British Fascists and 9/11 untruths

Practically everything that is coming out of Harry’s Place at the moment is eyepoppingly good (or failing that, simply eyepopping) but this on conspiracy theorists from Edmund Standing caught my eye – surprise, the 9/11 Truth movement is up to its neck in antisemitism. A very well-sourced post.

Papanomicron (Matt) informs me that he has been grovelling with the die-hard “drunks and retards” at the bottom of the comments. On the subject of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, he had this to say at 11:48:

“no serious engineer would actually let an architect go round the world talking about structural behaviour – the leader of this band of saddos is an Architect you see.”

According to Matt, architects don’t know the first thing about how buildings stand up. Catty.

Death and violence: chessboxing, Halloween and Persepolis

Last night I went to a Halloween thing at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. There a friend and I got talking to one of the organisers of last night’s International Chessboxing Championship.

Chessboxing is a new (for London) combination sport consisting of four-minute rounds of chess interspersed with three-minute boxing bouts, up to 24 minutes or 11 rounds in total. Last night’s champion, who looked battered but less so than practically everyone else (what with it being Halloween), told me that his interest in chess had preceded his interest in boxing. He looked like a beaten-up chessplayer from the chin up and a boxer from the neck down. The neat thing about chess boxing is that the worse you box, the worse you will perform in the ensuing chess round. Brilliant! I think not. I object to it. I think that chessplayers who are fretting about their masculinity would do better to immerse themselves in, say, the pugillistic pursuit of political blogging where anybody can feel like a man regardless of gender. Boxing and the watching of boxing is simply one step back from lynching and public executions and no amount of chess will change this. The promoter did seem to understand me – he was merely unmoved. Would I ban it? Banish it to Essex with the pit bull and cock fights and the bare knuckle boxing? No. But it is complete idiocy to box.

The costumes at the Halloween thing were as fantastic as you might imagine in that neck of the fashion and media woods. There were some brilliant corpse brides, a man with a noose, a robot, a shipwrecked maiden with a deathly pallour and a tea clipper made of bamboo fixed to her head, a geisha with an opium pipe, a french maid cleaning up a murder, a huge pink rabbit, zombies, zombies, zombies, bandaged zombies, a witch and the crew of a crashed plane. Matt had a bloody eye applied by a make-up artist who was with our group of friends, and I had a bloody nose. Walking there from London Bridge I’d passed so many living dead that I thought my highly realistic nosebleed would be understood as bit of festivity. And so it was until we left (when the music started getting ironic) and walked onto an N8 on Bethnal Green road. We were on the top deck on the seats just behind the stairwell and everybody who left and looked up did a wide-eyed double-take. A few people – by all appearances the kind of people you’d imagine might actually bust your nose – even asked us if we were alright. Walking home from the bus stop we passed the police detaining somebody at Fullwell Cross and the look on the face of the policeman who noticed us was priceless – startled, appalled, confused by our equanimity, poised to take details and taking a few moments to realise we hadn’t just been attacked.

This afternoon Matt and I watched Persepolis, an animated film from last year based on an autobiographical graphic novel about the childhood and and early adulthood of the Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi. She lived through the revolution of ’79, the installation of the ayatollahs, the ensuing bloodbath of a war with Iran and the general repression of the Iranian regime. Marjane is the daughter of communist sympathisers descended from the Persian Shah Nasser Al-Din. Things were very hard for her family and several of were executed first by the Shah and then by the Ayatollahs.

It is a beautiful film of vignettes. As a little girl she order God out of her life after her uncle is killed by the clerics. The west arms both sides of the Iran Iraq war. Marx occupies the same part of the heavens as God, interrupts his conversation with Marjane, and their advice doesn’t conflict – “La lutte continue”, ventures Marx with one eye on God, who accedes. The anarchists in Vienna (where she is sent to school) complain crassly about having to spend Christmas with their parents. As she says, “The government had nothing to fear from these anarchists”. In the new Iranian regime, a pious window-cleaner who defers all difficult questions to God can rise to a position of dizzying responsibility. Marjane’s mother and grandmother are splendidly mutinous while outwardly acquiescent. The Ayatollah’s police officers are dedicated and unintelligent enforcers but entirely without sadism. Appealing to their humanity – whether empathy or bribery – gets people out of many dangerous situations. “Diabetes? Like my mother.” and they release the grandmother. And yet people are arrested and killed in huge numbers. A young communist woman is to be executed and because it is illegal to kill a virgin, a guard marries her first. Marjane’s courtship with her first husband Reza is fraught. By betraying an innocent man to the police she diverts their attention from the fact that she is waiting to meet him in a public place wearing makeup. Soon afterwards as they are driving together she is arrested as an unchaperoned woman and faced with a fine or a whipping. To escape this harassment she marries him prematurely and when they split her friend informs her that every man will expect her to sleep with him.

Watching Persepolis I realised that it’s not cowardice but graphic violence that has driven me from stories like these in recent years. I’m entirely susceptible to attempts to beat me round the eyeballs with soft vulnerable human bodies and tortured human minds, and in fact it’s the best way to mentally torture me. The episode of Spooks where the agent was ducked and eventually murdered in the deep fat fryer. The torture scenes in Pan’s Labyrinth. The beginning of Saving Private Ryan. I feel sick, I can’t sit still, I screw my eyes shut or leave. I don’t know why – it’s just me. But in my adrenal state I get angry that torture and murder should be faithfully reproduced, sold and passed off as entertainment, or even edutainment, for 60 or 90 minute slots after which the credits roll, we change channel and go on with our lives. Talking to almost everybody else they say “It’s just a film, it’s not real”, but this seems to me irrelevant. I wonder whether anybody who has actually been on the receiving end of violence would want to make a film like Spooks, Pan’s Labyrinth or Saving Private Ryan. Marjane witnessed sporadic violence and pretty near constant menace and yet Persepolis was a devastatingly clear film which left me upset and comprehending, rather than reeling with horror.

There was a time about ten years ago where everybody in my life seemed to be Iranian – my supervisor, my employers, the bloke I was seeing. The bloke I was seeing was a gynaecologist who had been denied by law the right to practice the family profession and was in England retraining as a medical informatician. My supervisor took his British wife back to Iran to visit his family and she was stopped by a police officer for having some hair showing. When my employer heard that I had seen Samira Makhmalbaf’s The Apple, he asked me what I thought and the first thing I said was that I had found it amusing, and I will never forget how his face fell. I didn’t know a thing back then.

Conspiracy theory event at UCL

Shhhhh – don’t let them know we’re talking – even thinking – about them.

Tsk, I’m out of date. Conspiracy theorists are mainstream these days, to the extent that Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth in partnership with We Are Change are sufficiently funded to bring us this conspiracy theorist event at UCL:

Conspiracy theories are alternative, counter-hegemonic explanations for a given phenomenon which allege secret and malevolent machinations based on nasty motives. On inspection, conspiracy theories are inadequately evidenced. It’s this lack of evidence in combination with a keeness to believe in malevolent motives, in the presence of a reasonable and well-evidenced ‘official’ theory, which are the tell-tale signs of crankery. Nevertheless, here we are – crankery abounds. Perhaps soon I won’t even be able to put them in my ‘weirdos’ category any more.

Cultural scholar Mark Fenster would definitely disapprove of that. I just ordered his book. He conceptualises conspiracy beliefs as a populist “mode of desire” for a different society and, in this respect, as progressive. Part of review of the first edition (2001, before 9/11) in Cultural Studies;15(2):375-9 by Mark Harrison is interesting:

Fenster proposes a mode of analysis that departs from Hofstadter’s position by adopting a more sympathetic stance, one which attempts to take conspiracy theory seriously and recognize its ostensibly inherent utopian potential.

Conspiracy theory as a topic should be of great interest to cultural studies scholars for a number of reasons. As a mode of understanding power relations in contemporary America, conspiracy theory occupies an increasingly broad bandwidth within the political imaginary. In addition to its popular representations in cinema, television and massmarket fiction, the conspiratorial world view is central to the burgeoning culture of conservative Christianity (the forces of secular humanism occupying the role of central villain) and generally informs the sense of political apathy among the US electorate.

However, Harrison says that Fenster fails to talk about how such theories might work progressively in culture or politics. After all, the thing about conspiracy theories is that they are politically disorientating and associated with political fatalism.

One question that arises upon reaching the conclusion that conspiracy theory is somehow symptomatic of a broader dynamic is what can the symptom tell us about that dynamic? Fenster shows us that plumbing the structures of conspiracy theory is a good place to begin addressing this question, but he seems to default to a modified version of conspiracy theory as a salve to the wounds of political disenfranchisement. To say that conspiratorial thinking brings comfort to its host misreads the nature of creeping paranoia and the sense of being surrounded by overwhelmingly powerful and malevolent forces. While Fenster clearly realizes this, he never quite accounts for the tension between the notion of conspiracy theory as salve and conspiracy theory as a source of profound dread and disequilibrium.

Some paragraphs later Harrison refers to “critical theory’s paranoid doppelganger”. It will be interesting to see how Fenster’s the 2008 edition evolved.

From a different and complementary disciplinary perspective, social psychologist Karen Douglas finds that poople who hold conspiracy beliefs tend to have cynical, disaffected, machiavellian values and can envisage doing the same kind of thing themselves – I drastically simplify; she is not inclined to pathologise or criminalise people with conspiracy beliefs. (Incidentally people who promulgate conspiracy theories are probably different from people who are susceptable to them.)

I’m also going to the event for the questions – AE911 are actively soliciting for architects and engineers to go and listen. Matt is an engineer, so I guess that means me.

How to be thought of as a sloppy, long-haired gay

Today I attended a seminar laid on by consultants who specialise in better use of email. It was patchy – there was some good stuff about being considerate with subject headings, and translating the accumulated 90 seconds of dealing with trivial email into whole days-worth of lost time for an organisation.

There were also some startles. The biggest was when the seminar facilitator asked us what we think about people who write emails containing spelling and grammatical mistakes. A few people said this made them very angry. One or two even said that they would be less likely to act on the email. The facilitator then told us that on one occasion a participant had responded “I want to kill them”.

Next he showed us an example of a bad email, which was a request for information from a colleague. The author had failed to provide contact details, over-used capitals, not come up with a helpful Subject line, misspelt the word ‘from’, and referred to his correspondent Chris as ‘Christopher’ when she was in fact ‘Christine’. Other than that, it was bright, chatty and energetic. Then the facilitator posed the following: “Let me just ask you a question – have any of you formed an impression of what this person actually looks like? I bet you have. Anybody?” No, I thought. But behind me somebody shouted out “Sloppy”, and somebody else, “Untidy”. I think somebody else said something about dirty fingernails. At the behest of the seminar leader, a group of police, hospital, university and council workers created a highly unfavourable persona for the author of a simple and pleasant, if hasty, 4-line email. Then I heard “He probably has long hair.” And then “He’s probably gay”. I was finding it pretty surreal by that time. I thought about trying to get away with something like “He has HIV” or “He eats out of bins”, but bottled it.

The message I take from this is that to avoid being thought of as a social deviant by our readers, we must strive for formality and correctness on email at all times. You and I might consider email an optionally throwaway medium to use when we can’t or don’t want to get hold of somebody in person. We may think we can play around with the register a bit or take the lead on informality. We may think it’s possible to drop a letter and still do our job well. We may think that resorting to upper case for emphasis is understandable considering how many people read email in plain text format. We may give the benefit of the doubt on missing information and chalk it down to simple human error. But that, people, would be making assumptions (and please remember, assume makes an ass out of u and me) because for some people – perhaps people who have never experienced dyslexia or great haste, perhaps people who occupy positions of power at work where they can ignore you or refuse you on a whim – your emails are a licence to construct your entire character, appearance and sexuality.

Charlie Brooker on conspiracy theorists

Today I was fortunate to talk in depth with a member of the Rotary Club. We mostly discussed the organisation, structures and activities of the RC, but I’m interested in the Masons and in invitation-only organisations in general so I asked about comparisons. He didn’t have much to say about the Masons but when I tangentially mentioned Article 17 of the Hamas Covenant which namechecks the RC as one of a number “Zionist organizations under various names and shapes, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, espionage groups and others, which are all nothing more than cells of subversion and saboteurs”, it’s safe to say that he was mildly astounded. Zionism is far from the reckoning of the Rotary Club which, outside Hamas, is probably most famous for its polio vaccination work.

It’s important to combat conspiracy theorists because I know from walking around London and accepting meticulously put-together leaflets that they are on the rise and actively seeding their deluded cynicism.

Several people have picked up on this cheering Guardian piece by Charlie Brooker on conspiracy theories but I heard it first from MuteBoy. MuteBoy was with me when we encountered these Truthers, who were absolutely barking.

Brooker is a titan of popular criticism – exactly what is required – and he could do this with one hand tied behind his back, but on this occasion he didn’t appear to be trying hard enough. He made it easy for his commenters to call him a conformist, which they duly did. You can’t win with these people – they’re as slippery as piglets – but you have to fight for their constituency, talk to the gallery by demolishing their arguments about motivation and logistics. I also think it helps to try to explain conspiracy theories as a social phenomenon.

I’ve asked two structural engineers (one of whom specialises counter-terrorism) of my acquaintance to write a guest post for this blog addressing with the technical side of the Truther arguments. Matt (my Matt, one of them) remarks from time to time that you’ll never see a proper engineer crediting a conspiracy theory about 9/11. I’ve asked him to address the theories advanced by Engineers and Architects for 9/11 Truth. We’ll see.

Here’s a selection of comments from the Brooker piece (not representative). :

“The silliest conspiracy theory of all is the one to the effect that a score of wealthy young muslims took flying lessons to learn how to pilot jetliners into the WTC because “they hated our freedom. And our way of life.”

If you believe that, and that basically is the narrative promoted by “sensible” people, I don’t see why the relatively mundane fantasy of large green cats and a planet whose existence can be verified with binoculars should be treated with such contempt. It is, after all, rather harmless whereas the one involving an innocent America, suddenly attacked by religious fanatics beyond the reach of reason, has led to carnage on a world wide scale.

It really is a pity that none of the hundreds of totally innocent bystanders currently being tortured in Guantanamo has the opportunity to share in these satirical occasions.”

This commenter ignores the documented research into Al Qaeda’s objectives and activities, and appears to favour the motiveless theory that the US government would have killed – with horrible suffering – 3000 of its own people and traumatised the entire nation on September 11th.

“The problem with all this conspiracy theory stuff is if you say ‘they’re all mad’ people think you’re with the official version. I want to to join the cock up theorists club because I don’t believe a govenment who can balls up the Iraq war in the way that they did or the economy as they are doing now could do something which according to the theories would take such precise planning and execution.”

I think that this is a fair point made really badly. Yeah, a conspiracy on the scale of 9/11 would inevitably leak. But this bloke’s cock-up theory implies that governments would hoodwink us if they could only be confident in getting away with it. Adhering to this theory in a parliamentary democracy is dangerously cynical and in fact just as demented as believing the conspiracy theory.

So I get labelled a conformist by Truthers – big deal.

“I am reminded of two events that are now widely accepted as historical fact: the collusion of the U.S. in the overthrow of the governments of Iran and Guatemala in the 1950’s. Both of these were widely disputed in my youth as “paranoid leftwing conspiracy theories.” Nor was this restricted to the meanderings of the anti-communist right: I recall picking up an old college history of the middle east that was, in most respects, reasonably well done, but which insisted that there was “no evidence” that the U.S. had anything to do with the overthrow of the government of Iran.

9/11 conspiracies are relatively easy to disregard for the reasons outlined in this article. But, 25 years ago, it was almost as easy, for very similar reasons, to disregard claims about the U.S. in the 1950’s. So how, then, are we to distinguish between the two? At least here in the U.S. this would seem to be a necessary skill, as far too much of the left is given over to conspiracy or quasi-conspiracy theories. Some of them, may in fact be true: but which ones?”

I don’t read detective stories, but I think you’re supposed to look at motives and means and then work your way through the theories, most obvious first (rather than slinging out the most obvious as being too conformist)

Anyway. Bedtime.

Before I go though, of course, I have to link to these again.

Conspiracy debunk

Conspiracy theories preoccupy me a bit and without even going out of my way I run into September 11th ones on a fairly regular basis.

It’s very difficult to debunk a conspiracy theory because the conspiracy theorists are only rational in one direction – confirming their theory. They have an unfeasible suspicion about the motives of people in power, and an unshakeable confidence in the capabilities of small cabals to effect control over entire states or even the world, without any evidence being found or any leaks escaping. It is a bit worrying that these have gained so much currency that BBC2 screened a documentary debunk tonight as part of their Conspiracy Files series.

Well worth a watch.

Beheaded wax Hitler – a straw man

A German anti-fascist anti-policeman tore the head off a waxwork of Hitler, lightly assaulting a security guard in the process. Maybe you have to be German to understand why this should have met with such widespread approval in Germany.

From what is probably a distinctive perspective in Britain I found it highly symbolic, but not in the way it was meant.

It called to mind our local self-styled anti-fascists, the Socialist Worker Party, who are exeptionally badly conceived and even worse executed. They spent last year pursuing a special focus on Israel, a veneer of hand-wringing about the Palestinians disguising their own distinctive form of degenerate anti-Imperialism, using arguments flavoured with antisemitism (Jewish power, collective guilt, selective blame) and combining with people who were more openly antisemitic (some of their Islamist mates and other nutters who like singling out the Jewish state).

After Alex ‘Callinicos’ Mango told the SWP to back away because Jew-bashing wasn’t helping the cause on this occasion (always worth testing the water periodically though – hey, SWP? It’s bound to work one of these days) they decided that a better way to attract people – they are currently vying with Galloway for the non-pink vote – would be to be seen to fight the BNP, so they are currently bustling about this business including writing a lot of fairly good stuff on their site and, rather late and casting aspersion on their democratic credentials, demonstrating against the new BNP member of the London Assembly after he was democratically elected in May. Their transparent and self-serving ends are justified by their means, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a good idea to fight the BNP. More power to them on that count.

So my main thought when I heard that somebody had very publicly decapitated a wax-work of Hitler was that that would please a lot of New Stalinists. Thing is, the New Stalinists of the SWP (and every country has them to a greater or lesser extent) who are pretending to be the left, are the most urgent problem for the left, if only the left knew it.

Fight the neo-Nazis. Fight the neo-Stalinists.

‘Waterstones Recommends’ the Brothers Grimm, Lydia and Dear Deidre

Further to news of Amazon’s publication and promotion of Persecution, Privilege and Power, I remembered how the other month I was surprised to a standstill in front of one of the promotional ‘Waterstones Recommends’ stands of the Gower St branch of Waterstone (huge academic bookshop at the heart of the University of London). Volumes 1 and 2 of Zionism: the real enemy of the Jews by Alan Hart were actually being promoted by Waterstones. Here’s what Alan says (I’m not linking to it but it’s easy to find):

Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged. Israel as a Jewish state is an example of the Jewish character, which finds free and concentrated expression within it. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots. Nevertheless, any flaw in Israeli conduct, which is initially cited as anti-Israelism, is likely to be transformed into an empirical proof of the validity of anti-Semitism…. It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world. In the struggle against anti-Semitism, the front line begins in Israel.

Dross, and the whole thing, both volumes, is like that. The book isn’t authoritative and it isn’t scholarship, it’s a largely unsubstantiated apology for antisemitism from a very ideosyncratic and obviously mistaken commentator who finds favour with blinkered and facile people whose existing prejudices and wonky analyses he confirms. What the hell is it doing on the ‘Waterstones Recommends’ stand? I approached the nearest assistant with a simple question about the criteria for promoting a book in this way. The assistant referred me to the floor manager. He was wary. He said it probably meant it was on a college reading list. Potentially this was an even more disturbing development so I asked him to check whether this was the case and if so which course, and he obliged. But to my relief it wasn’t on a reading list. He got confused and started to explain that booksellers are not in a position to make political decisions about which books to sell and which not, so I cut him short because wasn’t what I was getting at. I told him no more than the truth about the thrust of the book and argued that I had no problem with it being sold but it shouldn’t be promoted because it’s a bad book by any critical standards, it appeals to cranks, to promote it is to rehabilitate crankishness and that many people consider it racist in its double standards. The floor manager said he didn’t know why it was there, and shortly after that told me that he would take it off the stand. (I hadn’t asked for this but it was what I’d hoped he’d offer to do.) The last time I had seen this book was in the British Library shop (and that astounded me too). Its publisher, World Focus Publishing, seems only to be dealing with Alan’s work (is it by any chance owned by Alan?) Its web site says:

“The take over of British publishing houses by conglomerates with agendas of their own and vested interests to protect has destroyed the independence of British publishing.

Well, not the whole truth. There are many things which can come between the reading public and their books – not least market forces – so he’d really have to justify blaming the publishers. Amazon has opened things up immensely, in fact. But he continues:

One consequence is that far too many books are published and pulped and books such as ZIONISM: THE REAL ENEMY OF THE JEWS simply cannot be published – because they offend powerful vested interests.

I’m not a powerful vested interest. I’m somebody who is worried about antisemitism, views Israel as a product of antisemitism, thinks that blaming Jews for wanting a state of their own is completely ridiculous, and understands the promotion of anti-Zionist literature in Waterstones as part of the same phenomenon which has seen antisemitic literature promoted by Amazon, as mentioned above. My sphere of influence is dinky, but I exert it as best I can, which is my right. Alan Hart, like Sue Blackwell whom World Focus Publishing name-checks, is patently, terminally, incapable of responding to antisemitism while he persists in peddling the lie that Israeli Jews – half the world’s Jews – are the culprits of antisemitism while only anti-Zionists are blameless victims. This stuff is appalling pile of tabloid cod which belongs far, far away from academia (my emphases):

Because the Nazi holocaust was a Gentile crime, there was nothing any decent Gentile in publishing, the media in general and politics feared more than being accused of anti-Semitism. Zionism played on this fear by asserting that criticism of its child, Israel (a unilaterally declared state for some Jews but claiming to be the state of all Jews), was by definition a manifestation of anti-Semitism – i.e. an attack on all Jews everywhere. This was, as it still is, propaganda nonsense, but it worked wonderfully well for Zionism. I mean that out of fear of being falsely accused of anti-Semitism, mainstream publishers, most media people and virtually all in public life shied away from truth-telling about Zionism and its contribution to catastrophe in-the-making.

No case for Israel then, Alan? What about 1947 UN Partition Plan? No case for Jews arguing robustly for a state of their own after the Holocaust? Or were they just supposed to go home again and pick up where they left off, give or take their businesses, homes and savings? It gets worse:

It was to force the re-opening of informed and honest debate closed down by the Nazi holocaust that I spent more than five years of my life researching and writing Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews.

Alan, everybody and their dog. Pappé. Finkelstein. Brenner, Mearsheimer ‘n’ Walt. Cooper. Neuman. Rose. Rose. Fisk. Pilger. Chomsky. Shlaim. The list goes on. These people are not in any way suppressed – on the contrary they’re positively thriving on anti-Zionism.

The underlying thesis of the book is that because of the settlement facts American support for Zionism right or wrong has allowed to be created on the ground, in defiance of UN resolutions and international law, it’s now too late for any U.S. administration to call and hold nuclear-armed Israel to account; and that only the Jews of the diaspora have the influence to do it – cause Israel to change its ways and make peace on terms which almost all Palestinians and Arabs everywhere can accept. But… I also say that it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to expect the Jews of the diaspora to play their necessary part in bringing Israel to heel and averting a Clash of Civilisations (Judeo-Christian v Islamic), unless and until they receive the maximum possible in the way of reassurance about their security in the lands of the mainly Gentile world of which they are citizens. What, really, do I mean? Though I am myself a goy (non-Jew)

Oh god, here we go.

– I know that deep down almost every diaspora Jew lives with the unspeakable fear of Holocaust II (shorthand for another great turning against Jews) and thus the perceived need, if only in the sub-consciousness, for Israel as an insurance policy – the refuge of last resort. And this is one of three related reasons why only a very few diaspora Jews are prepared even to criticise Israel’s behaviour, let alone engage in activities to cause Israel to be serious about peace based on an acceptable minimum of justice for the Palestinians. Though they will never say so in public, the vast majority of diaspora Jews, because of the past, are too frightened to do or even say anything which they think would be interpreted as antipathy to Israel and could have the effect of undermining the wellbeing of Israel as the refuge of last resort for all Jews. The second reason for the silence of so many diaspora Jews on the matter of Israel’s behaviour is the fear that if they speak out and appear to be divided, they will encourage anti-Semitism. The third reason is fear of the reactions of fellow Jews.

Where is the empirical evidence for this? (Nowhere – not in this particular piece and it’s a long piece.) Are there even any examples? (No.) We have a bald pile of grotesque stereotypes, enitrely unsubstantiated. It reads like a cross between Dear Deidre and Mariella Frostrup’s column in The Observer Magazine (a good while ago she went on a course and became an agony aunt – it would be really funny but she lashes out at men all the time). Later, Alan puts forward a modest proposal:

So what if anything can be done to encourage diaspora Jews to play their necessary part in calling and holding Israel to account?

In my Epilogue, The Jews as the Light Unto Nations, I call for a New Covenant, not between the Jews and their God but between the Jews and the Gentiles.

The New Covenant I propose is a deal between the two parties – the Gentiles who are the majority in the many lands of which most diaspora Jews are citizens and those Jewish citizens (Jewish Englishmen, Jewish Frenchmen, Jewish Germans, Jewish Americans and so on). And the essence of the deal is this. In return for diaspora Jews using their influence to cause Israel to be serious about peace on terms the overwhelming majority of Palestinians and all Arabs can accept, and actually accepted a long time ago, the Gentiles commit to destroying the monster of anti-Semitism. (I write that it will not be enough for us Gentiles to put the re-awakened sleeping giant back to sleep, and that we must drive a stake into the monster’s heart, to kill it for all time).

(Alan regards lots of things as monsters and sometimes as well as writing like an agony aunt he also reminds me of the Brothers Grimm). Next, terms and conditions for the new job role of Light Unto Nations:

What, actually, is required of diaspora Jews in terms of their New Covenant obligations?

They must begin by recognising modern Israel for what it is – a Zionist state, not a Jewish state. If it was a Jewish state – i.e. one governed in accordance with the moral principles of Judaism – Israel could not have behaved in the way it has since its unilateral declaration of independence in 1948; behaviour which can be described, objectively, as (at times) brutal and cruel, driven by self-righteousness of a most extraordinary kind, with contempt for UN resolutions, without regard for international law and which, all up, makes a mockery of the moral principles of Judaism.

Thereafter the main New Covenant obligation for diaspora Jews would be to make common cause with the forces of reason in Israel for the purpose of changing it from a Zionist state into a Jewish state.

And finally we get inspirational Coach Alan. This bit is pure Lydia from the opening credits of Fame:

Perhaps that is the real point of the idea of the Jews as Chosen People… Chosen to endure unique suffering and, having endured it, to show the rest of us that creating a better and more just world is not a mission impossible.

To paraphrase, Alan proposes to hold Jews to a higher standard than any other people under the same circumstances. The weirdo actually subscribes to the ‘light unto nations’ stuff. It’s awful, really squirmy to read. There we are, it got written – these things do. But on the ‘Waterstones Recommends’ stand? What are we to make of that?

Know a self-styled anti-war movement by its Galloway

My satisfaction was unfounded. It looks like Galloway got to bark at the assembled Stoppers after all. I thought at the time is was uncharacteristic of them to drop him. Modernity gives one of what I’m sure are many examples of how he let himself (not to mention the critique of the War on Terror) down.

Remind yourself why Galloway is un-left and an enemy of minorities (with the possible exception of ultra-conservative Muslims).