Posts Tagged ‘Old Testament’

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

November 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

The Babylonian Condemnation of Libel and Slander

October 3, 2019

A few days ago I put up a few verses from the Old Testament, Exodus and Deuteronomy, which condemn telling lies. This was for the benefit of certain individuals, like Rachel Riley, who have been all too happy to make false accusations of anti-Semitism against others. When they themselves are criticised, however, they falsely accuse their critics of libelling them and threaten them with court action. Riley has done this to Mike and 16 others, after they blogged about how she and Tracey-Ann Oberman, in their view had bullied a sixteen year old schoolgirl with anxiety. The girl had put up a post supporting Jeremy Corbyn. This was then criticised by the two, who said they were going to ‘re-educate’ her and demanded that she meet them in London. The girl couldn’t as she had to be in school. They then accused her of anti-Semitism, and encouraged their supporters to pile in. When Mike put up his account of this sordid incident, Oberman appeared and claimed it was libelous. When Mike asked what was libelous about it, he received no reply. He was then informed that Riley was taking him to court.

The Babylonians, like the Hebrews, also condemned libel and slander. Their precept against it is preserved in the Counsels of Wisdom, a collection of short moral adages. These appear to have been copied sometime between 700 and 400 BC, although the texts themselves may date back to the period 1800-1000 BC. It runs

Do not utter libel, speak what is of good report,

Don say evil things, speak well of people.

One who utters libel and speaks evil,

Men will waylay him with the retribution of Shamash.

D. Winton Thomas, ed., Documents from Old Testament Times (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons 1958) 106.

Shamash was the Babylonian sun god.

Similar sentiments are expressed in the Ancient Egyptian The Teaching of Amenemope. The scroll of this held by the British Museum may date back to 1000-600 BC, but there is a fragment written on a potsherd which may date back 1100-946 BC. The precept against libel runs

Injure not a man, with pen upon papyrus-

O abomination of the god!

Bear not witness with lying words,

Nor seek another’s reverse with thy tongue.

(Page 182).

Thus, what Riley and Oberman appear to be doing to silence their critics, who seem to be mostly supporters of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn, is utterly wrong, even by Babylonian and Ancient Egyptian standards as well as those of Ancient Israel and today.

 

The Biblical Command to Support and Protect Refugees

September 26, 2019

One of the great passages in the Old Testament that speaks directly to today’s world, is the statement in Deuteronomy that God loves and demands justice for widows, orphans and foreigners. Deuteronomy 10: 18-19 runs

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

(Eyre & Spottiswoode Study Bible, Revised Standard Version).

A similar command is issued in Exodus 23: 9: ‘You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’.

The commentary on Exodus in The New Bible Commentary Revised, D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer, A. M. Stibbs and D.J. Wiseman, eds (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press 1970) states that the Hebrew word translated as ‘strangers’ is Gerim, which means ”refugees’, folk seeking political asylum.’ (p. 119). The same book’s commentary on the two verses in Deuteronomy states that ‘this demand for Israel to love the alien is without parallel in Ancient Near Eastern legislation. While the Israelites were commanded to honour and fear their parents and to listen to the prophetic message, they were commanded also to enter into a relation of affection with the sojourner as a reminder of God’s love during the Egyptian captivity.’ (pp. 217-18′.

Now imagine the horror amongst the Tories if the archbishop or some other leading member of the clergy quoted those verses in a sermon attacking Conservative attitudes to asylum seekers, using the literal translation of ‘refugee’. They’d go berserk criticising him or her for interfering in politics, just as they attacked Robert Runcie when he was Archbishop of Canterbury for daring to attack Thatcher’s policies towards poverty.

The Biblical Condemnation of Lying

Exodus Chapter 23:1-4 also contains proscriptions against lying and perverting the course of justice. These are

You shall not utter a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man, to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; nor shall you bear witness in a suit, turning aside after a multitude, so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his suit.

The people smearing decent, self-respecting, anti-racist women and men as anti-Semites, and suing them for libel when they dare defend themselves, like the odious Rachel Rily is trying to do to Mike, should not this passage and remember it.

Tony Greenstein on Zionist Anti-Semitism

April 28, 2019

Last Wednesday Tony Greenstein, a veteran Jewish opponent of racism, Fascism and Zionism, put up on his blog a piece about how Zionists resort to anti-Semitic rhetoric when attacking their Jewish opponents. He made it very clear that this was because, in his view, anti-Semitism was at the very heart of Zionism.

The Hate Mail Directed at Jenny Manson, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein

Greenstein began his piece with some very nasty examples of Zionist anti-Semitic hate messages sent to himself, Jenny Manson, the chair of Jewish Voice for Labour and Jackie Walker. Manson was left a vile message on her voice mail calling her a ‘f***ing Nazi bitch’, ‘Nazi cow’ and ranting that she should be burned in a gas oven, and should burn in hell, in acid. He points out that this disgusting rant mixed the Zionist accusation that non-Zionists are Nazis, with the real Nazi abuse that a Jewish person should be gassed like the innocent millions in the Holocaust. He compares this with another unpleasant message sent to Jackie Walker, which questioned whether she was really Jewish and that she should be put into a burning bin. He also put up the full text of a hate message he received, which called him a ‘traitorous b***ard’, ‘a left-liberal Jew’, ‘a cowardly traitor’, who should go back to the shtetls and ghettos under non-Jewish domination, and said that it was a pity that Hitler or the Angel of Death missed his house, that of his family, and Naturei Karta’s, the Jewish anti-Zionist organisation. Greenstein compared this with another message he’d received which denied the existence of the Holocaust. Greenstein states he passed on both of these messages to the Community Security Trust, which compiles lists of anti-Semitic incidents. They duly logged the second message, but refused to list the first, as they don’t include anti-Semitic incidents perpetrated by Jews. Discussing the reason for this omission, he quotes the Jewish American anti-Zionist, Aurora Levins Morales, who states in her book, On Anti-Semitism, that she gets anti-Semitic abuse from Zionists, because they really believe that the only way Jews can be safe is to have their own homeland where only they are the privileged people.

The Nazi Nicknames Adopted by Israeli Soldiers

Greenstein goes on to make the point that under the right circumstances, every people can become racists. It was, he states, inevitable that Jewish Israelis should develop the same mindset and attitudes as their Nazi oppressors. He cites articles in Haaretz and al Hamishmar from 1989 about Israeli army units that called themselves after Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor, who experimented on Jews and other human victims in the concentration camps; ‘Our Nazis’, for those squaddies in the IDF who liked to beat Arabs, and ‘the Auschwitz 10’ and ‘Demjanjuks’, after a sadistic concentration camp guard, who was just being tried. He also quoted a supporter of Lehava, the Israeli group that campaigns against racial mixing, who said that it was ‘unfortunate’ that Hitler attacked the wrong nation, as Jews were the chosen race. He also describes an incident from 2012 involving Israeli schoolchildren, who had been taken to see the play Ghetto, about Jewish life in Vilna during the Nazi occupation. Instead of sympathising with the suffering of their parents’ and grandparents’, the kids instead applauded the Nazis, even cheering on a scene in which a kapo struck a Jew.

Herzl and Anti-Semitism

Greenstein then goes on to show how there always was a confluence of interests between Zionism and anti-Semitism. He quotes Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, who believed that gentile anti-Semitism contained the Divine will to good by forcing Jews to close ranks. He also quotes a piece from the Jewish paper, Davar, from the 1950s in which the writer stated he would like to select a group of ‘efficient young men’ who would be sent to countries in which the Jewish population are engaged in ‘sinful self-satisfaction’. These men would then paint anti-Semitic hate messages on walls disguised as non-Jews and demanding that they go to Palestine. He states that Zionism was never really concerned with fighting anti-Semitism. It was concerned with gathering the Jewish people together to establish a Jewish state. And so Zionists came to see their real enemies as the Jewish opponents of Zionism, who should themselves be the victims of anti-Semitism.

He states that, contra France’s President Macron, who declared that anti-Zionism was a new version of anti-Semitism, Jewish history shows that it is Zionism that actually has the closest similarity to gentile anti-Semitism. He illustrates this with a passage from Herzl’s The Jewish State, which lays the blame for anti-Semitism on the Jews themselves. For Herzl, Jews, who married gentiles were lost to the ‘Jewish tribe’ and he declared he had no quarrel with the ‘honest anti-Semites’ who would spur on Jewish emigration. He also recognised that people would accuse him of ‘giving a handle to anti-Semitism’ when he said that the Jews were one people. One of the very many Jews, who did consider Zionism anti-Semitic was Lucien Wolf, the head of Britain’s Conjoint Committee and British Jewry’s ‘unofficial foreign minister’, who is quoted as saying

‘I have spent most of my life in combating these very doctrines, when presented to me in the form of anti-Semitism, and I can only regard them as the more dangerous when they come to me in the guise of Zionism. They constitute a capitulation to our enemies.’

Herzl also admired Edouard Droumont, a notorious anti-Semite and anti-Dreyfusard, who Herzl declared was ‘an artist’ and was delighted when Droumont gave The Jewish State a glowing review.

The Zionists also agreed with the anti-Semites that the Jews were an ‘asocial’ body that did not belong among gentiles. The Marxist Zionist left, which followed the doctrines of Ber Borochov, Hashomer Hatzair and later Mapam, believed that there were too many rich Jews at the top of diaspora Jewish society and not enough workers. The reality, however, was that the vast majority of Jews in the Russian Empire lived in grinding poverty. The Zionists also agreed with the anti-Semites that Jews were either rootless cosmopolitans behind Communist agitation or the excesses of capitalism. He once again quotes Herzl, who wrote

When we sink, we become a revolutionary proletariat, the subordinate officers of all revolutionary parties; and at the same time, when we rise, there rises also our terrible power of the purse.

This is exactly the sentiments of that terrible Tsarist anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which has inspired so much Nazism, Fascism and real Jew-hatred in the 20th century.

Other Zionist Anti-Semitism

Greenstein goes on to quote the Israeli novelist, A.B. Yehoshua, who said that Jews treated other people’s countries as hotels. And when Zionists described diaspora Jews, they sounded exactly like gentile anti-Semites. The first Israeli Minister of Justice, Pinhas Rosenbluth, described Palestine as an ‘institute for the fumigation of Jewish vermin’. Jacob Klatzkin, the co-editor of the Jewish newspaper, Die Welt, and co-founder of the Encylopaedia Judaica, wrote that Jews were

‘a people disfigured in both body and soul – in a word, of a horror… some sort of outlandish creature… in any case, not a pure national type… some sort of oddity among the peoples going by the name of Jew.’

Hashomer Hatzair’s Weltanschauung, first published in 1917, and then republished in 1936, also described Jews in hostile terms:

“a caricature of a normal, natural human being, both physically and spiritually. As an individual in society he revolts and throws off the harness of social obligations, knows no order nor discipline.”

Greenstein concludes

Why is this relevant? Because even today Zionism considers the Jewish diaspora as essentially worthless. Whenever a choice has to be made between the Jews and the Jewish state then the interests of the latter always take priority.

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/04/why-when-zionists-abuse-their-jewish.html

The Identification of the Oppressed with their Oppressors

This is deeply shocking stuff, and it shows that Zionists have absolutely no business whatsoever accusing decent people, particularly self-respecting Torah-observant and secular Jews, of anti-Semitism. Greenstein has elsewhere argued that Zionism is a capitulation to anti-Semitism. It also reminds me of a comment the great journalist of the gogglebox, Clive James wrote way back in the 1970s. He observed in a piece about Roman Catholic children identifying with the British army in Northern Ireland, that oppressed peoples often supported and took on the views of their oppressors. I think James may have been wrong in the case of Ulster Catholics, as many of them initially supported the deployment of British troops, because they expected them to be far more impartial than the police. But it does seem to apply to many Zionists’ view of the degraded nature of diaspora Jewry following Herzl.

Israel’s Abandonment of Diaspora Jewry for Its Own Interests

And Zionists have shown themselves to be perfectly willing to sacrifice diaspora Jews to real anti-Semitism if it will benefit Israel. Greenstein has blogged about how one of the Zionist pioneers – I have a feeling it may have been David Ben Gurion – said that he would rather half of Europe’s Jews were wiped out by the Nazis, if half of them went to Israel, than all of them being saved by going to Britain. George Soros, the billionaire financier, who is cordially hated by Zionists and gentile anti-Semites, despises Zionism because of the deal Kasztner, the leader of Hungarian Zionism during the Nazi occupation, struck with the Nazis. This allowed for tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews to be sent to the death camps in return for a certain number escaping to Israel. And they’re still doing it today. David Rosenberg has written time and again on his blog, Rebel Notes, about the threat posed to eastern Europe’s remaining Jews by the extreme nationalist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim regimes in Hungary, Poland, the Ukraine and the Baltic states. But these have received little criticism from Israel, because they support the Israeli states and buy its armaments. Stephen Pollard, the gentile editor of the Jewish Chronicle, notoriously declared that a far-right Polish MEP wasn’t an anti-Semite, but a true friend of Israel. This was a politician, who among other things, supported legislation banning any discussion of Polish collaboration with the Nazis in the Holocaust, contrary to historical fact and ordinary, common morality.

Anti-Semitism and the Idea of a Chosen People

As for that comment by the Lehava supporter stating that Hitler shouldn’t have attacked the Jews, because they were the Chosen People, this is deeply offensive and dangerous for a variety of reasons. One common anti-Semitic accusation is that the Jews believe themselves to be superior to everyone else because they believe themselves to be God’s elect. There have been many attempts by Jews to tackle this misconception. In the 1920s, I believe, some German synagogues removed a prayer from their services referring to them as the Chosen People, because they were afraid it would give their non-Jewish compatriots the wrong idea. Other Jewish authorities have pointed out, citing the Bible, that their status of the Jewish people does not confer on them any kind of superiority. Rather, God chose the Jews because they were the smallest, weakest people, who are called upon to be a servant people.

Many Jews are uncomfortable with the idea of being a Chosen People, and some reject it outright. My guess is that some of this discomfort may also be due to the apparent similarity of the doctrine to secular ideas of racial superiority. I knew a lad at college, who bitterly hated Christianity, though he definitely wasn’t an anti-Semite nor any kind of Nazi. Quite the opposite. He believed that the roots of Nazi racism lay in the Old Testament and the idea of a Chosen People. He was wrong. Nazism grew out of western biological racism, which was founded in the 19th century by the French count, Gobineau. This also inspired Nazism, although the Nazis also took over and exploited Christian anti-Semitism. The Lehava supporter’s statement about Hitler and the Jews as the Chosen People would support the prejudiced views of the opponents of Judaism and Christianity as the origins of racism.

Zionist Silence over their Anti-Semitism

The existence of the virulent anti-Semitism in Zionism, which Tony Greenstein describes, also raises another issue. Why won’t Zionist organisations like the Community Security Trust log anti-Semitic incidents and hate speech committed by Jews? It seems to be a prohibition that really only goes one way. As we’ve seen, very many of the decent people vilified and smeared as anti-Semites in the Labour party and elsewhere for their opposition to israel’s oppression of the Palestinians have been Jewish. Their Zionist opponents have shown themselves to have no qualms about accusing them of Jew-hatred. But it seems they do not want to record instances where decent Jewish critics of Israel have been so reviled.

Not only is this a disgusting double standard, it also makes you wonder what they’re hiding. Is there so much of this vilification, that if it was recorded, Zionists would find themselves exposed as some of the worst anti-Semites?

Zionist Hack Simon Kelner Whines about Corbyn Still Standing in Politics

February 28, 2019

In yesterday’s I, regular columnist Simon Kelner launched another tirade against Jeremy Corbyn, fulminating about the Labour leader still remaining as head of the party despite all the anti-Semitism accusations.

I didn’t read it, because there’s absolutely no need. Kelner has previously gone on the attack, claiming that Corbyn and his supporters are terrible anti-Semites, because they ignore the wishes of the Jewish public. Which means right-wing, establishment, Conservative Jews, who like Tories everywhere despise Corbyn for standing up for the poor, working people and socialism. He hates Corbyn and the Labour left – actually the real moderates, and not the Blairite Neoliberals – because they are daring to challenge four decades of Thatcherism, its monstrous failures and destruction of human lives and the prosperity and welfare of the ordinary people of this country. Which of course includes Jews. He, and the rest of the establishment, also hate Corbyn because he dares to stand up for the Palestinians, against the policies of a genocidal Israeli state. Hence the determination with which members of the Israel lobby deliberately conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Or even moderate Zionism with anti-Semitism. I remember how a group of moderate Zionists were viciously attacked and smeared on social media as anti-Semites because, as observant Jews and humane people, they had tried to comfort Palestinians, who had been gunned down by the IDF, and said the Jewish prayer for the dead, the Kadish, over one of those killed. If I recall correctly, the Kadish is a verse from the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament:

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.’

But it was too much that pious, godfearing Jews should pray for Arabs, who in the minds of these racist fanatics are all subhuman terrorists!

And this is the type of fanatic Kelner and the rest of the media are protecting and defending, even if they claim to be for peace in the Middle East. Because they are attacking those, who are genuinely for peace and justice between Jews and Palestinians in Israel, and are prepared to stand up for this, rather than mouth fine-sounding platitudes about the ‘two-state solution’ without taking it seriously. Like Joan Ryan.

But Kelner is also probably exasperated because it shows that a substantial part of the Labour party and by extension, the British public, no longer take the accusations of anti-Semitism seriously. People are still supporting him, no matter what smears and scandals they manufacture. And an increasing number of people are calling it what it is: hasbara. Israeli civilian propaganda. Lamestream hacks and media personalities like Kelner aren’t convincing people that Corbyn and his supporters are anti-Semites. Because the public knows better. And the more the establishment smears Corbyn, the more people become convinced that he isn’t, and that they’re afraid of him for entirely different reasons. Like genuine social justice, anti-racism and the empowerment of working people. The stuff Kelner, who I believe used to write for the Heil, hates. And I’ve blogged before about how even members of the Israel lobby are finding that increasingly people don’t believe their lies about anti-Semitism. And Kelner is obviously one of them.

Which proves the opponents of these smears right. The anti-Semitism smear is over-used. It’s just people like Kelner and Robert Peston crying ‘Wolf’. And because of that, they’re also desensitizing people to the genuine anti-Semitism of some of the really horrific regimes in eastern Europe, and Nazi groups over here like the banned National Action.

Kelner and his colleagues are hack propagandists, and the sooner the type of media they represent die, the better. In the meantime, if you want to get real news, go to some of the amazing left-wing news and comment sites on the Net and YouTube. 

 

Jewish Organisation Launches Campaign Against Islamophobia

February 17, 2018

On Wednesday, Mike posted a story reporting that Jewish Voice had launched a campaign against Islamophobia, called appropriately enough, #JewsAgainstIslamophobia. They are not only campaigning against Tommy Robinson and the EDL, but also against right-wing Jews, who ally themselves with these Fascists.

Mike then went on to ponder whether they would take on the authors of a statement that British anti-Semites were mostly like to be Muslim, and that this country should not shy away from tackling the immense anti-Semitism in the Muslim community as well as the general population. This statement comes from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the extreme right-wing Zionist organisation that smeared Mike as an anti-Semite. The identification of Muslims as being more anti-Semitic than the rest of the population is itself racist, as Mike pointed out. He asked

If anybody had written, for example, that British Jews are Islamophobic and sympathise with terrorism, violence and extremism, how do you think that organisation would react?

Clearly the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism would have gone berserk with rage, which shows the hypocrisy and double standards of this organisation.

He then goes on to discuss the case of one of the Campaign’s individual members, the odious, repugnant and utterly mendacious Jonathan Hoffman. Mike states that when the CAA attacked Mike, which he believes was part of a plan to stop him being elected a Labour councillor for Powys, Hoffman and his fellow trolls turned up on the Labour Party campaign facebook page to make the same accusation of anti-Semitism.

He then links to three websites that provide information on this individual, including various incidents in which he has tried to close down free speech on Israel through screams, insults, smears and intimidation.

Mike’s article can be read at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/02/14/jewish-group-launches-campaign-against-islamophobia/

This first links to a story published in the Middle East Monitor in November last year, about how Hoffman and his mates in the Jewish Defence League turned up to disrupt a showing of the film, From Balfour to Banksy: Visions and Divisions in Palestine, shown at the Centre for Palestine Studies at SOAS. The film was intended to be part of an academic discussion of the history of Palestine, and the legacy of the Balfour declaration, which gave British support to a Jewish state.

This was too much for the precious snowflakes of the JDL to handle, and they began shouting and screaming, and waving Israeli flags around, in order to intimidate the organisers and drive people out of the film. Afterwards Hoffman issued a Tweet accusing the producer, Miranda Pinch, of anti-Semitism and trying to suppress free speech. When asked about this by the Middle East Monitor, Pinch stated that there was an attempt to suppress free speech, but it wasn’t by them. It was by the JDL. She said that she got the impression that they didn’t have any arguments, and so just wanted to shout them down. A student who was there described them as behaving like a bunch of football hooligans. Pinch also stated that she doesn’t have any issue with existence of the state of Israel, she just campaigns for justice for everyone there, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. She said

“I have ALWAYS made it clear that I stand for equality and human rights for all in that region and that includes Jews, Christians, Muslims and anyone else living there. I am a signatory of Jews for Justice and have many Jewish friends, both practising and non-practising. My view, as most of theirs, is that Israel does not represent the Jewish religion at all. The Old Testament exhorts the Jews again and again to care for the stranger in their midst and to love justice. Israeli policies bring Judaism into disrepute,” said Pinch.

See: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171121-pro-israeli-mob-with-ties-to-edl-causes-mayhem-at-balfour-event/

The comparison with football hooligans is very apt. The Jewish Defence League are the Jewish division of the far-right, Islamophobic English Defence League, which does have links to various firms of football hooligans, allegedly. Quite apart from the fact that a Channel 4 documentary screened a little while ago when the organisation seemed to be gaining strength showed that, while Robinson and the leadership tried to project an image of being non-racist, the grassroots membership were the usual Nazis and Fascists from organisations like the BNP and so on.

The second link goes to a page, Hoffman Chronicled, which reveals that Hoffman is a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and is a prolific contributor to the Jewish Chronicle website. It also shows him in the company of Kevin Carroll, the cousin of the EDL’s founder, Tommy Robinson, who’s also in the EDL. There’s also a photo of him in the company of Roberta Moore, the founder of the EDL’s Jewish Division, and one of the European organisers of Victor Vancier’s Jewish Task Force.

https://hoffmanchronicled.wordpress.com/

The third link goes to the website of David Cronin, the author of several books about Israel and its long campaign of violence and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians. This describes how Hoffman repeatedly turns up at his talks and makes baseless accusations of factual inaccuracy. It also describes how he also insults and smears other activists against the Israeli oppression of Palestinians, like Jackie Walker, Thomas Suarez, the author of another book about Israel, and even Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz. Hoffman described Meyer as ‘an amazing dancing bear’ because he had the temerity to state that Israel was dehumanising the Palestinians the way the Nazi dehumanised Jews.

But the Zionists love him. He has been consulted by the Reut Institute, a think-tank founded by a former adviser to the Israeli government. In 2011 he attended a conference, partly organised by them, on how to discredit criticism of Israel. The following year he failed to get re-elected as a vice-president of the Zionist Federation. And in 2016 he and his mate, Jonathan Newmark, who also makes spurious accusations of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel.

That isn’t the only company he keeps. He was also photographed with Paul Besser, the intelligence officer – if that isn’t an oxymoron – of the Far Right, islamophobic group, Britain First.

Cronin concludes

Hoffman is undoubtedly a bully but nobody should allow themselves to be intimidated by him or by similar lobbyists. Their belligerence illustrates that Israel feels discomfited by Palestine solidarity activists.

They don’t like the message, so they slander the messengers.

This is absolutely true. And clearly they feel very threatened by Mike, otherwise Hoffman and his fellow thugs and bullies wouldn’t have tried to smear Mike as an anti-Semite. They’re scared, and more people are becoming aware of how scared they are, and how their accusations of anti-Semitism are nothing but baseless smears and gross libel.

RT Shows Clip of Triple Suns Seen in China

December 28, 2017

This is a bit of fun and Fortean weirdness to cheer people up after the gloom and chaos of the seasonal weather and the continuing Tory destruction of the NHS, the economy, and everything decent in our society. A couple of days ago, RT put up this very short video of the triple suns seen in the sky over Hailun City. The blurb for the video states that it mesmerised the residents, and appeared at about half eight in the morning.

It’s an illusion, of course, which the RT blurb duly mentions. I think these type of illusions are called Sundogs, or parhelion. The large, middle sun is the real sun, whose light is refracted by ice or water crystals in the Earth’s atmosphere, thus creating the illusion that there are two smaller suns either side of it. It’s been seen several times in history. I think one appearance is recorded in one of the medieval chronicles for the 12/13th centuries, where three suns were seen by the people of one particular county in England.

I have read attempts to explain the strange creatures seen by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel as sundogs. When these appeared in the sky before him, they were travelling in strange vehicles like wheels, which also had other wheels revolving within them. This doesn’t actually sound like a sundog to me, and I think the incident is far better explained as a visionary experience. Of course, the UFO crowd have also tried to claim that what Ezekiel saw were really visiting extraterrestrials in their spaceships, following the theories of Von Daniken and the like. I really don’t believe that explanation either. Von Daniken’s ideas have been massively influential in promoting the ‘ancient astronaut’ hypothesis – that Earth has been visited throughout its history by aliens. But it’s also been extensively critiqued itself. Von Daniken got much of his facts wrong, and misinterpreted the archaeological and anthropological evidence he used to support his ideas.

But whatever your view of visiting aliens and UFOs, I think we can all enjoy this strange and weirdly beautiful spectacle.

Vox Political On May’s Grubby Plan to Turn Teachers into Border Guards

December 2, 2016

Mike yesterday also put up a piece commenting on Theresa May’s plan to use teachers as border guards in her campaign to cover up her failure to crack down on illegal immigration. Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary, had joined a number of other politicians condemning May’s plan to force schools to withdraw offers of places to the children of illegal immigrants. Rayner rightly attacked these plans as contrary to British values and impractical. She stated it was trying to turn teachers into border guards.

Mike makes the point that teachers are already overworked. It is also unfair and illegal to stop children under 16 from having an education in order to punish their parents. As for teachers demanding to see children’s passports, Mike makes the point that not all children have them. He didn’t until he first went abroad in his twenties. I first acquired a passport when I was at school – in the sixth form – to go on a school trip, so I also didn’t have one until quite late, at least by May’s standards.

And Mike also makes a point about how this reflects on May’s declaration that she is guided by her Christian faith. He thinks that this is less about Christian charity, and more about the Old Testament dictum that ‘the sins of the fathers will be visited on the children unto the third and fourth generation’. But I don’t think it’s even about that. It’s just sheer vindictiveness against the poorest and most defenceless, just to cover her own failings.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/01/the-grubby-little-idea-that-will-tarnish-theresa-may/

Actually, there’s a bit of synchronicity here, as I read this on Mike’s site just after coming back from the first part of an Advent course held at our local church. This was an exploration of the meaning of hospitality in the Old Testament. The minister argued that hospitality has to be at the centre of Christian practice. He made the point that in the Old Testament, hospitality meant much more than it does today. Observant Jews in ancient Israel were expected to entertain and feed travellers, the poor and strangers, including foreign residents, as Abraham, the founder of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, does in Genesis when he meets the Lord and two angels. The patriarch urges them to stop by his tent, washes their feet, and his wife, Sarah, prepares a meal for them. He invites them to join him, saying that he would be honoured if they’d join him.

At the same time, the Torah – the Mosaic Law -in Leviticus commanded the people of Israel to respect and provide for the widow, the fatherless and the foreigner, ‘for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt’. During the Feast of Sukkoth, Jews were supposed to open their doors and feed widows, orphans and strangers, according to a passage in the Talmud. This is the oral, supplementary law which guides observant Jews as well as the written law revealed by Moses. The passage in the Talmud, which enjoins this states that the man, who does not open his gates to the poor during this feast, is not really celebrating it, but only his belly. And such hospitality is regarded as a mitzvah – a commandment.

It strikes me that this last statement contradicts the various Tories, who turned up during Thatcher’s tenure of 10 Downing Street, to tell us all that Christ’s remarks about looking after the poor and marginalised were all about doing so responsibly, and had nothing to do with government policy. In the context of the time, they don’t. But it’s much stronger than the voluntarism the Tories and New Labour tried to promote.

These passages from the Bible and the cultural contexts in which they are placed, such as the Talmudic laws on the correct observance of the Hebrew festivals, are a very sharp rebuttal to the current xenophobia that is sweeping the nation thanks to Brexit. And the minister leading the service said that he was very worried about the xenophobia which was rising in this country.

I realise that many of the readers of this blog are atheists. The point I am trying to make here, is that Tories don’t have a monopoly on the Jewish and Christian revelations and the Bible. And when it comes to the poor, quite often the commandments of the Bible point away from the abuse heaped on them by the Conservatives and Blairite right.

As for the duty of the wealthy to entertain the poor, this was also taken extremely serious in medieval and 16th century Britain. Great lords used to set aside sums of money so they could be seen to be feeding and supporting the poor. The prior of St. James’ Priory in Bristol, for example, fed 100 beggars at the priory gates every day. Similarly, one town chronicler in the 16th century lamented the burning down one gentleman’s house, because its owner was a generous man, at whose house many people were refreshed. In other words, he took seriously his responsibility as a member of the upper classes to provide for those less fortunate than himself.

Which poses an interesting question. If Theresa May wants to restore society to the quasi-feudal conditions of the 19th century, does that mean that she’s also willing to accept the feudal responsibility of feeding and clothing the poor once again? Not just through food banks, but also at the gates of their homes? Somehow, I don’t think so, no matter what she might say about the importance of charity. You can imagine the screams of rage she’d utter if 100 poor men and women turned up at her house, asking for bread.

Video of Mass Meeting of Orthodox Jews against Israel in New York 2013

October 9, 2016

I’ve also mentioned several times in my blog posts about Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the anti-Semitism smears, that some Orthodox Jews strongly reject Zionism and the state of Israel from religious reasons. As Sam Seder explained in a clip from the Majority Report I put up about a week ago, and a young Jewish woman, who was brutalised for heckling Binyamin Netanyahu when he addressed Congress, traditional Jewish theology considers it a sin to try to establish a Jewish state in Palestine before the coming of the Messiah.

I found this clip on YouTube of a mass meeting of 10,000 plus Orthodox Jews in New York in 2013 to condemn the state of Israel, and in particular a law by the Knesset that would force Yeshiva students – that it is, students at the Jewish religious schools and seminaries – to join the army. The speakers not only make it plain that they see the state of Israel as a blasphemy, they also bitterly resent what they see as the Israeli military’s attempt to make their young men complicit in the military’s crimes. One speaker denounces the Israel government for trying to turn Jews, a traditionally peaceful people, into a militaristic and aggressive nation – ‘the hands of Esau’.

The clip is also interesting as they quote a former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Sonnenfeld, who refused Zionist aid for his people during a terrible famine in the 1920s. Despite the fact that his people were dying of starvation, Rabbi Sonnenfeld refused the money, as he felt it was an attempt by the Zionists to buy influence in his community. As pious, Orthodox Jews, they also pray for God to return to His people quickly, and come to dwell with them in the Holy City of Zion, as prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament.

The speeches are in Yiddish, but there is a English voiceover and subtitles.

Lobster on Anti-Semitism and Margaret Thatcher, and Nazi-Zionist Collaboration

May 7, 2016

Another piece I put up recently was on anti-Semitism and racism in the interwar Conservative party, in which I pointed out that at the time ‘alien’ nearly always mean ‘Jew’, and strongly implied that they had left-wing sympathies. There was some suspicion at the time that Margaret Thatcher may also have held these views, not least because she denounced Socialism as ‘an alien creed’.

Part of the allegations of anti-Semitism directed against Ken Livingstone come from Leninspart’s statement that there was a pact between the Nazis and the Zionists to allow Jews to emigrate to Israel. Livingstone was vigorously attacked for this, but nevertheless, it was true. Hitler and the Zionists did sign the notorious Haavara agreement to allow some Jews to escape Nazi Germany to flee to Israel. It was highly controversial on both sides. There were also other areas in which the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis, such as in armed opposition to the British in Palestine.

Both these subjects are tackled in Robin Ramsay’s column, ‘More Notes on the Right’ in Lobster 13, p. 17. He writes;

One of the things anti-Semite watchers in this country must be waiting for is the arrival of anti-Semitism close to the leadership of the present Thatacherite faction in the Tory party. When it comes, if it comes, it will be coded. It may have already happened. Just before Christmas Mrs Thatcher expressed her hope for a third term in office to enable her to rid this country of Socialsm “an alien creed“. [emphasis in the original]. This use of ‘alien’ is very curious, for ‘alien’ used to be international (and British) code for ‘Jew’. Further, one of her senior parliamentary supporters, John Biggs-Davison (now Sir John: she knighted him) recently wrote of Marx and Engels as “false Hebrew prophets”.

What does this mean? Has the American far-right’s obsession with the Wall St Jews-financed-the Russian-Revolution been implanted here? Does Mrs Thatcher read the John Birch Society’s American Opinion? I hardly think so: our Tory party eats, drinks and sleeps with the City of London, and could hardly bring itself to believe in the ‘Jewish banker conspiracy’. These remarks are curious, nonetheless. Mrs Thatcher’s equivalents in the US are a pretty dotty bunch. Reagan and Weinberger, and probably others, are waiting for the Old Testament ‘Apocalypse’ to arrive. Why should we expect much more from their British counterparts?

The US has come a long way since the days when Richard Nixon’s choice for the Supreme Court, Judge Carswell, was rejected by Congress, essentially because he was stupid. Among some of the upper echelons of the Republican Party, Carswell would be a giant among pigmies.

And undeniable upsurge of anti-Semitism in Europe and America is underway. Yet we have a right-wing Israel, an ‘ally’ of the ‘West’ – i.e. the Americans. Life is complicated still further by the existence of anti-Zionism, and the claims by some Jews that anti-Zionism is simply anti-Semitism in light disguise. While this is obviously true in some instances, is it always true? What are we to make of Jewish anti-Zionists? it will not do to simply dismiss such people – as some Jews do – as ‘self-hating Jews’. These (barely relevant) thoughts have been provoked by the furore surrounding the Jim Allen play Perdition which didn’t quite make it onto the stage of London’s Royal Court Theatre. What struck me reading some of the recent articles describing the Israeli’s states dickering with some of the most obnoxious, neo-Fascist regimes in the post-War world is why anyone should be surprised to discover that some Zionists collaborated with the Nazis during WW2. Shits are universal and it would have been remarkable indeed if some Jews hadn’t collaborated: members of almost every other ethnic-national group which encountered the Nazis did. (I have to write ‘almost every’ because I have never heard of gypsies collaborating’).

Writing this section I am acutely conscious that this Lobster is full of material critical of the Israeli state and thus I/the Lobster run the risk of being labelled ‘anti-Semitic’. Well, so be it. If anyone wants to get into the extremely complicated and superheated area of Nazi-Zionist collaboration, they could try Nazi-Zionist Collaboration, a largish pamphlet produced by BAZO (British Anti-Zionist Organisation) which I was sent some time ago. I know nothing about BAZO but can report that Gill Seidel includes BAZO in a section on ‘left anti-Semitism’ in her recent Holocaust Denial, reviewed in this issue. If BAZO is, in fact, anti-Semitic, it is either well concealed in this pamphlet, or I just am not able to ‘read’ anti-Semitism yet. (Or both).