Thursday, January 01, 2015
UN rejects Palestinian resolution for statehood
A Palestinian draft resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories by late 2017 was defeated in UN Security Council
The United Nations Security Council has rejected a Palestinian resolution demanding an end to Israeli occupation within three years.
The resolution on Tuesday failed to get the minimum nine "yes" votes in the Security Council.
It received eight "yes" votes, two "no" votes - including one from the United States - and five abstentions including Britain.
The United States, Israel's closest ally, reiterated its opposition to the draft resolution earlier on Tuesday. It has insisted on a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, not an imposed timetable.
China, France and Russia were among the eight countries that voted in favor of the text, but the resolution failed to garner the nine "yes" votes necessary for adoption in the 15-member council.
The resolution set a 12-month deadline for Israel to reach a final peace deal with the Palestinians and called for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories by the end of 2017.
"This resolution sets the stage for more division, not for compromise," said US Ambassador Samantha Power.
Security Council member Jordan had requested the vote on the measure drafted by the Palestinians, who are seeking to expand the role of the United Nations in Middle East peace efforts.
"This text addresses the concerns of just one side," said Power.
US Secretary of State John Kerry had lobbied in the days leading up to the vote, calling 13 foreign ministers to explain US opposition.
Washington was not, however, compelled to resort to its veto power to block the measure - a move that could have undermined US standing in the Arab world.
A US veto risked angering key Arab allies, including partners in the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
The vote caps a three-month campaign by the Palestinians at the United Nations to win support for a resolution that sets a timeframe for ending the Israeli occupation.
On Monday, the Palestinians presented changes to the text, toughening up language on East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state and demanding an end to Jewish settlement building.
HarperCollins omits Israel from school atlas
HarperCollins, one of the world's largest publishing houses, sells English-language atlases to schools in the Middle East that omit Israel.
Collins Middle East Atlases show Jordan and Syria extending to the Mediterranean but do mark the position of the West Bank.
“The publication of this atlas will confirm Israel’s belief that there exists a hostility towards their country from parts of the Arab world. It will not help to build up a spirit of trust leading to peaceful co-existence,” said Bishop Declan Lang, the chairman of the Bishops' Conference Department of International Affairs, to The Tablet.
“Maps can be a very powerful tool in terms of de-legitimising 'the other' and can lead to confusion rather than clarity. We would be keen to see relevant bodies ensure that all atlases anywhere reflect the official United Nations position on nations, boundaries and all political features," added Dr Jane Clements, director of the Council of Christians and Jews.
However, Collins Bartholomew, the subsidiary of HarperCollins that specialises in maps, said that including Israel would have been “unacceptable” to their customers in the Gulf and the amendment incorporated “local preferences”.
The Tablet said it had discovered the customs officers in one unnamed Gulf country only permitting the import of school atlases once Israel had been deleted by hand.
Hounded by the RSPCA: When protesters reported a wealthy hunt to Britain's top animal charity it smelt blood. Now it's going for the kill... in a court case using charitable donations
Just before 11am on a crisp March morning, 30 men and women from one of England’s most fashionable hunts gathered near Dorchester.
Resplendent in their distinctive ‘True Blue’ livery, Dorset’s Cattistock Hunt members passed around the stirrup cup for the traditional toast before the huntsman blew his horn and the riders cantered off, following their yelping hounds.
At the fore was the hunt’s joint master, the Honourable Mrs Charlotte Townshend. Known affectionately to her friends as Blot, Mrs Townshend is rightly proud of the hunt’s 254-year history.
In the past both Viscountess Galway and Lady Teresa Agnew have been masters, and today its 250 members include entrepreneur Johnnie Boden, who is vice-president of its pony club, and supporters include actor Martin Clunes, whose daughter was also a member of the pony club.
On that damp morning of March 11, huntsman Will Bryer decided to take the hunt through picturesque Hardy country on to land west of Weymouth, above the famous Jurassic Coast, where – in keeping with hunting laws – a scented trail had been laid earlier for the hounds to follow.
But what none of those riding that morning could have known was that the day’s events would threaten to become a cause celebre, which is now the subject of a court battle.
The Cattistock Hunt, one of the richest in the country, has long been a target for anti-hunt protesters determined to prove it flouts hunting laws and that, instead of ensuring the hounds follow the trail, the Cattistock willingly allows them to chase foxes whose scent they pick up.
And in this pursuit, the anti-hunt campaigners have a willing partner: the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Many in the hunting fraternity believe that the court case, in which a member of the Cattistock is accused of a single count of breaching the hunting ban by pursuing a wild mammal with hounds, is the result of collusion between the activists and a partisan RSPCA.
They are convinced that the charity has become an increasingly politicised lobby, bent on pursuing an obsessive and costly vendetta against England’s hunting elite. As one insider observed: ‘The lunatics are running the asylum. The RSPCA has become indoctrinated in an animal-rights philosophy, and that is its downfall.
‘The charity is a massive institution with 1,400 employees and an income of more than £120 million, and yet it is run by a board of 21 trustees, few with experience of running a business, and some who are, frankly, staunch animal-rights activists.’
It has even been suggested that, abetted by animal-rights activists, the RSPCA has been targeting well-heeled hunting communities in a cynical bid to raise its profile.
Many, too, are concerned that the charity is ‘wasting’ too much of its fortune – made up mostly from donations and legacies – chasing minor misdemeanours.
Already it is responsible for 80 per cent of animal-welfare prosecutions in England and Wales, more than half of which are thrown out of court or result in acquittals.
The Mail on Sunday reported in October that the RSPCA had spent £22.5 million on prosecutions in two years, and today we can reveal that the charity has been forced to take out an overdraft facility with its bank, Coutts, for the first time in its 190-year history.
The Cattistock case epitomises the battle for the soul of the British countryside. So far as the hunters are concerned, they have today become the hunted – followed and filmed by a battery of anti-hunt activists including Dorset hunt saboteurs, the anti-hunt group Protect Our Wild Animals, and monitors for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
They hand over yards of footage to the RSPCA in the hope that it will provide evidence upon which the charity can press charges.
In the dock is Will Bryer, Mrs Townshend’s fellow huntmaster. Mr Bryer has pleaded not guilty at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court to breaching the hunting ban and will mount a vigorous defence when the case comes to trial in the spring.
His solicitor, Jamie Foster, insists Mr Bryer is innocent. ‘He will vigorously contest what appears to be an extremely weak case,’ he says. ‘I am very surprised it has made it this far.’
The prosecution’s case will hinge on footage filmed as the hunt passed the picturesque village of Langton Herring. Taken with a hand-held camera by Kevin Hill, from the IFAW, it was subsequently passed to the RSPCA rather than to the police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). It is said to depict Mr Bryer allowing two hounds to chase a fox, allegedly in breach of the Hunting Act 2004.
The IFAW has been delighted by the prosecution. Its members and fellow activists have long disliked the Cattistock Hunt, seeing it as symbolic of hunting’s aristocratic past.
As one anti-hunt activist explains: ‘It is run along feudal lines. Landowners and farmers are encouraged to give permission for the hunt to make use of their land – there might, for example, be the offer of the loan of some farm equipment you especially need.’
Mrs Townshend has been singled out as someone who represents everything the activists despise about Britain’s hunting history.
A committed wildlife conservationist, Mrs Townshend has already been targeted by animal-rights activists, who mistakenly believed she supported trials for the Government’s badger cull and would allow one to take place on her Dorset estate.
She was forced to make a ‘painful decision’ to step down as patron of the Dorset Wildlife Trust, fearing that the work of the charity, founded by her grandfather more than half a century ago, would be compromised by her continued presence. Activists inundated the DWT’s Facebook and Twitter pages with abusive messages. It became a systematic campaign eventually linked to the discovery of ‘suspicious figures’ hanging around Mrs Townshend’s home.
Security had to be stepped up after a picture of the house was published on Stop The Cull’s website with the words ‘Badger killer Charlotte Townshend’ written, graffiti-style, in bright red.
As for the court case, it is understood that even Kevin Hill, who shot the footage, is privately doubtful that Mr Bryer will be convicted. He has admitted to friends that the film was taken from some distance and identification will be disputed.
Whatever the outcome, the case will once again turn the spotlight on the close relationship between the RSPCA and the animal- rights movements.
During the autumn, an independent report by Stephen Wooler, a former chief inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, recommended that the charity should pass on any evidence of law-breaking to either the police or CPS. Since then, the charity has indicated that in future it will abide by the Wooler recommendations.
The case, however, calls that commitment into question. Why, for example, is the RSPCA mounting this prosecution and not the police?
Tim Bonner, director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, said: ‘It clearly cannot make an objective decision. We believe this decision involving Cattistock has a blatant political element to it.
‘The Cattistock has been harassed by employees of animal-rights organisations carrying out covert surveillance for almost ten years and, until now, there has not been a single prosecution, let alone a conviction.’
He believes the Cattistock has no case to answer. ‘We have every confidence that Cattistock was operating entirely legally on the day in question and we don’t believe the evidence justifies the prosecution,’ he says.
Even Graham Forsyth, an anti-hunt supporter who regularly monitors hunts and reports his finding to the charity, admits that the Cattistock Hunt is well organised.
‘I would say it is one of the better managed and more disciplined hunts, despite some of the incidents recorded against it in the past,’ he says.
‘Generally speaking, if Charlotte and her husband are out riding, things tend to be calmer because they tolerate us – although they ignore us – and try to ensure none of the others gets involved either.’
So why is the RSPCA so keen to prosecute Mr Bryer? Its official explanation is that ‘there is a public interest in bringing such a prosecution’. A charity spokesman added: ‘We look closely at whether the quality of the evidence meets the usual tests too. We take our enforcement role seriously.’
But one animal-rights supporter with knowledge of the case believes much of it is a face-saving exercise.
‘The RSPCA was very keen to run this one up the flagpole in the wake of the Wooler report to prove it was still a force to be reckoned with,’ he said. ‘But we’re not confident it will go the distance and if it does, we don’t think it will result in a conviction.
‘Proving identification is incredibly difficult at the best of times. And this isn’t the best evidence. They know that. But they think there is a chance.’
Certainly, as a charity the RSPCA is under pressure to explain its prosecutions policy. And internally it is riven with disagreements between the old guard, who fear donations will dry up if it becomes too political, and hardline activists. Although the charity, whose patron is the Queen, remains one of the wealthiest in the UK, with investment assets of £82 million, much of this cash is thought to be tied up in long-term deals.
One person involved in animal rescue said: ‘I have been told the past three months have been like a white-knuckle ride in making payments and that the RSPCA has had to go to the bank and agree an overdraft for the first time.’
In a statement, the RSPCA confirmed it had made ‘contingency plans to ensure efficient cash flow’ and had negotiated an overdraft, but insisted: ‘We have not used this facility and do not foresee any reason to use it at this present time.’
For the Cattistock Hunt it was business as usual for the Boxing Day meet. ‘They are quietly confident that Mr Bryer will be acquitted eventually,’ says one local landowner. ‘If the court has any sense, the case will be thrown out. That is the thinking around here.’
In 2015, have cojones: say no to self-censorship
People gagged themselves too willingly in 2014 – let's make next year different
If there was an award for Most Brazen Exercise of Double Standards, Britain’s chattering class would win it every year. These are people who take to the streets to yell and scream if Israel so much as sneezes in the direction of Gaza, yet who will then head off for a fabulous lunch with some former Labour minister whose government destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia when it was in power. These are people who stand outside the embassies of foreign nations to protest against the undermining of press freedom in said nations, yet who cheered and even conspired with a British lord’s war on the UK tabloids and his proposal for state-backed regulation of the press.
And now, to top it all, these folk have ended 2014 slamming North Korea for using online intimidation to crush culture — having themselves spent much of 2014 using online intimidation to crush culture! Apologies for quoting from the rabble’s press, but you couldn’t make it up.
Sony’s scratching of the cinema release of its North Korea-mocking movie The Interview, in response to online threats and hollers of ‘That’s offensive!’ from a group calling itself Guardians of Peace, has caused much head-shaking in right-thinking circles. It isn’t hard to see why. For a film company to dump a film just because a foreign dictator, or at least his fanboys on the internet, finds it offensive is an act of self-censorship that sets a dangerous precedent. It gives a green light to other offence-takers — who are legion in this super-sensitive young millennium — similarly to strive for the extinguishing of words or images they find foul.
It’s not yet known if Guardians of Peace is a front for Kim Jong-un or just a bunch of troublemaking hackers, but whoever it is, it has successfully elicited a craven act of self-gagging from one of the largest film corporations. And as everyone from President Obama to the Guardian to every tweeter with a conscience has pointed out, this is very bad.
All of which would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that Sony’s capitulation is far from the first act of self-censorship this year, and also for the fact that many of those condemning Sony’s cave-in said next to nothing about the numerous other cave-ins of 2014. This has been the year of self-gagging, a year in which dumping content in response to cries of ‘You can’t say that!’ from angry cliques has been all the rage. And those currently taking an oh-so-brave stand against North Korea’s (alleged) winning of self-censorship through ‘online intimidation’ either said nothing about such self-gagging or actually helped facilitate it. They paved the way for Sony’s self-censorship, which has not occurred in a vacuum but rather in a new intolerant climate in which the feelings of the offended are increasingly elevated over the freedoms of artists, writers and entertainers.
So where was the angry-with-North-Korea brigade when a UK mob of virtual prudes used ‘online intimidation’ to force ITV2 to cancel Dapper Laughs’ TV show on the basis that it was sexist? There’s barely a cigarette paper’s difference between what the Guardians of Peace did to The Interview and what these self-styled guardians of womankind did to Dapper: both utilised the uglier, shriller aspects of online activism to try to destroy a cultural product that repelled them. Yet Sony’s ditching of a comedy on the basis that some North Koreans would find it offensive is railed against, while ITV2’s pulling of a TV show that some feminists hated is notched up as a strike for progress and equality.
Not only did the Sony-bashers fail to take a stand against ITV2’s caving-in to the online offencerati — they were a part of that online offencerati. The Guardian editorialised angrily against Sony’s climbdown, arguing that ‘cancelling the release of a film because of online intimidation’ undermines free speech. Yet Guardian writers were central to whipping up the ‘online intimidation’ that led to ITV2 ditching Dapper, and far from penning leaders criticising ITV2’s self-censorship, the Guardian celebrated it with the words: ‘Dapper Laughs is not laughing anymore after ITV turn-off.’ Currently, Guardian writers are responding like hormonal schoolgirls to George Clooney’s condemnation of Sony for failing to stand up to online bullies, having themselves played the role of online bullies in relation to ITV2. You almost have to admire people who have so completely jettisoned the emotion of shame that they can slam North Korea for allegedly doing what they themselves definitely do, and not even turn the palest pink with embarrassment.
Where were the Sony-bashers when the London Barbican pulled its racism-exploring Exhibit B in response to a measly 200 protesters who turned up at the opening night to holler and wave placards? Index on Censorship is currently railing against Sony, yet its first response to the Barbican’s pressure-won self-gagging was to publish a piece lambasting the Barbican’s ‘mindset’ in failing to consider ‘the possibility of a hostile response [to the exhibition]’. The Barbican must do more ‘engagement and dialogue’ with possibly affected constituencies before hosting controversial art, it said. By the same token, maybe Sony should have asked for North Korea’s permission to make The Interview, and maybe Salman Rushdie should have run The Satanic Verses by the ayatollahs before publication, and perhaps the Sex Pistols should have sent advance copies of God Save the Queen to the queen for her majestic approval. The insistence that all artists and institutions should consider ‘the possibility of a hostile response’ is to institutionalise self-censorship, to make an article of faith of pre-emptive self-gagging just in case someone takes offence.
Where were Sony’s critics when Christ Church College at Oxford dumped an all-male debate on abortion at the behest of 300 Facebook feminists who threatened to turn up with ‘instruments’ to disrupt it? The college agreed with the angry agitators that to allow two men (one of whom was me) to discuss abortion would potentially threaten the ‘mental safety’ of students, especially female ones, and that, as one of the censorious students said, ‘the idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups’. That is strikingly similar to what the Guardians of Peace have said: that The Interview had to be strongarmed out of cinemas because it was a case of awesomely powerful America using free speech to attack poor, little, marginalised North Korea. So it isn’t only tinpot tyrants that demand censorship and big corporations that comply — Oxford students also clamour, complete with ‘instruments’, for censorship, and Oxford colleges comply. Self-censorship is now such an established Western institution that one of the highest seats of learning in the West practices it.
There are loads of other examples of pressured self-censorship this year, many of them lobbied for by the very same folk now saying ‘WTF’ to Sony. During the Edinburgh Fringe, a theatre dumped an Israeli-funded play in response to a letter-writing campaign by luvvies and daily protests by Israel-bashers. Down Under, the hilariously misnamed Festival of Dangerous Ideas ditched an Islamist speaker who was judged to be just that bit too dangerous by the right-on inhabitants of Twitter. The Economist officially withdrew a controversial book review in response to a ‘Twitter riot’ (that is how one of The Economists’s critics actually referred to the censorious uprising). Colleges in America disinvited controversial speakers in response to students kicking up a fuss, and outrageously Brandeis University cancelled an honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali after a gaggle of students and tweeters branded her ‘anti-Muslim’. And on it goes.
Where were Obama, David Cameron, George Clooney, the Guardian and the other newly self-styled handwringers over apologetic self-censorship when all of this was happening? They were either keeping schtum, or they were actually in the fray, in the mob, demanding the silencing of offensive material. Which means their slating of Sony rings very hollow, for Sony has only done what it has become absolutely the fashion to do: gag oneself, shut oneself up, censor one’s words and thoughts on the grounds that someone somewhere might be offended.
Self-censorship is the worst form of censorship, for it encourages people to internalise illiberalism. It plants a secret censor in every boardroom and newsroom and gallery and even in people’s minds — an invisible tut-tutter constantly warning us ‘don’t say that’ and ‘don’t show that’ because, in the words of Index on Censorship, there’s ‘the possibility of a hostile response’. It nurtures risk-aversion, even moral cowardice, and it discourages people from taking great leaps of the mind or pushing culture in a new and provocative direction. It stultifies the soul. It hampers the human spirit itself. And worst of all, it inflames the intolerant: the more people self-censor, the more the censorious will demand it, whether it’s Oxford students, Guardian feminists, or foreign tyrants. If Guardians of Peace really is North Korea, then that shows that the West has become so allergic to liberty that even that tyrannical hermit state is taking lessons from us, borrowing from our book of using online intimidation to make offensive speakers apologise and retract.
In 2015, we need more courage, more cojones. We need to stick by what we say and produce, and cultivate a climate in which people feel they can be daring again without having to second-guess ‘the possibility of a hostile response’ or cave in to the offended. We need to rediscover the celebration of courage that was the foundation stone of the Enlightenment. As Kant said: ‘Have the courage to use your own reason… walk firmly.’
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.