Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Far Right - Too Right!

So Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu have joined Olmert's coalition of has-beens and wannabes. Immediately, the BBC et al have taken great pleasure in describing Mr Lieberman as "far Right", as if he is somehow comparable to the BNP or Combat 18. Surely not another attempt to typecast Israelis as Zionazis?

It is clear that he has some unusual and superficially extreme policies. He would like to see a two-state solution, one for Jews and one for Arabs. This varies slightly from most people's idea of the two-state solution, which is one for Jews and Arabs, and one for Arabs. I certainly prefer the principle of Lieberman's version, even if the practice is harsh. He advocates unilaterally and one would imagine therefore forcibly hiving off Israeli Arab areas into Palestinian control, and keeping the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria in return.

Personally, I would advocate a plebiscite of Israeli Arabs, allowing those living in areas contiguous with the Green Line to "opt in" to a Palestinian state at any point, and allowing others to make decisions as entire communities to relocate in a population exchange with Jewish settlers in the West Bank. In particular, I would like to see this being strongly incentivised in the dozen or so villages between Route 1 and Route 443, to allow safe and secure passage to Jerusalem from the rest of Israel, not to mention easing traffic problems on Route 1 and helping the express rail link.

But anyway, Mr Lieberman has a whole range of other interesting policies which seem to have escaped the notice of Western journalists, who are busy licking their lips at how they can describe a government including Yisrael Beitenu as promoting ethnic cleansing, genocide and such like. Funny, the Guardian and Independent have been doing their best to talk Hamas up as an appropriate government with which we should all be talking and doing business, but a group who are merely suggesting giving Israeli Arabs (or Palestinian-Israelis as I have seen many such media describe them) their own place in an Arab state, without the inconvenience of leaving their homes.

You will notice that on Yisrael Beintenu's website, this policy barely makes it into the top 10. Lieberman is also into sensible economic policy and the promotion of law and order.

As if to reinforce the reasoning behind Mr Lieberman's most famous policy, an Israeli Arab used the advantage of his Israel numberplates to help a carload of Palestinian terrorists, complete with a stack of explosives, to enter the country, and were en route to a target when security forces acted on a tip-off and set up a roadblock, resulting in miles of gridlock but the successful capture of the group.

It is difficult to argue with Mr Lieberman's logic that Israeli Arabs on the whole represent a growing demographic threat to Israel's national character as a Jewish state. Unfortunately there has been an increase in open disloyalty to the state in the form of aiding and abetting Palestinian terrorists. And economically it has to be pointed out that despite the usual tedious assertions of institutional discrimination against them, the Arab community in Israel actually receives more per capita than most sections of the Jewish population, yet much seems to be squandered by local leaders rather than spent on municipal improvements, hence Arab villages tend to look shabbier than Jewish neighbourhoods, despite the focused investment.

However, I believe that there is a place for non-Jews in Israel - in fact, I think it is intrinsic to Israel's national character. We must learn from our own experience that it is not enough to be a tolerated minority, but that we thrive and contribute most when allowed to do so in the right way. Equally we should learn from the underwhelming statistics of minorities in European countries (rife crime and unemployment, staggeringly disproportionate burdens on the state, low education and health etc), and ensure the right blend of carrots and sticks is in place.

So I urge you to reserve judgement on Lieberman for the time being. It would only take the slightest mellowing of his policy (otherwise known as dilution by coalition) for it to become not just palatable but the natural successor to the Disengagement, with the lessons learned about who you are supposed to disengage from whom.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Jurassic Park IV

According to Gabriel Rozenberg's excellent comment piece in today's Times, "just because education is a right doesn’t mean that it has to be free: it means that it has to be affordable."

He points out that students should be seeking the radical position of asking to pay more for their education instead of the endless stream of rallies (for which read excuse to bunk lectures and doss off to London for a stroll and a pint), which have a curious habit of being as much about Free Palestine, Stop Bush, Ban E$$o and Read New Book By George Moonbat (apparently this is spelt Monbiot - see Freedmanslife Lexicon) as it is about getting overwhelmingly middle-class students to avoid having to pay (shock horror!) more than 25% of the cost of their university education.

Gabriel's argument is pretty simple: let universities stand on their own two feet and compete with each other, whilst students make decisions as to where to apply based on the same merit process as they choose between BHS or Primark (or in the case of many NUS marchers, Oxfam or the offcuts from Land of Leather).

The key is introducing a properly-managed system to allow students to borrow the cost of their education and pay it back at an appropriate rate as and when they can afford it (ie when that education actually starts reaping some real rewards). The Trotskyite - or is it Marxist-Leninist - hairy leather-bound body-canvases on the marches will probably never earn enough to pay back anyway, and the usually totally cynical and career-advancing NUS leadership will end up in New Labour and can always bolster their parliamentary stationery budget or borrow some money from a rich dude if they find it a struggle to cover their below-market loan capital and interest repayments.

As always, there has to be a safety-net:

"If there is still a role for state funding it is surely only in ensuring that no teenager is left behind. Universities that charge full fees would have more resources to put into scholarships for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It wouldn’t happen overnight, but in the meantime the Government could build up endowments, helping universities to become the best of all worlds: fee-charging for all who can afford it, needs-blind to those who cannot."

This is expensive to fund, so I would go further than Gabriel in the liberalisation of the university market (shock, horror - commodities jargon!); the government should be incentivising private investors to make capital investments in infrastructure, and encouraging former students to make endowments to their alma mater, through some targetted tax breaks.

In fact, I wonder if there might be an even better construct that serves all purposes. If universities were properly privatised and being run efficiently as businesses, they could have a bond or rights issue to generate investment, then use some of this cash, backed by appropriate financial institutions, to act as the lending (or means-related grant-making) body to their own students.

Government could always find a means of providing last recourse, or truly let the market run its course, even if some venerable institutions go under for not being competitive. Universities would also have a natural incentive to increase their R&D capabilities with commercial goals in mind, at a time when the UK is beginning to lag behind its OECD counterparts on this front.

Either way, thanks to Gabriel - a chip off two old blocks. You can write to him here to voice your support for reason, although rumour has it he might be an occasional Freedmanslife reader. Incidentally I might make a future TWAJ posting on why UJS doesn't seem to really have a policy on paying fees and what on earth it is doing in NUS apart from perpetuating Jewish conspiracy theories... but that is for another day.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Freedmanslife Lexicon

Time for a change in spelling here on Freedmanslife. As regular readers would know (if they haven't all abandoned me during my recent sabbatical), the subject of the faithful of the Koran is oft discussed in one guise or another. So in deference to the odd mohammedan reader, we shall hereby be spelling things the way they are pronounced - by the people in question, and their sycophantic BBC newsreader friends.

Henceforth look forward to reading about the Musslim veil (not to be confused with the muslin veil), how great Isslam can be (as opposed to how great is lamb kebab), the human rights of Musslim Gitmo detainees (not to be confused with the human rights of dead WTC firefighters, beheaded contractors in Iraq etc).

And naturally, we believe that we should also defer to the wishes of our Musslim friends in pronouncing words that have been assimilated into English over many years but are spoken differently by them. So for example the word "Jews" is correctly spelt Jooz and much as we must add a "peace be upon him" after uttering the name of the Isslamic Prophet (pbuh for short), the word Jooz is to be followed with "zic" or Zionist Imperialist Colonialist.

Moving on, Israeli is now to be written and pronounced Isra-aliens, which is in keeping with the idea that the Zionist entity is in fact a tribe of extraterrestrial green lizards in cahoots with the Yale Skull and Bones club of which Dubya is a member, and the ubiquitous Freemasons.

It's good to be back.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


After a couple of hectic months in which I have been suffering a terrible combination of hard work, extensive travel and writer's block, I have finally got round to blogging again. Watch this space - I will be filling in some of the gaps!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Veiled threats

Scintillating read from Andrew Norfolk in yesterday's Times - "How bomber's town is turning into an enclave for Muslims", on "the changing face of Dewsbury, home of the teacher in the veil row and notorious for its 7/7 links". The article is also an awesome exposé on some of the roots of the Islamic fundamentalist problem, and demonstrates how little we have got to grips with it:

SHE may have been covered in black from head to toe, but there was no disguising Aishah Azmi’s mood this week as she denounced those who would dare to challenge her right to wear a veil in the classroom.

At a press conference in a smart Leeds hotel after an employment tribunal’s rejection of her discrimination claim against the junior school that had suspended her, Mrs Azmi, 24, was flanked by a team of lawyers as she faced journalists and cameras.

She spoke confidently and assertively, attacking Tony Blair, pledging to continue her fight for justice and pleading the cause of fellow Muslim women who were being “treated as outcasts” across Britain.

As her voice rose, her eyes sparkled through a narrow slit in the black cloth. Here was a woman basking in the attention and relishing the chance to score political points for Islam.

The storm over Mrs Azmi’s veil is merely the latest in a series of incidents during the past 18 months, including suicide bombers and terrorist arrests, that have turned an uncomfortable spotlight on the Muslim community of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

It comprises a small number of terraced streets, schools and mosques on the edge of Saville Town, which lies in a loop of the River Calder to the south of the town centre.

Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the July 7 terrorist attack on London, lived here with his wife, Hasina Patel.

The Times has learnt that Ms Patel, 29, worked at the same Church of England junior school, Headfield, as Mrs Azmi.

Khan, 30, had links to the town’s largest mosque, the Markazi, which is the European headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat, a global Islamic missionary movement.

Several of the suspects arrested in August over the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners had attended meetings of Tablighi Jamaat, which French intelligence has labelled an “antechamber of fundamentalism”. The FBI says it is a fertile breeding ground for al-Qaeda.

Mrs Azmi’s father, Dr Muhammed Mulk, was named by Ofsted inspectors as the joint headmaster of an international Islamic seminary that is attached to the mosque. One of its students was Shehzad Tanweer, another of the July 7 bombers. In an unrelated matter, a 16-year-old Muslim schoolboy, who lived a couple of streets from the mosque, was arrested at his school in June and has been charged under the Terrorism Act with conspiracy to murder.

Are these merely a series of unhappy coincidences, or do they point to a small community that is somehow nourishing and nurturing a belief system containing a deep-rooted hostility towards the West? Asians account for 24 per cent of Dewsbury’s 53,500 population. But Saville Town, home to 5,000 people, is 88 per cent Asian, almost all of them Muslims with their roots in Pakistan or Gujarat, in India.

Between 1991 and 2001, the white population of Dewsbury fell by 2 per cent. During the same period, the Indian population rose by 25 per cent and the Pakistani community by 60 per cent. And as each year passes, Saville Town moves closer to becoming an exclusively Islamic enclave. It is possible here for a Muslim child to grow up — in the family home, at school and in the mosque and madrassa — without coming into any contact with Western lifestyles, opinions or values.

Some local imams see this self-imposed apartheid as not merely beneficial, but essential. Only by removing the corrosive and corrupting influence of the kuffar (unbelievers’) culture can young Muslims be shown the purity of true Islam.

One such scholar is the Dewsbury mufti Zubair Dudha. A gentle, polite and softly spoken man, he tells parents that allowing their children to mix with non-Muslims is an evil that is “bringing ruin to the holy moral fabric of Muslim society”.

Such views send a message of cultural isolationism and, argue critics, speed the creation of a closed society that turns its back on the host country. It is multiculturalism positioning itself as the polar opposite of integration.

In Dewsbury the mistrust has become mutual. There has been no sign here of the race riots that afflicted other industrial northern towns, but it was in this constituency that the British National Party recorded its highest vote in the country in the general election last year.

The race-haters of the Right are led by Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, who has denounced Islam as “a wicked, vicious faith”. His poisonous words belong to a different country from the hesitant expressions of doubt that are being increasingly voiced by mainstream British politicians about the introverted, isolated direction in which some would wish to take Islam.

A “mark of separation” was the Prime Minister’s description this week of Mrs Azmi’s veil. A religion of separation is, arguably, the Islamic vision that dominates Dewsbury.

Its roots can be traced to the dusty town of Deoband, in northern India, home of a famous Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom, founded in 1866. Its graduates today run thousands of mosques and 30,000 madrassas across the world.

Twenty years ago, the majority of British Muslims and mosques were Barelwi, a brand of Sunni Islam that flourished in rural areas of India and Pakistan. Barelwis have a strong musical and dance tradition, enjoy many festivals, believe in mysticism and the intercession of saints and are traditionally regarded as moderate in their political outlook.

The Deobandis, by contrast, preach an uncompromisingly fundamentalist version of Sunni Islam. They are credited with moving adherents in a direction that is increasingly conservative and intolerant.

Salman Rushdie blames the scholars of Deoband for teaching “the most fundamentalist, narrow, puritan, rigid, oppressive version of Islam that exists anywhere in the world today”. At one extreme, this back-to-basics movement was partly responsible for the Taleban, whose leaders were educated at Deobandi seminaries on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Elsewhere, the Deobandi message tends to focus on individual regeneration. Its leaders, while eager to issue fatwas, are avowedly opposed to violence and terrorism.

Each decade that passes in Britain sees fewer Barelwi mosques and more Deobandi institutions. Deobandis, according to one experienced observer, are now the majority Muslim grouping in Bury, Bolton, Blackburn, Rochdale, Manchester and Glasgow and have a growing presence in Bradford and Birmingham.

In Dewsbury, they — with Zubair Dudha among their number — are the dominant Islamic voice and run most of the town’s mosques. Tablighi Jamaat, nevertheless, was founded in 1926 by a Deoband scholar, Mawlana Muhammed Ilyas, and is seen as an intensified version of the Deobandi commitment to reshaping individual lives by following the example and lifestyle of the Prophet Muhammad.

Deobandis and the disciples of Tablighi Jamaat are outraged when Western observers and intelligence agencies link them to terrorism.

Shabbir Daji, a trustee and secretary of both the Markazi mosque and its seminary, the Islamic Institute of Education, pleaded with The Times yesterday to emphasise that Tablighi Jamaat’s aim was “unity among all humanity”.

He insisted that Mrs Azmi’s father no longer taught at the seminary and said that she had been wrong — “that’s not Islam” — to insist on wearing the veil in the classroom. “We are not turning our backs on you. We are trying to live in peace and unity,” he said.

He should perhaps share his views with his Deobandi brother, who believes that “the logical consequences of such evil exposure is moral ruin, scepticism, atheism and delinquency”. From all that has happened in the past 18 months, it ought to be possible for both Muslims and non-Muslims to find common ground on at least one issue.

At first mention, it may sound sinister to suggest an educational link between Mrs Azmi and the wife of the leader of the July 7 atrocities, but Hasina Patel had left Headfield long before Mrs Azmi arrived.

Mrs Patel, a Gujarati, was regarded as moderate in her views and did not wear the veil. The mother of one was four months pregnant when Khan entered a London Underground train and blew himself up. She had a miscarriage within days. Intelligence experts do not believe that Mrs Patel knew what her husband was planning. She and her mother fled to a safe house after the bombings and are still living in hiding.

The Patels deserve to be listed among the victims of 7/7. It would be interesting to learn their views on Mrs Azmi’s strident portrayal of herself as an injured, innocent outcast. They know what that really feels like.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Jews are the new Jews

With antisemitic attacks on the increase, with the Jewish State ever more vilified by the world's media, with the nasty undertones of conversations among the chattering classes about how much influence the Jews have, with the endless barrage of hate preached in mosques and madrassas the world over, with the persistent singling out of Israel for special treatment by the Church, the UN, academics and trade unions, with Holocaust denial and belittlement on the increase and becoming more acceptable in many countries, it seems that things have never been so bad for the Jews.

But apparently, it's all just dandy for us, compared to what the poor Muslims are suffering. According to India Knight, "it’s open season on Islam — Muslims are the new Jews." In the past weeks, a much-needed debate has started, triggered by Jack Straw's comments and the suspension of a teacher for refusing to remove her veil when teaching.

The offending quote seems to have been Straw's comment that the veil was a “visible statement of separation and of difference”, and that he asks women who visit his surgery to remove it. Knight indignantly asks whether Straw demands to see nuns' hair too - apart from their moustaches of course. She carefully ignores the fact that Jack is not checking their hair for lice or dandruff, but wants to see their faces, which nuns do not cover (except to shield their eyes from pornographic after shave ads).

Then our dear India resorts to the classic "I can't be abc / I know what I'm talking about because some of my best friends / my family / my neighbour's dog's vet's dry cleaners are xyz" argument:
"I should start by saying that my mother was born in Pakistan of a Hindu mother and a Muslim father. She was convent-educated and went on to marry two Catholics (not at the same time). I therefore — unlike some “offended” Wasp commentators — know what I’m talking about, a) because of my endless “aunties”, and b) through spending much of my childhood in India and Pakistan. Given the mish-mash of my ancestry, religious bigotry brings me out in hives."

Funny, because her father is the extremely British, and rather eccentric, Lionel Knight MBE, former teacher of history and politics at the City of London School, my alma mater. Just thinking about his gaunt frame hurtling down the corridors with his suit jacket loosely over his shoulders like a superhero's cape, the arms flapping in the slipstream, brings me out in hives too.

She goes on to say that "since July 7, it has become acceptable to say the most ignorant, degrading things about Islam." That's because people are kinda pissed that Muslims blew 50 of us up on the Tube in the name of Islam. Go figure that they might lash out. It gets better - she is also "particularly irked by ancient old “feminists” wheeling out themselves and their 30-years-out-of-date opinions to reiterate the old chestnut that Islam, by its nature, oppresses women (unlike the Bible, eh,?) and that the veil compounds the blanket oppression." Yeah, you see the difference is that even those of us who still do believe in the Bible are not imposing those views on our own communities on pain of beatings and honour killings, let alone influencing government, school and workplace policy to foist it on the rest of us.

Ah, here comes the real prejudice:

"My former husband and I once went to look at a house we were thinking of buying in a Jewish Orthodox bit of London. As it happened we were the only non-Orthodox people on that bit of pavement that morning. I noticed a group of Hassidim were walking around us in a peculiar way. “They’re avoiding our shadows,” the estate agent said, “because we’re unclean.” I didn’t think much of that, either. But we all need to coexist peaceably. The fact that I find the man in Camden market with bolts through his face, or the Orthodox woman dressed in a drab sack and wearing a bad wig, as “weird” — weirder, actually — than a woman dressed in black with only her eyes showing is neither here nor there. I don’t expect they think much of me, either."
The difference is, if you had moved in next door, India, they wouldn't spit on you, curse you, hound you out of the neighbourhood etc, because they actually respect the rule of law and actually coexist peacably. You do not make them feel comfortable either. Come to think of it, you don't make me feel that comfortable and I'd probably walk around you in a peculiar way if you were my neighbour.

In fact I cannot even be bothered to dissect the rest of this ridiculous article, because I don't know many people who think much of India Knight, so why waste my own time...

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Tories’ disproportionate response

Melanie Phillips saves me the bother once again, with this excellent critique of Tory policy in today's JC...

The shift in Tory thinking about Israel, signalled by remarks made by the party’s foreign affairs spokesman William Hague during the Lebanon war, has claimed its first political casualty. Baroness Miller of Hendon, the Tory trade and industry spokesman in the Lords, has now resigned from the front bench in protest.

Hague’s remarks shocked many Jews inside and outside the party. In an article in the Times, he blamed Israel for the ‘injustice of attacks on purely civil infrastructure’ in Lebanon and claimed that ‘elements of the Israeli response were disproportionate, risking unnecessary loss of civilian life’.

In fact, Israel bombed only a tiny part of Lebanon and tried to avoid unnecessary loss of civilian life, including telling people to flee from the areas to be bombed. And at least half the alleged ‘civilian’ deaths were actually Hezbollah soldiers who had hidden themselves and their rockets in civilian houses, thus using them as human shields for military targets.

Given the hysterical opprobrium heaped on Israel for its ‘disproportionate’ response, based on grossly distorted reporting which presented Israel’s self-defence as a war crime, it was deeply disturbing to see the Tories jump onto this obnoxious bandwagon.

Their response that Hague had always acknowledged Israel’s right to security was disingenuous. The word ‘disproportionate’, in this context, was toxic. The party thus colluded in a poisonous animus any politician of decency should have denounced.

A number of people wrote to the Tory leader David Cameron to protest about his endorsement of Hague’s remarks. They received an email from Cameron’s office written by one Alice Sheffield — who happens to be his sister-in-law, but let that pass.

In addition to calling for restraint on all sides, this email said: ‘We believe it is important to maintain a balanced approach to the issue which does not give precedence to either of the parties to the conflict’.

Astoundingly, the Conservative party was saying that it regarded Israel and Hezbollah as equals in the conflict — and that it would not give precedence to Israel over a force that is committed to its destruction (not to mention the destruction of the west, too).

A deputation of concerned Tories took Ms Sheffield’s email to Hague. He told them he was horrified by it, that it did not represent the party view and that it had not been cleared by either himself or Cameron.

So a new letter was drafted and sent out with Hague’s imprimatur from Cameron’s office. But although this stressed the right of Israel to defend itself against Hezbollah’s aggression, it said again that elements of the Israeli response were disproportionate — such as the ‘attacks on the Lebanese army’ and the ‘Christian areas of Beirut’, the ‘destruction instead of damaging of infrastructure’ and the attacks on Qana ‘because of the large number of civilians that turned out to be there’.

But elements of the Lebanese army were in bed with Hezbollah; the places bombed in the Christian area were the airport and the port, which are legitimate strategic targets in any war; and the initial Qana claim almost doubled the actual toll there of 28 dead (images of this ‘atrocity’ were later shown to have been staged by Hezbollah).

As for the ‘destruction of infrastructure’, this apparently referred to bridges. The Israelis say they bombed them to stop any movement of the kidnapped soldiers or fresh munitions —standard strategic aims in war. Party sources say the Tories actually accept the validity of bombing the bridges. But it’s apparently the fact that they were destroyed at their foundations rather than being merely knocked out of action that makes all the difference.

The baffled Israelis say they didn’t intend to destroy the foundations. They didn’t even think of them. They used ordinary bombs with no strategic intention other than putting the bridges out of action to immobilise the enemy.

They are right to be baffled. The Tory argument is risible— and would be used in no other conflict without being laughed out of court.

The party has brushed aside the Sheffield email as unauthorised. But it is most unlikely that an official in the Leader’s office would write such a detailed policy statement off her own bat. The replacement letter was scarcely any better; it repeated absurd claims made by Israel’s enemies which inflamed an already virulent hostility.

The Tories are riding the tiger of anti-Israel prejudice. Their leadership seems to have decided there’s a better show in town than the Jews. The Tories maintain they are still Israel’s friends; but as the saying goes, with friends like these who needs enemies?