ModernityBlog

“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

An Onion to Weep For?

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Radio 4’s book of the week is a selection of extracts from the autobiography of Gunter Grass, an interesting listen.

Written by modernityblog

13/07/2007 at 00:56

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Spell Out the Objections

with 33 comments

One of my very few commentors responded to my previous blog, on what appeared to be a rather callous remarks about the reporting of antisemitic attacks.

I am not particularly interested in discussing Nick Cohen’s dining habit or the Littlejohn programme, as I haven’t seen and probably won’t.

I want to concentrate on the issues of the reporting of antisemitic attacks.

I think it is perfectly possible to have political debates over the nature of the conflict in the Middle East and acknowledge that physical attacks are taking place on Jews at higher levels than have for years. They are two separate issues, one is political and the other is concerning empirical data.

So let’s look at some of the comments:

1. “Well it would help if somebody commissioned a reliable and objective report into anti-semitism.”
2. “The parliamentary enquiry was notable primarily for using reports compiled with dubious methodology, by bodies with a vested interest in hyping the problem. ”
3. “Nor do I consider any commission chaired by Denis MacShane terribly credible on anything connected to Israel, which this was.”

Who exactly would commission such a report? If it were remotely connected to anyone Jewish, they surely Cian, you would object?

There have been many criticisms of the Parliamentary Inquiry, but could you show one professional criticism of the methodology? Which you term as “dubious”?

Are you suggesting that any commission, which is remotely connected, to Israel is somehow contaminated? Or bound to lie because it is made up for Jews?

The thrust of your arguments seems to disparage any reporting on antisemitism, and as far as I can see you, Cian, haven’t criticised any other form of hate crime reporting? If you have, please provide evidence?

Please spell out your points, Cian, strictly on the reporting, let’s not get side tracked into discussing Israel, for the moment.

Written by modernityblog

12/07/2007 at 18:21

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The Daily Mail and Campbell

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Thanks to mreugenides for pointing me towards the Daily Mail headline generator and Alastair Campbell’s Wheel of Retribution

Written by modernityblog

12/07/2007 at 13:32

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Reaction to Littlejohn

with 9 comments

There is considerable controversy over the Littlejohn programme on antisemitism, I won’t comment directly on the programme as I haven’t seen it and probably won’t, but I can comment on the reaction to it.

By accident yesterday I found myself on an Irish blog, Splintered Sunrise which has a strange parody of Littlejohn’s programme, scanning through the comments I noticed the particular gem:

“Ryan Says: July 10th, 2007 at 1:04 am

Funny stuff, but at the end of the day you’re still essentially downplaying anti-Semitism. Is it not a problem? I guess maybe it isn’t in the Norn Iron, where the Unionists think they have the same religion as Jews or whatever, but IRL (or at least in France), it’s not that funny.

splinteredsunrise Says: July 10th, 2007 at 7:25 am

Thing is, in Britain anti-Semitism is very very marginal these days. I don’t think it helps for Zionists to pretend it’s absolutely prevalent in society. If you read the Jewish Chronicle, you would think that British Jews were cowering under their tables waiting for the next pogrom.

Actually, and I’m not denying that fringe Islamist groups often are anti-Jewish, I’ve found when talking to Muslims that even when they’re strongly anti-Israel they’re quite likely to express admiration for Jews, and wish that Muslims had their success in British society.”

You might be shocked that someone would downplay antisemitism, but is it because they’re ill informed, uneducated or not particularly interested in the subject? It is hard to say, but its interesting to see how such people react to empirical data, and in the Internet age it is hard to claim ignorance of the topic.

How do they excuse away the hard evidence of increased attacks on Jews?

Let’s take a look, despite the efforts of one blogger

bruschettaboy said… “There is some evidence that anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise in the UK, particularly last year during the Lebanon war – it’s not just paranoia…”.

The twenty-two comments at Aaronovitch Watch suggest that anti-Jewish racism or attacks on Jews is a bit of a non issue for most of the commentors, some examples:

“Jews are clearly a special case, as there are so few of them who could research and present a tv programme. [/sarcasm] If there is this widespread anti-Semitism, I’d be a lot more convinced if, to pull a name at random from the beginning of the alphabet…”

and Cian: “I mean it could just be paranoia, with no justification. Attacks on Jewish targets seem to be very low in comparison to attacks on other groups (Gypsies say…)…”

splinteredsunrise: “AFAICT the Community Security Trust, when it reports rises in “violent antisemitism”, is none too particular in distinguishing between things like assaults on Jewish people (rare) and minor property damage caused by teenage yobboes (much more common). “

now you might suppose that this is fairly minor and callous stuff, not untypical of the Internet?

Well you would until you realise that most of these people probably consider themselves to be anti-racists, are University educated and might think of themselves as socialists.

Would they downplay racist attacks on any other ethnic/social/religious minority?

Unlikely and yet these commentors find it very easy to largely dismiss the statistical and physical evidence of anti-Jewish racism.

Is it the case that some anti-racists are against all forms of racism, except when it pertaining to Jews?

I find that peoples’ reaction to antisemitism tells us a lot about their current thinking: do they oppose it, are they indifferent or ignorant of it?

I think that the commentors might want to reflect on their commitment to antiracism, and if it is more than skin deep?

Perhaps they should re-evaluate their attitude toward Jews.

In another post, I hope to look at the level of anti-Jewish attacks, frequency and how they are reported.

Written by modernityblog

10/07/2007 at 15:44

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Stamp Out Privatisation

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Privatisation was in vogue in the late 1980s and 1990s, but by 2007 it is a discredited motion, instead of cumbersome public monopolies, we now have expensive private monopolies with sometimes arbitrary pricing and little of the supposed benefits of privatisation.

The next victim of privatisation seems to be the Post Office, the postal service has diminished in the last 20 years and throughout the country post offices are closing.

I think it is self-evident that most countries accept the social benefits of a well funded public postal service, without which the vulnerable will receive less help, those isolated will find it more difficult and staff within the Post Office will be increasingly demoralised and service deteriorated as a result.

This is not a recipe for good quality social infrastructure in the 21st century.

I could say many more things, but I probably rant on and on. I believe in a public postal service run the public good, so I wholeheartedly support the postal workers union in their action to defend services.

I’m grateful to Unknown Conscience for the JPEGs.

Written by modernityblog

10/07/2007 at 04:02

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Site(s) of the Week/Month 23

with 4 comments

A mix bag of sites, for the budding historian the CIA’s Family Jewels at the National Security Archive or at the CIA’s FOIA Electronic Reading Room.

I like Latin music and whilst fiddling about with my DAB radio I 
ran across this great station, the Jazz

Want “alternative” news from the Middle East ? there’s a new one about Press TV

Its blurb says “PRESS TV is the first international Iran-based news network to broadcast in English on a round-the-clock schedule.”

Hmm, read President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rants up close? how interesting

Written by modernityblog

08/07/2007 at 19:04

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That’s Alright, Keep Your Guns.

with 4 comments

I had not intended to blog on Alan Johnston’s release as so many people have covered this topic and with greater clarity then I could hope for, but an item caught my eye in the Times:

“…But by 3am the negotiations had again hit a stalemate: Mr Dagmoush was afraid that if he disarmed, enemy clans with whom he and his men had longstanding blood feuds would swoop on them. In the end, Hamas agreed that the kidnappers could keep their weapons – if they used them against Israel – and that the Islamic movement would protect them against their enemies. Still, Mr Dagmoush hesitated.

Both sides finally agreed to bring in an outside mediator. The only man they could mutually agree on was Salman Dayeh, a 49-year-old independent religious cleric who teaches Sharia at the Islamic University.

“He is known for his justice and fair dealings all over the Gaza Strip. He was the only person who could command the respect needed to end this crisis,” said Abu Khatab, an uncle of Mr Dagmoush who served as one of his chief advisors during the negotiations.

Mr Dagmoush asked the cleric one question: “What is God’s opinion regarding the abduction of this journalist?” Sheikh Dayeh recalls his answer: “According to religious law the answer is clear: his freedom has to be returned to him. Keeping him in captivity is against religious law.” The answer amounted to a fatwa, or religious order. Mr Dagmoush found himself backed into a corner.

Certain members of Mr Dagmoush’s family, including Abu Khatab, had been pressing him to release Johnston. Their reasoning was partly financial: the family’s arms smuggling business had been boycotted by some of its best customers because it was holding the British journalist….”

The Dagmoush clan kept their weapons, gun running and criminal operations.

Hamas are happy for this band of thugs and brigands to keep their weapons as long as they are aimed at Israelis. Hmm, yeah, sure they want peace? Oh yeah.

Johnson’s release should heighten our concern for Gilad Shalit, a new blog is dedicated to him.

Written by modernityblog

07/07/2007 at 02:05

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Say No to Racist Motions

with 8 comments

I am disgusted that my old trade union, the T&G, has passed a boycott Israel motion at its biannual conference.

Trade Unionism in Britain has been declining for years, and the political posturing which is integral to these odious boycott Israel motions will bring trade unionism into disrepute.

Trade union membership in Britain stands at about 29.9 per cent of employees, according to government figures for 2005.

1 in 3 employees in a trade union? Not quite as most trade union membership is now concentrated in the public sector, there are whole swathes of industry without trade union representation.

Trade unionists should be concentrating their energies on making unions relevant, not passing racist boycott motions.

Not that the decline in TUs will particularly trouble the political cranks and fanatics behind the boycott Israel campaign, to them trade unions are just a means to an end.

So if there is further decline in TU membership, as a result of these racist motions or if Jewish trade unionists leave the Labour movement finding it an uncomfortable place, then the boycotters will simply shrugged their shoulders and look for another vehicle for their obscene obsessions.

Trade unions in Britain should be encouraging links between Israelis and Palestinians, alienating Israelis will not help the Palestinians. Palestinians need support from British and Israeli trade unionists to rebuild their civil society and do away with the gun culture and corruption, which has infested it for far too long.

Links not boycotts are the way.

Update: HP covers the issue, and I’ve clarified my thinking since yesterday, when I was a bit annoyed.

The question becomes: how best to argue against a racist boycott of Israel?

Firstly, it is counterproductive and a bit silly, call to everyone (at the moment) goes along with a boycott an “antisemite”, if you wish to convince people and win them over to the anti-boycott case, then screaming “antisemite” or “neo-Nazi” at them, is the worst thing you could do.

I would suspect that the vast majority of delegates that went along with this motion thought that it might help the Palestinians (that may seem silly to us here, but that’s another issue)

So in arguing against the boycott with sincere and decent trade unionists I think the first approach should be: how does a boycott actually help the Palestinians?

Secondly, to explain, without inflammatory language, why a boycott of Israel is racist

Thirdly, to suggest positive moves which the trade unions could do to help both Israelis and Palestinians. And to emphasise that trade unionism is built on solidarity, building links between people, not alienating them or attacking them, directly or indirectly.

That’s a more sensible approach, rather than throwing a fit or screaming at trade unionists.

The people behind the boycott campaign are a bunch of malicious politically motivated cranks, but the wider audience is not, and shouldn’t be treated the same.

Slow and steady arguments will win over people, hysteria won’t.

Written by modernityblog

05/07/2007 at 01:13

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