Schools in Birmingham are illegally segregating pupils, discriminating against non-Muslim students and restricting the GCSE syllabus to “comply with conservative Islamic teaching”, an official report leaked to The Telegraph discloses.
Department for Education inspectors said that girls in a school at the centre of the so-called “Trojan Horse” plot were forced to sit at the back of the class, some Christian pupils were left to “teach themselves” and an extremist preacher was invited to speak to children.
The report, into three schools in the city, follows weeks of controversy over the alleged plot to “Islamise” secular schools in Birmingham and will lead to calls for intervention. The report focuses on Park View School and its sister schools, Golden Hillock and Nansen, the only primary of the three. Inspectors found that Park View practised forced and discriminatory sex segregation and has “restricted” GCSE subjects “to comply with conservative Islamic teaching”.
Core elements of the GCSE syllabus were missed out as “un-Islamic” and an extremist preacher with known al-Qaeda sympathies and anti-Semitic views was invited to speak with children. At Golden Hillock, there was discrimination against non-Muslims, the report found. Its handful of Christian students “have to teach themselves” in one GCSE subject after the teacher “concentrated on the students who were doing the Islamic course”.
At Nansen, Year 6 children, aged 10 and 11, received no teaching at all in the arts, humanities or music.
The document, classified “official-sensitive”, describes the results of inspections of the schools last month by officials from the DfE. All three are supposedly non-faith schools run by the Park View Educational Trust.
Mr Alam and the school have furiously denied the claims as “fictitious”, “Islamophobic” and a “witch-hunt”.
However, the leaked report substantiates many of the claims made against the school. It accuses Park View of 20 separate breaches of the law, the schools’ funding agreement with the DfE, and the Academy Schools Handbook.
The inspectors found that, contrary to its denials, Park View did practise forced and discriminatory gender segregation, with “boys sitting towards the front of the class and girls at the back or around the sides”.
The school has always claimed that any separation of the sexes was voluntary. However, the report says: “Students told us they were required to sit in the places which they were given by teachers.” This constituted “non-compliance with the Equality Act” and potentially “less favourable treatment for girls”. There was entirely separated teaching, in separate rooms, for some subjects, the report says.
The small number of Christian or non-Muslim pupils also suffered discrimination, the report says.
At Golden Hillock, five Christian students in Year 11 “have to teach themselves” in one GCSE subject, religious education, because the teacher gave all his or her time “to the students who are doing the Islamic course”.
Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, an extremist preacher who “is known to extol... the stoning of homosexuals, anti-Semitic views [and is] sympathetic to al-Qaeda”, was invited to address students at Park View, the inspectors found.
The core curriculum at the two secondary schools had been Islamised, with GCSE subjects “restricted to comply with conservative Islamic teaching”.
Children told the inspectors that in biology the teacher “briefly delivered the theory of evolution to comply with the syllabus”, but told students that “this is not what we believe”. In biology, the inspectors also found that “topics such as body structure and the menstrual cycle were not covered in class, though pupils needed them for the GCSE exam . . . students told us that as Muslims they were not allowed to study matters such as reproduction with the opposite sex”. At Park View, a “madrassah curriculum” was followed in personal, health and social education, the report said. . .
Though all the schools are supposed to be secular, the inspectors said they were not sufficiently welcoming to those of other faiths or no faith, with students at Park View encouraged to “begin and end each lesson with a prayer” and loudspeakers used to “broadcast the call for prayer across the school”.
Female staff at the schools were discriminated against, the report says. “One of the senior leaders [at Nansen] interviewed reported that she had never met a governor or been invited to a governing body meeting, although the male senior leader with similar responsibilities was invited to every meeting”.
At Golden Hillock, three members of staff told inspectors that governors were “rude to women and dismissive of their input” and that some governors “will not shake the hands of female senior leaders”.
The report makes clear that Park View’s most senior female leader, the non-Muslim executive headteacher, Lindsey Clark, had been reduced to a figurehead, marginalised to the extent that she “was unaware of the names of some of the more recent appointments to the senior leadership team” at her own school. Last week, Mrs Clark retired.
All three schools were in reality run by Mr Alam, who had an “inappropriate day-to-day role in the running of the schools” and who received undeclared four-figure payments from them as a “consultant”, the report states.
At Nansen the deputy headteacher, Razwan Faraz, “was appointed deputy only three years after [achieving] qualified teacher status”, the report says. No references from outside the schools were taken up for him. As The Telegraph revealed last month, Mr Faraz, the brother of a convicted terrorist, is the administrator of a group of teachers, governors and school consultants called Educational Activists which pursues what he calls an “Islamising agenda” in Birmingham schools.
For those hoping to ignore the Middle East during Easter and Passover, I am the Grinch who will steal the holiday. Approximately 140,000 people have died in the three years of the horrible imbroglio in Syria. Russia, despite its weakness and the moral bankruptcy of its foreign policy, has reaped a harvest of consistency and single-mindedness. It has entirely and unwaveringly supported the Bashar Al-Assad regime, used its status as a permanent United Nations Security Council member to veto any opposing resolution, and has provided superior weaponry to the Syrian government in its war against the atomized majority of its countrymen. Russia ignores European and American disapproval and does what’s necessary to maintain its Mediterranean naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, and pretends to continue as a rival to the power of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.
The conduct of the United States has been much harder to follow and justify. It started with Hillary Clinton infamously referring to Assad as “a reformer.” It then morally supported the dissidents because they were clearly the majority, and because the overthrow of Assad would assure the end of the Iranian pipeline of assistance to Hezbollah and even, up to a point, of Hamas, curtailing the terrible mischief they have inflicted on Lebanon and Israel. But the United States declined to arm the Syrian rebels with the anti-aircraft capability they needed, though such weapons were entirely defensive, for three reasons: The U.S. government was afraid that these weapons would fall into the hands of Sunni extremists; was mesmerized by what it considered to be the more important relationship with Russia (a relationship that has proven to be entirely antagonistic and based on Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s correct calculation that American appeasement could be secured at no cost); and, because the American public, after 10 years, $2-trillion, and more than 50,000 casualties, was averse to any involvement in another Middle Eastern war.
The only provocation that could apparently motivate the United States to intervene was Assad using poison gas on his own citizens. When this was done, President Barack Obama announced that he would punish Assad, deployed American warships in a position to fire cruise missiles at the Syrians, and then abdicated the constitutionally assigned position of commander-in-chief to the Congress. And when the legislators appeared likely to deny any authority to attack Syria, despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s assurance that such action would be “unbelievably small” (and therefore probably not too onerous a deterrent or punishment), Obama grasped pathetically at Putin’s offered straw of supervision of Syrian surrender of the poison gas stocks to Russia.
The U.S. is checkmated — Assad continues as a Soviet and Iranian puppet and his principal opponents are jihadists and terrorist-supporting organizations, and over 2.5 million Syrians (more than 10% of the country’s population), are refugees in a pitiful condition. The United States is complicit, though only through passivity and negligence, in all that has gone wrong, but has no dog in the hunt for advantage.
Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have all sponsored rebel factions in the Syrian civil war. Saudi Arabia is in a regional struggle for influence with Iran, which is in part a Sunni-Shiite intra-Muslim conflict, and does not forget the efforts of the fundamentalist groups in the region to overthrow the Saudi royal family in the 1980s. (The Saudi government is essentially a joint venture between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi establishment, lubricated by vast amounts of Danegeld paid to the propagation of Wahhabi fundamentalist views around the Muslim world). Turkey and Qatar have been less discriminating and the Turks have supported the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar the local Salafist militias. Both countries are committed to Assad’s downfall but have maintained their relations with Iran. The scheming and conspiring is endless and constant, in all directions and by all sides, as can only happen in the Middle East.
Syria has earned Iran’s loyal support because it has continued through thick and thin to be a conduit to Hezbollah. The Iranians have been steady suppliers of weapons, artificially low-price oil, and extensive military training for Assad’s para-militaries and even regular forces.
With the United States having done a U-turn retreat, Russia and Iran appear strong enough to keep Assad in office and with authority over more of Syria than anyone else. In general, Assad benefits from greater assistance and a severely divided opposition. The attempts to unite the various Syrian opposition groups have failed, and it is all terribly confused because of murky or obscure differences and terminological subtleties, as in the withdrawal, three months ago, of the Syrian National Council from the Syrian National Coalition. Many of the more moderate forces (great caution should be used in applying that word anywhere in the Middle East), are now awaiting events, fatigued by ineffective internecine combat. It is hard to figure out who is in the Free Syrian Army, Supreme Military Council, and the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front and where each ends and the other begins. The Islamic Front, with around 50,000 part-time fighters, seems one of the stronger and more coherent entities and seeks an Islamic state with shariah law. Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, is a more disciplined but smaller organization, and has been more careful than most about collateral damage.
In regional terms, the reduction of Syria to chaos and the quick defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, where it had been the 900-pound gorilla in the room for 60 years, makes life easier for Israel, a lightening of the horizon mitigated only by the American and international feebleness in response to the Iranian nuclear program. But the takeaway message on Syria is that in all of the circumstances, awful though the Assads were and disreputable and unacceptably motivated though their Iranian and Russian sponsors are, it is not clear that an objectively preferable alternative with a practical chance of success really exists.
This seems to be the message of much of the Arab world. There has been little democratic or civic tradition, mainly only despotic regimes relying on military and police force to prevent disintegration promoted by subsets of radical Islam. While it makes a complete mockery of most of George W. Bush’s crusade for democracy and of most of the joyous ululations in the early phases of the Arab Spring, the incapacitation of the Arab powers has reduced the level of exported political mischief in the world, and, one would hope that civil conflict on this scale will eventually cause more sophisticated standards of civic governance to become a widespread ambition.
Iran is obviously close to a nuclear capability and if it so arms itself, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will do the same, and it will probably then be only a matter of time before at least a small nuclear weapon gets into the hands of terrorists and is detonated, when the perpetrators have a reasonable comfort level that they can maintain anonymity. Attacks by another country on Israel are unlikely, as the retaliation would be overwhelming and Israel’s anti-missile defences are so sophisticated, the extent of first-strike damage could not be assumed. What is needed is a general agreement between major countries to keep nuclear weapons out of completely irresponsible hands, as the existing Non-Proliferation Agreement is a Swiss cheese of hypocrisy; and for identification of failed states and intervention in them by international organizations to prevent them turning into breeding grounds for terrorism as Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan did.
Given Russia’s domestic terror problems, amply publicized at the recent winter Olympics, it should be possible to deal with the Kremlin on this issue, but it hasn’t been so far. Largely lost sight of are the facts that there has been some progress in the Muslim world. Iraq, Tunisia, and Libya may be better off than they were before their upheavals. Morocco, Jordan, Turkey, the Emirates, and even in an odd way, Saudi Arabia, some of the other Gulf states, and the eastern Muslims, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, have shown some aptitude for self-governance and economic growth. But for better or worse, almost none of the Muslim world seems susceptible to useful outside intervention, and none of the traditional great or even regional powers seem to have any aptitude to intervene effectively.
It does not come naturally to the West to put on the airs of good government given how most countries have been mismanaged recently, but waiting for the Muslim world even to achieve our unsatisfactory levels of responsible public policy could be a very protracted and frustrating process.
While casting about to find something to write about apart from another lamentation over the weakness of most Western political leadership, the collapse of fiscal integrity in all but a few countries, the charade of Iranian nuclear discussions, and the decline and fall of practically everybody, my thoughts alit on Herbert the Raccoon, as my wife christened him, who has largely been living in a little half-moon balcony adjacent to my wife’s third-floor dressing room. In the cold snap in March, my wife put a heater up against the window and Herbert gratefully attached himself like a limpet to the window, turning about every hour to give the benefit of the heat to his other side. A young raccoon, Herbert was just big enough to reach the ledge on the balcony with his front paws and peer out over the view of several miles, his little pointy ears confidently breaking the horizon when we looked out the window from behind him, within the house. His dark, ringed eyes surveyed the scene with the worldly detachment of Jacques Cartier grasping the immense proportions of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence nearly 500 years ago, and famously concluding (rather negatively, as it turned out) that “it is the land God gave to Cain.”
This house is set on a relatively large urban property in Toronto, bordered along one side by a ravine, and we have an unusually high incidence of wildlife, including foxes, deer, skunks, possum, and feral cats. My wife’s two magnificent Hungarian Kuvaszok, white dogs of over 100 pounds that are devoted to their owners but skeptical about everyone else, generally keep the non-domestic animals at a distance, except for the skunks, of course, who go where they please. But last year, a feral kitten fell down a runoff pipe beside the house, and the constant meowing of the kitten, and its sibling at the top of the pipe, eventually alerted us to their presence. To the distant pleasure of their brave and resourceful mother, gardeners dug up the pipe, opened it, and the kittens were conveyed to the veterinarian like two matched Infants of Prague. They returned after a few days in cracking health and undiminished voice and rule the housekeeper’s attached home with the feline assurance of the MGM lion, princes of beasts, and are even deferred to by my wife’s dogs, who are very proprietary with everyone else.
We were somewhat complacently contemplating our status as helpers to nature’s tenacity of life, when the head of the work crew that has been repairing water damage under the copper roof on a pavilion of this house advised that a raccoon and her newborn cub were at the center of the work site, nestled snugly in the newly deployed insulation (cleverly adapted to the requirements of maternity). We all traipsed up the steps to take a view, and only a heart of stone would not have been touched by the sight: Herbert, it emerged, was Henrietta, and her cub was too little to walk or open its eyes, and its mother kept one paw on it at all times, stroking reassuringly. Once again, severe options were out of the question, and Google gave us a crash course on what to expect. As in the affair with the kittens, the local animal-rescue people were utterly hopeless. A year ago, they advised us to starve the kittens to death in the pipe; now, they told us that a mother and her cub could not be moved and there was nothing for it but to concede to the squatters and turn the work site into a veterinary maternity ward for up to eight weeks.
More ingenious heads, especially Henrietta’s, prevailed. As the housekeeper, the felines’ friend, arrived, with a cage trap in one hand and the familiar thick (dental-resistant) gloves in the other, Henrietta conducted an exploration prompted by the workmen’s use of the microwave. The foreman gently removed the cub to a warm, grassy place within an adjacent walled garden. This was the moment of truth, as there is apparently some chance of a mother raccoon’s abandoning a cub who has been handled at all at a young age by a human. But Henrietta, walking with authority despite her youth and fatigue after what must have been a very enervating act of birth, appeared and was seen by my wife scampering at speed with her cub in her mouth to the comparatively under-populated orchard. It too is fenced, as this entire property is zoned into areas so we can rotate the dogs and gardeners around without the dogs’ chasing the gardeners up the trees and forcing them to call for help with their cellphones. There are also the foibles of neighbors to be considered, as some of them are hostile to dogs and manifest this in unseemly ways designed, successfully, to rouse these essentially friendly if protective dogs to simulate the Hound of the Baskervilles and other legendarily terrifying canines. So other fenced areas can provide buffer zones, cordons sanitaires, with neighbors. Henrietta puzzled the system out with great acuity, and she moves between zones with her little passenger; she sometimes returns, when the coast is clear, to the two warmer places, in the roof and on the balcony, that, by her talents as an explorer, she discovered for herself. There have now been enough sightings for me tentatively to claim victory in this little drama for the party of life.
I cannot claim that the point to this mundane story is obvious, yet it all seems reassuring to me — reassuring because everyone, including the workmen, had the same instinct that we must help young life, even though raccoons are at times notoriously irritating animals. And reassuring also because after such a severe winter, the rites of spring have begun, and however challenged and apparently stifled, life always has what it must to go on. Despite the banality of the thought, we have all found it uplifting to see this small confirmation that despite every natural and human challenge and unkindness, life has waged a battle that it has never lost. I should probably apologize for this platitudinous little yarn, but I will not — I have reviewed what other columnists and bloggers have written in the last few days on the more frequent current political and economic personalities and subjects, and Henrietta and her cub are more interesting and more admirable. We would rather have them sheltering in or near our house than almost any contemporary political leader I can think of.
Houghton Mifflin World History: Patterns of Interaction
Last Friday in Tallahassee, April 11, 2014, the Republican controlled Florida Senate passed SB864 sponsored by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) by a narrow vote of 21 to 19. The measure would eliminate State Department of Education control over selection of textbooks returning that role to Florida’s 67 school districts, requiring open public hearing on texts used in courses. The bill reflected in part concerns of conservative Groups over the Common Core Curriculum State Standards, sponsored by the National Association of Governors and Council of Chief State School Officers seeking to impose national standards. Despite that criticism the Common Core has been adopted in Forty-four states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).
However, SB864 was largely prompted by a different issue; objections of parental groups in several Florida counties in about the treatment of Islam and Muslim culture in world history textbooks on the Florida State Department of Education list of approved texts. A companion bill (HB 921) is working its way through the Florida House sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton. That version would provide a local option to districts to review texts; however, the selections must still meet state standards. Gaetz was quoted in a News Herald editorial saying: “I think there’s an increasing frustration by parents in our state, that they don’t have a lot of say regarding the content and materials their children use in the classroom.”
Local advocates here in Florida drew attention to misrepresentations of Islam in protests in Volusia, Brevard and Sarasota Counties. Our Iconoclast post on the subject, “Sarasota, Florida’s biased Islam textbook problem”, highlighted the relentless efforts of citizen activist Aya Sewell. Ms. Sewell is of Iraqi Jewish heritage, members of her family were subject to a 1941 pogrom against the Jewish population in Baghdad, the Farhud. Sewell led a campaign against such texts locally in Sarasota, as well as before the Florida Department of Education. Elsewhere in the US, Tennessee parents have also raised objections to similar course material extolling Palestinian suicide bombers. Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) in Boston accused the Newton, Massachusetts school board and superintendent for permitting use of texts and course materials that engage in promoting false information regarding both Islam and demonization of Israel. APT undertook content and bias analysis and promoted their findings that included placing ads in local area media and a petition campaign.
An article in the current edition of Education Week noted the debate over the pending Florida textbook legislation:
[Sen. ]Hays said the legislation was needed so that school board members will be accountable to parents and voters. He said school board members have blamed the state for the textbooks they picked.
"This bill imposes on the local school board members the responsibility and accountability to their citizens," Hays said.
Opponents complained it would cost districts money to review textbooks. Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said she was worried that some districts would wind up censoring some books, while other senators raised questions about whether districts would pick textbooks aligned to the state's current standards.
Even Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart questioned Hays' bill.
"From a practical standpoint it lifts a burden from us," Stewart said. "But we heard loud and clear from districts that they rely on (the state review). They need that. They don't have the resources to be able to do that."
Following the Florida Senate vote on SB864, CAIR-Florida unleashed an ad hominem campaign against Sen. Hays. CAIR undertook an Action Campaign sending Florida Legislators an inflammatory Daily Beast opinion column by Dean Obeidallah, that headlined, “Islamophobic Florida Republican Would Legalize Textbook Censorship”. Obeidallah (which means “little servant of God in Arabic”) is a former lawyer, self-styled Arab American standup comic, son of a Palestinian father and mother of Sicilian ancestry who grew up in Paramus, New Jersey. Self proclaimed Muslim Obeidallah has been involved in several controversial issues including an apology to the Romney family. CAIR, a Muslim Brotherhood front group, was listed as one of several unindicted co-conspirators in the 2008 Federal Dallas Holy Land Foundation Trial involving funneling tens of millions to Hamas, an MB affiliate.
This latest action by CAIR-Florida followed earlier criticism of SB386, also sponsored by Sen. Hays, on the acceptance of foreign laws in certain cases by Florida’ s court system as “bullying legislation against Muslims and other minorities”. Both SB386 and companion house version (HB903) are currently pending floor votes in both the Senate and House prior to the end of the 2014 Legislative session on May 2nd in Tallahassee.
To illustrate the concerns of Floridians that prompted Sen. Hays and Rep. Gaetz to sponsor SB864 and HB 921, we investigated an assessment performed by Jacksonville-based Verity Educate (VE) of one the texts on the approved list of the Florida State Department of Education. It was Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Holt McDougal high school text book called World History: Patterns of Interaction. VE is a non-partisan, independent organization that uses scholars to examine and provide thorough reports on content accuracy and objectivity in textbooks and curricular material. VE has performed such assessments at the request of parental groups in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas.
A letter we requested from the executive director of VE, Dr. Ellen R. Wald, noted the scope of their investigation of the Houghton Mifflin high school text book:
Verify Educate examined the 2012 Tennessee edition of World History: Patterns of Intercation. Verify Educate's analysis concerned only the sections of the book dealing with the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as other related topics, including certain events in India, Spain, the United States, and the region around the Black Sea. This was done at the request of parents who specifically felt that their backgrounds were insufficient to examine these topics.
VE’s findings from its analysis are:
The reviewed sections of this textbook exhibit regular flaws of factual inaccuracy, dishonesty, and bias. The primary concern with this textbook is the desire to make arguments and instill opinions in the students. These arguments come at the expense of instilling a fluency in the material (a knowledge of the language and facts). An additional effect of the focus on arguments is the lost opportunity for students to practice and develop critical thinking skills.
The most prevalent flaws in this textbook include the following:
• The text presents religious texts and tradition as historical evidence even absent independent corroboration. The text regularly uses the Koran and other religious writings to relate events as history and fails to mention when no independent corroboration from sources outside the religion exists. In most cases the text fails to differentiate between history and religious tradition.
• The text portrays religion as the defining characteristic of the Middle East and Central Asia throughout history, such that essentially all accomplishments and events are based on religion. Among the detrimental effects of this argument are lost opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking, distorted views of history, and the denigration of the inhabitants of this region. Limiting the basis for the history of the Middle East and Central Asia to a narrow focus on religion disparages and demeans the people, politics, geography, and historical events that occurred, particularly when religion is not highlighted in other regions.
• The text repeatedly asserts that the religion of Islam dictates “tolerance” of nonMuslims and that Muslim rulers have historically practiced “tolerance” towards the non-Muslim populations under their rule. This argument is promoted at the expense of examining historical facts honestly and fostering critical thinking. Students are presented with a conclusion and historical facts are often manipulated or stripped of nuance to convince students, even in cases when this conclusion is false. The focus on religious “tolerance” is unique to the sections of the text discussing Islam, and it borders on obsession and bias.
• The text depicts the depth and breadth of “Muslim contributions” as unique in history and as the result of Islam. In this regard, the text consistently attributes the successes of diverse societies to religion alone, even when these societies are geographically dispersed and chronologically distant. For example, the text connects the mathematical advances of a 9th century Spanish mathematician to the architectural exploits of a 17th century Mughal emperor in India based solely on their religion. The diverse Muslim populations over a 1500-year period do not constitute one society. In addition, the attention devoted to “Muslim contributions” far surpasses the attention given to any other society’s accomplishments.
That leads to the question of who wrote such misleading entries about Islam that the VE analysis uncovered in the Houghton Mifflin publication.
One of those groups relied on by major textbook publishers is the Council on Islamic Education known as the Institute on Religious and Civic Values (IRCV). Its founder, Shabbir Mansuri, is listed as an academic reviewer on a textbook used in Brevard County.
In 2001 the OC Weekly newspaper in California interviewed Mansuri about comments Lynne Cheney made lamenting the amount of time schools were spending teaching cultures that were not American. Mansuri took her comments as a personal attack.
“For the past 11 years, Mansuri has waged what he calls a ‘bloodless’ revolution: promoting an increased emphasis on world cultures and faiths – including Islam – inside American junior high and high school campuses,” the newspaper reported.
The IRCV had Saudi funding to pay Muslim scholars writing those chapters in the Prentice Hall, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin and other world history text books.
Back in 2002, this writer ran interference for the American Jewish Committee chapter in Connecticut in an episode involving federal funding of a Da’wa program on Islam run with Muslim instructors as a summer program for public high school teachers at a state university. During that episode we made the acquaintance of Stanley Kurtz of the Hoover Institute at the time on this issue. Kurtz wrote a series of investigative articles for the NRO about the Title VI USDOE Higher Education Act grants for Middle East Studies programs dominated by Islam and Palestinian apologists. Universities, as Kurtz pointed out who benefitted from US Higher Education Act Title VI grants were engaged in preparation of work books for teachers in K-12 that engaged in role playing for fourth graders costumed as Arabs.
That effort led us to the forensic reviews –Islam in the Classroom – conducted by Dr. Gilbert T. Sewall of the American Textbook Council (ATC) on world history texts produced by the four major US textbook publishers. Sewall found those treatments biased and in some cases prepared by the Saudi-financed and California based IRVC. We later found out that effort had begun in the “image studies” funded by American oil partners of ARAMCO in the early 1970’s objected to in the mid 1980’s by a study conducted by a school district in Tucson, Arizona. The latest edition of the continuing ATC review of Islam in the Classroom What the Texts Tell us by Dr. Sewall was published in 2008. Its conclusions corroborate the findings of Dr. Wald’s analysis in the VE report. To wit:
Many political and religious groups try to use the textbook process to their advantage, but the deficiencies in Islam-related lessons are uniquely disturbing. History textbooks present an incomplete and conflicted view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security.
• Misinformation about Islam is more pronounced in junior high school textbooks than high school textbooks.
• Outright textbook errors about Islam are not the main problem. The more serious failure is the presence of disputed definitions and claims that are presented as established facts.
• Deficiencies about Islam in textbooks copyrighted before 2001 persist and in some cases have grown worse. Instead of making corrections or adjusting contested facts, publishers and editors defend misinformation and content evasions against the record. Biases persist. Silences are profound and intentional.
• Islamic activists use multiculturalism and ready-made American political movements, especially those on campus, to advance and justify the makeover of Islam-related textbook content.
• Particular fault rests with the publishing corporations, boards of directors, and executives who decide what editorial policies their companies will pursue.
Publishers have developed new world and U.S. history textbooks at three different grade levels. Errors about Islam that occurred in older textbooks have not been corrected but reiterated. Publishers have learned of contested facts and have had the time to correct imbalances. But instead of making changes, they have sustained errors or, in deliberate acts of self censorship, have removed controversial material.
In an interview, Dr. Wald of VE analyzed the effects of Florida Senate Bill SB864 :
While SB864 leaves all of the Florida state standards intact, and even highlights further standards to ensure fairness to all ethnic, religious, and diversity groups, the bill provides for parents and communities to have a greater say in the local education system. Given that the standards are maintained, I can't see how this bill could engender any more censorship than would come out of the current state review process. In fact, the bill has the potential to severely decrease censorship. Whereas now the state board can reject material for the entire state, under this bill, each community would make its own decision, and a rejection would only impact that community.
We commend Florida Sen. Alan Hays and Rep. Matt Gaetz for their sponsorship of SB864 and HB 921. Given the analyses of Drs. Wald of Verity Educate and Dr. Sewall of American Textbook Council Florida may lead the nation to reign in the misleading depiction of Islam in World History texts. By devolving reviews of leading publishers to local school districts in the Sunshine State that may allow concerned parents to sponsors such studies forcing publishers to finally correct errors of both omission and commission. We look forward to the reconciliation of the Senate and House versions leading to passage and ultimate enactment into law.
The self-satisfaction and self-delusion of our billionaires, including the bejeaned philosopher-kings of Silicon Valley, those through whose bucolic company-campuses the employees are encouraged to coast on roller-skates, must be pricked and the air let out.
What the swan has been to French literature, and the swan and the nightingale and the lark to English literature, lastochka, the swallow has been to Russian literature. Derzhavin, Fet, Maikov, Khodasevich ("Lastochki") all have poems about swallows. And in Nabokov's "The Gift" Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev composes a short poem ("One night on the old bridge"), in which the speaker asks the girl standing beside him on the bridge if she too saw' "von etu lastochku" which Nabokov englished as "that particular swift that went by."(because the swift is close, though not identical, to the swallow, and the line required a monosyllable).
Click on the link again. Take another look .It's a city swallow, not a barn swallow. But with all this blu dipinto di blu nobody's standing on that Linnean ceremony.
Friday = Day of Rage. Good Friday = Day of Outrage
To Regent's Park where Anjem Choudary and his group Need 4 Khilafah were demonstrating, urging Muslims to rise up against the British anti-Muslim 'Crusade'. This was to be countered by the EDL.
When I got to the Mosque things were already in full swing. Need 4 Khilafah were outside the main entrance to the mosque; the EDL and other patriots including Britain First were contained on the opposite side of the road.
As Friday Jummah was over worshippers were pouring out of the Mosque and many stopped to watch. This is what they saw. And heard.
Offensive at the best of times; not really what I wanted to see on Good Friday.
What was noticable that although we are told that 'ordinary Muslims' and 'moderate Muslims' dislike Choudary and his merry men, none of them were tackling the group. Some were shouting 'Nazis' at the EDL. Others were filming and calling to their friends to take a look. But when the chants of "EDL, go to Hell", and "EDL, you will pay, the Muslims are on our way", changed to the war chants of Allah Akbar, Takfee! etc, they all joined in.
The small children on their father's shoulders were sweet, but some boys of about 10 will be a big problem within a year or 18 months.
Young men gave out information sheets about the terrible British Crusade against them. Apparently it is our fault that the Muslim population in Prison is so high. I thought it was the jihad inspired crime wave. Silly me. We are also to blame for conspiring with our stooge Mustapha Kemal Ataturk and engineering the demise of the last Caliphate in 1924.
"Whilst this crusade against Islam and Muslims takes place under our noses we cannot be passive bystanders".
Choudary's sidekick Abu Izzadeen (real name not so clever Trevor Brooks of Hackney) and a few henchmen managed to cross the road to get nearer to the EDL enclosure.
The police were managing to keep one lane of traffic moving at a time. The drivers held up by the protestors/bystanders (and some observers) milling across the road were not happy.
I thought this was an excellent poster - it says it all!
The police decided to move the EDL and Britain First down Park Road away from the Mosque
Some of the masked henchmen (henchboys? That doesn't sound right, but they were not what I grew up thinking of as men) decided to follow the procession. I dislike seeing masked men and women walking the streets.
Paul Golding of Britain First and some companions were traveling by car. There was an altercation at the traffic lights, which turned into fisticuffs.
Which the police dealt with by tackling the miscreants, unmasking them, and I believe they were arrested.
Nobody from the EDL was arrested and they dispursed into the underground system.
I don't know what time Need 4 Khilipha went home to MAMA.
Time Marches On: Pathe Newsreel Of Iraq In The 1950s
Travelogue, propaganda piece, but still somethingof Iraqi reality -- before Islam came back, with a vengeance -- comes through. The flight of Baghdad's Jews, who in the 1920s constituted one-third of the population of Baghdad (and far more of its professional and intellectual class), is not mentioned.
Abu Hamza, the radical Islamic hate cleric, turned his London mosque into “the base of operations for the global export of violence and terror”, a New York jury was told at the start of his trial on terrorism charges.
“Abu Hamza was not just a preacher of religion,” Edward Kim, assistant US attorney, said in opening arguments. “He was a trainer of terrorists and he used the cover of religion so he could hide in plain sight in London. His goal was clear, simple and vicious. All able-bodied Muslims had a duty to wage war against non-Muslims. He was a leader with a global following, who didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. He dispatched young men around the world to train, to fight, to kill.”
The white-bearded imam, who lost his hands and an eye in an explosion in Afghanistan, shuffled papers with his stumps and put on a prosthetic limb to take notes as he listened to the prosecution lay out its allegations about his role at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London.
Mr Kim explained that two other Britons would play a key role in the prosecution case. He said that Feroz Abbasi, a Ugandan-born Londoner who was captured by US forces in Afghanistan in Dec 2001, was sent by Hamza for training for jihad missions by al-Qaeda commanders.
Saajid Badat, a British terrorist “supergrass”, would describe training with Mr Abbasi at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan via video link from Britain, the prosecutor said. Mr Abbasi, who was held at Guantanamo Bay for three years before his return to London in 2005, has never been charged by US or British authorities.
The jury will also hear testimony from Mary Quin, a former American hostage who escaped the kidnapping in Yemen and later travelled to the Finsbury Park mosque to confront Hamza. The prosecution will play a tape recording that she he made of her encounter in which Hamza allegedly admitted providing the kidnappers with a satellite telephone and justified the hostage-taking.
Mr Kim also noted that flak jackets, chemical warfare suits and gas marks were found at the Finsbury Park mosque - the “tools of war stockpiled in a place of worship”.
Tuesday, a news conference held by New York Police Commissioner William Bratton announced the dismantling of the NYPD Muslim community surveillance program; The Demographic Unit, renamed the Zone Assessment Unit. Department spokesperson Stephen Davis remarked:
Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing the threat information that comes into New York City virtually on a daily basis. In the future, we will gather that information, if necessary, through direct contact between the police precincts and the representatives of the communities they serve.
Democrat Mayor of New York, William Di Blasio called the move:
a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.
CAIR-NY welcomes the closing of the NYPD Zone Assessment Unit. This is an important first step. However, the damage of unconstitutional mass spying on people solely on the basis of their religion has already been carried out and must be addressed. We need to hear from the mayor and NYPD officials that the policy itself has been ended and that the department will no longer apply mass surveillance or other forms of biased and predatory policing to any faith-based community.
Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York said:
The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community. Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.
Thus ends a program developed in 2003 with the assistance ex-CIA officer Lawrence Sanchez at the request of former Commissioner Ray Kelly. In the wake of 9/11 it was deemed important to try and identify extremists in New York and outlying targeted Muslim communities who might provide assistance in terrorist plots threatening the City of New York. That meant identifying informants within the community, creating a veritable census of the community and its institutions including monitoring Mosques and their leaders for inflammatory ideology.
Given the failure within the federal intelligence community exposed in the Report of the 9/11 Commission to collect, analyze and disseminate counter terrorism intelligence, forming special units within the NYPD to detect and prevent terrorist attacks made eminent sense to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. The NYPD counterterrorism program had another component the International Liaison Program with officers located in 11 overseas cities. The combined NYPD counterterrorism effort alleged to have stopped more than 16 terrorists plots including intercepting a perpetrator of a possible dirty bomb attack planned for the 2004 Republican National Convention in Manhattan. These programs have been pummeled with criticism that they were costly, and didn’t result in any arrests. New York Muslim community activitists and civil liberties groups point to a “pretrial examination before the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in which Commanding Officer of the Intelligence Division Thomas Galati admitted that the program had never generated a lead”.
With the arrival of Mayor DiBlasio and Commissioner Bratton in 2014, the Muslim Community Mapping effort by the NYPD became subject to litigation by Muslim plaintiffs, in actions previously filed in the Newark, New Jersey Federal District Court and in the Eastern District Court in Brooklyn. Mayor DiBlasio during his electoral campaign had urged accommodation of New York Muslim community concerns. The Washington Post tagged Bratton, in December 2013 as “healer in chief of a worried Muslim community”.
The first case was brought by Muslim plaintiffs in 2012 against the City of New York as a result of a 2011 Associated Press investigation of the New York Police Department (NYPD) surveillance of Muslim mosques in New Jersey. The AP series:
Revealed that the NYPD dispatched undercover officers into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program. Police also used informants, known as "mosque crawlers," to monitor sermons, even when there was no evidence of wrongdoing. Hundreds of mosques and Muslim student groups were investigated and dozens were infiltrated. Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD's intelligence unit after 9/11.
The NYPD had also undertaken similar surveillance of the Somali Muslim community in Buffalo, New York. The Newark federal court ruling was immediately contested by Muslim community leaders and civil rights groups as abetting ‘spying’ and so-called community profiling. The New Jersey case harkens back to CAIR and other Muslim advocacy groups in New York contesting a 2007 NYPD Muslim profiling manual. There was also a case brought by an ex- Muslim NYPD officer against a consultant to the NYPD counterterrorism unit. Ironically, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who set up the Muslim community surveillance program, received an award in 2012 from the Department’s Muslim Advisory Council.
On February 20, 2014, the first action brought by New Jersey Muslim Plaintiffs in the matter of Hassan v. City of New York, 2:12-CV-3401, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark) was dismissed by Federal District Judge William F. Martini who noted in his decision:
[T]he Plaintiffs in this case have not alleged facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that they were targeted solely because of their religion. The more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies. The most obvious reason for so concluding is that surveillance of the Muslim community began just after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorists’ activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself. While this surveillance program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after the AP published its articles; the motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.
In an interview with Brooke Goldstein of the Lawfare Project, we asked her about the NYPD surveillance program. She said:
What I can say is that from my dealings with the NYPD, they were not targeting Muslims and engaging in discrimination based on race or religion. What they were doing was targeting institutions that have a connection to terrorism and those groups happen to be Islamist. ... Simply because of the fact they have a theological justification has now opened up the NYPD surveillance program to accusations of so-called Islamophobia which are absolutely baseless and ridiculous.
In light of Tuesday’s announcement by NYPD Commissioner Bratton, could the Eastern District case brought by New York plaintiffs be mooted? Or will the announcement spur further Lawfare litigation by New York Muslim plaintiffs?
The NYPD abandonment of the Muslim community mapping programs may embolden Muslim Brotherhood influencers in the Obama Administration, especially Arif Alikhan, assistant secretary for policy and Mohamed Elibiary, a senior member of the US Department of Homeland Security’s advisory council. Alikhan, as deputy mayor of Los Angeles for public safety, worked to scuttle a similar Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Muslim community ‘mapping’ program in 2007 when current NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton was LAPD Police Chief from 2002-2009. Elibiary on the DHS Advisory panel had been actively involved in elimination of Islamic Jihad doctrine from DHS and other federal agencies’ counterterrorism training materials. Perhaps NYPD Commissioner might turn to a community self policing proposal being promoted by MPAC, a Muslim Brotherhood front with influence in Washington, called “Safe Spaces”. According to a Wall Street Journal article, “Mosques get a New Message”, Safe Spaces , is about a voluntary program by boards of American Mosques engaging in identifying and ‘converting’ extremists in their midst thereby co-opting local and national law enforcement profiling of their communities.
With the end the NYPD Muslim community surveillance by order of Commissioner Bratton, New Yorkers must be concerned about who will monitor Islamist extremists and potential terror threats in the Big Apple. As of Tuesday, Lawfare by Muslim Brotherhood interests reigns supreme in all five boroughs.
Wilder's Freedom Party Leads Poll for Dutch European Parliament Elections
Gerrt Wilders, leader of the PVV Freedom Party
Geert Wilders" Freedom Party (PVV) leads in Dutch polls next month's European Parliament elections. According to a report in the Dutch publication, Spitsnieuws:
A TNS NIPO poll published today predicts that the PVV, the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders, will become the biggest party in the European elections in the Netherlands.
According to the poll the PVV is going to win the European elections on 22 May with 18.1% of the votes, followed by the Liberal VVD of Prime Minister Mark Rutte with 16.2% and the liberal-democrat D66 party with 15.7%.
The losers of the European elections would be the Christian-Democrats and Labor.
In our April NER article, Geert Wilders Once Again Endures a Firestorm of Criticism, we noted how Dutch voters in the March 2014 municipal elections had voted their disapproval of the ruling coalition parties in the Hague Parliament, noting how they immediately tried to pin the blame on Geert Wilders as an extremist. Presciently in our conclusion we suggested that those same Dutch voters would ultimate vindicate him in the May european elections. We wrote:
To paraphrase England’s Henry II regarding the fate of former boon companion, Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett, the Dutch political and media establishment might say: “who will rid us of this upstart meddlesome blonde.” We hope that those Dutch folks who went to the polls on March 19th and gave the PVV victories in several smaller municipalities may be joined by others in the majority, who didn’t vote. That might provide the PVV with a victory in the May EU parliamentary elections. We have seen Wilders bounce back from previous episodes like a proverbial cat with nine lives. His Euro-skeptic alliance partners, especially Ms. Le Pen in France, would deem that a stunning and well deserved turnabout.
It was Robert Louis Stevenson who said: “Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone but principally by catchwords.” Refining our thoughts with qualifications can get tiring, so we recur to slogans to capture a reality that is almost always complex.
Alas, what should be the shorthand of thought often turns out to be the short-circuit of thought. When we think of Margaret Thatcher, for example, we think of free-market reforms—whether we are for such reforms or against them, whether we welcome or abominate them.
Is this right? Was Mrs. Thatcher’s legacy one of free markets, of laissez-faire? I am far from sure.
The question first came up when my late friend, the development economist, Peter Bauer (who was a formidable opponent of the orthodoxies of his time) said to me that he thought Mrs. Thatcher had talked a great deal but had actually done very little. In a way, he said, she had even set her own cause back because her strident language had convinced people that she had carried out her radical program, thus arousing the undying hatred of her intellectual opponents as if she had done so, while in fact she changed very little, at least as regards the fundamentals. She thus gave the ideas for which she stood a bad name without their ever having been put into practice.
This came up again recently when a think tank sent me an email circular with the title,Margaret Thatcher—A Free Market Legacy? Of course, the answer depends somewhat on what you consider a political legacy to be. Is all that happens after a politician leaves power his legacy, or only those parts of what is done that are either in accordance with or in conscious opposition to his precepts? Some reforms or changes are irreversible, others easily reversible. Does a legacy consist only of the former?
In the case of Britain and Mrs. Thatcher, I prefer to speak of her effect rather than her legacy. It seems to me that she subdued the political power of the unions, but that that power would have declined anyway—as it has done in France even without a Thatcher figure to lead the charge. That said, she handled the coal miners with skill and determination. After she defeated the Miners’ Union, no other union would lightly take her government on. And so far, at least, British unions have not recovered their extra-constitutional role as the fourth, and seemingly most powerful, branch of government. Even Peter Bauer acknowledged this as an achievement.
But did Mrs. Thatcher roll back the state, as it was her intention and indeed vocation to do? Here I think the answer must decisively be no. That is, at least if the question is about her long-term effect. It is true that she managed to reduce the public sector’s proportion of the Gross Domestic Product somewhat during her term in office. But 30 years after she entered office, it was higher than when she entered it. In 1979 it was 44.6 per cent; in 2009, 47.7 per cent. Her long-term effect (if 30 years counts as the long-term) on the size of the state was nil, despite her reputation as a prudent or even savage cutter of public services.
She did nothing to reduce dependence on the state as a source of primary income. On the contrary, during her period in office, spending on social security increased rather than decreased. (This was largely because unemployment rose so high; it was ethically, socially, and politically impossible to drive down the income of the unemployed to the value of their labor to employers, which in many cases would probably have been negative.) Government spending having declined as a proportion of GDP, social security increased proportionately even more. Mrs. Thatcher did not, because she could not, effect any fundamental change in the model of the welfare state. That model, in democracies at least, has a one-way ratchet.
Mrs Thatcher was loved and hated not so much because she changed things, but because she said she wanted to. Wilfred Owen notwithstanding, men always fight for flags because symbols are more powerful in their minds than reality.
Such measures as GDP are very crude when it comes to estimating the effect on a society of a politician of Mrs. Thatcher’s stature. Still, my impression is that her effect, where it was long-lasting, was predominantly negative.
Mrs. Thatcher gave the impression of being an economic determinist—a mirror-image Marxist if you will. Whether she really was in the inner fastnesses of her mind is beside the point. In politics, what people think you are is often more important than what you are. She gave the impression that if the economy were fixed, everything else desirable would follow as the night the day, and that the way to fix it was to let everyone follow his own narrow economic interest.
To be sure, it was very necessary in Britain at the time to try to undo the effect of many years of intellectual propaganda against all forms of commerce, which the intelligentsia then thought was intrinsically besmirching in a way that public service funded by taxation was not. The utopia peddled by the intellectuals was of a society in which everybody and everything was subsidized. (The ultimate source of the subsidies, of course, was of no interest or concern.)
Margaret Thatcher was, in effect, the Guizot of 20th century Britain: enrichissez vous was her message to the British people. Unfortunately, it was not only the people in the genuinely commercial sector who heard the message. Those in the public sector did, too. This sector never became small; and Mrs Thatcher, not able to reduce it, thought to tame it by introducing scientific management into it.
She believed in scientific management as scientologists believe in L. Ron Hubbard. Unfortunately, this meant that enichissez vous quickly became the watchword of the public administration, whose senior bureaucrats successfully argued that, as managers of vast enterprises such as public hospitals, which were now to be run as businesses, they could arrogate to themselves every perquisite enjoyed by the captains of industry and the kings of commerce. The result has been that employment in the public sector is more lucrative than in the private, and much less risky. There are many towns in Britain in which the middle class is composed almost solely of so-called public servants.
The supposedly scientific management that Mrs. Thatcher introduced into the public sector had, ironically enough, a strong Soviet flavor to it, complete with bogus benchmarks easily reached by means of organized lying and falsification, as well as the universal employment of a langue de bois all its own. As a professor in Bristol put it when the government suddenly introduced a new term, clinical governance, into its circulars without explaining what it meant: “clinical governance is a term untranslatable into any other language, including English.” The Iron Lady, the most anti-Soviet of all recent British Prime Ministers, immeasurably advanced the cause of Sovietism, regrettably, in her own country.
Her successor-but-one, Anthony Blair, with the cunning of the natural born swindler, seized his chance and created a loyal, corrupt, self-seeking nomenklatura class that remains extremely influential and easily able to outwit the blancmange-like David Cameron, who in any case so easily moulds himself to any shape going.
I concede, of course, that any historical interpretation is open to dispute and revision. Moreover, to blame a figure for not having done the impossible is not to damage her reputation in the slightest. There is (thank goodness) a limit to what one person can do in countries such as the United Kingdom. I liked Mrs. Thatcher personally and she was head and shoulders above the other political figures of her time. But that only shows that politics are the shadow on the cave wall.
Brown University's Middle East Studies, And The Language Of Nothing At All
Posted just today, the following employment ad from Brown University is the distilled expression of much that is wrong in university life. It used to be said tha tin a good poem not a word should be changed (it's not true, but it points in the direction of a truth); in this announcement from Brown, every word needs changed. Some semblance of life-- not the "life of the mind" (ridiculous phrase) but of mind -- needs to be given to what now is dead and deadening. The nothing words and the nothing understandings that lie behind these nothing words -- well, nothing will come of nothing. Write again.
Associate Director, Middle East Studies
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
Brown University is seeking an Associate Director, Middle East Studies to provide critical leadership and direction in support of programmatic initiatives, strategic growth and curricular development. Middle East Studies at Brown is in a transition period of rapid growth and the position offers an exciting opportunity for motivated and highly organized individuals to institutionalize an agenda-driven program grounded in Brown’s tradition of interdisciplinary, critical, and engaged scholarship.
The Associate Director provides critical leadership and direction in support of programmatic initiatives, strategic growth and curricular development of Middle East Studies, including an interdisciplinary undergraduate concentration and its related research and instructional activities.
In conjunction with the Faculty Director, the Associate Director will create, design, and oversee innovative and long-term development of the concentration, while also teaching one to two courses per year and serving as a Student Advisor.
This position will participate in the development of outreach initiatives, including advancement and fund raising opportunities, program events, grant writing, web design, supporting visiting professors and Post-Docs, and the creation of promotional materials.
The position of Associate Director will serve as a principle program liaison to faculty, students, and administrators across departments and offices within the University, and represent the program on University committees as appropriate.
As the Associate Director, the incumbent will also cultivate and coordinate relations with similar programs and centers in other universities as well as with scholars and academic institutions on the national and international levels.
The Passover Seder is an occasion when Jewish people around the world remember their history. That complex past, embracing both suffering and happiness, is symbolized in the Seder service by the mixture of bitter horseradish with sweet parsley, representing spring and renewal. The collective memory is of ancient persecution, exile, pogroms, the Holocaust, perpetual anti-Semitism, present-day terrorism but also one of emancipation in democratic countries and the creation of the State of Israel. Above all, this story depicts the liberation of people 3,300 years ago from slavery and subjugation in the Egypt ruled by Pharoah to liberation, freedom, and sovereignty in a land promised to them.
The central part of the Seder is the asking and the response to four questions about the nature and significance of the festive ceremony, and the traditions observed and different foods that are eaten on the occasion. Those answers recall the struggles of Jews in their desire to be free: the coming forth from Egypt, and the struggle and rebellion against the Romans who destroyed the Second Temple. The memory of those struggles against persecution and discrimination is still echoed in the challenges today requiring the struggle against discrimination and anti-Semitism, the response to those who refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the State of Israel or who deny or minimize the relationship to the area of the Middle East that is still disputed, and also the answer to the bigoted and biased boycotters of Israel.
At the heart of the Seder story is the escape of Jews from bondage to a life of freedom and political sovereignty. For Israel today, and for the hopes of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the four questions asked in the Seder can be boiled down to one: in spite of the incontestable evidence, why will Palestinians not accept the historical relationship of Jews to the area of Palestine, and why do they so strongly oppose the sovereignty and the legitimacy of the Jewish State?
The sovereignty of Israel is manifested by its political independence, by the revival of the Hebrew language in popular use as well as for religious purposes, as well as by unexpected contemporary features such as becoming skilled in military defense and security, by its accomplishments as a country of innovative high tech, with world-class great universities, and even by unexpected production of oil and gas. Yet, Palestinian leaders to this point have not only refused to accept that sovereignty and the existence of Israel in real rather than in perfunctory form, but also denied what the Seder story tells in abundance, the historic relationship of the Jewish people to the land.
As in the Seder ceremony, there is need for the story to be told again of the bonds that unite the Jewish people and tie it to the land, a bond illustrated in recent years by the ingathering into Israel of Jews from Ethiopia and India. The recital of those bonds should also be heard by members of the international community, and by those who look favorably on or advocate the fallacious Palestinian Narrative of Victimhood.
The true international understanding started with the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917. This was letter from British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild stating that the British government views “with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” This Declaration was then incorporated into both the Peace Treaty of Sèvres and the Mandate for Palestine.
The Treaty of Sèvres of August 10, 1920, establishing peace between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies of World War I, implemented the result of negotiations that had started in London and continued in the San Remo Resolution in April 1920. Article 95 of the Treaty, implementing that Resolution, laid down that a Mandatory, to be appointed, would be responsible for putting into effect the Declaration originally by Britain and “adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Based on the San Remo Resolution and on Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Mandate for Palestine, given to Britain by the League on July 24, 1922 and put into effect on September 329, 1923, was the basis for the administration of territory, an area that was formerly part of provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The preamble to the Mandate repeated the words of the Treaty of Sèvres “in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
International agreements after World War II went further. The crucial event was the UN General Assembly 181 (II) Resolution of November 29, 1947, the so-called partition resolution, passed by a vote of 33-13-10. It called for the ending of the Mandate for Palestine no later than August 1, 1948. More importantly, it called (article A, 3) for the creation of “Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.”
Therefore, the international community called for the creation of a Jewish State that came into existence on May 14, 1948. The Arab-Israel conflict resulted from the refusal of Arab leaders and governments to accept the partition resolution. This refusal was proclaimed even before the resolution. The General Secretary of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, was quoted on page 9 of the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar el-Yom of October 11, 1947 as saying, that if a Jewish state is established and a war were to occur it “would lead to a war of extermination and momentous massacre that history will record similarly to the Mongol massacre or the wars of the Crusades.” In the same fashion, the Syrian president and the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini both spoke of the eradicating of Zionism or the annihilation of Zionists.
The contrast between the two sides could not be clearer. Chaim Weizmann, the longtime Zionist leader and president of the Zionist Organization who became the first president of Israel on February 1, 1949, wrote to David Ben-Gurion on May 30, 1948 that it is “the profound desire of our people to establish relations of harmony and mutual respect with their fellow Arab citizens, with the neighboring Arab states, and with all other nations.”
The Arab leaders refused to create a Palestinian state, let alone acknowledge the international recognition of a Jewish State. They, especially the Palestinian leaders, still refuse that acknowledgment and in addition deny the significance of Jewish history. President Mahmoud Abbas, who presumably has never attended a Seder, speaks of ‘illusions and legends” that Jews use in referring to their history in Jerusalem, and of the “alleged” Jewish temple there. Palestinian spokespeople even deny the validity of the artifacts with Jewish symbols that have been found near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Why do those spokespersons persist in arguing that the claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history?
Can there possibly be a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, begun by the refusal of the Arabs to create a Palestinian state and by their wars and continual military aggression against Israeli civilians, if the distortion of Jewish history is not only kept alive but continues to be disseminated through Arab education? President Abbas should be invited to a Seder.
Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.
Count all the ways Rami Khouri, Defender of the Faith (though it's a faith I don't believe he shares -- I think he's an example of that well-known phenomenon, the Arab islamochristian, who wraps himself in protective 'Uruba solidarity, and attempts to fit into a Muslim sea mainly by being plus-royaliste-que-le-roi in his hostility toward Israel) manages to misrepresent and malign Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and compare his tone with hers, in her many interviews, articles, and two books. Whose is the quiet tone of reason, and whose that hysterical tone to which, by now, devotees of www.MEMRITV.org have all grown inured?
Rami Khouri has made a fatal mistake. He's quoted Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And even though the remarks are plucked out of context, and no doubt the most uncompromisinig of her remarks, they still make sense. What he's quoted, in order, he thinks, to show her up, will have the opposite effect, will strike many readers -- especially Christians living in Lebanon and those Muslims-for-identification-purposes-only Muslims who have long agonized over what happens to minds on Islam, and especially today, as they look around the world, even in Muslim lands, must be in an agony of doubt and hidden apostasy -- as piercingly true.
A new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that solar facilities in California are acting like “mega traps” that kill and injure birds. As a result, “entire food chains” are being disrupted.
USFWS’s National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory studied three solar farms in Southern California: Desert Sunlight, Genesis Solar and Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). Two-hundred and thirty-three different birds from 71 species were found over the course of a two-year study.
The three main causes of death were:
1. Solar flux: Exposure to temperatures over 800 degrees F.
2. Impact (or blunt force) trauma: The birds’ wings are rendered inoperable while flying, causing them to crash into the ground. Birds that do not die are often injured badly enough to make them vulnerable to predators.
3. Predators: When a bird’s wings are singed and it can not fly, it loses its primary means of defense against animals like foxes and coyotes.
Hummingbirds, swifts, swallows, doves, hawks, finches, warblers and owls were just some dead birds found at the solar facilities’ “equal opportunity” mortality hazards.
In one instance, lab staff observed a “falcon-type bird with a plume of smoke arising from the tail as it passed through [a] flux field.”
The study found that besides the intense heat, birds may be mistaking large solar panels for bodies of water. The injured birds then attract insects and other predators to the area. They, too, are then vulnerable to injury or death.
In one instance, researchers found “hundreds upon hundreds” of butterfly carcasses (including Monarchs). The insects were attracted to the light from the solar farms, which in turn attracted birds and perpetuated a cycle of death and injury.
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is making the argument that the land he grazes his cattle on belongs to Clark County, Nevada where he is the last rancher standing. He is willing to pay fees to the County, but says the Federal government is not using the money in his best interest, in fact, the opposite is the case. The Feds brought suit in federal court, but there is an argument it should have been tried in state court and that the feds had no right to seize the man's cattle. The Clark County Sheriff is siding with Bundy as are many other citizens and militia groups who feels the best defense against federal tyranny is found in the layers of power held by the states and counties of America. The pendulum has been swinging in favor of the federal government since the Civil War, but to preserve freedom for our citizens, the balance needs to swing back.
With his ol'-Ez understanding of economics, his constant noisy shouting appearances everywhere (and dutifully carried on the Italian State Television, the RAI), Beppe Grillo continues in his vocation as unfunny comic. He's especially exercised about the appearance, and populatity of Matteo Renzi, who is sensible, calm, and ratiional, while Grillo is none of those things. But Grillo is a demagogue, and he does whip up a following, partly among those who might have stuck with Berlusconi, but mainly with the Beavis-and-Butthead despairing of all kinds.
Now he's put Auschwitz, and Primo Levi's book-title "If This Is A Man..." to his own nasty uses, and many are outraged, including the well-known heads of organizations representing Italian Jews.
Someone superior, such as Giorgio Napolitano, should denounce Grillo, help put him out of commission while there is still time.
The belief that everyone can be persuaded by argument to behave well is, I suppose, a corollary of the notion that no man does wrong knowingly. The task of the moralist, then, is to get people to understand the true nature of their conduct, to educate them; and once this is done, the reprehensible conduct will cease by itself.
This is an optimistic theory, and like all optimism is unfounded. Men not only do wrong knowingly, but often do wrong because they know it is wrong. Of course, every false theory is an employment opportunity for someone. The truth might set you free, but it will also sometimes make you unemployed. And unemployment is more to be feared than is freedom to be welcomed.
Recently I attended our annual town meeting. The senior policeman in charge of our area was there to take public questions. He was very smooth, and might just as well have been a mildly evangelical vicar as a policeman. One of the townspeople asked him about periodical nuisance in the town, namely the descent upon it of hundreds of motorcyclists who gather garbed in black leather at a disgusting café a few miles out of town, and arrive like a swarm of African killer bees, their machines making a sound like angry hymenopterans of Brobdingnagian size.
Was it an offence to make such a noise, asked the townsman?
'No,' replied the vicar-policeman.
If he had left it at that, we should all have been satisfied with the knowledge that in order to do something about it, if we felt sufficiently moved to do anything at all, we should have to lobby parliament. However, the vicar-policeman (presumably his boss was a canon-policeman, or even a bishop-policeman) continued:
'We are working with the bikers to educate them about the noise they make. We send an officer to the café on the weekends when they meet there.'
This infuriated me. Talk about wasting police time! It was grossly disparaging of us to imagine that we should be impressed by such evident absurdity, and condescending to the bikers themselves to suppose that they were unaware that the revving of their engines made a noise fit to bring down the walls of our town.
They did not make the noise because they were unaware of it, they made the noise because they liked it. The pretence that ignorance was the heart of the problem (the vicar-policeman was far from stupid) gave his force an excuse to engage on pseudowork, so much easier and less wearing to perform than real work.
Those who think they should make themselves get excited about what is happening between Russia and Ukraine -- that is, what happens to the Russians living in Eastern Ukraine, might find "Erased" by Omer Bartov enlightening. If you don't want to read the book, you might read the excellent review that I ran across in an old issue of the TLS. If you have Internet access to the TLS Archive (I don't, as I rely on the kindness of non-strangers for hand-me-down copies of the TLS), you can find out a lot from the review by Philip Longworth that appeared on May 9, 2008. It will harden your heart.