social and political circumstances. This includes the economic and political stagnation of Islamic societies, rising poverty and the bewilderment and dislocation felt by many Muslims to rapid modernisation. Some of the problems are due to the adoption of neoliberal economic programmes by secular Arab and Middle Eastern states, like Algeria, which have massively increased poverty. Some of it is a reaction to western colonialism and cultural and economic hegemony. And some of it is a response to real oppression by non-Muslim states around the world. Like there is massive discrimination and organised violence against Muslims, as well as Sikhs and Christians, by Hindu ultra-nationalists in India.

I studied Islam as part of my religious studies minor degree at College. Yes, Islam has expanded through violence and conquest, just as Christianity has. But it has also spread through peaceful contact and conversion. And the problems Islam is experiencing as it modernises aren’t unique to it. Christianity and the West experienced the same process in the 19th and 20th centuries. There were reactionaries in the Anglican Church in the 19th century, who were frightened of the extension of the franchise and political rights to Protestant Dissenters, Roman Catholics, and other religions. In the middle of the century the Papacy placed on its index of forbidden doctrines the idea that Roman Catholic countries should allow freedom of religion and conscience to non-Catholics. But now the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches as a whole very definitely are not anti-democratic, despite the attempts of General Franco and Roman Catholic clerico-Fascists during the Second World War. And aggressively atheist states like the Soviet Union have their own bloody history of intolerance. Religion was viciously persecuted in the USSR, and millions of people of faith, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or shamanist, were killed or imprisoned in the gulags for simply holding their beliefs. Nathan Johnson, surveying the vicious intolerance across secular, atheist as well as religious societies in his books on the mythology of New Atheism, has suggested that such intolerance may be part of human nature, rather than just unique to religion or a specific religion.

Islam also has a tolerant side. Christianity survived in the Balkans after the Turkish conquest because, when the Ottoman emperor wanted to force the Christian peoples to convert to Islam, the majlis, the assembly of Muslims scholars and jurists, told him it was specifically forbidden, for example. And even after the conquest, there were many areas in which Christian and Muslim lived side by side in peace. When Mike visited Bosnia after the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, he saw areas where churches and mosques had been built next to each other. Not the mark of an intolerant society, at least, not at that time.

Boris Johnson is, as Mike and so many others have repeatedly pointed out, a vicious racist. This is in sharp contrast to the Labour leader, who is a determined opponent of all forms of racism. Don’t believe him when he smears Labour as anti-Semitic.

And don’t let him get away with smearing Muslims. This is what the Tories are doing and have always done: manufacture hate against an out-group in order to gain power. They are doing it against the poor. They are doing it to the unemployed, to the disabled, to anybody, even working people, who claim benefits. And in the early part of the 20th century they did it to Jews. Now they’re doing it to Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims.

A better world is possible. Reject the Tories and their prejudice and bigory, and vote for Corbyn and his anti-racism instead.

 

 

Labour Planning New Anti-Racist Legislation, Aim to Make Equalities Commission Independent of Government

November 26, 2019

Here’s another piece of news from today’s I, for 26th November 2019, which may have some bearing on Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ latest smear against Jeremy Corbyn. According to the paper, Labour plan to introduce a raft of legislation to tackle racism, including monitoring the wage gap in ethnic minorities. But what seems to have alarmed the Tories and their supporters, John Woodcock and Ian Austin, is that they have raised questions about the political independence of the Equalities of Human Rights Commission, and plan to make it truly independent of government appointment. The article by Jane Merrick, runs

Labour has provoked controversy by questioning the independence of the equality and race relations organisation which is investigating the party over anti-Semitism.

Jeremy Corbyn will launch Labour’s Race and Faith Manifesto alongside Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler today with policies to tackle discrimination and under-representation of black and ethnic minorities in government, the workplace and schools. But the manifesto contains a move to make the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the body conducting an inquiry into Labour, “truly independent”. This reform would “ensure it can support people to effectively challenge any discrimination they may face”, the party said.

A Labour government would also change the national curriculum so that colonialism, slavery and the role of the British empire were taught in schools.

Pay gap reporting,currently limited to gender, would be extended to black and ethnic minority workers in businesses of 250 employees or more, while a race equality unit would be set up in the Treasury to review spending announcements for their impact on these communities.

But the measure to reform the EHRC proved controversial last night. The body started an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour earlier this year. The organisation’s commissioners are all experts in equality and the law and are appointed by the government.

The former Labour MP John Woodcock said: “The decent people in Labour need to disown this appalling attempt to smear the EHRC or accept that they are complicit in it.”

The former MP Ian Austin, who left the Labour party over anti-Semitism, said: “No one is going to listen to a lecture about racism from Jeremy Corbyn when Labour is the only part in history to be subjected to a full inquiry by the EHRC.”

Ms Butler, shadow Equalities Secretary, said: “Labour’s Race and Faith Manifesto takes us beyond what we’ve previously committed in hos we’ll radically shift policies to ensure the economic, social or structural barriers faced are addressed. It’s time for real change.”

Labour would also end what it calls “rip-off” charges for passports, visas and other tests from the Home Office.

Both Woodcock and Austin are Blairites, and the real reason for their departure from the party probably has less to do with anti-Semitism and more from their determination to unseat Corbyn and carry on with Blair’s Thatcherite campaign of privatision, including that of the NHS, and the destruction of the welfare state for corporate profit.

As for the independence of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, we’ve seen how the allegations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and his supporters personally, and the Labour party generally are very much politically motivated. Especially as Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who spewed more smears in the Times today, is a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu and Boris Johnson. Which, like the rest of the  Tory press, has had nothing to say about the islamophobe Tommy Robinson urging everyone to vote Tory. Strange that.

Frankly, I don’t believe the EHRC can be trusted in the hands of a Tory government. They will abuse it to smear their enemies. Considering how serious the issue of racism is, it is quite right that it should be independent.

Sad Ultra-Zionist Actress Claims to Have Left Labour Party Again

November 25, 2019

The election’s on, the Tories are clearly scared of Corbyn, as they’re lying and publishing fake news, and almost inevitably, they’re trying to revive the old anti-Semitism smears. According to Zelo Street, the Scum’s deputy political editor, Matt Dathan, published a piece claiming that ‘life-long Labour supporter’ Maureen Lipman has left the Labour party. Apparently she’s recorded a mock version of her adverts for BT, in which she attacks the Labour leader’s economic plans and accuses him of having an ‘ology’ in extremism. This isn’t news. Lipman left the Labour party way back in 2014 when its leader was Ed Miliband. Who was Jewish. She was furious at his backing for a symbolic vote in the Commons recognising Palestine as a state.

Tom London, who is Jewish, tweeted back a reply to Dathan putting him right:

I remember Maureen Lipman very publicly protesting and leaving the Labour Party when it was led by (the Jewish) Ed Miliband, in protest over his policy on Israel/Palestine. This policy reflected Miliband’s absolutely proper concern for Palestinian human rights”.

Socialist Voice also reminded people how she had left the Labour party back then under Miliband, who was also himself the victim of anti-Semitic attacks in the Tory press.

And the tweeter Darius Faruz also pointed Lipman’s double standards in her attacks on Labour, while she was silent about the greater amount of racism rampant in the Tories:

Maureen Lipman stays SILENT on the greater levels of antisemitism in the Tory party? Silent on the Conservative party of #Windrush, dog whistle racism … Silent on Johnson’s Islamophobia – letterbox / bank robbers, watermelon smiles, picaninnies”.

But she had the support of Mike Gapes, Michael Gove, the mainstream media and the Scum. Almost like the latter three were all connected, as another tweeter pointedly observed.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/maureen-lipman-leaves-labour-again.html

There was a time when I liked and admired Maureen Lipman. She’s an extremely talented comic actor, and I’ve enjoyed her performances about another great British actor and comedian, Joyce Grenfell. But here she shows real moral squalor. She left the Labour party when Miliband moved slightly further left than the old Blair and Brown regime. Which means she’s quite happy seeing Britain’s public services delivering poor service in order to boost the profits of the private companies that own them. She’s quite happy to see the NHS, schools and colleges privatised, with students lumbered with crippling debt. With increasing numbers becoming homeless and house prices at unaffordable levels to create a ‘generation rent’. With wages so low the majority of people using food banks are actually in work. And a brutal sanctions regime that has seen tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people thrown into despair and poverty, because they’ve been declared ‘fit for work’ when they are anything but, or the Jobcentre decided they were going to cut of their jobseeker’s allowance on some flimsy excuse.

She’s ignored the way Corbyn has stood up for Britain’s Jewish community, and has enjoyed the support of many of its members. Like Jewdas, Jewish Voice for Labour, the Jewish Socialist Group and the Haredi community. No, he – and Ed Miliband before him – are terrible anti-Semites because they recognise the Palestinian people’s right to their own state. Or want to end the decades-long system of apartheid, land seizures and aggressive expropriation and colonisation in Israel itself. An apartheid which viewed the mizrahim – the indigenous Jews of the region – scarcely human.

She’s just another shabby ultra-Zionist, no different than the other fanatics and smear merchants. Zelo Street concluded their article about this sorry episode with

‘Maureen Lipman slagging off Labour is old news. And tediously predictable with it.’

Absolutely. And with her absolute lack of any genuine concern for Britain’s working people, and skewed hypocritical attitude on racism, I doubt many people miss her in the party either.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/maureen-lipman-leaves-labour-again.html

Mates Jacob Publishes His Dossier of Tory Islamophobia

November 22, 2019

Last Friday, Zelo Street put up a very informative piece about Mates Jacob’s decision to publish his dossier about the rampant islamophobia in the Tory party. Mates Jacob is the internet personality, who published details of the racism, anti-Semitism and islamophobia he found on Twitter and other internet groups for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. And it was a very nasty, seething mass of bigotry and hate he uncovered. They demanded the usual stop to immigration before moving on to deportation and even assault and murder against Blacks and Asians, and particularly against Muslim politicians like Sadiq Khan.

Zelo Street reports that Mates Jacob had refrained from publishing his dossier on islamophobia in the wider Tory party in the hope that chairman James Cleverly would do something about it. Well, Cleverly and they had their chance, and they blew it. This is going to be another inquiry the Tories will hold after the election. So Mates Jacob has published it. And Zelo Street has in its turn blogged about a selection of Tory politicos in the dossier, and their vile views. They are:

Councillor Roger Taylor of Calderdale council,

Councillor Beverley Dunlop of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council,

Councillor Christopher Newbury of Wiltshire council,

Councillor Danny Scott of Blackpool council,

Councillor Vera Walters of Walsall council,

Councillor Duane Farr of Bournemouth Council,

Councillor Alistair Redman of Argyle and Brute council,

Councillor Malcolm Griffiths of Redcar and Cleve Council,

Councillor Paul Marks of Kettering council,

Councillor Nick Colbert of South Somerset council.

They have been caught expressing such delightful opinions, like wondering why the anti-racist journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is still in Britain, demanding an inquiry into Muslim rape gangs targeting White girls; worrying about Marseilles becoming Europe’s first Muslim majority city, describing Muslims as ‘barbarians’ and wondering why anyone has a problem with PEGIDA; stating that Muslims have been terrorising and seeking to dominate everyone who isn’t of their faith for over a thousand years through imperialist, colonialist wars; demanding a halt to immigration from Africa and describing famine as a natural method of depopulation; admiring the way the BNP doesn’t shy away from tackling issues others wouldn’t due to political correctness;  promoting a video from Paul Joseph Watson entitled ‘The Islamic State of Sweden’; describing the Afghan boy who attacked and injured four people on a train in Germany as ‘chopping them up’ and remarking sarcastically that it must have something to do with Brexit; and claiming that voter fraud was massive, when it’s so small it’s insignificant, and that it’s all down to women in hijabs handing over ballot papers to imams.

Now it’s true that Islam has expanded through imperialist wars, as has Christianity. But this is only part of the religion’s history, just as it is only part of Christianity’s.  And it doesn’t reflect the attitudes of all Muslims, many of whom are the victims of horrendous persecution, like the Rohingya in Burma and the Uyghurs in China.

The sage of Crewe concludes his piece by pointing out that these are only ten of many more in the Tory party, who hold similar views, and that Cleverly hasn’t done anything about them. He states

‘There is only one major political party that is institutionally racist. And it is the Conservative Party.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tory-islamophobia-laid-bare.html

Well, there’s also the Brexit party and the remnants of what used to be UKIP, but it’s a fair point. The Tories have no business smearing Corbyn and Labour as anti-Semites, when there is so much more hatred and bigotry in their ranks. And they aren’t going to do anything about it, because as we’ve seen from the Hostile Environment policy and the Windrush deportations, and indeed from the contents of papers like the Mail and Depress, they use racism to promote themselves.

 

Ha Ha! Careless Riley Retweets Anti-Zionist Church Minister Who Heckled Corbyn

November 17, 2019

Oh ho! It appears Riley’s all-consuming hatred of the Labour leader is making her careless. Either that, or she’s stupid or hypocritical. Or both. On Thursday Mike put up a piece about a Church of Scotland minister, Reverend Richard Cameron, who heckled Jeremy Corbyn during his visit to Glasgow. The Rev. Cameron asked Corbyn if he thought that ‘the man, who’s going to be prime minister of this country should be a terrorist sympathiser?’ Yes, we’re back to the old Tory canard that Corbyn must be a terrorist sympathiser, because he wanted Britain to hold peace talks with Sinn Fein and the IRA, and wants a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem. And that means talking to Hamas. It does not, however, mean that Corbyn supports either of those organisations. This subject has been dealt with extensively before, and shown to be false. Those involved in the Northern Irish peace talks on both sides, both Nationalist and Loyalist, have said that Corbyn was fair and not partisan. And the same has been said of his commitment to a just peace for the Palestinians in Israel. for this to happen, Israel has to hold talks with Hamas. Negotiating a peaceful settlement to anything means that you have to talk to the other side. You don’t succeed by only talking to your friends. But that simple strategy is lost on the Tories and Ultra-Zionists, who want to paint him as a friend of terrorists and murderers.

Duncan Dunlop, the CEO of Who Cares? Scotland was angered by Rev. Cameron’s question about Corbyn wearing a ‘jihadi’ scarf. In fact, it was one of the organisation’s own scarves and very definitely tartan, rather than the colours of Daesh or whoever. Corbyn was in the middle of explaining how significant the organisation and its Care Experienced people were when  Cameron interrupted.

And Rev. Cameron’s heckling has caused people to look at the minister’s own tweets, and what they found was, in the world of the Ferengi, ‘ugly. Vereeee ugleeee’. It seems that Rev. Cameron has bigoted views regarding Muslims and gays. Mike has put up a couple of these tweets, in which Cameron tells a Muslim that his religion has a problem with terrorism, and that gays ‘celebrate perversion’. And he’s also extremely anti-Zionist. For example, he tweeted a comment about Zionists stealing Arab babies to build the state of Israel. Zelo Street also reproduced a few more of his comments about Zionists. They include remarks that the ‘anti-Semitic card is overplayed these days’, accused one of his critics as spouting ‘Zionist propaganda’ and declared that he thought that Zionists had a lower IQ than normal people, and even sheep. And when asked by someone if it was possible to be a Jew and an atheist, he replied that it was perhaps possible if you were a Zionist. They don’t believe in God’s justice, according to the Minister, ‘but like the real estate deal’. He also talked about “Zionists going off at the deep end because Pope Francis uttered these 4 troubling words: ‘The State of Palestine.’

This has led to Cameron being accused of anti-Semitism, but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. He wasn’t sneering at Jews in the above comments, or at least, not Jews as simply Jews. Nor does he sneer at Israelis, although he is certainly no fan of the Israeli state. He attacks Zionists. Zionism isn’t a race or ethnic group – it’s a political ideology. And as Tony Greenstein and David Rosenberg have shown on their blogs, along with many other Jewish bloggers critical of Israel, Zionism was very much the minority position of most European Jews before the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. And some of Cameron’s comments are based on fact. Tony Greenstein posted up a piece a little while ago about how the early Israeli state stole babies from the indigenous Arab Jews of Palestine to give to rich Ashkenazi European immigrants because of their racist views of them. The Mizrahim were considered to be racially inferior to European Jews, and leading Israeli nationalists even called them ‘human dust’. But Cameron’s bitter remarks about Zionism are a problem for Riley and her bestie Tracy Ann Oberman, because they’re the kind of sentiments that have got people expelled from the Labour Party. Cameron’s comment about the anti-Semitism card being overplayed is the same criticism that got Labour MP Chris Williamson expelled. He complained that Labour had given in too much to accusations of anti-Semitism. The Ultra-Zionists hate and fear Corbyn not because he’s genuinely anti-Semitic – he isn’t – but because he wants a just peace with the Palestinians. That would mean abandoning Israeli expansionism into Palestinian territory and the dismantlement of the system of apartheid. It’s this which they decry as ‘anti-Semitism’, not hatred of Jews or even Israelis simply for being Jewish.

All of which puts a different complexion on Riley’s attacks on Corbyn and her support for the minister. Zelo Street comments

‘Do Rachel Riley and Tracy Ann Oberman support all of that? Probably not. The problem is that neither of them was looking before either Tweeting or endorsing. And the result of this lapse is that both end up looking even less credible than they did previously.

Rachel Riley’s Jezza bashing campaign is imploding. No outside assistance is necessary.’

And Mike concludes his piece with

When people with such obvious prejudices attack a politician like Mr Corbyn, they make it clear that it is their opinions that are at fault – not his.

Mr Corbyn walked away, showing he wants nothing to do with people like this.

I’m with him – wouldn’t you be?

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/14/jeremy-corbyn-could-do-with-more-hecklers-like-this-they-make-his-case-for-him/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/rachel-riley-endorses-anti-semite.html

Rev. Cameron’s bigoted views should be an embarrassment to those who see him as some kind of Conservative hero, and particularly to Riley and Oberman. If they support him, it shows that they are either careless or hypocritical. And Corbyn was entirely right to walk away from him. It wasn’t an active of cowardice, but simple pragmatism. Such bigots can’t be reasoned with, and there’s absolutely no point arguing with them.

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

November 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Private Eye Cheers Defunding Campaign Against the Canary

October 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Defunding of Arab Satirists Al-Hudood

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

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

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

Israel Graffiti Demanding the Genocide of the Palestinians

September 27, 2019

A few days ago I put up a piece reporting and commenting on the attempt by right-wing Zionist thugs to shut down a book launch in Brighton. The book in question was Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief, by a group of respectable, mainstream academics, Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller. Greg Philo is Professor of Communications and Social Change at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Glasgow University Media Unit. Mike Berry is a lecturer in the Journalism School at Cardiff University. Justin Schlosberg is a media activist, researcher and lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and Edmund J Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University. Antony Lerman is Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University. He has written on multiculturalism, racism, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine for the Guardian, Independent, New York Times, Haaretz, Prospect, Jewish Chronicle and London Review of Books. And David Miller is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a founder director of Public Interest Investigations and a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies.

What sent the Israel lobby berserk was that the book critically examines, and takes apart their claims that under Jeremy Corbyn the Labour party is institutionally racist and a threat to British Jews, showing that the party has been the subject of ‘shocking misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.’ The launch was due to be held at the Brighton branch of Waterstones, but they pulled out and cancelled the even following threats and intimidation made against their staff. The launch was then moved to the Rialto, also in Brighton, where it opened an hour later at 8.30. One members of Waterstone’s staff was so troubled by the threats they faced that they were unable to return to work.

What is particularly disturbing, though unsurprising, is that this display of very aggressive bullying was not only supported by the usual horde of bigots and trolls online, but also the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Sussex Jewish Representatives Council.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/24/bullying-bigots-tried-to-stop-book-launch-when-will-they-be-arrested/

In fact, as Tony Greenstein has repeatedly described in his blogs, the pro-Israel right have used abuse, threats and intimidation to try and close down any criticism of Israel for a very long time. And 11 years ago Peter Oborne, a journalist who formerly wrote for the Torygraph, presented a documentary on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches. The programme described how respectable journalists, such as Alan Rusbridger, the-then editor of the Groaniad, and the BBC’s foreign correspondent, Jeremy Bowen, had all faced false and malicious accusations of anti-Semitism by the Israel lobby when they correctly reported atrocities by Israeli forces during the war in Lebanon. Rusbridger stated that when he printed accounts of massacres and other human rights abuses by the Israelis or their Lebanese Christian allies, the Phalange, the head of the Board of Deputies would visit his office, complete with his pet lawyer in tow, demanding that these stories be pulled. His argument was that they would lead to anti-Semitism and attacks on British Jews.

On the 28th January 2009, that indefatiguable opponent of all forms of racism, including Anti-Semitism and Zionism, Tony Greenstein, published a piece on his blog. Tony was attacking the clause in the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism, which forbids comparing Jews to Nazis. Tony stated, as he has done many times since, that it is hypocritical, as Israeli politicians frequently call each other Nazis. He also supported his argument with photographs of Israeli graffiti which was bitterly hostile to Arabs to the point of demanding their death and extermination.

 

This is ugly, horrific stuff, and the people that scrawled these messages of hate are Nazis. There is no other way to describe them. These pictures also show why an increasing number of Jewish young people over in America no longer want to have anything to do with Israel. American Jews are banding together in groups to attack Israel and its genocidal policies towards the indigenous Palestinians. Take up of places on the heritage tours Israel runs to encourage American Jews to visit Israel and identify with it have fallen by half. American Jews tend to be politically liberal, and have traditionally been determined to enjoy the comfortable lives they have in the Land of the Free as American citizens, than move to Israel. As a result, mass support for Israel in America has shifted from Jews to right-wing evangelical Christians, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel.

In Israel there are also a number of courageous people and organisations challenging the government and its gross intolerance and inhumanity. These include the human rights organisation B’Tselem and the veterans organisation, Breaking the Silence. But Netanyahu is doing his best to silence them, and indeed anyone who photographs a human rights abuse by the country’s armed forces. And in Britain, America and Israel Jewish opponents of Israeli apartheid and genocide are particularly abused and smeared as anti-Semites. Decent men and women like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni, Cyril Chilson and so many others. They are accused of being self-hating and ‘traitors’ – even though the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism states that it is anti-Semitic to accuse a Jew of being more loyal to a foreign country than his homeland. They receive vile threats and even assault. Tony was physically attacked by an American Jew. Jackie has been told she should be lynched, burnt and her body dumped in bin bags.

But despite the statement by the Israel lobby that comparisons with the Nazis are offensive, Israeli policy towards the Arabs not only resembles that of apartheid South Africa, but also Fascist Italy in its attempts to colonise Africa and the Nazi invasion of Poland and eastern Europe. The Nazis attempted the ethnic cleansing of a stretch of territory stretching across Poland into the Ukraine and beyond of their Slavic population in order to transform it into a German colony. Tony has also repeatedly compared Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews pre-1942, before the implementation of the ‘Final Solution’.

But these pieces of graffiti show that there is a section of Israeli society – the Fascists and Settlers supporting Netanyahu and his wretched coalition – who would like to see a real programme of organised genocide implemented similar to the Nazi death camps, but for Arabs.

And this raises a very, very disturbing question. If Netanyahu or someone worse did start organising the systematic massacre of Palestinians, would the Board of Deputies, Sussex Jewish Representatives Council and other Zionist organisations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, cover it up and silence those who did tried to report it, just as the Nazis tried to hide the horrors of Auschwitz and the rest of the Shoah?

The Jewish Establishment’s Extension of Control over 19th Century Eastern European Jewish Immigrants

September 26, 2019

There’s a very interesting section in Andrina Stile’s Religion, Society and Reform 1800-1914 (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1995) discussing the challenge the Sephardic Jewish establishment faced in the 19th century from the influx of Ashkenazi Jews fleeing persecution in eastern Europe. The British Jewish community was assimilated, and shocked by the poverty and lack of education of the new immigrants. They therefore tried to assist them and help them to integrate into British society. However, while this assistance was well-intentioned, they were also afraid of the immigrants’ political radicalism. Many of them were Socialists, and they challenged the Jewish religious establishment by setting up independent charities and prayer groups, the chevroth, that acted as alternatives to the established synagogues and centres of Jewish culture and learning. As a result, the Chief Rabbis began a campaign to centralise their power and authority, leading to the establishment of the United Synagogue.

Stiles’ writes

This great influx of immigrants completely destabilised Anglo-Jewry for a while, socially, economically and religiously. The majority of the newcomers were poor and uneducated, used to a life of violence and prone to riot. A campaign of education and training was begun by the Jewish elite, not in an attempt to keep down a potentially dangerous proletariat and maintain the social status quo, but to turn the newcomers into respectable citizens, wean them away from socialist politics and integrate them into existing society. Schools, hospitals and charitable institutions of all kinds were established and adult education was vigorously pursued in the hope of instilling bourgeois values; but the immigrant populations in London, Leeds and Manchester remained stubbornly unwilling to co-operate. Not only was the Hebrew Socialist Union formed in 1875 with the aim of organising workers in the East End of London, but there was also a sudden and spontaneous growth of religious confraternities, chevra. These chevra provided spiritual, social and material comfort for those in need. Groups of ‘poor foreigners’ who could not afford to attend the synagogues, where they were not made welcome, would combine to form the necessary quorum of ten men for worship. In any room they could borrow or rent cheaply they held their own services. However unsalubrious, crowded and uncomfortable, a chevroth ‘supplied them not only with their religion, but with their art and letters, their politics and their public amusements. It was their home as well as the Almighty’s’. The failure of the synagogues to provide for the poor probably explains why, according to the 1851 Religious Census, only 16 per5 cent of Jews attended the official Sabbath service.

The Jewish elite disliked these independent organisations for their religious extremism, their encouragement of class divisions and their radical politics and looked for a way to counter the influence of the chevra. They found it in the development of a strong, hierarchical and centralised religious government under the leadership of the Adler family. Father and son, the Adlers filled the office of Chief Rabbi for 66 years (1844-1911), during which time they gather into their hands complete control of all religious matters. Social affairs were co-ordinate in 1858 by the formation of the Jewish Board of Guardians and the process of centralisation was completed when hitherto autonomous religious congregations were brought together by the creation of the United Synagogue in 1870. (p. 143-44).

This seems to parallel some of the conflict with British, American and western Judaism today over the support for Israel. And it strongly appears to me that right-wing Zionist Jewish establishment in Britain isn’t just frightened about falling support for Israel and its vile colonialist programme of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. They also seem to be very much afraid that the great-grandchildren of the Jewish radicals of the 19th century are rediscovering their Socialist heritage.

David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group has described on his blog how the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the 1980s accused the GLC of anti-Semitism because Ken Livingstone dared to give them a small grant. The Board were infuriated because the JSG wasn’t affiliated to them. Rosenberg himself celebrates the tradition of the Bund, the 19th century eastern European Jewish party, which wished to create a socialist order while remaining in their traditional European homelands. Their motto, in Hebrew, translated as ‘Wherever we are, that’s our homeland’. They wished to be equal, fellow citizens with the gentile peoples with whom they lived. This was completely unacceptable to the Zionists, who were a minority among the eastern European Jewish masses.

Jeremy Corbyn has been bitterly denounced as an anti-Semite for his support of equality and dignity for the Palestinians by the Conservative establishment, including the Blairite ‘moderates’ in Labour itself. And they’ve also accused him and his supporters of being Communists, Trotskyites and Stalinists because they stand for a return to the post-War social democratic consensus. A strong welfare state, a nationalised National Health Service that carries out its commitment to provide universal healthcare free at the point of delivery, and workers’ rights and effective trade unions, are too much for the right-wing establishment, Jewish, gentile or whatever, to tolerate. Among those on the receiving end of this campaign of smears and vilification have been left-wing, Corbyn-supporting Jews, like Jackie Walker. Corbyn has a proud tradition of supporting the Jewish community, as bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, the Skwawkbox and very many others have shown. And he enjoys the respect and support of part of the Jewish community. This includes the ultra-Orthodox Haridi, whose campaign to preserve their burial ground he and Dianne Abbott supported when the local synagogue wanted to redevelop it. Within the Labour party Corbyn is supported by Jewish Voice for Labour, and he spent Passover with the radical Jewish group, Jewdas. Which sent the Board and the witch-hunters berserk once again. They howled ‘anti-Semitism!’, because he dared to celebrate a Jewish holiday with ‘the wrong sort of Jews’. You know, people who may have seen themselves as in the tradition of the Hebrew Socialist Union, rather than respectable business types.

The Conservative Jewish establishment seems to feel that its power is being challenged, both in terms of foreign policy – support for Israel – and domestically in that there are independent Jewish organisations following left-wing politics. And so these decent people are also smeared as ‘self-hating’, anti-Semitic and ‘the wrong kind of Jews’, just as the Israel lobby as a whole smears anybody, who decries Israeli ethnic cleansing.

John Mann Joins Tories – Real Labour Members and Supporters Celebrate

September 8, 2019

It’s finally happened then. John Mann has finally done what he should have done long ago and crossed the floor to join the Conservatives. One of the leaders of so-called ‘moderates’ – in reality Thatcherite entryists – who flung false accusations of anti-Semitism at socialists and genuine anti-racists in the party, has gone off to be BoJob’s ‘anti-Semitism Tsar’. One of Mann’s stunts was to turn up with a camera crew to accuse Ken Livingstone of anti-Semitism. Red Ken had committed the horrible crime of actually knowing some Zionist history. It was the kind the fanatics of the Zionist right really hate, and so they misquoted Leninspart and fabricated an utterly fake accusation of anti-Semitism.

The Trotskyite newt-fancier and bane of Tony Blair had said that Hitler initially supported Zionism. He did. The Nazis and the German Zionists had reached an arrangement – the Haavara agreement by which they would work together to smuggle Jews into Palestine, then under the British mandate. It was an utterly cynical arrangement. The Nazis merely wanted to get Jews out of Germany, while the Zionists wanted to get colonists for the embryonic Jewish state. It didn’t last long either. The Agreement was short-lived as the Nazis moved from the simply forcing Jews to emigration to the horror of the infamous ‘Final Solution’. Unable to countenance genuine history, Mann and his fellow bullies claimed instead that Leninspart had said that Hitler was a Zionist. He was therefore brought before one of the witch-hunters’ kangaroo courts and expelled. And the accusation that he was an anti-Semite was parroted by the British media, who can’t stand historical truth either.

The title of ‘anti-Semitism tsar’ is an infelicitous one, putting it mildly. The tsars viciously persecuted the Jews. They were forbidden to live anywhere else in the Russian Empire except in the area of the Jewish Pale. Legislation was passed limiting the jobs they could do, and they were the victims of pogroms and forced conscription into the Russian army. This was a form of forced conversion, as it was believed that the bullying and victimisation in the Russian military would encourage them to convert. Additionally, the last tsar, Nicholas II, was a full-on believer in the notorious Jewish Blood Libel. That is the murderous myth that Jews kill Christians to use their blood in the matzo bread eaten at Passover. Nicholas was so convinced of this, that he was determined to prosecute an innocent man, Beilis, against all the evidence to the contrary. This was one of the many acts that discredited the regime, and was an embarrassment even to the tsar’s anti-Semitic supporters.

As for Mann himself, while he himself is keen to fling accusations of anti-Semitism around, he has found it difficult to substantiate them. Tim Fenton has put up on his article about this the court judgement from the case when he and MacShane accused a university and college lecturers’ union of anti-Semitism, because it supported the BDS campaign. The judgement noted that while Mann eagerly denounced the campaign as anti-Semitic, he couldn’t say why. Of course he can’t. Because it isn’t. The BDS campaign is not against Jews or Jewish businesses per se, nor even against Israel. It is again Israeli goods produced in the Occupied Territories. It is an attack on apartheid and colonialism, just as the sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa was. The only difference is that Israeli is a Jewish state, though that is not the reason for the sanctions.

Mann also is in absolutely no position to accuse anyone whatsoever of racism. He was behind a pamphlet published in 2016 which had a passage on Travellers, informing its readers that the police had the power to remove them and any vehicles or property in cases of trespass. Ben Bennett, a Gypsy, referred this to the police complaining that it was racist in that it singled out Travellers specifically. And the Rozzers concurred. They wrote back to Bennett stating that they had advised Mann that if the booklet was reprinted, that section would have to be revised and called it ‘a hate incident’.

Mann was also a mate of Phil Woolas, another Labour ‘moderate’, who stoked up racism during his local election campaign. Woolas had produced a pamphlet claiming that the Lib Dems were ‘soft on immigration’ and smearing Muslims as supporters of terrorism. He was also disappointed in the timing of his defection. He had arranged it so that it would coincide with the 10 O’clock news. Unfortunately for him, Amber Rudd chose to walk out of BoJob’s cabinet, and this overshadowed his attempt to grab a bit of publicity. It also says much about him – and nothing complimentary – that just when every decent Tory was walking out on Johnson, Mann was running towards him.

The Sunset Times, a newspaper with a proud future behind it, claimed that Mann’s defection had sparked civil war in Labour. Er, no. Not a bit. Instead of hand-wringing and recrimination, the general mood was wild celebration. See Mike’s piece about all this, which reproduces various tweets from people up and down the country rejoicing that Mann, a racist, bigot, and islamophobe, had finally gone and joined the Tories. At last the people of his constituency could look forward to getting a real socialist to represent them.

On a serious note, one of the tweeters posted this, which included this monument to Sinti and Roma – the European Travellers – murdered by the Nazis in the Porajmos, the term for the Nazi extermination of their people.

View image on Twitter

Mann claimed that he was leaving Labour because racism always started with the persecution of the Jews. This is massively hypocritical, considering his own history of racism. The Nazi extermination of the Roma – the Gypsies – was a development of the anti-Traveller racism of people like him. And the methods the Nazis used for the extermination of the Jews – killing them with cyanide gas – was first used against the disabled. Just as the Tories have murdered tens of thousands of disabled people through starvation and deprivation after throwing them off benefits through the fitness to work tests.

Mann is a racist hypocrite, a Thatcherite, who gone off to join a racist, hypocritical Thatcherite party. Labour is better off without him. 

For further info, see

Celebrations in Labour as Mann quits to become Tory anti-Semitism ‘tsar’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/john-mann-anti-semitism-non-expert.html