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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Christians roasting on an open fire (but not at St James's, Piccadilly)

Sorry, I really shouldn't try to upstage the sublime Ed West...

For Israelis and Palestinians the quest to find a peaceful settlement in this tiny piece of land, only 1.2 Waleses in size, is a matter of life and death. For foreigners active in the conflict on one side or the other it is an obsession. 
I’ve always found it strange that people in the West are so fixated by the subject, especially now that the rest of the Middle East is filled with daily atrocities and injustices that dwarf anything in the Holy Land. 
In fact one of the few concrete benefits of the 2011 Arab uprisings is that there has been a marked decline in the number of people offering an opinion on Israel/Palestine. I know that 100,000 dead in Syria is a high price to pay for that, but I suppose we should look at the upsides. 
There are still a few, such as those people at St James’s in Piccadilly who, despite Christians in the Middle East suffering one or two more pressing problems, decided to construct a replica wall to protest against Israel. Of course the Israeli barrier is a serious problem for the Christians in Bethlehem, and people in Beit Jala now face losing their homes. But surely there is an issue of perspective this year at least? How would they show their solidarity with Egyptian Christians – by burning down the church?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ocean of light, ocean of darkness: Quakers and Islamist anti-Semitism

“I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.”

- George Fox

I heard the words above quoted last week at a Quaker funeral - my first, though I've been to ordinary Meetings for Worship. Beautiful words at a beautiful occasion - just the right send-off for a dear friend.

Because of that experience I'm less inclined than I might at other times be to dismiss this with a shrug and a weary "same old same old". Asked to describe the Quakers I spoke to or listened to, I might suggest "gentle, compassionate, principled, sincere, intelligent". Not one of them could I picture in a brown shirt trashing a synagogue.

So how has it come about that a respected Quaker charity has given six-figure funding to an organisation which harbours promoters not only of violent extremism but also of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories? What is it about Quakers and Islamism? What is it about Quakers and Israel?

These are not rhetorical questions but express genuine perplexity. Here, though, is amore rhetorical one. When Quakers meet Jews in the course of the interfaith work to which they are strongly committed, do they say something like "Oh, just so you're aware, we've given a load of cash to some people who think you lot were behind 9/11. We're sure you'll understand."?

I have three hypotheses, not mutually exclusive:-

1. There is a campaign being waged by an activist minority not representative of Quakers at large.

2. The steady drift away from Quakerism's Christian roots creates a creedal vacuum into which secular ideology rushes. I've noted before that the convictions of anti-Israel campaigners seem to resemble an ersatz religion in their own right.

3. Perhaps there is some kind of attraction of opposites going on, giving herbivorous Quakers a perverse fascination with religion in its most violent and intolerant manifestation.

But it still doesn't really make sense. And would not George Fox want to ask those who follow in his footsteps why they choose darkness over light?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

BBC: Wyred for balance

Remember Wyre Davies and his matter-of-fact reporting of the ethnic cleansing of 100,000 Tunisian Jews? Here's another little gem from him.

What does it take to get recognised as a terrorist organisation? Planting a bomb on a tourist bus might seem to place the matter beyond reasonable doubt, but our Wyre has reservations. His analysis in full:-
Long before this official report was released by the Bulgarian authorities, Israel had accused Hezbollah (and its principal sponsor, Iran) of being behind the Burgas attack.
Since the July 2012 bombing, Israel and the US have pressed European Union states to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation (denying it access to funding and other financial assets in Europe).

While some, including Britain and the Netherlands, might support such a move, other countries, such as France, oppose it. France counters that Hezbollah is a political and social as well as a militant organisation.

The French argue that proscribing it as an illegal terrorist organisation could destabilise Lebanon and its current coalition government, of which Hezbollah is part.
Just notice how the spineless British and Dutch do as they're told by America and Israel, whilst the bravely independent French have arguments for their position.

And I'm a Jew too!

Notwithstanding yesterday's rant on my other blog, I'm not giving up on this one. There's another admirable piece from Ruth Dudley Edwards, who has gone on the radio to make the case against Ireland's Israel-bashing Catholic aid agency, Trocaire. Would that we had someone as feisty and articulate as her on this side of the Irish Sea to take on Christian Aid. Note the generous state funding Trocaire, like Christian Aid, enjoys on the premise that it's dedicated to helping the world's poorest. As ever, leftist axe-grinders are drawn to the scent of other people's cash like flies to, well, you know what. Like Ruth I take the view that this is not what I pay tax for.

And again: either the Irish bishops are simply too punch-drunk to do their job properly and sort this mess out, or they actually approve of what's going on. Either way, scandalous.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Irish Catholic aid agency blurring the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism?

I haven't blogged very much here since I became a Catholic in 2011, and one of the main reasons was the feeling that Christian Aid had become someone else's problem, since the Catholic Church is not a partner of Christian Aid but has its own aid charity in England and Wales, Cafod.

If Ruth Dudley Edwards is to be believed, however (and I see no reason why she shouldn't be) Christian Aidism is alive and well in the Irish Catholic Church and its aid agency, Trocaire.

I'm not qualified to gauge how typical of Ireland such attitudes are. They do sound like an ugly mix of old and new, Right and Left. On the one hand the ancient strain of (pseudo-)theological Christian anti-Semitism which one would be less surprised to hear echoed by Richard Williamson and his followers. On the other hand, Christians me-tooing with a secular radical Left in which "anti-Zionism" is a badge of identity and extreme expressions of it have long since ceased to trigger unease.

As Dudley Edwards suggests, the demoralisation of the Irish bishops probably contributes to a situation where the idealogues in Trocaire have free rein to steer the organisation in a direction congenial to themselves. My impression is that Cafod is on a tighter rein - at least as far as this issue is concerned. It all underlines the importance of upholding the letter and spirit of Nostra Aetate, and we are very fortunate to have a Pope who is unequivocally committed to doing so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Why did they go?

How is Tunisia's now tiny Jewish community faring in the Arab Spring? The BBC's Wyre Davies has been investigating.

It's an interesting piece, but there's no escaping the BBC weltanschauung in anything that touches on Israel. Here we are being invited to contrast an Israeli minister (hysterically Arabophobic) with Ennahda leader Rashid Ghannouchi (moderate, reassuring).

Well, moderation is relative in Mr Ghannouchi's case, however regularly the Beeb bestows the epithet on him. Let's hope that in this instance he means what he says. And that the "general outrage" at extremists baying for Jewish blood (several thousands of them actually, and with Mr Ghannouchi in attendance, greeting the head of the Jew-killers of Hamas) will produce action to safeguard the Jewish community.

I'm particularly struck by Mr Davies' delicate tiptoeing round awkward historical facts. From 100,000 Jews in the 1930s to 2,000 now - why?
As in the rest of the Arab world, Tunisia's Jewish population crashed dramatically after the creation of Israel and subsequent Arab-Israeli wars - thousands emigrating to France or to Israel itself.

And that's your lot. Calls for a bit of explanation, doesn't it? What did Israel's wars have to do with Jews living at the other end of the Mediterranean?

It's no good asking Wikipedia, it's been Got At. When consulted today the "History of the Jews in Tunisia" was skipping seamlessly from the Holocaust to the Arab Spring. Fortunately there are other sources, one of them yielding this:-
After Tunisia gained independence in 1956, a series of anti-Jewish government decrees were promulgated. In 1958, Tunisia's Jewish Community Council was abolished by the government and ancient synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish quarters were destroyed for “urban renewal.”
The increasingly unstable situation caused more than 40,000 Tunisian Jews to immigrate to Israel. By 1967, the country's Jewish population had shrunk to 20,000.
During the Six-Day War, Jews were attacked by rioting Arab mobs, and synagogues and shops were burned. The government denounced the violence, and President Habib Bourguiba apologized to the Chief Rabbi. The government appealed to the Jewish population to stay, but did not bar them from leaving. Subsequently, 7,000 Jews immigrated to France.
In 1982, there were attacks on Jews in the towns of Zarzis and Ben Guardane. According to the State Department, the Tunisian government “acted decisively to provide protection to the Jewish community.”
In 1985, a Tunisian guard opened fire on worshipers in a synagogue in Djerba, killing five people, four of them Jewish. Since then, the government has sought to prevent further tragedy by giving Tunisian Jews heavy protection when necessary. Following Israel's October 1, 1985, bombing of the PLO headquarters near Tunis, “the government took extraordinary measures to protect the Jewish community.” After the Temple Mount tragedy in October 1990, “the government placed heavy security around the main synagogue in Tunis.”
If you feel my source is excessively biased I am open to comments providing alternative accounts.

So I leave you with this thought: Jews hounded out of their country as scapegoats for Israel's wars - for the BBC's Wyre Davies, apparently not a case of scandalous anti-Semitism but a fact of life requiring no elaboration or comment. After all, it's not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel, is it?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Those sectarian tensions in full

Following clashes between Christians protesting about the burning of a church (not such a very big deal surely - if it had been we'd have reported it) and the army, 25 people are dead. Not much we can tell you about who killed who, but we may be able to give you more details once the army have carried out their independent investigation. The Christians claim they were attacked, but they would say that, wouldn't they? Let's face it, there are usually faults on both sides when you get these sectarian tensions.

Thus, in substance, the BBC on Egypt's latest Bloody Sunday. The BBC can do better than this when it wants to. Where the Copts are concerned it apparently doesn't want to - and consistently hasn't wanted to in the face of all the outrages they have suffered over the last few years. Why not?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Anti-Zionism at the Proms: the Big Lie

Did you know that Max Bruch's Violin Concerto is a fiendishly cunning piece of Zionist propaganda? That anyone listening to it live is at severe risk of going home convinced that you can't do better than be beastly to Palestinians?

You'd better believe it, since to doubt this is to doubt that there was any justification whatsoever for the disruption of Thursday night's Prom by Palestine Solidarity Campaign protesters.

There are the usual objections to these people's perceptions and priorities to be made. One may strongly suspect, for example, that the Khartoum Philharmonic Orchestra, if such a thing exists, could have performed at the Albert Hall every summer for the past 30 years without moving them to take action. The state which has occupied Tibet since 1959 sends its circus on tour round Britain without fear of disruption.

But there is more. Let us allow, for the sake of argument, that Israel is indeed the Most Evil State On Earth. What is then to be said about disrupting a violin concerto as a means of protest?

It is asserted that the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is a tool of the Zionist propaganda machine. that (in the PSC's words) it shows "complicity in whitewashing Israel's persistent violations of international law and human rights".

Now please follow me closely at this point. The PSC is right to this extent: having an orchestra good enough to play at the Proms does indeed make Israel look better than it otherwise would. but the reason why this is the case is that the existence of such an orchestra is in fact a good thing, and being a good thing makes the country it belongs to really a better country than it would otherwise be. It is therefore not propaganda.

The man who tells you that a beautiful piece of orchestral music is a lie has not only failed to understand what beauty is. He has failed to understand what truth is. He is a philistine and, being a philistine, a liar too. If he is not conscious of lying, that is because he has drunk so deeply from the well of politics that he no longer recognises the distinction between a lie and a politically unhelpful truth. He has decided that there are so many bad things about Israel that it must not be permitted for there to be any good things about it. The IPO is a bad thing because it is a good thing.

The principle applies without exception - to the Berlin Philharmonic under Hitler, to the Leningrad Philharmonic under Stalin. I need hardly say that propaganda was integral to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. They shared a need to convince their citizens and the outside world of things which were not true. But the orchestras made music which was really and not just propagandistically beautiful and, I repeat, that was a good thing.

Of course I am not suggesting that the arts cannot be instrumentalised and manipulated by oppressive regimes (or indeed by comparatively benign ones). They can be given propagandist content - but come on... Bruch's Violin Concerto? They can also be used to try to establish "innocence by association". But the remedy for that is simply for the audience to decline to be manipulated. It really isn't difficult. In my time I've been to concerts given by Soviet, Iranian and Sudanese musicians. In each case I enjoyed the music, but did I come away with an enhanced regard for the regimes of those countries? What kind of fool do you take me for?

"The kind of fool who would go to the IPO Prom" must evidently be the PSC protesters' reply. So make that not just philistinism and dishonesty but arrogance as well. Ludicrous arrogance, given the demographic characteristics of your average Proms audience, and the audience's reaction on Thursday night suggests that the point was not lost on them. "We must control what music you are allowed hear because otherwise we cannot trust you to think the right thoughts about it": the thought is the one which invariably underlies totalitarinism, and anyone thinking it is unfit to be trusted with a seat on a Parish Council.

So much for the moral status of the protest. There remains the related but separate question of what crime protesters of this sort ought to be charged with. And specifically whether whatever it is should be considered as "racially aggravated". We have been here before, and the outcome was a depressing own goal.

I find Sheriff James Scott's remarks irritatingly bumptious in tone but he has surely judged rightly. I hope the doomed attempt at establishimg "racial aggravation" will not be played out again in a court in London and end up giving the PSC further cause for celebration.

The sustained campaign to portray the state created by Jews as uniquely oppressive and murderous is (since this portrayal is false) is racist in its effect and, whilst it is not necessarily racist in its motivation, almost inevitably leads to a blurring of the line between non-racist and racist motives and reasonings. But the attempt to pin a "racist" label on a single act of protest against the actions of a state is futile.

Imagine that there was a well-organised and vocal campaign to hold the People's Republic of China to account for its occupation of Tibet and oppression of the Tibetan people. Who knows, perhaps one day some members of the PSC will start one. Would we really want to see its supporters in the dock, facing charges of anti-Chinese racism on the grounds that they had unfairly singled the Chinese state out for criticism?

The "racial aggravation" charge here makes as much of an ass of the law as the proposition that, when a drunken oaf lurches towards a football manager with the alleged intention of assaulting him, the gravity of his offence should hinge on the question whether he called the target of his ire a "Fenian bastard" or merely a "f***ing w***er" (since apparently, in the eyes of Scotland's once highly regarded legal system, the latter lacks the potential to render the offence one "aggravated by religious prejudice").

I would respectfully urge Jews who believe good can come of recourse to such illiberal legislation to think it possible they may be mistaken. It forfeits the moral high ground and is pragmatically counter-productive to boot. It alienates those with a healthy distrust of restrictions on free speech. It closes down all possibility of dialogue with anti-Zionists who are genuinely innocent of racial motivation. As for the hope that some successful prosecutions will shame the hard Left into applying the canons of political correctness consistently, it is a vain one. When did they ever feel the need to be consistent? The clue is in the fisrt word of that phrase "political correctness".

No, let the Prom protesters' guilt be "aggravated" not by racism but by philistinism, barbarism, preening totalitarian arrogance and, last but not least, blasphemy against the God who has made beauty true and truth beautiful.