Sunday, 15 March 2009

The future for Israel-Palestine

At a meeting on February 23rd for Hesder yeshiva students about to enter the Israeli Army. Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior delivered a fiery and overtly political speech, calling for Israeli sovereignty over the whole of the Land of Israel and criticizing what he described as weak-minded IDF strategies in the face of Israel's enemies.

Citing the Torah, Lior noted that "200,000 Israelites and 10,000 Judahites fought Amalek. Why are the Judahites counted separately from the others? Because the Israelite army pitied Amalek. Today this is called being humanitarian.... Only the tribe of Judah did not pity Amalek, and destroyed it... The sons of Torah are taught not to pity their enemies.... We need ethics from the Torah, not the Christian world, which teaches to turn the other cheek. This hypocrisy is against human nature."

(Jerusalem Post 25.2.2009).

It is sad to hear such a travesty of Judaism from a rabbi. He forgets that Jesus was a Jew and that when he said "Love your neighbour as you love yourself." he was quoting the Torah. Ruthless warfare against people of another religion is more characteristic of those who launched the Crusades and the pogroms against Muslims and Jews. It was not part of Jewish history for two and a half thousand years - until it was revived by Israel.

Information has emerged that the CIA has prepared a confidential report, now no longer confidential, forecasting that the attempt to maintain Israel as a colonial state will collapse within 20 years, giving way to a one-state solution, giving equal rights and freedom of movement to citizens of all religions and of none, and accepting the return of the Palestinian refugees. It is suggested that up to two million Israelis will prefer to emigrate, mostly to the USA.

A democratic, secular, highly devolved and demilitarized state would presumably cease to be attractive to those who are 'Jewish' only by 'racial' criteria and would instead be a magnet to those who define themselves by their Jewish religion.

One may hope that the 'racial/national' definition of Jewishness will then disappear and people will be happy to forget what religion someone's ancestors followed. However there is now an Israeli nation of people who were born in Israel and who speak Hebrew as their first language. Justice and equality requires that they be allowed to continue to live in the country of their birth. Any attempt to expel them or to force them to abandon their language would be as heinous as the attempt to deprive Palestinians of their rights.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

How to spell Anglican

Some people think I am exaggerating when I say that Christianity is dying in Britain, so here are two stories:

I was queuing in the Oxford University Press bookshop in High Street, and the American woman in front of me asked if they had any books on Anglicanism.
Assistant: "How do you spell Anglicanism?"
American: "It's just Anglican plus ism."
Assistant: "Yes, but how do you spell Anglican?"

The other story I can't vouch for. Someone was trying to buy a crucifix pendant.
Assistant: "Do you want the plain one or the one with a little man?"

Well, two stories don't make a history, but there are plenty of other signs. So why do we still have an Established Church? And, as long as we do, how can we complain about Iran being an Islamic Republic.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Mutualize the lot!

So now the mighty Lloyds Bank group has fallen, and the taxpayer is responsible for hundreds of billions of pounds of dodgy assets. We should remember that Lloyds-TSB-Halifax-BoS was put together under government pressure out of what were originally two rather cautious banks (Lloyds and Bank of Scotland) and two mutuals (Halifax Building Society and Trustee Savings Bank). Mrs Thatcher took TSB away from its savers, on whose behalf it was run by the trustees, using very expensive legal procedures to show that its statutes were not watertight. The Halifax was one of several mutuals that went private with disastrous results (Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley were two others) after conservative legislation allowed them to be sold off by the votes of carpet-baggers. So the roots of all this go back to the 1980s and 90s.

So why do we not take all the banks into public ownership? The old Soviet Union enjoyed 70 years without inflation. It also had low rates of growth, but that was quite right in a world of growing population and shrinking resources. Should we not then nationalize the lot? The trouble with that is that it puts too much power into the hands of politicians who, we know too well, are fallible. The answer is surely in mutual or cooperative ownership. The Cooperative Bank is a shining example of how banks should be run.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Darwin marred

Andrew Marr's TV programme on 'Darwin's dangerous idea' was a travesty. He jumped very quickly to German Imperialism and Hitler, as if modern ideological warfare were based on the misunderstanding of Darwin. In fact racism, slavery and colonial invasion had already been increasing for centuries. The British suppression of the Indian Uprising, which had been provoked by the attempt to convert Indians to Christianity, and the shameful massacre of the civilian population of Delhi happened the year before Darwin published The Origin of Species.

In fact Darwinism is only dangerous to the belief that humans are separate from and superior to all other forms of life. Hindus, Buddhists and Jains have no problems in accepting that we evolved from animals, and nor did educated Muslims until they were infected with American-style creationism.

Actually I think creationism should be seen as anti-religious. The idea that the forms of living things are fixed for all time is contrary to the belief that God alone does not change. In the words of the hymn: 'Change and decay in all around I see, O Thou who changest not, abide with me.'

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

A chink of light?

Two things suggest there might be some movement in US/UK attitudes to Israel and Palestine. The first is that Obama has appointed Charles Freeman as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He has in the past alarmed Israel by saying that Israeli interests are not the same as American interests. He pointed out in 2007 that Hamas was "the only democratically elected government in the Arab world.

The other possible sign of change, though I long since ceased to hope for anything from Mr Blair, is that he has at long last visited Gaza. He was careful not to meet Hamas, but he was visibly shocked by the destruction he saw. He made a remark that sounded odd even from him: "given the numbers of people that have died I find the conversation about proportionality not really a sensible conversation to have." It sounds as though he means that the disproportionality is so enormous that there is no point in arguing the contrary.

On another subject, poor old Scotland! Royal Bank of Scotland and Halifax Bank of Scotland are both at the bottom of the pile. So much for Scottish prudence! Well, at least people should no longer make jokes about the Scots being mean! They seem to be ready to lend money to any charlatan who asks for it.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

2176 days

US/UK troops have been in Iraq 2176 days. That is equal to the whole of World War II from Hitler's invasion of Poland to the capitulation of Japan. And it is not over yet. Obama says he'll take out combat troops in August 2010, but there will still be lots of non-combat troops, and the biggest American embassy in the world. And NATO's war in Afghanistan goes on. Also, it is now official that there is to be no change in Palestine either. Hillary heaped praise on the discredited leadership of the PLO, and said not a word about Hamas. And you can be sure that America will continue to shore up the regimes in Egypt, Arabia and the Gulf. Business as usual!