“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for July 2007

Hari’s Defamation?

with 3 comments

News just in:

there was a thread open at HP to discuss Nick Cohen’s book What’s Left, however, part way thru it was closed abruptly by the threat of defamation proceedings. Here’s the new cover to the thread:

“Nick Cohen v Johann Hari

Posted by david t

Sadly Johann Hari is threatening me with defamation proceedings. He takes the view that this piece, and the comments which follow it, contain defamatory material.

Practically speaking, I am neither able, nor prepared, to hand edit articles and comments in order to meet threats of legal action. Therefore I have chosen to take the article down and have removed all comments.

I have occasionally closed quotes or removed articles when asked to correct an inaccurate statement about a person on this blog. I think that is the proper, and responsible thing for a person who runs a blog to do.

I am particularly sad that the first threat of legal action should have come from a journalist, and from a person who I regard as a friend.

I am not proposing to discuss this issue further”

Hari does himself no favours by these threats.

Written by modernityblog

30/07/2007 at 18:03

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Another Quiz

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I ran across this quiz, not sure how accurate it is but then again its very American in content, it seems that I am “Your Liberal Breed: Social Justice Crusader”

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Take the quiz at

Written by modernityblog

30/07/2007 at 14:42

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Latin Saturday

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While twiddling around with my old Evoke-1 radio I found theJazz station, it broadcasts a lovely mixture of soothing Jazz and on Saturday after 6 pm some very relaxing Latin beats.

Well worth the cost of a DAB radio!

Written by modernityblog

28/07/2007 at 18:16

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License to Iplay?

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Want to watch the Beeb but have no aerial or live 1000s of miles away?

There is a solution: the Iplayer

The BBC has just released their Iplayer into beta, it allows users to download and play recent BBC programmes.

There are some restrictions and DRM issues, the Torygraph covers some of these issues.

Becky Hogge at the New Statesman expresses her concern that the Iplayer runs only under Windows.

Even before final launch the DRM seems to have been cracked, according to zdnet:

“The iPlayer, which is based on Microsoft’s media player and DRM technology, is due to be launched on 27 July. It has already attracted controversy and criticism over the decision to use proprietary technology for a platform supposedly catering to all licence-fee-payers — at its launch it will work only on computers running Windows XP — but the recent reappearance of FairUse4WM, a utility that can strip the copy protection from Windows Media Player content, threatened fresh problems for the scheme.”

Update: From the message board looks like the Beeb are having problems.

Written by modernityblog

27/07/2007 at 01:01

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The New Centrist

with 2 comments

I am indebted to the New Centrist for some fine historical links, see the comments on Site(s) of Week/Month 24 and for the link to this wonderful site Jewish Partisans.

What a great poster:

Jewish Partians

Written by modernityblog

26/07/2007 at 02:34

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Exclusive: BMJ Poll Rejects the Boycott

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The BMJ is conducting an online poll into the boycott of Israel institutions, and ModernityBlog can exclusively reveal the results as of 20th July 2007, around 9 pm.

The question was:

“Should we consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions?”

The result were:

Yes 7.4% 629
No 92.6% 7879

Out of a total of 8508 votes cast.

Michael Baum, Professor emeritus of surgery at University College London comments are well worth reading:


Tony Blair’s appointment as Middle East peace envoy is intended to invigorate the peace process. Tom Hickey thinks boycotting universities might encourage the Israeli government to reach a settlement, but Michael Baum believes collaboration is a more effective way forward

First of all I should declare a conflict of interest. I am a Jew and a Zionist. However, before anyone issues a Fatwa, let me explain. I consider myself a secular Jew who abhors the fanaticism among West Bank settlers. I support a two state solution. The Palestinians must have self determination; 60 years of statelessness after the British mandate is enough. This position is held by all my Israeli academic friends and colleagues. These academics are the very constituency the boycotters are targeting and are disproportionately represented in the peace camp. How can alienating this group enhance the peace process?

The Israeli universities and research institutes are no more agents of Israel than Oxford or Cambridge are of the United Kingdom. And they are not responsible for repression of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories—a policy which is universally unpopular. Furthermore, it is nonsense to suggest that you can target the institution without damaging the individual.

Multicultural society

Let me also dismiss the big lie that Israel is an apartheid state. Israel is a multicultural mosaic with Jews, Muslims, Christians, and other faiths. Druze, Bahá’í, and Armenian Christians chose to live there after persecution in Muslim countries. Only malign commentators can be blind to the Arabs who form 20% of Israeli citizens. They are free to vote and express their views (including the right to campaign against the state itself) and serve in the cabinet. Arab judges hold high office and Arab newspapers argue the Palestinian cause. Mosques are respected: if only such sensitivity for Jewish values was shown by the Palestinian gangs who destroyed all the synagogues when Israel withdrew its occupation forces from Gaza.

My first hand experience of Israel started as a young surgeon in 1963-4. I worked in northern Israel in a hospital serving Arab villages, kibbutzim, new immigrant townships, and ancient communities of Arabs and Jews in Nazareth, Afula, and Tiberias. A fifth of the doctors and nurses were Arabs, trained at the expense of the Israeli government. Arab and Jewish patients were treated with the same respect in adjacent beds. This is still true in all Israeli hospitals. It is also a lie to suggest that the Israel Medical Association is complicit in the ill treatment of prisoners.1

I would go even further and state that Israel provides more academic freedom for Arab scholars than anywhere else in the Middle East. There are numerous examples of Palestinian and Israeli collaborations. For example, the Israel Cancer Association funds initiatives that benefit both Israeli and Palestinian patients and their families. These include the Breast Care Centre at the Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth, which holds joint sessions with Israeli Jewish and Arab women and Palestinians who share common experience as survivors of breast cancer. Hadassah Hospital and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem provide outreach programmes for the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Poor children from the territory get free, state of the art treatment, often supported by the Peres Foundation. Ben Gurion University of the Negev has launched the joint Israel-Jordan-Palestine project for improvement of motor skills in children with cerebral palsy and also funds the work of Ohad Birk (Israeli Jewish), Izzedelin Abuelaish (Gaza Palestinian), and Khalil Elbedour (Israeli Bedouin), who have unravelled rare genetic disorders among Negev Bedouin, where consanguineous marriages are not uncommon.

Universities must encourage a spirit of inquiry, where members join in dialogue, with freedom of expression, learning from each other’s narratives. As Malcolm Grant, provost of University College London put it: the boycott “betrays a misunderstanding of the academic mission which is founded squarely on academic freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech” Lord Adonis went further in the House of Lords2: Not only would a boycott be inconsistent with the spirit of openness and tolerance that should inform public life. It would also be counterproductive. Education plays a vital role in developing and aiding understanding between different people. It is therefore all the more important to keep open channels of communication with academic and educational institutions in the Middle East during these difficult times.

Finally, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this call for a boycott damages the reputation of British academia in the eyes of the wider world.3

Balance and cooperation

There are two narratives concerning the tragic history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both have verity, yet they are recounted as if one had the monopoly of truth. To accept one side only and delegitimise Israel shows either ignorance or malice. For a balanced account interweaving the competing narratives I commend City of Oranges, which tries to look at the history of Jaffa, a microcosm of the wider conflict, from both sides.4

Instead of boycott, might I suggest a more constructive approach, emulating my late brother, David? David died eight years ago while president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. His last act was to establish a sick children’s clinic in Gaza. His family continue this legacy through the David Baum International Foundation at the college. Like David, I believe passionately that we can all do our bit for peace by building bridges between British, Israeli, and Palestinian academics and physicians. Through this collaboration and dialogue the health and welfare of all will improve, leading to increasing mutual respect and trust; sowing seeds for a peaceful solution ahead of any “road map.”

However, if you still support the boycott, remember to stop using laptops with Pentium processors, and do not transfer files using USB hub drives, both of which are the fruits of Israeli academic inventions.



1. Blachar Y. Medical ethics, the Israel Medical Association, and the state of the World Medical Association; IMA president’s response to the open letter in the BMA. BMJ 2003;327:1107.[Free Full Text]
2. Lord Adonis. House of Lords Official Report (Hansard) 2007;Jun 18:col 10.
3. Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.
4. LeBor A. City of oranges; Arabs and Jews in Jaffa. London: Bloomsbury, 2006″

Written by modernityblog

24/07/2007 at 00:39

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Foaming or Debke

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There will be plenty of foaming at the mouth from the advocates of “Boycott Israel”, “Deconstruct Israel” or “One State, what is Israel?” at the recent news of some Israelis’s new Guinness book of world records entry, Haaretz reports:

“Israeli Arabs from across Israel danced their way hand in hand into the Guiness Book of World Records on Sunday after they held the largest and longest group performance of the “Debke” dance inside the walls of the Old City of Acre.

A record 2,743 people danced for seven minutes straight holding hands in a human chain that stretched down Hagana Street in Acre’s famed Old City, smashing the previous record of 1,700 set in Toronto a few years ago.

The Debke is a six-step dance that is performed while holding hands in a line. For years it has been a mainstay of weddings and communal celebrations in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and even Turkey and Iraq.

The record-setting event, broadcast live for two hours on the cultural events channel of the Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera, was the first time in history that any Israeli Arab has entered the Guinness Book.

Participants came from over 30 Debke clubs located all over Israel, with shuttle busses bringing them from as far as Rahat in the Negev and villages on the Lebanon border.

Asad Zarik, 73, came from his village of Ilabun, a “Debke powerhouse” in his words, where he said students come from all over the Galilee to study the dance. Zarik said that today the dance has become almost exclusively an elderly pastime, as most youths prefer to dance more modern steps.

Yihye Abu Juma’ah of Dir-al Assad, a coach for 12 Debke troupes, was in charge of organizing Sunday’s record-breaking dance routine. He stated that the dance is over 500 years old and that to his knowledge there are no Jewish dancing troupes in Israel that perform the Debke, only distant variations on the Arab folk dance.

In keeping with Guinness regulations, two civilians were appointed to judge the competition, including popular Israel Radio Arabic-language host Iman al-Kassem Suleiman, who said there was no way he could miss the event, and that the dance is “an indelible part of the Arab culture, and if we can make the Guinness Book of World Records, it is proof that we are not only part of Israel, we are part of the world.”

(hat tip: Bissli)

Written by modernityblog

23/07/2007 at 14:23

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Any Taliban Groupies About?

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Supporters or sympathisers of the Taliban’s campaign in Afghanistan must be very proud of their “anti-imperialist” heroes.

For the latest daring escapade of the Taliban, the Guardian reports:

“The Christian aid workers including 18 women were abducted from a public bus travelling from Kandahar to Kabul on one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous routes. They included nurses and English teachers in their 20s and 30s. They apparently tried to disguise themselves by wearing all-covering burkas.”

Still after the numerous Taliban attacks on schools and murder of teachers and school students, it won’t find it too hard to kill some foreign nurses.

The Feminist Majority Foundation have produced a timely reminder of the Taliban’s treatment of women.

Written by modernityblog

23/07/2007 at 02:24

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Open Thread for Avi

with 6 comments

One of my few commenters, Avi, is a veritable whirlwind and I would freely admit that I can’t keep up with his output.

Under WordPress many comments have to be moderated, and it is a bit of a chore for me, so I prefer discussing matters on other sites (HP, Shiraz Socialists, etc), it is a bit easier on my poor mind and fingers.

However, as this approach doesn’t seem to be acceptable, I have created a thread just for Avi and his comments.

Please feel free to contribute.

I shall pass a jaundiced eye across it once in a while, but I find the stream of consciousness type of discussion not to my taste, I prefer to discuss tangibles and specifics, but don’t let me stop you from having a good rant.

Written by modernityblog

22/07/2007 at 19:11

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Site(s) of the Week/Month 24

with 5 comments

Picking sites is difficult but two recently made that choice slightly easier.

Good history web sites are rare, so with pleasure I present:

The Best of History Web Sites

My second choice is very topical, and I think that nearly all antiracists and antifascists will appreciate it.

The David Irving trial, where he chose to sue Professor Deborah Lipstadt for libel, opened many people’s eyes to the lies and falsehoods that he and many others had put forward, equally it showed the shift in the techniques employed by antisemites, such as Irving. The trial demonstrated that antisemitism is not static, it changes it evolves and the lies become more insidious and take on new forms.

Until that point some historians had even given Irving the benefit of the doubt, after the trial is that was no longer possible as his slippery, utterly dishonest and pro-fascist methods were open to full scrutiny.

Through very hard work the thousands of pages which comprised the original trial had been correlated together and are presented at:

Holocaust Denial on Trial

Highly recommended, along with Professor Richard Evans‘ book on the trial, Lying about Hitler which summarises many of Irving’s numerous lies and deceitful practices.

Written by modernityblog

22/07/2007 at 02:55

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If You Had Your Time Again?

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I am not much in to philosophical points (as I am frequently told) but after coming across this web site, I had to ask myself:

if I had my time again, what would I study?

I’d like to have tried philosophy instead of wasted hours down the pub, twiddling with computers or partying the night away, ahh well, if I get stuck nowadays I know where to look:

The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

so on that vein, what would you study if you had your time again?

(hat tip: Jeff Ketland)

Written by modernityblog

21/07/2007 at 00:40

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Julius Exposed

with 16 comments

I have been asked by one of my rare readers, Alec, to provide some quotes and links for material for Julius Streicher’s Der Stuermer.

I hope that some of my newer readers (Avi and Cian) will digest much of that disgusting imagery and reflect on their own complacency.

Julius Streicher is a strange individual, apparently he was a junior or kindergarten teacher. He was eventually marginalised by competing Nazis and captured by the Allies in 1945.

Background to the filthy rag.

HDHU Collection

Visualizing Otherness

German Propaganda Archive covering 1933-1945

Der Stuermer 1928-1932

Der Stuermer 1933-1945

The Internet Archive’s selected copies of Der Strumer seems to be off line.

That’s about all my stomach can take, for now.

PS: just to preempt the obvious and simplistic comments,

No, I don’t think that antisemitism is up to the levels of the 1930s, but you can see some themes coming through in modern propaganda whose heritage is clearly shown in the vile antisemitic imagery of bygone ages. Antisemitism is an evolving political ideology, it has taken on new shapes, co-opted new ideas (9/11, etc) and shouldn’t necessarily be judged by the crude benchmarks of 1930s Germany.

Written by modernityblog

18/07/2007 at 15:48

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Stop Stoning Forever Campaign

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The Stop Stoning Forever Campaign is a very worthwhile cause:


The objective of this campaign is to change the Islamic Penal Code of Iran such that stoning will never again be issued as a sentence or practiced as a punishment.


Stoning is a punishment for adultery decreed by the Islamic Penal Code of Iran. Most of the victims are women. In December 2002, Ayatollah Shahroudi, the Head of Judiciary ordered a ban on the practice of stoning. However, rumors about executions by stoning continued to be heard around the country. In May 2006, a man and woman were executed in Mashhad. In June 2006 in Evin prison, Tehran, a woman named Ashraf Kolheri was handed an official notice that gave her 15 days notice of her execution by stoning. Consequently, a large group of women activists wrote a petition to Ayatollah Shahroudi asking him to commute her sentence; the parliament representatives were copied on the letter.

Meanwhile, the Network of Volunteer Lawyers initiated a search for people sentenced to be stoned within the prisons of the country. After two months of research, 9 women and 2 men were identified – some of those cases were critical. Some members of the Network of Volunteer Lawyers decided to represent these 11 prisoners to save their lives.

The Stop Stoning Forever campaign has begun through the coordinated efforts of some women’s non-governmental organizations, a group of women activists and the Network of Volunteer Lawyers. “

Written by modernityblog

18/07/2007 at 00:19

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Innovation in Recycling

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There’s no stopping the north Americans.

First there was Al Gore, then there was carbon footprints and now the most unlikely of Hollywood celebrities, Paris Hilton, is doing her bit for the environment

Technical difficulties with recycling that dog other countries are brushed aside in America, their energy and focus is phenomenal.

Nothing stands in their way, recycling is taken to the next level, as Yahoo News reports:

“LOS ANGELES – An empty can of gourmet dog food taken from Paris Hilton’s trash fetched $305 in an eBay auction. The sellers were from the Web site, which also listed several other Hilton items for sale on eBay.

A used toothbrush sold for $305; two envelopes sent to her while she was in jail sold for $510; and a Coke can pulled from her trash went for $51.”

Now that is the free flea market at work! Buy them at your peril from Hollywood Star Trash

Never let it be said that Americans are nothing, if not inventive.

Written by modernityblog

15/07/2007 at 18:03

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Howard on MP3

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Howard Jacobson’s speech at the Engage Meeting of 11th July 2007 can be found here, and an MP3 containing just the speech is here.

The file is copyright of Engage, and was created as an MP3 as a public service for those unable to watch the original online version.

Update: Engage and Little Atoms have done a fine job of creating MP3s for all of the speeches from the meeting, they are here

Written by modernityblog

13/07/2007 at 03:47

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