Greenbelt: British Christians, Syria And Assad

A yearly Christian festival has come in for criticism to the extent that Greenbelt felt compelled to put out a Statement on Israel/Palestine programming by Greenbelt. Whilst there is the broader question of, whether or not Westerners should be interfering in the Middle East, there should be no circumscription on criticising the human-rights record of any governments. Any.

cross1 There is much to criticise in the Middle East and the Israeli government is not immune from it. The continued occupation in the West Bank. The treatment of immigrants to Israel and the rise of right-wing racist ideas. However, we must not forget that it has been Israelis at the very forefront of these issues and opposing their own government.  That opposition takes various forms from the human-rights organisations, such as B’Tselem to Rabbis For Human Rights and beyond.

Where is it, Syria?

Except that Israel is not the only country in the Middle East.

Nor is it the only one connected to the Christian faith and therefore of interest to many Westerners or festival-goers at Greenbelt.

I could not help but notice a strange omission from the festival programme, any mention of Syria. Whilst it has slid down the news agenda, the 2½ year conflict involves many millions, with probably over 120,000 dead, millions of refugees flooding into neighbouring countries and it should deserve at least one word of commentary. I thought it was a peculiar oversight, but then, is it?

I wondered, could it be that those fixated with Israeli misdemeanours give the rulers of Syria an easy time? There is one whole article on the Greenbelt site relating to Syria, whereas the search result on “Israel” amount to 7 pages of searches, 63 entries.

A Hypothesis.

The  hypothesis, that strident and negative views on Israel would lead to a bias in reporting of the Middle East needed testing, the question was how?

Well, I supposed that choosing the most strident Christian critics of the Israelis I could think of might prove illuminating. Surely, I reasoned, they could not fail to indict Bashar Assad for instigating the conflict in Syria? Or using tank shells and aircraft on unarmed civilians?

All of this did not happen overnight. The conflict started in March 2011 when the Syrian government decided to shoot peaceful demonstrators. The Western media begun to document the abuse by the Assad regime, including disappearances and regular use of torture.

I thought that even the harshest adversary of the Israelis would not be so lopsided as to moderate their acerbic attitudes when it came to the quasi-dictatorship in Syria.
Continue reading

George Galloway “I don’t debate with Israelis”

I had always thought the George Galloway was a skilful, if devious and often nauseating, politician, but a recent video clip suggests he is none too smart, when caught on the spur of the moment.

Galloway can be seen storming out of a students’ debate saying “I don’t debate with Israelis” and more:

I wonder what the reaction would have been if he’d been a fringe UKIPer saying “I don’t debate with the French”? Hmm.

Update 1: Oxford Student covers it too:

“Mahmood Naji, who runs Oxford Debates and selected Galloway to speak, said before the event: “I chose Galloway because he is probably the most vocal and well-known voice on this issue.

“Oxford is an establishment that should prize free speech and open dialogue more than any other. This is the kind of institution that will put extreme or controversial views up to academic scrutiny and then shoot them down accordingly.”

Galloway has been consistently outspoken in his views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and in 2009 received a Palestinian passport from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas are considered a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU.

This was the second time this academic year that Galloway has visited Oxford. In October the former ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ contestant spoke at the Oxford Union, where he was met with protests by members of Oxford Feminist Network. These came after Galloway described allegations of rape facing Wikileaks leader Julian Assange as constituting “bad sexual etiquette”, but added “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion”. These comments led to the NUS passing a motion adopting a ‘no platform’ policy towards the MP.”

Update 2: Liberal Conspiracy has a thread on it, which I imagine will soon be overflowing with toxic comments.

Update 3: Galloway’s employer, Press TV, is more than happy to promote neo-Nazi views.

In this instance from 2011, arguing that the racist forgery, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, has a point:

“And as for the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and its Protocol Number 7, its statement that, “the press, which with a few exceptions that may be disregarded, is already entirely in our hands,” is only partially true.

Yes, Press TV of Iran is one of the “few exceptions” to The Lobby’s control of global print and electronically transmitted news and analysis.

Continue reading

David Hirsh On The Merchant Of Venice And Habima

Over at Engage, David Hirsh has scrutinized, picked apart and provided informed cultural analysis on Shakespeare’s Merchant Of Venice within the context of Habima, and some decidedly non-Shakespearean bigots

“When I see a production of the Merchant of Venice, it is always the audience which unsettles me. The play tells two stories which relate to each other. One is the story of Shylock, a Jewish money lender who is spat on, excluded, beaten up, and in the end mercilessly defeated and humiliated. The other is an apparently light-hearted story about an arrogant, rich, self-absorbed young woman, clever but not wise, pretty but not beautiful, and her antisemitic friends. Shakespeare inter-cuts the grueling detailed scenes of the bullying of Shylock, with the comedic story of Portia’s love-match with a loser who has already frittered away his large inheritance.

Shakespeare offers us an intimately observed depiction of antisemitic abuse, and each time the story reaches a new climax of horribleness, he then offers hackneyed and clichéd gags, to see if he can make us laugh. It is as if he is interested in finding out how quickly the audience forgets Shylock, off stage, and his tragedy. And the answer, in every production I’ve ever seen, is that the audience is happy and laughing at second rate clowning, within seconds. And I suspect that Shakespeare means the clowning and the love story to be second rate. He is doing something more interesting than entertaining us. He is playing with our emotions in order to show us something, to make us feel something.”

Ben White Indulges His Hatred Of Jews

Ben White is an anti-Israeli obsessive, who once said he could understand antisemitism.

Since then he and his apologists have indulged in a touch of backtracking, but every now and again his mask slips as with White’s recent tweet which caricatured Howard Jacobson:

“If you need another reason to support a
boycott of Habima, I present a massive
picture of Howard Jacobson’s face
https://twitter.com/SFV4I/status/206460553743446017/photo/1/large

Now you will appreciate that Ben White has nothing against Jews, in fact, some of his best friends are….

Yeah, right…

Update 1: Just in case the penny drops and White realises the racist implications of his tweet then seeks to remove the evidence:

The Habima Theatre Of Israel, For Want Of Rational Discussion

At the moment I am not much of a theatre goer but I thought this guest post at False Dichotomies asked relevant questions of those who support BDS:

“I tried to talk to the group making their brave stand next to me. I pointed some of the above out, by way of introduction. The women to my immediate left stared vacantly past me, possessed of her own righteousness. “What of the 5 million Palestinians who don’t have a voice”, she said to herself, as I attempted to find out what she knew of the siege of Nahr El-Bared by the Lebanese army in 2007 as compared with the Battle of Jenin in 2002 – whether, as people often wonder, Palestinian suffering counts when it is inflicted by the Lebanese, or Syrians, or Jordanians, or themselves – by anyone, in fact, but the Jews.

No reply.

Perhaps the best one of the night – and this is not saying much – came when a man stood up and pompously intoned “do the Palestinians not have eyes” and “if you prick us, do we not bleed” as he was taken out. Someone told him to piss off, to gales of laughter. As Shylock hesitated on stage, a voice cried out for him to carry on, “we’re all with you”. And, bar a lone woman shouting out that Israel was an apartheid state built on stolen Palestinian land in the street outside, that was it. To her, and all the others I saw in action tonight, I would ask the following questions.

Why are you unable, for the most part, to engage in rational discussion with people about the issues you protest? Why does the BDS movement appear to reject a solution that reflects the aspirations of both peoples for independence and self-determination?

Why is your “justice” so partial, so one-sided?

Why are you so palpably consumed by hatred?

Why do you never, ever, address the appalling treatment of the Palestinians by the countries in which they are left to rot in refugee camps? Why do you not recognise that it is impossible to turn the clock back to 1948? Why are you so obsessed with the need to self-aggrandize yourself in actions which merely make you look foolish and ignorant and do nothing to contribute to a better future for the people you purport to represent? ” [my emphasis.]