What's Happening In Palmyra Is As If Muslim Fanatics Had Seized The Louvre
"La folie barbare de l'Etat islamique" in Palmyra (Tadmor) should be understood as akin to the Islamic State seizing the Louvre, and destroying what it contains (except, of course, for the soi-disant "Islamic art").. But in a half-century, or possibly before, if the demographic situation in France is not dealt with, could this not happen?
"Middle Eastern Crime Gangs Main Players in Australia's Illegal Tobacco Boom".
'Middle Eastern Crime gangs are behind the massive boom in the illicit tobacco market in Australia.
'The gangs are flooding our cities with illegal cigarettes and tobacco as they seek to cash in on smokers looking to save money on the black market.
'Figures reveal a huge increase in the importation of ilelgal cigarettes and "chop chop" tobacco via sea and air over the past year.
'The chief executive of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Roman Quaed-Vlieg, said authorities were now contending with "more players" in the black market, with increasing numbers of criminals attracted to the lucrative business.
"Certainly, onshore, the people who are involved in the Australian end of the importation are ethnically-based crime gangs and predominantly Middle Eastern", Mr Quaedvlieg said.
I doubt that they're Jewish. I'd be surprised if those engaged in this activity turned out to be mostly of culturally-Christian backgrounds - though there might be some. So what belief system is most likely to have shaped the character and attitudes of those engaged in all this criminal activity? - CM
'Chop-chop bound for Australia usually comes from Indonesia (and which belief system suffuses the culture and society there? - CM) while the millions of illicit cigarettes that enter the country come from the UAE.
That is, from the overwhelmingly-Muslim Emirates. - CM
'Between July and December last year, authorities made 27 detections of chop-chop, weighing 69 tonnes, in sea cargo.
'Almost all of the tobacco entered Australia through Melbourne and Sydney ports.
'In the same period, 16 million cigarettes which entered the country via sea cargo were seized.
'The amount of illegal tobacco being smuggled by air also shot up dramatically, with more than 500 detections in the last six months of 2014, including 7 million illegal cigarettes.
'The same period the year before saw only 190 detections.
"We recognise this problem", Mr Quaedvlieg said. "It is a priority and we are dealing with it. We are seeing the same scattergun phenomenon which we see in the importation of drugs, with illicit tobacco.
"We are seeing scattergun imports across air cargo, international mail and travelling passengers. The air stream has become an efficient and fast supply chain."
'Australian authorities are working closely with overseas agencies and big tobacco companies to try to clamp down on illicit tobacco smuggling. "We are being a lot more active with our overseas partners", Mr Quaedvlieg said.
"I have recently talked to my counterpart in Indonesia, the Director-General of Customs and Excise. We talked about information sharing and operational activites."
Good luck, if you think that Muslim Indonesia or Muslim UAE - societies suffused with Islam and riddled with corruption - can be trusted to make any real effort to stop Muslims from their countries pouring illicit drugs into Infidel Australia in order to enrich the Ummah in Australia.
And besides illegal tobacco, there is "ice". Cops from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad just made a huge drug 'bust' in Sydney.
"Six Men Allegedly Involved in Major Sydney Drug Syndicate Arrested in Police Operation.
'Six men have been arrested as part of a police operation targeting an alleged major drug syndicate in Sydney's west.
'Detectives and the NSW Tactical Operations Unit arrested three men aged 17, 18 and 21 at a car park in Wentworthville and another three men aged 19, 24 and 30 at Merrylands, on drug and firearms-related offences.
'After the arrests, detectives and riot squad officers (observe the use of the riot squad? - CM) carried out eight simultaneous search warrants at properties in Millers Point, Rozelle, Pemulwuy, Arncliffe, Guildford, South Granville, and two in Canley Vale.
'Police conducted extensive searches of the properties, during which they located and seized three kilograms of the drug ice along with firearms, and more than $100,000 in cash. A number of vehicles were also seized during the raids.
'Hurstville police Commander Peter McErlain said the syndicate appeared to be behind a major supply of the drug ice.
'Ice dealers, they devastate families, they disrupt our children", Commander McErlain said. "They just damage lives and careers of people. It's just a damaging drug."
'Violent' syndicate operated for six months, police say.
"To have this amount of the drug ice off the streets is a very, very significant milestone for us. Our colleagues in the FBI in the US refer to ice dealers as two-legged rats and I probably think they're being too kind."
'The detectives were part of Strike Force Dawed, which included officers from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, which was set up in February to investigate the alleged supply of prohibited drugs throughout Sydney.
That sentence is a little unclear. It is Strike Force Dawed which was set up in February; not the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, which has been going for a good deal longer; which was, in fact, created in response to the very particular type and intensity of crime that began to proliferate after the number of Muslims in Australia - mostly from the Middle East, notably Lebanon - simply exploded, from the late 1970s onward. For more on that topic, see former cop Tim Priest's classic article, "The Rise of Middle Eastern Crime in Australia", which would have been more accurately titled had it been called "The Rise of Muslim Crime in Australia" - CM
'Commander McErlain said one of the men arrested would be accused of a shooting in Wentworthville in March in which another man was shot in the lower leg with a shotgun.
"It would show the propensity of violence that these people were considered using just to protect their drug franchinse", he said.
"It is a fairly significant disruption of a violent criminal syndicate which has been operating certainly in the south-west and north-west [of Sydney] for over six months."
'Commander McErlain said it was a major operation and there could be more arrests to follow.
'"We're certainly looking for a number of other members of the syndicate, and investigations will continue until they're arrested."
Now, there are bad apples in all barrels. I stand prepared to correct as required, should some of those arrested in these latest raids turn out to be non-Muslim Aussies. But bitter experience, in Australia and in the UK and across Europe and in the USA, is showing that as soon as one has a largeish colony of Mohammedans one finds that a significant percentage of them seem to get involved in criminal activity, much of it 'organised' (extortion, fraud, drug smuggling, car rebirthing), and often accompanied by extreme violence. Which is not so surprising once one stops and reflects that Mohammed and his 'companions', once they really got going, made a living from armed robbery and slave-trading, and that the dhimma system is basically an extortion racket. - CM
Col. Kemp’s Bar-Ilan U. Speech: The International Media’s Amoral Campaign against Israel
Col. Richard Kemp CBE, Begin Sadat Center, May 19, 2015
On May 19, 2015, Col. Richard Kemp CBE gave a speech at the Begin Sadat Center of Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. The prior day he was awarded an honorary degree by Bar Ilan. Col. Kemp was the former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan who subsequently worked with the UK Joint Intelligence Committee and later the British Cabinet national crisis group on counter terrorism. He has testified as an expert witness defending Israel before the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict and the UN Human Rights Council on the controversial Goldstone Report. Col. Kemp has been a much sought after speaker on Israel and the IDF roles in the three Gaza wars with Hamas , the most recent being Operation Defensive Edge in 2014. Those talks have addressed IDF purity of arms military doctrine, false accusations of excessive civilian collateral casualties and Hamas’ use of human shields. He has frequently appeared as an expert military analyst on media in the US and UK regarding Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. However, with the exception of FoxNews, he has not been invited to discuss the case for Israel’s operations against terror proxies, most especially Hamas in Gaza.
To fight for Israel on the international stage is also to fight for the values of democracy, freedom of speech and expression, and civilized social values everywhere. Unfortunately, the morality and values of the West have been transformed and undermined over the past thirty years almost beyond recognition. Judeo-Christian principles of honesty, honor, loyalty, family values, patriotism, religious faith and respect for the state have all been eroded; whereas negative values, such as the acceptance of betrayal, duplicity and deceit, have flourished. The Western media is chiefly culpable in advancing this deleterious values transformation. And this transformation is the basis for the growth of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist perspectives, and anti-Israel narratives.
Col. Kemp started by drawing attention to his days as an student cadet at Sandhurst , the UK equivalent of West Point . They studied the Israeli victories in several wars, notably the June 1967 Six Days of Wars and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. He also drew attention to his youth when the common perceptions in Britain were that the Israelis were David fighting the Arabs, depicted as Goliath. These were traditional set piece battles and wars, albeit with unconventional, yet successful strategies by the IDF. Hence, the compelling reason why during his Sandhurst years, study of Israeli military campaigns was part of the mandatory curricula. As he noted in his speech that seemed like ages ago. Unfortunately that paradigm has flipped. Currently, the media has reversed that stance and consider the IDF the new Goliath ‘occupying’ disputed territories fighting Iran-backed Hezbollah, Hamas and Salafist terrorist groups falsely depicted as the new David. He chastises the media for creating this amoral inversion of roles compounded by deceit and deception. Fighting this antagonistic view of Israel perpetuated by victimhood portrayals of Islamist terrorists in the Western media is the crux of the political warfare. Kemp believes Israel must defeat this in the court of world opinion to regain its previously well regarded moral position.
Note these excerpts from Kemp’s address.
Why the perceptions of Israel versus Arab/Islamist enemies have reversed:
All that has changed about this has been that Israel has made repeated costly concessions, including giving up land, for peace. Concessions which have not been reciprocated by the Palestinians, but instead exploited at the grave expense of Israel. Concessions which have not been acknowledged or remembered by the international community, who, like the Palestinians, simply and uncompromisingly demand more and more and more and more.
Nor have the Arabs fundamentally changed. We have of course peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. And the growing threats from Iran and from expanding Sunni jihadism may be leading to some temporary and below the radar mutual cooperation from parts of the Arab world.
But the underlying perspective and agenda, especially among the Palestinians, is the same as it was in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Rejection of Jewish communities in the land of Israel. The destruction of the Jewish State.
In my view if such events as the Gaza conflict last summer were played out in the 1960s and 70s, the support for Israel in the West would have been greater than it was even then. The savage and murderous actions of the Palestinians are far more shocking today.
So I again ask the question, what has changed? And the answer is: The morality and values of the West. They have been transformed almost beyond recognition.
The underpinnings of the reversal are erosion of values:
The 80s ushered in the insidious campaign of political correctness and moral relativity that has over the last 30 years gripped and taken over so much of our society.
Balanced, level-headed, impartial reporting in our media has been replaced by sensationalism as the purpose of mass media has swung from informing, educating and edifying to making money – and only too often to making the news rather than just reporting it. These negative and destructive values are being promoted constantly in the media.
Why the media has painted Israel as the proxy for the US:
Israel has increasingly become a proxy for the United States, for three reasons.
Firstly, the US President and the US Government is at present left wing and liberal and thus harder for left-wing liberals to attack. Second, Israel is smaller and more easily bullied and impacted by corrosive media sniping than is a superpower. Third, Israel can be portrayed as a Western colonial outpost in a rightfully Arab world.
These three things are underpinned by a pervasive and increasing anti-Semitism which intensifies the obsession with Israel and its portrayal as a true evil to be attacked at every possible opportunity.
This contrasts with the post-Colonial guilt …. combined also with a frequent desire to appease violent Islam and promote its cause and values as being superior to our own and certainly to Israel’s.
Any anti-Islam comment or perspective cannot be tolerated, while anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist and anti-Israel perspectives are all acceptable and encouraged.
How Hamas and the PA manipulate conflicts for maximum media impact:
Hamas and the other Palestinian terror groups don’t use human shields in the hope that Israel will refrain from attacking their rocket launchers, weapons dumps, command centers, terrorist bases or tunnel entrances. They use human shields in the hope that Israel will attack and kill their people
They do this for one purpose: to gain the global condemnation of the State of Israel.
Their particular target is the media, which they know will magnify and intensify their message to the world and force national governments, the UN, human rights groups and other international organizations to bring down unbearable pressure onto Israel.
Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have a similar strategy. Their violence is of a different nature. Incentivizing terror by paying terrorists and the families of terrorists killed or imprisoned for attacking Israelis. By inciting anti-Israel hatred through speeches, newspapers, broadcast media, school textbooks and school teachers.
The next stage for the Palestinian leadership of course is to exploit anti-Israel pressure through the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the European Union, the universities, businesses, trade organizations and now even FIFA.
It is the media, the agents of moral relativism, the tools of the Palestinian leadership that are Israel’s enemies in this conflict today. They can win over not just Western leaders but the public who are imbued with the new morality.
What Kemp thinks should be the offense in the media political war:
The offense in this form of political warfare is in exposing the bias, distortions, and untruth of the media. This is much more difficult but it is vital. As in all forms of war, the best form of defense is attack. Without effective offensive action our defensive work will succeed much less and can never produce decisive results.
Some good and vital work is already being done by a range of groups. But their effects remain limited. This campaign has had much tactical success and needs to continue and if possible to intensify. But so far there has been no real strategic impact. Nothing that has forced major media networks to fundamentally re-think their anti-Israel agenda.
Of course strategic effect requires strategic assets. And by strategic assets I mean the combination of significant funds, concerted and sustained will and large-scale, thoroughly planned and carefully-focused effort. The challenge is of course immense, and as with any battle, there is no guarantee of success.
As for myself I have gone through the transmutation from Infantry officer to fighter in this new form of political warfare.
A London cab driver has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 38 years for the murder of a US soldier in a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2007. Anis Sardar, 38, from Wembley, built bombs as part of a conspiracy to kill Americans fighting in the country.
Sardar showed no emotion as Judge Mr Justice Globe told him he must be detained for "an extremely long time".
...handing down his sentence at Woolwich Crown Court, the judge rejected Sardar's defence that he had been involved just once in bomb-making to protect the Sunni community. He said: "I am satisfied that at the material time of the offences you had a mindset that made Americans every bit the enemy as Shia militias. Both were in your contemplation at all times."
Mr Justice Globe described the bombs built by Sardar and his co-conspirators as "professionally made" and "in effect landmines".
The judge told Sardar that Sgt Johnson, a family man with two young children, had been described by his commanding officer, Major Eric Adams, as showing "deep compassion" in leading his platoon.
US Army Staff Sergeant Mark Aggers, (left - with Globe J) who served as a gunner on the Stryker, gave evidence. He was left with serious shrapnel wounds, while three further servicemen suffered concussion.
Prosecutor Max Hill QC read a short message from Sgt Johnson's widow Claudia in which she said: "Thank you so much, it's a big relief to know that justice has been served. However, it does not change much for us. Randy will be greatly missed."
Historian Alain Besançon: Throughout History, Muslims Have Never Blended In With The Surrounding Population Of Non-Muslims
In every land, at every period, that Muslims have conquered, they have subjugated the non-Muslim population, and converted or expelled-- quickly or gradually -- the non-Muslims. They are at this moment finishing the job, killing or expelling or making life so unpleasant and insecure that many will leave, in Iraq and Syria, and the Christians of Lebanon have been much diminished, and had Al-Sisi not rescued them, or at least been doing the best he can, the Copts would be fleeing Egypt by the millions instead of, as now, by merely the hundreds of thousands.
The observations, with a long historical perspective, of the historian Alain Besançon, has been re-published here.
Alain Besançon, a celebrated historian (primarily, but not exclusively, of Communism), has written a book -- that has just appeared -- on the subject of comparative religion and, above all other religions, that fanatical faith and immiscible population fof True Believers -- that is, Islam and Muslims.
Here is a link to the short form of Zemmour's review. When the full review is made available to non-subscribers to Le Figaro, I will post it.
I learned decades ago that the African rulers and their courtiers in East Africa were wittily referred to by locals as the "waBenzi" or "people of the Mercedes Benz."
Erdogan, who has built himself a 1,150-room palace, is not against extravagance, as long as it is his or that of his courtiers. And one of Erdogan's courtiers is the current Director of Religions Affairs, Mehmet Gormez, who saw fit to have the government pay $384,000 for his very own Mercedes. An outcry followed; Gormez promised to return it; now Citizen Erdogan, who is also Padishah of all he surveys, has promised to supply another.
These are the waBenzi of Turkey, a country that has been descending into something like the sub-Saharan countries where the waBenzi were first identified and appositely named.
A high-ranking Iraqi government adviser claims that the "Coalition Forces" (that is, the Western allies, above all the Americans, who, to help Iraq, have been steadily bombing the Islamic State)deliberately gave weapons to the Islamic State, thereby helping in its takeover of Ramadi.
Make of this not what you will but what you should.
Anis Abid Sardar, 38, convicted of murder and conspiracy to murder relating to series of improvised explosive devices planted in Baghdad in 2007.
Anis Abid Sardar, 38, was found guilty of the plot at Woolwich Crown Court today in a landmark legal ruling after a deadly campaign to kill US soldiers fighting in Iraq. Sardar, from Wembley, was responsible for the death of 34 year-old Sergeant First Class Randy Johnson, of 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment.
A bomb he had built had hit the armoured vehicle Sgt Johnson was travelling in after Sardar's lethal weapons were planted in or around the road west out of Baghdad in 2007, the court heard. The black cab driver built bombs as part of a "deadly" campaign to kill Americans fighting in the country.
Sardar, 38, was snared some seven years later after officials at the FBI's Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Centre (Tedac) found his fingerprints on some of the bombs. In 2012, officers who were searching his London home as part of a separate investigation found an Arab language bombmaking manual with references to Islam on a computer disc.
Police and prosecutors have not clarified how the British and American authorities worked together to identify Sardar as a suspect. It is believed that this is the first case of someone being convicted in the UK for crimes carried out in Iraq.
The defendant originally denied to police that he had been 'directly or indirectly' involved in bombmaking. But on the second day of his trial he admitted that fingerprints found on two of four devices linked to the case were his.
Denying all the charges against him, he told the jury that he became involved in the Iraqi insurgency to protect his fellow Sunni Muslims from Shia militias. He claimed American soldiers had not been his targets, blaming instead "the likes of Dick Cheney, George Bush and Tony Blair" for their deaths.
A jury of seven women and five men took 11 hours and 16 minutes to find him guilty of murder and conspiracy to murder.
The defendant remained calm as the verdicts were read out.
The judge said he would sentence Sardar at 10am tomorrow.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) jihadists executed a group of pro-Assad regime fighters, beheading some of them, after seizing Palmyra with its ancient ruins, according to reports and pictures from the town.
A picture sent by activists to a Western journalist showed a row of men in a street in Palmyra - known locally by its Arabic name Tadmur - lying in a pool of blood. At least four of the men had been decapitated.
Other activists in the town told contacts elsewhere that the dead men were members of the Shaitat tribe, an anti-Isil Sunni clan from eastern Syria.
In a separate report, the anti-Isil activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said that the group had executed another member of the Shaitat tribe from Abu Hamam town in Deir Ez-zour province with a rocket-propelled grenade. The jihadists were shown laughing and cheering as one of the men lectures the young man, tied to a pole, then retreats and fires the bazooka. They then kick the body of the man, named as Ibrahim Shraideh.
Assad regime troops fled Palmyra on Wednesday evening in the face of a concerted Isil attack that had seen hand-to-hand fighting earlier in the day. Troops were withdrawn from round the ancient Greco-Roman ruins which made Palmyra famous around the world. Isil moved into the site around midnight, according to reports and a statement on pro-Isil social media.
There were no claims yet that Isil had started to damage the site. However, one of its most prominent features is the Temple of Baal, which would be regarded as idolatrous and thus a prime target for the jihadists.
It's easy to spot overt calls for censorship from the commentariat. Those have become more common in the wake of both tumultuous events (like the violence questionably attributed to the "Innocence of Muslims" video, or Pamela Geller's "Draw Muhammad" contest) and mundane ones (like fraternity brothers recorded indulging in racist chants).
But it's harder to detect the subtle pro-censorship assumptions and rhetorical devices that permeate media coverage of free speech controversies. In discussing our First Amendment rights, the media routinely begs the question — it adopts stock phrases and concepts that presume that censorship is desirable or constitutional, and then tries to pass the result off as neutral analysis. This promotes civic ignorance and empowers deliberate censors.
Fortunately, this ain't rocket science. Americans can train themselves to detect and question the media's pro-censorship tropes. I've collected some of the most pervasive and familiar ones. This post is designed as a resource, and I'll add to it as people point out more examples and more tropes.
When you see the media using these tropes, ask yourself: what normative message is the author advancing, and does it have any basis in law?
Trope One: "Hate Speech"
Example: "hate speech is excluded from protection. dont [sic] just say you love the constitution . . . read it." CNN Anchor Chris Cuomo, on Twitter, February 6, 2015. Example: "I do not know if American courts would find much of what Charlie Hebdo does to be hate speech unprotected by the Constitution, but I know—hope?—that most Americans would." Edward Schumacher-Matos, NPR, February 6, 2015.
In the United States, "hate speech" is an argumentative rhetorical category, not a legal one.
"Hate speech" means many things to many Americans. There's no widely accepted legal definition in American law. More importantly, as Professor Eugene Volokh explains conclusively, there is no "hate speech" exception to the First Amendment. Americans are free to impose social consequences on ugly speech, but the government is not free to impose official sanctions upon it. In other words, even if the phrase "hate speech" had a recognized legal definition, it would still not carry legal consequences.
This is not a close or ambiguous question of law.
When the media frames a free speech story as an inquiry into whether something is "hate speech," it's asking a question of morals or taste poorly disguised as a question of law. It's the equivalent of asking "is this speech rude?"
Trope Two: "Like shouting fire in a crowded theater"
Example: " There is no freedom to shout 'fire' in a crowded theater." Prof. Thane Rosenbaum, Daily Beast, January 30, 2014.
That flourish — now usually shortened to "shout fire in a crowded theater" — is the media's go-to trope to support the proposition that some speech is illegal. But it's empty rhetoric. I previously explained at length how Holmes said it in the context of the Supreme Court's strong wartime pro-censorship push and subsequently retreated from it. That history illustrates its insidious nature. Holmes cynically used the phrase as a rhetorical device to justify jailing people for anti-war advocacy, an activity that is now (and was soon thereafter) unquestionably protected by the First Amendment. It's an old tool, but still useful, versatile enough to be invoked as a generic argument for censorship whenever one is needed. But it's null-content, because all it says is some speech can be banned — which, as we'll see in the next trope, is not controversial. The phrase does not advance a discussion of which speech falls outside of the protection of the First Amendment.
Trope Three: "Not all speech is protected"
Example: "Not all speech is protected by the First Amendment." Ann Coulter, Townhall, August 2, 2001.
Example: “Not all speech is protected if there is hate speech and it is intended to ridicule another religion,” he said. “I don’t believe it is a free speech matter.” Archbishop Paul Coakley, quoted on FoxNews.com, August 8, 2014.
The media routinely prefaces free speech discussions with the bland and inarguable statement "not all speech is protected." That's true. In fact it's not in serious dispute. The problem is that the media routinely invokes this trope to imply that the proposed First Amendment exception it is about to discuss is plausible or constitutional because other exceptions already exist. Not so. Though First Amendment analysis can be complicated at the margins, the core exceptions to First Amendment protection are well-known and well-established. The Supreme Court — in the course of rejecting a proposed new exception — articulated them recently:
"From 1791 to the present," however, the First Amendment has "permitted restrictions upon the content of speech in a few limited areas," and has never "include[d] a freedom to disregard these traditional limitations." Id., at 382-383. These "historic and traditional categories long familiar to the bar," Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of N. Y. State Crime Victims Bd., 502 U. S. 105, 127 (1991) (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment)–including obscenity, Roth v. United States, 354 U. S. 476, 483 (1957), defamation, Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343 U. S. 250, 254-255 (1952), fraud, Virginia Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U. S. 748, 771 (1976), incitement, Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U. S. 444, 447-449 (1969) (per curiam), and speech integral to criminal conduct, Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., 336 U. S. 490, 498 (1949)–are "well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem." Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U. S. 568, 571-572 (1942).
The observation "not all speech is protected" adds nothing to a discussion because it offers no mechanism for determining whether the speech at issue falls into a traditional exception or not.
To see what I mean, consider the utility of equivalent rhetoric. You've been bitten by an unfamiliar snake, and you'd like to know if you need treatment.
You: Doctor, was the snake that bit me poisonous?
Doctor: Actually snakes are usually venomous. Though some are both venomous and poisonous.
You: Great. What about this snake here? I caught it in a bag for you to look at.
Doctor: There are both harmless and venomous snakes in North America.
You: Yes, thank you. Which is this?
Doctor: That snake has rings!
You: Yes. Yes it does.
Doctor: Some venomous snakes have rings.
You: Is there anyone else on duty I could see?
Trope Four: "Line between free speech and [questioned expression]"
Example: "Texas Shooting Sheds Light On Murkiness Between Free, Hate Speech." NPR.com Headline, May 5, 2015. Example: "Texas attack refocuses attention on fine line between free speech and hate speech." LA Times Headline, May 4, 2015.
Journalists and pundits talking about free speech disputes love to frame their stories as being about "the line between free speech and X," where X is the controversial expression in question.
Too often, though, the "line" is invoked to imply a nonexistent legal distinction. The "line between free speech and hate speech" rhetoric from the examples above is misleading and meaningless because, as noted in Trope One, "hate speech" is not a legal thing. "The line between free speech and bullying" — another recently popular line — is another example. It implies, falsely, that there is a legally meaningful category of speech called "bullying" that lies outside of First Amendment protections. In fact there isn't — there are traditional exceptions to free speech (true threats, for instance) and some of that conduct could sometimes be described as "bullying," but that's not the same thing.
"The line between free speech and X" is often the rhetorical equivalent to "the line between vegetables and rutabagas": the author doesn't have a coherent argument that rutabagas aren't vegetables, but doesn't like rutabagas and thinks you shouldn't either.
Trope Five: "Balancing free speech and [social value]"
Example: "The incident raised heated questions about race relations — and how to balance free speech with protection from discrimination and harassment." Washington Post, March 3, 2015.
The media's love of "balancing" stories is a variation on its love of "line between" stories, only more misleading.
The First Amendment's guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it. The Constitution is not a document "prescribing limits, and declaring that those limits may be passed at pleasure." Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 178 (1803).
Courts occasionally engage in something that faintly resembles "balancing" when they apply different levels of scrutiny to speech restrictions. For instance, the Supreme Court said that Congress could prohibit the burning of draft cards because the government had a substantial interest in the draft system and the law was narrowly addressed to that legitimate interest, and aimed only at the non-communicative element of the conduct (destroying the card) and not the communicative aspect (doing so to protest the draft). But that analysis doesn't purport to assign a value to the speech. It considers only whether the government has a sufficiently compelling interest in its goal. Moreover, there's very good reason to doubt that the Supreme Court would ever approve a speech restriction that is content-based — that is, premised on dislike of the speech — no matter how strong the government's interest. The Court has repeatedly rejected calls to do just that, and a focus on the content of disfavored speech (when it's not within an established exception) is almost certainly fatal to the proposed restriction.
Example: "It’s not free speech. It’s bullying and intimidation. It’s a horror show." Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, February 17, 2015.
The First Amendment is, in a way, categorical: there are well-defined categories of speech that are not protected, as I discussed above. But media commentators often abuse categorical thinking by inventing new categories of speech outside the First Amendment. "This isn't free speech, it's hate speech." "This isn't free speech, it's discrimination."
The trope can be used correctly — "this isn't free speech, it's an unprotected death threat." But usually it's not. Usually it's invoked as shorthand for "I don't want to address First Amendment analysis so I'm just going to say in conclusory fashion that it doesn't apply at all."
Our response to the trope should always be the same — does this supported not-speech category exist, and is it one that's actually outside the First Amendment?
Trope Seven: "Fighting words"
Example: "There are two exceptions from the constitutional right to free speech – defamation and the doctrine of “fighting words” or “incitement,” said John Szmer, an associate professor of political science and a constitutional law expert at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte." McClatchy.com, May 4, 2015.
No discussion of controversial speech is complete without some idiot suggesting that it may be "fighting words."
In 1942 the Supreme Court held that the government could prohibit "fighting words" — "those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace." The Supreme Court has been retreating from that pronouncement ever since. If the "fighting words" doctrine survives — that's in serious doubt — it's limited to face-to-face insults likely to provoke a reasonable person to violent retaliation. The Supreme Court has rejected every opportunity to use the doctrine to support restrictions on speech. The "which by their very utterance inflict injury" language the Supreme Court dropped in passing finds no support whatsoever in modern law — the only remaining focus is on whether the speech will provoke immediate face-to-face violence.
That's almost always irrelevant to the sort of speech at issue when the media invokes the trope.
Trope Eight: "[Professor] explained . . . ."
Example: "The exhibit of cartoons in Texas might have crossed the line, [Professor] Szmer said."
The media loves to quote a professor to support a viewpoint. This is intellectually neutral: it can be good or bad, depending on the honesty and qualifications of the professor selected.
Quoting professors about law is particularly risky, if your aim is an accurate and informative discussion of free speech law. If you call a physics professor and ask them what will happen if you drop your pencil, and why, he or she will say "it will fall, because of gravity." There is a relatively low chance that the professor will tell you "well, maybe nothing will happen" because he or she harbors the belief that the current gravitic regime is unfair and otherwise problematical. But when you call a professor of law, or political science, or journalism, and ask them a question about whether some controversial speech is protected by the First Amendment, there is an unacceptably high probability that you will get a quote expressing what the professor thinks the law ought to be. Sometimes the professor will flag a statement as an argumentative one, sometimes not. Moreover, some professors . . . . how can one put this delicately? Some law professors' views on how a court is likely to rule on an issue are untainted by exposure to actual courts.
Many professors will give you a sober, accurate and well-informed assessment of how a court would likely approach a given free speech situation. The trick is separating those professors from ones who are out of their field or mere advocates.
Trope Nine: "This speech may be protected for now, but the law is always changing."
Example: "'The way we interpret the constitution is always changing. The supreme court can change the rules, and does do so,' he said." The Guardian, quoting Eric Posner, May 6, 2015.
When existing American law clearly protects questioned speech, the media sometimes resorts to finding someone to say "the law can change, and maybe it should."
Yes, American law can change. Constitutional interpretation can change in breathtakingways inside a generation.
But the United States Supreme Court has been more consistently protective of free speech than of any other right, especially in the face of media sensibilities about "harmful" words. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are universally reviled and held up as an example of the worst sort of speech; the Court found their speech protected by a margin of 8-1. The Court struck down an overbroad law prohibiting "crush videos" of animals being killed by the same margin. There is no sign of any movement towards the proposition that speech may be restricted because it is hurtful or disfavored — the sort of speech that provokes this banal media observation that law changes.
I abominate smoking and I do not grow or sell tobacco, nor do I have any shares in tobacco companies. During my medical career, I discouraged (not very successfully, I fear) all my patients from smoking, using all the usual arguments.
Nevertheless I was startled by a figure in a recent article in the British Medical Journal titled How the tobacco industry refuses to die. It was a Venn diagram in which the costs and benefits of smoking in the UK were displayed. On the benefits side was a smaller grey circle marked £9.5 billion. On the costs side was a vividly multi-coloured circle marked £12.9 billion.
The text of the article, however, said that the Exchequer received £10 billion in excise duty on cigarettes and a further £2 billion in VAT on cigarettes. British American Tobacco paid £1.45 billion in taxes, and if Imperial Tobacco paid taxes pro rata according to its profits, it would pay £0.7 billion. In other words, the figure in the benefits circle should have been at least £14.15 billion. This does not include the benefits of employment by the industry and - horrible to relate - the reduction in pensions that have to be paid to those who die early as a result of smoking. This would be an unpleasant figure to calculate, but if we are talking of economic costs and benefits it ought to have been included.
There is another difference between the economic costs and benefits of smoking as laid out in the BMJ. The economic benefits are certain - presumably the amount of taxes paid by smokers and the industry is known with a fair degree of accuracy - but some of the costs are highly speculative. Nearly two thirds of them are 'cost to business of smoking breaks' (£5 billion) and loss to productivity due to premature death (£3 billion). Do only smokers get breaks in industry and private enterprise, then? If people stopped smoking, would they cease to need breaks? Considering that during the infamous 3-day week, production was 80 per cent of what it was during the 5-day week, how confident can we be that the figure of £5 billion represents any reality? And note that the costs side of the equation includes costs to production but the benefits do not include the lower pension payments.
I still dislike smoking. But let us permit or prohibit it on grounds other than economic, and let us, if we must consider its economics, do so honestly.
A Walthamstow jihadi who fled to Syria to join so-called Islamic State (Isis) has published recruitment propaganda promising Western coffee and chocolate. Abu Rumaysah al Britani, 31, was on police bail after being accused of inciting terrorism when he travelled to the Middle East in September.
In the 46-page document, he described transport options, the weather and even the chocolate available to people who join Isis. Yesterday he released 'A Brief Guide to Islamic State’, which was shared by supporters on social media, in an attempt to encourage people to join the terrorist group. He wrote: “Snickers, Kit Kat, Bounty, Twix, Kinder Surprise, Cadburys - yes, yes we have it all. . . the caliphate serves some of the best lattes and cappuccinos around.
"If you thought London or New York was cosmopolitan then wait until you step foot into Islamic State because it screams diversity."
Describing the weather in the warzone, he writes: “As it stands the Caliphate offers an exquisite Mediterranean climate that has all the makings of a plush holiday resort.” The journal includes details of where to purchase Chinese motorbikes for $500 and promises travel by Zeppelin and hovercraft in the future.
Rumaysah concludes with a warning to the West.
He wrote: "When we descend on the streets of London, Paris and Washington the taste will be far bitterer because not only will we spill your blood, but we will also demolish your statues, erase your history and, most painfully, convert your children who will then go on to champion our name and curse their forefathers.”
The basis of intelligent education of the young is based on the conviction that the more educated rightly possess the authority to decide what should be taught to the uneducated. And this the social engineer Najat Belkacem, so baselessly sure of herself, rejects, as part of her war on soi-disant intellectual elitism that, of course, makes for inequality. Students are not equally gifted, and to make schools into extensions of the dreary social engineering that requires, at all costs, Equality -- it never happens and never can happen, but that's another matter -- and to make decisions as to the curriculum on the basis of this, or that, fostering "equality" rather than being judged on other, more appropriate, criteria -- this is beyond Moroccan-born Belkacem, who shows no gratitude for having been raised in the superior civilization of France, but behaves as if she is uninterested in France and wants only to make sure that the particular object of her solicitude, Muslims liviong in France, will feel themselves protected from subjects inimical to them -- such as Medieval Christianity and the French Enlightenmentt -- while the French students will not only find it harder, or possibly even impossible, to study the history of their own country, and their own civilisation, and will also be deprived of the possibillity of studying Latin and Greek, subjects that are a natural part of the study of Western language, Western literatures, Western philosophy, Western history, but not of Islam. And finally, she would like to force French students to study Islam and its history, but that study will have to be of a sanitized Islam, and a sanitized history of Islamic conquest, for how else would any teacher in France dare to present it, given what Muslim students might do?
Najat Belkacem is expressing an attitude not uncommon today, one that has been expressed most memorably long before, by concolorous Caliban:
You taught me language; and my profit on't
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you...
Which dictator does Erdgoan most resemble? In his comical mauvais-gout building of a palace, he reminds me of Nicolae Ceausescu, who-- unlike Erdogan -- lived in a comparatively modest home (I once visited it, and admired the chemical laboratory his wife, who had pretensions as a scientist, had set up) but did order the construction of his excruciating
palace of the people. On the other hand, in his comical dreams of glory, his swaggering, his endless rhodomontade, he reminds one of Idi Amin -- as channeled by Alan Coren in The Bulletins of Idi Amin.
Yes, a cross between Nicolae Ceausescu and Idi Amin -- that's Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mshari Al-Zaydi writes for a Saudi-backed newspaper. Arab News, based in London. He's one of the best of the Arab journalists trying to make sense of Muslim Arab behavior without, however, dealing forthrightly with what is in the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira. He knows that there is something wrong with the general atmosphere in which both Sunnis and Shi'a breathe, though he chooses to limit his indignation to the Islamic State and to the "Khomeinist regime" which feed on hatred of one another. Destroy ISIS, he says, and Iran will have been deprived of its rationale for interventions (in Syria, in Libya and, even, one assumes, Lebanon), and the "Khomeinists" can be destroyed. In his penultimate sentence, he refers to the problem of the atmosphere in which Sunnis and Shi'a alike are raised:
"What remains after these obstacles are removed is the ideology of terror itself; in essence it concerns one’s reasoning, upbringing, and culture."
But from where do Muslims derive their "reasoning, upbringing, and culture" if not from that overwhelming fact of their existence -- Islam, Islam, Islam. Non-Muslims can scarcely gauge the effect of Islam on the minds of its adherents. But Mshari Al-Zaydi can. He surely knows that Islam itself remains, for Muslims and non-Muslims, a permanent problem, based on texts deemed immutable or long ago settled in their meaning, with centuries of commentary to back them up and prevent the implausible "re-interpretations" that some -- it could be Mustafa Akyol, still defending Islam in Turkey, or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, pretending to wonder if somehow Islam can be subject to "reformation" -- still suggest is possible. Islam not only explains the violence of Sunni against Shi'a and Shi'a against Sunni, but more importantly, is the sour c e of the violence and aggression (including non-violent aggression, of the most dangerous because least recognized kind, directed at non-Muslims). The duty of Muslims is to engage in the struggle, or Jihad, to make sure that Islam spreads, and then dominates, everywhere.
Mshari Al-Zaydi is coming to that understanding. But he cannot state forthrightly, or even obliquely allude to this publicly? How, given his upbringing, his life, his position, could he? For the highly intelligent Muslim who cannot abandon Islam, the faith -- and the need to keep defending it, somehow -- has become his mental and emotional burden. He hasn't the mental freedom of the apostate or, of course, of those of us who were not, thank god, born into Islam and consequently, have no need to twist ourselves into mental knots.
On the Passing of Professor Robert Wistrich: Magisterial Scholar of Global Antisemtism
Professor Robert Wistrich (1945 – 2015)
Professor Robert Wistrich passed away suddenly yesterday of a heart attack in Rome at the age of 70. As noted by his colleagues at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP):
He was in Rome to address the Italian Senate on the rise of Antisemitism in Europe--speaking out, as he consistently did, about the inescapable lessons that history has taught.
Wistrich was a member of ISGAP's International Academic Board of Advisors. This summer, he planned to be a key member of the faculty of the ISGAP Summer Institute for Curriculum Development in Critical Antisemitism Studies, which will take place at Hertford College, Oxford and assist college and university teachers develop Antisemitism courses to be taught at their home institutions.
Wistrich was born April 7, 1945 in Lenger in what was then Soviet Kazakhstan to parents who had fled Poland at the start of the Nazi invasion in 1939. When his family was repatriated to Poland in 1946, the oppressive Antisemitism drove them first to France and ultimately to England. The Times of Israel obituary published today noted his education and early academic research:
At the age of 17 Wistrich won an open scholarship in history to Queens’ College, Cambridge, eventually earning his masters degree in 1969, followed by a doctorate at the University of London in 1974. During his university years he founded a literary and arts magazine.
Between 1974 and 1980, he worked as director of research at the Institute of Contemporary History and the Wiener Library and was then appointed a research fellow of the British Academy. In 1982 he was given tenure at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Wistrich was the renowned scholar of European and Global Antisemitism who produced seminal major works on Jew Hatred. He was the Neuberger Professor of European and Jewish at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the head of the University’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and editor of its annual research Antisemitism International. Wistrich had been a member of the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission delving into the controversial role of the Vatican regarding its role in the fate of European Jewry during the Holocaust of WWII. Wistrich’s enduring scholarship is reflected three enduring works: The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph; A Lethal Obsession (O.U.P., 1989); Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (Random House, 2010) and From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews and Israel (University of Nebraska, 2012.
When we interviewed him, see our collection The West Speaks (NER Press, 2012), he considered these the most seminal of his vast oeuvre. Wistrich’s family background was indicative of his lifelong professional interest in the examination of Antisemitism. As he explained it his parents were born prior to WWI in the Galician province of then Austria-Hungary. They fled Cracow, Poland on the first day of Hitler’s invasion of Poland and lived in Soviet Kazakhstan until their repatriation to Poland in 1946, bringing with them their baby son. Wistrich’s original leftist background was noted by Australian- Israeli columnist Isi Leibler in a 2012 Jerusalem Postreview of From Ambivalence:
His father had originally been a supporter of the illegal Polish Communist Party in pre-war Krakow but became alienated from Stalinist communism after being arrested by the NKVD. He and his wife, who had experienced bitter Polish anti-Semitism, survived the Holocaust by fleeing to Kazakhstan, where Wistrich was born.
He was educated in England, and to use his words, was “radicalized” in grammar school and later at Stanford University. He first visited Israel in 1961, returning in 1969 when he was appointed editor of the left-wing Israeli journal, New Outlook. However his passion for the Jewish state led to a parting of the ways with the Israeli far left.
Robert became increasingly engaged in academic scholarship related to anti- Semitism, received a senior appointment at the Hebrew University, and is now recognized as the world’s foremost scholar in the field.
When we asked about why Antisemitism had persisted over two millennia, Wistrich replied:
Ultimately, Antisemitism exists because the Jews are considered a “chosen people,” an anomaly, and an exception that defies all the known “laws of history.” They should have disappeared but they did not; they are influential beyond their numbers; and they are God’s “special treasure.” That arouses envy, perplexity, anger, hatred and sometimes even exaggerated love. Whether we like it or not, we’re struck with the label.
On the matter of persistent Anti-Semitism in the EU amidst rising émigré and native born Muslim populations, he said:
Antisemitism in Europe today is different from what it was 70 years ago. There is some continuity on the populist Right with the old-style racist/ultranationalist desire to exclude foreigners and Jews, but the hysteria about Israel has helped turn more liberals and leftists towards anti-Jewish ways of thinking; and Muslim resentments about the West as well as their own social alienation reinforce the long standing anti-Jewishness in their religion and culture.
On liberal Jewish alliance with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign isolated and delegitimizing Israel, Wistrich replied:
The BDS Movement is in my view exclusionary, discriminatory and anti-Semitic in its consequences – whatever the motivation of its advocates. So “liberal Jews” who support it are betraying heir principles as well as aiding and abetting an insidious form of racism and double standards!
On the threat of Islamization to the EU and America, Wistrich observed:
Islamization stands in flat contradiction to Western Civilization to Western Civilization today. If it expands, it would be a death –warrant for individual liberties, free speech, and freedom of criticism, democracy and the rule of law – all of which owe much to the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Wistrich drew attention to the dominance of the Organization of Islamic cooperation isolating Israel at the UN:
The causes are mainly political. There are 22 Arab States and nearly 60 Islamic states, but only one Jewish State. Ganging up on Israel at the UN is an easy way of avoiding the real issues of Human Rights; Anti-Jewish Bigotry at the UN carries no price and is a function of Israel’s isolation, the tyranny of the automatic majority and Third World resentments against the West.
Wistrich paid tribute to Bat Ye’or and other noted non-academic scholars of Islamic Anti-Semitism:
The scholars you mention have made a contribution by pointing to the darker corners in Islamic attitudes to the Jews which others sought to avoid. There is too much conformism in Academia when it comes to treating the record of Muslim Antisemitism.
Watch these ISGAP lectures and recent UN address by the late Professor Wistrich:
Click here to watch Professor Wistrich address students and community members at Columbia Law School in November 2014.
Click here to watch Professor Wistrich inaugurate ISGAP's program at the Sorbonne in December 2014.
Click here to watch Professor Wistrich address the United Nations in February 2015 on the global rise of Antisemitism. Wistrich noted that with the rise of deadly attacks against the Jewish community, the international community must join together to eradicate Antisemitism worldwide.
The upcoming trip of Pope Francis to Cuba will raise significant issues concerning the future of Cuba in the last days of the Castro regime, but, more importantly, concerning the pope’s relative treatment of questions of human rights and wealth redistribution. He has been outspoken in support of both and wrote a rather turgid book about St. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998, which resulted in some liberalities for the Catholic clergy in that country, but little else. As an Argentinian and a Jesuit, this pope evidently feels keenly the problems of socioeconomic inequalities in Latin America, is troubled by the tendency in many of those countries to restrict human liberties, and is very mindful of the Jesuits’ history in Latin America. The Society’s objections to the most savage excesses of the Spanish and Portuguese colonists played an important role in the Order’s being shut down from 1773 to 1814 (other than in Prussia and Russia, or more precisely Poland, where the Jesuits were protected by Catherine the Great).
It should become clearer whether the pope’s apparently somewhat undiscriminating endorsement of problematical initiatives like the framework for an agreement on Iranian nuclear weapons, the recognition of the state of Palestine, and resumption of normal relations between Cuba and the United States indicates naïve hopefulness or tactical public-relations sophistication, or a combination of both. The pope has long been a critic of the sort of severe inequalities of wealth that have plagued Latin America, though he has been studiously vague about how to deal with the problem. There have been times when it was possible to believe that he was prepared to saw the baby in half and allow the Left to do what it wanted with people’s wealth — as if this were a zero-sum game and giving the disadvantaged half the assets of the rich would be a quick and fair fix — as long as the rule of impartial law respectful of human rights replaced the Left’s customary totalitarian despotism. Pope Francis’s recognition that economic growth is essential to increased and more generously distributed prosperity has flagged at times (though not more than President Obama’s). At least the pope has not tried to mire us in Pius XII’s chimerical corporatist third way between Communism and capitalism, or Paul VI’s addiction to centralized economic planning.
It doesn’t really matter that the pope has opposed the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, porous and easily circumvented through Mexico and Canada and other countries though it has been. But it is not publicly clear that he understands that the United States has had some legitimate grievances over these 56 twilight years of the Castros’ negative economic and human-rights miracle. Fidel Castro expropriated American assets in Cuba without compensation, and he did try to export godless, Communist guerrilla warfare and attempts at violent revolution around Latin America, most celebratedly through Che Guevara’s doomed guerrilla mission to Bolivia in the mid-Sixties.
The U.S. embargo, for which the pope habitually uses the term employed by Castro adherents, the “blockade” — as if the U.S. were physically preventing other countries’ goods from reaching Cuba — has served as an excuse for the economic disaster of the Castro regime, but that regime has been a perfect illustration, for American foreign-policy purposes, of the total failure of Communism in both economic and human-rights terms. It is all academic to the United States now, as the collapse of the Soviet Union meant the end of attempted geopolitical subversions in the Western Hemisphere from outside, and the United States has no direct interest in how the Latin American states are governed as long as no strategic threat to U.S. security arises from them. However, prosperity is obviously desirable, for general humanitarian reasons as well as to reduce the pressure of impoverished Latin Americans seeking entry to the U.S., and to give this hemisphere a stronger trading bloc opposite China, Europe, and Japan.
So far, the Castro regime has not followed through at all on President Obama’s confident assertion that his overtures would break the logjam of Cuban totalitarianism and begin a long process of normalization. The pope, while he may be acting from intimate knowledge of the impact on the Latin American masses of the spectacle of a puny little country like Cuba standing up to mighty America in the name of the little people in the hemisphere against the swaggering gringo — however far removed that is from the facts — will presumably want to know if Raúl Castro’s claim to be considering a return to Roman Catholicism after a lapse of nearly 70 years will be translated into greater freedom in Cuba, especially religious freedom.
In particular, during the four months until the pope’s visit, we shall see whether the Cuban regime releases political prisoners; curbs its ubiquitous denunciatory Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; stops trying to intimidate the brave Ladies in White (relatives of political prisoners who demonstrate every Sunday despite often severe physical intimidation); and accords Cubans freedom of dissent, public criticism and media comment, foreign travel, pastoral religious activity, and access to the international Internet. The pope, and Catholic opinion generally, would also be gratified if the display, in the Museum of the Revolution in Havana, of the burlap bag in which Che Guevara’s body was returned from Bolivia were modified so that it was no longer an obscene imitation of the Holy Shroud of Turin. The previous papal visits to Cuba, of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, were more deferential to this appalling Stalinist regime than they should have been by the normal criteria of papal accommodation of inimical governments. This pope knows a great deal more about Latin America than his predecessors, and his itinerary and public utterances will be instructive.
This will be a watershed for Pope Francis. He has been a public-relations genius in his two years as pontiff, and has struck from the hands of Catholicism’s enemies the bludgeon they had long wielded, representing the Roman Church as an anachronism of superstitious hypocrisy directed by septuagenarian celibates and deviants (or protectors of deviants) scolding the people of the world from an absurdly traditionalist perspective about their sex lives. Francis’s resonant “Who am I to judge?” — amplified by his emphasis on the fact that gays and the promiscuous have souls no less than anyone else and that it is the salvation of the human soul that is the Church’s purpose — has largely silenced those most vocal critics of the Church, without, to their consternation, the pope’s renouncing traditions or overly upsetting the arch-conservatives. The Church’s struggle against atheists has thus been recast as a contest between the world’s principal bearer of a spiritual tradition and advocate of the existence of a divine intelligence, against the forces of nihilism, uncompromising materialism, and paganism. This is a much more promising battle than the Roman Church’s long-running imbroglio with those who successfully portrayed it as an unlimited source of killjoy humbug pretending that the implications of the sexual act had not been modified by advances in contraception.
The fear lingers that Pope Francis is not just agile, but facile, as in his hopeful exhortation to Mahmoud Abbas last weekend — as he gave the Palestinian leader a medallion of the angel of peace — “May you be an angel of peace.” That is hopeful indeed, given Abbas’s record as a terrorist and toady of the most odious Islamist governments, incanting the old Palestinian nonsense about the destruction of Israel and the right of return of millions of Palestinian fugitives and generations of offspring to Israel to swamp the Jewish state.
Beneath his bonhomous velleities, Pope Francis is obviously a very skillful operator walking a tightrope between engaging in tactical outreach and maintaining the direction of the ark bearing the Christian message. The virtuosity of this reconciliation of his roles as practical navigator and pillar of immutable Christian tenets has given Pope Francis a prestige that clearly exceeds that of any of the world’s current secular leaders.
His visit to Cuba in September, unless the Castros really have been inflamed by the grace of religious and philosophical conversion, will require him to demand change in Cuba, where all polls indicate that he and his faith are held in much higher regard than the Castros and their raddled and blood-stained Communist party.
If the Castros do not move toward greater freedom for Cubans at this very late date, the Cuban government will present an irresistible and extremely vulnerable target for this pope to attack as the bankrupt tyranny that it is, tottering to its end in brutal decrepitude.
An Islamic preacher has been banned from St James’ Park following concerns from the local community over his appearance at a conference.
Abdur Raheem Green, who has previously been barred from Arsenal Football Club’s Emirates Stadium, has been asked by Newcastle United not to attend the North East Islamic Diversity Centre’s event Against Racism, Against Hatred this Thursday.
Labour peer Lord Jeremy Beecham was due to speak at the event but has withdrawn, while Newcastle based Rabbi Aaron Lipsey said ‘more thought’ should have been put into the speakers.
Muslim convert Abdur Raheem Green is known for preaching at Hyde Park corner in London. He is also chair of the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) which is continuing to be investigated by the Charities Commission over its governance, organising events and inviting external speakers.
However after concern from the local community, including local Jewish people, Newcastle United said they had asked him not to attend.
Emirates Stadium barred him from attending a conference there in 2012 after fans complained.
Event organiser Abu-Tayeb, of the North East Islamic Diversity Centre, said it would be a ‘great shame’ that Abdur Raheem Green would not be heard as he would have clarified statements made 27 years earlier which had caused offence.
A Newcastle United club spokesperson said: “Following concerns in the local community ahead of a privately booked event at the stadium on Thursday, we have made enquiries with the event organisers and have requested that a scheduled guest speaker is withdrawn with immediate effect and does not attend.
“Newcastle United is committed to championing inclusivity and equality in football and across wider society and we will continue to work closely with anti-discrimination groups, supporters and stakeholders to uphold community values.”
Rabbi Lipsey, Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation in Newcastle, said he had never intended on going to the lecture due to other commitments but that he would be ‘uncomfortable’ to share a platform with Abdur Raheem Green. He said: “He has made comments, none of which sits comfortably with any sort of liberal democracy. The aim of the conference is laudable - it’s clearly something that they want to address..."