Friday, December 18, 2009
More evidence of anti-Israel bias at Britain's Foreign Office
It is frequently said that all FO people understand the Arab penchant for clandestine homosexuality and quite a few share it. Hence the ingrained pro-Arab bias
One of Britain's most eminent historians has assailed the country's policy towards Israel, questioning why Queen Elizabeth II has visited a host of despotic regimes but has never made an official visit to the Holy Land. Speaking at the Anglo-Israel Association dinner in central London last week, Andrew Roberts suggested that the Foreign Office had a de facto ban on royal visits to Israel.
"The true reason of course, is that the FO [Foreign Office] has a ban on official royal visits to Israel, which is even more powerful for its being unwritten and unacknowledged," he said. "As an act of delegitimization of Israel, this effective boycott is quite as serious as other similar acts, such as the academic boycott, and is the direct fault of the FO Arabists."
Roberts, whose work includes biographies of Churchill and Chamberlain, as well as Hitler and Roosevelt and a look at the relationship between Napoleon and Wellington, said that Britain had been at best "a fair-weather friend" to Israel.
The 400 attendees at the dinner, held at the prestigious Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, included ambassadors, diplomats, lords and Christian leaders celebrating the 60th anniversary of the AIA, the oldest organization of Anglo-Israel friendship in the UK.
Roberts told them that he wanted to try to strip away some of the myths surrounding the relationship between Israel and Britain. "It is, therefore, no coincidence that although the Queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, neither she nor one single member of the British royal family has ever been to Israel on an official visit," he said. Even though, he said, Prince Philip's mother, Princess Alice of Greece, was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations for sheltering a Jewish family in her Athens home during the Holocaust, and is buried on the Mount of Olives, Prince Philip did not visit her grave until 1994 - "and then only on a private visit."
Roberts questioned the Foreign Office's attitude to Israel, because it is the Foreign Office that organizes and sanctions royal visits. The Foreign Office has responded that Israel was not unique in not having received an official royal visit, as "many countries have not had an official visit," Roberts said. "That might be true for Burkino Faso and Chad, but the FO has somehow managed to find the time over the years to send the queen on state visits to Libya, Iran, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and Turkey. So it can't have been that she wasn't in the area.
"Perhaps her majesty hasn't been on the throne long enough, at 57 years, for the Foreign Office to get round to allowing her to visit one of the only democracies in the Middle East. "At least she could be certain of a warm welcome in Israel, unlike in Morocco, where she was kept waiting by the king for three hours in 90-degree heat, or at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Uganda the time before last, where they hadn't even finished building her hotel."
Roberts, whose current book The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War reached No. 2 on the Sunday Times best-seller list, also attacked those who accuse Israel of responding "disproportionately" to provocation. "William Hague [a Conservative MP] called for Israel to adopt a proportionate response in its struggle with Hizbullah in Lebanon in 2006, as though proportionate responses ever won any victories against fascists," he said. "In the Second World War, the Luftwaffe killed 50,000 Britons in the Blitz, and the Allied response was to kill 600,000 Germans - 12 times the number and hardly a proportionate response, but one that contributed mightily to victory. Who are we therefore to lecture the Israelis on how proportionate their responses should be?"
He then questioned how Britain would respond to similar provocations faced by Israel. "Very often in Britain, especially when faced with the overwhelmingly anti-Israeli bias that is endemic in our liberal media and the BBC, we fail to ask ourselves what we would do placed in the same position? "The population of the UK is 63 million - nine times that of Israel. In July 2006, to take one example entirely at random, Hizbullah crossed the border of Lebanon into Israel and killed eight patrolmen and kidnapped two others, and that summer fired 4,000 Katyusha rockets into Israel which killed a further 43 civilians. "Now, if we multiply those numbers by nine to get the British equivalent, just imagine what we would not do if a terrorist organization based as close as Calais were to fire 36,000 rockets into Sussex and Kent, killing 387 British civilians, after killing 72 British servicemen in an ambush and capturing a further 18?
"I put it to you that there is absolutely no lengths to which our government would not go to protect British subjects under those circumstances, and quite right, too. So why should Israel be expected to behave any differently?"
Father Christmas turned away from British asylum centre
Police were called in to prevent a clergyman dressed as Father Christmas from delivering presents to children at an asylum centre due to fears he posed a security threat. The Rev Canon James Rosenthal, dressed in a red robe with a long white beard and holding a bishop's mitre and crook, was refused entry by guards at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire.
After gently protesting that he was not a threat, he started to bless the £300 worth of gifts donated by congregations of several London churches. But after an unedifying stand off, the security guards then called the police on the visitor, who was accompanied by one of Britain's most distinguished clerics.
Mr Rosental, who is the Anglican church’s leading expert on St Nicholas, said he was “extremely disappointed” that 35 boys and girls at the centre were denied a pre-arranged visit by the patron saint of children and the imprisoned.
"St Nick has never been turned away from anywhere before," he said. "So I was extremely disappointed not to be able to hand deliver the gifts to the children detained at Yarl's Wood. I hope the kids realise that they will be firmly in my prayers."
Mr Rosental is writing a formal letter of complaint to the centre about how it handled the visit and the heavy-handed tactics employed by the guards who patrol the perimeter fence.
Serco, a private security company that operates Yarl’s Wood, referred questions to the Home Office. A spokesman said that only people subject to stringent security checks can be allowed into the detention centre and there can be no exceptions.
But the St Nicholas Society, of which Mr Rosental is patron, said that Serco did not respond to numerous requests before the visit earlier this month to discuss how a handover of presents could be carried out and also refused requests to provide details about the 35 children in the centre so they could receive appropriate presents.
Serco also refused permission for the two clerics to enter the centre to visit two refugee families later the same day, as it had previously agreed. They were handed letters from Dawn Elaine, contracts manager at Yarl's Wood, saying permission had been revoked because of "concerns about your conduct".
Mr Rosental said: "If this is how visitors are treated, I shudder to imagine what else transpires inside Yarl's Wood.”
He was accompanied on the trip earlier this month by the Rev Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, canon theologian at Westminster Abbey.
He said: "This was about bringing a moment of joy to kids locked up in a deplorable situation. I can't help but contrast the smiles and wonderment on the faces of the children St Nicholas visited at a local primary school with the sad fate of those kids who will be locked up in Yarl's Wood over Christmas."
The presents were eventually loaded into an unmarked van by staff who refused to provide a name, number or receipt for the gifts. Mr Rosental asked one "guard" his name and the man said "write down 'Father Christmas'".
Why equal pay does not equal happy employees
Some people need an economist to tell them these things
Equal pay can cause resentment and low productivity in the workplace, a study has revealed. The research found that hard-working members of staff resent staff who make less effort for the same money. Economists say this creates low motivation and morale, causing dedicated employees to slacken their work rate to create what they see as fairer working conditions. This in turn can spell disaster for companies' productivity.
The findings, from the highly regarded Nottingham School of Economics, raise a question mark over the ideal of equal pay, which has governed the thinking of public sector employers and the courts since the 1990s.
The study asked almost 150 volunteers to play the roles of employers and employees. Each employer was given a fixed amount of money, assigned two workers and told to pay them according to their efforts. In the first experiment the manager paid identical wages, regardless of effort. In the second he was allowed to set individual wages based on performance.
The study's co-author, Dr Johannes Abeler, found workers who were paid individually worked almost twice as hard as those who got the same pay. But those who put in more work while remaining on the same pay as lazier colleagues subsequently slowed their work rate.
Dr Abeler, an expert in behavioural economics, added: 'Hard workers get discouraged under equal pay and reduce their effort levels to those of low-performing colleagues. 'But under individual pay the high performers keep working hard - and the low performers change their behaviour and get better.'
The nanny state turns nasty
From smoking bans to sin taxes, Scotland has proved itself a willing victim for the nanny state’s angrier successor: the bully state
At the start The Bully State, his rambunctious account of the nanny state’s recent history, Brian Monteith argues that the term ‘nanny’ is too cuddly a word for the alliance of ‘puritans, control freaks and prohibitionists’ who are waging war on individual freedom on both sides of the Atlantic.
Nanny, he says, has lost her patience with us. Her policies of re-education have failed to ‘nudge’ us towards government-approved behaviour. Targets have not been met. Too many calories are being consumed. Too many units of alcohol are being knocked back. Some of us are even smoking and using offensive language. Not so much disappointed as angry, she has now turned bully. What happens now is going to hurt us a lot more than it hurts her.
In some ways, Monteith has written a British companion to David Harsanyi’s self-explanatory "Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotalling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists and Other Boneheaded Bureaucrats Are Turning America into a Nation of Children" (2007). Both books take a chapter-by-chapter swipe at the ongoing battles over diet, alcohol, smoking, motoring and surveillance, and both feature an interchangeable cast of professional reformers. Wielding spurious research and chanting their ‘think of the children’ mantra, these neo-prohibitionists will be familiar to anyone who has read a newspaper in the past decade.
If California provided Harsanyi with the richest seam of big-government meddling to mine, that role is fulfilled here by Scotland, much to the chagrin of its author, a former Conservative member of the Scottish parliament. It is a sign of how quickly nanny has been working that many of the policies merely being proposed by those wacky Californians when Harsanyi wrote his book (banning incandescent lightbulbs, banning the smacking of children, banning teenage sunbed use) have since become law in Scotland. It is an irony not lost on Monteith that Scottish devolution did not so much lead to a Braveheart-inspired dash for freedom so much as a rush to become the international bellwether for what he calls ‘lifestyle fascism’.
While the Scots embrace the bully state with ‘Calvinist relish’, other countries strive to keep pace. Politicians around the world now regard being the first to ban an activity as ‘a symbol of a town or country’s virility’. When New York City banned trans-fats in restaurants, a distraught Chicago alderman said: ‘I’m disappointed we’re losing bragging rights to be the first city in the nation to do this.’ (Perhaps he took consolation when Chicago was later ranked number one in Reason magazine’s list of America’s most illiberal cities.)
A true libertarian, Monteith identifies the seat-belt and motorcycle helmet laws introduced 30 years ago as the first tentative steps down the slippery slope. Various parliamentarians warned that the ‘for your own good’ argument that lay at the heart of these laws would open a Pandora’s box of meddlesome legislation. They were ignored. Wearing a motorcycle helmet was, after all, a sensible precaution and the freedom to not wear one was a small freedom indeed. Who would miss it?
One person who did miss it was the Second World War veteran Fred Hill who had always worn his beret while motorcycling and was not going to let this new-fangled law change the habit of a lifetime. Like Norman Stanley Fletcher, Hill accepted the occasional prison term as an occupational hazard even if, in the more innocent times of the 1970s, the local police force often turned a blind eye. On one occasion the desk sergeant left his cell door open and told Hill to ‘bugger off when no one’s looking’.
In the years that followed, countless campaigners, do-gooders and moral guardians invoked the precedent set by the helmet and seat-belt laws to compel other members of society to do what was thought best for them. Ever-dubious estimates of the money smokers, drinkers and motorists were costing the National Health Service were used to justify a raft of regulations, bans and ‘sin taxes’. Each new restriction inspired another. Few expected the ‘sin tax’ on cigarettes to inspire campaigns for higher taxes on alcohol, petrol, meat, sunbeds and carbon dioxide. Who really believed that schools would ban Marmite from being served inside and ice-cream from being sold outside? Even five years ago, the idea of forcing shopkeepers to hide their tobacco products from view or banning pub-goers from standing at the bar would have been almost universally mocked (the first of these will soon become UK law, the second has been trialled in several towns).
If the mandatory wearing of helmets and seat-belts marked the beginning of the nanny state, the smoking ban raised the curtain on the bully state. The smoke-free legislation was such a blatant attempt to discourage and ‘denormalise’ a legal activity that the fig-leaf of passive smoking could barely disguise the overt paternalism that lay behind it. In keeping with nanny’s transformation from Mary Poppins to Biffa Bacon, no exemptions could be permitted and no tolerance could be shown. Rather than being told to ‘bugger off when no one’s looking’, ‘smoke-ban rebels’ like Hamish Howitt and Nick Hogan were driven to the brink of bankruptcy after being convicted of ‘permitting smoking to take place’ on their premises.
The smoking ban represented a milestone because it successfully pitted a largely ambivalent majority against a dwindling and cowed minority, while blurring the distinction between public and private property at the same time. The coalition of government agencies, professional reformers and state-funded charities that engineered the smoking ban set the template for the neo-temperance campaigners, green activists and food faddists who came in their wake.
These activists – or ‘storm troopers’ as Monteith’s describes them – are far closer to the government than the public is led to believe, both in ideology and funding. Action on Smoking and Health, Alcohol Concern, Barnardo’s and dozens of other ‘campaigning charities’ receive so much money from the state that they could almost be considered the government in drag. Through the use of rigged public consultations, dubious opinion polls and policy-based evidence, this self-serving elite manufactures a demand for greater state power.
A favoured tactic is to float a new piece of Draconia in the press and if it is met with anything less than howls of derision, it gets the go ahead. The public, says Monteith, are then fed ‘a steady stream of news releases, PR stunts, giveaways and junk science dressed up as authoritative research from quangos and politically active charities that have morphed into lobby groups’. If, on the other hand, the idea gets shot down (such as the plan to force people to buy smoking licenses or banning people from buying more than three drinks in a pub), it is popped into a file marked ‘Too Soon’, to be reopened at a later date.
The book covers much ground. Eating, drinking and smoking feature prominently, since they have been propelled into the frontline by an over-mighty public health lobby. But, as Monteith argues, this regulation of lifestyle is a symptom - albeit a far-reaching one – of a wider shift of power from the individual to the state. The expansion of CCTV, the erosion of trial by jury, identity cards, censorship, health-and-safety hysteria and the DNA database constitute a ‘bullies’ charter’ made more dangerous by the ‘jobsworth mentality’ of British officialdom.
At the heart of Monteith’s thesis are the ‘neo-socialists’ who have, he says, ‘forsaken their jackboots, their boiler suits and their AK-47s and are instead using surveillance, regulation, guidance, inspection, by-laws, and local summary justice as weapons to subjugate us’. This argument will have an allure for some, even if the author tends to view the Thatcher era through rose-tinted spectacles. The Iron Lady did, after all, give us the seat-belt law and was keen to issue identity cards to football fans.
Monteith does, however, accept that what he calls ‘lifestyle socialism’ has infected all political parties. While he hopes that a future Conservative government will put nanny back in her box, he ruefully concedes that many Tories harbour their own patrician hobbyhorses. He has little faith in the Liberal Democrats ever living up to the first half of their name and despairs of the Scottish Nationalists and Greens doing anything other than putting their own authoritarian stamp on the legislature wherever they get the chance.
Far from being the preserve of the authoritarian left, then, big government appeals to politicians and activists of all persuasions. Indeed, it is the very fact that the bully state serves so many vested interests that makes it so formidable. Although he is convinced that any system of government built on repression and prohibition will be doomed to failure, Monteith paints a convincing picture of a many-headed beast comprising ‘fake charities’, government departments, NGOs, ‘earnest do-gooders’ and ‘malevolent power grabbers’, to say nothing of the over-eager epidemiologists and the ‘monstrous’ British Medical Association.
Some are motivated by their own obsessions, some by government targets and others by the need to keep the grant money rolling in. Their one shared characteristic is a complete lack of humour, not an accusation that could fairly be levelled at Monteith himself, who proves to be an affable and gregarious guide throughout, liberally scattering his narrative with personal anecdotes and stories of the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ variety.
Readers who have not visited Britain for several years may be shocked by the lurch towards authoritarianism described in this book. Those who have witnessed the creep of the bully state first hand will be enraged, amused and informed in equal measure. Californian politicians can simply use it as an instruction manual.
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.
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