Sunday, April 06, 2008

"UK is European center of anti-Semitism"

For a historian, this guy should know better than to dwell on British history as particularly antisemitic. Going back in history all the way to 1290 to make your point is quite pathetic. Britain has a far greater record of tolerance than most European countries. There was neither a Dreyfus case nor a holocaust in Britain -- but there WAS a Disraeli. And nor is the recent upsurge of antisemitism peculiar to Britain. As I understand it, the biggest exodus of Jews from Europe to "safer" (!) Israel is in fact from France. Such obvious hatred of Britain undermines the credibility of all that this fool says

Britain has become the epicenter for anti-Semitic trends in Europe as traditional, age-old anti-Semitism in a country whose literature and cultural tradition were "drenched" in anti-Semitism has developed into a contemporary mix of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, an Israeli historian said Monday. The problem of anti-Semitism in Britain is exacerbated by a growing and increasingly radical Muslim population, the weak approach taken by a timid British Jewish leadership, and the detachment of the British from their Christian roots, said Hebrew University historian Prof. Robert S. Wistrich in a lecture on British anti-Semitism at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "Britain has become the center point for the meeting of anti-Semitic trends in Europe," Wistrich said.

In a wide-ranging two-hour address, the Cambridge University-educated historian, who has just completed a book on global anti-Semitism, traced the roots of British anti-Semitism to its history, culture and literature going back to medieval times. "Anti-Semitism in Great Britain is at least a millennial phenomenon and has been around for 1000 years of recorded history," Wistrich said. [as it has elsewhere]

He noted that the expulsion of all Jews from Britain in 1290 by King Edward I following years of anti-Semitic violence was the first major expulsion of any Jewish community in Europe. Jews were banned from Britain until 1656, when Oliver Cromwell, who had overthrown the monarchy, authorized their return.

Wistrich noted that a Jewish presence was not required in Britain to produce potent and resonating anti-Semitic stereotypes in classic English literature, including in works by Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Dickens, Trollope, T. S. Elliot, and D. H. Lawrence, which he said continues to impact British society hundreds of years later today. "The authors are conveying and transmitting to a future generation an embedded anti-Semitism whose influence is impossible to underestimate," Wistrich said. "English literature and culture is in fact drenched in anti-Semitism," he said, adding that British intellectuals fail to understand the long-term impact of this phenomenon.

During World War II, the British refusal to rescue the Jews of Europe and their decision to close the gates of Palestine stemmed not only from a policy of realpolitik but by anti-Semitic sentiments, he said. "Nothing was to be construed as fighting a Jewish war," he said. He noted that the famed British wartime leader, Winston Churchill's, record on Zionism was "far from brilliant, rhetoric aside" noting that he promoted the infamous White Paper, which severely limited Jews from immigrating to Palestine during World War II.

The recent controversial contemporary theory of a Jewish lobby controlling American government policies in the wake of the 2003 Iraq War actually had its antecedents a century earlier, and dated back to the infamous anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, while anti-Israel activities on British campuses was going "strong blast" in the 1970s, he said.

In his address, Wistrich said that today's British media had taken an almost universally anti-Israel bias, especially but not exclusively on the BBC, with context removed from description of Israeli military actions, and Islamic jihadist activity such as suicide bombing never connected to ideology. "Under no circumstance will a Palestinian act of terrorism be referred to as terrorist, They are militants similar to the floor-shop dispute in Liverpool whose workers have decided to go on strike," he said. "Palestinian terrorism is portrayed as a minor pin-prick compared to 'massive' retaliation of this 'rogue' state [Israel]," he said. "You cannot read a British newspaper without encountering a variant of the libel that Zionism is racism or Zionism is Nazism," he said, describing a culture of "barely disguised hatred" when the subject of Zionism of British Jewry or Anglo-Israel relations is broached, unless they are "the good anti-Zionists."

With the media and the elites skewed against Israel - aided by former Israeli academics who routinely condemn the Jewish state and who have attained "historic dissident status and are listened to as the authentic voice of Israel" - the whole discussion of anti-Semitism had become distorted in Britain, with the accuser becoming the accused, he said. "The self-proclaimed anti-racists of the [London Mayor Ken] Livingstone brand lead the pack when it comes to the prevailing discourse about Israel and by implication Jews." "If you bring up the subject of anti-Semitism you are playing the anti-Semitism card and you are [seen as] a dishonest deceitful manipulative Jew or lover of Jews who is using the language of anti-Semitism to disguise hide or silence criticism of Israel," he said.

The tenure of former prime minister Tony Blair - considered to be the most favorable British premier to the State of Israel - was a paradox of the British situation today, Wistrich said. He said that Blair's support for Israel during the Second Lebanon War was "the straw that broke the camel's back" for a British premier who had already supported the Iraq War and was closely allied with US President George W. Bush, and helped bring about his downfall.

Today, the rapidly growing Muslim community in Britain numbers at least 1.6 million, compared to about 350,000 Jews. Wistrich faulted British-Jewish leadership for taking a "softly softly approach," which he said was "very strange" and did not bear fruit in contemporary times. "There is a long tradition of doing things behind closed doors and it is different to break with tradition but it should be broken," he said.

The historian noted that the straying of the British from their Christian roots has also created a changed reality in the Anglo-Israeli relationship with no Bible-based reasons or raison d'etre for a Jewish presence in the Holy Land. He cited the recent support of the archbishop of Canterbury for the adoption of parts of Sharia, or Islamic law, in Britain - the same country, which, he noted, was once the birthplace of the US evangelical movement. "The loss of Christian identity in what was the most Bible-believing culture in its day is one of the deeper layers of what has happened here," he said.

He noted some of the biblical remarks of prominent British leaders such as Lord Balfour and Lloyd George would be viewed as anathema today. "You cannot speak or act that way today, or you would be considered the 'biggest threat to civilization' as American evangelicals are."


The fruit of the "Fitna" video

Nobody disputes that terrorist attacks are being carried out around the world by people claiming to act in the name of Islam. But while many commentators, both Muslim and non-Muslim, accuse the terrorists of hijacking Islam for their nefarious ends, Wilders' contention is that these terrorists are simply doing what the Koran exhorts them to do.

These arguments have been well-rehearsed. So why the outrage? The views expressed in the film are no different to those expressed in countless blog posts, and there are plenty of films on the internet that are as provocative, if not more so. What's significant is that the controversy began when talk about the film left the confines of the blogosphere and entered the mainstream media, and it's a fact that appears to bear out Wilders' complaint about the reluctance of Western governments and the media to discuss the issues his film raises.

In a recent interview for the UK's Spectator magazine, Wilders hypothesised on the response of European governments were he to make a film critical of Christianity:
Would there be extra meetings of the government? Would there be evacuation plans of our embassies in Rome, Berlin and Brussels? Would there be bishops like grand muftis who say there would be bloodshed?. The answer of course is "no". So it proves my point already. All the reactions of the Islamic world, even unfortunately from the Dutch government, show that Islam is something different, has to be treated differently, as something entirely beside our own culture and values.'
The point Wilders feels has been proved is one that's long been made by many columnists, bloggers and other commentators who believe radical Islam poses a threat to the West: that our political and media elites either avoid talking about difficult issues relating to Islam - whether terrorism or the failure of Muslim immigrants to integrate into Western society - or apply a double standard that's the product partly of intimidation by extremists, and partly of the corrosive effects of political correctness and multiculturalism. And whatever you think of the specific accusations Wilders levels against Islam, it's hard to disagree with his claim that these wider issues aren't getting a fair hearing.

In the same way that far-right political parties have attracted increasing support in some European countries because indigenous communities believe the welfare of Muslim immigrants is being put before their own concerns, the timidity of the Western media has created a market for far-right polemicists like Wilders (who of course is also a politician) on the internet. As Mark Steyn wrote at The Corner ".a film such as Fitna might not even be necessary were the western news organizations not so absurdly deferential toward Muslim sensibilities that they go out of their way to avoid showing us anything that might cause us to link violence with Islam."

But the debate about Wilders' unremarkable film generated enough momentum to break out of the blogosphere. Whether or not Wilders intended things to work out this way, millions of people who would never have heard of Fitna , or Geert Wilders, have now seen the film. More significantly, stories portraying Islam as angry and intolerant, and Western institutions as indulgent and submissive, are on every TV news bulletin and website, and on the front pages of newspapers. The politicians and news organisations are being forced to engage in the very discussion they've sought to avoid and, like the Islamists, they're none too pleased: hence the `outrage'.

Much of Wilders' criticism is directed mainly at the Dutch government, but it could equally be directed at the political/legal/media establishments of any of the other nations in Europe that are struggling with disaffected Muslim minorities and terrorist threats (although in fairness to Denmark, sections of that establishment have been fairly robust in its defence of the Mohammed cartoonists). And the issues he raises also have implications for countries beyond Europe - Australia, Canada and ultimately the United States.

Goings-on in the Netherlands are being watched with particular interest in Britain, which has a long-standing reputation as a soft-touch for Islamic extremists. And there can be no better example of the reluctance to confront radicalism identified by Wilders than the recent decision by the UK government to stop using the phrase `Islamic terrorism' altogether, and instead refer to terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims as `un-Islamic activity'. It's simply the latest manifestation of the notion that Islamic terrorism `has nothing to do with Islam'.

Such obfuscation is also regularly employed by sections of the British media, who go out of their way to avoid using the `M' word in stories that might reflect badly on Islam, whether reporting on terrorist attacks or cultural issues such as honour killings. When, recently, newspapers and broadcasters reported government concerns that `Asian' teenagers were being forced into arranged marriages, one commenter was moved to point out that: "Bradford does NOT have a substantial Asian population, it has a substantial MUSLIM population. It really annoys Hindus and Sikhs that we're always put in the same boat."

The double standard also manifests itself when the sensitivities of other religions - most often Christianity - come under assault. The BBC, for example, whose softly-softly approach to all matters Islam is legendary, had no problem with screening Jerry Springer: The Opera which featured Jesus wearing a nappy and pretending to be gay, despite protests from Christian groups. Few artists, on the other hand, have been willing to address the subject of Islam, extreme or otherwise - the authors Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis are two notable exceptions. More typical is the attitude of cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry, whose work features sexual and religious imagery, and who admitted in an interview with the UK Times that he would never risk offending Muslims. He has a point - writing in the Wall Street Journal last week, Peter Hoekstra contrasted the reaction of Muslims to Wilders' film and other perceived slights to that of US Christians similarly provoked:
In 1989, when so-called artist Andres Serrano displayed his work "Piss Christ" - a photo of a crucifix immersed in a bottle of urine - Americans protested peacefully and moved to cut off the federal funding that supported Mr. Serrano. There were no bombings of museums. No one was killed over this work that was deeply offensive to Christians.
Nor, Hoekstra might have added, was Mr Serrano denounced by the heads of the United Nations and the European Union.

Most observers, even those who blame the West for some of Islam's problems, agree that initiatives to counter the radicalisation of Muslims need to come largely from within Islam itself. But reform is unlikely to happen as long as Western governments and the media continue to make excuses for, or ignore completely, extremist behaviour. After all, if we won't acknowledge that there's a problem, why should they? If Wilders' intention was not primarily to draw attention to the threat posed by radical Islam, but rather to draw attention to the failure to acknowledge and respond to the threat, then he's succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.


Why the special Muslim privileges?

By Georgie Anne Geyer

If a writer were to make the ultimate satiric remark about Islam's increasing presence in America, he would say something like, "And soon they'll be having the 'call to prayer' in Harvard Square." But the line is neither ironic nor humorous: The call to prayer of a Muslim muezzin or priest was broadcast in Harvard Yard at the Widener Library in Cambridge several times in February, as well as on earlier occasions. The undergraduate college has this winter also restricted one of the three largest gyms on its main campus to "women only" at special hours. The reason? Because a small group of female Muslim students felt that workout clothes violated the prescription that both sexes wear modest dress in shared environments.

What is going on at America's most iconic university that we should have these two rather strange events coming at the same time? What we are seeing is a wave of arrogance sweeping into America with the wave of Muslim immigrants and students. One searches in vain for an individual or organized Muslim voice showing real respect or even a minimal liking for America or American customs. Instead – and the Harvard situation is only one of many examples – the predominant attitude toward America is characterized by a sense of rights unrequited and by an attitude of superiority that demands that we abide by Muslim wishes in place of our traditions.

This from the offspring of societies that, according to numerous studies including those of Arab scholars themselves, lie at the bottom of the world scale in everything from education levels, productivity and industry to the development of universities, scientific research and the rights and education of women.

And so now, in a country that prides itself on its separation of church and state, and which goes so absurdly far as to (in many cities) forbid the public display of the Christ child's creche at Christmas, we accommodate religious traditions from countries, most of which do not even permit Christian worship and many of whose citizens are now following their most radical brethren's cry – not to pray for conciliation with America but to wage war against it.

It is not clear yet why Harvard made this odd decision, but apparently the request by a handful of Muslim women students reached the Harvard College Women's Center, and it was then decided that one of the college's least used facilities should be made available only to women on Mondays from 3 to 5 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 10 a.m. The decision will be re-evaluated in June; meanwhile, both the gym restrictions and the calls to prayer have become the center of debate and protest.

The United States is not alone as a target of opprobrium and barely veiled distaste on the part of Muslim students. The situation in Europe is even worse. What to make of all of this? The major problem, it must be said, is not the foreigners but America and Europe themselves. Both have essentially lost their grit in terms of protecting and defending their own principles and polities.

This fight with Islam is only beginning – and it is in many ways far more important, ultimately, than the war in the Middle East. Until America and Europe regain their voices and their self-respect, this problem, exemplified by the situation at Harvard, will only continue to grow.


Some good thoughts on kids from Rabbi Boteach

In this election year it bears repeating that the major changes all of us seek will not come from politicians so much as parents, not from senators so much as teachers. Politicians change big things. But in America it's the little things - our marriages, raising children, finding individual purpose - where we most fail. With so many social ills afflicting our culture, it is time that we made fundamental changes to our values. Here is a list to revamp the values with which we raise our children:

Stop asking children what they want to do, and start asking them who they want to be.

The first question speaks to occupation. The second speaks to character. Our children see right through our hypocrisy. We pretend to be interested in the kind of people they will become, but seem upset only when they don't get into Harvard. But whether your children become garbage collectors or president of the United States is subordinate to whether or not they are ethical people.

Let's stop giving them mixed messages by always prodding them about the careers they will choose as opposed to the goodness they will live. The moral question always comes first. Dale Carnegie demonstrated definitively in How To Win Friends and Influence People that what people most wish is to be good. Our responsibility is to attune our kids to their inner voice of conscience.

Focus children on a calling rather a career.

Once we parents deliver the message to our kids that we want them to be good even more than we want them to be "successful," our educational system can follow suit by guiding our children toward a calling over a career. Career focuses on self-aggrandizement and accumulation. It encourages narcissism and fosters insecurity. The child is encouraged into a life of self-absorption as he measures his success by how far along he is in comparison to his peers. He is trained to be outward-oriented, determining his self-worth by his position on the career ladder and viewing his companions as competitors.

By contrast, a calling teaches the child to fixate on his unique gift, the special contribution with which he is endowed to enrich the world, thereby developing his individuality. A child with a calling encourages the success of others, but a child with a career always feels threatened by another's success.

Value intellectual curiosity as opposed to grades.

Here is a paradox for you to ponder. How is that 60 percent of Americans have a college degree, but an equal number can't find Iraq on a map? Americans are more educated and more ignorant than ever. Here's why. They are trained to perform rather than to know, to ace exams rather than love knowledge, to specialize in particular subjects rather to be curious about life as a whole. As a result, their existence bores them. After four years of higher education, they settle down to a life of Access Hollywood and People magazine. Kids who are attentive in class come home and sit with jaws agape as they watch the same mind-numbing videos over and over again. They don't read books unless they are required to by school.

I would rather have a child who goes to a community college and is a sponge for information than a child who goes to Harvard but has no passion for history, ideas or current events. Business success stories bear this out. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison all dropped out of school. They were successful because of their limitless curiosity, not their earth-shattering SAT score.

Our grades fixation is undermining our children and turning them into circus monkeys designed to perform. We have to start telling our kids that grades are only one barometer of a far more important issue: their curiosity about life. As I tell my kids repeatedly, "All I want to know is that you want to know."

Stress purpose as opposed to happiness.

Mothers and fathers telling their children "I just want you to be happy" is one of the silliest parenting mantras ever. What if being a lazy beachcomber makes the kid happy? What if womanizing does it for him, or drugs? This is aside from the fact that the only thing that brings real happiness is a sense of purpose, as Viktor Frankl compellingly argues in his 20th-century masterpiece Man's Search for Meaning. A child must be taught that his life has to be directional, other-oriented and purposeful. If he devotes his life to a worthy cause, then personal fulfillment and happiness will naturally follow. But if he squanders his potential, his life will be filled with misery. The pursuit of happiness makes a child a burden to himself. The pursuit of purpose, however, liberates our talents and brings joy.

Put family before friends.

Placing friends before family is yet another destructive modern value. Friends love you for your virtue, your sense of loyalty, your sense of humor. But family loves you for just being you. A child's formative years requires the unconditional love that only family can offer, rather than the more tentative love that friendship affords. This is not to say that friendship is not important, rather that the ratio of friendship-time to family-time in after-school hours must be at least five to one.

Seek love as opposed to attention.

Everyone today wants to be famous, especially our kids. I am convinced that the lust for attention is a result of the death of love. Hollywood celebrities have the adoration of the cameras. But they can't seem to stay married or keep themselves or their kids out of rehab. That's because the love of the masses is fickle and dependent on your ascendant or waning fortunes. It exploits human insecurity and leaves you feeling used.

Our children need to know that attention is a cheap forgery of love, a flimsy imitation of the real thing. They must learn to love people without expecting anything in return. To be the hero without the spotlight. To do right because it's right, when no one is looking, and where no recognition will follow from their virtuous act. Lending dignity to others is the surest way to acquire it yourself.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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