Thursday, March 01, 2012
Maybe Cantuar really is a Christian after all!
Why it would be wrong to legalise gay marriage, by the Archbishop of Canterbury
The law has no right to legalise same-sex marriage, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared yesterday. Dr Rowan Williams said a new marriage law for gay couples would amount to forcing unwanted change on the rest of the nation.
He also said it would be wrong to legalise assisted dying because of the threat it would pose to the vulnerable and because it would go against the beliefs of most people.
In a key speech on human rights, the head of the Anglican Church put his weight behind other leading clergy who have launched a powerful campaign to prevent David Cameron from going ahead with his plan to allow the full rights of marriage to same-sex couples.
Dr Williams’s predecessor in Lambeth Palace, Lord Carey, notably told the Mail last week that same-sex marriage laws would be ‘one of the greatest political power grabs in history’.
Dr Williams’s statement means the Prime Minister now knows he will face opposition from the liberal-minded leadership of the Church of England – as well as its determined traditionalists – if he continues on the track towards legalised gay marriage.
The Archbishop said human rights law ‘falls short of a legal charter to promote change in institutions’.
Dr Williams added: ‘If it is said that a failure to legalise assisted suicide – or same-sex marriage – perpetuates stigma or marginalisation for some people, the reply must be, I believe, that issues like stigma and marginalisation have to be addressed at the level of culture rather than law.’
The Archbishop indicated to MPs earlier this week that CofE churches would never be used to solemnise gay marriages and Anglican officials underlined that the Church says marriage must remain a union between a man and a woman.
Dr Williams’s intervention in the argument yesterday, in a speech to a World Council of Churches gathering in Geneva, echoed, in typically mild academic language, the sentiments expressed by Lord Carey.
The Archbishop has long been a personal supporter of gay rights and his lecture yesterday insisted Christians must accept that gay equality laws are here to stay. But he has also listened to the concerns of traditional Christian believers since he began his career at Lambeth Palace in 2003 by refusing to allow an openly gay cleric to take a post as a CofE bishop.
His remarks yesterday came after Coalition ministers insisted they would go ahead with a same-sex marriage law whatever the churches say. Equality minister Lynne Featherstone said last week the churches did not own marriage law. She added a same-sex marriage law would be ‘about the underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms’.
Mr Cameron declared for same-sex marriage last autumn, saying: ‘Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.
‘I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.’ A consultation document on how a gay marriage law would work is due out shortly.
Dr Williams said in his speech that same-sex marriage law was wrong because it tried to impose cultural change. He added human rights language could be ‘confused and artificial’ when it strayed from protecting the vulnerable. It could become ‘an alien culture, pressing the imperatives of universal equality over all local custom and affinity’.
Secret justice and an abuse of power: Alarm at British Government's plan to allow controversial court cases and inquests to be heard behind closed doors
The historic principle that justice should be seen to be done is threatened by hugely controversial plans to allow secret hearings, ministers are being warned.
Proposals for sweeping new powers which would allow the Government to withhold any evidence it deems ‘sensitive’ from an open civil court hearing or inquest are facing a chorus of criticism.
Former director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald yesterday attacked the Government’s proposal for so-called ‘closed material procedures’ in civil courts, an attempt to prevent sensitive claims for damages being aired in open hearings.
Critics say the legislation has been ‘dictated’ by the security services following an embarrassing string of cases brought against them by former terrorist suspects who claimed they had been subjected to torture.
In the case of Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who sought to sue the Government for complicity in torture, the Government tried to conceal documents disclosing his alleged mistreatment but were overruled by the courts.
There is increasing concern that Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke’s proposals will mean ministers being able to prevent a huge range of cases – from military inquests to police and medical negligence claims – being held in public.
Negligence claims against the Ministry of Defence for death and injuries arising from ‘friendly fire’ incidents or failure of equipment would be a prime target for ministers seeking to avoid embarrassment, campaigners predict.
Past cases such as the inquiry into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by police who mistook him for a terrorist could have been hushed up by the Government if the measures had been in force at the time. And MI5’s failings over the 7/7 bombings might never have come to light.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights campaign group Liberty, called the proposals a ‘shameless attempt to cover up abuses of power’.
She said: ‘Proposed legislation wouldn’t just end the long-held principle that no one is above the law – it would exclude the Press, public and victims from seeing justice done.
‘Open courts and investigative journalists fought to uncover some of the worst scandals of the war on terror. Under these plans, future ministers would be granted sweeping powers to lock down embarrassing inquests and civil claims against the powerful. Victims of gross abuses of power, the public and the Press could be left in the dark for ever.’
Under the proposals, ministers will be able to order not only that a hearing is conducted behind closed doors, but also that claimants are denied access to government evidence or witnesses.
The reforms, detailed in a Green Paper on justice and security, are backed by senior figures in the security community, notably Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.
But legal experts in the field appear increasingly uneasy. Lord Macdonald, QC, said the plans would put the Government ‘above the law’ and must be reconsidered.
‘These unprecedented proposals are an audacious attack on the fundamental principle of British justice: that you should be able to know, and to challenge, the claims which are made against you,’ he said. ‘They threaten to put the Government above the law, while leaving ordinary citizens, and the Press, shut out of their own justice system.
‘After a decade in which we have seen our politicians and officials caught up in the woeful abuses of the war on terror, the last thing the Government should be seeking is to sweep all of this under the carpet. However, that is exactly what their disastrous secret justice proposals are likely to do....
Australia's conservatives target free speech restrictions in racial discrimination laws
FREE speech restrictions in racial discrimination laws would be wound back under a federal coalition government.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has revealed the plan to change the laws if he was made prime minister.
The plan would see sections of the Racial Discrimination Act that were used to prosecute Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt last year, after he wrote about light-skinned Aborigines, repealed by the Coalition.
The Australian newspaper reports Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis saying that would mean the removal of provisions that prevent the use of words that could offend or insult.
"We consider that to be an inappropriate limitation on freedom of speech and freedom of public discussion – as was evident in the Andrew Bolt case," he said.
"Offensive and insulting words are part of the robust democratic process which is essential to a free country."
The changes would bring the Act's restrictions on free speech closer to limits found in defamation laws, The Australian reports.
Liability for racial vilification would be limited to comments that humiliate or intimidate.
A blurb on a book jacket would seem an unlikely vehicle for the introduction of a new and sinister tactic in the promotion of an ancient prejudice. But in September 2011, a word of appreciation on the cover of The Wandering Who launched a fresh chapter in the modern history of anti-Semitism.
The flattering quotation came from John Mearsheimer, the University of Chicago professor and co-author, with Harvard's Stephen Walt, of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Mearsheimer's 2007 bestseller, which contends that Israel's American supporters are powerful enough to subvert the U.S. national interest, has been controversial for its adoption of anti-Semitic tropes-tropes Mearsheimer danced around cleverly. But in endorsing The Wandering Who and its Israeli-born author, Gilad Atzmon, Mearsheimer crossed the boundary.
The man whose book Mearsheimer called "fascinating and provocative," a work that "should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike," is an anti-Semite, pure and simple. A saxophone player by trade, Atzmon was born and raised in Israel but subsequently moved to London. He proclaims himself either an "ex-Jew" or a "proud self-hating Jew" and was quoted approvingly by Turkey's Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the Davos conference in 2009: Denouncing Israel in vociferous terms before a horrified Shimon Peres, Erdogan quoted Atzmon as saying, "Israeli barbarity is far beyond even ordinary cruelty."
Atzmon fixates upon the irredeemably tribal and racist identity he calls "Jewishness." The anti-Gentile separatism that compels Jews to amass greater power and influence is manifested, he preaches, in any context where Jews come together as a group. The Wandering Who finds Atzmon on territory well-trodden by anti-Semites past and present: Holocaust revisionism (one chapter is entitled "Swindler's List"), the rehabilitation of Hitler (he argues that Israel's behavior makes all the more tempting the conclusion that the Fhrer was right about the Jews), the separation of Jesus from Judaism (Christ was the original proud, self-hating Jew, whose example Spinoza, Marx, and now, Atzmon himself, have followed).
One would think this was categorically indefensible stuff. Yet, when the blogger Adam Holland e-mailed Mearsheimer to ask whether he was aware of Atzmon's flirtation with Holocaust denial, as well as his recital of telltale anti-Semitic provocations, Mearsheimer stood by his endorsement of the book. Holland duly published Mearsheimer's response: "The blurb below is the one I wrote for The Wandering Who and I have no reason to amend it or embellish it, as it accurately reflects my view of the book." A number of prominent commentators-among them Jeffrey Goldberg, Walter Russell Mead, and even Andrew Sullivan, up to that point a dependable supporter of Mearsheimer-rushed to confront and condemn the professor. But Mearsheimer maintained in various blog posts that Atzmon was no anti-Semite and those who said otherwise were guilty of vicious smear jobs. He wrote on the Foreign Policy magazine blog of his co-author, Stephen Walt: "[Jeffrey Goldberg's] insinuation that I have any sympathy for Holocaust denial and am an anti-Semite . . . is just another attempt in his longstanding effort to smear Steve Walt and me."
And that was that. No affaire Mearsheimer unfolded.
The fact that a controversy did not erupt, that the endorsement of a Holocaust revisionist by a prominent professor at a major university did not lead to calls for his dismissal or resignation or even a chin-pulling symposium in the pages of the New York Times's "Sunday Review," represents an important shift in the privileges that anti-Semites and their sympathizers enjoy
The list of flagrant Jew-baiters is growing; those with Jewish names provide an additional frisson. In America, M.J. Rosenberg-a one-time employee of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)and now called a "foreign policy fellow" at the leftist organization Media Matters-refers to supporters of Israel as "Israel Firsters," recycling the notion that Jewish political loyalties gravitate toward other Jews first and last. There is Max Blumenthal, whose enraged salvos against Jewish chauvinism earned him a flattering profile on the Iranian regime-financed Press TV, the most repulsive of all the English-language satellite broadcasters currently on the market.
There is Philip Weiss, a blogger whose bitterly personal reflections on Jewish influence were, until quite recently, underwritten by the Nation magazine's Nation Institute ("I felt that the form demanded transparency about what I cared about, Jewish identity," Weiss wrote about his blog in the American Conservative.) What Weiss means by "Jewish identity" was laid bare in a 2007 posting on his Mondoweiss blog, concerning journalist Seymour Hersh's contention that "Jewish money" was driving a new war fervor against Iran. Crowed Weiss: "This is a beautiful moment, too. Hersh is a progressive Jew. Now he is turning on other Jews. `New York Jewish money,' he says. The soul-searching that I have called for within the Jewish community has begun!!!!"
The origin of this warped thinking lies in the left's commitment to anticolonialism following the Second World War.1 Frustrated by Marxist orthodoxies about class, and contemptuous of such bourgeois frivolities as individual rights, writers Frantz Fanon, Regis Debray, and others laid the foundations for a new politics based on identity. Native populations would never see the world clearly until they were liberated from the neuroses imposed on them by their white, Western colonizers. Through the revolutionary process, the colonized would become the masters of their countries, their cultures, and-above all-their discourse.
As it turned out, it was in the colonizing nations, among the disaffected students and intellectuals who swelled the ranks of the New Left, that the politics of identity were embraced most fervently. As Western progressives reassessed their own societies through the filter of identity, matters of sex and race were pushed to the fore. And when it came to defining and identifying racism and sexism, the inner logic of identity politics dictated that these words were the property of the victims.
In our own time, these ownership rights have become largely uncontroversial, insofar as most minorities can expect a respectful hearing when it comes to claims of racism. With the Jews, however, the reverse is now true: Claims of anti-Semitism are so often disputed, scorned, and denied outright. This state of affairs faithfully reflects the perception of the Jews as socially privileged, disproportionately represented in the fields of glamour, intellect, and finance, and-crucially-as the agency behind the dispossession of Palestine's native Arab inhabitants.
This perception is not limited to the extreme left (nor, for that matter, to the far right, which thinks in near-identical terms). It now sits as comfortably with a traditional conservative realist like Mearsheimer as it does with many others who have had little interaction with the New Left or the Chomskyite school of international relations. It leads, furthermore, to a conclusion with a distinctly postmodern twist: Those who truly suffer from anti-Semitism today are not Jews, but those who are accused of being anti-Semitic. Those mere speakers of truth, so the thinking goes, are being made to pay for centuries of hateful prejudice.
Adherents of anti-Zionism have traditionally avoided speaking about Jews qua Jews to dodge the anti-Semitism bullet. Atzmon observes no such niceties, happily telling an Israeli journalist in a recent interview that he "hates" Judaism, that neoconservative Jews are responsible for the global financial crisis, and-for good measure-that the death marches the Nazis forced the last remnants of concentration camp inmates to go on should properly be seen as a Jewish attempt to escape the advancing Red Army. That Erdogan, Mearsheimer, and numerous others-ranging from Tony Blair's estranged sister-in-law to a prominent Anglican Bishop-do not think the person who speaks such bile is to be avoided, lest his inarguable Jew-hatred be seen as infecting their own views, suggests the degree to which anti-Semitism has been normalized in the current political culture.
While the Jews and their allies regard anti-Semites as propelled by hatred, anti-Semites regard themselves as a fraternity bound by a message of universalist love. "This book is above all a book for friends, a book that is written for those who love us," wrote Edouard Drumont, one of the founders of France's Ligue Antisemitique, and an especially shrill voice behind the false allegations of treason against Alfred Dreyfus, in his Le Testament d'un Antisemite. Atzmon expresses himself with similar pretensions: "When you talk about humanity, you talk about a universal system of values promoting love for one another." Rather than being anti-moral, the moral sensibility of anti-Semitism resides in its presentation of the Jews (or "Jewishness" or "Judaism") as the barrier to a society founded upon love. What seems at first glance to be a material battle is really a spiritual one.
The use of anti-Semitism denial as a technique of anti-Semitism comes to the Western bistros in part from the Arab and Muslim worlds, where rampant anti-Semitism resulted in the wholesale expulsion of Jewish communities from Arab countries in the latter half of the 20th century. We have all heard the ludicrous platitude that the Arabs, as "Semites," can't possibly be anti-Semitic. We have heard-endlessly-about the unparalleled tolerance of the Islamic world. And we have grimaced before those spokesmen who whisper that the Arabs of Palestine "are the Jews of the Jews," the final victims of the Holocaust and the most tragic of all. All these lines of argument reject the very possibility of Arab anti-Semitism, deflecting any moral censure onto those who argue otherwise.
In America, too, the practice of anti-Semitism denial is older than one might believe. In his fascinating study, The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, Stephen H. Norwood reveals the wide-ranging sympathy for Nazi Germany on American campuses. Norwood offers an especially relevant account of how the president of Columbia University at the time, Nicholas Murray Butler, dismissed the campus demonstrations that greeted Hans Luther, Nazi Germany's ambassador to the United States, as an uncouth smear campaign.
When it comes to anti-Semitism, American universities have too often found that there is honor not in opposing it, but in fawning before it or "speaking truth to power" by denying it. The realization that Harvard's Alan Dershowitz is the only famous academic to have confronted Mearsheimer says more about his peers than anything else could.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.