Sunday, April 03, 2011

Britain's prisons must be tougher, says survey

The Coalition's law and order policies have failed to win public backing, according to a major new survey which found widespread support for tougher punishments. The research found a huge majority of the public do not back the community sentences which Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, wants to see used instead of short prison sentences.

The poll, the largest piece of independent research into public thinking on crime and punishment since the General Election last year, suggests little support for community punishments and demand for tougher prison conditions. The poll of more than 2,000 adults, 1,000 victims of crime and 500 police officers found:

* Eight out of 10 people believe community sentences are a "soft punishment", while among police officers the figure was nine out of 10.

* Asked about high reoffending rates by criminals who have served short jail terms, two thirds of the public thought the best solution was to "make prison life harder, to make it more of a deterrent to committing further crimes".

* Six out of 10 interviewees agreed that rehabilitation was a "soft option that tries to make excuses for offenders", while only four out of 10 said it was a "hard-headed practical way of trying to reduce reoffending".

* Only 13 per cent of the public believed the Coalition was being tougher on crime than Labour, with 23 per cent saying it was less tough and the remainder said it was about the same.

The research was commissioned by Lord Ashcroft, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, who said that it was a warning that the Conservative party risks "undermining an important part of its appeal" by failing to deliver on law and order.

Mr Clarke's criminal justice Green Paper, published in December, proposed replacing short jail terms with "tougher" community punishments but the research found there was widespread support for sending criminals to jail even for short periods.

It abandoned the "prison works" policy put forward by then Home Secretary Michael Howard in 1993 - in a speech written by his then adviser, David Cameron - and followed by the Conservatives until the General Election.

Mr Clarke has repeatedly spoken of the need for "rigorously enforced community sentences that punish offenders" instead of prison sentences, as well as claiming the public's fear of crime was exaggerated. 'The public are still very, very worried about lawlessness," he said in June 2010. "People still feel fear of crime – probably to a greater extent than they actually face it.'

But those views are challenged by the research. The poll report said: "There was an overwhelming view in the groups that sentencing for convicted criminals in Britain is too soft.

"If offenders went to prison at all their sentence would be too short; they would then serve only half the time they were sentenced to because of the cost or lack of space; and the time they did spend inside would be much too comfortable to constitute proper punishment or a deterrent to reoffending."

One member of the public told researchers: "In the good old days you went to prison and it was a punishment. Now there is TV, a gym, you can get drugs, you can get whatever."

Many interviewees expressed concern about criminal justice reforms outlined by Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, which include sending fewer people to prison and offering more generous sentence discounts to criminals who plead guilty.

One police officer told the researchers Mr Clarke was "wrong" and added: "The only way you'll protect the public from the criminals who constantly reoffend is to lock them up."

Another interviewee said: "Has he ever had anything happen to him? He'd want them in prison."

The panel was heavily against giving judges more discretion to decide appropriate sentences, as put forward by Mr Clarke, while a proposed 50 per cent sentence discount for pleading guilty drew "incredulous laughter" from focus groups.

"However, some participants saw some value in community punishments that brought tangible benefits to society," said the report. "Several also felt that an element of public humiliation, such as uniforms which made it clear to passers-by what they were doing and why, could be effective."

One police officer told researchers how a "community payback" scheme he had observed was "laughable". The officer said offenders who were supposed to be painting railings around a churchyard were seen "smoking and heckling members of the public", while one offender wrote graffiti on the pavement with paint provided by his supervisors.

Among the police officers interviewed, who were largely drawn from the rank and file but did include 50 at the level of "inspector or above", 43 per cent said they had often been involved with prosecutions where judges failed to hand down a custodial sentence where one was merited. A further 42 per cent said this had happened occasionally and only 9 per cent said it had never happened.


Claim: Feminism widened poverty gap and set social mobility back decades

Feminism has set back the cause of social mobility by decades, a senior minister has claimed. Universities Minister David Willetts said feminist policies had inadvertently halted the improvement in the life chances of working-class men and widened the gap between rich and poor. He said feminism was the ‘single biggest factor’ in the decline in social mobility since the 1960s, adding: ‘Feminism has trumped egalitarianism.’

Mr Willetts was speaking ahead of next week’s launch of the Government’s flagship social mobility strategy, which will lay out a raft of measures designed to increase the life chances of those from less well-off backgrounds.

Grammar school-educated Mr Willetts, one of the Conservative Party’s leading thinkers on social mobility, said the main beneficiaries of feminism had been middle-class women, who enjoyed educational opportunities denied to their mothers. He said he did not want to see the gains made by middle-class women reversed, but added that policymakers had a duty to ensure any gains in social mobility were spread more evenly in the future.

Ministers will publish detailed research next week showing that social mobility has stagnated for almost 40 years. New indicators are expected to show that almost every measure of social mobility – from achievements at school to job prospects in later life – has either stalled or gone into reverse.

Asked to identify the cause of the decline, Mr Willetts said: ‘One of the things that happened over that period was that the entirely admirable transformation of opportunities for women meant that with a lot of the expansion of education in the 60s, 70s and 80s, the first beneficiaries were the daughters of middle-class families who had previously been excluded from educational opportunities.

‘And if you put that with what is called assortative mating – that well-educated women marry well-educated men – this transformation of opportunities for women ended up magnifying social divides rather than narrowing them. ‘It is such delicate territory because it is not a bad thing that women had these opportunities.

‘But I think it certainly widened the gap in household incomes because you suddenly had two-earner couples, both of whom were well educated, compared with often workless households where nobody was educated. ‘So I do personally think that the feminist revolution in its first-round effects, was probably the key factor. Feminism trumped egalitarianism.’

Mr Willetts dismissed suggestions that the destruction of the grammar school system was a major factor. Grammar schools offered a route out of poverty for the post-war generations, but Mr Willetts suggested they had been hijacked by the middle classes, with entry policies that were ‘not particularly broadly based’.

Shadow equalities minister Yvette Cooper reacted angrily to the comments. She said: ‘The idea that working women are responsible for persistent child poverty or youth unemployment in disadvantaged areas is just shocking. ‘David Willetts should quickly withdraw this rubbish and face up to the real problems his policies are causing for young people and women who want to get on.’


When words lead to murder

When I saw my daughter crying while watching the news about the horrible murders in Itamar last Saturday night, I finally decided I had enough. Enough of the barbaric “humans” who slaughter a four-month-old baby, but also enough of the relentless campaign that caused the death of three Jewish children and their parents.

I am not only talking here about the incitement in Palestinian society, but also about the national and international demonization campaign against Jews like me who are living in Judea, Samaria or in east Jerusalem.

"Settlers" are generally being treated only in one way; we are less than human beings. Our villages our branded" illegal" and in the end we ourselves have become "illegal beings."

Last year during the launch of our public diplomacy project Missing Peace in Amsterdam, an Israeli journalist asked how an information desk run by a director living in the West Bank could be reliable. Get it? By living in Judea and Samaria one is automatically an unreliable outcast.

Do not think this is only the opinion of a leftist Israeli journalist, I know of plenty of European officials who think the same.

During a fact finding tour in the Gush Etzion area for Israelis a while ago, we visited several places where Palestinians and Jews are meeting or work together. After visiting a garage where 10 local Jews are working together with 10 Palestinians from Hebron, the participants started to complain about propaganda.

Thereafter we interviewed a Palestinian contractor in Efrat who talked about his 20-year relationship with the local Jews. When the guy said he liked to work in Efrat and bluntly stated that life had been much better before Oslo, someone even suggested he had been bribed. It simply could not be true that a Palestinian had a positive story to tell about “settlers.”

Several young people told me that a date came to an abrupt end when they revealed they were living on the West Bank. A friend who used to work for the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv saw his contract terminated when embassy staff found out he was living in Efrat. He received a letter in which he was told that he lived in the wrong place. These are only few examples of how incitement against Jews in the West Bank worked out.

Foreign media demonization

After the news broke about the Itamar murders we saw government officials issuing the usual calls for international condemnation of this barbaric act. On Sunday, the Israeli government declared that it would establish a special team that will monitor Palestinian incitement. Yet nothing has been said about the other source of incitement that caused the dehumanization of roughly half a million Jews.

Even on the day the five members of the Fogel family were buried, a large part of the foreign media continued its demonization campaign against the Jews living across the Green Line. The New York Times and the Washington Post reported that “five settlers” had been killed. The BBC buried the news in an article about new “settler homes” and Sky did not even report the news for 48 hours.

There are countless examples of the foreign media using only Palestinian sources for stories about “settlers.” Just last week it was widely reported that “6 Palestinians were shot in clashes with settlers.” Thanks to a well known Israeli blogger, in this case the truth came to light. The Palestinians initiated an attack on a Jew and were wounded in the ensuing clash with the IDF.

This kind of reporting has created the picture that all Jews in the West Bank are extremist criminals. The fact that the overwhelming majority of those people are working, studying and law-abiding citizens who managed to establish some of the finest communities in Israel is hardly known even in Israel.

The demonization campaign against Jews living across the green line should have been addressed a long time ago. Now the disease has spread to the state as a whole and threatens our very existence in this country. The Talmud in tractate Peah 1:1 states that Lashon HaRa (evil speech) is equivalent to murder. In this case, disinformation by large parts of the media led to de-legitimization and caused the demonization of a large part of Israeli society.

The events in Itamar on Shabbat proved that in such a climate eventually actual physical murder becomes the next step. That is why the government should give higher priority to countering the global dehumanization campaign against West Bank Jews than to the fight against Palestinian incitement.


American Jewry's Fight

Over the past year or so, American Jewish opponents of Israel like writer and activist Peter Beinart have sought to intimidate and demoralize Israelis by telling us that American Jews either no longer support us or will stop supporting us if we don't give in to all the Arabs' demands.

But statistical evidence exposes these threats as utter lies. According to mountainous survey evidence, the American Jewish community writ large remains deeply supportive of Israel. Two surveys released last year by the American Jewish Committee and Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies showed that three quarters of American Jews care deeply about Israel and that Israel is an important part of their Jewish identity. The Brandeis survey notably showed that young American Jews are no less likely to support Israel than they were in the past.

In fact, American Jews under 30 are more hawkish about the Palestinian conflict with Israel than Jews between the ages of 31-40 are. According to the Brandeis survey, 51 percent of American Jews oppose a future division of Jerusalem, while a mere 29% would support it. Younger Jews are more opposed to the capital's partition than older Jews are.

It is notable that the Brandeis survey found that political views do not impact American Jews' support for Israel. This is striking because among Americans at large, polls show Republicans are significantly stronger supporters of Israel than Democrats. But not among Jews.

"Liberals felt no less connected than conservatives and were no less likely to regard Israel as important to their Jewish identities. These observations hold true for both younger and older respondents," the Brandeis survey report explained.

Across the board, American Jews blame the Palestinians for the absence of peace and believe there is little chance that there will be peace between Israel and the Palestinians in the foreseeable future. Seventy-five percent agreed with the statement, "The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel"; 94% said the Palestinians should be required to accept the Jewish state's right to exist.

In light of these overwhelming levels of support, it is disconcerting to see that across the US, Jewish communities are failing to prevent anti- Zionist Jews from hijacking communal funds and facilities to finance anti-Israel activities.

Consider a few recent examples.

In Orange County, California, intra-communal rancor is growing over the local Jewish Federation's financial and organizational support for University of California at Irvine's Olive Tree Initiative.

The Federation subsidizes Olive Tree Initiativeorganized tours of Israel for Jewish students. As Tammi Benjamin from UC Santa Cruz explained in a letter last December to local Federation CEO Shalom Elcott and local Hillel director Jordan Fruchtman, while OTI claims to be interested in fostering good relations between Jewish and Arab students, it actually just propagandizes against Israel. The speakers who addressed students participating in the two-week trip were overwhelmingly anti-Israel. Almost all the Palestinian speakers expressed hatred for Israel. Many of the Israeli speakers represented groups that call for economic warfare against Israel and defame Israel as a racist state. Half of the supposedly neutral representatives of international organizations who spoke to the group are notorious for their opposition to Israel.

Rather than end the practice of using Jewish communal funds to propagandize Jewish students to hate the Jewish state that most American Jews support and see as important to their Jewish identity, the Federation and Hillel have dug in their heels.

This week, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reported that over the past two months, allegedly acting on instructions from the Federation, two local synagogues canceled an event sponsored by the local branch of the Zionist Organization of America at which Irvine Rabbi Dov Fischer was to present information about OTI's anti-Israel activities.

Speaking to the paper, Fischer said, "The amazing thing is how there has been a clamp-down by The Federation to prevent any speech or dissent in the community against The Federation's program. The idea that two different temples in the community, who have all kinds of speakers, canceled this program is profoundly shocking."

Meanwhile on the East Coast, both the Washington and New York Jewish communities are embroiled in a feud over Federation funding for anti-Israel Jewish groups. In Washington, a group of pro-Israel activists operating as the Committee Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art has begun a campaign to end Federation funding for anti-Israel activities.

In a letter to Federation President Susie Gelman and Federation board members from March 6, COPMA's chairman Robert Samet argued, "It is critical that the Federation establish guidelines for withholding funding from partner agencies that engage in political propaganda and activism denigrating Israel and undermining its legitimacy as a strong, secure and independent Jewish state."

COPMA's specific concern is Federation Funding for the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center's professional theater group Theater J.

As the letter explained, "Theater J, a partner agency of the Federation and a recipient of its funding and support, has turned an arts program at the DCJCC... into a platform for political activism that expresses hostility and antipathy towards the State of Israel and little regard for its security."

In 2009, Theater J staged the virulently anti- Semitic post-modern passion play Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill. The play accuses the entire Jewish population of Israel of mass murders that were never committed.

Unfortunately, as COPMA notes, this is par for the course. In the past, Theater J's artistic director Ari Roth organized buses to bring community members to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to watch a production of the virulently anti-Israel propaganda play My Name is Rachel Corrie.

This year, under Roth's leadership, Theater J presented Return to Haifa, a play that COPMA argues "distorts the history and origins of Israel and makes the historically accurate death of a Jewish child in the Holocaust... comparable to the fabricated and utterly fantastical story of an Arab child allegedly abandoned by his fleeing parents in Haifa in 1948, ostensibly as a result of their terror over advancing Israelis."

In response to COPMA's letter, Roth told the Forward that it "is not a prerogative of the donor" to intervene in artistic content, and claimed that attempts to limit the theater's activities amounted to censorship or blacklisting.

Carol Greenwald, COPMA's treasurer, rejects Roth's arguments. In her words, "The issue is not artistic freedom to create whatever the artist chooses; the issue is the appropriateness of a Jewish communal institution using Jewish communal funding to showcase defamation of the Jewish people."

The Forward quoted Andrew Apostolou, a local Jewish Community Relations Council member, as quite sensibly saying, "There are things a Jewish community shouldn't be doing, like serving a bacon cheeseburger on Yom Kippur. Putting on an anti-Semitic play is one of these things."

COPMA is not alone in its concerns. In New York, a group of activists formed a new organization called JCC Watch to force the New York Jewish Federation to end financial support to the Manhattan JCC due to its partnership with organizations that support economic warfare against Israel through calls for economic boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Like COPMA, JCC Watch asks that the local Federation adopt guidelines to prevent Federation funds from being transferred to groups and programming that showcase calls for economic and political warfare against Israel.

So far, Washington's Federation has not responded to COPMA's letter. Interviewed by the Forward, the Washington Federation's CEO defended giving supporters of anti-Israel sanctions the stage as part of Federation-sponsored panels on the grounds of "welcoming multiple voices." And in an op-ed in New York Jewish Week last month, the New York Federation's CEO defended the JCC's partnership with groups that engage in economic and political warfare against Israel.

What is going on here? According to the AJC and Brandeis surveys, fewer than 10% of American Jews tend to accept the Arab line against Israel. Given the wall-to-wall support for Israel among American Jews, why do American Jewish organizational leaders refuse to do what their members want them to do? Why are they taking Jewish communal funds to finance activities and causes that are offensive to the Jewish community? Why are they pretending that the call to end communal funding for anti-Israel activities is a call for an abrogation of free speech?

To get a sense of how unprecedented this is, it is useful to consider the American Jewish community's response to Jews for Jesus. While Reform and Orthodox rabbis agree on almost nothing relating to Jewish laws and practices, since the emergence of Jews for Jesus in the 1970s, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis have been unified in their rejection of the Christian missionary group's protestations of being Jewish.

Everyone understands that while Jews have a perfect right to change their religion, they have no right to force the Jewish community to accept Christians as Jews. That is, they have no right to change the definition of Judaism to include people who worship Jesus.

So-called Messianic Jews falsely call themselves Jews to undermine the community from within. But no Federation feels compelled to invite a representative of so-called Messianic Jews to proselytize on stage as part of a panel discussion in order to "welcome multiple voices."

Hillel organizations have rightly refused space and funding to Messianic Jewish groups.

But today, American Jews find themselves helpless when a marginal group of anti-Zionist Jews demands - like the Messianic Jews of their day - communal funding and space for their anti-Israel activities.

The anti-Zionist groups make the same arguments as the Messianic Jews. They call themselves pro-Israel even as they engage in activities aimed at harming, defaming, weakening and delegitimizing the Jewish state. They claim that refusing them communal funds constitutes a violation of their free speech rights.

Yet while communal leaders did not hesitate to call the so-called Messianic Jews' bluff, they cannot find the way to expunge anti-Israel groups from their umbrella organizations.

The explanation for this behavior is apparently social. Federation leaders don't mind disappointing evangelical Christians. But most of their friends are leftist. Consequently the perceived social cost of taking action against groups like Theater J, J Street, B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Jewish Voices for Peace is too high for many American Jewish leaders to bear.

Happily, a handful of committed community members throughout the country are standing up and demanding that their communal leaders act in the interests of the communities they serve. It can only be hoped that the overwhelming majority of American Jews who clearly wish to support Israel will join these activists' call and demand that all Jewish Federations stop allowing anti-Israel groups to feed from the communal trough. If they do, they will find that much to their surprise, the social costs of actions will be far smaller than they expected.

After all, Israel's supporters are the majority.

UPDATE: Yesterday the Forward reported that in September 2009 UC Irvine students met with Hamas leader Aziz Duwaik during an Olive Tree Initiative organized visit to Israel. The Orange County Federation knew about this in October 2009 and yet not only have they continued to support the OTI, they actively blocked public discussion of the OTI as recently as this month.



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 is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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