Latest posts on Christian Aid

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You can't criticize...

Lots of important stuff at Harry's Place and Engage on goings-on in the academics' 'trade union' UCU. Also here.

Telling, isn't it, that the 'you can't criticize Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism' brigade turn out to to be the ones who react to criticism by trying to gag the critics?

I've not infrequently had wistful thoughts about an academic career, but I'm very glad I'm not one of those faced with the decision whether to stay and fight in this increasingly vile snakepit or turn their backs on it. Good luck to all the fighters for left-wing decency, whether they're carrying on the struggle inside or outside.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baroness Tonge and Christian Aid: knifed by the Lobby?

Having described Baroness Tonge as a former trustee of Christian Aid, it's only fair to add that her tenure of the post was brief. Appointed in April 2006, she stepped down at the charity's AGM in November of the same year.

Was she pushed? Of course. But by whom? Not, for sure, by Christian Aid's own mandarins - not, at least, unless someone else was leaning on them. Instead of disowning her appalling views on terrorism they ducked the issue with the breathtakingly disingenuous claim that her remarks were 'outside the remit of a development organisation which deals with issues of poverty and humanitarian relief'. My reaction to this piece of bovine manure is here.

It seems the Baroness may have recently given us a clue to her own views about who did the pushing. Here she is, speaking in a House of Lords debate on 2 July:-

“I am beginning to understand the power of the Israel lobby, active here as well as in the USA, with AIPAC, the Friends of Israel and the Board of Deputies. They take vindictive actions against people who oppose and criticise the lobby, getting them removed from positions that they hold and preventing them from speaking — even on unrelated subjects, in my case. I understand their methods. I have many examples. They make constant accusations of antisemitism, when no such sentiment exists, to silence Israel’s critics.”

(from Engage; the whole speech is in Hansard).

Whether she is talking about her exit from Christian Aid or her earlier enforced exit from the Lib Dem front bench (or both), the issues are the same, so let's for the sake of convenience assume the former.

The phrase "the Israel lobby" has of course acquired its place in "respectable" political discourse thanks to Mearsheimer and Walt's eponymous book. It may have been a shoddy piece of work but it has done its job: like a virus the phrase has entered our collective bloodstream.

A telling insight into the quality of Mearsheimer and Walt's analysis came from their insinuation that the Lobby had "got its grips" (to use the words applied by Baroness Tonge to her own party) into the Church of England. My extended riposte to this claim is here. Clearly, though, it has explanatory force for Baroness Tonge: Church leaders got her kicked out of her Christian Aid trusteeship because they go in fear of the Board of Deputies.

What is the reality here? So far from the Board being an omnipresent, omnipotent lobby with its grips in every institution, it has been savaged by Rabbi Sidney Brichto in the latest issue of the excellent new magazine Standpoint for its timidity in making the case for Israel in an environment where anti-Israel sentiment is ubiquitous.

I surmise that the reasons for Baroness Tonge's exit from her trusteeship were eminently straightforward. Namely that in the upper echelons of the Churches there are to be found decent and reasonable Christians who uphold Israel's right to exist and her citizens' right to life, and that they were not prepared to accept that an apologist for terrorism should hold a post in an official agency of the Churches. My guess is that CA's bosses privately sympathized with the Baroness but were not willing to stick their necks out for her. A public row with Church leaders could easily damage the charity's standing among ordinary churchgoers - and thus its income. That, by the way, is the parameter within which it plays at radicalism. In a way I have more respect for War on Want, which makes no bones about its politics and raises its cash from those who think as it does.

And what role did Jews, inside or outside the Board of Deputies, play? Well, Jews have good reason to be well-informed and concerned about the Baroness's views, and I can well believe there were some who alerted their Christian contacts to her track record and argued that she was not an approriate person to hold such a position. You can call this lobbying by all means, but it is not, repeat not, an instance of The Lobby at work, pulling the strings of those nominally in authority. It is - need I say it - a normal way for human beings to conduct their affairs. It bore fruit because decent and reasonable Christians found themselves in agreement with it - through persuasion, not through intimidation.

There are, I fear, two factors which would make it hard for Baroness Tonge to give this scenario credence. The first is that she appears to be so totally convinced of the rightness of her cause that she cannot conceive of anyone - especially a Gentile - disagreeing with her in good faith. In this she exemplifies the almost cult-like character of the anti-Israel movement. If they will not acknowledge how evil Israel is there must be sinister forces at work.

And with that we arrive at the second factor. My scenario assumes that Jews are ordinary human beings who feel, think and act in the way ordinary human beings feel, think and act and have ordinary human powers. For someone who sees the Board of Deputies as the local branch of the Lobby, and bishops and Lib Dem leaders alike as its abject puppets, that assumption has already ceased to be self-evident. And the reason for devoting a longish post to a person of no huge importance in herself is that these attitudes now reach deep into the mainstream.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Baroness Tonge and Hamas: from understanding to praise

The list of speakers at IslamExpo last month reads like this blog's Most Wanted list. Comrades Steele and Milne of al-Grauniad were there, arm in arm with Gorgeous George, as was their colleague Maddy of the Sorrows. Tariq Ramadan, Rowan Williams' favourite Muslim intellectual, was there, and, talking of the Archbishop, Sarah Joseph was there. Ilan Pappé was there, assuredly with the blessing of his fans in the Deutsche Volksunion.

Sorry if I'm doing them an injustice, but I can't picture any of these characters as innocents abroad who, expecting to encounter 'Europe’s largest celebration of Islamic culture, tradition, innovation and art', were horrified to discover they had stumbled into a Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood rally. If I discover that any of them used it as a platform to denounce Hamas as an anti-Semitic terrorist organization, he/she will get a fulsome apology from me. But I'm not expecting to have to take the trouble.

I certainly won't in the case of the speaker who said this:-

“I would like to say a thank you to the three speakers before me…I hope you (audience) realise how much guts it takes to speak like they have…they are very brave and deserve a tribute from all of us.”

The immediately preceeding speaker was Azzam Tamimi, Hamas's Special Envoy and as such, unsurprisingly, an open supporter of suicide bombers. The tribute came from former Christian Aid trustee Baroness Tonge. Stephen Pollard, from whose blog the quote comes, comments:-

'Let there be no doubt now about what Baroness Tonge believes. She no longer even bothers hiding behind the ambiguity of ‘understanding’ why people become suicide bombers. As her remarks at IslamExpo show, she now thinks that those who explicitly praise and honour suicide bombers “are very brave and deserve a tribute from all of us.”'

David T of Harry's Place says simply 'He's right, isn't he?' He is indeed.

More about the Baroness to come.

Palestinians 314, Darfuris 0: War on Want's victimhood league table

Here's a comment I've left on a post from Engage:-

'WoW is George Galloway's former outfit, of course, so there are no surprises here. If you do a search for 'Palestine' on their website you'll currently get 314 hits. Hits for 'Darfur': 0. Yes, honestly, zero. If you don't believe me, try it.'

- which you can do with minimum effort by clicking here and here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

'To be a Jew is to be a supplicant'

Meanwhile, in Britain's universities and colleges it's open season for the offending and excluding of Jews armed only with letters of resignation. I've just caught up with this from Norm. Read it and weep.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Burning our own books

It is, naturally, a blogger's inalienable privilege to declaim about matters he/she knows **** all about. Doubtless I've been guilty often enough. One field where I do have a bit of insider knowledge, though, is the book-publishing business. I've totted up a dozen years of employment in it, and even one who is no more than a rude mechanical in the eyes of the literary lunching brigade does pick up a thing or two along the way.

So I claim above-average qualifications for fishing the red herrings out of the water in the latest self-censorship affair. Notably, any suggestion that one of America's leading publishers pulled the plug on a new novel because, having taken scholarly advice, they reaIised it was crap.

HELLO. Big publishers (and most little ones) are publishing crap all the time. Indeed one may fairly safely say that most of what they publish is crap. It's publishing crap that enables them to fund those occasional worthy volumes that advance the cause of human knowledge, wisdom and culture and barely break even.

The piss-poor soft porn with a shag on every third page in which one of my former employers (also a leading player in the evangelical Christian market, as it happens) specialises. The assorted quackery in the Mind, Body and Spirit section of your local bookshop, which mostly emanates not from collectives of Tuvan shapersons but from Big Ink. The countless unreadable academic tomes which exist solely because the authors' careers require that they be Published... I could go on, but must call myself to order. OK, not before I've mentioned Jeffrey Archer.

I'm thus quite prepared to believe that The Jewel of Medina is indeed crap. I must shamefacedly admit that the mere fact that it is written by a person named Sherry inclines me towards the view that this may not be the Satanic Verses of the Noughties.

But that's not the point, is it?

Do you suppose that when Bloomsbury were sent a manuscript about a school for wizards they forwarded it to half a dozen Associate Professors in Magic Studies to make sure it had got its facts right?

There's a feminist novel which recounts the life of Jesus from the perspectives of Mary Magdalene and other female dramatis personae. Frau Grumpy once encountered it in a women-only reading group, and came home fuming over the author's invincible ignorance of New Testament scholarship. Fuming Christian theologians were not sufficient to prevent the publishers getting the thing onto the bookshelves. They thought it would sell and it did.

No, next time you read a really bad book, don't just sit there fuming. Threaten to kill or maim the author, anyone who works for the publisher, anyone who sells it, translates it or gives it a good review. Might take a bit of getting used to, but the nice thing is that once you've done it a few times you won't even need to utter the threats, as the mere perception that you have form will suffice to effect the pulping of the offending volume.

At least Random House are up front about their cowardice. What's really scary is the way the intellectual climate has changed since the Satanic Verses affair. In the early Nineties the liberal intelligentsia still had something resembling a backbone; the appeasers, though vocal, were a minority. But now... Consider this specimen if you will.

'It was in that same professional capacity that I felt it my duty to warn the press of the novel's potential to provoke anger among some Muslims.

'There is a long history of anti-Islamic polemic that uses sex and violence to attack the Prophet and his faith. This novel follows in that oft-trodden path, one first pioneered in medieval Christian writings.'

- says the Assoc. Professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies University of Texas at Austin.

Well, I'm no apologist for the cruder manifestations of medieval Christianity. But I think one can uncontroversially note that the Prophet was neither a pacifist nor a celibate; that, moreover, he permitted himself more wives than any of his followers and that one of them, Aisha, was distinctly on the young side.

It's true: this was and is fuel for polemic. So what's your problem, Associate Professor Spellberg? Polemic between competing belief systems is what happens in free societies. Passions flair, unfair and hurtful things are said. Offence is taken, and given in return. Polemic, one would hope, is the lifeblood of any university worthy of the name.

'I do not espouse censorship of any kind' declares Associate Professor Spellberg with smooth piety, and moves on without expanding on whether, specifically, she considers self-censorship in response to naked intimidation to be a particularly deplorable phenomenon.

What we have instead from Spellberg, of course, is the Bunting-Armstrong thesis which is now Guardianista orthodoxy. It is not enough that we are cowed into silence by fanatical thugs. We must declare them to be men of peace who have been provoked into violence only by the outrageous suggestion that their creed is a violent one. We must knuckle under, flagellating ourselves as aggressors the while.

George Orwell, you should be living at this hour.