Uncommon courage 2

A surprising interview. Hasan Afzal, a Briton of Palestinian origin, objects to the vicious world-wide movement to delegitimize the State of Israel.

Hasan tells The Atheist Conservative this about himself:

At present I’m on a leave of absence from the University of Birmingham where I’m studying Political Economy.

I come from a secular Muslim family. Religion was often a private experience with the family only ever becoming overtly religious during Ramadan and the two Eid festivals. Other than that, there were no boundaries on what we could talk about so I had complete academic freedom to talk/think/debate with whatever I liked.

The Israel/Palestine issue was never talked about at home, not out of censorship but it never really came up. When I was at University, I was forced to think about it. I guess I’ve been rather influenced by democratic peace theorists and liberal interventionists (aka Neocons – cough!). Sadly, university degrees are too easy to commit one’s mind too, so I spent most of my time reading around the subject. I read Strauss, Hobbes, Locke.

I began to ask: How could this little democracy, Israel, be all the evils that the hate-preachers say it is? I did my own research, and I found out it wasn’t. I got involved in anti-Islamism and discovered the Israel delegitimisation network.  Since then I have had an almost instinctive sympathy for Israel and sadness for the short-sighted leadership of Palestinians. It’s equally a pragmatic support as well as a little ideological. When I see how skewed the debate has become about Israel/Palestine, it is the Israelis I feel are the victims of a sophisticated delegitimisation network.

In the course of his researches, he met Sam Westrop, our British editor. Together they founded the organization British Muslims for Israel, which is beginning to attract media attention.

Sam and I set up British Muslims for Israel. When something happens in the Middle East – the Jerusalem bomb was a perfect example – we come out and make our point clear and provocative. The hope is that Muslims who are hesitant or unsure of their support for Israel will one day put one and one together and see who their real enemies are.

Undhimmi features the video and comments:

It is not before time that a voice of reason from the Muslim community was heard – particularly in Britain – which is fast gaining a reputation as an anti-Semite’s paradise. The cacophany of uninformed and biased, agenda-driven noise (for that it what it is), emanating from the British media and the Islamo-Left coalition – who are dedicated to dehumanising Israelis and falsely presenting the ‘Palestinians’ as perpetual victims – goes virtually unchallenged here [in the US], Britain and the West [in general].

And Melanie Phillips writes in her column at the Spectator:

A warm welcome to a new and very brave kid on the block – British Muslims for Israel. As I have often said, where someone stands on Israel is for me the litmus test of whether they are a decent and rational human being or pose a threat not merely to Jewish interests but to civilised values. Unfortunately, even among those many Muslims who are opposed to the jihad and support western democracy, animosity towards Israel often runs horrifyingly deep. Any Muslim who speaks up in defence of Israel runs significant personal risks. So those behind British Muslims for Israel, which has emerged from the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy*, merit a huge amount of praise and support. They also offer a ray of hope for the future. They show that there are Muslims who pass that key civilisational litmus test with flying colours.

Listen here to their spokesman Hasan Afzal, explaining that the group was set up to counter the dangerous notion which is gaining ground that Israel should cease to exist at all; that Muslims get a better deal if they live in Israel rather than Saudi Arabia; and even that he would happily volunteer to be involved [in Israeli public relations] in the face of the ‘sophisticated internet campaign to delegitimise Israel’.

We applaud Hasan’s efforts and will continue to cheer him on.

*Sam was also one of the founders of The Institute for Middle East Democracy.

Challenging the One-Horse Race 7

There is a stereotype at my University with whom I often talk. He wears a kaffiyeh; loose-fitting clothes with ‘Free Palestine’ badges attached; a low-slung woollen hat at the obligatorily jaunty angle; a pair of dangling, white, silent earphones that rhythmically swing from their pivot at the neck of his shirt; and various modish accessories representing figures such as Guevara, Chavez, Stalin and Castro. He is the son of an infamous champagne socialist.

Now compare him with Osama Bin Laden.


Posted under Iran by Jillian Becker on Sunday, August 8, 2010

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Emotion on campus, ‘Stan’ and ChrisJFraser 12

An informal blogpost here by Sam Westrop, Director of IMED, about the challenges facing the discussion of Israel on campuses in the UK.

This turn of events is not the aim of StandforPeace. Instead, we are an unashamedly pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian group – that is, we encourage both Jewish and Palestinian self-determination. The emotional hatred perpetrated by groups such as Action Palestine, PSC and Viva Palestina prevents any progress or hope. Their tactics are devoid of the progressive, liberal and veritably Jewish sense of optimism and forward thinking. They appear more interested in preventing Jewish self-determination than actually ever encouraging Palestinian self-determination. The negation or rationality also prevents identifying where moral culpability lies – show a picture of a dead baby, and it is the product of Israel’s cruel and wanton agenda to genocidally murder; it is never the fault of Hamas firing rockets or planting IEDs in the baby’s nursery.

It is a specious tactic to describe ‘activists’ or groups such as Action Palestine as ‘pro-Palestinian’, because they are not; they are almost solely anti-Israeli, and show little drive for peace.

Much like the flotilla activists, the white, middle-class, pro-Hamas PSC persons were also armed; in this case, with a McCarthy-esque biography of me, poorly researched claims from the Internet. There were wild accusations that I took money from the far right, I had a paid agenda to slander ‘pro-Palestinian’ activists, I was in cahoots with the Ayn Rand Institute. Only three days before, several National Front and BNP members had accused me of similar crimes, switching far-right for far-left. Potato, potahto; tomato, tomahto – let’s call the whole thing off.

Accusations of racism are often the refuge of the weird and the virulent ideologues. Who can forget Ahmadinejad and Mugabe leading the speeches at the UN’s anti-racism conference? – an event that appeared to be solely dedicated to hatred of Israel, an event led by two genocidal dictators – the former the patron and supporter of most of the terror and suffering in the Middle East.

Described by some fellow Amnesty activists as ‘quiet and unfriendly’, Fraser is not a manifest lunatic like Jamie ‘Stan’ Stanley, but he is someone who is slightly more sinister. Slightly more intelligent than Stanley, Fraser has the nihilist fascinations with suffering and vulgarity. He proudly boasts that his first ‘book’ was banned under obscenity laws.

Read more!

A change in the British political climate? 0

It looks very much as if the Conservative Party (the Tories) will be returned to power in this year’s general election under the leadership of David Cameron.

It will not be a big change. Such differences as there are between Cameron’s Conservatives and Brown’s (or Blair’s) New Labour socialists are small and few. The Conservative Party of today bears little resemblance to that of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

Our British editor, Sam Westrop, has posted two articles in which he expresses his disappointment with the character and behavior of several people who may well be future leaders of the Conservative Party, not this year but in a few years from now.

While this is chiefly of interest to our British readers, it does give Americans a glimpse into what is happening in the political arena over there.

The only Party which could make a difference if it came to power is the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which wants above all to detach Britain from the undemocratic, politically-correct, incorrigibly collectivist European Union (EU), governed by ukase from Brussels. But although UKIP might win some seats in Parliament, it cannot hope to become  a governing majority.

The greatest threat to the nation is Islamization, but no political party is willing to tackle it, or even talk about it above a low murmur, except the British National Party (BNP), which is neo-Nazi (and not so very neo). The refusal of both the major parties, the Conservatives and New Labour, to formulate policies that might deal effectively with it, is driving many voters into the arms of the BNP.

The result is highly likely to be civil strife, violent and bloody.

Emotional Fraud 4

From the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy (IMED):

“How come Barak, Israel’s Defence Minister, is under threat of being arrested in the UK while Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas, roams London free of concern?” asks Alan Dershowitz.

We note that hypocrisy has always existed and will continue to do so. After all, such tenacious efforts are made by the public here to impede the vile sermons from naively depraved groups such as the BNP. But some of the same people who would help stop such people appearing on a public platform are regularly involved with genocidal persons who advocate the same destruction of liberty that the BNP do.

An example is Hezbollah’s Ibrahim Mousawi, whom Stop the War coalition invited to Britain a few years back. This is a man who, when working for Hezbollah’s TV station Al-Manar, serialised the infamous forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and broadcast such odious anti-semitism that the television station was banned in most Western countries. Stop the War did not invite an Israeli representative because, according to their spokesperson, “[Israel is] not interested in peace.”

Even if you discount the huge number of Israeli pro-Palestinian groups, Israeli human rights groups such as B’Tselem and the frequent rallies in support of peace held across Israel that are attended by people of all religious and political viewpoints; it would appear that the insinuation is that Israeli Politicians are not interested in peace.

And so how bizarre, how ironic, how cruel and how unjust! – that as Dershowitz says: Mashaal may visit Britain without worry, despite his personal involvement with countless murders, including the slaughter of Holocaust survivors, while Barak faces the prospect of arrest.

This is the same Barak that in 2001 at Tabla, offered the Palestinians 97% of the West Bank with border adjustments for the remaining 3%, the entire of the Gaza Strip and a shared capital of Jerusalem – the very set of demands that the Palestinians had laid out.

Needless to say, Arafat refused the deal. And so one must ask, where is the justice for Israel, a country that does proffer peace and compromise, the country that has made steps toward an end to violence? It simply does not make sense that these Israeli leaders should face arrest while nihilistic murderers of Hamas might walk freely around the streets of London – it is not rational, it is not moral and it does not portend the advent of peace.

It is the same politically charged emotion that has allowed so many depraved men to perpetuate their depravities, while the innocent suffer on all sides; be they politicians or public – the emotional idealism of so many in the West has ensured – we concede mostly unintentionally – that the misery of all is maintained.

Posted under Israel, United Kingdom by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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Iran and the Bomb 3

The International Atomic Energy Agency has written a report stating that Iran can now make the bomb and is now developing a missile delivery system.

VIENNA — Experts at the world’s top atomic watchdog are in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report seen by The Associated Press.The document drafted by senior officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency is the clearest indication yet that the agency’s leaders share Washington’s views on Iran’s weapon-making capabilities.It appears to be the so-called “secret annex” on Iran’s nuclear program that Washington says is being withheld by the IAEA’s chief.The document says Iran has “sufficient information” to build a bomb. It says Iran is likely to “overcome problems” on developing a delivery system.

A Daily Telegraph report has more:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, has always publicly denied any ambition to build a weapon. But the IAEA report says that he wanted to acquire nuclear weapons as long ago as 1984, when he served as president. He allegedly told a meeting of senior officials that a “nuclear arsenal would serve Iran as a deterrent in the hands of God’s soldiers”.

Emanuele Ottolenghi also writes in Standpoint about the Iranian nuclear programme and the West’s possible response:

The American report was a game changer. It declared that Tehran had “halted its nuclear weapons programme” in autumn 2003. It suggested that Iran had suspended its military programme “primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work.”

There were many caveats to this judgment, buried in the footnotes and intervening text, but the headline was that Iran no longer pursued nuclear weapons. The report undermined any residual credibility to the threat of US military action. Diplomacy was the only option left. George W. Bush endorsed it — and a new proposal was delivered to Iran with the signature of the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, in June 2008. President Obama picked up where Bush left off, and made engagement with Iran a centrepiece of his new foreign policy. Then, recently, Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered a nuclear umbrella to US allies in the region, as if to suggest that the US was now resigned to a nuclear Iran.

The answer came recently, in two separate reports that were leaked to the press. Last March, a German intelligence report was submitted to Germany’s Constitutional Court to back the conviction of a German-Iranian businessman accused of supplying Iran with technology for its nuclear programme. The defence had cited the NIE to suggest that the transaction, which occurred in 2007, could not have been used to supply Iran’s military programme, given that the latter had been halted four years before. The court upheld the conviction based on the intelligence, which contradicted the NIE — the weapons programme, the German spies said, had never been suspended. A more recent report, published in July in The Times, cited Western intelligence sources as suggesting that Iran had indeed halted its weapons programme in 2003 but only because by then it had been successfully completed.

If the report is accurate, it answers the question the NIE did not address. Iran stopped its nuclear weaponisation programme in 2003 because its strides had far outpaced the enrichment programme. The decision to suspend had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq or with the much-vaunted secret negotiations between the US and Iran that were ongoing in Paris at the time. It mattered little that IAEA inspectors had started snooping around the recently exposed nuclear installations. Rather, Iran had finished the weaponisation part of the programme before it had completed perfecting a delivery system and mastering the enrichment process.

Iran’s decisions have never been influenced by offers and incentives. The only thing that has ever mattered to Tehran was time. The only reason Iran might still be willing to negotiate is again time: if it still needs time to complete its goal of nuclear weapons capability. US engagement will not change this. Iran can build a bomb, has been busy building one and has never even considered changing its mind.

There are some analysts who believe that the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) will prevent war between Israel and Iran. IMED believe this to be completely untrue. Iran’s autocratic regime is not rational, and the concept of self-destruction in the name of religious self-sacrifice is not just likely; it is expected. After all, praise and encouragement of suicide bombers is not an uncommon sight in Iran.

This excellent article by Shmuel Bar explains the need to negate the (apparently) comforting theory of MAD:

The countries of the Middle East will probably be more predisposed than the Cold War protagonists to brandish their nuclear weapons, not only rhetorically but through nuclear alerts or nuclear tests, leading to escalation. Once one country has taken such measures, the other nuclear countries of the region would probably feel forced to adopt defensive measures, leading to multilateral escalation. However, such multilateral escalation will not be mitigated by Cold War-type hotlines and means of signalling and none of the parties involved will have escalation dominance. This and the absence of a credible second-strike capability may well strengthen the tendency to opt for a first strike.

True, we may safely assume that the leaders and peoples of the Middle East have no desire to be the targets of nuclear blasts. However, the inherent instability of the region and its regimes, the difficulty in managing multilateral nuclear tensions, the weight of religious, emotional and internal pressures and the proclivity of many of the regimes in the region towards military adventurism and brinkmanship do not bode well for the future of this region once it enters the nuclear age.

For news on Iran and the nuclear programme, visit IMED’s blog – also look out for our campaign against the Iranian nuclear programme, coming soon in the UK.

Trouble in Paradise 0

A fascinating article by Nick Cohen on the horrific oppression of women in the Middle East.

“If this sounds harsh, consider that Sharia adultery laws state that
a raped woman must face the next-to-impossible task of providing four
male witnesses to substantiate her allegation or be convicted of
adultery. When rapists leave Pakistani women pregnant, the court takes
the bulge in their bellies as evidence against them. In Nigeria, Sharia
courts not only punish raped women for adultery, but order an extra
punishment of a whipping for making false accusations against
“innocent” men. In Israel, ultra-Orthodox gangs in Jerusalem beat up
women seen in the company of married men. In the United States, the
Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints give teenagers to old men in arranged
marriages and tell them they must completely submit to their wishes.
In Saudi Arabia, women live in a theocratic state that stops them
walking unaccompanied in the street, driving a car and speaking to men
outside the family. After unwisely taking a sprig of the bin Laden
family to be her husband, Carmen Dufour described the consequences.

‘At first, I wasn’t even aware of what seemed so strange about this
country, but then it hit me: half the population of Saudi Arabia is
kept behind walls, all the time. It was hard to fathom, a city with
almost no women. I felt like a ghost. Women didn’t exist in this world
of men.’

To move from ghosts to corpses, if the Taliban
retake power in Afghanistan, they will once again ban women from public
spaces, thus depriving them of employment, and thus closing the health
and education services. Any teacher who presumes to teach them to read
and write will be executed. Meanwhile the Islamic Republic of Iran has
almost certainly renewed its terror tactic of raping women prisoners
before killing them. Because religious law declares it illegal to
execute a virgin, the guards arrange a “wedding” ceremony and rape the
prisoner once it is over.”

There was an appalling case in Israel recently of an Orthodox women who was cruelly starving her child. When the police intervened, there was a strong and horrifying backlash from the Orthodox community. The Jerusalem Post correspondent Alisa Ungar-Sargon speaks of the divide between some of the orthodox Jewish community and the secular majority.

“With the haredi woman suspected of starving her three-year-old son,
the evidence from doctors, social workers, and police appears to leave
little room for doubt regarding the severity of the situation. The
woman was allegedly a danger to her child, and thus measures were taken
to protect him from further harm.

The facts are presented; the evidence is concrete. Yet there
are people rallying to her defense who are convinced of her innocence.
They call the whole situation a blood libel, a condition of malicious
slander and a vengeful nature. Whether or not her actions were
intentional does not change the effects, yet the haredim purport to be
certain. How can a community be so confident that she is not guilty
when everyone else is resisting their every claim?

The general animosity between the haredi and secular communities is
rooted in the State of Israel itself. While none of the haredim support
the state, the mainstream sects at least cooperate with it and agree to
participate in the elections.

Dr. Yehuda Goodman, a lecturer and anthropologist at Hebrew University,
explains that the tendency to riot is a part of the haredi identity.
“They feel it’s invading and corrupting and fighting to break down
their way of life,” he says. The haredi community is not just a ghetto,
set up to keep out those who would threaten their way of life, Goodman
says, it must also fight and maintain the superior stand they feel that
they have over the secular world. He explains that the haredim need
these fights as a part of the formation of their identity, in finding a
symbolic place to fight the social other.

Whether or not the haredim actually believe in the woman’s
condemnation is irrelevant at this point. They can testify for her
character and they can portray her doctor as evil incarnate, but it is
immaterial since their loyalties would not allow them to operate any
other way. They will argue for her since to them, she represents their
community to the outside world.”

There is a perilous inclination in the Western World to tolerate immorality on the part of others on the grounds that there is a cultural divide that cannot be infringed upon. Although this case in the more liberal and democratic Israel is of less notoriety than the more systematic problem of ‘gender apartheid’ of Saudi Arabia and the countless numbers of unpunished rape in Iran, it is just as horrifying.

The definition of tolerance in the West, Israel included, now seems to include turning a blind eye to depravity, in an attempt to avoid being seen as interfering and imperialistic.

The plight of women in the Middle East is just the tip of the iceberg, but where is the condemnation from the West? And as Nick Cohen concludes in his Standpoint article: ‘I accept that this may seem an odd thing to wish for, but what the
world needs now is an uncompromisingly militant feminist movement.’

Further reading:

Clive James on honour killing

Asad Abu Khalil on US policy and the suffering of Arab women

Some exercepts from female Saudi writers on the subjugation of women (Provided by MEMRI)

Against the adulteration of science by idealism 1

The question of whether or not there is anthropomorphic global warming has decidedly not been settled, no matter how many scientists and politicians claim that it has.

The Freedom Society of  York University, England, is to hold a conference on climate change. One of the organizers is our British editor, Sam Westrop, founder of the Freedom Society,who writes this:

Thomas Jefferson once said that, “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” And so, with that quote in mind, and the understanding that scientific theories must be falsifiable, the Freedom Society is hosting ‘Climate Week’, a five-day event from the 26th to 30th October at the University of York.

The week will question the politics and ethics of climate change science… We do not know if anthropogenic climate change is occurring or not, but in order for us to draw a conclusion – especially as non-scientists – it is vital that the science be liberal, objective and untainted by political pressure

There have been many examples of ‘scientific consensus’. A useful illustration is the former fear of Global Cooling that gained momentum in the 1960s. The first paragraph of a New York Times article, from 30th January 1961, entitled SCIENTISTS AGREE WORLD IS COLDER; But Climate Experts Meeting Here Fail to Agree on Reasons for Change, read: “After a week of discussions on the causes of climate change, an assembly of specialists from several continents seems to have reached unanimous agreement on only one point: it is getting colder.“…

There are a growing number of cries that the IPCC has negated the traditional scientific method. The climatologist Roger Pielke, despite believing in anthropogenic climate change, has criticised the IPCC for its ill-gotten conclusions and has accused the scientific body of subjectively choosing data to support a selective view of climate change science…

Furthermore, the House of Lords Economics Committee has recently stated that, “We have some concerns about the objectivity of the IPCC process, with some of its emissions scenarios and summary documentation apparently influenced by political considerations.”

The IPCC has not just become a body of political scientists, but scientific politicians as well. These people’s professions have become adulterated with the idealism of environmental morality.

The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York brought to light the “absolute horror stories” about how some scientific journals and political bodies have engaged in the suppression of climate-sceptic scientists trying to publish their work in peer-reviewed journals. This conference included many afflicted current and former IPCC scientists from all over the globe.

The IPCC is not the only culprit … Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi, an atmospheric physicist at NASA, resigned because of the agency’s lack of scientific freedom.

Miskolczi said he wanted to publish and discuss his new research that showed “runaway greenhouse theories contradict energy balance equations,” but he claims that NASA refused to allow him. He recently said that, “Unfortunately, my working relationship with my NASA supervisors eroded to a level that I am not able to tolerate. My idea of the freedom of science cannot coexist with the recent NASA practice of handling new climate change related scientific results.”

A consensus in one branch of science does not mean a consensus across all branches. For example, a recent survey of 51,000 scientists in Canada from the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists found that 68% of them disagreed with the statement that “the debate on the scientific causes of recent climate change is settled.” The survey also stated that only 26% of scientists attributed global warming to “human activity such as burning fossil fuels.” …

It becomes only too apparent that there is a desperate need for …  free debate, given the drastic choices that Governments are prepared to make. Whether such decisions involve the complete overhaul of our energy sources, or the (ethically questionable) prevention of industrialisation in developing countries, the need to end scientific censorship is vitally important…

The University of York Freedom Society’s ‘Climate Week’ will not try to cover the complicated and vast subject of the science itself; instead it will highlight the dangers of academic suppression and weigh the ethical questions involved when dealing with such proscription.

Climate Week will see many scientists, politicians, journalists and environmentalists, from all over Europe and ever further afield, come together for the first time in the UK …

It promises to be an interesting event, where debate will be lively.

The Unneeded Crocodile Bird 3

Art is no longer a hobby; it is a job. This is the consequence of statist government. Between 2008 and 2011, the Arts Council England (ACE) is expected to distribute £1.6 billion of public money. If one is to think of the drastic cuts made in the last Budget, one must ask why only £4 million is being taken from the ACE’s pot. Even the strongest advocate of big government would surely concede that the government must protect its people before it entertains them.

The defence budget is facing a £2 billion cut next year, and by 2011, the NHS must find £2.3 billion of savings and education £1 billion. Why then, one asks, does the funding for the arts continue? In a recession, should government be providing money for sharks to be floated in formaldehyde for little perceivable reason?

Classical liberals and large sea creatures should be worried. Labour has developed the polar opposite of Milton Friedman’s idea of government. In early 2008, the Culture Minister Margaret Hodge called for City workers to provide more private donations to the arts. But with a new tax rate of 50%, there is a predictable lack of response from those of whom the government demands altruism. There is weary outrage among libertarians that government is happy enough to injure vital public services but then insist on greedily preserving a socially progressive image.

The American equivalent of the ACE is the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which gets around $126.3 million (£79 million) per year. This appears a paltry sum when compared to the ACE’s £463 million budget for next year, even more so when one considers the vastly greater amount of government spending in the US. America’s arts rely heavily on private donations – and citizens, both rich and poor, are eager to provide. As a percentage of GDP, the charitable contributions from individuals in the US are twice that of in the UK.

The relative lack of philanthropy towards the Arts in the UK has several possible reasons. The most obvious answer is the respective states of our collections of taxes. The huge welfare state and social interference that exists in the UK is no more than an arrangement of forced charitable donations. Taxpayers feel they have little left, and indeed little obligation, to provide charity for others. This is especially true for local charities, for why should the upkeep of local community be important if government forces politically correct and culturally manufactured community upon us?

The commensurately greater amount of charitable giving in the US can be attributed to the individuals’ quest for community. For example, 45% of American citizens’ donations are given to religions and local charities, as opposed to 13% here. The endless social interference has backfired once more.

77% of collection methods here rely on spontaneous takings of loose change, whereas in the US there is a strong culture of ‘planned giving’ (this provides 61% of non-profit organisations’ income). Furthermore, according to the newspaper Chronicle of Philanthropy, 54% of the richest US donors said that they have made charitable donations because of tax benefits and incentives. In the UK, it is the charities that obtain tax refunds and not the individuals. The British charity Art Fund recommended tax incentives before the most recent budget, but these proposals were shot down, such was the government’s dislike of offering tax benefits to the wealthy. The difference that is apparent between the UK and the US is quite clearly a consequence of the statist British government.

There once was ample example of private charity funding in the UK, from schools to art galleries. This convention, argues the Institute for Philanthropy’s director, Hilary Browne-Wilkinson, ended as the introduction of an enlarged welfare state – after the Second World War – destroyed Britain’s tradition of Victorian philanthropy. Some proof of this can be found with the American NEA. When their budget was reduced by 40 percent, from approximately $170 million to $99.5 million, private giving to the arts actually increased by 40%. The economist David Sawers’ comparison of subsidised and unsubsidised performing arts realised that cultural venues would continue to flourish were government subsidies to be abolished

The argument that government funding allows penniless individuals access to the arts is a fallacy. Most of the funds go to immensely rich organisations that often cater to a very limited section of society. For example, post-modernist art appeals to a tiny minority, and its funding has no arguable benefit for most of the public. The only time I have vaguely approved of a Labour minister was when Kim Howells said of the Turner submissions, “If this is the best that the British art establishment can come up with, God help us. It consists entirely of conceptual bullshit and the final insult was to walk through a room of Francis Bacons and Henry Moores that exude artistic ability and humanity.” The often-used argument that post-modernism should appeal to classical liberals because its iconoclasm is a strong example of individualism is nonsense; these so-called artists subsist on the involuntary contributions of the collective.

Government funding also jeopardises the independence of the arts. Not only does this interference reveal the consequences of pseudo-multiculturalism, it can constrict the variety of art produced. Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that, ‘Beauty will not come at the call of the legislature…. It will come, as always, unannounced, and spring up between the feet of brave and earnest men.’ David Sawers has noted that British government subsidies reduce the choice and variety in the art world, whereas privately venues are more flexible, and are responsible for many different artistic genres, such as the recent revival of early music.

After over a decade of Labour in power, with tens of billions wasted on bureaucratic nonsensical jobs, with the creation of an arts scene that government ministers admit is appalling, and in the middle of one of the worst economic crises the Western World has seen, we demand to know why illogical funding continues to be inequitably poured into the modern arts?  John Adams once said that, ‘”The science of government is my duty to study…the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, so that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.’

If government ends the funding of ‘culture’, the indiviual will then provide. Government is not a Crocodile Bird – there is no symbiotic relationship between the state and the individual. It is simply not the business of government to dictate inspiration and cultivate the art of the people. Trophies of creative thought will materialise from the free man, one who is not shackled by the chains of his self-appointed patron.

And so the New Generation should ask of this government: do not fund runners to jog through the Tate Gallery every thirty seconds. If you give us working hospitals, good schools, equipment for our Armed Forces and pensions, we will provide you with art that is far sweeter than money could ever afford.

Sam Westrop

Posted under Commentary, United Kingdom by on Wednesday, June 10, 2009

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The Holy-Land That Needs Hobbes 0

Last September, Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi Sunni MP, arrived in Israel to attend an annual counter-terrorism conference. He forcefully cried, “In Israel, there is no occupation; there is liberalism,” to the sound of roaring applause from Israelis and foreign diplomats. Upon his return to Iraq, the National Assembly of Iraq voted to remove his parliamentary immunities and banned him from travelling. He was arrested and threatened with the death penalty. This was not his first visit; in 2004 he made a public visit to Israel. Consequently, five months later, both his sons were murdered. He was sacked from his job at the De-Baathification Commission and was expelled from the Iraqi National Congress.

Al-Alusi recognises that Iraq and Israel share similar challenges, namely the murderous Iranian-funded terrorism that has taken so many lives in both countries. Al-Alusi has lauded Israel as a beacon of hope and liberalism. The Israeli elections on Tuesday were crucially important because it is vital that the future Israeli government seeks to uphold the equality and the civil liberties for all its citizens – Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Druze – that she has attempted to keep implemented since her foundation sixty years ago. She must continue to be the model of a liberal democracy in the despotism-riddled Middle East, despite the very opposite image peddled by the Western Left, the media and the Islamists. It is easy for much of the West to forget that Israel has many Arab politicians, several serving in the cabinet.

The Israeli exit polls show that Kadima, the current ruling party, has won the most seats. But Israel suffers the proportional representation system that is used so widely across Europe; this means that a Kadima politician may not necessarily take the position of Prime Minister. What will happen? And what are the implications for Israel, the region and the world?
Last Tuesday’s election was a year earlier than necessary because the current Prime Minister Olmert resigned after continuous public pressure and police investigations into tales of corruption, and the new leader of Kadima, Tzipi Livni, was unable to form a new coalition.

The Knesset is a unicameral parliament. Its 120 members, known as MKs, are elected to four-year terms in a secret ballot whereat the public will vote for a party and not an individual MK. Seats are allocated in proportion to the number of votes each party receives beyond a threshold of two percent. The 120 seats are apportioned through party-list proportional representation using the d’Hondt method – a widely used system that employs a highest averages method. Once the official results are published, the President of Israel gives the task of forming a majority coalition to an MK whom he believes to have the best chance of succeeding. That MK is then given up to 42 days to negotiate a working coalition with other parties and present his government to the Knesset for a vote of confidence. If the government is approved, the MK then becomes Prime Minister.

The numbers and distribution of Knesset seats in the February elections are as follows: Kadima 28; Likud 27; Yisrael Beitenu 15; Labor 13; Shas 11; United Torah Judaism 5; Hadash 4; United Arab List-Ta’al 4; National Union 4; Meretz 3; Habayit Hayehudi 3; Balad 3.

The politics of Israel is an extraordinary maelstrom of differing ideals, religions and methods. Muslim voters have supported right-wing Zionist parties and religious Jews have voted for Arab parties. In the disorder of the system there is hope and wonderment at the extraordinary examples of different cultures and religions campaigning peacefully and democratically together to sustain hope and achieve peace; a possibility that cannot be found elsewhere in the Middle East.

There are a huge number of different parties that represent all walks of life, but this election showed huge gains for the Right. The Centrist Kadima was a party that sprang out of a squabbling Likud because of disagreement over the disengagement plan from Gaza. Kadima’s win was a surprise to many – especially the pollsters, who had projected Likud to top the results. Kadima’s decision to withdraw from Gaza was highly criticized at the time and now there is little success to show for it – Gaza has become a terrorist state with regular pogroms against its own people and regular attacks against the civilians of Israel. Kadima’s leadership has been weak in times of war, and its dithering in Lebanon is arguably accountable for the deaths of Israeli soldiers. The decision to release Samir Kuntar – a Lebanese terrorist who beat a little blonde four-year-old Jewish girl to death by smashing apart her head with a rock – provoked huge condemnation and dismay from the media and the public. Kadima has been regarded as an ineffectual, weak government – a feeble image that the Israelis have known hostile Arab states to prey upon. Thus Kadima’s decision finally to respond to the constant barrage of rocket fire from Gaza caused some surprise among the government’s detractors. The attempt to destroy Hamas’ weapon caches in December – Operation Cast Lead – may have changed the minds of many Israelis. The operation certainly sapped Likud’s criticism and its accusations of Kadima’s apparent apathy to the vicious attacks by Hamas.

Despite Kadima winning the largest number of seats, it does not have the support from the other large parties and given the current stances of Likud, Yisrael Beitenu and Shas, it is highly unlikely that Tzipi Livni will be able to secure a working coalition. In this case, President Shimon Peres may ask Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud to form a coalition from the Right-wing parties that dominate the election results.
The large gains by the right can be explained by the realisation among Israelis that their doves have been met with rockets and that their concessions have been met with violence. In 2001, the then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians all of Gaza and 97% of the West Bank with border compensations to make up for the other 3%. Furthermore, Jerusalem would be a shared capital for both countries. When the Palestinians shot down this offer, so fell the appeal of the Left. Further failures to respond properly to terrorist attacks resulted in more support manifesting for the Right. The South of Israel, especially around towns such as Sderot, which has endured thousands of rockets and mortar attacks, almost entirely voted for the Right. The residents want military action to end the indiscriminate attacks on their town – rockets are fired when school is starting or finishing and the children are out on the streets. Suliman Qadia – a Palestinian from Gaza from where the Israeli intelligence service, Shin Bet, helped him escape, said of Hamas: “Nothing else will work, we just need to go into Gaza, full force, and pound them, erase them completely, until it’s over. That’s the only language they understand and believe me – I know what I’m talking about. After all, I lived with them.”

The Northern Arab town Haifa and Tel-Aviv voted for the Left and Centrists; in the South the persistent attacks and a demand for their end necessitated an almost entirely Right-wing stronghold. In other words, the rockets voted.

Obama’s Presidency is also a cause for concern among Israelis. There is a real fear that he would not act to stop a nuclear-armed Iran. In response to an American President perceived as Left-wing, a more hawkish Prime Minister feels like a necessary choice to many Israeli voters.

The reason Likud could not strongly capitalise on the Left’s decline was the belief that Netanyahu’s previous term as Prime Minister in the late nineties was considered by-and-large a failure – he had made similar profitless concessions to the Palestinians that Kadima has made. Netanyahu has also failed to provide a direction for Israel that differs from Kadima’s. Thus, many Israelis that wished to respond to the Palestinian attacks – not to turn the other cheek but to clench their fists – voted for the further-Right parties, such as Shas or Beitenu.

Among the political parties there is a great deal of squabbling. The main issue that divides them so, is of course the path to peace with the Palestinians. There are those that would appease and there are those that would defend themselves at all cost. What is clear however is that Proportional Representation (PR) is disastrous for Israel. This tiny country is at war, and has been so for the last sixty years. It cannot afford to have chaos in the government at a time when order has never been so important. It can be argued that PR does help to unify the country – every party represents all Israelis regardless and so there is no chance of segregation through politics and race. But what of the small Bedouin tribe who needs representation in Knesset and has no MK to do so? Israel needs strength, equality and democracy, and PR does not sustain these values effectively.

One prospect is certain – whoever becomes Prime Minister will have to use a coalition of Right-wing parties. This would suggest – unless the Iranian elections in June provide a reformist candidate that would halt their nuclear programme – that a future Israeli government will take military action against Iran. Hezbollah’s steadily growing supply of rockets in the South of Lebanon and the large-scale Syrian troop movements to the border with Israel, suggests it is possible that a large conflict may break out across the region, a danger exacerbated by Iran’s increased missile capability and promises of retaliation. When Israel’s security is directly threatened, there is little argument among her political parties. Even the far-left parties supported Israel’s recent defensive campaign against Hamas, and in the face of Iran, there is strong unity. Military action is seen as a last resort but recognized as a very possible outcome.

Furthermore, the build-up on the Right would mean that the destruction of the Jewish West Bank settlements would seem unlikely as a means of concession. The idea of displacing almost half a million Jewish settlers is unthinkable to the Right, especially after the ruinous withdrawal from the Gaza Strip that just brought more attacks and death to Southern Israel.

The truth is that Israel’s future has never been so uncertain. There is much speculation as to from whom and from which parties a coalition will be formed. Some American commentators have suggested Lieberman of Yisrael Beitenu will be given the foreign office portfolio, and there are even rumours that Livni and Netanyahu might share the position of Prime Minister. It is impossible to know or understand what bargaining and comprising is going on by the political parties behind the scenes. And in some ways, the choice of government may not matter. In foreign affairs, the actions of Israel can only be dictated by the hostile states surrounding it. Every government must protect its people, and Israel’s actions – while perhaps varying in strength – will be unchanged no matter what current party is in power. In times of war, Israel does not want an attempt at government, but definite ordered rule – an effective government is needed.

The results of the elections have reacted little to domestic affairs but largely to the changing world. Reasons such as Obama’s Presidency, a Turkish government that is arguably no longer secular, the Iranian elections in June, the undeniable attempts by Hamas to destroy Israel and her people, are all reasons for many Israeli voters to have demanded a stronger, more hawkish government. But uncertain times have bred uncertain results – now Israel must bring order out of the chaos if she wishes to succeed and survive.

Posted under Commentary by on Monday, February 16, 2009

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