Israel Diary – Egypt on the brink

Sitting where I am, a few kilometres from the Egyptian border, and a few yards from Jordan – yes, I’m in Eilat – it’s almost like a geographical paradigm of the pressure, and future potential pressure on Israel.

At the Red Sea Israel comes to a point a few kilometres wide with Egypt to the West and Jordan to the East.

From my hotel balcony I can see these two countries and Saudi Arabia.

Israel is squeezed geographically, politically and psychologically.

The sense of being surrounded was always ameilorated after peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

These treaties have always been brittle, but diplomatic relations with Cairo and Amman have led to exchanges of technology, water rights agreements, intelligence exchanges  and even political agreements, for example, to contain Hamas.

It seems that the combination of a lone Tunisian market trader who martyred himself in frustration with his government and the social media has emboldened the famous ‘Arab street’ to revolt against dictators and shout ‘Freedom’. Let us not underestimate the effect of the so-called PaliLeaks in destabilising the region and unleashing a Pandora’s box of troubles.

Egypt is by far the most important country in the region to be affected.

There are three options for Egypt as Mubarak frantically tries to hold on to power:

1. Mubarak holds on to power but introduces some reforms to try to placate the people

2. The country moves to a form of democracy

3. The country moves to an Islamist government, possibly behind Mohammed El Baradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Option 1 will never happen, at least not for long. Once the people find their voice and reject a dictator, that dictator is doomed. We have seen this in Romania with Ceaucescu, we saw it in East Germany. We saw it with the Shah in Iran.

The longer Mubarak tries to hold on, the more violent will the revolt become, the more demonstrators will be killed and more chaos there will be.

The United States and the EU will bring pressure for a resolution of the crisis because of the potential effect on oil prices (already rising).

The US and the EU and world markets will fear the possible closure of the Suez Canal with dire consequences for the region as we saw after the last Egyptian revolution when President Nasser closed the Canal and precipitated a war with Britain, France and Israel.

This fear may lead to the unseemly flight of Mubarak

2. I had a very nice driver whilst I was in Jerusalem last week. Let’s call him ‘N’.

If you have ever been in a Jerusalem taxi you will know that politics soon comes up in any conversation.

N made an interesting point: “The Arabs do not know what ‘democracy’ means”, he said.

You may think this is the jaundiced view of an Israeli living near the Green Line, and a self-confessed right-winger, at that. But N had a point.

Is it possible that the true democrats in Egypt, without a paradigm in the region to imitate, except Israel, can conjure a Western-style democracy out of a popular uprising? Where are the politicians, leaders, intellectuals, journalists who will make the West’s dream come true?

If this dream is realised, how will Arab dictatorships react to such a regime? Will they seek to undermine it? Will they attack it? Will they attack Israel as a ploy to play into Egyptian Islamists hands?

3. Watching CNN here last night, their reporter was out on the street in Cairo and almost all the people he interviewed – and interestingly, they all seemed to be women – claimed they wanted freedom and condemned Mubarak. Why? Because, they said, Mubarak was working with Israel.

Yes, that’s right, freedom for these people appears to be the freedom to break the treaty with Israel, open the Rafah crossing, join up with Hamas and Hizbollah and even more concerningly, Iran, and attack Israel.

How quickly will Jordan, Tunisia and others follow suit if Egpyt falls to the Brotherhood.

Here’s a fourth scenario: civil war between Islamists and pro-democracy supporters.

It seems that, regardless of the result, the US and Israel will be identified with the Mubarak regime and the ‘cold peace’ with Israel will be threatened.

I would have a strong sense of schadenfreude if it were not for the fact that Israel will lose out whatever happens.

This would-be schadenfreude is caused by the obsession of the world media,the EU and the UN with Israel and its relations with the Palestinians. So focused are they in vilifying and delegitimising Israel with a viciousness reserved for no other country, so keen have they been to see militant Islam as a reaction to Israel’s ‘oppression’ of Palestinians, so keen have they been to minimise the Islamist threat in the region, that they have been taken unawares by this new potential twist in the Middle East story.

Maybe now they will see that Israel really is a beacon of democracy and freedom and essential to the interests of the West.

I had a little chuckle when Iran gave its support to the people of Egypt in their struggle for democracy against an oppressive regime.

Iranians, apparently, do not do irony.

Palileaks – what goes on?

These are my quick notes on the PaliLeaks farrago so far:

What currently concerns and confuses me is how two completely opposite narratives are coming out of the same material, The JPost seems to accept the validity of the leaks and claims it shows the PA in a bad light and Israel is exonerated, whereas the Guardian, BBC et al see it the opposite way.

Robin Shepherd claims it shows the settlements were never an issue; Melanie Phillips  agrees with Erekat that the key documents represent the Israeli position not the PA position; Channel 4 news in the UK take the Guardian position.

And what is noticeably absent? Once again, no statement from the Israeli government either denying or clarifying any of this. So much for Public Diplomacy.

The Arab world sees it as aimed at the PA, which is clearly the intention, whereas, where I am sitting, it is Israel that is being blamed once again by the media: The Guardian, BBC News, Channel 4 and the usual suspects who will spin anything against Israel. There seems to be a difference of emphasis between how this is seen in Europe and the Middle East. The Israeli press is not as animated about it as you would expect, for example, but the rab Press seems to have fallen out of love at last with the PA and Mahmoud Abbas.

Does it not matter anymore whether the leaks are true or not? Does it not matter that everything is spun against Israel without proper journalistic procedures or caution? The line in the UK is “these may be fake but Israel is to blame” even though Israel’s ‘Peace Partner’ denies them, which is almost completely airbrushed out.

And what about seeing this in the context of the Tunisian revolt and possible uprisings in Egypt and Lebanon, even Jordan, I now hear.

The Arab street may have found its own voice at last, but will it be cheering for Islamism or Democracy? How will  this play out with the Palestinians? They seem outraged at any compromise, but is that true? Will they replace the PA with Hamas or a more democratic system? – if it happens at all.

I hope to analyse this when the leaks are more easily digested and truth and lies can more easily be judged.

In the mean time much of the pro-Israel blogosphere seems apoplectic for one reason or another: it’s Israel, it’s the PA, it’s the USA, what’s Britain been up to, yada, yada.

Maybe I’ll find out in the coming days as I’ll be in Israel very soon. I think the leaks and the revolts are very significant, especially when taken together.

Sorry about the rushed notes but I have little time at the moment.

The failure of Hasbara and what to do about it

In a recent address to the Ariel Conference on Law and Mass Media, Melanie Phillips criticised the failure of Israel’s Public Diplomacy (hasbara) and outlined why the thrust of hasbara has been wrong and how it should be conducted.

Later, on Israeli TV, she laid into hasbara as being ‘a joke’ and you can see the interview in the video clip above.

If you want to see the full text of her address I urge you to visit her website where the full text can be found at http://www.melaniephillips.com/articles-new/?p=789

Melanie makes connections between the progress of political Islam, antisemitism in the West and the Muslim world, far Left political discourse and the failure of western civilisation to defend itself against attack by forces inimical to it.

For Melanie, the defence of an imperfect Israel is critical to the defence of western, and therefore, Christian civilisation.

Israel is the redoubt of western democracy.

As former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar has said, if Israel falls western democracies will not be far behind.

All this is covered in great detail in her latest book ‘The World Turned Upside Down’.

Melanie outlines the ways that the attack can be taken to the anti-Zionists and how those who remain rational and outside any particular ideology  and who have been fed lies about Israel can be educated.

Israel and its defenders have been fighting on the wrong battleground: the one that has been chosen by its enemies. The Arabs brilliantly reconfigured the Arab war of extermination against Israel as the oppression by Israel of the Palestinians.

That has transformed Israel from victim to aggressor — the reversal of reality which lies at the very heart of the western obsession with the ‘settlements’ and the territories.

Yet since Oslo, Israel has meekly gone along with this mad pressure. It has never said it is totally unconscionable. It has never put the all-important argument from justice on its own account. So it has allowed its enemies to appropriate this argument mendaciously as their own. But if Israel doesn’t make the case properly on its own behalf, how can anyone else do so?

To which Israel says realpolitik dictates it has to go along with the diplomatic game being played. But diplomatic realpolitik is what brought us all to this position — the brink of a terrible war with Iran which is treated by America with kid gloves while Israel is put under the cosh.
…..
What Israel has failed to recognise is that the battleground on which it is being forced to fight is not just military. It is also a battleground of the mind, and the strategy being used against it – and to which it needs to respond in kind — is psychological warfare.
…..

The fact remains that both Israel and diaspora Jews have to rethink. They have to realise they must start fighting on the battleground where the attack is actually being mounted against them. And the goal has to be to seize and retake the moral high ground.
A history lesson must be given to misguided and misinformed but rational people:
Israel’s behaviour is due to the widespread belief that its very existence is an aberration which, although understandable at the time it came into being, was a historic mistake.
People believe that Israel was created as a way of redeeming Holocaust guilt. Accordingly, they believe that European Jews with no previous connection to Palestine — which they believe was the historic homeland of Palestinian Muslims who had lived there since time immemorial — were transplanted there as foreign invaders, from where they drove out the indigenous Arabs into the West Bank and Gaza. These are territories which Israel is now occupying illegally oppressing the Palestinians and frustrating the creation of a state of Palestine which would end the conflict.
Of course every one of those assumptions is false. But from those false assumptions proceeds the understandable belief not just that Israel’s behaviour is unjust, illegal and oppressive but that it is unjust and oppressive by virtue of its very existence.
For these people there is an urgent need for a proactive educational approach. No-one has ever told them that these beliefs are false – and when they are told, the effect is often transformative.
For bigots, it’s another story entirely. These are people with closed mindsets.
… there is no point arguing with them. They are, by definition, beyond all reason. Their influence simply has to be destroyed. They have to be held to account for their lies and bigotry which should be forensically exposed.

So Israel and its defenders should be demanding of the world why it expects Israel alone to make compromises with people who have tried for nine decades to wipe out the Jewish presence in the land and are still firing rockets at it.

They should expose the pretence of Britain or European countries which claim to have Israel’s security needs at heart but forbid it from using military means to defend itself

….

Israel and its defenders should be asking why so-called friends in the west want a Palestine state, since once the IDF depart the disputed territories they will become in short order yet another Iranian-backed Islamic terrorist entity which will pose a further threat not just to Israel but to the west.

They should be asking why the EU is continuing to fund the genocidal incitement against Jews promoted by the Palestine Authority.

They should be asking so-called ‘progressives’ – including Jewish ‘progressives’ — why they support the racist ethnic cleansing of every Jew from a future state of Palestine.

They should be asking them why they are not marching against Hamas on account of its tyrannical oppression of Palestinians in Gaza. Why they are ignoring Arab and Muslim persecution of women and homosexuals.

Why they are not mounting a boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Mahmoud Abbas’s PA and Hamas, on account of Abbas’s Holocaust denial and the clear evidence of continuation of Nazi Jew-hatred in a direct line of descent from predecessors who were Hitler’s supporters in Palestine.

As for western Israel-bashers, Israel and its defenders should accuse them not of Jew-hating motives that cannot be proved but of absurdities and contradictions and untruths they cannot deny. They should ridicule them, humiliate them, destroy their reputations; boycott them, not invite them to social gatherings, show them disapproval and contempt. Treat them as pariahs. Turn their own weapons against them.

They should be telling the Jews ‘own story of refugees and ethnic cleansing – the 800,000 Jews driven out of Arab lands after 1948 ….

They should be holding Arab and Islamic democracy weeks on campus, to expose the oppression and persecution within that world against women, homosexuals and others.

They should be singling out the Anglican church and the revival of ancient theological Jew-hatred being spread within the Anglican world by the Palestinian Christians of the Sabeel centre.

At the same time, they should be focusing on their true friends within the Christian world, not just in America but also in Africa and Asia where there is an enormous reservoir of goodwill towards Israel which could be mobilised into a global fighting force.

They should be campaigning against the UN and the hijacking of international law and human rights by anti-western, anti-Jewish and anti-Christian ideologues.

They should be confronting head-on the false claim that bigotry is confined to the right. They should be pointing the finger at the ‘progressive’ left to show how it is actually supporting the mortal enemies not just of Israel but the west.

And they should be making this case to Israelis themselves, to counter the delegitimisation and ignorance in Israeli universities and to educate the Israeli young in their own national history.

For me, much of this is already mainstream hasbara in the blogosphere. It hasn’t worked. What is needed is action at higher levels and with better organisation. Activists, educators, academics, journalists need to have their energies combined and co-ordinated. It is especially effective when non-Jewish and especially Arab and Muslim supporters of Israel take concerted action.

Some of what Melanie demands of governments or progressives will never happen because of the closed minds she has already ascribed to them.

Turning the tide of irrational hatred will not be easy. Being proactive instead of reactive is also difficult. The sheer intensity of the attack on Israel requires responses. Such attacks cannot be given a free pass. So much is put into the defence it hard to mount an attack.

In fact, the mere act of attempting a large-scale counter-offensive will soon be characterised as an Israel or Jewish lobby or evidence of worldwide malign Jewish influence.

Nevertheless, in principle, Melanie is 100% right. The trick, as it were, is how to organise and how to choose targets. It’s often a numbers game and, sadly, can often come down to finances. Such political campaigns – because that is essentially what we are talking about on a global scale – can be very expensive to carry out.

I’ll be interested , in the coming weeks and months, to see if this call to action can be met with any truly organised and targeted response by supporters of Israel.

Israel and the US. Your tax dollars pay for this…

How often have we heard from anti-Israel voices in the US that their tax dollars are ‘paying for this’ followed by images of dead babies and bulldozed homes etc.

Not long ago ynetnews.com published an interesting story about Israeli investment in Massachusetts bringing employment and wealth generation.

Headlined: Study: Israeli innovation contributes $2.4B to Massachusetts economy the article continues with some revealing facts; and remember, this is just in one state of the Union.

A groundbreaking study released recently at the New England-Israel Business Council’s 2010 Life Sciences Summit at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts revealed the scope and impact of Israeli related businesses on the Massachusetts economy.

The new study, “The Massachusetts-Israel Economic Relationship,” conducted by Stax Inc., an independent global strategy consulting firm, shows the impact of Israeli innovation and entrepreneurship on the Commonwealth’s economy, and underscores the importance of Israeli relations to the state, especially in the area of life sciences and high-tech.

Highlights of the study include:

• Nearly 100 companies in Massachusetts are founded by Israelis or offer products based on Israeli technology.
• These businesses generated $2.4 billion in direct revenue in Massachusetts in 2009.
• In total, the direct and indirect revenue impact on the Massachusetts economy was $7.8 billion.
• From an employment perspective, these businesses directly generated 5,920 jobs in Massachusetts.
• Some 50% of these businesses focus on information technology, 29% are in life sciences, and the remainder in other industries.

Israeli entrepreneurs chose Massachusetts over other US destinations to launch or grow their enterprises due to the deep talent pool of educated workers, the opportunity to be part of an industry cluster, world class universities and outstanding business infrastructure.
Israel has become one of the world’s leading business start-up innovators in a wide range of markets.
Yair Shiran, Israel’s economic minister to North America. “Israel has been called the ‘start-up nation’ for its success in new business innovation. When Israeli entrepreneurs look to globalize, they seek out places where there is an abundant workforce with higher education degrees, strong industry clusters, and a track record of new technologies becoming successful businesses.

It is informative to read the whole article.

In an atmosphere where Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is fouling the economic and academic waters, those who support such moves for ideological reasons might find that their supposed ethical stance is actually hurting them and, potentially, their own country.

If this is possible in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, imagine what little Israel and its 7m citizens could be capable of in an atmosphere free of existential threat and where Israeli shekels and US dollars can truly beat swords into ploughshares for the common good and not just in the US.

Abbas supports the perpetrators of genocide

Title Updated after fair criticism)

Yet again I am indebted to palwatch.org for this story

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has expressed his personal support for the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, who is accused of being responsible for the genocide in Darfur. In a letter to the Sudanese president, Abbas wrote that he and Palestinians “have complete faith in the wisdom of President Omar Al-Bashir.”

In 2008, evidence was presented in the International Criminal Court of Justice that showed that “Al-Bashir committed the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.” The crimes against humanity include “murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape.” [http://www.icc-cpi.int accessed Dec. 8, 2010] Warrants for his arrest have been issued by the International Criminal Court.

Those who bang on about Israel committing genocide whilst Palestinian numbers are growing should think carefully before they throw their support behind people like Abbas who is prepared to support the perpetrator of the greatest genocide of recent years.

In supporting Bashir, Abbas and all Arab leaders and those around the world who don’t just keep silent but actually support him, are accessories to genocide.

Hamas – Jews and Christians should be killed

This is what people like George Galloway and other Far-Left terrorist-lovers support.

It’s also what the Palestine Solidarity Campaign supports.

It’s what the IHH Jew-haters on the Mavi Marmara supported.

Do you support it?

This is a short video clip from Palestine Media Watch which shows the sort of  anti-Jew and, this time, anti-Christian hate speech that is being broadcast daily in Gaza.

If you think Hamas are ‘freedom-fighters’ who want their land back then think again.

Hamas is about spreading their particular type of Islamo-fascism across the entire world and they are happy to kill anyone that gets in their way.

The first obstacle is Israel.

As the report says:

A video on official Hamas TV calls for Allah to kill Jews, Christians, Communists and their supporters. The video asks Allah to “count them and kill them to the last one, and don’t leave even one.”
As Palestinian Media Watch has reported this call for the killing of non-Muslims was a regular pronouncement by both Palestinian Authority (Fatah) and Hamas political and religious leaders for many years starting in July 2000.

For years, sermons by religious leaders on official Palestinian Authority TV under Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas routinely presented the killing of Jews as a religious obligation and a fulfillment of the Islamic ideal.
Due to PMW’s exposure of these sermons, which led to international criticism and pressure, Mahmoud Abbas, whose office controls PA TV, has been forced to prevent the broadcast of sermons calling for extermination of Jews on PA TV.

The latest sermon of this nature on PA TV was in January 2010.

Notice how the moderate PA is also spewing out this venom.

Don’t be fooled. The Israel-Palestine conflict is not about land and borders. This is the big lie that world leaders choose to ignore. It should be about land and borders, but it has always been about destroying Israel. That is why no peace is possible. That is why negotiations are a mere ploy to advance the irredentist programme of annihilation.

Jack Straw, political correctness, Question Time and the ‘M’ word

I may be a little off topic here, after all, this blog is about Israel, Jews, the media, antisemitism and Zionism.

So why am I writing about the media and how it reacted to former Home Secretary and Justice Secretary (and MP for Blackburn) Jack Straw’s comments on a specific court case about the sexual grooming of young girls in Derby?

Two men were jailed for picking up under age girls over an extended period and then sexually abusing them, raping them and physically abusing them.

So how is this connected to my usual topics?

Well, as I see it, this is a mirror image of the accusation that anyone in the Jewish community who characterises much of the discourse in the media, and by elements in the far Left and Muslim community, about Israel as ‘antisemitic’ is immediately accused of ‘closing down the argument’.

In other words, the accusation of antisemitism is itself off-limits and is seen as an easy way to rebut attacks on Israel when any other counter-argument would fail.  It’s the ace up the pro-Zionist sleeve, so they say, which is pulled out at every opportunity.

Yet, accusations of Islamophobia, racial stereotyping and even racism are hurled at Jack Straw because he dare draw an obvious conclusion from irrefutable statistics.  My point is no-one is then accused of ‘closing down the argument’ or using the ‘race card’ to deflect these criticisms.

Let’s remind ourselves what Jack Straw said:

Pakistanis, let’s be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders’ wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders.

But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls.

We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way.

These young men are in a western society, in any event, they act like any other young men, they’re fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically.

So they then seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care… who they think are easy meat.

Straw’s big mistake was to use the word ‘meat’. This allowed feminists and the self-righteous  to change the argument away from a problem in a particular community to attack Straw himself.

It is clear that Straw was doing all he could to address the problem honestly and at the same time to point out that this is not an attack on the Pakistani community per se. The use of the ‘M’ word was a mistake but he was referring to the perception of others, the perpetrators themselves,  not his own perception of these girls.

The statistics support Straw’s argument. The Daily Mail reported on January 5th:

… researchers identified 17 court prosecutions since 1997, 14 of them in the past three years, involving the on-street grooming of girls aged 11 to 16 by groups of men.

The victims came from 13 towns and cities and in each case two or more men were convicted of offences.

In total, 56 people, with an average age of 28, were found guilty of crimes including rape, child abduction, indecent assault and sex with a child.

Three of the 56 were white, 53 were Asian. Of those, 50 were Muslim and a majority were members of the British Pakistani community.

The BBC News website smacked my gob when it reported all this here:

Keith Vaz who is chairman of the home affairs select committee “said it was wrong to stereotype an entire community and a proper inquiry was needed.”

Surely this was not stereotyping of a whole community.

On BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme he said:

What I don’t think we can do is say that this is a cultural problem. One can accept the evidence which is put before us about patterns and networks but to go that step further I think is pretty dangerous.

Why can it not be a cultural problem? Is not Keith Vaz jumping to a conclusion before the enquiry he is so keen to have? Do not the statistics actually indicate quite the reverse?

He thinks it is ‘dangerous’ to draw the conclusion. Why is everyone trying so hard to deny such clear evidence? Why is it dangerous? Do we have sacrifice truth so as not to offend a minority because there are elements in society which will leap on this to push a racist agenda?

How many times have we seen criminals gratuitously and unnecessarily tagged as ‘Jewish’ when there is no pattern within the Jewish community for the crime of which they stand convicted?

The issue is clear from the statistics that there is a problem, as Jack Straw correctly identified, with Pakistani-origin men of a certain age. If these crimes were committed by predominantly non-Pakistani-origin men of a certain age then it would be wrong to call this a problem specific to that demographic.

Next up in the BBC article was Helen Brayley, from University College London’s Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science.

She actually wrote the first academic analysis of child sex trafficking which is something rather different. Nevertheless, she too is trying very hard to deny the statistics:

So by racially stereotyping this early on without a national scoping project… we don’t know what the situation is in other areas around the country… you might be leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy of if people are looking for Asian offenders, they will only find Asian offenders.
So now we have an enquiry and a scoping project. I submit that a lot of public money could be saved by the glaringly obvious statistics that we already have before us. When it comes to a certain section of British society we have to tread on eggshells, it seems, and do everything possible to deny, obfuscate or defer the obvious conclusion.
Next up, Ed Miliband, who you may forgiven for forgetting is the leader of the Labour Party.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Straw was right to say there must be zero tolerance of criminal activity against young girls in any community.
But he added: “That said, we’ve got to be careful about generalisations about particular communities. As Jack himself said, we find sexual crimes committed by people of all backgrounds.”
So here we go again but this time with ‘generalisations’. He has invented this. Jack Straw was, in fact, very specific. He neither generalised or  stereotyped.  However, once again, someone is emphasising a politically correct  scepticism rather than face facts.

It required a member of this ‘stereotyped’ community to actually tell it how it is, albeit whilst still denying that the problem was cultural and attacking Jack Straw for suggesting it was.

Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Muslim youth group the Ramadhan Foundation, rejected any suggestion such abuse was “ingrained” in Britain’s Pakistani community, but he said it was an issue.

He said: “I first raised this two or three years ago and I got a lot of stick within the community from people who said I was doing the work of the BNP and stigmatising them.

“Most people didn’t realise the seriousness of it. But now, after a series of court cases, things have changed. I have had a lot of support.”

But he added: “These gangs that operate are criminals. There’s nothing in their culture, there’s nothing in their religion to suggest that this sort of thing is ingrained.

“And for Jack Straw, a former home secretary, to suggest that this somehow is ingrained within young Pakistani men, I think is quite dangerous.”

Again he twists what Jack Straw said. No-one suggested it was ingrained or somehow connected with religious beliefs. What Jack Straw said is that it is a problem with a certain element of the Pakistani community and that means it is cultural. Religion was never mentioned. While acknowledging that Jack Straw was correct in identifying the problem, at the same time he was somehow incorrect.

Melanie Phillips does believe this behaviour is fuelled by religious culture and you can read her alternative take here.

The BBC article continues with another apologist who ignores the statistics:

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s, called for more research to be carried out.

He said: “I don’t think this is so much about targeting white girls – because black girls are also victims – it’s about targeting vulnerable, isolated girls.”

Eh? What black girls? The report quoted above clearly states that in ALL cases the girls were white.  That in itself is interesting.

Finally from the BBC someone who has direct experience:

Ann Cryer, a former Labour MP for Keighley, she had been made aware of a problem in her constituency in 2003 after she was approached by about six mothers who said their daughters were being groomed for sex by Pakistani men.

She said she tried to intercede with the community by asking a councillor to speak to Muslim elders, but they said it was not their affair.

“Instead of drawing it to a conclusion then, it’s drifted on, so it seems now every year we’re getting more cases of very young, sometimes 12-year-old girls being abused by these gangs of men. I wish it would stop, I wish it would go away,” she said.

Then, on Thursday, my gob was well and truly smacked by the BBC’s Question Time. This is a debate programme where public figures, mainly politicians, but also journalists and others with an opinion, are confronted by a studio audience with their pre-selected questions on topics of the day.

This week someone asked:  Was it right for Jack Straw to say that Pakistani men saw young white women as ‘easy meat?’.

The question is already loaded and ambiguous and is actually the wrong question. Firstly Jack Straw did not say all Pakistani men think this way as the questioner implies. he has already skewed the arguement.  Secondly, he puts the emphasis on the ‘easy meat’ blunder without addressing the actual issue.

Nevertheless, the panel all took this as an opportunity to show their PC credentials, their total lack of of racism and their multiculturalism. But it was the extent to which each of them evaded the question or subverted Jack Straw’s concerns, sometimes to a ludicrous extent, which infuriated me.

Chairman David Dimbleby changed the focus of the question by stating that 50 out of 56 men convicted of this crime, as mentioned above, were Muslim and mainly Pakistani. Indeed, throughout the debate he tried desperately to get the panel to address the statistics, but they side-stepped it.

The first panellist was James Caan who is a successful businessman an entrepreneur and a member of the Dragon’s Den team on the BBC; he also happens to be of Pakistani heritage.

I think irrespective to what nationality you are, I think the crime itself is  an atrocious crime and I think the crime itself is what should be in focus and not necessarily .. which race or colour you are in. If you commit a crime … you should be punished for that crime [applause from audience] And I think what’s happened … is that the media has got so carried away about, you know, which ethnic group it is, … and I don’t think that really matters. We need to focus on the issue at hand … what’s happening to these young ladies who are vulnerable in society …

So Caan’s rather poorly argued case is that we have to ignore the fact that 50 out of 56 were Pakistani and we have to be more concerned about getting vulnerable girls off the street. But they wouldn’t be as vulnerable if they weren’t preyed upon by these gangs, would they, James?

Dimbleby then tells Caan that the point is that this is an ‘Asian’ issue (even Dimbleby can’t bring himself to say Pakistani) and he quotes Ann Cryer. He states it’s a cultural matter.  Caan just repeats that it doesn’t matter who you are ‘a wrong is a wrong’. An absurd response because no-one, as Dimbleby points out, is denying it is wrong. He again puts it to James Caan that this is a cultural phenomenon. Caan says he does not see this and he ‘looks beyond the whole issue of race or culture’ . Again he ducks the question and reiterates that, whoever you are, it is wrong whilst confirming that we live in a multi-cultural society.

His definition of ‘multi-cultural’ seems to be that your race or culture is  somehow subsumed into a homogeneous melting pot where everyone is just ‘British’. But multi-culturalism is the exact opposite of this definition; it is characterised by different cultures existing side by side and distinct from each other where mutual respect and toleration enables society as a whole to function.

The next panellist was Diane Abbott who is a Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and she is of black West Indian heritage. Her constituency is very mixed ethnically and culturally diverse.  She has Hasidic Jews, West Indians and Asian minorities in her constituency.

Her answer revealed her to be in complete denial of the whole basis of the question. She first states that Jack Straw is a friend, so we know she is about to criticise him. She ‘found his language distasteful’. Well I have already said that the “M” word was a blunder.

If Jack thinks that it is a particular Pakistani crime to go out and groom under-age girls and pimp them out [yes, she did say that and isn't that just as distasteful?], why didn’t he do something about it when he was Justice Secretary?.

She does have a point, but it does not change the statistics. She then goes on about how she was on an all-party commission on prostitution and that girls who are or have been in care are particularly liable to be vulnerable to be picked up, given drink and drugs and then used by gang members for sexual gratification.

So it’s now the girls fault, is it, Diane?

I know of no evidence that this is a uniquely Pakistani crime.

Who said it was? But it is a preponderantly Pakistani one if you look at the statistics.

Abbott says it is right to have a survey and establish the facts. But we have them, don’t we?

It won’t help these young girls by claiming it is a particular problem with a particular group of men.

Yes it would if the facts point to this crime being mainly, though not exclusively, the product of a particular culture. Surely it would be helpful if that fact were established and eradicated or ameliorated by communal or other action. How desperately Diane Abbot tries to convince herself, and us, that the facts can be discarded because it cannot be the cases, that it is impossible in her multi-cultural nirvana for any crime to be disproportionately prevalent in any community.

Then she repeats James Caan’s point that we should focus on the crime. No doubt this is to ensure the purity of the multi-cultural vision rather than admit that it can sometimes produce culturally based anomalies such as this.

Abbott receives muted applause from the audience indicating they are not convinced by her argument which is only marginally better than Caan who is not a politician.

An audience member says it’s a form of racism for Jack Straw to associate a particular crime with a particular ethnic group. Well, it would be if the claim were not supported by facts. PC rules OK once again.

If the facts don’t fit, deny them.

Apparently young Asian men are being victimised by Stop and Search just like blacks were at one time. She ignores that fact that these men were not that young (late twenties) and had families.  The young female Asian audience member gets more applause than Diane.

Dimbleby is apparently bemused by this PC blindness.  He repeats the patent facts, but Abbott is not having any of it. She says it was in a part of the country with a very large Pakistani population (Derby) . “If you went to Newcastle you would find that most of those sorts of cases involve a white man.” The demographics would be different.

How desperate can you get. Firstly the 14 cases were across England and were naturally in areas where there was a Pakistani community. But is Abbott saying that 50/56, that’s 90% of the population of Derby, and other areas where these crimes occurred, is Pakistani? With her Oxbridge education I am surprised she cannot do simple arithmetic. Once again, the facts must fit her world view or they must be subverted to fit.

Panellist number three is Jeanette Winterson a writer, journalist and broadcaster and Oxford graduate whose books look at gender issues and sexuality.

Her answer was to focus on women always being at ‘the bottom of the heap’ [Isn't that as offensive as the 'M' word?] ‘across race and across class’.

She emphasises the “M” word and avoids the real question. She ignores the race and ethnic question and specifically says ‘it’s a women’s issue, I don’t want to turn it into a race issue’.

As I have already said, if you ignore the statistics, then you do not improve the vulnerability of women. If women are vulnerable because of men’s attitudes, and a majority of those men come from a particular ethnic background, then targeting that community would help women in a more effective way than if we ignore race because it makes us feel uncomfortable and liable to self-accusation as racist.

Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Lib Dems tells us that it is the responsibility of politicians ‘to choose their words with care’.  he doesn’t say which words he is referring to. Let’s presume it’s the “M” word. So he too is answering the audience member’s question without addressing the issue as defined by David Dimbleby.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education is the final panellist. He agrees with an audience member who says ‘we should put our own house in order’ citing the Catholic Church’s problem with grooming of young boys.  He also expresses agreement with Charles Kennedy.

However, Gove is more subtle; he makes a party political point by accusing Jack Straw of making unnecessary public statements which can damage community relations when ‘the authorities’ are already aware of the problem.

Gove also tells us that if there is a particular problem in a community it is often the case that outsiders are ‘particularly ill-equipped to address those problems’. It is somehow ‘counter-productive’ to be ‘lectured from outside your community’.  Finally he makes the Winterson point that society has let down these vulnerable girls.

Is he really saying that the Pakistani community has to sort out their own problem? What if they don’t? Furthermore, his approach actual emphasises that in this country individual ethnic communities have some sort of right to autonomy, even when that community has a particular penchant for a particular crime.

If the Romany community had a predilection for car theft (which they don’t, of course) or the Hasidic Jewish community were disproportionate offenders in Rackmanism, is Gove saying that the government would have a hands-off approach and leave it to those communities to put their own house in order?

One member of the audience suggests that outsiders can often see what insiders do not or don’t want to see. Gove believes that the community is, indeed, engaged in a ‘lively debate’ on this and other issues and if we outsiders have to comment we should do so ‘respectfully’.

So once again the Pakistani community and, presumably, any other community that finds itself in this position, is ring-fenced when it comes to criticism or public debate because they may react badly to ‘outsiders’ pointing out their failings. What of the community of white girls who are being targeted? Do they care about the sensitivities of their assailants’ community or do they just want to reduce the instances of this crime?

It’s as if the Pakistani community’s sensitivities are more important than the protection of vulnerable girls.

I don’t want it to appear that I have an animus against the Pakistani community or 20-something Pakistani men. I would make the same point whatever community is being protected in this way.

It may well be the case that covert investigations are under way with these shady ‘authorities’. The point is that when a politician makes a statement which is truthful, but clumsily worded, any number of people come down on him/her like a ton of bricks in self-righteous indignation and spout a number of different reasons, mostly spurious, as to why he/she should keep mum.

So, bringing this back round to my usual topic: when it comes to the sensitivities of my community, the Jewish community, the attacks on Israel are relentless and remorseless and I feel vulnerable because of the lack of caution in the press and by politicians which these same politicians and journalists are exercising when it comes, in this case, to the Pakistani community.

Why are their sensitivities more important than mine?

Cameron, China, Israel – spot the double standard

Trade links between the UK and China are very important. Why? Because China is emerging as the superpower and economic giant of the 21st century whilst the United States is in deep financial difficulties.

The Chinese market is huge. EU countries are falling over themselves to make deals with China.

The BBC today announced:

Mr Li, tipped to become China’s next premier, has also been pressing to get EU trade bans against China lifted.

The EU has an arms embargo in place that limits high-technology sales to China which could have a dual military use.

Elsewhere, BP and the China National Offshore Oil Corp signed a deal on deep-water exploration in the South China Sea, while Jaguar Land Rover committed to sell 40,000 vehicles in China in 2011.

Agreement has also been reached to bring two giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo, the first to live in the UK for 17 years.

Now hang on. Remember Tibet. Remember the destruction of Tibetan culture and the suppression of its religious and cultural heritage. Remember that Tibet is being swamped with Chinese and that the ethnic and cultural heritage of Tibet is being destroyed. remember that Tibet is more or less closed to the outside world.

The two men had not shirked from discussing “difficult” issues such as human rights, Mr Clegg added, acknowledging that “persistent differences” remained between the countries.

Hmm, Yes. This is the soft pedal approach. Heaven forfend we offend the Chinese by being too heavy-handed. Widening cultural and trade links will hasten democracy.  And Edinburgh zoo gets a breeding pair of Giant Pandas into the bargain.

Personally, I see this as realpolitik. I don’t actually blame the UK government for doing this. Maybe this approach will work.

Now look at Cameron on Israel in Turkey last year which I wrote about last year here.

“Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza can not and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp,” he said.

Cameron has no problem dissing Israel to an Islamist regime. Cameron has no problem with saying:

I have. Unlike a lot of politicians from Britain who visit Israel, when I went, I did stand in occupied East Jerusalem and actually referred to it as occupied East Jerusalem. The Foreign Office bod who was with me said, most ministers don’t dare say. So, yes, I thought I had quite an argument when I was in Israel with Tzipi Livni about settlements and I think Obama is right to take a robust line. I think we have to but it is depressing how little progress is being made right now.

Yet he is so mealy-mouthed about China.

The sad fact is that foreign policy is not about truth or principles, it’s about getting what is best for your country, for the UK. It’s about being liked by the nice Americans. It’s about showing how important and influential the UK is.

Israel is dispensable. Israel is an easy target. The UK has little to lose by calling East Jerusalem ‘occupied’ whilst ignoring Tibet’s repression and loss of autonomy within China.

I’d like to see Cameron in Taipei criticising China’s Tibet policy. I’d like even more for Cameron to go and stand in Lhasa.

In 2008, the Dalai Lama criticised the then Labour government for not speaking out against a “cultural genocide”. (See TimesOnline here.)

Mr Brown has been accused of kowtowing to Beijing by refusing to invite the Dalai Lama to Downing Street for formal talks. Instead he will meet the spiritual leader at Lambeth Palace on Friday enabling the Prime Minister to claim that he is receiving the 72-year-old monk in a spiritual rather than political capacity

Successive governments have tip-toed around the Tibet issue so as not to offend almighty, rich, big-spending China.

But Israel gets the big stick. It’s small, not as powerful as you have been led to believe, it doesn’t spend big in the EU, it cannot harm anyone’s economy.

Yet how many academic, trade union, student or cultural boycotts or calls for such have you seen lately?

Maybe we could say that the UK government is panda-ing to the Chinese

The Disappearance of Israel – the ASA and its own twist on double standards

Hat tip to Richard Millett and a really telling blog post “Note to ASA: “Palestine” does not officially exist”.

The ASA in question is the UK Advertising Standards Authority.

The advert in question is this:

As Richard points out:

A few months ago, after one complaint, the Advertising Standards Authority banned the Israeli Tourist Office from advertising Israel’s most precious site, The Western Wall in Jerusalem, in adverts for Israel.

He also points out that this advertisement is yet another example of how Palestinians airbrush Israel off the map.

“Palestine lies between the Mediterranean Coast and the Jordan River” is a complete denial of the Jewish state’s existence. This echoes the racist chant of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free” sung by anti-Israel activists.

But his most devastating point is this:

It is only right and proper to complain to the ASA that the advert fails to mention such a “brutal occupation” seeing that it is referred to time and again by such eminent organisations as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Middle East Monitor and Muslim Public Affairs Committee etc.

Surely, these organisations wouldn’t be lying about the true state of affairs, would they?

Brilliant. All these organisations take so much time and produce so much propaganda to tell us how bad things are in the West Bank and Gaza and when it suits them they tell us how wonderful it all is.

The Palestinian Tourist Board has removed Israel from the map by force of collective will. Who needs Iran’s nuclear weapons? Just un-imagine Israel and it’s gone – poofh!

Well, not quite. To give their website some credit it does say this:

Palestine comprises the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on the Eastern Mediterranean Coast.

Almost right. There is no country called Palestine, however.

At www.travelpalestine.ps, although you can see an Islamic and Christian tour, they don’t offer Jewish sites of interest. Strange that.

Do read all of Richard’s blog post.

Update: Daphne Anson has her usually erudite analysis of this at http://daphneanson.blogspot.com/2011/01/travellers-tall-tale-palestine-lies.html

First they came for the Saturday people – the Egyptian Copts and why a one-state solution in the Middle East is not possible


(AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

We are all probably now painfully aware of the onslaught against the Christians of Iraq.

I have previously written about the harassment of the Christians of Bethlehem and the Middle East here.

Less is reported about the plight of the ancient Coptic Christian community in Egypt.

Ami Isseroff has published the contents of a letter by a Coptic Christian living in the US to President Obama. It makes painful reading. (see IsraelNews at http://www.zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2011/01/04/letter-from-a-coptic-christian-to-president-obama/).

The Copts are increasingly being harassed and murdered by Islamists. The clear intent is to drive them out.

If Israel / Palestine became a single state with a Muslim majority or even a large minority filled with the bile of Hamas, Hizbullah and Fatah, who do you think would be harassed first? And then they will come for the Sunday people.

This is the expressed aim of Hamas and Hizbullah and a cornerstone of PLO/Fatah: destroy Israel and drive out the Jews.

And then they will come for the Sunday people and the Druze and the Baha’is.

As in Egypt, so would it be in a future Palestine that has consumed Israel.

I reproduce the letter here in full. It is a warning of how things will go if the world doesn’t wake up to this madness. It was written on Dec 24th. The very next week 21 Copts were murdered by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, Egypt as they celebrated mass on New Year’s Day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Letter from a Coptic Christian

Mike, a Coptic Christian who has immigrated to the United States, has asked Restrain the Blade to publish this letter to President Barack Obama. Out of concern for his safety, only the author’s first name is made public.

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington D.C.

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to you as Coptic Christian who immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s.

I am an American citizen.

I have grave concerns about what is going in Egypt regarding the Copts.

To put it bluntly, I fear that something very bad is going to happen to this community in the very near future.

Coptic Christians have been the victims of systematic abuse and oppression in Egypt for a long time. On November 17, 2010, the U.S. Department of State recently issued a report on religious freedom in Egypt that details the abuses they suffer on a daily basis. January of this year, six Coptic Christians were murdered outside their church after celebrating Christmas.

Sadly, I fear another attack will happen again sometime in the near future.

The tendency of blaming the State of Israel for every problem in Egypt, and linking it to the Copts, is on the rise, especially in the past a few months. By associating the Copts with the Jewish state, extremists and government officials are inciting hostility toward a beleaguered, defenseless minority.

The anti-Israel polemic is fairly well known. One official accused recent shark and jellyfish for attacks on swimmers at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Mossad. The alleged goal was to kill the tourism season.

What is less well known is that Muslim Imams throughout the Middle East are demonizing Coptic Christians in Egypt. One oft-repeated claim is that Israel is using Coptic churches to store all kinds of weapons to attack Muslims. Such accusations lead to threats of violence.

For example, Sheik Wagdi Ghoneim recently said in a video message from the State of Qatar “I swear by God, you will not have time stay alive until America and the West arrive, this is for your own good, if you understand. Do you think the Muslims inside Egypt will say thank you and may Allah give you health? “No, by God.”

And on September 16, 2010 Mr., Muhammad Salim Al-Awa, Secretary-General of the International Union of Muslim Scholars announced on Al-Jazeera TV (Qatar): Copts Amass Weapons in Egyptian Churches and Are “Preparing for War against the Muslims”.

Copts are even being blamed for the violence perpetrated against them by Muslim extremists in Egypt. For example, after a mob of 5,000 Egyptians recently attacked a Christian service building, President’s Mubarak former assistant, Dr. Mustafa El- Feki from Ain Shams University stated that Israel and the Copts were at fault for the attack and the two deaths that resulted from it. Dr. El Feki stated that Israel was behind the subsequent protests: “”It is almost certain that the Mossad is involved in these events. The State is dealing with dangerous events that could not have succeeded without external intervention with Israel at its head.”

Here, it is important to note why the mob attacked the building in the first place. While the Egyptian government does not allow Christians to build churches, it does allow them to build “service buildings” where social services can be provided to the elderly and to young people in the Coptic Christian community. The mob attacked this service building after hearing rumors that the building itself was going to be used as a church and not merely to provide social services to its members.

Mr. President, in light of numerous acts of incitement and previous acts of violence, I fear that Coptic Christians in Egypt are going to have a very tough Christmas season. I implore you to use your good offices to insist that the Egyptian government protect the rights of its Christian citizens.

For reasons of my own safety, I can only sign my first name, but nevertheless, I offer wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I ask that you use your influence to make sure Christians in Egypt can celebrate their holidays in safety.

Michael
Dec. 24, 2010