Posts Tagged ‘Middle Ages’

The Coronavirus and the Death of the Dream of a Disease-Free Future

March 30, 2020

There has been one other consequence of the Coronavirus, apart from the immense toll its taken in tragic deaths, its disastrous impact on economies and social life around the world as trade and personal contact has been reduced to a minimum as countries go into lockdown. I doubt few people have noticed it, but I believe that the pandemic has finally killed the sixties dream of the conquest of disease.

It was an optimistic decade, and although the high hopes of technological, social and economic improvement and expansion ended with the depression of the 70s and its fears of overpopulation, ecological collapse, and the running out of resources, coupled with global terrorism, labour unrest and the energy crisis, some of that optimism still continued. And one of the sources of that optimism was the victories that were being won against disease. Before the introduction of modern antibiotics, diseases like tuberculosis, polio, diptheria and cholera were common and lethal. In the case of polio, they could leave their victims so severely paralysed that they had to be placed in iron lungs in order to breathe. Their threat was greatly reduced in Britain and the West through the introduction of antibiotics, as well as the improvements in housing, working conditions and sanitation. And these advances appeared to be global. Yes, there was still terrible poverty in the Developing World, but these emergent nations were improving thanks to the efforts of charities and the United Nations. The UN was helping these nations become educated through schools, setting up wells and other sources of clean water, teach their peoples about the importance of sanitation. Most importantly, it was actively eradicating disease through immunisation programmes.

The UN and the charities are still doing this, of course, often working in hostile conditions in countries wracked by dictatorship, corruption and civil war. But in the 1970s the world won a major victory in the struggle against disease: smallpox was declared extinct in the wild. Humanity had overcome and beaten a major killer that had taken the lives of countless millions down the centuries. Cultures of the disease still remain in laboratories, just in case it returns. But outside of these, the disease was believed to be finally extinct.

It was the realisation of the optimistic ideas contained in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. The series envisaged a future in which humanity had set aside its national and racial division, and become united. It had joined other extraterrestrial races in a benign Federation, a kind of UN in space, and embarked on a wave of space colonisation and exploration. It sent out ships like the Enterprise ‘to seek out new life and new civilisations’, and boldly split infinitives which no-one had split before. And part of that optimistic future was the victory over disease. It was still there, and there were instances where it ravaged whole planets. But by and large humanity and its alien partners were conquering it. That optimism continued into the subsequent series, like Star Trek: The Next Generation and the films. Serious diseases, which now regularly afflict humanity would be easily treatable in this future. In the third Star Trek film, The Voyage Home,  the crew of the Enterprise journey back to the 20th century to save the whale and thus the Earth of the future from an alien spaceship that somehow causes advanced technology to shut down. Entering a hospital to rescue Chekhov, who has been captured by today’s American army, McCoy finds an elderly lady awaiting dialysis. ‘What is this!’, he characteristically exclaims, ‘the Dark Ages!’ And gives her a pill. When next we see her, She’s fit and well and raising her walking stick in thanks to McCoy as he and the others rush past. Around her two doctors are muttering in astonishment about how she has grown a new kidney. And in the Next Generation pilot episode, ‘Encounter at Far Point’, McCoy is shown as an elderly man in his 120s.

Now medical progress is still being made, and people in the West are living much longer, so that there is an increasing number of old folks who are over 100. And some scientists and doctors believe that advances in medical science, especially geriatrics, may eventually lead to people attain the age of 400 or even a thousand. The last claim appeared on a BBC 4 panel game over a decade ago, in which various scientists and doctors came before the writer and comedian Andy Hamilton and the Black American comic, Reggie Yates, to argue for the validity of their theories. And one of these was that the first person to live to a thousand has already been born.

But such optimism has also been seriously tempered by the persistence of disease. Just as humanity was eradicating Smallpox, SF writers were producing stories about the threat of new killer diseases, such as in the films The Satan Bug and The Andromeda Strain, as well as the British TV series, Survivors. I think public belief in the ability of humanity to conquer disease was seriously damaged by the emergence of AIDS in the 1980s. This was so devastating, that some viewed it in terms of the Black Death, though mercifully this wasn’t the case. And after AIDS came bird flu, swine flu, and now the present pandemic. And unlike these previous health emergencies, the world has been forced to go into lockdown. It’s an unprecedented move, that seems more like a return to the response to the plagues of the Middle Ages and 17-19th centuries than the actions of a modern state.

The lockdown is necessary, and this crisis has shown that states still need to cooperate in order to combat global diseases like Coronavirus. Medicine is still improving, so that it’s possible that some people, the rich elite who can afford it, may enjoy vastly extended lifespans. But the current crisis has also shown that serious diseases are still arising, illnesses that now spread and affect the world’s population as a whole. And so the 60s dream of a future without serious disease now seems very distant indeed.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews: Tory, Rich, Fanatically Zionist, Unrepresentative and ‘an Affront to Democracy’

January 15, 2020

Mike has put up several pieces this week commenting on the decision of all five contenders for the Labour leadership – Lisa Nandy, Keir Starmer, Jess Phillips, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Emily Thornberry – to sign a series of ten pledges devised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews on how they will tackle anti-Semitism in the Labour party. This has outraged Mike and a very large number of other Labour supporters and members, because it is a capitulation to the Board. It effectively cedes to the Board extremely wide-ranging and draconian powers over who can be accused of anti-Semitism, and how they should be tried, judged and punished. Mike and the other commenters, bloggers and activists on this issue have extensively criticised the document and how it represents a very serious breach of natural justice. For example, those accused of anti-Semitism are more or less to be treated as guilty simply through the accusation, and expelled promptly. I’ve made the point as an historian with an interest in the European witch hunts of the Middle Ages and 16th and 17th centuries that accused witches could expect a fairer trial than the kangaroo courts set up by the Labour party, and which are demanded by the Board and their satellite organisations within the party, like the Jewish Labour Movement. Some of the demands made by the Board very much resemble the way cults and totalitarian states exercise total control over their members’ lives. For example, another of the provisions demands that existing members do not have anything to do with those expelled for anti-Semitism. This is exactly like the way cults and less extreme religious sects demand that their members have nothing to do with those outside them, thus cutting ties with family and friends.

The Board is also not a credible judge of what constitutes anti-Semitism. They have been extremely bad on the issue on anti-Semitism in the Labour, acting in bad faith and deliberately falsifying its extent, supporting evidence and maligning and smearing decent women and men. 

Their motives throughout their pursuit of this issue has certainly been not to defend Jews against anti-Semitism. Rather, like their counterparts elsewhere in the Jewish establishment – the Chief Rabbinate, the Jewish press and the Jewish Leadership Council – it has been extremely party political. The goal has been to oust Corbyn as leader of the Labour party, purge it of his supporters and prevent it coming to power. Not because Corbyn is an anti-Semite – he isn’t by any objective standard – but because he is a staunch anti-racist and a critic of Israel’s slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And as Tories, like the rest of the Jewish establishment, they were also frightened by a movement within the Labour party that would restore power and dignity to working people, including Jews. David Rosenberg has made the point on his ‘Rebel Notes’ blog that the Board and its ilk do not represent Jews, who are working or lower-middle class – yes, they exist! – they don’t represent the Jewish disabled, the Jews who work in or use the public services. And they don’t give a damn about racism and real anti-Semitism. He has described how, when he was a young activist in ’70s and ’80s, the Board did its level best to stop Jews going on anti-racism demonstrations and gigs like ‘Rock Against Racism’. Ostensibly this was to protect the young and impressionable from anti-Zionist propaganda. But others suspected the real reason was that they had zero interest in joining protests against discrimination and hate against Blacks and Asians. And Tony Greenstein, another staunch Jewish critic of Israel and fierce opponent of racism and Fascism in all its forms, has described how, in the 1930s, when British Jews were in real existential danger from Mosley and other genuine Fascist and Nazi groups, the Board did nothing to encourage them to resist. When Mosley and his storm troopers marched through the East End of London to intimidate and terrorise the Jews and other minorities there, the Board meekly told them to stay indoors. Fortunately there were Jews, who didn’t believe in passively tolerating the BUF, and joined with the Communists, unions and other left-winger to give Mosley’s thugs the hiding they richly deserved.

The Board claims the authority to dictate the Labour party’s policy towards anti-Semitism as the organ representing the Jewish community as a whole. This is a lie.

Mike today put up a statement by Jewish Voice for Labour – a far more representative Jewish organisation than the Board – about this issue. And the simple answer is: they aren’t. The JVL said

The Board’s claim to be democratic is, however, distinctly tenuous. There are no British Jewish elections, no direct way for all British Jews to directly elect the board’s 300 Deputies. To be involved in electing Deputies, one must be a member of one or more of approximately 138 synagogues, or be connected to one of 34 ‘communal organisations’ (such as the UJIA or Reform Judaism) that are affiliated with the Board, all of which elect one to five Deputies—anyone not involved with these institutions does not have a vote, despite the Board still claiming to speak on their behalf. Inevitably, some individuals may be represented multiple times, through being members of more than one organisation.

The biggest problem, however, is with the elections held by affiliate organisations to select their deputies—it is these that justify the Board’s claim to be a representative democracy. Transparency is a fundamental requirement of democracy—there needs to be openness as to who the electorate is and how many of them turn out in order for any election to be considered legitimate. Despite its own constitution obliging it to receive the data (Appendix A, Clause 3: “the election shall not be validated unless the form incorporates… the total number of members of the congregation… and the number who attended the election meeting”), the Board does not release a list of the membership size or the numbers voting in each affiliate organisation, and claims to have no idea what the numbers might be. The Board’s spokesman explained to me that, “While we do need to be more thorough in collecting statistics, these figures wouldn’t add anything—they don’t speak to the democratic legitimacy of the organisation or to anything else.” This seems extraordinarily complacent—can we imagine a British election in which the size of the electorate, the list of candidates standing, and the turnout remained secret? It would be regarded as an affront to democracy.

The anti-democratic nature of the Board is confirmed by other Jewish critics, like Tony. They point out that the Board really only represents the United Synagogue, which is believed to have 40,000 members out of a total Jewish population in the country of 280,000 – 300,000. They don’t represent that third of the Jewish people, who are secular and don’t attend synagogue. Neither do they represent the Orthodox, may represent as much as a quarter of all Jewish Brits and are set to overtake the United Synagogue as the largest section of the Jewish population in a few years. Some synagogues haven’t had elections for years, and so have sitting candidates. Others don’t allow women to vote. And the Board also defines itself as a Zionist organisation, and so excludes Jews, who do not support Israel.

So it seems that the Board represents, at most, 1/3 of British Jews. That’s hardly a majority and gives them no mandate to issue their demands.

As for the Board’s manifest lack of democracy, it all reminds me of Britain before the 1833 Reform Act, with its pocket and rotten boroughs. But these are the people claiming to have the moral authority to speak for the British Jewish community!

I fully understand why the Labour leadership candidates signed the Board’s wretched pledges. They hoped that this would end the Board’s interference in the Labour party and their continued criticism. But it won’t. The Board and other Zionist organisations that use allegations of anti-Semitism as a weapon against their critics will not be satisfied. They see such capitulation as weakness, and will always press for further concessions. This is what Corbyn and his advisers, like Seaumas Milne, failed to understand. Instead of caving in, Corbyn should have fought back.

My own feeling now is that the only way to settle this issue decisively in Labour’s favour is to attack and discredit the Board – to show how biased and unrepresentative it is, to reveal how it lies and libels decent men and women, and particularly self-respecting Jews.

That would be a long, very hard, and perilous struggle, especially as the media and Tory press would be on the side of the Board all the way.

But until it is done, the Board as it stands now will always be a politically partisan threat to British democracy and genuine Jewish security and anti-racist action.

Richard Dawkins Promoting Atheism at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature

October 7, 2019

This week is the Cheltenham festival of literature. It’s an annual event when novelists, poets, illustrators and increasingly TV and radio personalities descend on the town to talk about and try to sell the books they’ve had published. There can be, and often are, some great speakers discussing their work. I used to go to it regularly in the past, but went off it after a few years. Some of the people turn up, year in, year out, and there are only so many times you can see them without getting tired of it.

Dawkins, Atheism and Philosophical Positivism

One of the regular speakers at the Festival is the zoologist, science writer and atheist polemicist, Richard Dawkins. The author of Climbing Mount Improbable, The River Out Of Eden, The Blind Watchmaker and so on is appearing in Cheltenham to promote his latest book, Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide. It sounds like a kind of successor to his earlier anti-religious work, The God Delusion. According to the accompanying pamphlet for the festival, he’s going to be talking to an interviewer about why we should all stop believing in God. There’s no doubt Dawkins deserves his platform at the Festival as much as any other writer. He’s a popular media personality, and writes well. However, his knowledge of philosophy, theology and the history of science, which forms the basis for his attacks on Christianity, is extremely low, and defenders of religion, and even other scientists and historians, who are just interested in defending their particular disciplines from factual mistakes and misinterpretations, have shot great holes in them.

Dawkins is, simply put, a kind of naive Positivist. Positivism was the 19th century philosophy, founded by Auguste Comte, that society moved through a series of three stages in its development. The first stage was the theological, when the dominant ideology was religion. Then came the philosophical stage, before the process ended with science. Religion was a thing of the past, and science would take over its role of explaining the universe and guiding human thought and society. Comte dreamed of the emergence of a ‘religion of humanity’, with its own priesthood and rituals, which would use sociology to lead humanity. Dawkins doesn’t quite go that far, but he does believe that religion and science – and specifically Darwinism – are in conflict, and that the former should give way to the latter. And he’s not alone. I heard that a few years ago, Alice Robert, the forensic archaeologist and science presenter, gave a speech on the same subject at the Cheltenham Festival of Science when she was its guest director, or curator, or whatever they term it. A friend of mine was less than impressed with her talk and the lack of understanding she had of religion. He tweeted ‘This is a girl who thinks she is intelligent.’

War of Science and Religion a Myth

No, or very few historians of science, actually believe that there’s a war between the two. There have been periods of tension, but the idea of a war comes from three 19th century writers. And it’s based on and cites a number of myths. One of these is the idea that the Church was uniformly hostile to science, and prevented any kind of scientific research and development until the Renaissance and the rediscovery of ancient Roman and Greek texts. It’s a myth I learnt at school, and it’s still told as fact in many popular textbooks. But other historians have pointed out that the Middle Ages was also a period of scientific investigation and development, particularly following the influence of medieval Islamic science and the ancient Greek and Roman texts they had preserved, translated, commented on and improved. Whole books have been written about medieval science, such as Jean Gimpel’s The Medieval Machine, and James Hannam’s God’s Philosophers. Hannam is a physicist, who did a doctorate in examining the development of medieval science, showing that, far from retarding or suppressing it, medieval churchmen were intensely interested in it and were active in its research. Medieval science was based very much on Aristotle, but they were well aware of some of the flaws in his natural philosophy, and attempted to modify it in order to make it conform to observed reality. The Humanists of the Renaissance, rather than bringing in freedom of thought and scientific innovation, were actually a threat. They wanted to strip philosophy and literature of its medieval modifications to make it correspond exactly with the ancients’ original views. Which would have meant actually destroying the considerable advances which had been made. Rather than believe that renaissance science was a complete replacement of medieval science, scholars like Hannam show that it was solidly based on the work of their medieval predecessors.

Christian Theology and the Scientific Revolution

The scientific revolution of the 17th century in England also has roots in Christian philosophy and theology. Historians now argue that the Royal Society was the work of Anglican Broadchurchmen, who believed that God had created a rational universe amenable to human reason, and who sought to end the conflict between the different Christian sects through uniting them in the common investigation of God’s creation. See, for example, R. Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press 1972).

Christian Monotheism and the Unity of Physical Law

It is also Christian monotheist theology that provides one of the fundamental assumptions behind science. Modern science is founded on the belief that the laws of nature amount to a single, non-contradictory whole. That’s the idea behind the ‘theory of everything’, or Grand Unified Theory everyone was talking about back in the 1990s. But this idea goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. Aquinas said that we must believe that the laws of nature are one, because God is one.  It’s the assumption, founded on Christian theology, the makes science possible.

Atheist Reductionism also a Danger

When The God Delusion Came Out, it was met by a series of books attacking its errors, some of them with titles like The Dawkins Delusion. The philosopher Mary Midgley has also attacked the idea that science can act as a replacement for religion in her books Evolution as a Religion and The Myths We Live By. On page 58 of the latter she attacks the immense damage to humanity atheist reductionism also poses. She writes

Both reductive materialism and reductive idealism have converged to suggest that reductivism is primarily a moral campaign against Christianity. This is a dangerous mistake. Obsession with the churches has distracted attention from reduction employed against notions of human individuality, which is now a much more serious threat. It has also made moral problems look far simplar than they actually are. Indeed, some hopeful humanist reducers still tend to imply that, once Christian structures are cleared away, life in general will be quite all right and philosophy will present no further problems.

In their own times, these anti-clerical reductive campaigns have often been useful. But circumstances change. New menaces, worse than the one that obsesses us, are always appearing, so that what looked like a universal cure for vice and folly becomes simply irrelevant. In politics, twentieth-century atheistical states are not an encouraging omen for the simple secularistic approach to reform. it turns out that the evils that have infested religion are not confined to it, but are ones that can accompany any successful human institution. Nor is it even clear that religion itself is something that the human race either can or should be cured of.

Darwin Uninterested in Atheist Campaigning

Later in the book she describes how the Marxist Edward Aveling was disappointed when he tried to get Darwin to join him in a campaign to get the atheist, Bradlaugh, to take his seat as a duly elected MP. At the time, atheists were barred from public office by law. Aveling was impressed by Darwin’s work on evolution, which he believed supported atheism. Darwin was an agnostic, and later in life lost belief in God completely due to the trauma of losing a daughter and the problem of suffering in nature. But Darwin simply wasn’t interested in joining Aveling’s campaign. When Aveling asked him what he was now studying, hoping to hear about another earth-shaking discovery that would disprove religion, Darwin simply replied ‘Earthworms’. The great biologist was fascinated by them. It surprised and shocked Aveling, who hadn’t grasped that Darwin was simply interested in studying creatures for their own sake.

Evolutionists on Evolution Not Necessarily Supporting Atheism

Other evolutionary biologists also concluded that evolution has nothing to say about God, one way or another. Stephen Jay Gould stated that he believed that Darwinism only hinted at atheism, not that it proved it. Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, who published his own theory of evolution in Zoonomia in 1801, believed on the other hand that the development of creatures from more primitive forebears made the existence of God ‘mathematically certain’.

Frank H.T. Rhodes of the University of Michigan wrote in his book Evolution (New York: Golden Press 1974) on its implications the following, denying that it had any for religion, politics or economics.

Evolution, like any other natural process or scientific theory, is theologically neutral. it describes mechanisms, but not meaning. it is based upon the recognition of order but incorporates no conclusion concerning the origin of that order as either purposeful or purposeless.

Although evolution involves the interpretation of natural events by natural processes, it neither assumes nor provides particular conclusions concerning the ultimate sources or the significance of materials, events or processes.

Evolution provides no obvious conclusions concerning political or economic systems. Evolution no more supports evolutionary politics (whatever they might be) than does the Second Law of Thermodynamics support political disorder or economic chaos. 

(Page 152).

Conclusion

I realise that the book’s nearly 50 years old, and that since that time some scientists have worked extremely hard to show the opposite – that evolution support atheism. But I’ve no doubt other scientists, people most of us have never heard of, believe the opposite. Way back in 1909 or so there was a poll of scientists to show their religious beliefs. The numbers of atheists and people of faith was roughly equal, and 11 per cent of the scientists polled said that they were extremely religious. When the poll was repeated in the 1990s, the pollsters were surprised to find that the proportion of scientists who were still extremely religious had not changed.

Despite what Dawkins tells you, atheism is not necessarily supported by science, and does not disprove it. Other views of the universe, its origin and meaning are available and still valid.

Radio 4 Series Challenging Stereotype that Religion and Science Are at War

June 12, 2019

According to next week’s Radio Times there’s a new, three-part series beginning on Radio 4 next Friday, 21st June, at 11.00 am, Science and Religion about the relationship between the two disciplines. From the pieces about in the magazine, it attacks the idea that science and religion are at war. The blurb for the programme’s first part, ‘The Nature of the Beast’, on page 131, says

Nick Spencer examines the history of science and religion and the extent to which they have been in conflict with each other. Drawing on the expertise of various academics, he begins by exploring what the relationship says about what it means to be human.

The paragraph about the programme on the preceding page, 130, by Sue Robinson, runs

Are science and religion at war? In the first in a three-part series, Nick Spencer (of Goldsmith’s, London, and Christian think-tank Theos) takes a look back wt what he terms the “simplistic warfare narrative” of these supposedly feuding disciplines. From the libraries of the Islamic world to the work of 13th-century bishop Robert Grosseteste in maths and natural sciences, Spencer draws on the expertise of a variety of academics to argue that there has long been an interdependence between the two. I felt one or two moments of consternation (“there are probably more flat-earthers [believing the earth to be flat] around today than there were back then…”) and with so many characters in the unfolding 1,000-year narrative, some may wish for a biographical dictionary at their elbow… I certainly did. Yet somehow Spencer produces an interesting and informative treatise from all the detail. 

We’ve waited a long time for a series like this. I set up this blog partly to argue against the claim made by extremely intolerant atheists like Richard Dawkins that science and religion are and always have been at war. In fact no serious historian of science believes this. It’s a stereotype that comes from three 19th century writers, one of whom was reacting against the religious ethos of Harvard at the time. And some of the incidents that have been used to argue that science was suppressed by the religious authorities were simply invented. Like the story that Christopher Columbus was threatened by the Inquisition for believing that the world war round. Er no, he wasn’t. That was all made up by 19th century author Washington Irvine. European Christians had known and accepted that the world was round by the 9th century. It’s what the orb represents in the Crown Jewels. The story that Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, in his debate on evolution with Charles Darwin, asked the great biologist whether he was descended from an ape on his mother’s or father’s side of the family is also an invention. It was written years after the debate by Darwin’s Bulldog, T.H. Huxley. A few years ago historians looked at the accounts of the debate written at the time by the students and other men of science who were there. They don’t mention any such incident. What they do mention is Wilberforce opening the debate by saying that such questions like evolution needed to be carefully examined, and that if they are true, they have to be accepted, no matter how objectionable they may be. Wilberforce himself was an extremely proficient amateur scientist himself as well as a member of the clergy. Yes, there was opposition from many Christians to Darwin’s idea, but after about 20 years or so most of the mainstream denominations fully accepted evolution. The term ‘fundamentalism’ comes from a book defending and promoting Christianity published as The Fundamentals of Christianity published in the first years of the 20th century. The book includes evolution, which it accepts.

Back to the Middle Ages, the idea that this was a period when the church suppressed scientific investigation, which only revived with the Humanists of the Renaissance, has now been utterly discredited. Instead it was a period of invention and scientific discovery. Robert Grosseteste, the 13th century bishop of Lincoln, wrote papers arguing that the Moon was responsible for the tides and that the rainbow was produced through light from the sun being split into various colours by water droplets in the atmosphere. He also wrote an account of the six days of creation, the Hexaemeron, which in many ways anticipates the ‘Big Bang’ theory. He believed that the universe was created with a burst of light, which in turn created ‘extension’ – the dimensions of the cosmos, length, width and breadth, and that this light was then formed into the material and immaterial universe. Medieval theologians were also often highly critical of stories of demons and ghosts. The 12th century French bishop, William of Auxerre, believed that nightmares were caused, not by demons, but by indigestion. If you had too big a meal before falling asleep, the weight of the food in the stomach pressed down on the nerves, preventing the proper flow of vital fluids.

The Christian scholars of this period drew extensively on the writings of Muslim philosophers, scientists and mathematicians, who had inherited more of the intellectual legacy of ancient Greece and Rome, along with that of the other civilisations they had conquered, like Persia and India. Scholars like al-Haytham explored optics while the Bani Musa brothers created fascinating machines. And Omar Khayyam, the Sufi mystic and author of the Rubaiyyat, one of the classics of world literature, was himself a brilliant mathematician. Indeed, many scientific and mathematical terms are taken from Arabic. Like alcohol, and algorithm, which comes from the Muslim scholar al-Khwarismi, as well as algebra.

There have been periods of tension between religion and particular scientific doctrines, like the adoption of the Copernican system and Darwin’s theory of evolution by Natural Selection, but the relationship between science and religion is rich, complex and has never been as simple as all out war. This should be a fascinating series and is a very necessary corrective to the simplistic stereotype we’ve all grown up with.

My Video on the Israel Lobby and the Labour Anti-Semitism Smears

March 2, 2019

This is the video I’ve just put up this evening discussing the Israel lobby and the anti-Semitism smears. I begin by saying that this follows on from the video I made about Chris Williamson’s suspension from the Labour party and the smears against him. I also make it clear that I have very harsh words to say about the Israel lobby and the Chief Rabbi and Board of Deputies of British Jews. I am not an anti-Semite, and condemn categorically all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. And I absolutely despise the vile conspiracy theories about the Jews running the world, that resulted in 6 million innocents being murdered in the Holocaust death camps.

But some conspiracies do exist. And this is one of them. Conspiracies are covert, secret political plots, which this is. I explain that the anti-Semitism smears are Israel’s defence against criticisms of its oppression of the Palestinians. Ten years ago the journalist Peter Oborne made a documentary for Channel 4 about this, and the way the Israel lobby exerts influence in parliament with the groups Conservative Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Israel. It has also tried to silence reporting of Israel’s atrocities by the press and media. One of the speakers in Oborne’s documentary is Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of the Guardian. He says that whenever they reported Israel’s crimes, someone would come along from the Board of Deputies with a lawyer and accused them of anti-Semitism. And the same was done to the BBC. When they reported the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by the Christian Phalange, Israel’s allies, the Israel lobby accused them of anti-Semitism. This included reporting by respected journalists like Jeremy Bowen or Orla Guerin, who should be above reproach. The Beeb referred the case to an independent watchdog, who stated that their reporting was objective. Avi Shlaim, a respected Israeli professor of Middle Eastern studies at Oxford University also appears in the documentary to confirm that the reporting was correct.

I say that if the Chief Rabbi and Board of Deputies confined themselves to spiritual matters and defending Jews against genuine anti-Semitism, I would support them. Any decent person would. But they don’t. They are part of this smear campaign. And the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, is in my view a horrendous bigot. When he was Chief Rabbi he caused outrage by calling Reform Jews ‘enemies of the faith’. This is the language of persecution. It is the language used by the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages against heretics, Jews and Muslims. And it is the language radical Protestants also used against others. Sacks was also responsible for leading a contingent of British Jews on the March of the Flags in Israel. This is a day when the Israeli equivalent of boot-boys march through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, vandalising their homes. It is done to keep them in their place, like the EDL and other Fascists in Britain marching into Muslim areas, the BNP marching into Black and other areas, where the people are ethnic minorities, and Oswald Mosley and the BUF marching into Cable Street to terrorise the Jews there.

I state that not every Jew is a supporter of Israel, and until recently Zionism was a minority position amongst Jews. The Yiddish-speaking masses of the Bund in eastern Europe, the Jews of Poland, Ukraine, Russia and Romania, wanted to remain in the countries in which they were born. The same in America, where American Jews had a comfortable life. There is also a strand of Orthodox Judaism that rejects Zionism. This believes that the restoration of Israel can only come by the hand of the Almighty through the Messiah, when it will be aided by the nations of the world. Its restoration as a secular state or by secular power is a blasphemy.

I also state that Jews, who speak out about Israel and its crimes suffer appalling abuse. They are called ‘self-hating’, accused of anti-Semites. I mention how Tony Greenstein was told by an opponent that they wished his family had died in the Holocaust. In the Labour party, the smears began a few years ago when Ed Miliband – who was Jewish! – was leader of the Labour party. He was accused of being anti-Semitic, or the Labour party was accused of being institutionally anti-Semitic. This was the first time Maureen Lipman resigned from the Labour Party. It has got worse under Jeremy Corbyn, because Corbyn is a supporter of the Palestinians. He is not an anti-Semite and is a fervent anti-racist.

This is all being done by the Israelis through the Ministry of Strategic Affairs by cabinet Minister Gilad Erdan.

Here’s my blurb for the video:

The current anti-Semitism smears in the Labour Party are a response by Israel to criticisms of its oppression of the Palestinians. They have been used to try and silence newspapers and broadcasters like the Guardian and BBC. Nearly a decade ago Peter Oborne made a documentary for Channel 4 describing this and the methods they use to obtain parliamentary support. Britain’s Chief Rabbi and the Board of Deputies of British Jews are part of this smear campaign, although many Jews do not support Israel. And those who also voice criticisms are smeared as ‘self-hating’ and anti-Semitic. The smears started when Ed Miliband was leader of the Labour party, despite the fact that he was himself Jewish, and have increased under Corbyn, who is a supporter of the Palestinians but not a racist or anti-Semite. I am fervently opposed to racism and anti-Semitism, and absolutely condemn the vile conspiracy theories about world Jewish power that led to the murder of six million innocents in the Nazi death camps.

Oborne’s documentary is on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lby-B…

Here’s my video:

Two Photos of Bristol’s King David Hotel

February 26, 2019

At the corner of one of the streets leading off Park Row to Bristol’s BRI hospital is the King David Hotel. I was heading up to the hospital this morning, and took these two photos of it. It’s a fascinating and very attractive building, as you can see. It’s in yellow and red brick, and recalls some of the other buildings in Bristol in the Venetian Gothic style of architecture. I don’t know when it was built, or even if it’s still used as a hotel. I don’t think so, because, as you can see, the main door has been sealed. I suspect that like many of the buildings around Clifton, it’s been converted to offices.

It shares its name with that other King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was notoriously bombed by the Irgun as part of Israel’s war of independence against the British. My guess is that Bristol’s King David Hotel may have been built about the time the Jerusalem hotel was in its heyday, and was the place to stay for visitors to the Holy Land. I also think that it probably has some connection to Bristol’s Jewish community. Jews have been living in Bristol since the Middle Ages. Back in the 1990s or so archaeologists discovered the remains of a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, with an inscription in Hebrew, zaklim, meaning ‘flowing’ on Jacob’s Wells Road. In the 1820, when by law only members of the Anglican Church were supposed to serve in local and national government, two Jews and a number of Protestant Nonconformists were recorded sitting in Bristol’s corporation. And Park Row did have a very beautiful synagogue. It was cut into the hillside, and had huge Hebrew characters carved on its facade. This was, if I recall properly, carved to look like an ancient Hebrew temple. I’ll have to try and look this all up, but it seems to me that the Hotel may have been built by someone with connections to Jerusalem, and may have been a member of the synagogue’s congregation. Whatever the building’s history, it’s a fascinating piece of Bristol’s historic landscape, showing the city’s religious and ethnic diversity and its global connections.

 

Rees-Mogg Would Like to Be the Pope, But Would Left-Wing Catholics Want Him?

February 21, 2019

One of the most ridiculous things Jacob Rees-Mogg said this week was during an interview on Points West with host David Garmston. Points West is the local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area. Mogg is the local MP for Bath in Somerset, and now one of the leading personalities in the Tory party. Garmston went to visit him at his palatial home in the Georgian city.

The Beeb interviewer asked him if he’d like to be Prime Minister. It’s a good question, as it’s clear that Mogg is very ambitious, and there are those in the party that would desperately like him to be in charge and in No. 10. But Mogg denied that he had any plans in that direction. Instead, he declared, he’d rather be Pope. Garmston then asked him the natural question: how could he be, when he’s married with six children? Oh no, Mogg declared, any Roman Catholic man could be.

Now this is news to me, and to just about everyone else, I should imagine. The pope is the bishop of Rome, and so should already be a member of the clergy of a sufficiently high rank. Like a cardinal. Or so it seems to me, as an Anglican, looking at the history of the Roman Catholic church. If laymen have been made pope, I can only assume that this occurred sometime during the Middle Ages as part of the political maneuvering surrounding the papacy. For example, after the collapse of the Roman Empire the only form of government left in many towns in Gaul and elsewhere were the bishops. Hence there were instances where, after the death of the previous incumbent, local townspeople chose laymen, including pagans, to become their bishop. Those laymen, who accepted the demand, then had themselves baptized and converted to Christianity. There are accounts of such conversions and the election of lay people in Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks. Or so I believe. I did medieval history at school, and these are the only instances I can remember, in which a layman entered the episcopacy directly, let alone the papacy.

Of course, Rees-Mogg is saying all this just to present himself as a good Roman Catholic. But I wonder how many Roman Catholics would actually want someone as right-wing as him as a member of the clergy, let alone sovereign pontiff. There’s a range of political views amongst Roman Catholics, just as there is in any religion or metaphysical ideology. And there’s also a strong tradition of genuinely social, left-wing activism. For all that elements within the Roman Catholic church during the War and after have supported Fascist regimes, I got the distinct impression that most Roman Catholics in Britain and the British colonies were actually left-wing. Certainly in Australia Irish Catholics formed the backbone of the Ozzie Labor party, and the Roman Catholic members of my own family were very staunch Labour. Radical organisations for Roman Catholics have included Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, and I have the impression that, as well as Quakers, there were many Roman Catholics involved in CND and other peace movements. One of my Catholic aunts was a member, and I can remember her telling us that when she was on a march, she found herself next to a group of Franciscan friars.

A little while ago I bought a book on Roman Catholic social thought, which is broadly left-wing, although outside formal party politics. This includes activism and work on behalf of the poor, for peace and on behalf of women. This latter obviously doesn’t include supporting contraception or abortion, which feminists obviously see as central women’s rights. And there have been Roman Catholic prelates, who have been martyred because of their advocacy of the poor. Like Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down by a Fascist death squad in one of the central American countries, who brutal dictator Reagan was supporting. He was assassinated outside his church. After his murder, the assassins scrawled on the wall, ‘Be a patriot – Kill a priest’.

The present Pope, Francis, seems to have moved the papacy closer to supporting the poor, defending the environment and even stating that it is not his place to judge gays. Some of that may reflect the wider changes in social attitudes, at least in the developed West. For example, right-wing Roman Catholic traditionalists, like Peter Hitchens, who are against same-sex marriage, have said that they feel the battle against it, is lost. It may also reflect a genuine horror on Francis’ part against the vicious homophobia that exists in some parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. But also the centre of Christianity, and Roman Catholicism, is moving towards the global south as the developed West becomes more secular. Thus the Church has to speak out on issues that directly effect the peoples of the developing world. Like poverty, hunger, exploitation, the rape of the environment. Issues that also concern other Christians around the globe.

I can’t see Rees-Mogg being interested in any of that. Indeed, his voting record shows he’s strongly against it, although I’ve no doubt that, like Margaret Thatcher, he is probably personally very generous. It seems to me that Mogg’s comments may partly have been to appeal to the religious right within the Tories. Like Ian Duncan Smith also stressed what a good Catholic he was, and how he was very concerned at poverty in Britain. Their appeal goes beyond Roman Catholics, of course. Under aIDS the DWP seemed to be stuffed with right-wing Christians of various denominations. Mogg may have made his comments partly with an eye to inheriting the Gentleman Ranker’s grubby mantle.

But no matter how pious he appears, I can’t imagine any left-wing Roman Catholic wanting to see him anywhere near an official position in the Church, just as an increasing number of Christians of all denominations are turning away from the religious right and their vile policies.

Raheem Kassam Knows Zilch about Fascism, Imperialism, Nationalism or Socialism. And Definitely not History

January 21, 2019

In my last piece, I discussed a twitter argument between Raheem Kassam, one of the most vehement leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, and James Melville on Twitter. The row had erupted when Kassam started moaning about how left-wingers were reporting his comments to Twitter in the hope of getting him thrown off social media. Melville had no sympathy for him, telling Kassam that he was reaping what he sowed after Kassam had put up a piece himself telling his supporters to pile onto Melville’s own account and hound him off the Net. And when Kassam put up a picture of Churchill in a yellow vest, Melville rhetorically asked him if he knew that Winnie had been an opponent of far right extremism. Which brought forth the following tirade from Kassam:

Lol now this guy who had a meltdown yesterday is going through my feed picking out tweets he thinks he can argue with. Churchill defeated imperialistic (opposite of nationalist) National Socialism (opposite of right wing) which wanted a united Europe under Germany (EU)”.

Which was followed by

“Fascism is an ideology. Conservatism is a philosophy. There’s your first problem in attempting to link the two. Fascism concerned itself with a corporate-state nexus (like socialism, and indeed our current pro-EU system does). Your understanding of philosophy is poor”.

Zelo Street commented on the relationship between Nazism and imperialism by pointing out that the Nazis were nationalists, far right and had zero relationship to the EU. Melville himself pointed out that Hitler and the Nazis were Fascists and right-wing extremists.

Kassam’s views on Nazism, the EU, Fascism and socialism are bonkers, but they’re a staple part of much Libertarian and ‘Leave’ campaign ideology. They follow Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism, in believing that the Nazis were socialists because, er, the Nazis said they were. Despite the fact that Hitler staunchly supported capitalism, did not want to nationalize any firms except in emergencies, smashed the trade unions and put their leaders and activists in the concentration camps along with leaders and members of the mainstream German socialist party, the SDP, the Communist KPD, and anarchists, as well as other political opponents. Kassam also doesn’t seem to realize, or doesn’t want to admit, that the Nazis and Italian Fascists were very much nationalists. The full name of the Nazi party was the National Socialist German Workers Party. And unlike the ‘socialist’ part of their name and programme, they took nationalism very seriously. Only ethnic Germans could legally be citizens. German industry, values and identity, or rather the Nazi version of them, were aggressively promoted.

The Italian Fascists were exactly the same, although they retained the trade unions, but incorporated them into the machinery of state government and control and made them subservient to the state and private industry. At the same time, private industry was aggressively promoted. The Fascists also aggressively pursued a policy of italianita – Italian national identity. Ethnic minorities within Italian borders, such as those communities which spoke German or one of the Yugoslavian languages were to be forced to become Italian and made to speak Italian. At the same time the party absorbed much of the ideology and finally the party of the Italian Nationalists, which was merged with the Fascists in 1922.

Kassam is right about Hitler wanting a united Europe under Germany. However, he did not want anything like the EU. The EU supposedly is a union of democratic states with equal status. It is not an empire nor an occupying power, although fanatics like UKIP have claimed it is. The claim that the Nazis were the founders of the EU is based on a piece of Nazi ideology devised later during the War when they were losing to Stalin and the Soviet Union. They weren’t enough blonde, ethnic Germans to fight the Russians, who were showing very clearly that they definitely weren’t the ‘subhumans’ of Nazi racial doctrine. So they tried to gain support from the occupied countries by spuriously claiming that Nazism stood for a united, capitalist Europe against the Communist threat. It was a piece of propaganda, nothing more. The real origins of EU lay in the 1950s with trade agreements between France and Germany and the establishment of the customs union between Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg – the ‘Benelux’ countries.

Then there’s Kassam’s claptrap about corporativism equals socialism. By corporativism they mean state control or regulation of capitalism. The hardcore Libertarians believe that only an economy absolutely run by private enterprise without any state regulation is really capitalist. But this situation has never existed. Governments since the Middle Ages have regulated industry to a greater or lesser degree, and industrialists, merchants and entrepreneurs have always sought state aid. For example, before Adam Smith wrote his Wealth of Nations promoting laissez faire free trade, the dominant commercial ideology in Britain was mercantilism. This was a system of regulations governing British international trade. This included tying the colonies in North America and the Caribbean into a very constraining relationship with Britain and each other in which their exports were rigidly controlled in order to keep them serving the commercial interests of Britain.

From the ’50s to the end of the ’70s there was also a form of corporativism in Britain, in which the economy was subject to state planning in which the government consulted with both the industrialists and the trade unions. It was somewhat like the Fascist version, but within a democratic framework and pursued by both Labour and Tory governments. The current form of corporativism, in which private industry dominates and controls Congress and elected politicians through political donations and sponsorship, in return receiving government posts and determining government policy, is very much in the sole interests of private industry and capitalism.

But I’m not surprised Kassam doesn’t know anything about this. He is, after all, a hack with the extreme right-wing news organization, Breitbart, and has appeared several times in articles by the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organization Hope Not Hate because of his vicious islamophobia. As for his distinction between Conservatism and Fascism, this also doesn’t work. Fascism is notoriously fluid ideologically, and is therefore extremely difficult to define. In many ways, it was whatever line Mussolini thought was a good idea at the time. The Duce wrote a book defining it, The Doctrine of Fascism, but contradicted himself the next year by declaring that Fascism had no doctrine. It was a movement, not an ideology. As for Conservatism, while the Tory philosopher Roger Scruton in his 1980s book on it stated that it was largely ‘mute’, it is also ideological. As it stands now, it promotes private enterprise and attacks state involvement in industry and welfare provision. And a recent academic study quoted in the new edition of Lobster, issue 77, states that Conservative parties in the West are becoming more ideological and are increasingly resembling the authoritarian parties of the former Communist bloc.

Kassam is therefore utterly wrong. Socialism is not corporativism, and the modern form of corporativism is very definitely capitalist. The Nazis weren’t socialists, they were nationalists and imperialists, and were in no way the founders of the EU. But such distinctions clearly don’t matter to the extreme right-wing propagandists of Breitbart. And especially those, whose own islamophobia is shared by real, overt Fascists in the Alt Right.

For further information, go to the Zelo Street article at http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/01/raheem-kassam-fails-history-101.html

Books on Jews on the Slave Trade

October 6, 2018

Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum and a Jewish woman of colour, was, as I’ve blogged about several times before, smeared as an anti-Semite after some snitch from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism or a similar organization hacked into a private conversation she had been having with two friends on Facebook. This was about the Jewish involvement in the slave trade. Walker, as is abundantly clear from her own commitment to her faith and communities as both a Jew and a woman of colour is certainly not an anti-Semite. She makes it very clear that while there were Jews active in the slave trade, the ultimate responsibility for it lay with their masters, the Christian monarchs of Europe. Her discussion of the subject was based on, and cited research, by mainstream historians and scholars.

Looking for books on the subject on the Net I found these two, available from Amazon.

Saul S. Friedman, Jews and the American Slave Trade (Transaction Publishers 1997).
and Eli Faber, Jews, Slaves and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight (NYU Press 1998).

Both of these books seem to have been written to refute the assertions of the Nation of Islam that Jews were chiefly responsible for the American slave trade.

The Amazon Review of Friedman’s book runs

-Jews and the American Slave Trade is a much needed response to an explosive issue that has been plagued with false charges and pseudo-scholarship. In a calm, logical and precise academic fashion, Dr. Friedman amply proves that Jews did not dominate the slave trade to and in America and, in fact, played a minuscule role even when part of the larger European, West Indian, North American, and South American slave societies. From ancient slavery to colonial mass transport, through each involved European nation to each American colony, Dr. Friedman’s careful analysis is thoroughly documented and interestingly crafted. Jews and the American Slave Trade should be read by students, teachers, and the public at large.- –Dr. David A. Rausch, professor of history, Ashland University -The best antidote for myths and falsification of history is the truth. Prof. Friedman has provided just such an antidote to the calumnies of recent years about the role of Jews in the Atlantic slave trade. It is a scientific work that reveals the bad as well as the good. There is no doubt that this is the best survey of Jewish involvement in the slave trade to the Americas. It ends with a masterful analysis of the antipathy that has developed between Jews and African-Americans in the contemporary United States.- –Howard L. Adelson, professor of medieval history, City University of New York -In this forceful and impassioned response to the Nation of Islam’s Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews (1991), Friedman (Youngstown State Univ.) combines his own extensive primary source research in American archives with the findings of David Brion Davis and hundreds of other distinguished scholars, to document conclusively -that Jews did not dominate the slave trade in the European colonies of South America and the Caribbean or the antebellum South-… Friedman’s essential point remains clear: -when the import and sale of Africans was at its peak Jews owned less than three-one hundredths of a percent, 0.03 percent of all the slaves in America.- All levels.- –E. R. Papenfuse, Choice -Saul Friedman’s book is a trenchant, courageous, and scholarly refutation of that lethal mix of old-fashioned Jew-hatred and modern Holocaust envy which expresses itself in the allegation that Jews controlled the slave trade to and in America.- –Edward Alexander, professor of English, University of Washington, Seattle “

For more information, see: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jews-American-Slave-Trade-Friedman/dp/1560003375

Amazon’s description of Faber’s book states

In the wake of the civil rights movement, a great divide has opened up between African American and Jewish communities. What was historically a harmonious and supportive relationship has suffered from a powerful and oft-repeated legend, that Jews controlled and masterminded the slave trade and owned slaves on a large scale, well in excess of their own proportion in the population.

In this groundbreaking book, likely to stand as the definitive word on the subject, Eli Faber cuts through this cloud of mystification to recapture an important chapter in both Jewish and African diasporic history.

Focusing on the British empire, Faber assesses the extent to which Jews participated in the institution of slavery through investment in slave trading companies, ownership of slave ships, commercial activity as merchants who sold slaves upon their arrival from Africa, and direct ownership of slaves. His unprecedented original research utilizing shipping and tax records, stock-transfer ledgers, censuses, slave registers, and synagogue records reveals, once and for all, the minimal nature of Jews’ involvement in the subjugation of Africans in the Americas.

A crucial corrective, Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade lays to rest one of the most contested historical controversies of our time.

See: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jews-Slaves-Slave-Trade-Perspectives/dp/0814726380/ref=pd_sbs_14_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0814726380&pd_rd_r=3d9f47d4-c977-11e8-8b24-ed803f1d8857&pd_rd_w=66JkT&pd_rd_wg=IEMvw&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_p=18edf98b-139a-41ee-bb40-d725dd59d1d3&pf_rd_r=S1B4YJZT7YR2G4RT5W0K&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=S1B4YJZT7YR2G4RT5W0K

I haven’t read either of these books, and so I can’t personally comment on them. However, from what I’ve read about the slave trade, they seem correct. Hugh Thomas in his book, The Slave Trade, makes the point that Jews played only a very minor role in the American slave trade.

And if a tiny minority of slavers were Jews, it is also true that Jews were also part of anti-slavery movements. In February 1869 there was a public meeting against the slave trade and the enslavement of the indigenous Pacific Islanders in Sydney, Australia. The meeting included not only Christian religious leaders like the Anglican bishop of Sydney, the Rev. John Graham of the Congregational Church, and the Revs. J.P. Sunderland, Adam Thomson, and G.H. Morton,m a Presbyterian minister and G. Hurst, a Methodist clergyman, but also the Rev. A.B. Davis, rabbi of the Sydney synagogue.

The claim that Jews were the dominant force in the American slave trade is anti-Semitic, and utterly refuted by real history. These two books might help readers interested in learning the real truth behind the Nation of Islam’s vile claims. And Jackie Walker herself is demonstrably not an anti-Semite, but an impassioned worker for racial equality and an opponent of racial prejudice, who based her comments also on genuine, accepted scholarship.

Blairites and Jewish Establishment Join Racist Hate Fest Organised by Friends of the EDL

September 22, 2018

This is absolutely disgusting. Last Sunday, the Labour MPs Lucy Powell, Beverley Hughes and Louise Ellman, along with the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and current President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyle (below) attended a demonstration organized by the North-West Friends of Israel. The demonstration was ostensibly against anti-Semitism, but in reality it was another attack on the Labour party for not fanatically supporting Israel. And the organisers, the NWFOI, are also friends and supporters of the EDL and its former leader, Tommy Robinson, AKA Stephen Yaxley Lennon.

No, this is Dr. Who’s Sil, but he’s far more interesting and entertaining than the President of the Board of Deputies.

Tony Greenstein has an excellent piece about the demonstration on his blog, as has Mike over at Vox Political. Greenstein states that

The EDL, formed by Tommy Robinson aka Steven Yaxley-Lennon, was an organisation of Islamaphobic and racist bigots which managed to combine support for Israel with Hitler salutes. Tommy Robinson himself is popular with Zionists these days and completed a tour of Israel with his Zionist fan Dr Brian.

He continued, describing the NWFOI’s relationship with the EDL

In its opposition to Palestine solidarity demonstrations outside the Israeli Kedem shop protest in Manchester in 2014, NWFOI worked with the EDL… As a report at the time observed: ‘NWFOI warmly welcome the English Defence League to their demonstrations.’ The accompanying commentary by Natan Levinson of NWFOI, explained that: ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’

And his article goes on to give further details of the close relationship between the two.

Zyle’s attendance at the event marks a notable reversal of the Board’s attitude towards Robinson and his supporters. Previously they wouldn’t have had anything to do with them. The Board issued a statement against the EDL a little while ago, which said that

Tommy Robinson’s record of anti-Muslim provocation means that he could never be a partner of a respectable or mainstream Jewish organisation.

Mike stated that

This should signal the end of any credibility held by the people named at the top of this article, and the organisations they represent. The reaction on the social media has been damning.

He then goes on to give some of the comments on twitter by people, like John Clarke and Ms. G. Richards, who feel that their attendance discredited the anti-Semitism smears and those making them, and that it was inappropriate for Labour MPs to attend.

Absolutely. And Jewish Voice for Labour, who organized their own counterprotest at the event, and who represent British Jews as much as Mirvis and van der Zyle, issued the following statement

For the last three years there has been a concerted effort to discredit and unseat Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition, a man who is quite possibly the most consistent anti-racist leader the Labour Party has ever known.

This campaign has been led by a coalition of groups which are deeply opposed to Jeremy’s championing of Palestinian rights together with political opponents many of whom have shown little previous interest in combating antisemitism.

Rather than seeking to oppose genuine anti-Jewish hatred, they have cynically sought to amplify and manipulate the anxieties of British Jews in order to further their political aims.

Many of those organisations and individuals taking part this Sunday, including Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and the Board of Deputies, are the same instigators of the campaign against Jeremy.

That progressive Jewish organisations, including those supporting Palestinian human rights, were excluded from participating suggests that the organisers and speakers are not acting in good faith.

For some of the headline speakers, however, the demonstration is not just about antisemitism. Rather it concerns the uncritical defence of some of the actions of the Israeli government whilst giving voice to those who want to remove Jeremy Corbyn, a consistent and principled supporter of Palestinian rights, as leader of the Labour party. We cannot emphasise enough that they do not speak for us.

What is also very bizarre and grotesque is that members of Jewish Voice for Labour have both been accused of not being really Jewish, as well as sneered at by other Jews for being Jewish! Mike reproduces a tweet from Revolution Breeze containing a tweet from Ben Goren saying that an American rabbi called him a ‘Jew Boy’, while a British rabbi said he wasn’t a Jew!

Mike states that the demonstration was a racist event, organized by people using the banner of opposition to anti-Semitism to hide their own racism. In normal circumstances, those Labour MPs and activists, like Ellman and Powell, would get away scot-free with this, and would continue their activities conspiring against and trying to undermine and overthrow their leader. They would continue lying and smearing him, with their comments picked up and repeated by the right-wing press.

He concludes

But their appearance at this event shows that the current situation cannot be allowed to continue. MPs must support the leader, and the will of the party – or they must be replaced by those who will.

By appearing at this appalling event, Lucy Powell and the others have done the Labour Party a huge service.

Precisely what that service is, is shown very clearly in the title of Mike’s article: ‘Lucy Powell’s speech at festival of ‘racial hatred’ makes the case for mandatory reselection’.

And Mike’s right: it is absolutely unacceptable that these Labour rebels should support racist, islamophobic organisations against their own, democratically elected leader.

See Mike’s article
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/18/lucy-powells-speech-at-festival-of-racial-hatred-makes-the-case-for-mandatory-reselection/

and Tony Greenstein’s at
http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/09/nw-friends-of-israel-tommy-robinson-and.html

Greenstein and the Electronic Intifada have published a number of articles exposing the connections between the Zionist British Jewish establishment and the EDL, which has a Jewish division, as well as the Jewish Defence League and the British branch of the Israeli far-right party, Herut. And these links with the EDL should utterly discredit everyone, who turned up to support this disgusting event.

Robinson claims that the EDL is not racist. It is just against Islam, which it presents as aggressive, exploitative and aimed ultimately at overthrowing democracy, secularism and the non-Muslim faiths here in the UK and elsewhere. But the ‘counterjihad’ movement, of which the EDL is a part, is very racist and intolerant. There are elements, which do believe that a war will come in the next decade between far-right European ‘patriots’ and Islam and the left. And I’ve also seen videos on YouTube by anti-Islam activists in the US which not only demonise Muslims, they also demand their expulsion from the US if not the West.

This is chillingly similar to the expulsion of the Jews from Britain in the Middle Ages by Edward I, which was then followed by a wave of other European nations.

The Zionist establishment clearly believe that supporting and collaborating with far-right movements which covertly support ethnic cleansing is acceptable, and does not present any danger to British Jews.

It does. You don’t give Fascists an entrance into mainstream politics. If they are seen to be supported by prominent, respected, if not respectable people, they will naturally exploit this as much as they can. Because as the example of the Nazis shows, they don’t stop with the persecution of only one group. They go on rounding up and killing others. And it wouldn’t surprise me if some members of the EDL, as well as hating Muslims, aren’t also bitter anti-Semites themselves. But perhaps Mirvis, van der Zyle only feel that, once the EDL and its allies expel Muslims, they only Jews they’ll persecute will be left-wing and anti-Zionist, you know, the people they regard as ‘the wrong sort of Jews’.

The event is also a slap in the face to organisations working to overcome prejudice between communities, and especially to bring to Jews and Muslims together.

This demonstration was a dangerous, racist farce, and the Blairites and members of the Jewish establishment – Mirvis and van der Zyle – who attended have betrayed the very people they claim to represent.