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Friday, April 29, 2016

Free speech and Symbols of Oppression

If speech is free, then our generation has lost the sense of responsibility that comes with the endeavor.  The use of speech is a forgotten privilege because speech has consequences. There is accountable speech, there is inflammatory speech and there is irresponsible speech.  The ability to make sounds does not imply an obligation to do so.  The Talmud warns against lashon hara which translates from the Hebrew as ‘evil tongue’ but which means derogatory speech. To quote Wikipedia “Speech is considered to be lashon hara if it says something negative about a person or party, is not previously known to the public, is not seriously intended to correct or improve a negative situation, and is true.”

Our society has become intoxicated with this nihilistic joy of verbal expression, as if self-restraint is a dirty word.  But perhaps the worst thing about it is that it has encouraged those who lie for a living; racists and bigots all, to emerge in full rancid flower.  It has encouraged sloppy and altogether malicious scholarship because without a distance being drawn between academia and its student charges there can be no respect for any truth save those ‘truths’ most hysterically enunciated.  The antisemitic BDS movement employs this tactic.

If the greatest gift that modern society has given us is our freedom to choose then our greatest failure has been our inability to recognize the danger to our society that a nihilistic approach to those choices entails.  A good example is the election in the UK of Malia Bouattia as President of the National Union of Students (an organization that claims to represent some 7 million students). Malia opposed an NUS resolution condemning and boycotting theocratic, fascist, slave trading and genocidal Islamic State; she expressed public concern about the presence of a “large Jewish Society” in a UK university.  Of course “the Jews” don’t preach hate; they are intellectually passive about their own rights, in fact they are generally, intellectually passive about their fate. For those reasons they have always made an easy target for the rabble-rouser. I suspect that Malia Bouattia did not express similar concern when one of Britain’s most prestigious university's London based  Islamic society consistently churned out wannabe mass killers and terrorists.  We can only conclude, therefore, that her motivation was racially biased in its conception. 

Just because we can, it does not mean that we should.  It is a fundamental principle of civil society.  We have largely lost that basic understanding of what makes for a healthy society.

Sense of proportionality and restraint is the essence of being a responsible adult. And as children as young as sixteen demand and receive adult rights and privileges such as (in Scotland, Great Britain) the right to vote, the concomitant responsibilities associated with those rights are being ignored with a contempt that augurs badly for society.

The issue that most concerns me about free speech and the radicalization of debate by students (and many of their ‘progressive,’ intolerant professors) is that history is neither pretty nor linear.  If I want to pick and choose the objects or narratives of our history, whether I shared parts of them or not, then I am engaged in censorship and that also worries me.

Campaigners in Oxford University, for instance, staged a “Mass March for Decolonization” where they called for the removal of “imperialist iconography.”  In this particular case they were referring to the statue of Cecil Rhodes, British businessman and an enthusiastic proponent of “settler colonialism” for whom the former Rhodesia was named.

But here is the problem. Political Correctness is a disease. It is one step away from the latest fascist political philosophy, intersectionality. An unholy hierarchy of causes are permitted to be defined as worthy of inclusion in a saintly martyrs temple while everything else is rewritten to reflect the “correct” interpretation of history.  At the next level, there are people and narratives, simply erased from history.

This is already an ancient practice. The Egyptians would scrape away all references to the non-person or event that celebrated the life and achievements of said non-person.  All monuments referring to the non-person were obliterated.  The non-person was literally, erased from history. German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, writing in 1820-21 with painful prescience posited that "Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”

The Nazis, in our own era burnt books and then, they burnt people. 

It isn’t just that these people want to shut down debate; they want to rewrite history, sanitize it so that it fits into their own set of intellectual parameters, irrespective of any non-linear, messy but divergent realities that may clash with theirs.  That is fascism.  It may no longer be appropriate for Cecil Rhodes to stand outside Oriel College (even with the £100m in gifts that the college may lose if his statue is removed).  But then perhaps a better way to commemorate his life would be to move him to Rhodes House, which has been awarding scholarships to train future world leaders since 1902.  Or maybe, a set of statues that commemorate Rhodes’s less salubrious attributes could be sculptured to surround him. That would be of educational value.  An unprejudiced education is after all, something that even those people both fortunate and privileged enough to make it into the hallowed halls of Oxford University, might one day learn to appreciate?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Donald Trump and the Race for the White House

Donald Trump is a populist leader and that makes him dangerous.

His grandstanding and verbal violence are not the way a mature democracy is supposed to operate.  The 55% of his supporters who are allegedly white and 'working class' plus the undefined others showing their support for him do not appear to be too concerned with his incitement.

It would be interesting to know how he will fare with some of those other constituencies - specifically the 56 million people of Latino/Hispanic descent living in the USA who represent 18% of the total US population, or the 41 million African-American people (13%) or the 29 million people who are of some other racial profile (9%). The American electorate that Trump has potentially alienated is equal to some 126 million people or 39% of the total United States population!

But let us say that many of those people who are not white and working class but did support him are the following:

                   1) Fearful for their jobs,
                   2) Fearful for an uptick in immigration,
                   3) Fearful of Muslim influence over America,
                   4) Antisemitic,
5) Scared of Bernie Sanders because he is: a) A socialist or b) Jewish (See 4 above!)

Then that still leaves us with the big question: Can Trump win when he has alienated so large a percentage of the North American electorate?

Americans may not be so politically engaged, but with the uptick in violence that Trump and his supporters started, I would be worried about any likely escalation creating the environment for political assassination.  And that is something that has not been seen for many years.  I would be more worried about the genie he has potentially let out of the campaigning bottle than the likelihood of him being selected as the Republican candidate for the 2016 elections and then going on to win the election.

Since the end of the Second World War and with the exception of the Reagan-Bush era (12 years), there have been no periods of rule by one party, for longer than 8 years.  It would be unhealthy for the American political scene for one party to rule for three consecutive four year periods.  Even if people are really scared for their future, one party-rule ethically atrophies its most passionate supporters.  The longer a party holds onto the reigns of power, the less sensitive it becomes to reason and a healthy civil administration; the longer a party rules, the less it represents its electorate. Longevity breeds megalomania and becomes a threat to the stability of the system – any system.
We have already seen the violent response to Trump’s campaign rally in Chicago.  It has the potential to trigger a cycle of violence.  It may convince the Republican Party to take a stand against him if it believes that his selection would lead to:

    a) Defeat in November 2016 and
    b) The Republican Party consigned
        to the political wilderness.

There is a view that as the date for selection approaches, Donald Trump will come up with a series of grand gestures meant to placate his opponents and derail Hillary Clinton’s own presidential bid.

Donald Trump has demonstrated his misogyny.  It would be creepy for him to now change direction and be “nice” to women although that is one constituency he should have tried not to alienate.  In a race between Hillary and Donald even a women who is critical of the Clintons may find a vote for Trump politically unpalatable. The African-American population also needs a grand gesture from Donald Trump.  They too have personally felt the downside to immigration.  If he can play to their insecurity, if he made Dr Carson his vice-presidential running mate and announced measures that placated the Latino populace, it may convince a sufficiently significant sector of both groups, if not to vote for him, then at least to stay away from Hillary. And that too would work in his favor.

People have brought up the “soft bigotry of low expectations” to which George W. Bush referred, in his speech to the NAACP in the year 2000. The liberal agenda has not been entirely helpful to the American poor of any race, religion or ethnicity.  A focused attack on the privileged liberal agenda which can be seen in its extremity as anti-American, anti-Christian, antisemitic and even, anti-female could also create opportunities for Donald Trump, not simply to put his democrat opponents on the defensive but also to bring out voters to stand with him.  Bernie Sanders anti-Zionist propaganda and some of Hillary Clinton's unsavory bed-fellows cannot be ignored if they are thrust forward into the credibility debate.

Trump has opportunities to create a realignment of forces in America.  The issue is not just about party politics.  A changed direction is needed because the malaise providing the impetus for Trumps ascendancy has its genesis in popular dissatisfaction with much that is happening both in America and across the globe and crucially, the failure of a credible political response to it.  Hollywood cannot mask a perception of American decline.

Saying that populist policies are the bread and butter of fascism does not detract from the popular concerns driving them.  If anything, the accusation is elitist condescension.  Put another way, pulling our hair out because the candidacy choices are unsavory to some of us misses the reason for Donald Trump’s popularity.
Demagogue, clown, or plodder that he may be, Trump vocalizes the disquiet felt by large parts of American public opinion on a wide variety of issues.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn and a Case Study for Fascism

You can tell what a person truly thinks, even when they do not publicly express all that they believe in, when you look at their friends and advisers, the events they attend and the organizations they belong to.

Jeremy Corby is an example of an influential ‘would be’ fascist leader who took center stage after a long period during which time he maintained a relatively low profile.  Until his time came to step forward and take advantage of popular but noxious beliefs that for decades were discussed in quiet corners but were too inappropriate for public discussion.  But note how even today he is never unambiguous in his condemnation of antisemitism within the ranks of his own party.

In fact, he makes an excellent case study for fascism.

As leader of the British Labour Party, his cohorts include:

  • Press TV - the mouthpiece of the Shia Muslim, theologically antisemitic Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Hamas - the theologically antisemitic, anti-Christian and homophobic, Islamic-fascist ruler of Gaza which makes a habit of throwing gays off tall buildings
  • Hezbollah – the radical Shia Muslim group that like Islamic State has as its main goal the establishment of an Islamic government across the Arab world.  It has murdered Lebanese liberals and continues today to destabilize Lebanon
  • Holocaust deniers (Paul Eisen)
  • Antisemites (Paul Eisen, Carlos Latuff, the Reverend (CofE) Stephen Sizer, Raed Salah)
Jeremy Corbyn could have refused their advances, their money, listened to what they said and read what they wrote; and walked away from them, fast.  But “he is remarkably good at proffering apologetics for dictatorship and tyranny”. (James Bloodworth. editor of Left Foot Forward)

By embracing them he becomes them.

His excuse that dialogue is the only way to resolve conflict is predicated on the idea that our interlocutors desire a change in their own situation that does not result in our physical destruction.  Jeremy Corbyn will support dictatorial, racist, anti-Western, misogynistic, homophobic, radical, theologically fundamentalist regimes that despise everything we stand for and then justify his support for them by asking us to believe that somehow we have something in common with them?  Perhaps he means us to believe that even after all that has been mentioned previously, there is still something to talk about? 

The problem is that the Jeremy Corbyn's of this world actively provide a fig leaf for fascism.

Jeremy Corbyn’s protestations of virtue are hollow, a sham, and at best he is no more than a political dilettante; at worse, a liar who serves to salve the conscience of his supporters.

During World War Two the Nazis realized that they could commit any atrocity, on any scale, if the public did not have to witness it.   Early in their rule they internalized the lesson that the German people would accept the euthanasia program that took away their ‘defective’ children and their infirm elderly – as long as the narrative was in place that afforded them the means to deny any knowledge of their loved ones’ fate.

A principle cannot be altered to suit an inconvenient truth. Those that choose to elect the Jeremy Corbyn’s of this world can argue for an unbroken history of dedication to social democracy with its concern for people, somehow balancing their selective concerns against a predilection for providing support to fascist causes and associating with hate soaked bigots.

In the light of day it is difficult to tell the difference between what many on today’s progressive left believe, how they act, and how they differ from the good folk of 1930’s Germany who turned a blind eye to Nazism.

We arrived at this point because of our ignorance of global history.

Our knowledge of history’s villains is so poor that we recognize only a small part of the evil that has been committed in the name of the gods. Conquest and slavery are not only a Western malaise but at least we recognize the errors of our past. We have ignored other colonial enterprises because they were not ours; we have dismissed superstitions and disregarded the prejudices of many nations that are erroneously labeled as third world or developing because it complicated our guilt and our self-flagellation. Global history is a rich tapestry of good as well as bad.  The terrible atrocities Islamic State have committed were already an acceptable part of a rich Muslim cultural tradition that throughout their history viewed the non-believer as worthy only of subjugation and conquest.

By excluding that tradition, by choosing to side with regimes that reject our way  of life, we give them a green light to oppress their own people and to attack us until we submit to them.

This is not a multicultural paradise to which we should all aspire; it is a dystopian vision of hell.

Note: since I published this item (on Mr Corbyn has said 'Anyone that commits any act of antisemitism is auto-excluded from the party and an inquiry follows immediately.'  Talk is cheap Mr Corbyn, even when it is mouthed on prime-time television.  We have had no personal action taken by you either with respect to Israel or the Jews to demonstrate your fidelity to either equality or the truth.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Censorship and BDS, the anti-Zionist War against Jewish Independence.

If Jews are to foster social cohesion as an important and indeed necessary instrument of nation building in Israel, then the required group identity, however much based on the ideology or utopian vision of Zionism, has to include everyone, even those people with whom we are in serious ideological competition or conflict.

A criticism often directed at Zionist or pro-Jewish groups by their opponents is that free speech means the freedom to criticize, and in turn this means that even when the anti-Zionists’ (or antisemites’) one-sided debates are governed by intimidation and cant, the attempt to deny them their right to speak is to silence “critical voices”.  This is a false argument, it is the cant deployed by fascists to stifle meaningful debate if only because it is one-sided and based on deceit. Therefore, it can only work if the other side to the conflict is silenced.  In this censorship is the essence of the tactics employed by those who oppose Israel's existence.

Where Israel and its supporters have failed is that they do not replicate the tactics of their enemies.  When faced with intimidation and violence you use all legal means available to you in order to punish your persecutors.  You do not “play nice” with fascists as most of Israel’s enemies are. Intimidation and violence are the fascists preferred method to stifle debate. It is the antithesis of academic or intellectual freedom. The Nuremberg rallies were also examples of ‘free’ speech. The Nazis rose to power using intellectual fig leafs provided by the presence of eminent lawyers, and the scholarly erudition of the professors in their ranks.  Its tactics were little different to those employed by the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement which is ubiquitous in Western colleges and universities.

In the UK and USA today Jewish academics are being intimidated into silence or driven from their campuses; thus fascism censors us as it takes control. If we do not fight it we are driven into effectively renouncing our equal right to free speech by a vociferous, passionately believing, hateful minority of intellectual thugs.  Fascism has little to do with universal truths and everything to do with positioning a narrative to the absolute exclusion of all else.  In this way, history, for the Palestinians and their supporters begins with defeat in a war they will forever deny they were responsible for starting; thereafter they are always victims and never anything other than passive players in this tragic drama.

Being passive players in a global drama, they have no responsibility for anything that befalls them and no responsibility for the deaths they cause. If they slaughter Jewish children at a school it is the Jews or the Zionists who are at fault for being the foot soldiers of an illegitimate regime. It is the signature tactic of the tyrant and the terrorist. Whatever occurs is always someone else's fault.  But we are left clearly understanding the consequences of our failure to submit to terror.

It is the main reason Western journalists are so obsequious in their toadying to an Islamist, anti-Zionist agenda when they report the news. It theoretically inoculates the journalist against “Islamic anger” (fatal retribution). It is an excellent way to deflect criticism and crush debate. 

The first stage in any conflict is to win the propaganda war.  The Palestinians and their fascist supporters in the BDS campaign have already won the first stage.  The second stage is to stifle any contrary debate.  Controlling academia and the press are the crucial battlegrounds.  The Jewish people and their supporters are rapidly losing that second stage.

If we want to influence a person of power so that our own message may reach more people, we must display similar concerns and prejudices. Instead of ‘justifying’ or ‘explaining’ we must respond with our own accusations, non-stop, relentlessly and mercilessly.

We have suffered far too many centuries of Islamic discrimination and persecution to allow the past 68 years of independence to be all that the world is educated to recognizing.  A wealth of historically terrible misdeeds mirrored in contemporary events in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and elsewhere are all we need, to remind the world of why Jews sought self-determination in the first place.  And why people that omit that history from the current debate are not just Israel’s enemies but the enemies of human civilization.