Monday, July 08, 2019

Meet Tom Harwood, a most articulate young British conservative

He is supporting those who want Britain to leave the EU.  He may also be the most good-looking journalist in Britain. 

When the EU parliament convened recently the delegates of the Brexit party turned their backs on the EU anthem.

Tom is defending that action. The EU is certainly a monstrosity

Click HERE

PLO Fumes After US Officials Mark Jewish Heritage in Jerusalem With Excavation of Ancient Road

How on earth do they think anyone will believe their claim that Jews have no historic connection to Israel

A long-running campaign by Palestinian leaders and their Islamic bloc allies to deny Jewish heritage in Jerusalem has been dealt a blow with the opening of an excavated ancient road used by Jewish pilgrims 2,000 years ago to ascend to the Temple.

Particularly galling for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was the fact that the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and President Trump’s special representative for Mideast peace negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, participated in the inauguration of the significant archeological site on Sunday.

Friedman used a sledgehammer to break through a ceremonial cardboard wall, revealing the excavated “Pilgrimage Road” – a wide set of stairs and walkway leading from the Pool of Siloam in the City of David south of the Old City to the Temple Mount, location of the biblical Temple.

Now underground – beneath an Arab residential area – the walkway is believed by archeologists to have been built by King Herod 2,000 years ago for Jewish pilgrims to use when going from the pool, where they ceremonially purified themselves, to the Temple.

Historians record masses of worshipers going up to the Temple for the three key annual biblical feasts – Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). Jesus visited the Temple frequently, as recorded in the New Testament.

In a tweet after the ceremony Greenblatt described the ancient road as “Bedrock (solid) proof of the Judeo-Christian heritage and values that our two countries share.”

But PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, speaking to reporters in Ramallah, was quoted as saying that the excavation project was “based on a lie that has nothing to do with history.”

On Twitter, Erekat also slammed the American dignitaries for taking part in the event, saying, “One day the US will say that Friedman and Greenblatt were not American diplomates [sic], they were extremist fanatic Israeli settlers.”

PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi called the project a “war crime.”

“We consider the participation of Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman to be criminal collusion in the commission of a war crime that must be condemned as well as universally and unequivocally confronted,” she said in a statement.

Ashrawi appealed to “all relevant multilateral organizations, including [the U.N. cultural agency] UNESCO and the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation], to take immediate steps to protect Jerusalem and Palestinian rights.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, and White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt during Sunday’s inauguration event. (Photo by Tsafrir Abayov/AFP/Getty Images)
The OIC duly weighed in, accusing Israel in a statement on Tuesday of actions “aimed at changing the historical and legal status of Jerusalem.”

The bloc of Muslim-majority nations “stressed the need to preserve the Arab, Islamic and Christian identity of the city and its cultural heritage, and to safeguard the sanctity of the holy places therein.”

The OIC has backed Palestinian efforts to deny Jewish heritage in Jerusalem, which in some cases have seen officials dispute the existence of the Temple altogether. (The OIC has referred to “the purported temple.”)

The Arab League, in a statement cited by the PLO news agency WAFA, slammed what it depicted as Israeli attempts – with U.S. support – to “judaize” Jerusalem.

Arab League assistant secretary-general Saeed Abu Ali said the participation of Friedman and Greenblatt “proves the American administration’s absolute bias and full adoption of these settlement projects in violation of international consensus and legitimacy.”

Responding to the development Al-Azhar, the Cairo-based institution considered the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam, rejected what it called “a flagrant violation of international law, the principles of religions, and agreed upon international conventions.”

‘Stop pretending it isn’t true’

Responding to the Palestinian criticism, Greenblatt tweeted, “We can’t ‘Judaize’ what history/archaeology show. We can acknowledge it & you can stop pretending it isn’t true! Peace can only be built on truth.”

The Jerusalem Post said in an editorial, “Trying to erase the Bible stories and the thousands of years of Jewish history in which Jerusalem has always been the focus of prayers and yearning does nothing to add credibility to the Palestinian cause.”

In a fundraising appeal Tuesday, the liberal U.S. Jewish group J Street called Friedman’s participation in the event “insane,” noting that past U.S. ambassadors rarely set foot in Jerusalem’s Old City “because they didn’t want to upset the delicate status quo in the city in any way, or appear to be promoting the claims of either side.”

The Temple Mount is the location of two important mosques – including al-Aqsa, regarded by Muslims as Islam’s third-holiest – but it is also the site where the two ancient Jewish Temples stood, as attested by historical, archeological and biblical sources.

The later of those two Temples, the one in which Jesus was dedicated as a baby and later preached, was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, 500 years before the birth of Islam’s prophet, Mohammed.

The Temple Mount is Judaism’s most revered site. It came under Israeli sovereignty during the 1967 Six Day War, but Israeli authorities ceded its administration to an Islamic trust, and the nearest point observant Jews are generally able to pray publicly is the Western Wall on its western flank.

Abu Ali of the Arab League claimed this week that UNESCO recognizes Jerusalem as “an exclusive Islamic heritage.”

UNESCO resolutions used to do so implicitly, by referring to the Temple Mount only by its Islamic name, al-Haram al-Sharif.

After it did so in a 2016 resolution, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said in a statement, “The United Nations’ attempt to disconnect the State of Israel from Jerusalem is a one-sided attempt to ignore Israel’s 3,000-year bond to its capital city, and is further evidence of the enormous anti-Israel bias of the U.N.”

Since 2017 UNESCO resolutions have included a reference to the importance of Jerusalem’s Old City “for the three monotheistic religions.”


Is Christianity making a comeback?

The scene is rocking, and the most racially diverse I have encountered in contemporary London. Lots of Afro-Caribbeans, plenty of Asians, lots of white folks, too, and almost every other variety you can imagine. The joint is hopping. Singer and guitars and a big, big sound. Boom! Boom! Boom!

After the “concert” the big crowd, as diverse in age as in ethnic origin, spills out on to a precious patch of green in central London, there to enjoy an informal lunch of many ethnic cuisines — curries, paella, chilli con carne, pizzas and ice cream. There’s no cost, though you can make a don­ation if you like.

I am attending the Sunday morning service of Holy Trinity Brompton, one of the most dynamic and important Anglican parishes in the world (though the good folks there would never make such flattering comparisons about themselves).

The big feature of the service is the music. But the spiritual highlight, perhaps, is the legendary pastor, Nicky Gumbel, interviewing Christian musician couple Matt and Beth Redman. Gumbel and the Redmans are stellar names in British evangelical Christianity. One of Gumbel’s books sold more than a million copies. The Redmans have both written books of Christian testimony and they are sellout musicians in the US and Britain.

The Word on the street

The big story of contemporary Britain is the radical loss of belief and meaning. It is a transforming social dynamic. But there are now, perhaps equally important, tentative signs of a counter-trend.

Right next door to Holy Trinity Brompton, its good neighbours live in the Brompton Oratory, the historic and also in its way world famous Catholic church. Just a little before the rocking and rolling at HTB, the Catholic priests at Brompton Oratory celebrated the old Tridentine mass.

Not only is this mass conducted in Latin, the liturgy follows the ancient rites from the 16th-century Council of Trent, which was universal in the Catholic Church until it was replaced with an updated liturgy in vernacular languages by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The music at the Tridentine mass­es is sublime, exquisite, liturgical, stylistically a world away from rock ’n’ roll contemporary style.

I have been to mass and other services at the Brompton Oratory a few times and they, too, are strikingly well attended.

These two churches, so superficially different, are, in my view, not so different after all. One, with its ancient Latin liturgy, looks shockingly countercultural. The other, hip and groovy, seems to be riding the wave of contemporary culture. But the liturgy and music in both places is based squarely on the words of the Bible, Old Testament and New, and the message of basic Christianity is also essentially the same. Tellingly, both forms of Christianity are thriving, in London and elsewhere.

Holy Trinity Brompton uses contemporary cultural style but it does not endorse the contemporary culture in toto any more than the Latin mass Brompton Oratory folks do. Beth Redman, in her impressive comments, recounts how she has basically gone off Twitter and scaled back her Facebook.

Partly this is theological; the Bible says do your good works in secret. Partly it is, like everything in this tradition, experiential. She found that even when she was trying to pray, her iPhone distracted her. She was inclined to check it. So she chucked it. She also tells people to be careful of the films and television they consume, of the evil they put in their heads.

She and her husband had much else to say about more profound issues of life. But I was struck by the good sense and uncompromising nature of her social media advice. It offers a clue to the genius of this style of Christianity. It is as hip and groovy and contemporary as you like, but it doesn’t shirk tough messages that in other contexts may sound wowserish.

The question is whether the two Bromptons and all the other signs of life in contemporary British Christianity are really signs of hope, maybe of a turn at last, or are they really more like crowded lifeboats bobbing around in the wake of a sinking ocean liner?

Whether you are religious or not, the pivot point of history that we have reached in Britain and western Europe is awe inspiring, epochal and little understood. Britain and western Europe have abandoned the faith of their ­fathers, and even more their mothers, and with it much of their cultural and civic inheritance.

Secular default

Before asking whether the trend has reached a turn, we must realise how staggering the trend is.

According to well-based research published last year, among 18 to 29-year-olds in France, there are as many practising Muslims as there are Catholics. As many young Muslims go to mosque in France as young Catholics go to mass. In London, paradoxically the most religious part of Britain, of a total population of more than eight million, there are 4.1 million people who self-identify as Christian and 2.4 million who self-identify as Muslim (although Christians at last seem to be holding their numbers). According to survey results of two years ago, 7 per cent of 18 to 29-year-old Brits identify as Anglicans, while 6 per cent identify as Muslims.

This is not to criticise Muslims. There are three reasons their numbers have grown so fast. They have been a very big part of the immigration cohort. They generally have more children than non-Muslims do. And they are much, much more successful than European Christians in passing on religious affiliation to their children.

It is not necessary to be in any way anti-Muslim to recognise that this represents a huge, epic shift in the cultural and civic identity of Europe. People who follow other religions are also growing in Britain, among them Hindus and Sikhs, and even, off a very low base, Orthodox Haredi Jews. All of these religious groups are more successful than Christians in maintaining their religious affiliation across generations.

There is one critical point of context that is slightly mitigating. For a long time now, Christianity has been a nominal affiliation for huge chunks of European populations. So secularisation, the loss of God, has meant in part the end of nominal Christianity.

As Nick Spencer from the influential London think tank Theos tells me: “For the last generation or two, Christian identity and ethics are no longer the default position. That’s been replaced by a default liberal outlook — me and my choices.”

But the civic identity of Europe, and its civilisation more broadly, derived overwhelmingly from the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Britain is now, according to the surveys, a majority atheist society, as are some other west European nations. This is a much stronger trend in western Europe and Britain than it is in the US or Australia, though all Western nations are experiencing some version of the same symptoms.

There is a long debate about whether secularisation is a process that has progressed over centuries — from the Renaissance de-­emphasising the divine in art, through the wars of Christianity to all the savage disruptions of the 20th century — or something much more sudden. The classic account by Callum Brown, The Death of Christian Britain, argues that the process was much more sudden.

It was kicked off by the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the sexual revolution and everything that followed. Brown’s book suggests that Christianity reached a high point in Britain in the first years of the 20th century, but the proportionate numbers of Christians were still not far below those highs in the 50s. Indeed, there had even been some serious revival of Christian sentiment and practice in the 40s and 50s.

There is some evidence, at least a suggestion, that the decline of Christianity in Britain has now hit bottom and may be slowly turning around. If that is so, it is in part at least because of the efforts of Gumbel.

He is the son of a German secular Jewish refugee. Oxbridge educated, he was a highly successful barrister. He converted to Christianity through reading the New Testament. Although he did not found it, he has run the Alpha program, one of the most successful Christian formation and evangelisation efforts in modern history, since 1990.

It is an approach to teaching the basic Christian faith mainly to non-Christians, although so many nominal Christians have so little knowledge of Christianity, and contemporary Western culture provides almost no positive signs or clues to it, that the distinction between non-Christian and nominal Christian when people first come into contact with Alpha can be pretty meaningless.

Decline and rise

Around the world, perhaps 26 million people have taken the Alpha program. Within Australia alone, a half-million have done so. A week and a half after I attend the service at Holy Trinity Brompton, a friend arranges that I might go and see Gumbel at his home near the church.

Whatever his success with selling books and the like, his house is modest. He makes me a cup of tea and we walk through to his study, which is book-lined and lived-in, a little ramshackle, and contains more than one chair that doesn’t bear very vigorous use.

He doesn’t think Christian decline is inevitable, ongoing or irreversible: “If you take the church in the UK, people think it’s a steady decline. But actually it’s back and forth. In 1750 the church had declined to almost nothing.

“There were 10,000 sex workers walking the streets of London and 16 people at St Paul’s Cathedral on Easter. Then along came the Wesleys (John Wesley was an Anglican minister who founded the Methodist congregation) and William Wilberforce and it (Christianity) builds all the way to 1910.

“From 1910 onwards there’s been a decline. But even within the cycles there are reverses. When Billy Graham came there was a blip of growth.

“The question is: are we at the end of that decline? The old (Christians) are still dying but the young are still coming forward. There’s been a huge rise in Anglican ordinands (people studying for the Anglican ministry).”

Paul Bickley, like Spencer also of Theos, points me to research that shows that religious communities of “experiential difference” are flourishing. This term “experiential difference” means two things: the idea that there is “something different” about being a Christian, and combined with this some kind of transcendental experience of God.

Gumbel’s movement of Anglicans has been involved in “church planting” in Britain and around the world. Where a church is about to close or there is a need on a housing estate or some other part of the community, the HTB network, as it is sometimes called, tries to step in with volunteers and energy and passionate commitment and see what they can do.

Alpha better

A decade ago HTB founded a seminary, a college to train new ministers. In many churches, certainly Anglicanism and Catholicism, for hundreds of years now the typical way to train to become a priest was to go away to a residential college and study theology and philosophy and the like for years.

This college offered a new model. For a few days a week students for the priesthood studied, but for a couple of days a week they worked in a parish and on Sundays they took part in parish life. All the while, they lived at their homes. This has now become one of the biggest and most successful Anglican training colleges in Britain.

I ask Gumbel just why Alpha has become such a phenomenal worldwide success.

“One thing I think is the genuine community. There’s food, people are welcomed, it’s non-confrontational, everyone’s loved for who they are.”

Alpha is organised around a ­series of talks, each followed by group discussions in which the Alpha leaders don’t provide direction but facilitate discussion of the talk just held. At a certain point there is a weekend away.

Gumbel adumbrates some of the Alpha themes: “People are searching for meaning in life, and purpose. The talks are organised around that. The first asks: what is the purpose of life? The second is: who is Jesus, why did he die? It’s all around forgiveness. The next is about faith — who do you trust?”

The average age of Alpha course participants is 27: “The weekend away is about the Holy Spirit, it’s an opportunity to experience God. This generation is much more interested in experiencing God than learning facts about God. There is an evening on healing — healing and mindfulness are very in now.”

The success of Alpha crosses Christian denominations: “Alpha is running in all parts of the church — the Reformed Church, the Pentecostals, the Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Salvation Army. We’re Church of England. That’s very good because we’re less of a threat than anybody because no one really knows what the Church of England believes.”

Finally, I ask Gumbel what a person loses if they lose the knowledge of God. In a long, animated, fluent conversation, it is the first time he pauses.

“I was not brought up as a Christian,” he says slowly. “I know the difference between belief and not having belief. Ultimately, you can lose everything.

“A person obviously can find purpose outside of the faith, but I don’t think you can find ultimate purpose and meaning outside of a relationship with God.”

Another pause: “And if Jesus did rise from the dead, there’s hope, and meaning. And love.”


Acute British derangement:  A show trial of a prominent but dead Jew

You couldn't make this up.  It's almost Soviet

The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), established in 2014, is scheduled to hold preliminary hearings on almost every day next month. One of the inquiry’s 14 separate investigations will focus on Greville Janner.

Lord Janner died in 2015, after being ruled unfit to stand trial in relation to historic allegations of sexual abuse. Three previous inquiries into allegations against him ended with no charges being brought. His son, Daniel Janner QC, described the IICSA in The Times as veering ‘between a bloated expensive irrelevance and a vindictive witch-hunt’. The IICSA has responded to allegations of unfairness against Janner by claiming that its scope is limited to ‘the conduct of institutions as opposed to that of individuals’.

This is rubbish. The IICSA’s own website makes clear that this strand of investigation is concerned with the ‘institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse involving the late Lord Janner’. Of course, considering the ‘institutional responses’ to these allegations will involve considering the veracity of the complaints – and therefore the alleged conduct of Janner as an individual. To claim that the inquiry will focus solely on institutions is bizarre. It is an attempt to disguise what this investigation really represents: a showtrial of a dead man.

The Kafkaesque characteristics of this ‘investigation’ do not end there. Anyone accusing Janner as part of the inquiry is known as a ‘complainant Core Participant’. A ‘restriction order’, which was made under provisions of the Inquiry Act during March last year, prohibits ‘disclosure or publication of any information that identifies or tends to identify any complainant Core Participant’. In other words, these participants are going to give evidence anonymously. Of course, neither Janner nor his family have ever been afforded the same protection.

As well as anonymising all of its witnesses entirely, the IICSA has dropped all pretence of impartiality. One of its three ‘projects’ is called the ‘The Truth Project’. This project will ‘allow victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences with the inquiry’. The inquiry’s documents state that the ‘Truth Project’ process will not be used to establish particular facts but to ‘create a broad picture’, which will be used to inform how they find facts in relation to their substantive investigations.

No amount of legalistic wordplay can hide the fact that the conclusions of this inquiry are largely foregone. This is not an investigation in any real sense. It is a legalistic ceremony to confirm the status of Janner’s accusers as ‘victims’ without any need for a trial.

The list of Core Participants, all anonymised, can be found on the Inquiry’s website. The list also discloses the lawyers acting for victims in the inquiry. A small network of ‘abuse law’ practitioners are acting for large numbers of these Core Participants. Meanwhile, Janner is listed as ‘not currently represented’. So his anonymous accusers are supported by top lawyers, while Janner has no one to present his case. Of course, he is no longer here to give his side of the story, even if he did have a lawyer.

It is particularly concerning that Janner himself is the only individual with his own strand of investigation. (Other investigations focus, for instance, on the Catholic Church, Westminster and the internet.) From 1978 to 1984, Janner was the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. His daughter is a prominent rabbi. Labour peer Lord Campbell-Savours told the House of Lords that he detected ‘a hint of institutional anti-Semitism’ in the singling out of Janner. Daniel Janner has argued that the inquiry has become ‘contaminated with anti-Semitism’. Martin Smith, solicitor to the inquiry, rejected these claims as ‘completely without foundation’. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion, in our era of hypersensitivity to allegations of racism, that had Janner been of any other ethnic minority, then these claims of racial prejudice may have been taken more seriously.

The inquiry amounts to little more than a cruel showtrial, in which groups of well-heeled lawyers go through the motions of ‘investigating’ what they already believe to be true. This legalistic farce will do nothing to help establish the truth. It may destroy the reputation of a dead man who was never found guilty of anything in his life. This inquiry is a stain on the justice system.


Australia: Rock climbers outraged as scaling cliffs in world-famous national park is banned to 'protect indigenous culture'

There are fears one of Australia's most popular destinations for rock climbers could become a scale-free zone.

Climbers fear their enjoyment of Mount Arapiles is under threat after Parks Victoria recently imposed a ban on many routes in the Grampians National Park in the state's west to protect their rich Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The bans affect 30 per cent of climbing areas in Victoria's fourth biggest national park, which climbers claim was done without public consultation.

Thousands of climbers flock to the world renowned Mount Arapiles each year, with growing fears it could be one of the next to become off-limits.

Local John Fischer insisted climbers frequently interact with indigenous groups.

'Arapiles is the heart of trad­itional climbing in Australia,' Mr Fischer told The Australian. 'If we lose Natimuk, we lose the chance to connect to country, place and respect indig­enous culture.'

A Parks Victoria spokeswoman assured Daily Mail Australia that no-impact climbing is allowed on Mount Arapiles. 'Parks Victoria is not currently reviewing rock climbing in Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park,' she said.

'Climbing is allowed in Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, as it is in around 100,000-hectares of Grampians National Park that is outside of Special Protection Areas.'

'We appreciate that there were rock climbers, tour groups and other park visitors who were not previously aware the Grampians National Park's Special Protection Areas.'

The spokeswoman acknowledged that climbers and tour operators have had to modify their activities in other areas of Grampians National Park.

'We do, however, have a responsibility – a legislated one ­– to protect and conserve the incredible natural and cultural values of Victoria's parks and reserves,' she told Daily Mail Australia. 'We intend to continue working with rock climbers, tour operators and other park users on how they can continue to enjoy the national park in a way that ensures it is protected as a national treasure.'

Penalties of up to $1.6 million apply to groups that fail to protect indig­enous heritage.

Parks Victoria announced on Friday that tour operators  that offer rock climbing and abseiling in affected areas in the Grampians National Park can continue undertaking activities in Barc Cliff, Back Wall and a section of Wall of Fools until September 30.

The extension allow operators to work with traditional owners to understand and protect the area's unique Aboriginal cultural heritage. Additional three-month extensions could be offered if strict conditions are adhered to.

'Summerday Valley is located in a Special Protection Area that excludes activities like rock climbing and abseiling, and Traditional Owners understand the pressure licensed tour operators might face while we work through the long-term future of the park, so we thank them for their consent,' Parks Victoria chief executive Matthew Jackson said in a statement.

'We continue to welcome all visitors into this precious part of the world, sharing the natural and cultural wonders that make this park so special.'

Grampians Climbing author Simon Carter accused Parks Victoria of pitting traditional owners and climbers against each other.'

'These bans are bewildering, they close some of the safest climbing in the state, they will ­seriously damage lifestyles, livelihoods and businesses,' he told The Australian.

'It's outrageous that Parks Victoria have not consulted climbers and involved them in the process here, instead parks have demonised climbers, and some at parks have maliciously misled the public about the impact that climbers have had.'

A petition calling for the climbing ban in the Grampians to be reversed has attracted almost 28,000 supporters so far. It compared the closure  of these sites to climbers similar to akin to surfers losing access to Bells Beach.

'Climbing in the Grampians/Gariwerd is globally significant, with climbers travelling from not only all over Australia but also from all across the world to visit and climb,' the petition states.

'We believe that genuine collaboration between climbers and land managers will allow any restrictions on climbing to be finely and intelligently targeted, without resorting to the blunt instrument of the blanket bans that will drastically impact climbers' access to areas and also have immediate and profound effects on local tourism.'



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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