Friday, October 13, 2006


Marvellous free-speech ruling by the Law Lords:

The British media has won the freedom to publish allegations about public figures free from the threat of libel laws in a landmark House of Lords ruling. In a ground-breaking unanimous judgment yesterday, the law lords ruled in favour of a public interest defence that brings English law more into line with the freedom enjoyed by the US media. In future, journalists will be free to publish material if they act responsibly and in the public interest and they will not be at risk of libel damages even if relevant allegations later prove to be untrue.

The law lords, Britain's top judges, said that the media was entitled to publish defamatory allegations as part of its duty of neutral reporting of news, or if it believed them to be of substance and they raised matters of public interest. The ruling came in an appeal by the Wall Street Journal Europe against a High Court decision, backed by the Court of Appeal, that it should pay 40,000 pounds damages to a billionaire Saudi car dealer, Mohammed Jameel, whose family owns Harwell Motors in Oxford. The story, published in February 2002, said that bank accounts associated with a number of prominent Saudi citizens, including Mr Jameel's family and its businesses, had been monitored by Saudi authorities at the request of US authorities to ensure no money was provided intentionally or knowingly to support terrorists.

Lord Hoffman, giving the lead judgment, said that the article was a perfect example of journalism for which the public interest defence should be available. It was for judges to apply the public interest test but that publication easily passed that test, he said. Its thrust was to inform the public that the Saudis were cooperating with the US Treasury and monitoring accounts. "It was a serious contribution in measured tone to a subject of very considerable importance." It could not be proved true because the existence of covert surveillance would be impossible to prove by evidence in open court. But that did not mean it did not happen. The newspaper was entitled to report even serious defamations against individuals, so long as they "made a real contribution to the public interest element in the article".

The ruling also said that judges, with "leisure and hindsight" should not second-guess editorial decisions made in busy newsrooms. The key test was whether a media organisation or newspaper acted fairly and responsibly in gathering and publishing the information, the judges said. If the reporter and editor did so, and the information was of public importance, then the fact that it contained relevant but defamatory allegations against prominent people would not permit them to recover libel damages.

Baroness Hale of Richmond in her judgment said: "We need more such serious journalism in this country and our defamation law should encourage rather than discourage it."

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, author of Media Law, the standard textbook, who argued the case for the Journal, said: "The decision provides the media in Britain with an increased freedom to publish newsworthy stories. "This is not a licence for irresponsible journalism. It frees investigative journalism from the chilling effect of libel actions, so long as the treatment is not sensational and the editorial behaviour is responsible. "It will enable, and indeed encourage, editors to place more information into the public domain than at present. "The decision is an important step in moving freedom of speech closer to that enjoyed by the US media under the First Amendment."

Dan Tench, a media partner at Olswang, said: "The judgment has enormous significance for serious journalism. Previously, the focus of libel hearings defended on the basis of the Reynolds defence was always on the newspaper, which faced an uphill struggle to demonstrate that it had acted responsibly. "But following today's ruling, it seems that as long as a publisher can show that it was writing serious journalism that engages the genuine public interest and so deserves to be protected, the focus will shift onto the claimant, who will need to prove not only that there were serious defects in the way the article was put together but also that those defects realistically led to the article as published being unfair."

Mr Jameel issued a statement today emphasising that he had only ever been interested in clearing his name. Mr Jameel, whose 5.4 million pound gift saw the opening last week of the Victoria and Albert Museum's new gallery of Islamic Art, said: "What the Wall Street Journal wrote in February 2002 was that the bank accounts of the ALJ Group were being monitored at the request of the US authorities. "That was not true. Mr Justice Eady and the Court of Appeal ruled that I was libelled. The House of Lords ruled that I was not because it was reasonable for the Wall Street Journal Europe to print something that was false. So be it. I was only ever interested in proving that the allegations were untrue."


British firm bans 'ageist' birthday cards

Greetings cards passed around the office and signed for a colleague's birthday have been banned by a company in Bournemouth. Alan and Thomas Ltd said they stopped the card signings, as jokes or comments about someone's age could be offensive under new age discrimination laws. The firm's boss, Julian Boughton, said they had taken legal advice. Directors of the Bournemouth-based insurance brokers will instead send a card on behalf of all staff.

But speaking to BBC News, one former member of staff who did not wish to be named, said the move was "extreme". They told BBC News: "I think it's a bit draconian really, over the top and quite ridiculous. "I don't see how a jokey birthday card can be seen as discrimination or harassment. And I wonder if they actually asked the staff what they think."

The company said legal advice was sought after the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force this month. Mr Boughton, managing director, said: "Having considered the potential exposures for our employees and our business, we have taken the decision to change the practice of issuing a generically signed card for any given individual's birthday. "Instead we have decided that the company will send a card to each staff member on their birthday, signed by the directors."



Women are training themselves not to fall in love because relationships are skewed in favour of men, Fay Weldon said yesterday. The novelist and commentator told an audience at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival that women were no longer as romantic as they were a generation ago, to the detriment of their happiness.

Weldon, 75, argued that having been liberated by the Pill in the 1960s women were paying the price of trying to behave like men. "Our generation fell in love all the time," she said. "We sacrificed everything. Now women are much more practical and hard-headed. However, in the pursuit of professional, social and domestic fulfilment many women are failing to accept that, hormonally and physiologically, they are programmed to experience life differently from men," she said. "I think we need to make the most of being women as women, not aspirational men. The assumptions we all make now as to what comprises a good relationship are upside down. The differences between men and females are what we should be celebrating."

Weldon's new book What Makes Women Happy has outraged feminists because of its suggestion that women should fake orgasms to keep their men content. Commentators pilloried her for encouraging women to accept submissiveness in the most intimate area of their relationships. But Weldon believes that sex is the area where men and women come closest to making a sincere emotional connection. The pursuit of intimacy in all aspects of their lives is a false goal, she says. Better to give each other space to indulge the genders' different impulses, she says. "The more we know, the less easy we find it to get on together, I fear," she said.

Weldon's critics accuse her of losing touch with the aspirations of women, a far cry from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when she was regarded as a high-profile feminist with novels such as The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, which celebrated women being bad. Her own life, as she recorded it in her 2002 memoir Auto Da Fay, has included a series of complicated relationships and snatched periods of joy, leading to two divorces and four children. Her first husband pimped her to a Soho nightclub because he had no interest in satisfying her sexually and she once slept with a market trader for a pair of nylons.

Happiness, her experiences have taught her, is about aspiring to virtue. Shopping, chocolate and the other "consolations" that women comfort themselves with are frivolous but valuable diversions. "Nothing makes a woman happy for more than ten minutes at a time because after that the doubts and anxieties arrive. You can't help it as a woman. It's not fair: men can be happy for the time of a football match. They have the advantage of single-tasking. Multi-tasking, which women are so proud of, is a great drawback because it limits the periods of our pure happiness. We are training ourselves out of being in love because it is so unfair. "I think for most women that intense love brings unhappiness with it. A lot of our grief comes when one's instincts are at odds with socialisation."



A very "incorrect" view below from an Israeli scholar, who says that the war started a long time ago between two civilizations - between the civilization based on the Bible and the civilization based on the Koran

There is no fundamental Islam. Fundamentalism is a word that came from the heart of the Christian religion. It means faith that goes by the word of the Bible. Fundamental Christianity, or going with the Bible, does not mean going around and killing people. There is no fundamental Islam. There is only Islam full stop. The question is how the Koran is interpreted.

All of a sudden we see that the greatest interpreters of Islam are politicians in the western world. They know better than all the speakers in the mosques, all those who deliver terrible sermons against anything that is either Christian or Jewish. These western politicians know that there is good Islam and bad Islam. They know even how to differentiate between the two, except that none of them know how to read a word of Arabic.

The Language of Islam
You see, so much is covered by politically correct language that, in fact, the truth has been lost. For example, when we speak about Islam in the west, we try to use our own language and terminology. We speak about Islam in terms of democracy and fundamentalism, in terms of parliamentarism and all kinds of terms, which we take from our own dictionary. One of my professors and one of the greatest orientalists in the world says that doing this is like a cricket reporter describing a cricket game in baseball terms. We cannot use for one culture or civilization the language of another. For Islam, you've got to use the language of Islam.

Driving Principles of Islam
Let me explain the principles that are driving the religion of Islam. Of course, every Moslem has to acknowledge the fact that there is only one God. But it's not enough to say that there is only one God. A Moslem has to acknowledge the fact that there is one God and Mohammed is his prophet. These are the fundamentals of the religion that without them, one cannot be a Moslem. But beyond that, Islam is a civilization. It is a religion that gave first and foremost a wide and unique legal system that engulfs the individual, society and nations with rules of behaviour. If you are Moslem, you have to behave according to the rules of Islam which are set down in the Koran and which are very different than the teachings of the Bible.

The Bible
Let me explain the difference. The Bible is the creation of the spirit of a nation over a very, very long period, if we talk from the point of view of the scholar, and let me remain scholarly. But there is one thing that is important in the Bible. It leads to salvation. It leads to salvation in two ways. In Judaism, it leads to national salvation - not just a nation that wants to have a state, but a nation that wants to serve God. That's the idea behind the Hebrew text of the Bible. The New Testament that took the Hebrew Bible moves us toward personal salvation. So we have got these two kinds of salvation, which, from time to time, meet each other.

But the key word is salvation. Personal salvation means that each individual is looked after by God, Himself, who leads a person through His word to salvation. This is the idea in the Bible, whether we are talking about the Old or the New Testament. All of the laws in the Bible, even to the minutest ones, are, in fact directed toward this fact of salvation.

Secondly, there is another point in the Bible, which is highly important. This is the idea that man was created in the image of God. Therefore, you don't just walk around and obliterate the image of God. Many people, of course, used Biblical rules and turned them upside down. History has seen a lot of massacres in the name of God and in the name of Jesus. But as religions, both Judaism and Christianity in their fundamentals speak about honoring the image of God and the hope of salvation. These are the two basic fundamentals.

The Essence of Islam
Now let's move to the essence of Islam. Islam was born with the idea that it should rule the world. Let's look, then, at the difference between these three religions. Judaism speaks about national salvation - namely that at the end of the story, when the world becomes a better place, Israel will be in its own land, ruled by its own king and serving God. Christianity speaks about the idea that every single person in the world can be saved from his sings, while Islam speaks about ruling the world. I can quote here in Arabic, but there is no point in quoting Arabic, so let me quote a verse in English. Allah sent Mohammed with the true religion so that it should rule over all the religions.

The idea, then, is not that the whole world would become a Moslem world at this time, but that the whole world would be subdued under the rule of Islam. When the Islamic empire was established in 634 AD, within seven years - 640 - the core of the empire was created. The rules that were taken from the Koran and from the tradition that was ascribed to the prophet Mohammed, were translated into a real legal system. Jews and Christians could live under Islam provided they paid poll tax and accepted Islamic superiority. Of course, they had to be humiliated. And Jews and Christians living under Islam are humiliated to this very day.

Mohammed Held That All the Biblical Prophets Were Moslems
Mohammed did accept the existence of all the Biblical prophets before him. However he also said that all these prophets were Moslems. Abraham was a Moslem. In fact, Adam himself was the first Moslem. Isaac and Jacob and David and Solomon and Moses and Jesus were all Moslems, and all of them had writings similar to the Koran. Therefore, world history is Islamic history because all the heroes of history were Moslems. Furthermore, Moslems accept the fact that each of these prophets brought with him some kind of a revelation. Moses, brought the Taurat, which is the Torah, and Jesus brought the Ingeel, which is the Evangelion or Gospel - namely the New Testament.

The Bible vs. the Koran
Why then is the Bible not similar to the Koran? Mohammed explains that the Jews and Christians forged their books. Had they not been changed and forged, they would have been identical to the Koran. But because Christians and Jews do have some truth, Islam concedes that they cannot be completely destroyed by war [for now]. Nevertheless, the laws a very clear - Jews and Christians have no rights whatsoever to independent existence. They can live under Islamic rule provided they keep to the rules that Islam promulgates for them.

Islamic Rule and Jihad
What happens if Jews and Christians don't want to live under the rules of Islam? Then Islam has to fight them and this fighting is called Jihad. Jihad means war against those people who don't want to accept the Islamic superior rule. That's jihad. They may be Jews; they may be Christians; they may be Polytheists. But since we don't have too many Polytheists left, at least not in the Middle East - their war is against the Jews and Christians. A few days ago, I received a pamphlet that was distributed in the world by bin Laden. He calls for jihad against America as the leader of the Christian world, not because America is the supporter of Israel, but because Americans are desecrating Arabia with their filthy feet. There are Americans in Arabia were no Christians should be. In this pamphlet there is not a single word about Israel. Only that Americans are desecrating the home of the prophet....

End of Days
It is highly important to understand how a civilization sees the end of days. In Christianity and in Judaism, we know exactly what is the vision of the end of days. In Judaism, it is going to be as in Isaiah - peace between nations, not just one nation, but between all nations. People will not have any more need for weapons and nature will be changed - a beautiful end of days and the kingdom of God on earth. Christianity goes as far as Revelation to see a day that Satan himself is obliterated. There are no more powers of evil. That's the vision.

I'm speaking now as a historian. I try to understand how Islam sees the end of days. In the end of days, Islam sees a world that is totally Moslem, completely Moslem under the rule of Islam. Complete and final victory. Christians will not exist, because according to many Islamic traditions, the Moslems who are in hell will have to be replaced by somebody and they'll be replaced by the Christians.

The Jews will no longer exist, because before the coming of the end of days, there is going to be a war against the Jews where all Jews should be killed. I'm quoting now from the heart of Islamic tradition, from the books that are read by every child in school. They Jews will all be killed. They'll be running away and they'll be hiding behind trees and rocks, and on that day Allah will give mouths to the rocks and trees and they will say, Oh Moslem come here, there is a Jew behind me, kill him. Without this, the end of days cannot come. This is a fundamental of Islam.

Is There a Possibility to End This Dance of War?
The question which we in Israel are asking ourselves is what will happen to our country? Is there a possibility to end this dance of war? The answer is, No. Not in the foreseeable future. What we can do is reach a situation where for a few years we may have relative quiet. But for Islam, the establishment of the state of Israel was a reverse of Islamic history. First, Islamic territory was taken away from Islam by Jews. You know by now that this can never be accepted, not even one meter. So everyone who thinks Tel Aviv is safe is making a grave mistake. Territory, which at one time was dominated by Islamic rule, now has become non-Moslem. Non-Moslems are independent of Islamic rule; Jews have created their own independent state. It is anathema. And (this is the worse) Israel, a non-Moslem state, is ruling over Moslems. It is unthinkable that non-Moslems should rule over Moslems.

I believe that Western civilization should hold together and support each other. Whether this will happen or not, I don't know. Israel finds itself on the front lines of this war. It needs the help of its sister civilization. It needs the help of America and Europe. It needs the help of the Christian world. One thing I am sure about, this help can be given by individual Christians who see this as the road to salvation.

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