Friday, August 31, 2007

Let the settlers stay where they are

Despite heavy irony, Burston makes good points. Points I've been making too...

(all emphasis is mine)

Bradley Burston

It's taken me all these years to finally realize that the settlers were right.

It came to me while checking the news schedule for this coming week. On Sunday, the IDF Chief of Staff is to award Medals of Valor and decorations, some of them posthumously, for courage in combat during the Second Lebanon War. At the same time, a pro-settler group called the Headquarters for the Salvation of the Nation and the Land plans to hold a parallel ceremony, handing out alternative medals of bravery - and cash prizes donated by U.S. Jews - to Israeli soldiers who refused orders to take part in the eviction of two families squatting in the Hebron souk.

At last, it all fell into logical place - the hardships, stumbling blocks and failures of the peace process, the dismal consequences of the disengagement from Gaza, the commandment to settle all of the Land of Israel and the rabbinical prohibitions against giving back one grain of soil.

The answer is simple. The settlers are right. They should stay right where they are. No matter what. Even if there is an eventual peace. Even if the land they live on is part of a Palestinian state.

For decades, the leaders of the settlement movement have told us that they will not leave their homes for the sake of a decision of the sovereign government of the state of Israel. They vow to make any future substantial evacuation of settlers from the West Bank so gut-wrenchingly difficult as to be functionally impossible.

It is time we took the settlers at their word. They are not out there holding out for monetary compensation. They are out there in the primacy of their faith that a Jewish presence on the land of the Old Testament is a commandment and a sacrament. The settlement movement is firm in its view that no elected government of Israel has the right to uproot the Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria, and the neighborhoods of Jerusalem captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

It is true that the vast majority of settlers reject the idea of soldiers refusing military orders. But it is also true that over the Green Line, Israeli defiance of Israeli law is by no means limited to a radical settler fringe. From its inception, the governing operational principle of the settlement movement has been to take action which is either questionably legal or clearly illegal, and then to force, finesse, or sleaze the way to retroactive ratification.

The ingenuous mantra of the settler movement "We're here because the government of Israel sent us here," is thus doubly dishonest. These people were not expelled to the West Bank, evacuated to the West Bank, ordered to the West Bank, banished to the West Bank.

Every Jewish Israeli living beyond the Green Line is a settler by choice. Many of them went there in defiance of the government. Many went to make it impossible for the government to change the status of the land under a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Every single one of them went there knowing that there was a chance that they'd be uprooted one day under a government decision.

They went there by choice. Not the government's choice. Their choice. Does anyone seriously think that if the government decided against their being there, they would just go ahead and move because the government sent them back?

In fact, after several generations of Israelis have been born on the West Bank, it could be said that Israel has no right at this point to order them back.

Let us, then, take the settlers at their word. If settling the land captured in 1967 is of paramount importance to the Jewish people, settling the land should also take precedence over making sure that land belongs to the Jewish state.

And while we're at it, let us take the Palestinians at theirs. If they are so concerned about the evils of apartheid, then they must accept the idea of Jews living in their midst.

On the scale of racist evils, surely a government ? like Saudi Arabia for example, or a potential Palestine - which forbids religious or ethnic or national groups from entering or living within its borders, has much to answer for.

Under a future peace agreement, it is reasonable to expect that settlers from across the West Bank will be invited to resettle in Green Line settlement blocs to be annexed to Israel in a territorial exchange with the Palestinians.

But who could blame settlers in outlying enclaves for refusing to budge, given the government's abysmal track record in resettling less than 10,000 uprooted families since the 2005 disengagement?

Let them stay. Let them stay right where they are. Let them have the courage of their beliefs. It's a test. For the settlers and, especially, for the Palestinians.

And if the Palestinians counter that Israel must allow an equal number of Palestinian refugees into Israel proper, say 200,000 of them, so be it.

We made this mess in the West Bank. We'll have to be creative about how we set it right.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ban Islam?

Well, well, well. Never thought I'd ever link to anything published on David Horowitz's FrontPageMag site, or to anything written by Daniel Pipes (I did one time) but here I'm doing both at once. Pipes on why banning Islam isn't a good idea. Perhaps Pipes is more of a moderate than I previously thought.

The [source] article contains useful links to examples of calls for banning Islam and stopping Muslim immigration.

By Daniel Pipes

Non-Muslims occasionally raise the idea of banning the Koran, Islam, and Muslims. Examples this month include calls by a political leader in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, to ban the Koran — which he compares to Hitler's Mein Kampf — and two Australian politicians, Pauline Hanson and Paul Green, demanding a moratorium on Muslim immigration.

What is one to make of these initiatives? First, some history. Precedents exist from an earlier era, when intolerant Christian governments forced Muslims to convert, notably in 16th-century Spain, and others strongly encouraged conversions, especially of the elite, as in 16th- and 17th-century Russia. In modern times, however, with freedom of expression and religion established as basic human rights, efforts to protect against intolerance by banning the Koran, Islam, or Muslims have failed.

In perhaps the most serious contemporary attempt to ban the Koran, a Hindu group argued in 1984–85 that the Islamic scriptures contain "numerous sayings, repeated in the book over and over again, which on grounds of religion promote disharmony, feeling of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different religious communities and incite people to commit violence and disturb public tranquility."

The taking of this demand, known as "The Calcutta Quran Petition," to court prompted riots and deaths in Bangladesh. The case so alarmed New Delhi that the attorney general of India himself took part in the proceedings to oppose the petition, which, not surprisingly, was dismissed.

This early petition set the standard in terms of collecting objectionable Koranic verses. Other efforts have been more rhetorical and less operational. The most consequential was by Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands to end Muslim emigration. Had he not been assassinated in 2002, he might have ridden his issue to the prime ministry.

The coordinator of Italy's Northern League, Roberto Calderoli, wrote in 2005: "Islam has to be declared illegal until Islamists are prepared to renounce those parts of their pseudo political and religious doctrine glorifying violence and the oppression of other cultures and religions."

A British member of Parliament, Boris Johnson, pointed out in 2005 that passing a Racial and Religious Hatred Bill "must mean banning the reading — in public or private — of a great many passages of the Koran itself." His observation prompted a Muslim delegation to seek assurances, which it received, from the Home Office that no such ban would occur. Patrick Sookhdeo of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity in 2006 called for prohibiting one translation of the Koran, The Noble Koran: A New Rendering of its Meaning in English, because "it sets out a strategy for killing the infidels and for warfare against them."

Other Western countries witnessed lesser efforts: Norway's Kristiansand Progress Party sought to ban Islam in 2004 and Germany's Bundesverband der Bürgerbewegungen sought to prohibit the Koran in 2006, arguing for its incompatibility with the German constitution. "Stop the Islamification of Denmark" demanded in early 2007 the prohibition of parts of the Koran and all mosques, calling them unconstitutional. Australia's Catch the Fire Ministries argued in 2004 that because "The Koran contradicts Christian doctrine in a number of places and, under the blasphemy law, [it] is therefore illegal."

Elsewhere, writers have made the same demands. Switzerland's Alain Jean-Mairet is the strategist of a two-part plan, popular and juridical, with the goal that "all the Islamic projects in Switzerland will prove impossible to fulfill." In France, an anonymous writer at the Liberty Vox Web site wishes to ban Islam, as does Warner Todd Huston in the United States.

The 2006 movie V for Vendetta portrays a future Britain in which the Koran is banned.

My take? I understand the security-based urge to exclude the Koran, Islam, and Muslims, but these efforts are too broad, sweeping up inspirational passages with objectionable ones, reformers with extremists, friends with foes. Also, they ignore the possibility of positive change.

More practical and focused would be to reduce the threats of jihad and Shariah by banning Islamist interpretations of the Koran, as well as Islamism and Islamists. Precedents exist. A Saudi-sponsored Koran was pulled from school libraries. Preachers have gone to jail for their interpretation of the Koran. Extreme versions of Islam are criminally prosecuted. Organizations are outlawed. Politicians have called for Islamists to leave their countries.

Islam is not the enemy, but Islamism is. Tolerate moderate Islam, but eradicate its radical variants.

Interesting comment by the usual wingers for which FrontPageMag is a regular watering hole...

Brazil (the film)...

I've finally had a chance to watch the renowned black and futuristic comedy Brazil by Terry Gillian (of Monty Python fame). I previously watched bits and pieces of it and they got me greatly intrigued. This is without a shimmer of doubt one of the most interesting and well made movies ever to come out of Britain. Yet chances are that you haven't seen it yet: hardly a blockbuster or a box office success, this cinematic gem is too jam-packed with multiple themes and is too dark and non-linear to entertain the many. If you've been raised on a diet of templated contemporary Hollywood standard fodder, then this film is unlikely to sustain your attention for too long.

And yet, released 17 years ago, the movie's themes have more resonance with the modern world now than they must have had in 1985. Set in a more or less benevolent totalitarian state, deeply bureaucratic, beset by terrorism and obsessed with security and "information retrieval", it's impossible not to draw parallels with aspects of the modern "war on terror" and modern Western liberal democracies in general. Information retrieval in Gillian's movie is more or less synonymous with detentions in efficient but less than humane ways, rough interrogation and precision torture (all of which the detainees must pay out of their own pocket - accountability being paramount in this state apparatus).

Another important theme is the inefficiency and inhumane coldness of bureaucracy. In the opening sequence, a fly falls into the cogs of an information system, causing an accidental misprint and the brutal arrest and information retrieval of the wrong man: they arrest and torture a someone called Tuttle, when really they're after a renegade heating engineer (played superbly by Robert De Niro), called Buttle.

The main protagonist is also beset with problems caused by his calling of a government agency named Central Services (CS). These are supposed to fix the faulty air conditioning in his flat but can't do anything without the requisite application form. When sometime later the CS engineers (one played by Bob Hoskins) come back, it's with new technology that works as badly as the previous version. Here, De Niro comes to the rescue again (as he also does towards the end).

The style and settings are also a bit of a hat-trick. The scenery is a clever mix of old and new, not dissimilar at all to modern urban settings. WW II Britain-style wall posters with captions like "Be Safe: Be Suspicious", "Help The Ministry Of Information Help You" or "Loose Talk Is Noose Talk" are everywhere.

Here's Wikipedia's
synopsis of the film:
Brazil (which takes place "Somewhere in the 20th Century") recounts the story of Sam Lowry, a low-level government employee who is conflicted about his role in an overreaching bureaucracy. We learn that he is initially happy with his "dead end job" and simple life, and that he habitually escapes into a fantasy world of romantic struggles. His contented but lonely life becomes complicated by his mother's attempts to secure him a promotion, the intrusion of a renegade heating engineer, and the real-life appearance of the woman of his dreams.

The movie has strong anti-totalitarian themes, though most of its characters aren't deeply troubled by the intrusion of the government into their lives. Most characters are depicted as simply living their lives, more or less unconcerned with the layers of bureaucracy the citizenry often strains under. Nonetheless, the audience will almost certainly be repulsed by (and probably eerily familiar with) many of the modes of control and obfuscation the system forces onto the country.

The nonchalance of the characters often manifests itself in satirical ways. A receptionist, for example, is seen casually transcribing an off-screen conversation. When interrupted by the main character, she tilts her headphones off of her ears, allowing us to hear the pained sounds of someone undergoing severe torture. After cheerfully addressing the main character, she continues to dutifully record the nearly unintelligible pleas and screams. Terry Gilliam makes sure to point out in the DVD commentary that she is an example of "those kind of people."

Sam, throughout the story, becomes increasingly involved in complicated and life-threatening attempts to secure himself happiness, while also developing a strong hatred for the system of which he is a part. Ultimately, his efforts culminate into a violent and tragic climax, the outcome of which depends entirely on his friends' loyalty to Sam over their loyalty to the system that controls them.

Although certainly not one of the most watched movies ever, Brazil has gained considerable following, bordering on cult status. It's even got its own independently edited FAQ page...

My advice? Get to watch this if you can...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What did Iraq have to do with what? With 9/11? Nothing! - Dixit Bush

I remember distinctly that Bush (in 2006) in controlled conditions first admitted that no WMD were ever found in Iraq (casus belli #1 for the Blair-Bushco adventure) and shortly after also admitted that Saddam Hussein had no hand in the attacks of 9/11 (casus belli #2). I've never been able to find those press statements back again. Here however is a video testament of a less well controlled confession, made in August 2006. Watch him stumble and squirm, searching for wiggle room.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

God's Warriors - Part 3: Christian Warriors

Here are the YouTube vids of Christiane Amanpour's third instalment of God's Warriors, this one on Christian Warriors: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

First up was 'Dr' Jerry Falwell, the now deceased leader of the US fundamentalist Christian Right and mobiliser of his own God's Warriors. Falwell didn't just manage to mobilise US Christian fundies politically, but also created (amongst other things) Liberty University (a slight misnomer I feel) where 'science and religion' are studied as parallel texts. Presumably at that great centre of learning, the US's humongous codex of law is also studied alongside with the Ten Commandments...

Then, Jimmy Carter, whose own presidency fell victim to Muslim fundamentalism during the Tehran US embassy hostage crisis of 444 days, deploring the sharp turn to the right of the Baptist faith (to which he belongs). This has led to a reduced role for women in the Baptist faith including exclusion of women 'to instruct men'. As Carter put it (paraphrasing from memory): '[men accepting female instruction] could lead to men having to admit that they were wrong and therefore that God was wrong'. Carter believes nonetheless that in terms of American political power, the evangelical movement has peaked. Personally, I'm not so sure.

Then that other slightly odd (and in my view self-contradictory) creed: Christian Zionists. In... Texas, of all places! Cowboys (Stetsons and all) line dancing to ersatz Jewish tunes, that sort of thing. Leading Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee believes there are two ways: "the Torah way and the wrong way!" He also believes that God has a foreign policy statement and Israel is at the heart of it. Hagee's Texas congregation is about 20,000 strong.

Hagee's account shrewdly mixes current events with biblical prophecy, the coming of the anti-Christ, the second coming of Jesus and of course Armageddon (always good for sending a few chills down the spines of the gullible). Needless to say, Jews that want to be saved will have to accept that every word of Jesus II is true. Nuff said already...

Next up: taking America back for God. Rick Scarborough, a Baptist preacher, believes that there are 50 - 80 million evangelical Christians (the largest voting bloc in America, according to Scarborough) and that every vote counts. Scarborough is an ally of the late Falwell, they're fellow 'Culture Warriors'.

Then, inevitably 'evolution' (or Evolutionary Biology), is up: Ohio's Russell Johnson believes that 'Evolutionism' and 'Social Darwinism' are societal ills that have much to answer for ("what to expect from children that have been led to believe they descend from animals" - personally I always feel that animals are better behaved than God's Children but that's just my take on it). But to Johnson, gay marriage really is the big one. And this is one of America's major political fracture lines where rightwing politics are married to the Christian Evangelical worldview.

One believer however, Greg Boyd ('the Heretic' as he's known as) believes this collusion between faith and politics has gone too far. That he's considered a heretic should come as no surprise: he's actually compared the Christian Evangelical movement to the Taliban, an analogy that works only at one fairly basic level. But Boyd's message seems a lot more innocent to me: he basically wants to emphasise the personal character of faith and reduce its politization.

Funny what you can read (or not read) into the Bible: next up was 'Evangelical Environmentalism' (a more benign form of evangelism, I feel). Being 'steward of the Earth' I guess can also be seen as a form of Christian fundamentalism. One of their leaders (his name escaped me) called it "Creation Care".

Then, the Christian home-schooling movement. One couple featured claims they'll teach Creationism and Evolution side by side, but needless to say, the latter will be taught as an 'incorrect hypothesis' and rather more to prove that Biblical Creation is the true word of God.

Finally, the teen Evangelist movement, led by Ron Luce and his Battlecry organisation, recruiting Christ's warriors against what he calls 'virtue terrorists': American popular culture. Luce's army of Warriors, called Teen Mania, are seriously inspired by his mixture of Evangelical messages, heavy borrowing from popular culture in terms of choice of icons, the use of fake 'Christian rock music' and rallies choreographed with Nuremberg precision.

Phew, that's me done with religious fundamentalism for a few days, after having watched this Christian segment, as well as the
Muslims and Jewish segments. Tiresome people, these extremists...

God's Warriors - Part 2: Muslim Warriors

I didn't get to watch Christiane Amanpour's Muslim Warriors in real time and so with a bit of delay, I watched the 11 YouTube segments yesterday (here they all are: part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11).

What to say about it all? Not that much. It was hardly ground-breaking work. Amanpour went in search of God's Warriors of Islam in Iran, Egypt, Holland, the UK, the US and Israel (Palestinian suicide bombers were discussed in the very last segment). She made a good job of showing the influence of The Muslim Brotherhood (and the perhaps less known Sayed Qutb) on Radical Islam, including on people like bin Laden.

Interestingly, she also portrayed a few Muslims for whom Jihad means simply 'struggle' as in for instance a constant striving to live life 'the Muslim way' and for whom the word has no violent connotations.

The format of the program inevitably lead to some generalisations and stereotypes (e.g. viewers could be led to believe that The Netherlands is a hash den and a Sodom and Gomorrah of prostitution but these extreme forms of liberalness are really mostly confined to parts of Amsterdam). Some of Amanpour's interviews were cut down to not much more than one single sentence, notably with
Ayaan Hirsi Ali whose only short statement claimed that she perpetually fears for her life (a claim which undoubtedly pushes up her book sales).

Also interesting was the reminder of the root cause of the centuries long rift between Sunnis and Shias which has resurfaced today with such violent manifestations in Iraq.

All in all, again quite balanced, with both sides of the coin briefly touched upon on all topics treated.

Comment on Part 1: Jewish Warriors can be found here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Outposts and peace don't mix

From Ha'aretz
Once again, talks are reportedly being held on how many outposts the settlers will evacuate voluntarily, in exchange for the state "laundering" other outposts. Judging by the previous round, the outposts slated for laundering will indeed be legalized, the settlers will vacate a few rusty shacks, and most of the outposts will remain in place. The defense minister's office is not embarrassed to say that Barak "is studying the issue and has not yet formulated a position."

The incentive for these talks is not a governmental commitment to enforcing the law in the West Bank, sparing the Israel Defense Forces from having to devote troops to defending land thieves and saving the public treasury tens of millions of shekels a year in expenses. Nor does the urgency stem from the previous government's promise, under the road map peace plan, to evacuate all outposts established after March 2001. The talks also have no connection to the report on the outposts that attorney Talia Sasson submitted to Ariel Sharon's government two and a half years ago. Just as with the nine houses that were evacuated in the Amona outpost in early 2006, here too, were it not for fear of a Peace Now petition to the High Court of Justice, it is very doubtful the authorities would have roused from their lengthy slumber.


Aside from the legal problem, the expansion of the settlements, particularly the outposts, clearly contradicts the prime minister's talk of peace. What significance could there possibly be to negotiations with the Palestinians on an agreement of principles for ending the occupation if the government is at once holding negotiations with the settlers on legalizing outposts in the very heart of the West Bank?

What significance indeed? A relatively small group of religious settlers, convinced they are fulfilling the biblical prophecy, seem to be holding Israel's government in a stranglehold.

Here's another article about the Migron situation, Israeli settlers and the wider implications for peace in the ME.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Is Hugo Chavez an anti-Semite?

A recent comment about the alleged anti-Semitism of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (or transcribed as Chavez), which can be found here, got me thinking. I don't ever recall Chavez being accused of anti-Semitism, other of course than predictably in the context of Chavez's fraternising with Iran's Ahmedinejad, something that sends convulsions through the winger's ranks (and perhaps rightly so?)

David commented:
It has also been reported that official anti-Semitism is on the rise perhaps explained by Chavez's close relationship with the late Argentine Holocaust denier Norberto Ceresole, who was close with French fascist Robert Faurisson (who was once defended by Chomsky).

Having almost no information about this issue, my first port of call was a Google for the query chavez anti-semitic.

That unearthed a story which must have bypassed me entirely and which David also didn't make reference to. Chavez made a speech which, according to some, contained anti-Semitic references. The offending quote in question, here pulled out of context was:
"The world offers riches to all. However, minorities such as the descendants of those who crucified Christ"

A multitude of mainstream media and some bloggers ran with this story (consult the Google search results for examples) with varying degrees of vilification.

A few websites seem to disagree with this interpretation. Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, stated in a piece called
Editing Chavez to Manufacture a Slur that:
That Chavez's comments were part of some anti-Semitic campaign is directly contradicted by a letter sent by the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela to the Wiesenthal Center (AP, 1/14/06). "We believe the president was not talking about Jews," the letter stated, complaining that "you have acted on your own, without consulting us, on issues that you don't know or understand." The American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress agreed with the Venezuelan group's view that Chavez was not referring to Jews in his speech (Inter Press Service, 1/13/06).

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting also quote Arthur Waskow in the reference below.

The Shalom Center (, dedicate rather more effort to the incident,
Dear Friends,

This message raises some serious doubts about a claim put forward by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela spoke an anti-Semitic slur this past Christmas Eve in a speech to a Venezuelan rehab center.

My own analysis of the full text of the talk, together with correspondence I have now had with North Americans who are in Venezuela, cast great doubt on the charge.

I am not absolutely certain the charge is wrong, but I think it probably is, and should be further investigated before being propagated. Already, however, some other Jewish organizations have leaped on this JTA article to attack President Chavez.

I think the charge itself may, if incorrect, bring about great and unnecessary hostility between North American Jews and Chavez and his supporters throughout the Americas.

I wrote privately to urge JTA to explore the issues further through good journalism; my urgings were utterly rejected. So I am more publicly sharing this concern and my own effort at serious investigation (in what I see as the best version of Jewish journalism).

Shalom, Arthur
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The Shalom Center

Here is the story:
Article continues here and includes Spanish original of Chavez's speech.

With regards to Norberto Ceresole, I must again profess to complete ignorance of this character and his friendship with Hugo Chavez. From Wikipedia:
Norberto Rafael Ceresole (Buenos Aires, August 1943 - May 4, 2003) was an Argentine sociologist and political scientist, who identified himself with Peronism, left-wing militias and the ideas of his friends Robert Faurisson, Roger Garaudy and Ernst Nolte. He was accused throughout his life of being neo-fascist and anti-semitic [1] because of his Holocaust denial[2] and hatred of Zionism, Israel and the Jewish community.


His reappearance in Venezuela after Chávez came into power, his close relations with senior members of the government and the publication of a book dedicated to Chávez while he was in the country with the title Caudillo, Ejército, Pueblo: la Venezuela del Comandante Chávez (1999) (published first in Madrid then in Beirut in Arabic and then reprinted in Caracas), created a wave of concern from all sides of Venezuelan society until, at the end of 1999, he was asked by Luis Miquilena, then vice-president, to leave the country. Miquilena later declared that Ceresole left by his own initiative [3] while Ceresole declared that he was forced by Jesús Urdaneta (head of the DISIP) paid 10,000$ by Miquilena to leave[4].


José Vicente Rangel later denied any ideological influence on Chávez's administration [7] while in the 1998 book Habla el Comandante (p.382) [8] Chávez said that he "was reconsidering the ideas of Norberto Ceresole, in his works and studies, where he planned a project of physical integration in Latin America...this will be a project which will integrate the Continent along Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina and their ramifications".


On his return to Argentina Ceresole became an advisor to the Peronist politician Adolfo Rodríguez Saá and, once again, to Aldo Rico, whom he was helping in his campaign to become Governor of Buenos Aires Province. Ceresole died in Buenos Aires a few months later.


In May 2006, President Chávez confirmed his relationship with Ceresole during the broadcast of his weekly program Aló Presidente #255[9]. He remembered him as a "great friend" and as an "intellectual deserving great respect" and recalled a meeting with him in 1995 near the Orinoco river in which they talked about the strategic location of Venezuela and the importance of focusing his future policy on South America instead of North America.

This leaves no doubt as to the friendship between Chavez and Ceresole. And as regards Ceresole's anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, his own defence places him firmly in the dock:

From Salon (Ceresole's words):
“Of course I am not “anti-Semitic” nor am I “neo-Nazi” Recently a serious magazine, the pretended Spanish language version of Foreign Affairs, (Política Exterior, Madrid, noviembre-diciembre de 1999, p.32, Vol.XIII, Nº 72) defined me as a «montonero», the ultra left of Peronismo in the seventies

I am, that I am, a critic of the State of Israel and of the international Jewish organizations, to which I have devoted my last few books. I consider myself part of a new revionism whose objective is to demonstrate:

1. That an important part of the canonical tale of deportation and death of the Jews under the Nazis has been arranged in the form of a myth.

2. That such a myth is utilized to preserve the existence of a colonial enterprise endowed by a religious ideology (monotheistic and mythic-messianic): the disownership by Israel of the Arab Palestine

3. That that myth is also utilized to financially blackmail the German state, other European states and the US Jewish community in the US and other countries with significant Diasporas.

4. That the existence of this political enterprise (Israel a power shaped under the monopoly of monotheism and implemented by an army, various police forces, jails, tortures and assassinations) looks to consolidate itself via a series of ideological manipulations in the bosom of the hegemonic power of the US, which procures by any means to be accepted about the owner of the world using generalized terror and also via dissuasive and persuasive practices.”

Yep, unadulterated anti-Semitic conspiracy theory alright.

Perhaps against better judgement, I'll reserve the right to further investigate Chavez's alleged anti-Semitism but that the man has some seriously dubious friends is not in doubt anymore...

Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden is "going Roswell"

The latest Young Earth Creationist (YEC) attempt at discrediting Evolutionary Biology, namely by promoting the notion that dinosaurs didn't become extinct some 65 million years ago but lived together with man (yep, Adam and Eve) less than 6,000 years ago, has already morphed into a meme. Like the Roswell crash "theory", this story gets retrofitted with more pseudo-scientific nonsense everyday. Those who promulgate the walking-with-dinosaurs croc, in a feeble-minded rearguard fight to defend the Biblical Creation account, have certainly quickly picked up on pseudo-scientific parlance (if you can't beat them join them), always a great method of misinformation.

And let's face it: Ken Hovind, despite the fact that the makers of the video below very convincingly shoot down his arguments in flames, could sell sand to the Arabs and puts up a good front. Hovind's account of giant ships (arks), humongous squids, other Nessie-type sea creatures, creation accounts in other cultures and more nonsense beside that, is certainly a lot easier to understand than
Iridium concentrations at the K-T boundary. That's one of Hovind's greatest allies: the body of evidence supporting Evolutionary Biology is huge, thoroughly interconnected with other scientific paradigms and very sophisticated. Not at all easy to understand or digest by the layman.

I wonder though whether his clearly enthralled audience actually cottons on to the fact that what should be Hovind's crowning piece of evidence, the Bible's alleged mention of dinosaurs, is perhaps his weakest argument and the one he, understandably, glosses over quite quickly. The argument goes in essence that the Bible mentions a creature called Behemoth and that it was large and ate grass. Must be a dinosaur then, yeehaw! Note that the "Behemoth was a Dinosaur" hypothesis was one of the YEC's earliest arguments, the rest is mainly fluffy filler to try and put some flesh on that other extinct entity: Biblical Creation.

I do wonder what
Dembski and Behe, who had a fair share in invigorating the YEC movement, think of all this nonsense. But I bet as good conservatives they won't break rank easily...

Bacon Eating Atheist Jew.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pseudostinians or Palestinians?

It's been a long-standing bone of contention between my fellow blogger and good friend Eitan (from and myself. Briefly put, Eitan and many nationalistic Israelis with him, believes there never was a Palestinian people and that their claim to part of Palestine/Israel is therefore unjustified.

My reading of history on the other hands speak of two conflicting, mirroring even, mythologies regarding the Palestinians and Israel. These myths are the Nationalistic narratives respectively of the Jews and the Arabs (Palestinians included) that both people have woven as a weapon of war (the shouting part of the shooting war, as it were). Both myths contain kernels of truth and rely on half-truths but neither attempt to approach the whole truth (that is not their purpose to begin with).

The alleged non-existence of the Palestinians (hence the many epithets like Pseudostinians, Fakestinians, Fakostinians, Palarabs etc) is central to a part of the Jewish nationalistic narrative. It is widely believed by many Israelis and Diaspora Jews (but not by all).

While we're not pretending to be able to resolve our differences regarding the Palestinians (specifically their existence and history) by snapping our fingers, Eitan and I have now agreed to an exercise in open thinking. Following Eitan's recommendation I will read Samuel Katz's
"Battleground: Fact & Fantasy in Palestine" (which, incidentally, sounds like an interesting book) and in return Eitan, following my own recommendation, will read Avi Shlaim's The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. I will also read the latter, as I haven't read it yet.

From our respective experiences we hope to open up a dialogue, this time based on a little more than just opinion, attempts at point-scoring and a few loose quotes.

Previous attempts at such dialogue can be found
here and here.

Please note that this attempt at dialogue isn't (at least in my opinion) a question of putting either or both Israel and/or the Palestinians "on trial".

And to our huge worldwide fan base (cough!): we will keep you updated on our progress on our blogs...

Jayne Gardener: Another Judeophobic Nincompoop Gets Flushed Down

Jayne "my life is crap" Gardener is one of those anti-Semites of the more risible variety (less dangerous perhaps? That's open to debate, I'd say) that can be safely described as a Jooooooo Paranoid Internet Circus Freak. Her blog is no more. Pointless speculating why (leave that to our "finest and blondest friends" of the VNN). Suffice it to say "Good Riddance!"

Soon the only traces of Jayne's croc of shit will be a form of Internet archaelogy with a few shards found

One down, too many to go...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ze Ultimate Solushion

I've had enough. And I've heard enough. Of Moooslims. About Moooslims. From Moooslims. About Islaaam and Radical Islaaam. About Holy Jihaaad and Shaaaria and the Caliphate and Imams and Ayatollahs and Fakestinians and Arabs and Islamic Terrorism and bin Laden and Islamonazis and Pesky Persians. Enough is enough is enough alright, already. I know that many in Whiteyland are with me: end the appeasement. No more messy compromises. So there are still a few moderate Moooslims left, so what? Sooner or later they'll radicalise too and form a fifth column. I say loud and proud that Whitey must now adopt the one percent doctrine, already in use by our brothers in the US of A, and take it to its logical extreme.

But firstly we need to be all-inclusive of our Joooish brothers. They too have had it with Moooslims and who can blame them: Moooslims and Arabs seem to have only one purpose in life and that's to drive the Jooos into the sea.

Listen, Joooish brothers, I know Whitey got it a bit wrong with regards to you guys but that appears now to be all forgotten and forgiven. It was a bit of a technicality, really, that Christ killer myth. We didn't really mean it like that, it just got a liiiiittle out of hand. We didn't really read the fine print too well. And we're all considering Whiteyland's culture to be Judeo-Christian now, right? A bit of sloganeering and some propaganda later and we'll even be able to bring the anti-Semites on board as well. I mean, they hate people of colour with a vengeance too. And hatred is an attribute that will serve us well in Project "Total Relocation". Apparently it's G-d who will decide who enters the Luxury Resort in the Skies, Jooos or Xristians, so let's not squabble over it now.

Yes, the time has come for Whitey to come together and wage total war on Moooslims/Arabs, a war aimed at annihilation of said Moooslims/Arabs.

Plan "Total Relocation" will consist of a three-pronged attack:

1. Expulsion and vanishment of all ethnic Moooslims/Arabs currently living in Whiteyland.

2. Total war on all Moooslim/Arab lands with no prisoners taken. We will kill every Moooslim/Arab man, woman and child, flatten all Mosques and minarets and basically eradicate any Moooslim/Arab influence in Whitey's New World Order until even the last trace of Islamic culture has been tarmacked or astroturfed over.

3. We, as all victors do, will rewrite history. We, armed with the typex of political revisionism, will write Moooslims/Arabs and their culture of death out of the World's history books. In two generations or so from now, a few re-revisionist historians that claim there was once such a religion and people (Moooslims and Arabs) will be declared either certifiably insane or at least seriously anti-Whitey. Special powers we will have adopted by then will allow us to "specially render" these people to abandoned mines in Africa.

There is much to gain and nothing to lose. Firstly we'll be creating huge amounts of lebensraum. It's getting a bit crowded in Whiteyland and if we're all going to get hugely rich in a no-holds-barred economy, there will be a huge need for land for our Mansions on the Hills.

Secondly, the oil alone will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams: Arabia is basically a shallow layer of dusty sand floating on an ocean of black gold. We've always felt that stuff should have been ours, so now's our chance. We always wanted to do well, be the Herrenvolk...

Carbon sequestration and dumping of said carbon in our former playground Africa will combat global warming. And if we pay the Blackies a pittance for their trouble they'll be forever grateful to us.

Last but not least, we have all the experience and resources we need if we band together. The Eagles of the USA have all the fire-power and military technology needed and they're a gung-ho, here-and-now, no-nonsense people, easy to lie to and scare into "something bad is going to happen - quick: shoot!"-mode and they're good flag-wavers too.

European Whitey has centuries of bloodletting experience and knows a thing or two about imperialism, conquest and genocide. And they know the terrain well. And they're good at history too.

Russian Whitey? A mixed skill set I feel. But still good at avoiding courts by sectioning people psychiatrically or poisoning opponents in thoroughly confusing ways. Always useful to stifle dissent (not that there will be much of that).

And the Jooos? Traditionally a peaceful people that has suffered for far too long, they deserve a little break from the frontline. But I've been told they make excellent doctors and bankers. Don't knock it...

Of course there's the tedious question of who'll be the Leader in the New Dawn of Judeo-Christian Whitey (the Ultimate Decider, so to speak). I'm putting myself forward as a pragmatic and neutral candidate. I'm an atheist and that makes me the perfect choice: I'm not prejudiced toward this religion or that religion and find most of it infantile twaddle. But let's face it: rationalism is never going to win the day. In the face of attractive myths, a rational search for truth becomes an unattractive pass-time that leads to inconvenient truths. Great for scientists to develop ever more powerful weaponry with but not really good for morale. No, better then to adopt a good dollop of mythology and make our own rules: that too is a tried and tested method. Let religion be the opium of the people: doped heads are easier to manipulate anyway.

That leaves just one question: what to do with Leftist Whitey? Some will come to their senses but many will oppose us. Here, Latin America's Whitey will be able to contribute: their experience with the vanishments of Leftist opponents will prove invaluable.

Right now it all sounds like a dream but it doesn't have to stay that way. Whitey: awaken and fulfill your destiny!

Am I getting a feeling of deja vu here?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

God's Warriors - Part 1: Jewish Warriors

Well, I've just (minutes ago) watched Part 1 of Christiane Amanpour's God's Warriors.

There's gonna be hell to pay... Well made, despite the obvious glossiness and short duration (about one hour and thirty minutes if you subtract the messages and trailers within trailers), jam-packed with topics, balanced (in my opinion at least), it will nonetheless cause a bit of a storm I believe. Personally I didn't expect something quite as hard-hitting as this. I watched with growing astonishment as Amanpour touched on controversial topic after controversial topic and when the film began to veer towards the Israel lobby, I was expecting her to use some euphemism like "American Jewish special interest groups", but she didn't: she called a spade a spade. Then, even more flabbergastingly, she wheeled out
John Mearsheimer , of "Israel lobby" infamy... Then, that other über anti-Semite [ahem!], Jimmy Carter.

Frankly, it's hard to find a topic that wasn't covered with regards to the subject of religious Jewish settler movement. Did I learn something? Well, maybe it was useful to be reminded of just how divisive the settlement movement issue in Israeli society is and was right from the start. This issue could well become the object of an Israeli civil war, pitting secular Jews versus deeply religious Jews. Perhaps that's the greatest leverage the settlers have: to remove tens of thousands of Jewish settlers from the West Bank.(Judea and Samaria) will be the most divisive issue in Israeli history, perhaps even in Jewish history.

But I learnt something else too: forget about atheism/agnosticism as a motivating cause. Despite claims that atheism is on the rise, religious fundamentalism is also ascending and stronger so than atheism I think. Let's face it: rationalism is no match for emotive the feel-good fairy tales from which the religious get their warm-glow-inside, for symbols that provide a flag and a cause to rally behind, for a belief system that, once accepted and internalised, appears strongly to offer the "certitude" so many people crave. Only a militant "faith-based" atheism, with its own symbolism, rally and feel-good get-togethers could provide a counterweight in terms of proselytising force. Rationalism, science and man-made law are also simply too complicated to warm the cockles of most people's hearts. Easier then to flee into the realm of fake certitude and cosmic pseudo-reassurance. And a faith-based atheism/agnosticism would in any case defeat the object of open-minded enquiry, it's self-defeating by definition.

I'm definitely going to try and watch Part 2 (Muslim Warriors) and Part 3 (Christian Warriors) (it appears the parts feature in the order of Monotheism v 1.0, v 1.2 and v 1.1).

Even before I finished watching and started typing, I'd received a comment from a secular Canadian Jew who clearly condemns the film,
I saw part one about the Jews. It was completely one sided against Israel. No mention of pulling out of Gaza. A focus on the two or three terrorist acts committed by radical Jews like Baruch Goldstein.
Jimmy Carter was interviewed, and he sort of brushes aside Arab terrorism.

Proof the Jews don't run the media.

Received today at 12.43 pm BST this seems a little strange. The doc aired for the first time (as far as I know) today at 13.00 pm GMT (14.00 pm BST), finishing at 15.00 pm GMT (16.00 pm BST). Perhaps it was shown somewhere else?

The criticism of one-sidedness against Israel is clearly absurd: this was a film about the religious Jewish settler movement. The Muslim Warriors will have to wait their turn for 24 hours.

Perhaps this commenter was having a quick #2 when the Gaza withdrawal was shown: the film spent an estimated 5 -10 minutes on that subject (just enough time to hear the 'plop' and have missed that segment?)


This is the segment that contains the disengagement from Gaza.

All ten YouTube segments can be found here.

Jimmy Carter didn't spend much time on Arab terrorism, that's true. Perhaps tomorrow?

And only idiots and bigots believe that Jews control the media, it's liberals that own them, stupid... But proof? No. Evidence, yes...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The War on Democracy

Last night John Pilger's 'The War on Democracy' aired on C4. An hour and fourty minutes long, I missed the first half hour but I don't think the film was really made for the likes of me anyway. The history of the fifty-so interventions and coups by various US administrations in their Latin American backyard, first under the guise of anti-Communism, later as part of today's US paradigm of "Spread a little Minimal Democracy", isn't one I'm in great need of reminding of. And a reminder is what most of this film is.

Moving, at times gut-wrenching because of the eye witness testimonies, the film will be received by those previously unaware of the US's horrendous record of interventionism in America Latina perhaps with incredulity, perhaps with a feeling that Pilger must be an anti-American conspiracy theorist. But the official (US even) record doesn't lie: it's all there.

The film ended perhaps on a lighter, optimistic note regarding the emergence of democratically elected governments of Venezuela and Bolivia which enjoy huge popular support without being propped up by the old oligarchies, so favoured by the US in the past. For the moment, the US seems to refrain from intervening (although Pilger hints at US involvement in the short-lived attempt at ousting Chavez, an attempt that spectacularly backfired when millions came out in support of their president) but no one can tell what will happen if these popular movements spread to other Latin American countries.

Watch the trailer for The War on Democracy here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

God's Warriors: Battlecry...

The other night, I was watching CNN (or the 'Communist News Networks' as those so-far-to-the-right-they're-practically-dropping-off-the-scale love to call it) and another trailer for Christiane Amanpour's documentary series God's Warriors came up.

This one was about a group previously completely unknown to me, called Battlecry, led by the "charismatic" Ron Luce. Holy Moly! I'm an agnostic-stroke-atheist and not a particularly militant one at that, but seeing the kind of rallies that Luce organises and the resonance they seem to have with a certain type of youngster, I might have to have a rethink on my militancy.

Looking at their
website, it would be all to easy to dismiss these guys as just another bunch of televangelists but that would be underestimating them. Luce and his team have their fingers on the buttons when it comes to manipulating crowds of teens. And it really isn't hard to see what the appeal is for impressionable teenagers.

Here's a vid that gives some idea of Battlecry's type of events:

(funnily enough the well known former Palestinian terrorist and Muslim renegade Walid Shubat that far-right broadcasters like Shox Noise like to wheel out in their own propaganda, features briefly in this clip. Ayaan Hirsi Ali eat you heart out!)

And another one:

Here's some well reasoned analysis on Amanpour's upcoming documentary (viewing times at the bottom).

'God's Warriors': CNN's Christiane Amanpour looks at 'zealots'

Joanne Weintraub

They've been called radicals, militants or zealots. Christiane Amanpour calls them God's Warriors.

The CNN reporter's three-part series on the subject, scheduled to air next week on the cable news channel, looks at Jews, Christians and Muslims who have aggressively brought their religious faith into the political arena.

These fervent believers change social policies, shape the course of national elections and influence global affairs. A small minority use terror to achieve their ends.

Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent and one of the most recognizable faces in broadcast news, spent eight months working on the special, which will be shown in two-hour segments Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

It's hard to overstate the impact religious fundamentalists have had in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, Amanpour said in an interview last month following a CNN session with critics in Los Angeles.

"We're talking about the (members) of these three faiths who feel that they have a direct line to God and that religion needs to be brought from the personal into the public sphere," she said.

"We traveled to several states (in the U.S.), to the U.K., the Netherlands, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the occupied West Bank. It was a huge undertaking."

For the segment on Christian activists, scheduled to air Thursday, Amanpour sat down with the Rev. Jerry Falwell for what turned out to be the evangelist's last interview before his sudden death in May.

The winner of numerous awards for her war reporting from the Middle East, Bosnia and elsewhere, Amanpour, 49, was raised in Tehran by a Catholic mother and a Muslim father.

Educated in Iran, England and the U.S., she is based in London and is married to a Jewish American, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin.

"I've lived my personal life in a multiethnic, multifaith, multicultural environment," Amanpour said, "and I've spent my professional life dealing with the opposite, (covering) wars based on divisions among faiths."

For the Jewish segment of the report, which airs first, Amanpour and her crew visited Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, whose legitimacy has been debated by other Israelis for 40 years.

"These are religious people who really believe they're chosen, that this is their Promised Land," she said.

A source of outrage to Palestinians, the settlements "have a huge impact on (Israel's) ability to hammer out a peace agreement."

The segment also looks at U.S. Zionists, including a NewYork State legislator and his wife who raise large sums to support the settlements and evangelical Christians who work for the same cause in the belief that the Jewish settlements are divinely ordained.

For the middle segment, on Muslim activism, Amanpour returned to Iran, where visiting the members of a particularly devout sect meant donning a black robe and scarf that allowed only part of her face to peek out.

"We use Iran as a historic look at martyrdom - where it comes from, what it means and how it was first demonstrated," she said.

The final two hours, filmed entirely in the U.S., focus on Christian activists from Washington, D.C., to Washington State, with stops in Virginia and Minnesota.

Amanpour found this portion of her research the most surprising part of the project.

"I had never inquired into the nuts and bolts of how Christian conservatives operate here in the U.S.," she explained.

"We tend to look at them like some exotic subspecies, while they're actually a huge segment of the population here. They have huge impact, and we can't afford to treat them as a sort of loony fringe. I think that's quite clear."

Even with eight months of work, Amanpour conceded, there were aspects of the topic that went unaddressed.

"It might have been interesting to get to Africa," where both Christian and Muslim activism is on the rise, "or to look at the new pope and how he's getting back to the roots of Catholicism," she reflected.

As for future assignments, Amanpour still feels drawn to report on the Islamic world, which she believes Americans ignore at their peril.


What: God's Warriors, a documentary mini-series

When: 8-10 p.m. Tuesday (Jewish), Wednesday (Muslim) and Thursday (Christian); subject to change if news events intervene

Where: CNN

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fatah militants to halt attacks on Israel


New York Times, via The Seattle Times

NABLUS, West Bank — Scores of West Bank Palestinian militants taken off Israel's wanted list as a gesture to President Mahmoud Abbas are handing in weapons and signing pledges to cease violence against Israel, saying they want to give Abbas a chance to consolidate his rule.

Interviews and encounters with more than a dozen members of the gun-toting, notoriously unruly al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, associated with Abbas' Fatah faction, indicate that at least in the West Bank they are taking an open-ended timeout.

"Everything must come to an end," said Mahdi Maraka, an al-Aqsa Brigades leader from Al Ein refugee camp here in Nablus, a traditional hotbed of Fatah militancy in the northern West Bank. "There are two tracks, the political and the military. Now is the time for the political stage."

In recent years in the West Bank, aside from occasional shootings on the roads, the al-Aqsa gunmen, who are said to number in the hundreds, mostly have confined themselves to engaging Israeli soldiers who have come looking for them on their turf.

Hamas has been adhering to a unilateral cease-fire for its own reasons, its militants underground.

All the recent suicide bombings in Israel have been carried out by the extremist group Islamic Jihad.

For both Israel and the al-Aqsa Brigades in the West Bank, the emerging cease-fire is an experiment. The disarmed gunmen say they know exactly where their weapons are and who is safeguarding them. And Israel could always draw up a new wanted list.

But some of the al-Aqsa militants say that the seven years of this intifada have achieved nothing, and all of those interviewed said they want to give Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of the embattled Fatah faction, a chance to negotiate an independent Palestinian state.

"We didn't want to be obstacles in the way of the national project," said Ibrahim Sahli, a senior al-Aqsa commander for the northern West Bank better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Jabal, or father of the mountain.

The fatigue of war colors some of the men's conversations.

Inside Preventive Security headquarters in Bethlehem, an al-Aqsa member named Khalil Abayat, 45, said he was five years on the run, "moving from one mountain to another, one cave to another," sheltering in abandoned houses, with only fleeting visits home to his wife and 12 children.

His brother and cousin were killed by Israeli forces and two of his sons are in Israeli jails. Asked if he is retiring from the resistance, he said: "Enough. I'm exhausted. I just want to rest."

Last Sunday, with Israel seeking ways to bolster Abbas as a brake on Hamas, Israeli and Palestinian security officials announced that they had agreed on a list of 178 al-Aqsa Brigades members to be offered immunity for past deeds; Maraka, Abu Jabal and most of their cell members were on it. Security officials would not say what any of the individuals on the list were wanted for, beyond saying that they had all been involved in "security-related activity against Israel."

The gunmen signed a pledge to give up all anti-Israeli activity, handed in their weapons and agreed to remain inside local Palestinian Authority Intelligence or Preventive Security compounds for a week and in their home cities for the next three months. They say they are now relying on Abbas and the authority for protection from Hamas.

If Israel is satisfied that the former fighters are committed to their pledge, they will be able to leave their fugitive lives behind and become salaried employees of the official security services from which most of them originally sprung.

The deal has proved so popular that there is already talk of another list, and al-Aqsa militants seem ready to line up for it. "I don't know anyone who doesn't want to be on it," Maraka said.

Naturally, there is deep skepticism about how long any lull in the violence can last.

"In Palestinian history there are no beginnings and no ends," said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of Passia, a Palestinian research institute. "There are unfolding chapters, like waves in the sea." The al-Aqsa men are swimming with the tide, he said, "but they don't know where it will take them."

Like the some other groups in the first intifada — the Black Panthers and the Fatah Hawks — and Fatah's military wing, Al Asifa (The Storm) before them, the al-Aqsa Brigades may yet reappear, or be reincarnated under different name.

Much will now depend on Israel's willingness to adhere to the cease-fire with Fatah and engage in a serious peace effort toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, many Palestinians say.

"Deactivating terrorists is a step," said Miri Eisin, spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Let's see if it works, and if it does, we can move forward."

Whatever happens, said Qadura Fares, a Fatah politician in Ramallah and an associate of the jailed Barghouti, "there will never be a vacuum."

"It will be filled," he said, "with either dialogue and peace, or another round of confrontation."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Our most significant talent by far is for humiliation

Marina Hyde writes beautifully about the non-event known as The X-factor and the Prime Minister's delusional view of that phenomenon.

The great British dream, as espoused by shows like The X Factor, consists of a cavalcade of delusion and debasement

Marina Hyde

In the history of politicians' attempts to engage with popular culture, there have been some spectacular missings of points, though perhaps none quite as excruciating as Ronald Reagan's professed admiration for Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA. Most people who had given a single listen to Springsteen's bitter lament for his country's treatment of Vietnam veterans might not find its message desperately obscurantist. Bewilderingly, alas, the then US president was under the impression that the song was some kind of patriotic cheerleading anthem.

"America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts," he quavered during a 1984 stump speech in Springsteen's native New Jersey, even after a request to use the track as his campaign song had been delicately refused by the singer's camp. "It rests in the message of hope so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen."

Hard to beat in the misunderstanding charts, that one, though it would be nice to think there's a top 10 berth for Gordon Brown, who last year expressed his vision of "an X Factor Britain". He professed to admire the ITV show - whose latest series kicks off tonight - because it displayed "the value of aspiration, how anyone can achieve things".

Whether the prime minister has ever seen the programme is hard to say - these days it is customary to assume that some callow spin doctor has walked a politician through Coronation Street plotlines and the like 10 minutes before any key policy interview - but if he has, his assessment of what The X Factor embodies is ludicrously misjudged.

This isn't to further harrumph on the fakery-and-phonelines row, into which The X Factor has been dragged on diverse occasions. With its tedious staged spats and dementedly venal pursuit of viewers' cash, that was simply a wearying inevitability. Nor is it a moan about the endless product placement, the wretched support shows fanning practically all the way out to ITV9, the patronisingly mawkish backstories, or the Hallmark wisdom that dictates all voted-off contestants must spout something about it having been an "amazing journey", while the judges simper back platitudes that would be more at home on one of those cute animal posters that always seem to be peeling off the wall in dentists' surgeries.

It is not even an attempt to debunk the preposterous suggestion that a fairytale career lies at the end of the rainbow, when any statistical analysis of what happens to winners once their first single has gone to No 1 would attest that most hopefuls are effectively competing for the chance to be dropped by their record label inside of six months.

All of that adds up to excellent viewing figures. What seems faintly depressing, however, is the failure of Gordon Brown and others to grasp the mendacious, talent-show-macht-frei ethos that underpins these ratings.

Shows such as The X Factor are just a modern iteration of the American dream, which like everything else these days is a globalised phenomenon. From China to West Africa to Brazil variants of Pop Idol go out every week, imbuing young people with the seductive but insidious impression that fame is a basic human right.

Put plainly, the biggest lie upon which these programmes are built is that they are manufacturing dreams, when in fact they are selling you disappointment.

The first UK series of Popstars - the format that started it all - began with a couple of shows in which viewers watched the now notorious auditions process, featuring the humiliation of various talentless misfits in front of three judges, with the odd Mariah Carey manqué included to throw them into sharper relief. So successful were these trainwrecky humiliations that by the next series the number of audition shows had been doubled, and as the format mutated into Pop Idol, the temptation to beam one of these cavalcades of delusion and debasement back from every major city in the land seemed impossible to resist. And still they come to be sniggered at by the judges, with the aerial footage of queues snaking out of arenas and conference centres looking more biblical every year.

If grown men and women get off defining themselves against gauche teenagers, dispensing clunky putdowns to kids whose only real crime is a lack of self-awareness and a desire for something more in their lives, then that is a matter for them. It is not for us to speculate on the palpable insecurities or lack of alternative options that might drive someone to accept this kind of work.

But the idea that people are watching in millions because they are altruistic cheerleaders is almost without exception buried the second they are asked to put their hands in their pockets more than once after the show has ended.

Even Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, saw fit earlier this year to identify the "mocking culture" epitomised by these shows. It seems rather fanciful to hope that he might take advantage of his continuing close links with No 10 to pick up the telephone and explain this most luminous of truths to the prime minister. But really, if Britain has to be a TV show, can it not be one where the government of all the talents is presided over by Dermot O'Leary?

Here's a previous post dedicated to The X-factor...

The Illegitimate Delegitimisation of Legitimate Protest

Whether you accept global climate change to be a greater threat to 'our way of live' than terrorism or not, whether, like me, you believe that drawing too much attention to the relatively small contribution to man-made carbon emissions air travel makes is rather like barking up the wrong tree, it is nonetheless shameful how a group of non-violent protesters at and around Heathrow have been maligned for expressing what they believe in.

In this 'single-issue democracy', where actual participation in the wider democratic process is not very a la mode, where the rather trivial pursuit of escapism is deemed more rewarding (in more than one sense), where you could easily start to believe that centuries of struggle to obtain and secure our democratic rights were almost a waste of time, those who wish to express their opinion peacefully should deserve our respect, whether we actually agree with their positions or not. Below is a piece that illustrates that many in our society will still try and stifle democratic protest if such dissent is deemed 'inappropriate' or 'inconvenient', even if such attempts at silencing require resorting to exaggeration, distortion, fabrication and outright lies and deceit...

Attack of the baby eaters

Shameless exaggerations of the climate protesters' dastardly plans have left us baffled at the camp

George Monbiot

The allegations have been plaguing the Heathrow climate camp all week. They began in the Evening Standard: "Hoax bombs to cause alerts. Assaults on airport fence ... Protest leaders calling themselves 'The Elders' advised 'clashes with police will happen'."

When I was asked on to Newsnight to discuss the issue of whether climate change is a greater threat than terrorism, we kept being dragged back to the hoax bombs. The story was later picked up across the media, including appearances in the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, and by Friday had been embellished with some lurid new quotes from the Metropolitan police in the Daily Express, which warned: "Extremist yobs hijack airport demo in plot to cause mayhem".

All this has left us at the protest camp scratching our heads. The actions planned for tomorrow have been discussed openly at huge meetings. But nothing even resembling the schemes proposed by the Evening Standard has even been mooted. The campers will certainly be breaking the law by taking direct action - all protests can now be deemed unlawful - but they will be governed by strict non-violent principles.

There are quite a few of us veterans here but age, sadly, confers no privileges: the camp is non-hierarchical, and no one has heard of "The Elders". There are plenty of anarchists, but the last thing they want is a ruck with the police, not least because - armed with nothing more than a sheaf of scientific papers - they would lose. As for scaling the perimeter fence, it has been ruled out on the grounds that we would probably be shot. Invading Heathrow's massive runways would put the lives of thousands at risk.

So where did the story come from? It was, or so the byline claimed, written by Robert Mendick, the Evening Standard's chief reporter. One of the campers phoned Mr Mendick and asked him what was going on. "I'm very constrained about what I can say for various reasons," Mr Mendick replied. "Suffice to say I understand what you're saying and I can't go into it. Er, and I would further say it's, er, not something I was actually massively involved with and, er, I'll leave it at that." "What do you mean?" "... I really can't go into it."

So what does he mean? Why is Mr Mendick unable to say where the claims in his story came from? How did he manage to write an article that he was not "massively involved with"? Is there a computer programme at the Evening Standard that composes reporters' articles on their behalf? I left messages for Mr Mendick yesterday but was unable to speak to him.

Protests like this have two peculiar vulnerabilities. One is that anyone can claim to speak on their behalf, either in person or online, whether or not they are involved. The other is that anyone can say anything about them without fear of being corrected, let alone sued: accusations can be levelled at the collective that could not be directed at any of its members. As long as the claims remain in the plural, they can be stretched as far as public credulity will allow.

During one roads protest in the 1990s we were accused of stabbing guards with hypodermic needles filled with blood, setting pit traps lined with metal spikes in the hope of catching and killing the police and arming ourselves with catapults and crossbows to take out the contractors: all nonsense, of course. Yet when some of us were hospitalised by guards (alongside several others, I had a bone broken during an unprovoked attack), most of the newspapers wouldn't touch the story for fear of being sued by the security firm.

Scare stories about anarchist baby eaters are as old as protest. We can't prevent their publication - all we can ask is that you read them with the scepticism their authors failed to employ.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Melanie Phillips on the Palestinians

Melanie Phillips comes clean. Finally, it was about time. Mel's myopia stems from a hermetic worldview, one in which there is no room for doubt or error. And now she shows her true colours in her latest diatribe against Jeremy Greenstock, someone who dares to believe peace between Israel and the Palestinians is actually possible: anathema!
Hamas is not a ‘political-grievance-based entity’ because, contrary to Sir Jeremy’s assertion, ‘the Palestinian people’ was not dispossessed — for the very good reason that a) they were not ‘a people’ because there never was a ‘Palestinian people’, but merely Arabs who lived in pre-Israel Palestine b) they were not ‘dispossessed’ because they never possessed it in the first place.

It's now only a matter of time before Melanie adopts the true parlance of the peace-objectors and starts calling the Palestinians "Pseudostinians", "Fakestinians", "Fakostinians", "Palarbs", "Islamonazis" and the other many derogatory epithets that are used to malign an entire people. Needless to say, if anyone applied similar terms of derogation to Israelis or Diaspora Jews, Melanie would be screaming the A-word from the highest building, at the top of her voice. Mel, you disappoint me: I never liked what you stand for but at least you were consistent. No longer...

Hamas is ready to talk

We welcome the call for dialogue, and reject insincere demands for an undemocratic boycott

Mousa Abu Marzook

While Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert is busily courting Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas as a "partner for peace", successive voices continue to speak out against efforts to sideline the democratically elected Hamas government. As the Britain's Commons foreign affairs committee concluded on Monday, this strategy is counterproductive and doomed to fail, for the simple reason that the support of the Palestinian people is unmistakably lacking. Abbas's party does not democratically represent the Palestinians, yet what is in effect now a dictatorship in the West Bank is being welcomed by Israel and its western allies. The duplicity of this situation is shameful. Israel and its allies were quick to dismiss Hamas and the national unity governments and isolate both, and are now equally as quick to welcome an illegally formed self-proclaimed government for the Palestinians. Is this democracy?

The Palestinian people's struggle for freedom has been continuing for almost a century. During this time, we have faced every form of challenge, from persecution, abuse and humiliation, to military assaults, engineered starvation and social anarchy. All these trials have been deliberately imposed by an occupying power that is breaching international law on a daily basis.

Yet despite this, it is the popular Palestinian people's liberation movement that is being targeted by Israel and its allies for boycott and isolation. Hamas was formed in response to the pressures of the occupation and the need for change in Palestinian society. It was on this basis that it was given a popular mandate by its people in 2006. Hamas represents a guarantee that Palestinian people's rights will not be compromised. We have continued to insist that the rights of the Palestinian people be respected by the occupying power. Quite simply, in the present situation, it is not Israel that is threatened with annihilation but the Palestinian people.

Hamas has proven that it is able to run a government, even under intense financial and political pressure. It has proven capable of fulfilling its commitments, even in the face of intense internal and external provocations. Israel's deliberate attempts to fracture Palestinian society have resulted in the turmoil we now face. The humanitarian problem in Gaza is immense and Abbas is being used to disenfranchise us further.

While Ehud Olmert laments the so-called absence of a partner for peace, the illegal separation wall continues to be built, money is withheld from the Palestinian people, settlements are built apace and the blockade of the West Bank and Gaza continues. If Olmert really considers Abbas a true partner for peace, one must question why he is still refusing to discuss the substantive issues of border, refugees and Jerusalem. Israel's actions, in defiance of its international obligations, evince not an appetite to peace but an attempt to use Abbas to manipulate the Palestinian population and win more time for its strategy of further illegal expansion, to ensure that no coherent Palestinian state can be established.

We welcome the committee's report, which takes a realistic, objective position. Talking to Hamas is a prerequisite for any sustainable solution. Moreover, Hamas is the people's choice not only within Palestine but also in the diaspora, and must be recognised as such. The Palestinians have been denied every form of freedom since the occupation began, and now they are even dispossessed of their democratic rights. But none of this has succeded in denting Hamas's unity and democractic commitment to the rights of Palestinian people.

Hamas welcomes dialogue. If the international community is serious about peace in the Middle East, there need to be non-partisan efforts to achieve it. It is not sufficient for Israel or its allies to continue to dismiss Hamas as "extremist", as we are made up of every part of Palestinian society.

Those who demand the boycott of Hamas repeat flimsy accusations that cannot withstand non-partisan scrutiny. They do so because they want a Palestinian "peace" partner who will not endanger Israel's expansionist aspirations. This is not diplomacy; this is bigotry.

The Palestinians have been abandoned by the international community. The cruelty of this treatment will go down in history. It is time to create a new history for the region, and to recognise the real representatives of the Palestinian people.

Editor's note to potential commenters:

Abusive comments will be deleted. Accusations along the lines of "you're a Hamas supporter" will not receive a response. Comments should pertain strictly to points made in this Hamas communiqué. Please note that it's also possible to comment at the bottom of the
source article and that it would be advisable to read comments already made there, before commenting on this blog post. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Enemies of Reason

Charlie Brooker's screenburn on Dawkins's excellent doc, The Enemies of Reason.
In the 18th century, a revolution in thought, known as the Enlightenment, dragged us away from the superstition and brutality of the Middle Ages toward a modern age of science, reason and democracy. It changed everything. If it wasn't for the Enlightenment, you wouldn't be reading this right now. You'd be standing in a smock throwing turnips at a witch. Yes, the Enlightenment was one of the most significant developments since the wheel. Which is why we're trying to bollocks it all up.

Welcome to a dangerous new era - the Unlightenment - in which centuries of rational thought are overturned by idiots. Superstitious idiots. They're everywhere - reading horoscopes, buying homeopathic remedies, consulting psychics, babbling about "chakras" and "healing energies", praying to imaginary gods, and rejecting science in favour of soft-headed bunkum. But instead of slapping these people round the face till they behave like adults, we encourage them. We've got to respect their beliefs, apparently.

Inevitably, the world of science and logic is slowly fighting back. Hence the recent slew of anti-God books, one of which, The God Delusion, was written by Richard Dawkins, writer-presenter of The Enemies Of Reason (Mon, 8pm, C4). Dawkins has softened his style somewhat since his previous series, The Root of All Evil, in which he toured the globe interviewing religious extremists. Trouble was, their views made him so uppity, he occasionally came off worst. They remained eerily calm, while he huffed furiously. And because he looks and sounds precisely like Professor Yaffle from Bagpuss, the end effect was often unintentional hilarity.

In The Enemies of Reason he's still angry - how couldn't he be? - but this time round Dawkins controls his temper, focusing it like a laser beam, taking on spirituality and superstition in all its forms. The overall tone is less hectoring, more persuasive, and occasionally outright playful. It's more likely to win people over.

Below are two snippets from Dawkins' documentary: The Enemies of Reason.

Excerpt 1: on randonmess and superstition

Excerpt 2: on astrology

Psychics Must Die...

This week Charlie Brooker shook his head in tearful dismay at Sally Morgan: Star Psychic on ITV1: "If the TV networks want to 'regain trust with the viewer', why gleefully promote the kind of bogus supernatural bullshit a stunned foetus could see through?" But I couldn't find his piece on this latest viewing fest yet, so I'll settle for an older, related rant.

Frankly, few things rile me more than quack science, pseudo-psychology, carpet baggers and snake oil merchants. Well, other perhaps
than that other menace to science, Gillian McKeith, (in)famous for the poo-song. So Charlie gets my full 'thumbs up'.

When it comes to psychics, my stance is hardcore: they must die alone in windowless cells

Charlie Brooker

If I walked into a single mother's house and said I could read her baby's mind, then started shouting four-letter words, claiming I was simply voicing her offspring's thoughts, I would expect to be arrested the moment I stepped outside.

And if, during my "psychic reading", I also speculated about the mother's sex life, and a potentially abusive relationship with a former boyfriend, claiming her toddler was concerned about "men who want to touch mum's privates", and I went on and on in this vein until the mother burst into tears, there in the living room, in front of her child, I'd expect to be arrested, sectioned, and beaten in the back of the van.

And if I allowed a TV crew to broadcast what I was doing, I'd expect to be attacked by a mob, who'd pull me apart and kick my remains around the street, pausing only to spit on any bits of my face that got stuck to their shoes.

But no. In fact the outcry would be muted at best and Ofcom would turn a blind eye - as it did last week, while clearing Channel 5's unbelievably disgusting Baby Mind Reader of any wrongdoing.

I've never fully understood the public's docile acceptance of psychics, or why, when it comes to their supposed abilities, the burden of proof is assumed to lie with the sceptic, as opposed to the sort of shrieking idiot who claims to be able to contact the spirit world (or in Derek Ogilvie's case, communicate telepathically with kids too young to talk).

I'm quite hardcore on this. I think every psychic and medium in this country belongs in prison. Even the ones demented enough to believe in what they're doing. In fact, especially them. Give them windowless cells and make them crap in buckets. They can spend the rest of their days sewing mailbags in the dark.

The audiences that psychics prey on are equally infuriating, albeit less deserving of contempt. They're just disappointing, like a friend who's let you down. Often, they're simply grieving and desperate.

I mean, if you want to believe in psychics, fine. You're a dangerous idiot and I wouldn't trust you to operate a spoon without putting an eye out ... but fine. Your choice. Delude yourself silly. Your world is probably more fun than the real one. There's no death, just an afterlife filled with magic spirits who like to communicate with eerie, ugly, otherwise-unemployable bottom-of-the-barrel "showmen" back on Earth.

But don't accuse anyone with the temerity to question your sad supernatural fantasies of having a "closed mind" or being "blind to possibilities". A closed mind asks no questions, unthinkingly accepting that which it wants to believe. The blindness is all yours.

(If you want to feel your eyes pop rudely open, swot up on the "cold reading" techniques fake psychics use - a combination of guesswork and sly conversational tics which give the impression that the "psychic" is magically receiving accurate information from the ether. A fantastic (albeit pricey) step-by-step guide is available from

Anyway, back to my psychic prison fantasies. The problem with trying to jail all the mediums in Britain is they'd a) see it coming, and escape overseas to somewhere even more gullible, like Narnia, before you'd passed the legislation, or b) call on their ghostly friends in the spirit world to whisk them from harm's reach.

Except they couldn't because ghosts - unlike scumbags and conmen - don't exist. Pity. But that's the real world for you. Often disappointing. But real. At least it's always real.


Continuing our uniquely unreliable interactive knowledge resource.

Creationism (requested by Matthew Roberts)

Creationism, simply put, is the heartfelt conviction that man was created by God, using some kind of celestial putty. This is perhaps the most arrogant belief a human skull can contain without exploding. After all, God has far better things to do than creating self-important little species such as ours. He's got wars, deaths, disasters and diseases to ignore for starters. And a fair bit of not-exist-ing-at-all to be getting on with.

Creationists reject Darwin's theory of evolution on the grounds that it is "just a theory". This is a valid criticism: evolution is indeed merely "a theory", albeit one with ten billion times more credence than the theory of creationism - although, to be fair, the theory of creationism is more than just a theory. It's also a fairy story. And children love fairy stories, which is presumably why so many creationists are keen to have their whimsical gibberish taught in schools.

In recent years, creationism has been rechristened "Intelligent Design" (or ID), because that sounds more like proper science, which is precisely what it isn't. ID is largely supported by religious zealots who believe they can best serve God by clashing with school boards and scientists, instead of, say, spreading peace and goodwill or loving their neighbours, neither of are half as much fun.

• To look something up in the Ignopedia, submit a query to

Corporate nausea

My uncontrollable rant about psychics has left no room for the TV Go Home entry this week. But there's just space to squeeze in one more example of puke-inducing corporate babyspeak. Several of you nominated Hellmann's mayonnaise, which now has "Once you dig in, keep me cold for three months ... but not too cold - I don't want to freeze!" printed on the jar. It might as well have added "LOL!" and "You don't have to be mad to eat me ... BUT IT HELPS!!!"

It's a rum state of affairs when you feel like punching a jar of mayonnaise in the face.