Posts Tagged ‘Muslims’

Book on Early Islamic Palestine in Oxbow Bargain Catalogue

December 2, 2018

Another book I found in the Oxbow Book Catalogue, which might be of interest to some readers of this blog, is Jodi Magness’ Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine. The blurb for this runs

Archaeological evidence is frequently cited by scholars as proof that Palestine declined after the Muslim conquest, and especially after the rise of the Abbasids in the mid-eighth century. Instead, Magness argues that the archaeological evidence supports the idea that Palestine and Syria experienced a tremendous growth in population and prosperity between the mid-sixth and mid-seventh centuries.

The book’s published by Eisenbrauns. It’s normal price is 42.95 pounds, but it’s being offered by Oxbow at 14.95.

I’ve no doubt that the area did receive a boost after the Islamic conquest. The Muslims were helped to seize the region by its indigenous peoples, including Christians. Many of them belonged to sects which were judged heretical by the Byzantine Empire, and so were terribly persecuted. Quite apart from the fact that Byzantine Empire was declining economically and demographically, so that many Byzantine towns dwindled to villages or vanished during the centuries of the Empire’s fall before the conquest of Constantinople in the 15th century by the Ottomans. The Muslims were aided in their conquest of Palestine and Egypt by indigenous peoples of those countries because they offered them tolerance and peace. And materially, inclusion in the new Arab Empire made them part of state that stretched right across north Africa, Arabia and the former Persian Empire to the borders of India, and into Spain, which obviously gave a massive boost to long distance trade.

The book also adds more evidence against the Israeli assertion, completely disproven but still being repeated, that Palestine was empty before the Israelis arrived, and that the Palestinians who occupied it only arrived comparatively recently.

Book on Ancient Philosophy in Gaza

Similarly, the catalogue also includes book on ancient Greek philosophy in the Palestinian city of Gaza. This is Explaining the Cosmos, by Michael W. Champion. The blurb for this reads

This volume analyses the writings of three thinkers associated with Gaza, Aeneas, Zacharias and Procopius. Together, they offer a case study for the appropriation, adaptation and transformation of classical philosophy in late antiquity, and for cultural transitions more generally in Gaza.

That’s by the Oxford University Press. It was 62.00 pounds, but is now 14.95

The philosophers studied in the book seem to be Christian Greeks, rather than Jews or Syriac Christians. Nevertheless, this shows that Gaza, now a beleaguered ghetto under the Israelis, was a centre for intellectual enquiry and learning when it was part of the Byzantine Empire, the Greek Roman Empire of the East.

Advertisements

‘I’ Columnist Wants MPs to Defend Palestinians After Joining Anti-Semitism Smears against Labour

November 28, 2018

The I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is one of the few Fleet Street columnists, who I respect. She writes about racism, but acknowledges that it is not confined to Whites hating Blacks, but affects people of all races and colours. She’s also a genuinely moderate Muslim, fiercely critical of the bigots and preachers of hate in her religion, and condemns the White, non-Muslim politicians who pander to them in the hope of garnering votes.

Tweezer’s Denial of Asylum to Asia Bibi, Pakistani Persecuted Christian

A few weeks ago, she attacked Tweezer for refusing sanctuary to Asia Bibi, the Christian Pakistani woman acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan. Other companies have offered to take Bibi in, but not May, who feared that it would upset this country’s Muslims. Alibhai-Brown then described the case, showing how dubious the accusation was, and the prejudice and hatred Pakistani Christians face. She also stated that the country was also unsafe for Shi’a Muslims like herself. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, had intended it to be a secular state with separation between state and mosque. But this had swiftly been overturned, most notoriously by the military dictator General Zia ul-Haqq, who ruled the place in the 1970s. Everything she said was correct. The Beeb has also screened documentaries about the arrests of people in Pakistan for blasphemy. It’s a crime that carries the death penalty, and Bibi has spent over a decade on death row. Most of those accused, however, are Muslims, and it looks very much like the majority of accusations are false, being used as a weapon in family and clan disputes. In the case of Bibi, she was accused of blasphemy by a group of women with whom she was working. They sent her to fetch water for them to drink. She stopped to take a drink herself, so they accused her of ‘polluting’ it before going to accuse her of blasphemy. Everything about it says to me that this is all about caste. Islam in Pakistan has a caste system like India, though not as severe. Many of Pakistan’s Christians are sheikhs, one of the lowest castes, working as bonded labourers in the brick kilns. It looks like Bibi was one of these low caste workers, and the Muslims for whom she fetched the water were outraged at her taking a drink from it because they believed that the touch of a low caste person polluted it. Just like high caste Indians at one time would throw away their food if even the shadow of one of the Dalits, the Untouchables, fell on it.

There’s more to be said about the case, but Alibhai-Brown was right to attack the vicious, murderous bigotry behind the accusation and Tweezer’s own cowardice in refusing to give Bibi asylum. I’d go further, and say that while there is a danger that the preachers of hate in British Islam would try to capitalize on Bibi being given asylum, that’s no evidence for not admitting her to Britain. And it also shows Tweezer’s low view of British Islam, if she thought the intolerance of bigoted minority was worth capitulating to. Not all Muslims are fanatics and bigots by any means, but Tweezer’s refusal to take in Asia Bibi suggests that she feels that nevertheless, enough of them are. It’s a decision which would delight the Islamophobes, who believe that all Muslims are a threat to traditional British religious freedom, and that liberal governments are too afraid to confront them.

Alibhai-Brown on Israel’s Persecution of the Palestinians

In yesterday’s I for the 27th November 2018, Alibhai-Brown tackled the plight of the Palestinians and their oppression under the Israelis in an article entitled ‘The Holy Land needs some goodwill: Plight of the Palestinians should be remembered by all’, on page 15. She began the article by stating that Christmas is the time when devout Christians turn their minds to the places where Christ lived, preached and died, and that there is a massive tourist industry in the Holy Land. It is a country which contains sites sacred to all three of the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and that for centuries the religions coexisted in peace.

This is true no longer, as Israel increases its dominance. She states that Bethlehem has been turned into an open air prison, and that last year Palestinian Muslims were denied entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. Netanyahu’s oppression of the Palestinians is supported by Donald Trump and American Christian fanatics, whose decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem shows that Muslim Arabs mean nothing to him and his government.

Shalhoub-Kavorkian and Dimbleby on Oppressed Palestine

She then goes on to quote Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kavorkian of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on the routine brutality and second class status of the Palestinians. The prof. wrote

Violence is central to the political logic of the Israeli state and its occupation of Jerusalem. Enacted in the hundreds of daily acts of harassment perpetuated by heavily armed soldiers, police, settlers, and undercover security personnel belonging to the state of Israel, much of the violence occurs routinely and it goes largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Palestinians, native to and residing in Jerusalem, are categorized by Israeli law as ‘permanent residents’ or as foreign residents who hate to prove to the Ministry of Interior that their ‘centre of life’ – where they live, go to school, get medical care and pay for utilities are all taking place in Jerusalem.

She then moves on to discuss a ‘poignant’ book on Palestine, published by Jonathan Dimbleby, now the presenter of Question Time in 1980. This was when he was the maker of foreign documentaries, and the book was accompanied with photographs by Sir Donald McCullin. The book apparently shows the great diversity of Palestinian life and culture as well as moving tales of dispossession and pain. Re-reading it now, she realized how much worse their plight had become. She quotes the book as saying

The struggle is still presented in a woefully lopsided fashion: a small embattled, occasionally obstinate but usually admirable democratic state (Israel) under challenge from a despicable, occasionally pathetic, but usually brutal gang of desperadoes (the PLO).

Defending Palestine and Anti-Semitism Smears

She is very aware that simply discussing the plight of the Palestinians is met by accusations of anti-Semitism. She writes

Now the reporting of Israeli injustices brings on instant accusations of anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, she also swallows the line that Israel was created in response to the horrors of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. It wasn’t. Jewish colonization began long before, after the Balfour Declaration during the First World War. She states that Israel exists and must exist as a safe homeland, before going to make the point that the horrors of the Nazis’ persecution don’t give Israel the right to break international laws and violate the human rights ‘of those whose land was taken to create their homeland’.

Pro-Palestinian Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

The article then goes on to discuss the book, Walking to Jerusalem, by Justin Butcher, a playwright and activist, whose launch she attended. This is the record of a pilgrimage made by hundreds of ordinary people, who went on foot to Jerusalem, funded by a small charity, the Amos Trust. The pilgrims arrived just before the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, in order to ‘change the record of a hundred years of injustice to the Palestinian people.’ She states that the marchers included Jews, which should surprise no-one, who knows how very many Jews are critical of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and the crimes committed in their name by Netanyahu’s thugs.

She also notes that over 200 Gazans were killed by Israeli forces, some of whom were medical workers and journalists. Settlers were stealing more land and homes. Although some Israelis were also wounded and killed, and too many live in fear, this was an unequal clash.

Alibhai-Brown’s Call for the Public to Contact their MPs

She concludes the article

Maybe one thing we can all do this Christmas is to ask our MPs to be more openly critical of Israel and do what the walkers did – support peaceful Palestinian men, women and children who have for so long been denied rights, livelihoods and dignity. Sometimes goodwill is the best present.

Alibhai-Brown and the Anti-Semitism Smears against the Labour Party

It’s a good article, but marred by Alibhai-Brown’s own behaviour towards Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. When the Israel lobby and Conservative media and Jewish establishment once again attacked Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour for not signing up to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, Alibhai-Brown was one of the hacks denouncing the Labour party as full of anti-Semites. But this article suggests she know how false at least some of those allegations must have been. But there is no retraction. The Fleet Street Groupthink about the Labour party, and the bias of the I’s editor and proprietor apparently appear to be too strong.

She also must realise that with the Israel lobby holding power in both the Tories and the Labour party through their ‘Friends of Israel’ groups, and the Jewish Labour Movement in the Labour party, any chance of MPs stepping out of line to risk their careers defending the Palestinians is remote. Not while there’s a chance that someone at the Israeli embassy will pick up where Shai Masot left off and start deciding that they’re a person, who shouldn’t be in the next cabinet. And although the media may claim that the affair’s all over, their haste to do so shows that the conspiracy – and the accusations of anti-Semitism against people like Mike who correctly called it that – has had the desired effect. MPs aren’t going to risk being sidelined or thrown out as anti-Semites if they dare confront the lobby.

The Israel Lobby and the Suppression of Pro-Palestinian Reporting

As for Dimbleby and his book, I very much doubt there’s much chance of anyone at the Beeb now being so courageous in criticizing Israel. Ten years ago Peter Oborne made his documentary on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches. This showed not just the extent of the lobby in the parliamentary parties, but also how they bullied and intimidated journalists with accusations of anti-Semitism. This included Graoniad editor Alan Rusbridger, and several very well respected Beeb journos, who dared to describe the atrocities committed by Israel and the massacres by its allies, the Lebanese Christian phalange, in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. These accusations were found by the broadcasting regulatory bodies to be without foundation. But that tactic is still being used by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the other thugs and bully-boys in the Israel lobby.

And this tactics will continue to be made, unless more people stand up to it. Corbyn and his supporters aren’t anti-Semites, but they were smeared as such simply because they defended the Palestinians. The Israelis are afraid that there just might be a foreign prime minister, who doesn’t defer to them, and won’t tolerate their persecution of the indigenous Arabs. Alibhai-Brown must surely realise this, but she joined their attacks on Corbyn and Labour anyway.

And those attacks on Corbyn and politicians like him will continue, unless journos like Alibhai-Brown practice what they preach and actively support and defend him and other Israel-critical politicos in their columns against such mendacious and false accusation of anti-Semitism.

Ex-CIA Head Michael Scheuer States America Should Not Support Israel

November 27, 2018

I found this short clip of Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA, speaking at a debate held at Georgetown University. He was answering questions about his view that America should not support Israel.

The panel are incredulous at this, and raise the old canard about Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East.

He makes it clear that he believes that America should be indifferent to whether Israel survives, and that democracy is a silly foreign policy goal. This has been proved in Afghanistan. Against the response that democracies are less likely to wage war on democracies, he replies that he spent four years when two of the world’s greatest democracies managed to kill 640,000 of their own people. He states that democracies will fight like other people, but it is not the business of the US to install democracy anywhere. ‘We don’t do it very well. We do it ridiculously badly as a matter of fact.’ He goes on to say that it is a canard that countries have a right to exist. No, they have a right to defend themselves.

He then denies the charge that Israel and its representatives corrupt US politics. No, it’s Israel-supporting Americans who do that. As for his evidence for this, he points to what they did to Ambassador Freeman. The panel states that that was not corruption, it was a lobby doing what a lobby does. The panel then compares the Israel lobby to the tobacco lobby and the gun lobby. And Scheuer replies by saying that none of these lobbies rebound to America’s harm, while the Israel lobby does exactly that. They then ask him about the harm the Israel lobby has done. Scheuer responds by saying that they have convinced Americans that Israeli interests are identical with US national security interests. When the chairman of the panel says that a lot of people would agree with that, Scheuer says bluntly that a lot of people are foolish, and leading America into defeat.

I think Scheuer’s an old school American Conservative of the type who believes that America has no business telling other countries how to run their affairs. It’s classic isolationism. He isn’t alone. One of the American servicewomen voicing this objection was a senior Pentagon officer, who despise the Neocons for dragging America into a series of pointless wars in the Middle East.

And no, America is not good at installing democracies. It has always instead installed Fascist dictatorships. The democracies it has installed, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are artificial and very dependent on continued US military support.

As for Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East, that’s rubbish. Lebanon is also a democracy, though very carefully limited in a system of consociality, so that the different religions occupy particular posts in a very careful balancing of sectarian power. Iran’s a theocracy, but it’s people also vote in elections, so it has a democratic component. The democracy the Neocons wanted to bring to Iraq was similarly limited, in that they wanted the only parties to gain power to be those standing for complete free trade, low taxes, and so on. The constitution the Americans imposed on Iraq has written into it that the Iraqis’ own oil industry cannot be nationalized. It has remain in private hands. Which means those of the western multinationals. And Israel itself is very dubious as a democracy. The Palestinians are very much second-class citizens and the Israeli state only acts on behalf of the European and American Jewish colonists.

And it should be absolutely axiomatic – a clear, fundamental true political principle – that one major reason why so much of the Arab and Muslim world hates America has absolutely nothing to do with hatred of democracy or western civilization per se, but because America backs Israel, the persecution of that nation’s indigenous Arab and Muslim population, and invades and plunders other Arab and Islamic states.

Scheuer’s a brave man for pointing all this out, and I’m surprise the Israel lobby hasn’t smeared him as an anti-Semite. Perhaps they have. But he’s right. As are all the other decent critics of Israel, that the country and its foreign lobbies have smeared.

Quakers and Airbnb Boycott Israeli Occupation of Palestine

November 22, 2018

I found this video from RT which was posted yesterday, Wednesday 21st November 2018 on YouTube. It reports that the Quakers have banned investing in companies which profit through Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Quakers stated that

Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.

With the occupation now in its 51st year, and with no end in sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.

This is, apparently, the first time a British church had made such a move, and the Quakers have been criticized by Jewish groups, which claim that it is a reference to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. the Board of Deputies of British Jews called the Quakers decision ‘appalling’ and said that it must be reversed. Quaker leaders, however, state that the decision recalls protests against apartheid South Africa and the slave trade.

The video then moves into a discussion about the decision with Les Levido from Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods and Rafi Bloom, co-chair of Northwest Friends of Israel.

The Quakers are, of course, absolutely right. Israel is an apartheid state, and the West Bank is under military occupation. The Quakers are rightly famous for their pacifism. One of our aunts was a member of CND in the 1980s, and I got the impression that among the religious groups supporting the movement were the Quakers and Roman Catholic Franciscan friars. As for the Slave Trade, they were one of the main groups behind the Abolitionist movement when it first appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the great Quaker campaigners against it in the British Caribbean was Woolmer, a hunchbacked dwarf, who used to carry around with him a hollowed-out Bible filled with blood. When he saw a planter approaching, he used to stab the knife into the Bible, sending the blood spattering as a visual protest of the blood spilt through the infamous trade. Philadelphia, the city founded by another Quaker, William Penn, was also the home of many of the American Quaker campaigners against the slave trade. Later on they were joined by the Methodists and the evangelical wing of the Anglican church in Britain. I’ve also got a feeling that many Quakers may also have been involved in the legalization of homosexuality in Britain. Gerard Hoffnung, the musician and cartoonist, was a Quaker and a supporter of this movement to end the persecution of gays.

It’s to be expected that Jewish groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews were going to be outraged at the church’s decision, but I note that the reporter does not say that they denounced them as anti-Semites. As the Quaker’s have always promoted peace and tolerance, such an accusation simply wouldn’t be credible.

I haven’t watched the debate, however, because I’ve no respect for the North West Friends of Israel. From reading Bookburnersrus, Martin Odoni’s and Tony Greenstein’s blogs, it’s very clear that they’re another bunch of thuggish bully-boys. Martin describes a meeting at a Quaker meeting house in Manchester, when the Jewish American reporter and activist Max Blumenthal was speaking about his latest book on Israel and its crimes. The Zionist activists there first tried to stop him entering, and then loudly heckled, sneered and guffawed throughout his talk until they were finally turfed out by the rozzers. And of course, they made the ridiculous claim that they were being silenced because they were Jews, when in fact they were thrown out because they were just there to disrupt and prevent other Jews talking and hearing about what was really going on.

Tony Greenstein described some of their members in one of his blogs. At least two were failed businessmen, one of whom was a lawyer, who’d been struck off. Quite apart from the usual contingent of Islamophobes and supporters of the EDL. They’re in no position to lecture the Quakers or the Jewish Israel-critical peeps, who have to suffer their anti-Semitic abuse, about morality.

The day before that report, the 21st, RT posted another piece discussing Airbnb’s decision not to list homes in the occupied West Bank, which also enraged the Israeli state. The company’s press room stated

We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.

About 200 homes were to be removed from the list. The Palestinian authority welcomed the move, as they had previously requested the company to remove such listings. The Israelis, however, condemned it, and used the time-worn tactic of screaming racism.

Yariv Levin, the Israeli tourism minister, declared

This decision is completely unacceptable. This is pure discrimination, something that is taken only against Jews that are living in Judaea and Samaria. This is actually a racist decision – and more than that, I do believe that it is a double standard that is taken only against Israel, against Jews that are living here in Israel.

The anchorwoman then goes on to talk to Mustafa Barghouti, the General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, about the issue, as well as a former commander in the Israeli air force. Barghouti states that the UN resolutions say that the settlements in the West Bank are completely illegal, they are discriminatory, as they are built on land stolen from the Palestinians, and any relationship with these illegal settlements are a violation of international law. He says that Airbnb has taken the right decision, as they stood to lose a lot due to the boycott against them. And what is really racist and discriminatory is the apartheid system the Israelis have created, which favours Israelis over Palestinians.

The Israeli spokesman, Reuven Berko, cited simply as ‘Middle East expert’, rants about Airbnb being ‘cowards to Islamic terrorists, I don’t know what’, accuses them of anti-Semitism and ignoring the right of the Jews to their homeland in Judea and Samaria and asks how many Christians are angry about this. He states that this is an awful step against history, against fate.

It’s the usual specious rubbish. The Biblical state of Israel certainly existed, and was the homeland of the Jewish people in antiquity. But it has not existed for centuries. For many Jews, their real homeland was the country in which they and their forebears had lived in the Diaspora. And the Bund, the Jewish Socialist movement, made that very clear in their slogan ‘Wherever we live, that’s our homeland’. And many Orthodox Jews feel that Israel cannot be restored except by the hand of the Almighty and the Messiah. Until that happens, modern Israel is to them nothing but a blasphemy.

As for appealing to Christian anger about this, the lead Christian Zionist movements, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, are millennialists, who believe that the restoration of Israel will usher in the End Times and Christ’s Second Coming, along with the destruction of those Jews, who won’t convert to Christianity. In fact, the indigenous Christians of Palestine have almost been completely cleansed from Israel. The Christian population before 1948 was 25 per cent. Now it’s only one per cent. American Zionist Christians put this down wholly to persecution from Muslims. Now Muslim Palestinians have persecuted their Christian fellow countrymen, whom they see as collaborators. But Palestinian Christians have also and are being persecuted by the Israeli state and the settlers. The Israelis have closed churches as well as mosques, and both churches and mosques have been attacked and desecrated by mobs of Israeli settlers.

In my somewhat limited experience, Muslim Brits are better informed about this than British Christians. I studied Islam when I was at College as part of my Religious Studies minor degree. I can remember reading the equivalent of the parish magazine from one of the British mosques. It contained an article attacking the closure of one of the mosques in Palestine and its conversion into a disco. The article also noted that a nearby Christian church had also been closed by the Israelis.

A few years ago Channel 4 also screened a programme about the relationship between Christianity and other faiths, in which the presenter travelled to Israel. There he encountered an Israeli ‘shock jock’ radio host, who ranted about Christians. The programme also covered a march of militant Israelis on a church used by Messianic Jews. These are Jews, who have accepted Christ as the messiah, but still observe the Mosaic Law. This is my opinion, but I think they’re very similar to the Christian community of which the Gospel writer St. Matthew was a part, as this is traditionally regarded as the Jewish Gospel, and St. Matthew is concerned to assimilate Christ’s teaching to that of the Jewish sages. The settlers were stopped at the church entrance by the Muslim doorman. And apparently, it was actually quite common to have Muslims at the door of Christian churches protecting the worshippers from religious violence from outside.

And if we are going to talk about racism and discrimination, a friend of mine, who studied Judaism at College also told me that in the 1960s the Israelis threw out tens of thousands of indigenous Jewish Palestinians, because they were culturally Arab. There have been articles in Counterpunch by the magazine’s Jewish contributors, which have pointed out that Israel is a European/American Jewish colony, whose founders had a despicable racist contempt for the Mizrahim, Jewish Arabs, or Arabicized Jews.

The Quakers and Airbnb are right to boycott Israel’s occupation of Palestine. And the real racism and apartheid is by Israel against the indigenous Arabs, who have been Jewish, Christian and Muslim, and have suffered discrimination, persecution and ethnic cleansing by the Israeli state.

Jai Singh’s Observatory in India: A Great Location for Dr. Who

November 18, 2018

Maharaja Jai Singh’s observatory in Jaipur, as photographed by the Archaeological Survey of India

Last week on Dr. Who, the Doctor and her friends traveled back seventy years to the partition of India to uncover the secret of Yas’ grandmother’s marriage. Yas is surprised to find that the man her gran, a Muslim married, was a Hindu. And as nationalism and ethnic tensions surged on both sides, her groom was murdered by his own brother as a traitor. Yas’ gran survived, and held on to the watch her husband of only a few hours had given her as a treasured token of their doomed love.

It was a story of family history, doomed romance set against the bloodshed of the Partition, which resulted in 4 million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs being slaughtered in bloody massacres. And its central theme was the inevitability of history, as Yas could do nothing to save her gran’s first husband. It was similar in this respect to the Classic Star Trek episode, ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’. Written by Harlan Ellison, this had Spock, Kirk and McCoy travel back to Depression-era America. There Kirk falls in love with a woman running a soup kitchen. But she’s an opponent of America entering the war in Europe, who dies in car accident. If she lives, America will not enter World War II, and humanity will never go to the stars. Kirk is thus faced with the terrible necessity of letting the woman he loves die in order to preserve history.

It’s a good story, though I would have preferred one with a bit more science in it. The two aliens that appear, who the Doctor first believes are assassins and responsible for the murder of the Hindu holy man, who was to marry the happy couple, turn out instead to have reformed. Returning to find their homeworld had been destroyed, the two now travel through the universe to witness the deaths of those who pass unnoticed. They reminded me of the Soul Hunters in Babylon 5, an alien race, who travel through the universe to extract and preserve the souls of the dying at the moment of death. They are interested in ‘dreamers, poets, thinkers, blessed lunatics’, creative visionaries whose genius they want to preserve against dissolution.

Dr. Who has a tradition of the Doctor going back in time to meet important figures of the past. One such influential figure in India was Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur, who constructed great observatories in Jaipur and Delhi. As you can see from the piccy at the top, the measuring instruments used in astronomy at the time were built out of stone there. To my eyes, the observatories thus have the shape of the weird, alien architecture portrayed by SF artists like Chris Foss, as if they were monuments left by some strange future extraterrestrial civilization.

B.V. Subbarayappa, in his ‘Indian Astronomy: an historical perspective’, in S.K. Biswas, D.C.V. Mallik and C.V. Viveshwara, eds., Cosmic Perspectives: Essays dedicated to the memory of M.K.V. Bappu pp.41-50, writes of the Maharaja

In this respect, special mention needs to be made of Majaraja Sawai Jai Sing II (1688-1743) of Jaipur, who was not only an able king but also a skilled astronomer and patron of learning. He built five observatories in different locations in Northern India. The observatories now standing majestic and serene in Jaipur and Delhi bear testimony to his abiding interest in astronomy and to his efforts for augmenting the astronomical tradition with an open-mindedness. The observatory at Jaipur has a large number of instruments – huge sun-dials, hemispherical dial, meridian circle, a graduated meridianal arc, sextants, zodiacal complex, a circular protractor (which are masonry instruments), as well as huge astrolabes. Sawai Jai Singh II meticulously studied the Hindu, Arabic and the European systems of astronomy. He was well aware of Ptolemy’s Almagest (in its Arabic version), as also the works of Central Asian astronomers – Nasir al-Din at-Tusi, Al-Gurgani, Jamshid Kashi and, more importantly, of Ulugh Bek – the builder of the Samarqand observatory. In fact, it was the Samarqand school of astronomy that appears to have been a great source of inspiration to Jai Singh in his astronomical endeavours.

No less was his interest in European astronomy. In his court was a French Jesuit missionary who was an able astronomer and whom Jai Singh sent to Europe to procure for him some of the important contemporary European works on astronomy. He studied Flansteed’s Historia Coelestis Britannica, La Hire’s Tabula Astronomicae and other works. He was well aware ot he use of telescope in Europe and he spared no efforts in having small telescopes constructed in his own city. In the introduction to his manum opus, Zij Muhammad Shahi, which is preserved both in Persian and Sanskrit, he has recorded that telescopes were being constructed during his lifetime and that he did make use of a telescope for observing the sun-spots, the four moons of Jupiter, phases of Mercury and Venus, etc. However, in the absence of a critical evaluation of his treatise, it is rather difficult to opine whether Jai Singh was able to determine the planetary positions or movements with the help of a telescope and whether he recorded them. No positive evidence has yet been unearthed.

The principal court astronomer of Jai Singh II was Jagganatha who was not only well versed in Arabic and Persian but also a profound scholar of Hindu astronomy. He translated Ptolemy’s Almagest and Euclid’s Elements from their Arabic versions into Sanskrit. The Samrat Siddhanta, the Sanskrit title of the Almagest, is indeed a glorious example of the open-mindedness and generous scientific attitude of Indian astronomers. (pp. 36-8).

It would be brilliant if there was a Dr. Who story using this fascinating, historic location, but as it’s almost certainly a prized national monument, I doubt very much the Beeb would be allowed to film there. Still, perhaps something could be done using CGI and a lot of imagination.

Does Blair’s Money Come from Israeli Settlers

November 11, 2018

I found this photographic joke about Tony Blair in Private Eye’s edition for the 30th September – 13th October 2011 on page 5.

If you can’t read it, click on it to enlarge. The piccie shows the former leader of the Labour party and the man, who launched the illegal and bloody invasion of Iraq saying ‘I’m laughing all the way to the West Bank’. The caption above reads ‘Blair’s Mystery Millions’.

Blair’s money is still very much a mystery. A recent Private Eye quoted one tax official as saying that his financial interests seemed to be hidden by a series of holding companies in a manner that was extremely unusual and complicated. The West Bank referred to in the photo is almost certainly the Israeli West Bank, part of Palestine, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. And if that is where Blair’s money comes from, it’s very unlikely it comes from the Palestinians, for all that Blair tried to curry favour with British Muslims by telling the world how much he respects their religion and regularly read the Qur’an.

Blair and the Labour Right that follows his Thatcherite, neoliberal ideology, always were close to the Israel lobby. He met Lord Levy, who became his chief fundraiser, at a party in the Israeli embassy. It was Levy, who raised the donations from Jewish businesspeople that allowed Blair to be independent of the unions and to defy and increase the legislation intended to crush them. Labour always has had Jewish members – one the best known of the Jewish Labour MPs was the veteran and respected Manny Shinwell. Jewish businesses also donated to the Labour party before Blair. Harold Wilson was given considerable support by the Jewish members of Manchester’s business community. What made Blair unusual wasn’t that he had Jewish supporters and donors, but that they were Zionists, whose contributions to Blair’s finances appeared to have been designed to influence party policy. Blair’s close friend and spin doctor, Peter Mandelson, said that Blair had ended the ‘cowboys and Indians’ attitude to Israel, and was a staunch supporter. Or words to that effect.

And Blair’s Zionism was also reflected very strongly in his foreign policy. Despite claims to be impartial, Blair always supported the Israelis over the Palestinians. He and Bush followed the NeoCon agenda in the invasion of Iraq. Not only was this intended to enrich western multinationals and Saudi oil interests through the seizure of the Iraqi oil industry and other lucrative state assets. It was also to aid Israel through the toppling of Saddam Hussein, who provided aid and support to the Palestinians. And the Neoconservative project was first launched in 1969 by William Kristol in an article in an American Jewish magazine discussing ways to increase wider American support for Israel.

If some of Blair’s money did come from the West Bank, then it seems very much that it comes from Israeli settlers and the businesses they have set up in contravention of international law. It’s these businesses that are target of the BDS campaign, which demands that people and institutions boycott and divest from Israeli businesses in the Occupied Territories. The campaign has, so far, resulted in a 1/3 of these businesses closing down, though the construction of illegal settlements and the persecution and maltreatment of the indigenous Arab population continues. And if that’s the case, then it adds another explanation for the Blairites’ determination to silence, persecute and purge those critical of Israel from the party. They, or their former leader, have personal financial reasons to fear Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour government that believes in equality and justice for the Palestinians.

Raheem Kassam’s Anti-Semitic Claim that Jews Funding Cadwalladr’s Investigation of ‘Leave’ Campaign

November 8, 2018

After the anti-Semitism lies and smears against the Labour party and decent, anti-racist people like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni and so many, many others, here’s what looks very much like the real thing. Yesterday Mike put up a piece about a smear made on Patreon by Raheem Kassam against the journalist Carole Cadwalladr. Kassam’s a staunch supporter of Brexit, but many of the ‘Leave’ organisations are now being investigated for breaches of electoral law and funding irregularities. Much of this is the result of Cadwalladr’s investigations into these bodies. Kassam couldn’t tolerate this, and so issued a Tweet claiming that because Cadwalladr’s investigations were published on the Open Democracy website, which is partly funded by George Soros and his Open Society Foundation, she’s being backed by ‘Globalist shills’. Mike explains that this is apparently an anti-Semitic dog-whistle.

Kassam stated

“Cadwalladr has attempted to cover such tracks by issuing a series of tweets alleging that any critique of the billionaire, fund manager Soros is ‘racist’ against Jews. This is despite Soros’s rejection of his Jewish identity, and in spite of the fact that he has openly admitted to assisting in the confiscation of Jewish property during the Holocaust”.

The Liberal Jewish organization, Zelo Street, responded by issuing a firm refutation of Kassam’s claims.

“George Soros did not assist in confiscation of Jewish property” – and this certainly seems unlikely as he would have been only 15 at the end of World War II. “And whether he “rejects his Jewish identity” is irrelevant. Calling “Soros” is code for “the Jews”. Like gratuitously pitching terms like “globalists”, “global bankers”, and “Goldman Sachs”.”

Mike in his article wonders if the Leave response to these breaches of electoral law is simply anti-Semitism, and asks if many Leave supporters will disassociate from Kassam, or whether they will simply double down and renew their calls for Remainers to get over it.

See https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/07/anti-semite-claims-the-jews-are-funding-carole-cadwalladrs-brexit-investigations/

I really don’t think there can be much doubt that Kassam’s tweet was full of coded anti-Semitic terms. The American Right, and particularly Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians, have been afraid of the creation of a ‘One World’ dictatorial state for a very long time. In modern Millennialist Christian theology, this will be the beginnings of the End Times, with the Anti-Christ as the dictator of this new global state. Which will, of course, begin the persecution of Christians. See the ‘Left Behind’ series of Christian novels by Tim LaHaye. I don’t doubt that most of the people, who hold these views aren’t anti-Semites. But it can shade into the real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Jews secretly running the world, manipulating capitalism and Communism to enslave gentiles and destroy the White race through immigration and racial intermixing. The literature for this conspiracy theory sees the United Nations as the seed from which the One World dictatorship will develop, as well as the Trilateral Commission in the US and the Bilderberg group. The last is a regular meeting of major political and business figures from around the world, and is the centre of much conspiracist speculation.

The literature also discusses the major roles of the Jewish financiers in the creation of these bodies, through the Rothschild banking family and Bernard Baruch. Some of this literature will try to distance itself from overt anti-Semitism by drawing a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Jews. The good Jews are the millions of ordinary Jewish peeps not involved in the conspiracy, and who may themselves be the victims of it. The material taking this line will point out that Rothschilds continuing giving credit and financing the Nazi regime even when it began openly persecuting the Jews. The bad Jews are, of course, Rothschilds and the other immensely wealth Jewish banking families. These last are described as ‘Zionists’, but the term isn’t used according to its normal meaning. When the people promoting this conspiracy talk about ‘Zionists’, they really mean the Jewish global banking conspiracy. They definitely don’t mean in its proper sense of supporters of the state of Israel. Hence the Nazis and anti-Semites in America refer to their government as ZOG, or Zionist Occupation Government.

George Soros has now entered the demonology of paranoid anti-Semites because he is an immensely wealthy Jewish financier, who funds a variety of groups promoting human rights, democracy and liberal society, as well as being on opponent of Brexit. Thus, he’s been bitterly attacked and vilified by Viktor Orban and his far-right Fidesz party, which now forms the Hungarian government. At the same time, the real Zionists and Netanyahu’s government in Israel despise him because Soros is an anti-Zionist. He’s despised the Zionist movement because of the way they made deals, under the leadership of Kasztner, with the Nazis to allow the deportation of many Jewish Hungarians on the condition that a certain number should be allowed to emigrate to Israel.

Tony Greenstein has today put up a piece about how George Soros thus provides a unifying connection between modern Nazis and anti-Semites, and Netanyahu and the Israel lobby. He also reproduces with his own article a couple of pieces from other journalists, which support his point. One is by Dove Kent of Jewish Currents, and Adele M. Stan of the American Prospect. These articles are also worth reading, as they show very clearly how Trump is using dog-whistle anti-Semitic codewords to weaken the Left. The women protesting against Judge Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault but is nevertheless trying to become a member of the Supreme Court, are accused of being funded by Soros. As is the Black Lives Matter movement and Trans Rights campaigners. Anti-Semitic tropes were also used to attack the Left during McCarthyism, and were particularly effective because Jews were over-represented in Communist and Left-wing groups. Greenstein in his piece also describes how Netanyahu and the Israeli lobby have also deployed anti-Semitic stereotypes and rhetoric to demonise Soros.

Greenstein also describes how right-wing broadcaster and polemicist, Glenn Beck has also attacked Soros using the rhetoric and ideology of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. He described Soros as a ‘puppetmaster’, a Jewish financier with no ties to any country – which conforms to the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews as ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ in Nazi ideology – who wanted to create a ‘one world government’. He also claimed that Soros came from an anti-Semitic family, and participated in the Holocaust against the Jews when he was 14. Beck isn’t a peripheral figure. He’s been a fixture of the American right-wing broadcasting scene for decades. But he is bonkers. Many of his broadcasts and talks are simply rants in which he predicts that America will suffer some kind of totalitarian Nazi-Communist-Socialist-Atheist dictatorship, and that ‘They’ will come for him. And his performance, already bizarre, often ends with him in tears. The online humour magazine, Cracked, a few years ago, covered one of his talks in California, which hilariously described how nonsensical and mad it all was. Apparently it feature someone in pseudo-Nazi costume representing tyranny, while a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty represented freedom. Oh yes, and I think there was someone who was supposed to represent anarchy as well.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/11/george-soros-unifying-figure-for-trump.html

This is the paranoid, anti-Semitic worldview that is deliberately evoked by the attacks on Soros, although I don’t doubt that many of those, who are taken in by it probably aren’t anti-Semites and don’t realise the very definite anti-Semitic background behind it.

As for Raheem Kassam, if I recall correctly he’s another member of Breitbart, who also promotes Islamophobia. I also seem to remember that a few years ago he was also connected to UKIP and perhaps some other extreme right-wing parties in Britain.

Which also shows what a number of anti-racist campaigners have pointed out: the racism may start out by attacking other groups, like Muslims and Blacks, but ultimately it returns to the Jews.

RT Video of Interfaith March for Religious Peace

November 6, 2018

This is another short video from RT UK, of an interfaith march held on Sunday to promote peace between the different religions in the UK. Most of the marchers appear to be Muslims. The women wear the chador, and the marchers hold banners with Islamic slogans written in Latin and Arabic script. Some of these are addressed to Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law, who is the fourth caliph for Sunni Muslims and revered by Shi’a as the first imam. There are also placards from Muslims Against Terrorism, and others proclaiming ‘They shall not divide us’ and ‘Love will win, Terror will lose’. They also have prayer mats, and some are shown praying.

At the beginning of the video, one young man says

What we’ve seen a lot of now is the voices of hate, the voices of extremism, whether that be from the right wing, from people who call themselves certain religious groups, and try to bring themselves up within the media. They’re getting a larger voice than they should, perhaps. What we want to do is trying to say is the majority of people do not believe in this. The majority of people have not got this kind of belief in their mind, of hatred between each other and causing friction.

He’s followed by a rabbi, surrounded by a group of clergy from the different faiths, including Christians and Muslims. The rabbi says

Today we are standing here, looking at the background of grassroots Muslims expressing a clear message of peace and harmony with all segments of the community. This is very important to dispel the myth about all Muslims being negative towards society. Here they are announcing, and they are declaring that the way forward that they desire is peace and harmony.

Amen to that. The bigots and fanatics are getting too much attention. And unfortunately the media recently has allowed a platform to Tommy Robinson and those like him, which are threatening to normalize Islamophobia. Muslims across the world have denounced terrorism. A year or so ago, India’s biggest Muslim organization issued their declaration against terrorism. But the Islamophobes continue to ask, completely spuriously, why Muslims haven’t denounced terrorism.

I have a feeling that the invocations to Ali probably mean that the marchers, or at least those shown, were Shi’a, which is the majority religion of Iran. The march is therefore extremely timely, as Trump seems to be whipping up war fever in America ready to invade them. As if too many countries already haven’t been turned into a bloodbath thanks to western military actions and invasions. Iran is an oppressive theocracy, which viciously persecutes political dissidents, trade unionists and those of its people who convert to Christianity. However, change, if it comes, has to come from the Iranian people themselves. Western action will only allow the mullahs there to claim that the various opposition movements are simply tools of the west to subvert the country and reimpose western domination.

And if Trump invades, it won’t be to liberate the country. He’ll simply be following the Neocon agenda of invading middle eastern and Islamic states, that have blocked American and Israeli interests. Like Iraq and Libya. They’d also like to invade Syria and Somalia as well. Well, the Iraq invasion left behind a bitterly divided society, in which the mercenaries the Americans used alongside regular troops ran riot, organized prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis simply for the hell of it, while the American military authorities ran death squads. The country’s oil fields and industry was seized for the benefit of western multinationals, as were major state enterprises. As with Libya, a relatively secular society in which women were safe to enjoy careers outside the home, and whose citizens had the benefit of free healthcare and education was destroyed. The economy and infrastructure was wrecked, and at least in the case of Iraq, the removal of all the trade tariffs protecting the country’s own businesses were torn down, so that everyone dumped their goods on them. The native businesses were driven into bankruptcy, and unemployment shot up to something like 60 per cent.

And this will happen again in Iran if Trump launches yet another invasion.

It’s time to stop this warmongering and aggression. Jeremy Corbyn’s right: there should be no more interventionist wars. Everyone needs to unite about this, whether they are religious or not. We did before, when two million of us in this country marched against Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq.

Mark Kermode’s Review of Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’

November 4, 2018

Michael Moore is the ‘capped crusader’, the left-wing American film-maker responsible for a string of powerful documentaries, from his first film, Michael and Me, to Fahrenheit 9/11 about the War on Terror, Bowling for Columbine about the Columbine High School massacre, Sicko, on the pitfalls of America’s private healthcare system and Capitalism: A Love Story, which is very definitely not a celebration of American private enterprise. His latest film, which was released a few weeks ago, is Fahrenheit 11/9 about the rise of Donald Trump. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo are the film critics on BBC Radio 5. Here Kermode gives his view on Moore’s movie.

He begins by explaining that the title refers to the date on which Trump won the presidential and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, conceded defeat. It’s also a reference to his earlier film, Fahrenheit 9/11, and to Ray Bradbury’s SF classic, Fahrenheit 451, the temperature at which paper burns. Fahrenheit 9/11 became the highest grossing documentary film and won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. Kermode has his own reservations about Moore, in particular the grandstanding and stunts he plays in his movies. The film examines how the fruitcake, to use Kermode’s substitute term, we got to this point. Trump announced his intention to run for the Whitehouse because he was sick of Gwen Stefani earning more than him. Then his candidacy was taken seriously, and he got elected. In addition to talking about Trump himself, Moore also discusses his own peculiar relationship with Trump and his aides. He was given assistance with his earlier films by Bannon and Kushner, and met Trump himself on the Tonight Show. Trump said that he liked Michael and Me, but hoped Moore wouldn’t make a film about him. Moore actually went easy on him during that interview, because he’d been told to.

Moore also uses the film to criticize what he sees are the failings in the Democrats. They didn’t take Trump seriously. He talks specifically about the disgusting state of the water supply in Flint, Michigan, and how Obama, as he sees it, did nothing about it. This has led to the current crisis, where people are alienated from politics because they see everyone as part of the elite.

He does, however, see change coming from young people, who are refusing to put up with this. Kermode plays a clip from the film in which he talks to Michael Hepburn, a young Black Democratic candidate for Florida. Hepburn explains that the problem is the lack of will and backbone from the Democrats, and the fact that they’re taking money from the same sources as the Republicans. He states that the Democratic party should be recruiting extraordinary ordinary Americans, who get on the same bus as their constituents. Who have kids in the same public schools, and so know what it’s like when the teachers don’t get paid a real salary or lack resources.

A young woman explains that the definition of electoral insanity is electing the same guys over and over again and expecting things to be any different.

This is followed by a clip of a news programme explaining that for the first time, the Democrats in Michigan will have an all-female ticket. He talks to Rashida Talib, who is poised to become the first Muslim woman in Congress. She says ‘We are not ready to give up on the party, just ready to take it over and put some people in there that get it.’
‘Take it over?’ Moore asks.
‘Take it over, Michael. Take it over,’ she replies.

Kermode also says that the strongest voices are those of schoolchildren, including one piece where they talk about the revolution that is going on through social media. He finds it refreshing that someone is talking about social media in a positive way. He still finds Moore a problematic figure, and that the film doesn’t really ‘wrestle the problem to the ground’. However, it does offer a glimmer of hope through young people. This is what happens when people feel disenfranchised, and a younger generation who are fed up with not being represented. He goes on to say that there is a certain repetition of themes, because they’re close to Moore’s heart. He also says that he feels that Moore is sincere about this film. He says it’s impossible to say what impact the film will have. It’s nothing like the scale of Fahrenheit 9/11. He also believes the best film about Trump was You’ve Been Trumped, made long before the Orange Buffoon came to power and which was about him and the golf courses in Scotland. But it’s a sincere work, with less of the ‘stunty stuff’ which Kermode doesn’t like.

Oscar Romero, El Salvador’s Martyr against Fascism

October 27, 2018

I noticed in an article in the I newspaper a couple of weeks ago that the current Pope, Francis, has canonized two saints recently. One of these was Oscar Romero, an archbishop of El Salvador, who was martyred in 1980s by gunmen for the Fascist government. The entry for him in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, ed. John Bowker, (Oxford: OUP 1997) runs

Romero, Oscar Arnulfo (1917-80), Christian archbishop of El Salvador, assassinated in 1980. He studied theology in Rome, 1937-43, became a parish priest and bishop of Santiago de Maria in 1974. Thought to be a conservative bishop (not least because of his support of Opus Dei), he was appointed archbishop in Feb. 1977, in the expectation that he would not disturb the political status quo. Three weeks later, the Jesuit Rutilio Grande, together with two others was gunned down in his jeep. The even was, for Romero, a conversion. He began a ministry of outspoken commitment to those who had no voice of their own. Paul VI gave him encouragement, but the accession of John Paul II, with its cult of the pope and movement away from the vision of Vatican II, led to an increasing campaign against Romero in Rome. The details of this are disputed. It appears that John Paul asked him not to deal with specifics but to talk only of general principles; Romero tried to explain that specific murders in El Salvador were not adequately dealt with by stating general principles. The Vatican response was to appoint an apostolic administrator to oversee his work, but Romero was killed before this could be put into effect. He returned from his last visit to Rome to the slogan painted on walls, ‘Be a patriot, kill a priest.’ He was killed as he said mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence Hospital where he lived. (p. 823).

Pope Francis has supported a range of broadly left-wing initiatives, like refusing to condemn Gays and making the Church more supportive of the global poor. Mike and I went to an Anglican church school, and we were told about the martyrdom of Romero as part of the way totalitarian regimes, Fascist and Communist, were persecuting Christians. The Fascist regimes in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala were given considerable support by Reagan’s government, including his statement that the Contras in Nicaragua were ‘the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’. And elements of the Tory party under Thatcher were very friendly towards the Central and South American dictators. The Libertarians of the Freedom Association had one of the leaders of one of El Salvadorean dictator Rios Montt’s death squads come over as their guest of honour at one of their annual dinners. This was when Paul Staines, of the Guido Fawkes blog, was a member.

These Fascist regimes have been supported by Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic and promoted to their peoples as protecting and supporting Christianity and religion generally against godless Communism. The Communist bloc has indeed ferociously persecuted Christians and other peoples of faith, including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Taoists. But as the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero shows, and those of many other Christian clergy, monks, nuns and laypeople by the Fascist regimes in Latin America show, these regimes don’t automatically respect religious beliefs. They tolerate religion only in so far as it agrees with their political ideas. The moment people of faith speak out against poverty, injustice and oppression, they will kill them as readily as they will murder, maim and torture anyone else.

Pope Francis’ canonization of Romero is a great, praiseworthy act, which I hope will be applauded by all Christians concerned with preserving human rights, freedom, and dignity from persecution and oppression.