Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has accused the Government of exploiting public fear of terrorism to restrict civil liberties. Her comments came on the same day as a report published by international jurists suggested that Britain and America have led other countries in "actively undermining" the rule of law and "threatening civil liberties" in the guise of fighting terrorism.
In an interview with the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, Dame Stella said that a series of increasingly draconian policies have led British citizens to "live in fear and under a police state". The 73-year-old said: "Since I have retired I feel more at liberty to be against certain decisions of the Government, especially the attempt to pass laws which interfere with people's privacy. "It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state."
Dame Stella, who became the first female head of MI5 in 1992 and held the position until 1996, has long been a vocal critic of the Government's plans to introduce ID cards and lengthen the amount of time terror suspects are held without charge to 42 days. In the interview yesterday, she also criticised the United States. She said: "The US has gone too far with Guantanamo and the tortures. MI5 does not do that. Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect: there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification."
The former MI5 chief chose to air her views on the same day as a three-year study called for urgent measures to stop the erosion of individual freedom by states and the abandoning of draconian measures brought on with the "War on Terror". The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said the legal framework which broadly existed in democratic countries before 9/11 was "sufficiently robust to meet current threats".
Instead, a series of security measures were brought in, many of which were illegal and counter-productive, instilling anger and resentment expressed through violent protests. One worrying development, says the report, was that liberal democracies such as the UK and US have been at the forefront of advocating the new aggressive policies and that has given totalitarian regimes the excuse to bring in their own repressive laws.
The ICJ panel, which included Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and United Nations Human Rights Commissioner and Arthur Chaskelson, the former president of the South African constitutional court, gathered their evidence from 40 countries. They took testimony from government officials, ministers, and people in prison for alleged terrorist offences.
The actions of the US has immense influence on the behaviour of other countries, the study maintained, and the jurists called on President Barack Obama to repeal policies which came with the "war on terror paradigm" and were inconsistent with international human rights law. "In particular, it should renounce the use of torture and other proscribed interrogation techniques, extraordinary renditions, and secret and prolonged detention without charge or trial". The report stated: "The framework of international law is being undermined... the US and UK have led that undermining."
The jurists examined cases which included "individuals abducted and held in secret prisons, where they have been tortured and ill-treated; terrorist suspects held incommunicado for extended periods before being charged and before they have access to lawyers; a culture of secrecy (in which) suspects are being placed beyond the basic protections afforded by... international humanitarian laws".
The ICJ "received evidence that intelligence services... effectively enjoy impunity for human rights violations. In addition... state secrecy or public interest immunity have been used to foreclose civil suits and hence remedies to the victims of such abuses."
Mr Chaskelson, chairman of the panel, said: "... we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive... counter-terrorism measures..."
A Home Office spokesman said: "We recognise clearly our obligations to protect the public from terrorist atrocities while upholding our firm commitment to human rights and civil liberties. Our policies strike that balance."
UK: Hundreds of photographers join police picture protest
HUNDREDS of photographers protested in London on Monday against a new law which makes it illegal to take pictures of the police. Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008, which came into force yesterday, allows for the arrest of anyone who takes photographs of police officers, police stations and other public servants which are "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."
Some 300 angry snappers gathered outside the Scotland Yard headquarters of the Metropolitan Police to flout the new law by taking photos of the building. The demonstration, organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the British Journal of Photography, issued a demand - backed by Labour MP Austin Mitchell - that the Home Office draws up guidelines to prevent photojournalists being searched by police and even prosecuted, merely for doing their job. In contrast, police have the right to photograph citizens engaged in legal public protests.
NUJ vice-president Peter Murray described the law as "bizarre." He said: "Even if the officer happens to be in the background, the photographer may end up on the wrong side of the law."
Amateur Photographer magazine news editor Chris Cheesman said that his readers were being stopped at a rate of two or three each week. Speaking at the protest, he said: "It seems that, if you have a professional-looking camera or you are using a tripod, the police feel they have to stop you. The law is being misinterpreted more and more often."
Comedian and civil rights campaigner Mark Thomas said that, unless new guidelines are issued, Section 76 will make work "hazardous" for photojournalists. "In a democracy, the government should be accountable to the people. This law is putting the reverse into practice, making the people accountable to authority."
The Home Office denied that the law would be used to prevent legitimate photography. But Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Peter Smyth said later that his organisation shared the concerns of the photographers and backed the call for a photography code to "facilitate photography wherever possible, rather than seek reasons to bar it. "As things stand, there is a real risk of photographers being hampered in their legitimate work and of police officers facing opprobrium for carrying out what they believe are duties imposed on them by the law," he added.
Zionism and the global anti-Semitic frenzy
The Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism is meeting today in London in the wake of the Gaza campaign, which ignited an exponential eruption of global anti-Semitic frenzy unprecedented since the Nazi era. The intensity of the anti-Jewish rage, frequently accompanied by acts of violence, has engendered fear and anxiety among Diaspora Jews and obliged many to seriously ponder their long-term future.
On every continent and in virtually every city, enraged demonstrators have railed against Israel and indulged in anti-Semitic calls to "boycott Jews," "gas" them and "dismantle the Nazi Israeli state." The anti-Jewish offensives, usually initiated by Arabs, have been supported by wide spectrums of indigenous citizens.
Jew-baiting is especially intense in the UK. Prominent Jews encounter death threats. Students at Oxford University have gleefully proclaimed that in five years, their campus "would be a Jew-free zone." A high-ranking British diplomat was arrested after publicly launching a foul-mouthed anti-Semitic tirade. The London-based Royal Court Theatre is staging a viciously anti-Israeli play by Caryl Churchill that Melanie Phillips described in the Spectator as reminiscent of anti-Semitic plays performed in the Middle Ages portraying Jews as demonic Christ-killers.
In many European cities, Jews encounter violence in the streets. In Italy, a labor union has called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses. In France, synagogues have been attacked and cars belonging to Jews firebombed. A Swedish school has refused to accept Jewish students. A leading Norwegian TV entertainer was sufficiently insensitive to jokingly express regret for the billions of innocent lice killed with Jews in gas chambers. The Barcelona municipality canceled a Holocaust memorial because "making a Jewish Holocaust ceremony whilst a Palestinian Holocaust was taking place was not right"; simultaneously, 30,000 Barcelonans marched in support of Hamas.
Elsewhere, the deputy South African foreign minister was obliged to apologize after making a statement railing against Jewish money that controlled America; in Turkey, in the wake of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's histrionic outbursts against Israel, Jewish institutions were vandalized and calls were made to boycott Jewish businesses; there were violent anti-Jewish riots at York University in Toronto, Canada.
The onslaught against the Venezuelan Jewish community by President Hugo Chavez, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ally, included demands for the Jews to condemn Israel and calls to boycott Jewish enterprises. There is now concern that other Latin American governments like Argentina, imbued with anti-Semitism bolstered by Iranian-sponsored Arab migrants, could also embark on anti-Jewish campaigns.
Even in the United States, where public opinion remains overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, the blatantly anti-Semitic demonstrations in major cities have shocked many American Jews hitherto confident that unlike in Europe, anti-Semitism would never reassert itself in their country. The increasing dominance of anti-Israeli elements on most campuses provides additional grounds for concern because ultimately many of these youngsters will become leaders of the nation.
THE USE of holocaust inversion to demonize Israel, and the bracketing of Israelis with Nazis, have extended from the Arab arena into the mainstream and are now sanctioned as legitimate political discourse. Today, much of what purports to be criticism of Israel even in the "respectable" media is reminiscent of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda.
The role of renegade "non-Jewish Jews" seeking to delegitimize Israel has also dramatically escalated, and extends beyond calls to boycott Israel. For example, the Web site of the notorious Norman Finkelstein recently reproduced 40 horrific photographs displaying Nazi atrocities juxtaposed with images of purported Israeli atrocities in Gaza. It was titled "The grandchildren of the Holocaust survivors are doing to the Palestinians exactly what was done to the Jews in Nazi Germany." This obscenity was widely distributed throughout the Internet by left-wingers, Arabs and radical right-wingers like Pat Buchanan. It was also promoted by a Norwegian diplomat in Saudi Arabia, who transmitted the vile collage on her embassy's e-mail.
There appear to be no limits to the depths to which these despicable Jewish foes of Zion are willing to stoop to demonize their own people. In an article published in the purportedly respectable London Review of Books, Henry Siegman, a former director of the American Jewish Congress, hailed Hamas as an Arab national liberation movement comparable to the pre-state Zionist underground movements. British Labor parliamentarian Gerald Kaufman exceeded his previous foul outbursts by proclaiming that Israeli soldiers reminded him of the Nazis who had cold-bloodedly murdered his grandmother while she was in bed. "My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers to murder Palestinian grandmothers," he said.
Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, after reassuring his readers that he had consistently and unequivocally condemned Israel for its Gaza campaign, pleaded with them not to blame Jews for the atrocities committed by Israelis any more than Muslims who were not guilty "because the killers of 9/11 and 7/7 had been Muslims." In many European countries, including the UK, the media provide greater exposure to the marginal Jewish anti-Zionists than to official Jewish community spokesmen.
WHAT IS especially chilling is that in most countries, hatred of Jews at the grassroots level is far more intense than government policy. The talkbacks from even the more sophisticated Internet and media publications reflect a dramatic escalation of ferocious hatred of Jews. A recent Anti-Defamation League survey disclosed that 40 percent of Europeans consider Jews to have too much power, and 31% believe Jews are to blame for the current global financial meltdown. Needless to say, the broad acceptance of such rabid views at the people's level bodes ill for the future.
It is especially galling to witness this anti-Semitic pandemic after the extraordinary efforts Israel made to avoid a conflict despite all the years in which their civilians have been targeted by missiles. Hamas's systematic and calculated exploitation of women and children as human shields was effectively disregarded. Israel's efforts - unprecedented in the history of warfare - to minimize civilian casualties, were ignored. Yet the brutal means employed to suppress terrorists in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention Chechnya) and the killings in Congo, Zimbabwe and especially in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have died, are hardly mentioned. There is little doubt that the Gaza campaign merely provided a pretext to unleash pent-up anti-Semitism.
Regrettably, the frenzy will undoubtedly increase as perfidious allegations of Israeli war crimes are intensified and the newly elected government is demonized for being "intransigent and racist."
ALAS, THE ZIONIST DREAM that a Jewish state would eradicate anti-Semitism has proved to be a delusion. Ironically, today, Israel itself is being exploited as a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism.
Yet the Zionist vision of a Jewish state representing a haven for Jews in distress is a reality. Diaspora Jews can at least feel reassured that if they are unwilling to live like pariahs in societies that revile them, there will always be a Jewish state willing to embrace them. They will never face the nightmare that confronted Jews prior to the Holocaust when their desperate pleas for entry visas to escape from Nazism were nearly always denied.
Indeed, it would now be timely for Jews domiciled in countries in which the hatred surrounding them is undermining the quality of their lives, to undergo genuine soul-searching. The future for Jews in some European countries is bleak, as resentment against them is transformed into hatred and accompanied by violence. The United Kingdom has already reached this level, and Anglo Jews who deny the reality of the anti-Semitic cesspool surrounding them are truly in denial.
Diaspora Jews should now honestly contemplate the practicality of creating new lives among their own people. Many may conclude that there are insurmountable obstacles to packing up and coming to Israel. But if they remain in anti-Semitic countries, they should at least weigh the crippling impact on their children and consider encouraging them to make aliya.
Anti-Semitism has always escalated during periods of economic upheaval, and as the financial meltdown intensifies, the problem will undoubtedly be aggravated. In addition, aside from the wealthy, many who regard Jewish continuity as important will find it increasingly difficult to afford the prohibitive school fees required to provide children with a Jewish education. That may represent an additional incentive to consider aliya.
The escalation of anti-Semitism must be a wake-up call for Diaspora Jews. They should be aware that notwithstanding the difficulties facing those wishing to settle in Israel, the standard of living here today is a far cry from what it was half a century ago when the Jewish state was still struggling to establish itself. For some Jews, it is imperative that they review their options now, not at some future date when further deterioration could transform aliya into a stressful evacuation rather than a choice.
British Labor Party figures support ban on a film they haven't seen
I have a piece up at Pajamas Media on the British government's appalling decision to ban Geert Wilders from entering the UK. In it I mention that the idiotic Labour MP Keith Vaz appeared on the BBC's Newsnight to condemn Wilders and his film Fitna, but then admitted he hadn't seen the film. Also in the piece, responding to Foreign Secretary David Miliband's claim that Fitna contained "extreme anti-Muslim hate" I wrote:
If Miliband has seen the film, then he's lying; if he hasn't seen it, he's guessing.Turns out he was guessing. From Harry's Place, via Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner:
Miliband, having watched Fitna, obviously feels it does 'stir up hate, religious and racial hatred'. But, hold on. When asked by the interviewer if he had actually watched Fitna he responded that he had not and didn't need to as he already knew what was in it! Fitna is a 16 minute film, easily accessible online. Is it really so much to ask that our political overlords bother to watch a film before condemning it and supporting its creator being barred from the country? How is Miliband any better than Muslims who screamed about The Satanic Verses without bothering to read it?Also at The Corner, Mark Steyn has a good post on the subject:
If young Muslim girls are being kidnapped and forced into marriage with their first cousins, the British Home Office minister will suggest that these matters are best handled discreetly and informally. If young Muslim girls are being murdered in "honor killings", the Chief Commissar of the Ontario "Human Rights" Commission will explain that they're a "small commission" and they have to be able to prioritize and that Mark Steyn is a far greater threat to the Queen's peace than killers of Muslim women.It's truly terrifying that Britain is being run by people this ignorant, and this arrogant. With the Tories apparently not offering much more in the way of backbone than the fascist bureaucrats of Labour, it's hard to see how Britain can pull out of this tailspin towards what Steyn calls 'civilizational suicide'.
But, if you don't threaten violence, if you don't issue death threats, if you don't kill anyone, if you just make a movie or write a book or try to give a speech, the state will prosecute you, ban you or (in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali) force you to flee your own country.
In their appeasement of thugs, buffoons like Miliband and the Tory squishes across the House of Commons on the Opposition benches are making it very clear that the state accords more respect to violence than to debate.
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 readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.