Is anti-Semitism really “a hate apart”?

Let’s be clear – antismetism is a hate apart | Howard Jacobson | Opinion | The Guardian

The above is in last Sunday’s Observer, and is part of a genre of articles in which an author tries to establish that anti-Semitism is somehow different from other forms of racism. This is in response to comments made by Jeremy Corbyn in regard to accusations of anti-Semitism within the Labour party, in which he condemned anti-Semitism along with other forms of racism and Islamophobia. He asserts:

To assert that antisemitism is unlike other racisms is not to claim a privilege for it. Hating a Jew is no worse than hating anyone else. But while many a prejudice is set off by particular circumstance – the rise in an immigrant population or a locally perceived threat – antisemitism is, as often as not, unprompted, exists outside time and place and doesn’t even require the presence of Jews to explain it. When Marlowe and Shakespeare responded to an appetite for anti-Jewish feeling in Elizabethan England, there had been no Jews in the country for 300 years. Jewishness, for its enemies, is as much an idea as it is anything else.

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Heathrow: No free ride for Zac Goldsmith

A village green in Harmondsworth behind which is a church; to the left is a pub, the Five Bells, and an old house is to the right. Cars are parked on roads outside the pub and house and a yellow litter bin is in the foreground.Today the government announced its preferred option for airport expansion in the south-east of England, and as had been expected, that was a third runway at Heathrow in west London. The other main option had been a second runway at Gatwick, to the south of London. This does not (contrary to the BBC’s report) mean that the plans have been approved, which means it will get built; there still has to be a debate in Parliament (where there may well be a free vote) and there are likely to be legal challenges. The Heathrow plan has long been opposed by Boris Johnson, currently foreign secretary, who represents Uxbridge which is in the same borough as most of the airport (Hillingdon), and Zac Goldsmith, who represents Richmond Park constituency to the south-east of the existing airport, parts of which suffer severely from noise from low-flying planes (having visited friends in nearby Isleworth, I know how disruptive this can be), and has ‘resigned’ in protest, triggering a by-election in which he intends to stand.

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A waste of a life

Nicky Reilly with a bloodied face, being led away by two police officers, one male (off picture) and one female, after the 2008 Exeter bomb blastLast Wednesday, Nicky Reilly, who attempted to blow up a restaurant in Exeter with a home-made bomb which exploded in the toilet, injuring only himself, died in Manchester prison (otherwise known as Strangeways) where he was serving a life sentence for the attack, having been recently been moved from the Broadmoor secure hospital in Berkshire. The circumstances of his death have not been revealed, but we can assume it was not murder as this would have been made public. According to local press reports, Reilly converted to Islam at age 16 and was, according to his mother, a “peaceful follower of Islam” for several years before he was radicalised over a period of weeks in his early 20s by two so-called friends believed to have been in Pakistan and changed his name to Mohammad Abdul-Aziz Rashid Said-Alim, supposedly in reference to the 9/11 attackers (although all but the last are very common Muslim names); the two men apparently went through every last detail to make sure he got it ‘right’, which he of course didn’t.

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What is the real “education gap” in politics?

A front page from the Daily Mail with a lead to their editorial, proclaiming "Damn the unpatriotic Bremoaners and their plot to subvert the will of the British people". Other headlines include "Full steam ahead for HS2", a plan for a high-speed railway across England, and a picture of Rod Stewart and his family.How the education gap is tearing politics apart | David Runciman | Politics | The Guardian

This was the Guardian’s “long read” Wednesday before last, and it explores how education levels are becoming a dividing line in politics, with the better-educated being more likely to vote for broadly liberal or left-wing parties while the less well-educated being more likely to vote rightwards (i.e. Republican in the USA, Tory or UKIP here). This has changed a lot since the early 1980s when the less well-educated were more likely to vote Labour, but that’s because Labour still represented unionised manual workers and degrees were only a possibility for either those from well-off families or those who benefited from selective education.

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Cure or accommodate? It’s not an either-or

A picture of a woman in a wheelchair using a ramp to board a red London busYesterday I saw an advert for a free public lecture at the University of Melbourne (won’t be going; bit too far for me to travel) on the subject “Persons with Disabilities: Cure or Accommodate?” (HT: Carly Findlay). Part of the advertising blurb for the event reads:

“Where should scarce governmental resources be channelled: to improving function and finding cures or making reasonable adjustments to ensure persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in society?”

It then says that “it is the voices of people with disabilities themselves that must guide this debate” and three of the speakers have a disability (blindness in two cases, deafness in one); the other two are an audiologist, who runs an institution that fits cochlear implants, and a psychiatrist. Including a panel member with another type of impairment — say, a wheelchair user, or someone with a chronic illness — would make the panel rather more representative of the disabled community.

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A few weeks back on Android

A white Nexus 5X seen from front and back. The back has the light sensor, camera, fingerprint sensor, and Nexus and LG logos. The front has the speakers, and the screen which shows an aerial view of a beach with houses fronting it, with various application icons.Over the summer, my iPhone broke down. The charging point initially stopped charging when the Lightning plug was not plugged in at exactly the right angle, but one morning while I was out driving and needed to charge, it just wouldn’t. I took my phone to the local Apple Store in the afternoon after work, and they told me they couldn’t fit me in that afternoon and that I’d have to come in first thing Saturday morning. As I needed a phone and couldn’t guarantee that they’d be able to fix my iPhone, which was out of warranty, I went and bought a Nexus 5X from the local Carphone Warehouse. It’s a 32Gb in, I think, aqua blue (which was the only colour they had left). The next morning, I went into the Apple Store and they did manage to get my iPhone charging again, and I put the Nexus back in its case intending to sell it.

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“Sunnis condemn the Saudis” isn’t news

A group of imams in turbans and robes, with a small minaret with crescent and star symbols behindThe Independent carried a story last Thursday in which Robert Fisk claimed that “for the first time”, Saudi Arabia was under attack from both Sunni and Shi’ite scholars as some two hundred scholars, including the mufti of al-Azhar Ahmad al-Tayyib and mufti of Syria Ahmad Hassoun, as well as representatives from Kuwait, Libya, Jordan and Sudan, had met in late August in Grozny, Chechnya at a conference hosted by Putin’s infamous puppet-thug Ramazan Kadyrov and opened by Putin himself, issuing a statement that condemns Wahhabism as a “dangerous deformation” of Islamic belief and calling for “a return to the schools of great knowledge”, presumably meaning the four schools of law. Fisk claims:

Although they did not mention the Kingdom by name, the declaration was a stunning affront to a country which spends millions of dollars every year on thousands of Wahhabi mosques, schools and clerics around the world.

Wahhabism’s most dangerous deviation, in the eyes of the Sunnis who met in Chechenya, is that it sanctions violence against non-believers, including Muslims who reject Wahhabi interpretation. Isis, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are the principal foreign adherents to this creed outside Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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On safety around trucks and mobiles

A blue curtain-sided trailer halfway round a tight corner on a road. Part of this is a public service announcement. I was involved in a minor collision a couple of weeks ago. The scene is in the photograph on the right.

I was taking this bend in the large articulated lorry you can see. It’s a minor road in Edenbridge, Kent which serves some industrial premises as well as some housing. The tractor unit is on its side of the road but the back of the trailer is not. That’s normal when a long articulated vehicle turns a sharp corner. You will notice that it’s not wide enough for a car to get through. Yet, someone tried to drive one through that gap, and the driver’s side of her car ended up against my trailer’s wheels. I stopped when I heard her shouting and honking, and she managed to reverse her car back.

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No, we do not need to act on that referendum

The border along the main Dublin-Belfast road during the Troubles. There is a queue of cars and trucks, with signs saying things like 'Please wait, security check in progress, remain in vehicleIn the months since the referendum on leaving the EU, opinion seems to have hardened on the matter of whether there should be any question of leaving, given the 51.9% vote in favour. In the days following, when the value of the pound had dropped to a long-term low, David Lammy suggested that we should “stop this madness” given the very slim majority, the rapid exposure of the premises of the Brexit campaign as lies, the economic shock and the rise of racially-motivated violence. More than two months later, with favourable trade deals with any other country nowhere on the horizon and hardline anti-Europe Tories in key cabinet positions (such as Liam Fox who favours withdrawal from the EU customs union and a hard border with Ireland, which will make scenes like that in the accompanying picture a reality again), with the new PM insisting there will be no new referendum, no Parliamentary vote and no general election before her government takes the UK out of the EU as a matter of prerogative, the mainstream Left has developed a fatalism over the matter, with both Jeremy Corbyn and Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, stating over the past few days that we “have to respect democracy”; only Owen Smith, the Labour party leadership challenger, advocating a new referendum on whatever deal the Tories are able to strike.

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Modi should have been Keith Vaz’s undoing

A picture of Narendra Modi, an elderly South Asian man with a white beard wearing a long black jacket, and Keith Vaz, a middle-aged, bald South Asian man with glasses, wearing a white shirt and an orange/brown patterned tie, with a black jacket over the top, in the Palace of Westminster.Last Sunday some of the tabloids led with a story about Keith Vaz, the Labour MP for Leicester East, paying male prostitutes, asking them to bring ‘poppers’ and offering to cover the cost of cocaine. As a result of this he has resigned from his chairmanship of the Home Affairs select committee, a position he has held since 2007. On blogs and social media there has been widespread condemnation of the story for being an intrusion into his private life and for the ‘whorephobic’ judgement against his use of ‘sex workers’ and their occupation. Some feminists have countered that his role on the select committee included overseeing an inquiry into how the law on prostitution should be reformed; an interim report recommended that soliciting and brothel-keeping be decriminalised. I believe his downfall should have come sooner, and that there is an element of hypocrisy in this issue also.

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Welcome home and happy birthday

Josh Offer-Simon, a young white boy with short hair, cuddling a small brown dog.Back in February, I featured the story of Joshua Offer-Simon, who was at the time being held in a hospital unit in Birmingham. He had been under section for two years as a result of challenging behaviour stemming from a mixture of ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome and a mild learning disability, during a time when his father was in hospital following a life-changing injury. He was first held in Manchester, where he ended up not leaving his room for several months, and was then transferred to the same unit in Birmingham where Josh Wills had spent three years. He did make progress in Birmingham, but there were safeguarding issues and the management attempted to transfer him to a secure unit in Norfolk, which refused to accept him. Three weeks ago, after attempts to find a residential placement for him failed, he was released from his section and returned to his family; today is his 14th birthday, his first in three years that he has spent at home, with his family, instead of in an institution.

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“Not exactly Mother Teresa”

Mother Teresa, an elderly white woman wearing a white headscarf with blue stripes at the front, with an Indian woman wearing glasses and a white headscarf to her right.So, today the Pope led a ceremony in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican to canonise Mother Teresa, the nun who ran a chain of institutions for the sick, dying and destitute around the world, most famously in Kolkata, India, on the basis that two miraculous cures of sick people have been attributed to her intercession since her death in 1997. Teresa, born Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, now in Macedonia but then part of the Ottoman Empire, had worked in India since 1929 when she joined the Irish-based Loreto order and was sent to teach in Darjeeling in northern Bengal (now West Bengal). She moved to Kolkata in 1946 and founded her Missionaries of Charity in 1950.

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Listen to women — but which women?

Two women wearing all-over swimsuits. The one on the left has a black suit with pink sleeves and a pink floral motif on the chest. The one on the right is a lifeguard and has a yellow and red uniform suit with "Surf Rescue" and the DHL logo on the front. She is holding a red metal pole.Last Friday the highest court in France, the Council of State (Conseil d’État), struck down the ban on full-body swimsuits or so-called burkinis which had been imposed by some 30 municipalities in southern France on various pretexts such as morality, public order and security, ruling that it “seriously, and clearly illegally, breached the fundamental freedoms to come and go, the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom”. This followed incidents in which women were arrested and fined for wearing the garment in public, and one woman was surrounded by four armed police on a beach and ordered to remove her headscarf (she was not wearing a “burkini”); in similar incidents, sunbathers in the vicinity shouted “go home” and “we are Catholics here”. The BBC carried two important interviews, one of them on BBC London with a female human rights scholar in Toulouse who debunked some of the myths being peddled by supporters of the ban (e.g. that the women approached by police on beaches had gone there to seek out trouble), and another on Radio 4 at lunchtime in which a spokesman from the Human Rights League accused local politicians of fomenting trouble that had not previously existed and dismissed a ruling from the local administrative court in which wearing the ‘burkini’ was compared to allegiance with terrorism, saying, “if someone can think that without being drunk, we might as well quit any reasonable discussion in a democracy”.

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Let’s be clear: the French swimsuit ban is about hate

A woman sitting on the edge of a swimming pool, wearing a black two-piece black swimsuit consisting of a tunic and trousers with pink decorative lines, with a black and pink hood over her head of similar material.In the past couple of weeks several coastal regions of France, including the districts that include Cannes, Nice and Menton, have banned women from wearing the full-body swimsuits known as ‘burkinis’ that are popular with Muslim women on their beaches. The mayor of Cannes justified it on the grounds of “security”, claiming that the swimsuits do not represent “good morals and secularism” and claiming, “manifesting religious affiliation in an ostentatious way, while France and its religious sites are currently the target of terrorist attacks, could create risks of trouble to public order”. In other words, they do not want to see anything that looks like Islam when “Islam” had just attacked them. (More: Aishah Schwartz.)

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Schools should provide books, not require iPads

A young white boy wearing a bright red school jumper with a school emblem consisting of a cross inside a diamond with the letters S, A, S and M around the cross. He is holding an iPad and a young child wearing a light grey and white baby suit is sitting looking at it.Back to school bill: pencil case, pens, rubber … and a £785 iPad (from today’s Guardian)

This is about how state schools (private schools have been doing this for a while) have started asking parents to send children into school equipped with an iPad “as a result of a lack of proper government funding for technology equipment”. The schools involved justify the policy by saying such things as “embedding technology in the classroom, alongside traditional learning, has been shown to enhance learning”, which is a dubious claim when applied to iPads, but the devices are being sold for up to £785 in installments when basic iPads are available from £219 from Apple. There are a whole host of reasons why pressuring parents to pay for this device is a bad idea.

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Yes, Black lives matter. But so do other people’s journeys

Image of a protest at a roundabout outside Heathrow Airport, in the background of which is a sign saying "Welcome to Heathrow". There is a banner saying "Black Lives Matter" and in the foreground is the stationary traffic held up by the protest, including cars, a tipper truck and two buses.Last week I was working at a site just north of Heathrow airport, the quickest route to which is down the Heathrow spur and off at the bottom. On Friday morning I was returning from a delivery run to Neasden and turned off the M4 at junction 4, to find a queue of stationary traffic in the spur road. After a couple of changes of the lights I was able to get back on the M4 and got to my workplace via the Colnbrook junction instead. By the time I left the site for my next run, the traffic had built up back to the Hayes exit and into secondary roads around the airport (like Sipson Road, which runs alongside the spur). It transpired that the road was closed because a group of “Black Lives Matter” protesters had blocked the bottom of the spur by lying down on the road and unfurling a banner reading “This is a crisis”. Although police opened one lane, the blockage of that road remained in place for several hours and traffic was still being diverted via Hayes in the late morning.

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The Investigation that revealed nothing

Picture of a girl, a man and a woman (all white) standing in front of a window. The girl (Sam) has curly hair and is wearing a black top with a white or light grey stripe across the upper chest and a red and white tartan knee-length skirt. The man (Russell) has a light-coloured shirt with no tie, and a beige pair of trousers. The woman (Carole) has short blonde hair and is wearing a white, red and black striped dress and a black jacket and is holding a bag in her left hand. The man's arms are round both the other two.Last Thursday night, the last in a four-part series called The Investigator showed on ITV. The series attempted, or purported, to investigate the death of Carole Packman, who disappeared in 1986 after attempting to leave an abusive marriage to the man who killed her, Russell Packman (now Causley), who had moved his girlfriend Patricia Causley (whose surname he took) in with her and their daughter Samantha. Russell was jailed for his murder on circumstantial evidence despite no body ever having been found; he has always proclaimed his innocence, until briefly during the making of this programme. As a result of Causley’s attempts to gain parole, Samantha and her son Neil had asked that he reveal where the body is buried and Mark Williams-Thomas, who boasts that he broke the scandal over Jimmy Savile, offered to help. The result was a series that revealed almost nothing, treating things that were already known as revelations, and appeared to be manipulated by Russell Causley, reading out letters ostensibly from him first confessing to the murder and detailing how he had done it, then changing that story, before finally retracting his confession.

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The loser of Sagamihara

An aerial shot of a group of buildings, including two large Z-shaped and one smaller L-shaped building, plus a small outdoor swimming pool, some gardens and a car park and surrounding roads.Last Monday a former employee of Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a care centre in Sagamihara, Japan broke into the centre during the night and murdered 19 disabled residents. We do not know the names of the victims and no photographs have yet been published, but they were aged between 19 and 70 and included ten women and nine men; 26 more were injured, 13 of them severely. The murderer had previously sent a letter to the Speaker of the lower house of the Japanese Parliament, claiming that he “may be able to revitalize the world economy and I thought it may be possible to prevent World War III” by euthanasing people with multiple disabilities because they “can only create misery”. He mentioned how he might carry out the killings and then demanded a sentence of no more than two years, a new identity on release, plastic surgery and financial aid of 500M yen ($5M). He was committed to a mental health facility when the letter came to the attention of the police, but was only held for two weeks, until early March.

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Apricot kernels

Image of white apricot flowersEarlier today I was browsing the mentions of Kate Granger, the doctor best known for setting up the “Hello, my name is…” campaign aimed at encouraging doctors, nurses and other health professionals to introduce themselves to patients when they meet them, and who is in a hospice with terminal cancer at the time of this writing, and I came across a series of tweets from someone trying to sell her apricot kernels (organic Himalayan ones, no less) which she claimed had cured an old friend who had stomach and lung cancer that had spread despite surgery (a bit of “spiritual healing” helped also). I didn’t see any responses from Kate (who is clearly too ill to tweet much) or her husband (who is too busy caring and making the most ot his last few days with her), but I do believe this nonsense deserves a response because Dr Granger is obviously not the only person with this disease and there will be other targets for these cranks.

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So, where’s your inspiring leader?

A white woman with wavy hair wearing a green jumper with a pink scarf round her neck, holding a home-made banner saying "No goodbyes based on lies", with a hand-drawn EU flag.This week, as the Tory leadership election gets underway and a bunch of five ghastly right-wing, anti-immigrant, mostly Islamophobic extremists compete to be the next prime minister, people who are in or more inclined towards the Labour party (even if voting for it isn’t an option, given the lack of effort they make to try and win our constituencies) have been on the edge of our seats waiting for someone to make a move against Jeremy Corbyn, who has the support of the party membership but is regarded with open disdain by most of the Parliamentary party, including a large proportion of his shadow cabinet who resigned last week, mostly citing a lacklustre performance in campaigning to keep Britain in the EU before last week, when his anti-EU sympathies have in fact never been a secret, as well as fears that he is unelectable and accusations that he tolerates or even encourages anti-Semitism. However, the party Right, described as “all plot and no plan”, have not put forward a leader that will be any more effective than Corbyn. (More: Paul Bernal.)

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