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

Friday, April 20, 2007

Christians murdered in Turkey

The latest brutal blow in Turkish extremists' campaign of violence against the country's tiny Christian community.

I know about this because it's been covered by German TV, interest here being doubtless intensified by the fact that one of the victims was German. There's nothing on the BBC website. Why not?

Of course this adds one more twist to the dilemma of whether Turkey should be admitted into the EU. On the one hand, slamming the door shut would give these killers exactly what they want. On the other hand, the notion that a welcoming attitude from Europe could itself create an irresistible dynamic of Westernization within Turkish society looks increasingly utopian. It's a colossal gamble, and I don't profess to be capable of estimating the odds.

One option which will appeal to some is to blame it all on the Pope. The following gives a flavour of a lengthy hatchet job by one Jane Kramer in the New Yorker:-

'Benedict’s earlier statements about Turkey being “in permanent contrast to Europe,” along with the local fury over Regensburg, had left all Christians in the East vulnerable'

One man makes a couple of statements, and suddenly security is turned into vulnerability for 'all Christians in the East' - is there no limit to the trouble that can be caused by an 80-year-old heading an army of 134 men with stripey trousers and pikes?

Earlier this year Mrs Cyrus was present at a service in London at which the leader of a Christian congregation in Istanbul was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England - very likely an unprecedented event. He, his flock and all Turkish Christians could use a prayer or two, I think.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Alan Johnston: a tragedy and its misuse

UPDATE: this report suggests I have been overly pessimistic - let's hope so.

Alan Johnston, the BBC's man in Gaza, is almost certainly dead. It's not the worst crime committed in the Middle East this week, but it's bad enough.

The news that somebody has accused the Israelis of being behind the kidnapping and killing would not in itself be worth passing on. Let's face it, they're to blame for everything else, and it's not at all the kind of behaviour you'd expect from a bona fide group of militant Islamists. What makes the accusation slightly more remarkable is the fact that it comes from a retired colleague of Johnston's.

I can only suggest that Alan Hart spends a little more time studying his former employers' output. He would then be aware that Johnston's Gaza posting was due to end last month (see the final sentence here). Like all conspiracy theorists Hart needs nothing more than a good cui bono argument to set him off - but he doesn't even have that.

Jon feels the Beeb's recruitment of loonies should at least be a little more balanced. Well, Jon, I fear that's a battle you'll have to fight without any help from the National Union of Journalists. Following a conference vote for a boycott of Israel, General Secretary Jeremy Dear argues that the Palestinian journalists' union has earnt this gesture by supporting the campaign for Johnston's release. A fascinating concept: journalists needing to be rewarded for being opposed to the kidnapping and killing of journalists.

And whilst Mr Dear insists that 'The boycott call has nothing to do with reporting. The NUJ is not telling members how to report Israel', he also seems to suggest that Johnston in his turn earned Palestinian support by being 'so keen to help [the Palestinian people] through his reporting'. So how vocal would the Palestinian journalists' union have been on his behalf if his reporting had been a little less helpful towards the Palestinians and more obliging towards the Israelis?

But has Mr Dear pondered where he stands if Alan Hart is right and Johnston's killers were Israeli? If the Israeli journalists' union condemns the crime, the NUJ will want to reward them by rescinding the boycott, yes? No? Only an idea.

Leaving the asylum for a breath of fresh air, I note that Donald Macintyre of the Indie and Alan Rusbridger of the Grauniad have come out against the boycott - a stance which will certainly get a mixed reception from readers of their papers. So respect to both, and also to Tory MP and Times man Michael Gove, though he will presumably face less flak for his decision to resign from the NUJ. Let him have the last word:-

'This boycott is not of a repressive state that outlaws free expression (of which, sadly, there are still too many) but of one of the few states in the Middle East with a proper free press: Israel.

'The NUJ exists to defend, among other virtues, freedom of speech. That virtue is better defended in Israel than in any other nation of the Middle East and it comes under assault daily from forces driven by fanaticism.'

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Spare a thought for poor David Irving. He must have put a lot of work into his splendid anti-Semitic diatribe against blogger Oliver Kamm. Just one teeny weeny problem: Kamm isn't actually Jewish.

A surprising lapse from a distinguished historian, I'm sure you'll agree (n.b. this should appear in ironic typeface, if your browser supports it).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Take code of conduct and insert

There's been a proposal for a Bloggers' Code of Conduct. I can only endorse Shuggy's response, which has the crispness which the circumstances demand.

Actually, tell a lie, I can do a little more than that. Clause 2 of the draft code says:-

'We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person.'

Well, excuse me, but Mr Grumpy exists precisely in order to enable his alter ego to say things that he wouldn't say in person.

Apart from anything else, I am British. If I subscribed to this clause, I would presumably have to confine my blogging to remarking on how unseasonably warm the weather is for the time of year, and asking my readers whether they had any holidays planned. Interested, anybody?

Item: my last post described an elderly gentleman from North London as having made a twat of himself. Would I describe him as a twat to his face? Certainly not. That would imply a global judgment of him as a person, and I am quite prepared to believe that he is kind to animals, an assiduous recycler and a devoted husband and father. As it is, however, all I know of him is contained in the few sentences he has placed in the public domain of the Guardian letters page. I could have paraphrased my reaction by saying that they display the fruits of a lifetime spent in the service of an intellectually and morally bankrupt cause, but I rather doubt whether I would say that to his face either. So what? The important thing is that it is true. And by the way, if he wants to tell me what he thinks of me, I welcome comments...

Item: if I met someone socially and discovered that he was a divorced father, I wouldn't steer the conversation into a discussion of the possible relationship between single parent families and gun crime. But that is exactly what I did to none other than Shuggy recently (in this and subequent posts), and if he was offended it didn't stop him giving as good as he got. The rules of engagement are clear to both sides: no quarter is given, but we keep well on the right side of abusive. Political blogging is not for exchanging strokes, it's for debating ideas - as Shuggy would no doubt agree.

I have my own unwritten code of conduct, thank you very much. Frail child of dust that I am, I doubtless go over the top from time to time. For anyone who finds my conduct unacceptable, the solution is very simple, and I wish you Godspeed to more anodyne regions of the blogosphere.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Easter

To anybody out there who hangs on our every word, Grumpy and self must apologize for leaving you so long with no words to hang on. We've been away and off-line for a couple of weeks. Normal service to resume next week, and in the meantime we wish our readers a very happy Easter and a belated happy Passover (talking of which, you might enjoy this penetrating piece of Middle East analysis).