Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Middle-Eastern bishops utter an anti-Israel cry
Note that the Vatican itself issued NO statement about Israel whatsoever. The statement was issued by a clutch of Middle-Eastern bishops with a vested interest in protecting their people from Muslim attacks. Being pro-Israel would be fatal to them. The only connection of their statement to the Vatican is that they held their conference there
Israel on Sunday slammed critical remarks made by Middle East Catholic bishops after a meeting chaired by Pope Benedict XVI as "political attacks" on the Jewish state.
"We express our disappointment that this important synod has become a forum for political attacks on Israel in the best history of Arab propaganda," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in a statement. "The synod was hijacked by an anti-Israel majority," he added.
Bishops and patriarchs from across the Middle East on Saturday called on the international community to end the occupation of Arab lands in an official statement following a two-week synod held at the Vatican.
"Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable," the synod said.
Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, head of the commission which drew up the statement, went one step further, saying: "The theme of the Promised Land cannot be used as a basis to justify the return of the Jews to Israel and the expatriation of the Palestinians."
"For Christians, one can no longer talk of the land promised to the Jewish people," the Lebanese-born head of the Greek Melkite Church in the United States said, because the "promise" was "abolished by the presence of Christ."
Ayalon said he was "especially appalled" at those remarks. "We call on the Vatican to (distance) themselves from Archbishop Bustros's comments, which are a libel against the Jewish people and the state of Israel and should not be construed as the Vatican's official position."
Most religious Jews believe the land of Israel was given to them by God, and Jewish settlers often cite biblical justifications for holding onto the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories seized in the 1967 Six-Day War.
But foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said scripture had never been used by any Israeli government to justify the occupation or settlement of territory.
He also pointed out that Israel's Christian population had grown since the establishment of the Jewish state, while in much of the rest of the Middle East Christians have fled in large numbers because of war, instability and economic hardship.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, meanwhile, welcomed the synod's call for a two-state solution and blamed Israel for the emigration of Christians from the occupied territories. "The international community must uphold its moral and legal responsibility to put a speedy end to the illegal Israeli occupation," he said.
The United States convinced Israel and the Palestinians to renew direct peace negotiations in early September but the talks ground to a halt later that month when a 10-month partial Israeli moratorium on settlements expired.
Disappearing Middle Eastern Christians, Disappointing Bishops
David P. Goldman gives some background to the above news
“Catholic Church: Christ nullified God’s promises to the Jews,” reads the headline on the Israel Today website. That is not quite true: At the just-concluded Synod of Middle East Bishops, a cleric from the tiny group of Melkite Greeks, Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, made such a statement on behalf of the Melkites, not the Catholic Church.
The head of the same church, the Syrian-based Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, also attacked priestly celibacy before the Synod. He wasn’t speaking for Rome, either. Clerical marriage hasn’t helped the Melkites; they claim just 1.3 million members worldwide, fewer than the Korean Methodist Church or the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea. Their actual numbers are much smaller.
The concerns of Greek Christians will fade before long, for in two or three generations there will be no Greek Christians in the Middle East, nor indeed Christians of any sort in the Middle East. Nor, for that matter, will there be many Greeks; with a fertility rate of only 1.37 children per female, one of the world’s lowest, Greece by mid-century will have a population two-thirds of which exceeds the age of sixty, and very little population at all by the end of the century. In a hundred years, modern Greek will be a dying language.
Israeli Jews, by contrast, have the highest fertility of any first-world population, and not only because of the fecund ultra-Orthodox; fertility among secular Israelis is far above replacement. By 2100, eighteen centuries after Constantine founded the Greek empire, more people will speak Hebrew than Greek.
Jews might well ignore the sepulchral voice of a dying ethnic church, except for one fact: the Melkite cleric in question, Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, headed the commission that drafted the Synod’s final statement. Speaking personally and not for the Synod he said, “The theme of the promised land cannot be used as a basis to justify the return of the Jews to Israel and the expatriation of the Palestinians. . . . For Christians one can no longer talk of the land promised to the Jewish people,” because the “promise” was “abolished by the presence of Christ . . . there is no longer a favored people, a chosen people; all men and women of every country have become the chosen people.”
Middle Eastern Christians are hostage to a hostile Muslim majority, and to Iran in particular. Lebanese Maronites, the largest surviving community, were a majority by design when France established the present Lebanese state after World War I as a Catholic enclave. Infertility and immigration have reduced Maronite numbers to perhaps 30 percent, although political sensitivities have forbid census-taking for a generation. If Iran’s proxy army, the Hezbollah, wished to, it could slaughter the Christians on any given morning. That is why the most prominent Lebanese Christian leader, Michel Aoun, is allied to Hezbollah, against the Saudi- and American-backed Sunni opposition.
It is hardly news that Middle Eastern Christians (except for the growing community of Hebrew-speaking Christians) hate Israel. They blame the Israeli-Arab conflict for the deterioration of their position. Arab Christians, moreover, played a prominent role in Arab nationalist movements; they are Arabs first, that is, and Christians second....
The anguish of the Church, its unwillingness to let go a foothold in the Holy Land, and its pastoral concern for its beleaguered flock, all are understandable. Jews should temper their disappointment with understanding. But the facts on the ground are what they are. The Christians of the Middle East long since failed of their own infertility, and would decline even if they did not face persecution from Muslims. Giving a big voice to a little man like Archbishop Bustros will do nothing to help them. But silence in the face of evil increases the likelihood of war.
It’s not just Britain's Tories who want austerity
We can’t make a convincing case against austerity without challenging today’s cultural aversion to prosperity
Something remarkable happened in Britain yesterday, but it wasn’t the Comprehensive Spending Review introduced to parliament by George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer. Rather it was the absence of any coherent opposition to what will undoubtedly be a serious attack on popular living standards.
The mass of the population most likely felt a fatalistic resignation at the prospect of spending cuts, rising unemployment and falling living standards. No doubt they were unhappy about what was awaiting them, but they felt there was little they could do to resist austerity.
There were some demonstrations around the country, but they were small and tokenistic in character. Few believed there was much prospect of having a significant effect. The best that most might hope for is that the particular areas they work on or care about should suffer less than others. So they might prefer, for example, for cuts to be lighter in higher education than other areas, or they might be particularly concerned about pensions or welfare benefits.
For anyone with a sense of history, such a passive response must seem strange. There are plenty examples from the past where assaults on living standards have provoked a militant response.
There are several possible responses to this fatalism – but most of them have little credibility. Some conservatives have pointed out that public spending will still continue to rise in cash terms over the next few years. But such an argument is disingenuous, since in real terms, once inflation is taken into account, spending will fall. Once debt repayments are taken into account, along with the protection of spending in some ministries, much of the public sector is going to suffer a substantial fall in spending.
In any case, the official estimate that up to 500,000 public sector workers could lose their jobs by 2014-15 is a good indicator of how hard the cuts could hit. Not only are they likely to mean poorer services for many, but also job losses and greater workplace insecurity for others.
The claim that a dynamic private sector, freed from the shackles of the state, will quickly create new jobs for the legions of unemployed is hard to take seriously. If anything, private sector unemployment could well rise, too, as private businesses are deprived of state support.
Others might blame the pathetic response to the cuts on what is deemed the ‘official opposition’ to the austerity proposed by the Liberal-Conservative coalition. Labour’s reaction is essentially that cuts should be imposed a little later and perhaps a little less extensively than the government suggests. To be sure, the Trades Union Congress has called for a demonstration against cuts – for some time next year.
But only the deluded or those ignorant of Britain’s recent history would have any faith in the desire of such organisations to resist austerity. Apart from anything else, before the May election the Labour Party made it clear that, at least in principle, it saw substantial cuts as unavoidable.
The real reason for the lack of any significant opposition to austerity goes wider and deeper than any of the standard explanations suggest. It is to be found in a strong cultural aversion to prosperity that became mainstream in British society in the 1970s and has strengthened since then. In turn, it should be seen as a central component of a broader social pessimism and retreat from the idea of progress.
This aversion to prosperity is missed because critics of the government typically assume that the assault on living standards will come from born-again Thatcherites. They see themselves as fighting the last war, just as surely as France building the Maginot line, a giant First World War-style fortified trench, to defend itself against Nazi Germany in the 1930s. In the event, Germany easily overpowered the defences using modern armoured warfare in 1940.
The contemporary aversion to prosperity is both more subtle and more powerful than that suggested by the idea of a Thatcherite assault. It takes the form of what I have called growth scepticism: the pervasive notion that economic growth is constrained by limits that humanity attempts to overcome at its peril. Such constraints are not simply seen as challenges but as immutable barriers that cannot be transgressed without causing immense harm.
Growth scepticism points to many such boundaries. The most obvious, and the first to be popularised, is the notion of a natural limit. From this perspective, economic growth threatens to devastate the environment and perhaps destroy the planet itself.
Sustainability is best seen as a variant of the concept of a natural limit. The idea is that economic growth may not pose immediate problems in the present, but it threatens potentially fatal challenges in the future. Climate change is the most popular example of this line of argument.
Another set of limits are portrayed as social. One variant of this is the emphasis on happiness in contemporary society. Influential figures have argued that the overriding goal of society and individuals should be achieving happiness rather than becoming wealthier. Economic growth is therefore downplayed or even stigmatised as causing ‘affluenza’.
An alternative version of the social limits argument relates to inequality. From this perspective, not only is inequality a social problem – it is also an argument against growth. Rising prosperity is seen as inherently dangerous as it can lead to widening inequality. In this view a more equal but poor society is generally seen as preferable to a less equal rich one.
Finally, there is the notion of moral limits. From this perspective, economic growth risks morally corrupting us. By fostering ‘greed’, it is argued that growth brings out the worst in humanity.
None of this means that the drive to austerity cannot be challenged. But it does suggest that the old approaches will not work. Simply pointing to the evils of cuts will not be convincing when growth scepticism is so deeply embedded. Looking to the Labour Party or the remnants of the old trade unions is deeply naive. And scapegoating greedy bankers will only make matters worse by strengthening the demand for sacrifice.
Instead it is necessary to go back to first principles. To restate the case for economic growth as part of a broader humanist project of rehabilitating social progress and modernity. Such an approach will not be easy to pursue. Growth-sceptic ideas are deeply embedded in contemporary societies. But it is only through rehabilitating prosperity as a desirable goal that it is possible to make a convincing case for resisting austerity.
On one year out of seven, Halloween hops to a calendar spot that haunts the Livingston Parish Council. It’s a religious holiday, and the Livingston Parish Council has no right to tell people when they can celebrate it, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana says in a letter to the council.
The council moved the parish’s Halloween trick-or-treating hours from Sunday night, Oct. 31, to Monday night, Nov. 1, because Oct. 31 falls on a Sunday this year, and some religious groups feel ghosts and goblins shouldn’t prowl on that hallowed day.
That decision is unpopular with many parish residents, so people in some subdivisions plan to ignore it, said Parish President Mike Grimmer, who disagrees with the council’s ordinance. Grimmer said he would have liked to have seen the parish’s trick-or-treaters out in force the evening of Saturday, Oct. 30.
Violation of the parish ordinance can carry a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail, according to the ACLU.
“No one in Livingston Parish should fear jail time for honoring a religious holiday on its officially designated date,” the ACLU’s letter states.
“Halloween is a part of a long religious tradition, both Celtic and Christian,” the letter says. “Linked with the Nov. 1 commemoration of All Saints Day, it is a reflection of a religious respect for the dead. For many, the date of Halloween cannot be altered any more than can the date of Christmas, because it is a religious event.”
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or 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.