Here’s something you won’t read on Shiraz Socialist

It seems it’s not only Pat Robertson who has some weird ideas about the Haitian earthquake:

Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance of America issued the following statement:

“When Americans are suffering economically and millions need jobs, it’s shocking that the Administration is focused on its ultra-liberal militantly homosexualist agenda forcing the highlighting of homosexuals and homosexuality on an unwilling military. This is the equivalent of the spiritual rape of our military to satisfy the most extreme and selfish cadre of President Obama’s kooky coalition.
We agree with Eileen Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness that this will hurt the cohesiveness of the military, cause many to leave the army, and dramatically lower the number of recruits, perhaps leading to the reinstatement of a compulsory draft.

“Thirteen months before 9/11, on the day New York City passed homosexual domestic partnership regulations, I joined a group of Rabbis at a City Hall prayer service, pleading with G-d not to visit disaster on the city of N.Y. We have seen the underground earthquake, tsunami, Katrina, and now Haiti. All this is in sync with a two thousand year old teaching in the Talmud that the practice of homosexuality is a spiritual cause of earthquakes. Once a disaster is unleashed, innocents are also victims just like in Chernobyl.

“We plead with saner heads in Congress and the Pentagon to stop sodomization of our military and our society. Enough is enough.”

Now, imagine the shitstorm if this had been a Muslim cleric…

That would be an ecumenical matter

I often say that leftists should pay more attention to church politics. This isn’t just because religion is important to a lot of people (note, for instance, that the Mormons currently have over 13 million members worldwide, which is doing a bit better than any Trotskyist tendency) and it isn’t at all dependent on whether or not you buy into the theology involved. Rather, in the spirit of Machiavelli, who knew a lot about this sort of thing, it’s worth your while following these matters because the politics in itself is fascinating.

Yesterday, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was over in Rome meeting Pope Benny. There were some predictions in advance of a big showdown, though that isn’t in either man’s style. There was also a bit of crowing from predictable quarters about the length of the interview, in much the same way as Gordon Brown was recently criticised for his failure to get sufficient face time with Barack O’Bama. In fact, not only are Benny and Rowan rather similar characters – both bookish and reserved in demeanour, both personally humane while being theologically conservative (actually, Rowan might be slightly more conservative) – but their high regard for each other is well known, and the pledge to carry on with the ecumenical process via ARCIC looked to me like a diplomatic smoothing of feathers.

Because, make no mistake, the Apostolic Constitution providing facilities for defecting Anglo-Catholics has ruffled lots of feathers. Rowan himself was put out by Rome’s failure to consult him. This, one assumes, was not primarily aimed at snubbing Rowan but at bypassing the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, for a number of political reasons internal to English Catholicism. Within that sphere, there are some overlapping elements. The Cormac camp, who are old-fashioned ecumenists who were very much committed to the ARCIC process, are not thrilled at their long-range project being derailed. There is also an element at Eccleston Square that was very much happy to have an Anglo-Catholic faction within the C of E, a bit like the way the old LCR used to have a faction that was very much in agreement with Lutte Ouvrière but didn’t actually want to join LO. And then of course there’s some institutional pique at the way the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith organised this behind the back of the Bishops’ Conference. But we’re talking horses for courses here, and the CDF, while it’s primarily a doctrinal police force, in certain circumstances functions as the Vatican’s equivalent of the A-Team. If you want to spend the next forty years in inconclusive discussions about corporate union, ARCIC is perfect. If you want a job done, you call in the CDF.

It’s also notable that the Suppository, voice of the liberal left in English Catholicism, is in a bit of a snit, and fired off a furious editorial the other week denouncing the Apostolic Constitution, although it was politic enough to aim its fire at the CDF, rather than the guy whose brainchild this is and who actually wrote Anglicanorum Coetibus – which would be, er, the Pope. Uncharitable traditionalists might feel that the Tabletistas, having struggled mightily to excise the Catholicism from English Catholicism, might not be thrilled at an influx of conservative Anglo-Catholics reintroducing Catholicism by the back door.

From a related quarter, Hans Küng has also swung into action. Tying this together with the fraught rehabilitation of the SSPX – and, in Benny’s position, I’d want to make those bastards jump through a few more hoops – he characterises Benedict’s mission of becoming the Pope of Christian Unity in terms of “Traditionalists of all denominations, unite under the dome of St Peter’s!” You’ll notice that Küng says this like it’s a bad thing.

I do feel a bit sorry for poor old Hans, who must be feeling a bit bereft by this point. Most of the liberal Catholic theologians are, like him, pretty elderly these days and less influential than they’ve been for a very long time. Nor have there been any modernist successes to raise the spirits. The Catholic movement for women’s ordination, to take one example, was slapped down so definitively by the late JP2 that those who haven’t given up altogether have made their way to the subculture of episcopi vagantes, or, ironically, Anglicanism.

And what of the Anglo-Catholics, then? It’s unsurprising that the Continuity Anglicans have already welcomed Anglicanorum Coetibus, what with them having requested it in the first place. But there are bigger fish to fry within the C of E itself, encompassing Forward In Faith and going beyond them. The interesting thing is that, what with the Constitution and its complementary norms actually giving AngCats more than they might have wanted, this calls their bluff. Are they too attached to doing Victor Meldrew impersonations at General Synod to make the jump? Or will they put their money where their mouth is?

What might hasten matters along is that, while the legislation going through General Synod to allow women’s consecration as bishops had been going to include special provisions for opponents of the move, these provisions have now been withdrawn. While Benedict is holding the door open and the AngCats are wavering on the threshold, the Anglican bigwigs have chosen this moment to give them a big kick up the arse, thus propelling them forwards.

And dear old Rowan, who’s forced to preside over an anarchic body that’s probably incapable of being led, could be forgiven for taking a darkly philosophical view. Even if the Anglo-Catholics depart and that simplifies the factional situation, the extreme liberal modernists aren’t going anywhere and neither are the conservative evangelicals. I can’t see him ever going over to Rome, as much because of Rome’s innovations as its conservatism, but perhaps Constantinople might give him a call?

Speaking of which, there have been more pronouncements of interest from the Russian Orthodox Church, or more specifically the ROC’s extremely energetic external affairs honcho, Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk. Firstly, Hilarion has been saying that the German Lutherans’ election of a woman, Bishop Margot Kässmann, as their new president might affect ecumenical dialogue – the Lutherans claim to find this incomprehensible, which suggests they don’t understand the Orthodox very well. Moreover, Hilarion has been speaking on the subject of relations with Catholicism. While he’s very cautious about reunion, putting that decades in the future, he is rather keen on the idea of the tradition-based churches – the Orthodox, the Catholics and the pre-Chalcedonians – forming a strategic alliance to uphold traditional values. That sound you just heard? That’s Hans Küng’s head exploding.

Addendum on the Rompuy Kid

I must admit to knowing very little about Belgian prime minister and newly appointed European Council president Herman van Rompuy. He isn’t Mr Tony Blair, which is a plus. He is expected to be a chairman and facilitator rather than an emperor, which is fine. And I now know that he writes haiku and his sister is a Maoist activist, both of which factoids are oddly endearing.

But our friends in the National Secular Society (Titus Oates prop.) are perturbed. These fearless truth-hounds have discovered that van Rompuy is a Catholic. What with around 90% of Belgians being Catholics and van Rompuy being a leading member of the Flemish Christian Democratic Party, this is truly a shock. The NSS ask, “Does the Pope have another little toiler at the top of Euro politics?” This quaint seventeenth-century idea of theirs that the Pope spends his time phoning up Catholic politicians and giving them detailed instructions is oddly charming when it isn’t annoying. And the great thing is that this is an all-purpose NSS denunciation. Had the president been Jean-Claude Juncker or Wolfgang Schüssel or even Mr Tony, they could have run exactly the same headline.

They are rather pleased, though, that new Euro foreign minister Cathy Ashton is rumoured to be an atheist. You’ll notice that none of this has anything to do with either politician’s actual positions or competence for the job. Isn’t single-issue tubthumping brilliant?

Finally on faith-based themes, here’s an interesting article on Belfast’s Jewish community.

Have you heard the one about the Jew who did well for himself in Iran?


Oh, I just love this:

A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots.

A close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.

The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.

The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad’s birthplace, and the name derives from “weaver of the Sabour”, the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran’s Ministry of the Interior.

That’s another one up for Jewish enterprise, I think, and probably explains a few things about the irrepressible bubeleh Ahmadinejad. It will also confirm the feeling of the more conspiracist element in Tehran that those Jews get in everywhere. And you realise, of course, that under the Law of Return, Dinner Jacket would be entitled to claim Israeli citizenship and get himself a nice little tract house in a West Bank settlement. They let Avigdor Lieberman in, so they couldn’t very well keep Mahmoud out…

Israeli police continue to battle uppity Jews


The secular municipal authorities in Jerusalem must be tearing their hair out at the behaviour of the city’s religious minority. For one thing, there’s the standoff with the Edah HaChareidis movement over the opening of a car park on Shabbes, apparently violating the sanctity of an eruv, which shows few signs of being resolved. Until it is, we can look forward to weeks more of violent clashes between police and frummers.

In this situation, the last thing they needed was for a second front to be opened up by a different haredi sect, but that’s exactly what they’ve got. This is the militant frum group Toldot Aharon, who have been responsible for several days of rioting in the holy city. What this clash derives from is the arrest of a woman belonging to the group after her emaciated three-year-old child was hospitalised. Apparently the mother is suspected of suffering from mental health problems, which had led to the neglect of the child.

It looks, on the face of it, like a straightforward case of child welfare. But that’s not how it’s been perceived by the haredim, who like to handle these things internally and don’t appreciate interference from the secular state. Indeed, there is a particular paranoid haredi cast of mind that will say that the secular state is trying to criminalise their entire community. I wouldn’t go that far, but secular dislike of the frummers is deep-rooted in Israel, and there are quite a lot of New Atheist types around Tel Aviv and Haifa who would be positively enthusiastic about the cops interfering even more heavy-handedly in haredi life.

Which is the background to a situation where haredim are going out at night to stone cars, set rubbish bins on fire and vandalise traffic lights. Meanwhile the Israeli police, who are more used to cracking Arab heads, are having to strong-arm religious Jews. Well, at least the IDF isn’t proposing to build a separation wall around Mea She’arim and bomb it from the air.

Tsuris in Jerusalem, as the Hasidim get into the Orangefest spirit

I love this. We’re now on the third week of this protest by Hasidim in Jerusalem against the opening of a car park on Shabbes. This has involved the frummers getting stuck into the police with a venom usually only reserved for fighting with rival Hasidic sects, thanks to the cops deciding to uphold the sinful opening of the car park.

Perhaps now we’ll see David Hirsh and Norman Geras coming out with forthright condemnations of this blatant anti-Semitism on the part of, er, the Israeli authorities. Then again, maybe not.

Livni’s Foreign Legion ambushed in their own backyard


One of the more endearing, or possibly aggravating, features of the Alliance for War and Liberalism is the spurious air of openness they promote. Way back when they were running the Workers’ Liberty journal, they would actively solicit contributions from people they disagreed with, only for those gullible enough to take the bait to end up submerged under a vast mountain of Matgamnite polemic. (Which made WL perversely readable, although this did not make up for the editor abusing his authority to fill the journal with his own poetry.) Another AWL trick is to invite you to one of their weekend schools, where you can listen to some interesting talks and sink a few pints with some intelligent people, just as long as you don’t mind being called an anti-Semite every ten minutes. At one AWL-sponsored event I managed the hat trick of being called a Stalinist, an anti-Semite and a Chetnik fascist within less than half an hour, an accomplishment of which I’m quite proud, although it maybe explains why I’m in no great hurry to go back.

Anyway, this tradition of pseudo-openness is carried on by the AWL’s practice of providing comments boxes on their website. This doesn’t lead to the visceral comedy of spEak You’re bRanes, but it does provide the odd chuckle nonetheless. I particularly enjoy Jane Ashworth’s occasional sorties there to upbraid her former comrades for not having the courage of their convictions and openly endorsing US-UK imperialism.

Increasingly, the contributions are coming from the Decent Left. This may be because most people on the real left (or the “kitsch left”, as Sean calls it) have long since lost patience with the AWL. But I’m also reminded of Trotsky’s complaint about the late Max Shachtman, that he was far too worried about whether Sidney Hook and Max Eastman had a good opinion of him. Shachtman’s would-be reincarnation, Sean Matgamna, is far too worried about renegades like Nick Cohen and Norman Geras having a good opinion of him. There’s a real kinship there.

So, the latest is a remarkably polite debate, by AWL standards, with Eric Lee, of Democratiya fame. Readers of Decentiya will know Eric’s articles for their Grandpa Simpson “Back in nineteen dickety two!” quality. This may seem patronising, but when you consider the horseshit that Alan (Not The Minister) Johnson fills his little journal with, Eric’s articles do stand out in that they invariably have a reasonable point at their core. It’s just that, to get there, you have to wade through about 100,000 words of dubious relevance on what Congressman Pipesucker had to say in the debate on the Tennessee Valley Authority.

So, here’s Eric:

The most recent issue of Solidarity features a number of articles about the conflict in Gaza. These articles do the AWL no credit.

Ira Berkovic’s “Who speaks for Jewish people in Britain?” reports on the rallies organised by the Jewish community in Britain without once mentioning the politics of those rallies. That’s extraordinary. More than that, it’s dishonest. As even the BBC reported, these rallies called for peace and an end to Hamas terror. They were not the mirror-image of the pro-Hamas rallies which – as you reported elsewhere in Solidarity – did call for the destruction of the Jewish state.

But to be fair, I think the comrades of the AWL may not be deliberately misrepresenting the Jewish community rallies. I think the article actually reveals the depth of your ignorance. You don’t actually know what the rally was about — because you weren’t there.

AWL members were busy getting their signs torn up at pro-Hamas rallies – rallies whose political leaders proclaimed slogans with which you completely disagree. But a rally whose demand was ‘Yes to peace, No to Hamas terror’ was somehow of no interest to you.

I fear Eric is being a little disingenuous here. The “End Hamas Terror” rallies were pro-peace in the sense that the speeches from the platform supported the forcible pacification of Gaza and clearly defended the IDF offensive. That such a stand was publicly taken by the Chief Rabbi and the Board of Deputies will have delighted every genuine anti-Semite in Britain. But Eric has a point, why didn’t the AWL go on a rally where they might have felt more at home than on the Stop the War rally?

Which brings me to Sean Matgamna’s article in the same issue. Sean blasts the Socialist Party for concealing its real views (the two-state solution) for fear of being unpopular, or provoking anger from pro-Hamas demonstrators. The question of political courage runs like a red thread in this article and Sean correctly writes that “the socialist who is afraid to be unpopular who cannot stand against the tide, or even the stream, is a poor little specimen indeed.”

Reading these articles, as well as the extensive coverage of the AWL’s brave efforts to get its message across to pro-Hamas demonstrators in Sheffield and elsewhere, I cannot help but wonder why the AWL doesn’t present that same message to a 15,000 strong rally in London? (And a decent sized one in Manchester as well.)

One would think that with your “third camp” politics, you’d be eager to hold up your placards with their “Down with Hamas, Down with the IDF” not only at pro-Hamas rallies, but even at pro-peace ones organised by the Jewish community?

But you don’t. I wonder why. Could it be that the Socialist Party is not the only group on Britain’s far left with a muddled message, lacking in political courage?

The question is its own answer. The SP’s formal line on Israel/Palestine is not a million miles removed from the formal line of the AWL. But the SP didn’t feel the need to go on antiwar rallies and behave like assholes. They thought it was more important to relate to the marchers. This clearly distinguishes them from the AWL, who go on these rallies precisely to behave like assholes. Indeed, Sean criticised the SP precisely on this point.

But back to Eric. I’m not going to get bogged down in all the tendentious points contained within Eric’s short missive. What is relevant is the shorter Eric: You guys are Zionists, so why don’t you just admit you’re Zionists, stop pissing around with the left and stand with your real comrades? I’m afraid, however, that Eric misses the point. One of the regular features of left meetings on the Middle East is that all the Jewish speakers are critical of Israel and all the AWL speakers call the Jewish speakers anti-Semites. You might ask who they are trying to convince, especially since nearly 25 years of putting out Israeli hasbara hasn’t altered their hideously goyishe membership profile. Nor would one expect it to. Jewish leftists who have gone through a lot to dissociate themselves from Zionism aren’t going to be attracted to a Marxist-Zionist group run by gentiles with a bad case of vicarious Israeli chauvinism. And Zionists generally have better options for political engagement than the AWL. The whole purpose of this aggressive contrarianism, as with the Sparts and the old RCP, is to shake loose one or two people from the orbit of other left groups and into the tender embrace of Uncle Sean.

And, speak of the devil, the Swami himself now responds to Eric:

Living in a political world that is crazedly “anti-Zionist” and anti-Israel, of course we defend Israel’s right to exist, try to explain the Israeli point of view, defend the “Two Nations, Two States” position, fight against the demonisation of Israel and “Zionism”. During the recent war,we reminded people of the Hamas rockets. For that, the Kitsch Left denounces us as “Zionists”, “pro-Imperialists”, and all the rest of it. That I can understand. To the allies of Islamic clerical fascism, people “high” on “anti-Imperialist” delirium and vicarious Arab-Islamic chauvinism, that is what we are. They want Israel wiped off the map. But nobody who bothers to read what we write, as I assume Eric does, can think that of us.

Now, how could anyone have got the idea that the AWL was a Zionist or pro-imperialist organisation? I would have thought that, to anyone familiar with the group’s neo-Hyndmanite positions, it would seem like simple common sense.

In principle AWL supports the right of the Palestinians to fight and drive out the Israeli occupation forces, whatever the politics of those leading the Palestinians at a given moment. That is complicated in practice by the political programme of, in this case, Hamas, which proclaims the goal of destroying Israel, and by the fact that they are allied with other reactionaries in the Arab-Islamic world who proclaim the same programme.

You’ll notice that Sean has just stated a broad, overarching principle, and then gone on to negate it in the very next sentence. Only a truly accomplished dialectician could be so bold.

In fact, on the London demo, we did shout on the loudspeaker “Down with Hamas”, etc. Because of the politics of the audience there, as in Sheffield, it was necessary and permissible to “bend the stick” a bit.

What’s that noise? Ah yes, that would be Tony Cliff spinning in his grave. Besides, and I know this has been pointed out a thousand times, the peace movement in Israel is not saying “Down with Hamas” but rather “Negotiate with Hamas”. One realises that, for British Zionist opinion, the right wing of the Meretz party is the dovish extreme of acceptable opinion, but the AWL doesn’t operate under the same social constraints and so doesn’t have the same excuses.

But in cold and considered expressions of our politics we do not put an equals sign between Israel and the Palestinians, not even because Hamas is politically so very reactionary.

Perhaps it isn’t terribly wise of Sean to draw attention to the often glaring gap between the Jesuitical articles appearing in the AWL press, which are designed to be difficult to raise objections to, and what the group says in the course of its agitation.

The Hamas rockets, etc., justified Israel in inflicting the massive carnage and destruction which it has just inflicted on the Palestinians in Gaza? In the existing circumstances that idea can be sustained from one point of view only — that of a steel-clad, asbestos-lined, paranoia-infected Israeli national egotism…

Those who are not reflex Israeli chauvinists will know when not to side with Israel. For myself, I take a friendly attitude to Israeli nationalism, and, in retrospect, to the pre-World War II movement for a Jewish state, believing that of all peoples, post-Holocaust Jews have a right to be nationalist. That is not the same thing as Israeli chauvinism…. Or the same as proclaiming the principle “Israel — right or wrong!”

Thusly does Sean belabour poor old Eric. As it happens, I do think Eric’s position is one of ironclad Israeli chauvinism, but even that doesn’t merit such a massive deployment of sophistry from Sean. Although note that Sean’s support for a post-Holocaust Jewish state is now read back into the pre-1939 period. That’s a bit of a departure, and I assume Borochov will soon be joining Shachtman in the AWL’s eclectic ideological tzimmes.

Well now, this provokes a rather incoherent response from one Ian Sternberg along the lines of “Israel! Yo!” Which has the unfortunate effect of bringing Sean back again:

The fundamental political case against Israel’s Gaza war is that there were better, far better, alternatives open to Israel: really and actively accepting the Two States position, negotiating a broad framework of settlement with the Arab League, something that seems now to be possible, and, within that framework, sorting out Hamas and its rocket war on Israel. Israel’s government chose instead to pulverise Palestinian society in Gaza. Instead, Israel went on a hi-tech Hamas-hunt from the air that could not but produce massive civilian casualties. For that reason alone the Israeli Government should be condemned.

You will notice the similarity and difference between this and Sean’s notorious “Bomb Iran” article. The similarity is that Sean, the great proponent of the Third Camp, starts not from the point of view of the oppressed masses but from the options open to the Israeli political-military leadership. The difference is that Sean actually does manage to work in the c-word. This marks a slight improvement over the Iran article with its “In the name of what alternative would we condemn” formulation – I don’t know, maybe the alternative of not bombing Iran? Ah well, we shouldn’t pass up even a flicker of rationality from this source.

Finally, AWL activist Sacha Ismail chips in. Sacha is a pleasant young chap who affects to believe that the AWL really does want to end the oppression of the Palestinians, which makes him either unbelievably naïve or unbelievably dishonest. I prefer to believe the former.

Clearly I don’t share the far left’s holy terror at the word; but I don’t see how socialists can call themselves Zionists. I am for Israel’s right to exist, but that doesn’t make me (or you) a Zionist, any more than being for Palestinian independence makes us Palestinian nationalists.

We shouldn’t go along with the ‘anti-Zionist’ outcry, but nor should we use language which potentially blurs the opposition to nationalism – as opposed to national rights – that all of us in the AWL agree is essential for international socialists.

You see the problem Sean has with his youth? This kitsch creep must be counteracted, and fast! Over to Sean:

The word “Zionist” is used in the Kitsch-Left as a near equivalent of “racist”. It encapsulates the demonisation of Israel and of Jewish people who support it. It sums up the grotesque, and originally Stalinist, misrepresentation of both the history of Zionism and of the Jews in the Twentieth Century, on which the “absolute anti-Zionists” erect their toxic nonsense. It is a tool of ideological terrorism on the “left”. The cleanest and simplest way of dealing with that is to accept it, in its proper, original, meaning, and wear it as a badge of political sanity.

Ahem. Since Sean likes to rehash the founding of Israel in 1948 at every possible occasion, I know for a fact that he’s aware of the young Israeli state’s receipt of Soviet diplomatic support and, perhaps more to the point, Czechoslovak arms. But perhaps we’re talking about “Stalinism” not in the historical sense but in the specialised sense of “stuff Sean Matgamna disagrees with”. On the racism point, Sean is also well aware of not only the Israeli state’s oppressive record in the occupied territories, but also of the legally enshrined second-class status of non-Jewish citizens of Israel. There is a reason for the latter, and this is why Avigdor Lieberman, boorish bigot that he is, is not exactly out of step with mainstream Zionist thought when he talks about “transfer” or about downgrading non-Jewish citizens to resident aliens.

And this is why, although I profoundly disagree with Eric Lee, I still think he has the better of the debate. Because he’s more honest, you see, and firmly identifies with the tradition of Labour Zionism. Sean Matgamna has been moving steadily away from Trotskyism for more years than I care to remember, but there’s still some sentimental imperative urging him to keep a foot in the far left camp. Really, the cleanest and simplest way of dealing with this contradiction would be to admit openly that the AWL is a rightwing, pro-imperialist sect. Sean might lose a few of his younger and more idealistic cadre, but he may well lose them anyway, and he can rest assured that the core of old codgers who have supported his twists and turns over the decades will continue to do so. Not least my old chum Martin Thomas, as the poor bastard has little to comfort himself with these days except the thought that “Once Tiberius is dead, I, Sejanus, will rule as emperor in Rome.” Always assuming Sean doesn’t find himself a young Caligula to take up the mantle, that is.

Father Coughlin po polsku


I suppose it’s possible, indeed likely, that most people here won’t be regular readers of The Tablet (subscription required). This would be a pity, because its news coverage is often quite excellent, and you get to hear what all is going on in the wacky world of international Catholicism. Why can’t we have a paper like this in Ireland?

Anyway, the 25 August issue has a fascinating article about one Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk. Fr Rydzyk, 62, is a Redemptorist media mogul, which in itself should raise an eyebrow, and boss of the popular station (upwards of 1.2m listeners) Radio Maryja. The station’s “Catholic patriotic” stance could best be described in terms of, well, imagine if Gerry McGeough was running a radio station with a mass audience. Radio Maryja’s populist campaigning around law and order, demands for the prosecution of members of the old socialist regime, and opposition to the European Union is combined with railing against Jews, gays, foreigners and Freemasons, but mostly Jews. It’s a familiar brand of Polish nationalism, but so virulent in form as to make the late Field Marshal Piłsudski appear like a soft liberal.

The Polish hierarchy have never been known as the most progressive bunch, but even they have found Rydzyk a bit rich for their blood. The former Primate, Cardinal Józef Glemp, condemned him as far back as 2002. The Tablet reports that the papal nuncio, Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, has been canvassing the bishops to do something about Radio Maryja, and a significant number of clergy and lay Catholics have protested the station’s pervasive anti-Semitism. And yet, Rydzyk seems untouchable. He has a very close relationship with the Kaczyński brothers who run Poland’s hard-right government – although that hasn’t stopped him saying that the president’s wife, Maria Kaczyńska, is a “witch” who should be “put down” because she supports legal abortion for rape victims. The Redemptorist order, either in Poland or internationally, has shown no concern over Rydzyk’s activities. Indeed, a few weeks back Fr Zdzisław Klafka, Poland’s Redemptorist provincial, took Rydzyk with him to an audience with Pope Benny. Benny himself, following in the footsteps of the late JP2, has been keen to distance himself from traditional Catholic anti-Semitism, so here’s a bit of a test for him.

Rud eile: While on the subject of mad Catholics, the August issue of the Hibernian (“For Fascism and Our Lady”) doesn’t quite live up to the paper’s usual bonkers standards. But there is a piece on the significance of Benny’s rehabilitation of the Latin Mass, and Gerry McGeough continues his survey of great counter-revolutionary movements of the past with a major piece on the Vendée revolt, when God-fearing Catholic peasants rose up against the Masonic Jacobin dictatorship.

Shellsuit redux


So, I cast my beady eye over the Littlejohnson programme on anti-Semitism, and I am gratified that my pre-emptive parody turned out to be only a slight exaggeration. It was like Annie Hall without the jokes. Nick Cohen turned up, briefly, to mumble about these mythical Islington dinner parties. Lorna Fitzsimons was indeed a star witness, although her past – as a streetfighting factional opponent of the SWP in the NUS, and as a parliamentary member of Labour Friends of Israel – and her present position heading up the Zionist lobby group BICOM might shed light on the numerous axes she has to grind.

In general, apart from the unconscious humour of Littlejohn of all people giving off about racist homophobes on behalf of the one minority group he actually likes, there was enough evidence there to show that there is anti-Semitism about, and it should be taken seriously. However, I’m not convinced that the Jewish population is helped much by pretending that anti-Semitism is absolutely rife in modern Britain, or that anti-Semitic attitudes are respectable in polite society when in fact they are absolutely marginal. And, as pointed out in the discussion on Aaro Watch, most of the anti-Semitic incidents that take place are of the ilk of criminal damage, and anecdotal evidence suggests that most are carried out by Arab or Asian teenagers (or, in the case of graveyard desecrations, white fascists). The level of anti-Semitic violence attributable to middle-class Guardian readers, or the SWP (itself heavily consisting of middle-class Guardian readers) must be vanishingly small if not nil.

There was however an elephant in the room in the form of the Muslims. In the Littlejohn programme Muslims only featured as sinister swarthy men who hate Jews for no apparent reason. But any objective assessment of British society would suggest that Muslims, or at least those Muslims belonging to visible ethnic minorities, suffer vastly more from prejudice, discrimination, and indeed racist violence than Jews. Not to say that you can’t always find some anti-Semitic incident somewhere, but it would help to get things in proportion. And if you think prejudice against Jews is on of the major problems in Britain today, sit down and listen to Gaunty on talkSPORT for a few hours. And then realise that trying to read coded anti-Semitic innuendo into Socialist Worker articles really isn’t a very profitable enterprise.

The Splintered Sunrise preview tape

Damian Shellsuit: Hello, I’m Damian Shellsuit. No doubt you’re familiar with my brilliant weekly column for the Blackshirt’s Gazette, where I deliver a scorching critique of modern Britain from the safe vantage point of my luxury gated community in Florida. Or maybe you don’t read it, since if you’re watching Channel 4 you’re probably queer. Tonight we’ll be looking at the rise of anti-Semitism on the British left. I must admit, I’m not Jewish and I know frig all about anti-Semitism, but this allows me a chance to get stuck into the loony left, the Muslims and the nancy boys. My guide on this journey is loony left columnist Nick Cohen.

Cohen: I never noticed a real problem with anti-Semitism in Britain until 2002, when I started to get lots of nasty emails. This was just after I’d announced my support for invading Iraq, but no reasonable person could oppose that, so I’m assuming it was anti-Semitism behind this hostility. Then I started to see anti-Semitism everywhere, with people at Islington dinner parties toasting Osama Bin Laden and trendy bookshops in Notting Hill having buy-one-get-one-free offers on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That’s when I decided to research the problem.

Shellsuit: This goes back a long way, doesn’t it Nick?

Cohen: More than most people suspect. Did you know that in the 1970s Gerry Healy was involved in a dastardly plot with Gregory Peck to clone Hitler? At least, I was in the pub with Norm Geras and Paul Anderson, and I seem to remember a conversation along those lines. Or maybe I dozed off watching The Boys from Brazil. Anyway, it’s all in my book What’s Left?, available from all good booksellers, even in Islington.

Shellsuit: This sawn-off speccy bint is former Labour MP Lorna Fitzsimons. Now Lorna, I believe some kebab-eaters ran an anti-Semitic campaign against you even though you’re not Jewish?

Fitzsimons: Yes, some Muslims put a leaflet around Rochdale calling me a Zionist, just because I was in the Labour Friends of Israel. It lost me my seat, but luckily I got a job heading a pro-Israel lobby group.

Shellsuit: And you’ve had trouble with the loony left as well?

Fitzsimons: When I was democratically elected leader of Britain’s students, the SWP forced me to apologise for slandering Tony Cliff. How was I to know he was Jewish? I just repeated what the UJS told me.

Shellsuit: The Socialist Workers Party are a deeply sinister outfit, and they’re probably all shirtlifters as well. Let’s hear from a close friend of mine who was seduced by them as a young man.

Garry Bullshit (for it is he): They made me stand outside Willesden Green tube station and sell papers on a Saturday afternoon, even when it was raining. And they hated white working-class culture, which you can get a good sample of on my CD Strength Through Oi! (Takes out onion) I still haven’t got over my shocking experiences with the SWP – these totalitarians used to call me Bluto and made fun of me for liking Jim Davidson.

Cohen: And I’ll tell you something else. French postmodernist philosophers have been in league with the Islamofascists for decades. In fact, I have it on good authority that Jean Baudrillard was trained as a sleeper agent by Sayyid Qutb. Or at least my mate Francis said something like that in the pub. It’s all in my book.

Shellsuit: I’m joined by distinguished lawyer Anthony Julius. Anthony, you’re an expert on left anti-Semitism?

Julius: As a distinguished lawyer, I am known worldwide for my brilliant forensic mind. And I wrote a PhD thesis on TS Eliot and anti-Semitism, so I can infallibly spot coded anti-Semitic innuendo. Now I direct you to this newspaper, the Socialist Worker. You will notice the headline saying “Tax the rich”. This is obviously code for “Kill the Jews”. What is more, my attention has been drawn to an article in the London Review of Books saying “Maybe Israel’s use of torture isn’t totally ethical”. I have teamed up with distinguished lawyer Alan Dershowitz to investigate these anti-Semites and bring them to heel.

Shellsuit: And these intellectuals are banana benders, aren’t they?

Julius: Is that code for Jews?

Shellsuit: I’m joined by Ed Husain, who used to be an Islamonazi but saw the light and now supports the War on Terror. Ed, you have personal experience of Muslim anti-Semitism?

Husain: Yes, I went to an al-Muhajiroun meeting where Omar Bakri said it was a pious act to wage jihad against the Zionists.

Shellsuit: This Bakri, was he a woofter? Did he try to bugger you?

Husain: Pardon me?

Cohen: And I’ll tell you something else. The so-called Guardian may seem like a harmless liberal newspaper, but it’s really a wholly-owned propaganda vehicle for al-Qaeda and Alan Rusbridger is a crack assassin trained by the Serbian secret service no that doesn’t sound right I must ask Attila well anyway it’s all in my book.

Shellsuit: So there you have it. The danger posed to Britain’s law-abiding Jewish community by pinkos, towelheads and bum bandits who abuse our tolerance. My name’s Damian Shellsuit, good night.

Kuk im on, dem tone

I don’t know whether Norman Geras or Eve Garrard speak Yiddish. My guess would have to be not, as neither of them has much of a sense of irony. For proof, simply take a look at this document over on Normblog. Norm and Eve, writing in a cod-philosophical style for reasons that escape me, are replying to the recent (and entirely welcome) formation of Independent Jewish Voices.

The article is entitled “Just because you’re Jewish, it doesn’t mean you’re right”, and opens with the statement that “There are people who seem to think that if a certain kind of view is held by a Jew, this gives it special authority… The fact that someone happens to think something as a Jew, or to hold the same opinion as a Jew, is neither here nor there in establishing its cogency.” Are Norm and Eve criticising the attempts by their Engagenik buddies to suppress criticism of Israel, or their assumption that goyim (except for reliable “friends of Israel”) have no moral authority to speak on the Middle East, because criticism of the Israeli state is a sure sign of anti-Semitism? No, they are not. As is par for the course with the Euston crowd, their strictures do not apply to themselves.

What the article seems to be about – and the tautologies and logical leaps don’t make it easy to follow – is that Norm and Eve are worried that the IJV people, because they are Jewish and vocally so, will be taken seriously when they have a dig at Israeli policy. This involves a lot of meandering around hypothetical questions of whether it is possible for a fierce defender of Israel to have a clearer view than a fierce critic (Norm and Eve do not say so, but they strongly imply the fierce Zionist to have a priori a clearer view); the issue of whether critics of Israel are succumbing to goyishe social pressures (although Norm and Eve disclaim the term “self-hating Jew”, here it is in essence); that critics of Israel are obsessed with striking a high moral tone (concern with Jewish morality takes second place to tribal solidarity); and that nobody can legitimately criticise Israel without giving pre-eminence to Israel’s security concerns.

While Norm and Eve put some effort into psychoanalysing the IJVniks, they skirt around the main point. That is, Israel claims to represent the entire Jewish people, and bodies such as the Board of Deputies – a self-perpetuating oligarchy – are usually assumed by the goyim to represent British Jewry in toto, although at least 90% of British Jews couldn’t tell you how the Board of Deputies is elected. It would make sense, then, for Jews who object to Israeli policies to say, “Not in my name”. This is precisely what annoys Norm and Eve, hence their designation of the IJVniks as “Self-Appointed Jews”, their apparent euphemism for “self-hating”.

For a serious look at what Norm and Eve really mean, it is worth returning to the Open Letter to Jews for Justice for Palestinians co-signed by Norm, Eve and Shalom Lappin last August. This is more revealing in that its language is less diplomatic, JFJFP being a less respectable body. The most striking thing is that Norm, Eve and Shalom rip into their antagonists for claiming that Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians violates traditional Jewish values. Of course, it depends which brand of traditional Jewish values you mean. One might expect Norm, for instance, to identify with the universalist humanism of Karl Marx or Rosa Luxemburg.

But no – our scientific materialists, who I am certain rarely darken the doors of a shul, cite as a moral and political authority the fucking Talmud! Specifically, they harp on some dictum of Hillel’s from Pirke Ovos about Jews who “separate themselves from the community”. Vos nokh? Is Norm growing a beard? Is Eve shaving her head and putting on a sheytl? Where do these jokers, who have no serious connection to the religious or cultural life of the Jewish community, get off telling other Jews that they have separated themselves from the community?

The answer of course is the Israeli state, the ersatz religion of many Jews who have abandoned Judaism. According to this standard, by siding with those oppressed by fellow Jews, a Jew does not fulfil a basic moral obligation but, in breaking tribal solidarity, “separates herself from the community”. Thus we have the full implication of Norm and Eve’s “Self-Appointed Jew” – those Jews who deviate a millimetre from what the Engagenik milieu determine to be legitimate criticism of Israel – and that’s a very narrow spectrum indeed – forfeit their right to be called Jews. Meanwhile, atheists of Jewish background can assert their membership of the “community” by obeisance to the Zionist golden calf.