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Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

Places Christians shouldn't go A quick tour of Christian Hate?'s case against Christian Aid

Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Priest and the Holocaust Denier

A letter to the Independent (unpublished, but no hard feelings, I can't complain about my hit rate):

'Sir: To describe Roger Garaudy as a 'left-wing philosopher', as John Lichfield does in his piece on the late Abbé Pierre (24 January) is a slur on philosophers and decent left-wingers alike. Far from merely suggesting that the Holocaust has been exaggerated, the book by Garaudy which Abbé Pierre endorsed dismisses the gas chambers of Auschwitz as mythical, and led in 1998 to the author's conviction for Holocaust denial.

'Abbé Pierre risked his neck to rescue Jews from the Nazis, yet thanks to his association with this odious man his words now grace sundry Holocaust denial websites - an unfortunate blemish on an inspiring life.'

Some background: I was shamefully ignorant of Abbé Pierre until I came across his obit in the Times last Tuesday. I thought I was reading the life of a saint. Then, however, I read the Indie's version. Its account of the Garaudy affair is seriously misleading, implying the spat was over nothing more serious than some overwrought criticism of Israel, but when I saw Garaudy's name I was sure there had to be more to it. A quick google confirmed what I thought I remembered about him. I won't link to the Holocaust denial stuff, but it's not at all hard to find.

The following day the John Lichfield article went some way towards putting the record straight, but still fell short of making it clear that this is real Loony Tunes stuff we're talking about here - hence the letter. This time it is the Grauniad's Douglas Johnson who deserves credit for telling it like it is:-

'In 1996 the Abbé Pierre found himself involved in a bitter controversy which had nothing to do with his work for the homeless. That April, the French writer Roger Garaudy, a former communist who had converted to Islam in 1982, announced that the Abbé agreed with his view that the Holocaust was a myth invented by the Americans and the Jews of Israel. There was consternation when the Abbé confirmed this. The only explanation that some could find was that the Abbé's sympathy for the Palestinians had influenced his judgment.

'For the first time in his life, the Abbé found himself unpopular. He eventually rescinded his support for Garaudy, but as he had isolated himself in Italy and Switzerland, some confusion remained. Eventually, the Abbé returned to France, staying in various religious homes. He made few public appearances, and said very little. Public sympathy for him revived, but there were no longer any discussions about a possible canonisation.'

'Suggestions that Abbé Pierre was a secret anti-Semite do not hold water', says John Lichfield. Well, I have no wish to think ill of the man so I hope he's right. Then again, they never are, are they? Take Mayor 'Concentration Camp' Ken. Anti-Semitic? How could you think such a thing of such a tireless fighter against racism? Even Ahmadinejad still finds plenty of champions on the left prepared to deny flatly that he has any problem with Jews as such. What do you have do these days to convince lefties that you genuinely don't like Jews? Grow a toothbrush moustache and go round making stretched-arm salutes? If you were Muslim I doubt if even that would do the trick.

But Abbé Pierre's case surely proves the point that anti-Semitism is not, at bottom, a matter of individual nastiness. Rather it is a corporate sin, the outworking of a diabolical belief system which blinds the best as it energizes the worst. Can someone be simultaneously a saint and an anti-Semite? It depends on your criteria for sainthood, I suspect.

Anyway, the question certainly doesn't arise in the case of Roger Garaudy, an instance of the French 'committed intellectual' reduced to self-parodying dysfunctionality - or, if you'll pardon my French, a total f***wit. He was a senior member of the notoriously hardline French Communist Party, but got expelled for partying along with the students in May '68 and for proclaiming himself a 'Christian Marxist'. In my Trot days I read a book of his translated under the title 'The Alternative Future: A Vision of Christian Marxism'. It was a fairly typical sample of the kind of mush that leftist intellectuals were serving up under the influence of les événements. Lots about how fantastic young people were, fulsome praise for Mao's Cultural Revolution - and next to nothing about Christianity.

Then in 1982 he converted to Islam. And that seems to be when the dodgy attitudes to Jews started surfacing. Am I suggesting a connection? Well, let's just say that the anti-Semitism certainly doesn't seem to have damaged his standing in the Middle East, nor among his evidently numerous Muslim cyberfans.

Finally, a piece of pure serendipity from Engage. One Tom Hickey is standing for the Presidency of the newly-formed UK academics' union UCU. Mr Hickey is a member of the Socialist Workers Party, which should in itself be sufficient to ensure that the mass of decent union members don't touch him with a bargepole. In the linked post he's pictured delivering a talk on the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism at Sussex University. On a screen behind him a reading list is displayed. One of the recommended works is by... Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Baghdad pet market bombing: a statement

We, the undersigned, reaffirm our solidarity with the Iraqi people's liberation struggle, and salute the latest heroic blow struck against the forces of imperialism. We deeply regret the suffering unavoidably caused to innocent animals, but we insist that the responsibility be placed fairly and squarely where it belongs - with the mass murderers Bush and Blair. Blair's so-called 'concern' for animal welfare has been exposed as the totally hypocritical sham it always was.

It's time to kick out the Zionist apes and pigs who cynically pit species against species! Only then can the Iraqi people regain the control of their own destiny which they enjoyed under the leader so disgracefully murdered last month, in place of the farce of 'elections', and ensure that the rights of all domestic animals are fully respected.

George Spartoway and Osalma bin Spart, RESPECT
Kim Jong Spart, LoseStop the War
Hugo Spartez, North London Vegans Against Imperialism
Saddam al-Spartawi, Gaza brigade, Animal Liberation Front

(OK, it's not very original, but I need a little rage therapy every now and again)

Julius Hirsch: a German life

[source of facts (in German) here]

7 April 1892 Julius Hirsch born in Achern, Baden

1902-1933 member of Karlsruhe football club

1910 plays for the Karlsruhe side which wins the national championship

1911-13 plays for Germany

1912 member of the German team at the Stockholm Olympics

1914 plays for German champions Fürth

1914-18 serves in the German army

1933 Hirsch's membership of Karlsruhe football club is terminated in conformity with Nazi racial laws - he is Jewish

March 1943 murdered at Auschwitz

1999 the DFB (German FA) finally restores Hirsch to its roll of capped players, from which his name had been removed under the Nazis

21 January 2007 a sports stadium in Berlin is renamed the Julius Hirsch Stadium in a ceremony attended by Hirsch's grandson

26 January 2007 the UN General Assembly adopts a resolution condemning Holocaust denial. Iran rejects the resolution.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The music of white skins

Jamie Whyte in the Times takes aim at Trevor Phillips, supremo of the 'race industry', over a speech he gave recently (via).

Whilst this is not personal for me in the way it is for Mr Whyte, and whilst I'm aware that I'm laying myself open to the 'you can't possibly understand' retort, I feel I must deliver my straight white middle-aged middle-class male 2p-worth on the following passage:-

'And you will have your own everyday small signals of change which you see in your own lives. For me in the past week it has been seeing a huge wedding party in Hampshire for a young Asian couple in which all the women, including the large number who were not Indian wore saris - the feeling that at last this wasn't a clumsy, faintly patronising gesture, but was a natural, very British thing to do. It has been the sound of turning on the whitest radio station in the world - BBC Radio 3 - and hearing at eight o'clock in the morning, the sound of classical Arab music - and the fact that nobody felt they had to remark upon it.'

Firstly: if I'd happened to know an Indian woman well enough to invite her to my wedding, I'd have been pretty disappointed if she hadn't shown up in her best sari. It would have been the natural, very British thing to do. The same applies to kilted Scots, Bavarians in Lederhosen, etc., etc. So if non-Indians wearing saris to an Indian wedding isn't a 'clumsy, faintly patronising gesture', what kind of gesture is it in Mr Phillips' approving eyes? Perhaps one of 'we don't presume to have a culture of our own' self-abasement?

And now for the Radio 3 thing. It strikes me that a man who switches on Radio 3 and hears only the sound of white skins - and is sufficiently pleased with himself for doing so to share his reaction with a fair-sized audience - is a man with a well nigh unlimited capacity for manufacturing grievance.

There are, or so I am told, radio stations specializing in musical genres overwhelmingly dominated by black artists. Who listens? People of all colours who like the music. If I were to accuse them of racist exclusion and demand that they rectify the situation by adding Buxtehude and Shostakovich to their playlists, I imagine the response would be one that could be summed up in a few words of one syllable.

But Trevor Phillips can call Radio 3 'the whitest radio station in the world' and insinuate 'the most racist radio station in the world'. Which is rubbish. R3 plays the music of dead white men because there is a musical tradition - a rich, diverse and international tradition which has informed British culture over many centuries - which happens to have been created by dead white men. If you don't like it, turn it off, but I think that makes you a philistine. If you turn it off because of all the dead white men, I'm afraid that makes you both a philistine and a racist.

Classical Arab music on R3? All for it. Also African, Indian and Chinese music. Even the occasional bit of Tuvan throat singing. So long as it's being played for the right reasons, i.e. musical ones, and not for the wrong reasons, i.e. to 'include' potential listeners who aren't interested in Bach because his skin was the wrong colour. The correct description of that is 'pandering to bigotry'.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Modest Proposal

How's this for a scheme? In the interests of helping curb violence by Muslim fanatics, all proselytism by Muslims should be banned in countries where they are in a minority.

The mere suggestion could probably get you arrested in Britain these days. But don't worry, it's not my idea. It comes from a conference on inter-Islamic dialogue which has just concluded in Qatar. Speakers included our old friend Sheikh Yussef Qaradawi. AFP reports:-

'The participants also said "Shiite proselytization in Sunni countries or Sunni proselytization in Shiite countries" should not be allowed.

'Leading Qatar-based Sunni cleric Sheikh Yussef Qaradawi on Saturday denounced what he described as "attempts to convert (Sunnis) into Shiism" in countries that are predominantly Sunni.

'"It is not permissible for a sect to try to spread in a country that is dominated by the other sect," he told the conference.'

I think the logical implications are pretty clear, aren't they? No Muslim proselytism of any kind to be allowed in non-Muslim countries! A bit of a blow to ideals of religious freedom, I grant you, but grounded on principles so irreproachably Islamic that those affected by the ban couldn't possibly object. Cheers, Yussef, where would we be without you?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Well, swive me

Bored with the overused 'f' word? Why not try reviving a juicy piece of seventeenth century vocabulary, as used by none other than Charles I?

Whilst at the link, marvel at what is surely the most inane comment made so far this year, the dicta of Ms Jade Goody not excepted. Of the revelation that the King and Martyr had a bit on the side one Arnold Hunt, the British Library’s Curator of Historical Manuscripts, says:

'This makes him out to be more human and, in some ways, more sympathetic.'

One to memorize - you never know when you might need it: 'But you don't understand, darling, I was only trying to make myself more human and sympathetic for you.'


Pedants' Corner

'After attempting to tackle antisocial behaviour, he is proposing to introduce a “violent offender order” (Voo) targeted at those whom police believe are likely to commit violence.'

- wrote the Political Editor of the Sunday Times last weekend.

Well, never mind about that. What about 'violence to the language' orders for hacks who Grumpy believes can't work out where the subject of a relative clause is?

Not that this is anything new.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Guess who isn't coming to dinner

My Man of the Week: Nestor Kirchner, left-of-centre President of Argentina, who, in signal contrast with Señores Chávez, Ortega, Morales and Correa, has shown sufficent decency to decline a meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Harry's Place reminds us of an appalling event which Chávez et al seem to have conveniently forgotten, and says of Kirchner's stand:-

'There was a time when this was the minimum you could expect from those who identified themselves with the Left. Not anymore.'

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad's boss (Mahmoud's only President, remember) has been issuing a call for Muslim unity. This is an issue which presents Tehran with something of a dilemma. They want to back their fellow Shias in Iraq, but they fear that if they go too far they'll alienate the Sunni majority in the Middle East as a whole. The ideal solution would be if they could lead Sunni and Shia in a united struggle against the real enemies - the ones whose fiendish cunning sets Muslim against Muslim and thus causes all those bombings in Iraq. Who they? Well, to be fair to the Supreme Leader, it isn't only the Israelis. We Brits are distinctly dodgy as well.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sincere condolences

This from the Indie caught my eye the other day.

So Hamas have now recognized Israel. Sort of. This is 'recognize' as in 'OK, despite our best efforts Israel has not been wiped off the map as of today's date'. Similar to the sense in which, for instance, I recognize that George Galloway is a Member of Parliament. Anyway, it's supposed to be significant.

Then there's the news that Hamas's popular support has taken a nosedive. One reason is their recent massacre of a group of Fatah security men, and that seems a pretty good reason. The other, though, is the enthusiastic welcome their sponsors in Tehran have given to the execution of Saddam Hussein. This is obviously not an issue of principle: every state in the Middle East has the death penalty (with one exception - I don't need to say any more, do I?) and an independent Palestine would doubtless follow the regional trend. No, the point at issue is that the late tyrant and mass murderer won a place in Palestinian hearts by lobbing missiles at Israeli cities and funding pensions for the families of suicide bombers. Yasser Arafat was, in turn, happy to support his invasion of Kuwait.

So Fatah is riding high on a wave of sympathy for Saddam. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I'm really not sure, but I do know that if I had neighbours like these I'd want a good strong fence.

There is of course one surefire way for Tehran to restore its prestige, and scientists in bunkers scattered around Iran are beavering away at it even as I write. I'm afraid we're going to hear a lot more about this in 2007.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Archbishop and what should not need saying

I suppose if I was a really dedicated blogger I'd envy those Stakhanovites who've carried on meeting their production quotas over the holidays. But I must admit to having enjoyed the break.

The world has of course not taken a break from producing bloggable news. For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury has made a characteristic contribution to the festive season by declaring that Middle Eastern Christians are being victimized... by George Bush and Tony Blair. As well as applying ethical reasoning of similar quality to the Israeli security barrier. I have much more to write about/to the Archbish than I can manage just now. But be assured that he won't escape. To keep you going for now, Mick Hartley has a round-up of some excellent reactions from the Times. And Frances Waddams of Anglicans for Israel (no stranger in these parts, methinks) has been quick off the mark with a letter to Rowan W.

The final paragraph of Stephen Shaw's letter to the Times bears quoting, not because it says anything new but because it says what should not need saying:-

'My experience during many visits to Israel is that most Israeli Jews, as well as Israeli Arabs and Christians, dislike the fence. It is ugly, expensive and bad for Israel’s battered image. But they dislike even more being blown up as they travel on buses or eat in restaurants. The sad fact is that the fence has saved lives.'

Dear Rowan Williams, dear Bishop John Gladwin, dear Christian Aid, dear Episcopal Church, dear Anglican Peace and Justice Network, dear Ekklesia, dear Tablet readers, please do one thing for me. Simply read, mark, learn and inwardly digest that last sentence. You may think that using the barrier to slice off a chunk of Palestinian land is a shabby trick. You may have fifty good reasons why it should be dismantled. But there is only one thing that needs to be said in response: the fence has saved lives. And if your reaction is any kind of paraphrase on 'Yes, but...' or 'Well, actually, we don't particularly care about those lives', your self-image as people moved by a concern for peace and goodwill to men stands revealed as so much humbug.

A very happy New Year to one and all, and I'll be back on or after the 12th.