Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bonuses of Contention

By Andrew Stuttaford

Pushed by a drive from a greedy and expensive EU ’parliament’ with, apparently, no sense of irony, the European Union is moving rapidly towards capping bankers bonuses. The Economist (“defending bankers over their pay is like siding with bigots in the name of free speech: not much fun but occasionally necessary”) is unimpressed:
A higher fixed-cost base would weaken the link between pay and performance, reversing efforts since the crisis to tighten that link through the use of “clawbacks” to retrieve deferred-bonus payments if a bank gets into trouble. It would also limit banks’ ability to cut costs in a downturn. Pay has come down sharply since the financial crisis, partly because higher capital ratios have reduced the profitability of banks. CEBR, a consultancy, reckons that the total bonus pool paid out to London-based bankers in the current pay round will fall to about £1.6 billion ($2.5 billion), down from a peak of £11.6 billion in 2008. That sort of flexibility is useful if you want banks to preserve capital in a crisis.
Dan Hannan would clearly agree, and makes a broader (and important) point:
It ought to be a principle of a free society that, if I want to work for you and you want to employ me, and we are both happy with the terms and conditions, the state shouldn’t declare our arrangement illegal.
Indeed. And to those who say (not unreasonably) that the potential cost to the state of supporting troubled banks gives it the right to set these sort of rules (however possibly misguided), the answer ought to be (and as I work in the financial sector I should make clear that I am writing purely in my personal capacity) this: There needs to be a much clearer division between—tightly regulated— financial institutions that would in extremis benefit from state support and a freer sector that does not. Firms in the latter category should be allowed to fail. That’s the sanction. And it needs to be enforced. If a bank is “too big to fail”, it belongs in the more tightly regulated column.
But the truth of the matter is that none of this is really about prudential regulation. As Dan hints in his next sentence (clue: I’ve added emphasis), it’s about something else:
In any event, what has any of this to do with Brussels? When we talk about bankers’ remuneration in the EU, we really mean bankers’ remuneration in London. Again and again, the effect of anti-London regulation is to disadvantage Europe’s only major financial centre. The business driven away from the City is not going to Frankfurt or Milan, but to New York and Hong Kong.
This move is really about two things. At one level, it’s a grudge match between two sections of the elite, the political elite on the one side, the financial elite on the other. More than that, however, it is, as so often in the EU, about power. London’s heft as a financial center has not (as the UK has discovered –most expensively-in recent years) come without its costs, but it gives Britain both a bridge to America, and far greater economic and political clout than would otherwise be the case. Neither the bridge nor the clout are acceptable to the oligarchs of Brussels. And if they have to lay waste to Britain’s financial sector to tear them down, that’s what they will do.
Hannan continues:
Last night’s vote neatly symbolised Britain’s weakness within the EU. We were outvoted 26-to-1 on an issue that was, fundamentally, no one’s business but ours. The Treasury will lose billions in tax revenue. My constituency, which surrounds London, and benefits from the knock-on impact of the financial services industry, will suffer. Britain will fall behind in one of the few sectors where it enjoys a global lead. The EU will pile on regulations which, paradoxically, make a future crash more likely. All to satisfy the prejudices of people who dislike the whole notion of capitalism.
And their leaders dislike the UK even more.
There is nothing to be gained by prolonging the rancid farce that is Britain’s membership of the EU, and, contrary to what David Cameron likes to claim, there is nothing realistically to “negotiate” about with Brussels, other than the terms of—it is to be hoped—a speedy and tolerably civilized divorce. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out the procedure, and it is that, rather than Cameron’s implausible, impossible and distant referendum, that needs to the focus of Britain’s domestic debate.

Italy’s New Political Star Has Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic History

By Zach Pontz
Italian elections were held earlier this week and Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement Party garnered a quarter of all votes, making it the largest party in the country.
But the comedian turned politician’s rise isn’t good news for all, especially Israel. Grillo is a conspiracy theorist and provacateur who said of Israel during its 2009 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza: “The killer of children is an assassin that must be put on trial for crimes against humanity.”
According to an article on the Israel National News website written by Italian journalist Giulio Meotti, Grillo has a history of launching incendiary rhetoric towards Israel and Jews. In the past he has said “all that in Europe we know about Israel and Palestine is filtered by an international agency called MEMRI. And behind MEMRI, there is a former Mossad agent. I have the evidence: Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, has used Arabic texts with independent translations and he discovered a completely different reality.” Then, according to Meotti, Grillo alluded specifically to a “Jewish conspiracy” and the need to “check” all information on the Middle East.
The list of insults continues. During one of his shows, Grillo once declared: “There is a saying that ‘where Attila has passed through, no grass will grow.’ We can say ‘where the Israelis have passed, no Palestinian will grow.’”
According to Meotti, the chairman of Milan’s synagogue, Davide Romano, went so far as to recently pronounce that “Grillo has a problem with the Jews.”
Grillo’s Facebook page and weblog is full of anti-Jewish attacks from Grillo’s readers, fans and supporters: “Israel is like Nazi Germany”, “I hope that someone will use any means to stop this killer state”, “The Jews are God’s cursed people”, “Zyklon B for you, peace and justice in Palestine”, “the Israeli leaders are monsters”, “Hamas is much better than all the Zionist governments.”
When not launching insults at Israel and Jews, Grillo tends to defend those who do. Of Mel Gibson he has said: “Israel is scary, her behavior is irresponsible.I said it. And I’m not drunk. I’m just scared for my children. Israel is behind the United States or the United States is behind Israel, which is the cause and which the effect?”
Of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Grillo said that his Iranian father-in-law explained to him that “the translations were not accurate …,” referring to Ahmadinejad’s constant calls for the destruction of Israel.
In general Grillo is an apologist for the Iranian regime, saying that the one described by the Western media is inaccurate: “Those who escape, are opposed to it. But those who remained do not have the same concerns that we have abroad. The economy there is okay, people work. It’s like South America: before it was much worse. I have a cousin who builds highways in Iran.”
Grillo has referred to the “Holocaust industry” and, Meotti concludes, has shown in his TV shows “a primitive hatred for Israel and Western values.”

Kerry: 'Iran is a country with a government that was elected'

By Rick Moran

You might recall Chuck Hagel got reamed by the Senate committee for saying something similar. As well he should have.

But, according to Josh Rogin, we better start wondering about just who Kerry thinks he's representing?

"Iran is a country with a government that was elected and that sits in the United Nations," Kerry said in France standing alongside French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. "And it is important for us to deal with nation-states in a way that acts in the best interests of all of us in the world."
The comment is similar to what Hagel said on Jan. 31 when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee Iran was "an elected, legitimate government, whether we agree or not."
Some might beg to differ with that assessment.
The 2009 election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was widely suspected to be rigged. His challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi said so at the time and Iran saw days of unrest after Ahmadinejad was proclaimed to have secured 63 percent of the vote.
Vice President Joe Biden said on Meet the Press "there's some real doubt" whether Ahmadinejad won. "There's an awful lot of questions about how this election was run," he said. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at the time, "I think there are a number of factors that give us some concern about what we've seen."
The Washington Post published an editorial detailing statistical evidence of fraud and abuse in the election results. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said it was "clearly a corrupt election."
Actually, Mr. Secretary, you weren't appointed to " deal with nation-states in a way that acts in the best interests of all of us in the world." Let the world take care of itself. You were appointed to act in the best interests of the United States of America, and if you're not going to do that, I would suggest you step aside and allow someone else to do the job.
Even beyond the question of whether the 2009 Iranian election was rigged, what makes all Iranian elections illegitimate is that all candidates must be cleared to run by the Guardian Council. Insufficiently pious in their eyes? Forget about running for office. Believe in liberalizing the treatment of women? Go home and think about another career.
The fact is, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has a stranglehold on the country and that includes his puppets on the Guardian Council (he gets to name fully half the members) who make sure no one runs for office who would stand against him.
How "legitimate" are those Iranian elections? Only the willfully self-deluded believe that they are.

Boris Johnson: EU bonus curbs are 'deluded' and 'self-defeating'

The Mayor of London has joined City experts in condemning the late night decision in Brussels to impose the first ever legal curb on bank pay. The agreement will from January 2014 ban bonuses bigger than salaries. The UK, which warned Europeans that the plans would backfire, won a concession to allow shareholders to vote for a higher amount - but even this will be capped at twice the size of salary. Mr Johnson said: "This is possibly the most deluded measure to come from Europe since Diocletian tried to fix the price of groceries across the Roman Empire." He added: "People will wonder why we stay in the EU if it persists in such transparently self-defeating policies." The rules, which form part of the Capital Requirements directive, will create the toughest pay regime in the world.

Erdogan calls Zionism a ‘crime against humanity’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday described Zionism as a “crime against humanity” on par with anti-Semitism and fascism. Speaking in Vienna at a United Nations event devoted to dialogue between the West and Islam, Erdogan decried rising racism in Europe and the fact that many Muslims “who live in countries other than their own” often face harsh discrimination. “We should be striving to better understand the culture and beliefs of others, but instead we see that people act based on prejudice and exclude others and despise them,” Erdogan said, according to a simultaneous translation provided by the UN. “And that is why it is necessary that we must consider — just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism — Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.” The Turkish leader’s comments, made at the official opening of the fifth UN Alliance of Civilizations Global Forum, drew harsh criticism from UN Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog group monitoring anti-Israel bias and human rights abuses at the organization. “Erdogan’s misuse of this global podium to incite hatred, and his resort to Ahmadinejad-style pronouncements appealing to the lowest common denominator in the Muslim world, will only strengthen the belief that his government is hewing to a confrontational stance, and fundamentally unwilling to end its four-year-old feud with Israel,” UN Watch said in a statement. The group also criticized UN chief Ban Ki-moon — “who was present on the stage yet stayed silent” — for not condemning Erdogan’s remarks.


During the state visit of Italian president Napolitano, Peer Steinbrück took it upon himself to ridicule Pepe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi as clowns. Peer Steinbrück ist the SPDs (Germany’s second largest party) candidate for chancellor. Grillo heads the Italian party that received a quarter of the vote of the Italian electorate, while former prime minister Berlusconi received almost a third of the vote of the Italian’s...
This incidence is furthermore indicative of German politics and media, considering the reaction to Steinbrück’s slander. Calling the reactions mute would be an overstatement. Far from chastising him, Steinbrück’s slander is reported in a smirking and gloating manner, insinuating that he is right. Thus, the political de-legitimization of leading politicians in Italy are perfectly fine in German public discourse. Astonishing as this is, it evidences the arrogance of the German left. (Murat Altuglu) More...

Turkish Youths Approve of Holocaust on Dutch TV

On a program of the Dutch NTR TV station, a number of Dutch Turkish youths said that they approved of the Holocaust. One of them said, “What Hitler did to the Jews is fine with me.” The Center for the Information and Documentation Israel has called on the Minister of Education to investigate anti-Semitic prejudice among high school students. An earlier study among Amsterdam high school students showed the existence of much stereotypical prejudice against Jews.

Joan Rivers on German-American supermodel Heidi Klum: “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens”

Pic: victorialoustalot
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is calling a statement Joan Rivers made on her E! Entertainment Television show Fashion Police, “vulgar and hideous.” Rivers, commenting on a dress worn by German-American supermodel Heidi Klum, said, “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.” The segment was first aired February 25, and has since been aired at least four times. None of the co-hosts responded to Rivers' comment, and no apology was given. ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement that "Joan Rivers should know better." He said her comments are offensive to "Jews, Holocaust survivors, and Americans." "It is vulgar and offensive for anybody to use the death of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust to make a joke, but this is especially true for someone who is Jewish and who proudly and publicly wears her Jewishness on her sleeve," added Foxman. In a letter to Suzanne Kolb, President of E! Entertainment Television, ADL urged the network to have Rivers issue a formal apology, and to remove the segment from future broadcast. Foxman stated that this was not the first time Rivers has made comments "trivializing the Holocaust." Last year, when Costco decided against carrying her book, Rivers compared their company policies to the Nazi regime. Rather than apologize for Nazi comparison, Rivers responded to critics saying, “Don’t talk to me about the Holocaust!”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

After the Earthquake

Text on a poster of the Swiss daily newspaper BLICK: 'Steinbrück is like the Nazis'

By Andrew Stuttaford

All is not peace and harmony in Italy.
Hopes that Bersani’s center-left grouping will at least be able to form an ad hoc coalition with M5S seem to be being sunk by tweet. Grillo is now busily tweeting that Bersani is a “dead man talking” and a “political stalker.” Meanwhile, Italy’s president has called off a meeting with Peer Steinbruck, the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats, after Steinbruck attacked both Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi as “clowns.”
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard adds some calmer perspective (insofar as he is ever calm). Do read it all, but here’s what’s key:
The great fear is that the European Central Bank (ECB) will find it impossible to prop up the Italian bond market under its Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) scheme if there is no coalition in Rome willing or able to comply with the tough conditions imposed by the EU at Berlin’s behest. Europe’s rescue strategy could start to unravel. Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS, said: “What has happened in these elections is of seismic importance.
“The ECB rescue depends on countries doing what they are told. That has now been torn asunder by domestic politics in Italy….”
Bond buying under the OMT can begin only after countries in trouble request a rescue from the EU’s bail-out fund under strict terms. This then requires a vote in the Bundestag…Germany’s ECB board member, Jorg Asmussen, backed the plan when it was unveiled in August, signalling the crucial acquiescence of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The concern is that Germany could withdraw that assent if provoked.
Mr Roberts said: “The big unknown is how much Germany is going to buckle over the next six months. German leaders want to keep up the appearance that the eurozone crisis has been solved, at least until their elections in September.”
Basically, everyone has got to keep pretending even harder for the next six months, after which point German taxpayers can be betrayed for good. The problem is that what will be said and done in Italy over the next few months may make that pretense impossible, and if that happens, then what?
Meanwhile, over in France (EUObserver reports):
Unemployment in France has hit a 15-year high, reports AFP. The number of people out of work increased by 43,000 in January. There are now 3.16 million without jobs, an 10.7 percent increase compared to the same month last year. The figures are the worst on record since 1997.
And in Greece (via the Guardian):
Greece is facing a serious shortage of medicines amid claims that pharmaceutical multinationals have halted shipments to the country because of the economic crisis and concerns that the drugs will be exported by middlemen because prices are higher in other European countries. Hundreds of drugs are in short supply and the situation is getting worse, according to the Greek drug regulator. The government has drawn up a list of more than 50 pharmaceutical companies it accuses of halting or planning to halt supplies because of low prices in the country. More than 200 medicinal products are affected, including treatments for arthritis, hepatitis C and hypertension, cholesterol-lowering agents, antipsychotics, antibiotics, anaesthetics and immunomodulators used to treat bowel disease.
Separately, it was announced on Tuesday that the Swiss Red Cross was slashing its supply of donor blood to Greece because it had not paid its bills on time….
Chemists in Athens describe chaotic scenes with desperate customers going from pharmacy to pharmacy to look for prescription drugs that hospitals could no longer dispense.
The vampire currency just keeps on taking, doesn’t it? The real “clowns” are those that designed it, those that introduced it, those that signed up for it, those that cheered it on, those that managed it and those that continue to support it in its current form.
Compared with those jokers, Beppe Grillo is George Washington.

Norwegian State-Owned TV Links Country’s Funding of PA to Promotion of Hatred Towards Israel (VIDEO)

By Zach Pontz
Norwegian state-owned TV, NRK, recently aired a 10-minute report on the PA’s incitement against Israel through hate speech in government sanctioned media. The report followed on the heels of a report by Palestinian Media Watch which drew a direct connection between the PA’s promotion of hatred and terror glorification and the Norwegian funding of the PA, at 300 million kroner a year ($52,628,700).
Here is the transcript of the segment (provided by PMW) and the video can be viewed below:
NRK TV narrator: “This is Palestinian children’s television, funded and partially controlled by the Palestinian Authority, which receives large sums annually from Norway.”
Continuation of same PMW video from PA TV is shown
(PA TV, Young girl:) “…our wars were for the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and that our enemy, Zion, is Satan with a tail… We are fed up with our division, while all people are uniting.”
(PA TV host:) “Bravo, bravo, bravo.” [...]

NRK narrator: “Staff at Palestinian Media Watch in Jerusalem are watching a broadcast from Palestinian television. The Israeli organization is on the Israeli right-wing politically. [Its] goal is to document what values Palestinian TV and newspapers convey to their own people. Danish Nan Zilberdik [of PMW] says that what she calls ‘demonization’ exists to a great extent.”

PMW senior analyst Nan Jacques Zilberdik: “What we [PMW] report is definitely the general [PA] message. We don’t provide just a few examples that we have chosen to make it look extreme. I think that Norwegian and other leaders will be surprised to hear what the Palestinian leaders with whom they talk about peace, say in Arabic.”

NRK narrator: “This is from a documentary this year on PA TV, about the Jews”:

PMW translated video from PA TV is shown
(PA TV:) “Faced with the Jews’ schemes, Europe could not bear their character traits, monopolies, corruption, and their control and climbing up positions in government.
The European nations felt that they had suffered a tragedy by providing refuge for the Jews. Later the Jews obtained the Balfour Declaration, and Europe saw it as an ideal solution to get rid of them.”

NRK narrator: “Palestinian Media Watch has published a book about what is being broadcast in the media controlled by the PA. NRK (Norwegian) TV asked the Holocaust Center to evaluate it.”

Øivind Kopperud, Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities: “There are certainly clear Antisemitic aspects and that is part of this conflict situation. There is [in PA media] an enhanced image of ‘the other,’ an enemy image that contributes to demonizing the Jewish state.” [...]

NRK narrator: “How widespread are those attitudes towards Jews and Israel that PA TV helps to transmit? Sunday Evening News traveled among Palestinians in the West Bank to find the answer. First stop: the Palestinian capital, Ramallah. At the first café table we come across, it turns out that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is already the topic of discussion.”

Man in café: “We were just talking about this. Yes, I read some before and I know, I believe that there is a Protocol for they are planning to control the world.”

NRK narrator: “The Protocols is a more than 100-year-old text documenting that the Jews will take over world supremacy, and which is a forgery to discredit the Jews. But at this cafe table the most famous Antisemitic text in the world is alive and well.”

NRK reporter: “Do you know that these Protocols are false?”

Man in café: “False? I don’t believe that. I believe they have written this, because this is the mentality of the Jewish [people].” [...]

NRK narrator: “Since 2008, Norway has given over 300 million kroner a year in budget support to the Palestinian Authority. [The PA] finances and partly controls PA TV. The State Secretary [Torgeir Larsen] has read PMW’s material.”

State Secretary, Torgeir Larsen: “There are examples in the book (PMW’s Deception) that clearly express hatred. There are also examples of Antisemitism, which you find in Palestinian society. But these are examples. And it’s also important for me to emphasize that those (i.e., PMW) who have put together these examples – I do not doubt the content – are part of an ongoing political battle.”

NRK narrator: “He [State Secretary Torgeir Larsen] said Norway has discussed this with the PA, but that it is not relevant to stop the Norwegian financial support [to the PA], which goes to building Palestinian institutions.
What about the Israeli media? Don’t they also portray the Palestinians as basically evil? This is a Middle East expert who knows the Israeli media well.”

Asgeir Ueland, Author and journalist: “In the mainstream [Israeli] media it hardly ever occurs, at least not that I can remember from reading the Hebrew press for about 16 years, and cannot remember [anything] being broadcast on radio, television or in major newspapers.”

NRK narrator: “He says that hate messages are found in the Israeli media, but it is in the settlers’ own media and media that belong on the Israeli right. This is a picture that is also supported by other sources NRK [TV] has contacted.”
Watch the NRK segment below:

Merkel’s Duct-Tape Solution for Europe Coming Apart?

By Walter Russell Mead

Angela Merkel is now 0 for 2 in trying to influence the outcome of elections in important Latin countries in Europe. In both France and Italy, voters solidly rejected the candidates she supported and gave their votes to candidates she opposed. And this could just be the beginning, the New York Times speculates:
But experts said the Italian vote served as a warning shot that a new round of political instability could be coming in the neighboring large economies of Spain and France. Their leaders have also adopted austerity programs to keep the euro debt crisis from engulfing their economies, despite concerns that the programs are impeding the economic rebound that might help them grow their way out of financial distress. [...]
Few experts anticipated the depth of anger displayed by Italian voters over the austerity that Mr. Monti, the technocrat beloved by other European leaders but resented at home for pushing tax increases and spending cuts, represented. The electorate chose two men convicted of crimes — Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Grillo — over the one Italian leader in whom the rest of Europe had put great faith.
We’re not sure who these legions of surprised experts are. From where we’re sitting, there has never been any sign of a fundamental fix to the European money mess. Thanks to the ECB the crisis has stayed quiet, but the European leadership has been as ineffectual at devising a strategy to end the crisis as it was incompetent at designing the currency in the first place. The Italian election is more evidence that the EU is exactly where it was 18 months ago: only the Germans have the money to fund programs that can hold the eurozone together, but the only plans they come up with require so many sacrifices and such wrenching change in target countries that the ensuing political deadlock and bitterness threatens to rip the currency zone apart. The result is failure, papered over for the present by the ECB.
This chicken wire and spit solution has worked for the past few months. Merkel indicated last November that she anticipated that the EU’s sovereign debt crisis would last for at least five more years. A five year agony isn’t a crisis; it’s a disease, and if the Italian election is any indication, more and more people in Europe are ready to check out of the hospital against medical advice.

Never Underestimate Anyone Named Berlusconi

By Aaron Goldstein

In November 2011, Silvio Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister of Italy and was succeeded by EU Commissioner Mario Monti. The Associated Press proclaimed Berlusconi’s resignation an “end of an era.”
There was a compelling case for that conclusion. Italy was a fiscal basket case and Berlusconi was plagued by corruption and scandal. Just last October, Berlusconi was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to four years in prison (which was reduced to one year which he is likely never to serve). Then there are the allegations of sex with an under-aged prostitute known as Ruby whom he allegedly met at a “bunga bunga” party in 2010. At one point, Berlusconi claimed Ruby was then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s granddaughter. As of this writing, Berlusconi is still awaiting trial.
Yet at the time of his resignation I did not believewe had heard the last of Berlusconi:
Even in the best of times, most Italian governments have a life of a year. Since the end of WWII, Italy has had 60 coalition governments. I don’t expect this new coalition under Monti to last appreciably longer than its predecessors. In fact, I expect to see several coalition governments come and go over the next 18 to 24 months. In which case, it would come as no shock to me if Berlusconi were to make his way back into power.
Well, another Italian election has come and gone and Monti, who was perceived as a puppet of both Berlin and Brussels, is out as Prime Minister. So who is in? At the moment, the answer to that question is unknown. It could be Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the center-left coalition Common Good who appears to have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. However, Berlusconi’s center-right coalition appears to have denied Bersani a majority in the Senate and could soon find his way back to power. As of this writing, Berlusconi has indicated he is open to forming a grand coalition with Bersani. Whether or not Berlusconi becomes Prime Minister, rumors of his political demise have been greatly exxagerated.
The wild card in all of this is comedian Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement, which has become the third largest group in both houses. For his part, Grillo has pledged not to support either Berlusconi or Bersani. All of which could very well mean that Italians may go back to the polls again in a matter of months. One way or another, methinks Berlusconi will become Italy’s Prime Minister for a fourth time. I think this will come to pass because the Italian electorate has thrice previously elected Berlusconi Prime Minister. Why wouldn’t they elect him for a fourth time?
It’s not like Berlusconi is exactly an unknown quantity. Aside from frequently being on the wrong side of law, Berlusconi says a lot of stupid things. Just this past January, Berlusconi not only praised the leadership of Benito Mussolini but praised Il Duce for backing Hitler during the Second World War (although he was quick to criticize Mussolini for implementing racial laws against Italy’s Jewish population).
Berlusconi is undoubtedly a corrupt politician but he isn’t the first corrupt Italian politician nor will he be the last. Berlusconi is no angel but he is the devil that Italy knows. For better or for worse, Italians know that Berlusconi is his own man. Berlusconi is many things. A puppet for German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not one of them.
From time to time, Italy has technocrat Prime Ministers such as Monti. It might very well be that Monti has never taken a bribe in his life much less attended a “bunga bunga” party. Yet Monti has not shown himself to be any more competent in extricating Italy out of its precarious financial situation than Berlusconi and Italians know it whether they live in Reggio Calabria in the South or Reggio Emilia in the North. Some might take Berlusconi to task forhis plans to marry a woman fifty years his junior but others will envy him for it. Berlusconi might one day go to jail but it won’t be for being boring.
Berlusconi turns 77 in September and shows no signs of slowing down. So long as Berlusconi has breath in his body he should not be written off as a political force in Italy. Whatever comes of Italy’s election, never underestimate anyone named Berlusconi.

Terrorist Propagandizing – a Beginners Guide: By Ben White

By Adam Levick
Ben White, professional Israel hater, anti-Semite whisperer, and ‘Comment is Free’ contributor, may have landed a new gig.
White – a proponent of the one-state solution, and a Brit who’s arguably one of the the Guardian’s favorite BDS supporters - has previously romanticized about the bloodshed of Palestinian ‘martyrs’, so it’s not surprising that a recent commentary he published at Al Jazeera on Feb. 22, titled ‘What a period of relative calm looks like in the Occupied Territories‘, was recently cross posted here:
The piece highlights an “infographic” purporting to demonstrate the number of attacks in Gaza since the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel in November – data which, per White, “lay bare the daily reality for Palestinians and the power imbalance between the occupier and an occupied, colonised people fighting for their basic rights.”
Whilst it’s unclear if White consented to being cross-posted by Al Qassam Brigades or not, the decision by an official Hamas propagandist manning the site to promote his anti-Zionist, post-colonial agitprop represents a perfect example of the political synergy between the British anti-Zionist left and the Islamist reactionary right (what’s known as the Red-Green Alliance).
Of course, such antisemitic, misogynistic, homophobic and anti-democratic Islamist movements like Hamas don’t give a damn about political “power imbalances” or “basic [human] rights”, but are often willing to cynically employ tropes which evoke such Western values when it suits their purposes.
Fortunately for Hamas, they can continue to rely on a steady stream of putatively “liberal” ‘Comment is Free’ contributors like Ben White to run interference for this absurd ideological charade.

EU Recommends Boycott Against Israel Presence in Judea, Samaria

The European Union has formally recommended its 27 member states “prevent” Israeli activity in Judea and Samaria through an economic boycott of Jewish communities in those regions. The EU's latest boycott recommendation came to light in the publication of the EU’s Jerusalem Report 2012, released Wednesday, in which the European body recommends its members avoid financial transactions with Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, AFP reported. In the report, the EU suggests its member states “prevent, discourage and raise awareness about problematic implications of financial transactions, including foreign direct investments from within the EU in support of settlement activities, infrastructure and services.” The recommendation followed an internal report which alleged that Israel had used construction in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria to prevent the possibility of a two-state solution. In the strongly-worded 15-page report, the EU also calls to "ensure that imports of settlement products do not benefit from preferential tariffs" and make sure that all such products are clearly labelled as originating from Israeli-occupied areas." The move comes as a clear statement of support for the Palestinian Authority's attempt to oust some half a million Jews from their homes, and claim the entire area for its hoped-for independent, sovereign state without bothering with final status negotiations with Israel. This ignores the fact that by any legal parameter, Israel is not "occupying" the area, which belongs to no sovereign state. A successful first step in that process was made at the United Nations last September when the PA won an upgraded status via the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a non-member observer state. The move gained for the PA de facto recognition as a sovereign country by the international body, and helped circumvent the need for final status talks with Israel on a myriad of issues, as mandated by the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords. The Palestinian Authority – and much of the international community – defines “settlement activity – in very broad terms, sometimes as broad as repairing a broken fence for a private home in an existing community, or paving a driveway. “Settlement construction” is a term defined equally loosely, and includes such activities as adding a pergola to an existing front or back porch or patio, or even enclosing an existing balcony on a home in a community that numbers at least 25,000 residents and has existed for more than 35 years. However, despite Israel's willingness to negotiate, PA leaders refuse to engage in talks without preconditions, and each time negotiations have been suggested, they have categorically rejected any attempt to jumpstart the process unless Israel first agrees to all PA demands -- primary among them, a complete halt to all "settlement activities," the "right of return" for more than five million foreign Arabs who once lived in the area and their generations of descendants, and the surrender of nearly half of Israel's holy capital city, Jerusalem, for use as the future capital of the hoped-for PA state of "Palestine." At present, the twin capitals of the Palestinian Authority are the Samaria-based city of Ramallah, and Gaza-based city of Gaza City, inasmuch as the two leading factions of the PA, Fatah and Hamas, have yet to even reach an agreement on creating a unity government.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Great Start Secretary Kerry

By Jonah Goldberg
As you no doubt have heard, the Germans have banned the Nazi party. It wasn’t a decision grounded in some academic principle or an over-abundance of political correctness about hate speech and the like. It’s because the country succumbed to a madness that plunged the world into war and made the German people the authors of staggering genocide. With an abundance of soul-searching, self-awareness, and well-earned shame they opted to ban organizations that profess a desire to return to such horrors. It’s part of their effort to ensure the phrase “never again” has meaning.
But don’t tell that to John Kerry, who seems to have a sophomore’s grasp of the issues involved. In his first trip to Germany, he felt the need to brag about how in America you can be a neo-Nazi if you want. From the Jewish Press:
“As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view.”
Then Kerry really turned it on, telling his audience how in the land of the free neo Nazis are permitted to strut in their jackboots and swastika wherever they feel like, even in the Jewish suburbs of Chicago. This is how Mr. sensitivity phrased it:
“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another.”
Now, I do believe in the United States that neo-Nazis have the right to free speech, though I also think there is room for reasonable limitations on that speech as well. But America is not Germany. What I find ridiculous is the way Kerry feels the need to lecture Germans about such things. I mean, what is the point, beyond preening in senatorial fashion? I am all in favor of democracy promotion and singing the praises of free expression. But getting the Germans to be more tolerant of Nazi propagandizing is low on my list of priorities. Really, really, really low. Let’s see if he’s willing to give a similar talk about religious freedom and tolerance in Saudi Arabia. My hunch is that he’d be much quicker to respect the cultural distinctiveness of Saudi attitudes.

Friend or Fo?

Foto: luups

By Andrew Stuttaford

As Italy contemplates its situation the day after the election, there are some signs that the Grillini may be prepared to work with the center-left on an ad hoc basis. We’ll have to see.
Meanwhile as the world tries to understand the nature of Grillo’s left/right populism (as John O’Sullivan has dubbed it), it’s interesting to see that Grillo appears to think that the playwright Dario Fo ought to be the country’s next president. In some respects, such a pick be a useful symbol of a country turning over a new leaf. After all, Fo is a grand old man of Italian letters, and a winner of the Nobel prize for literature to boot. He is not, however, someone who would represent a break from politics, and nor is Fo—a lifelong provocateur of the hardish leftt–a Vaclav Havel redux.
And then there is Fo’s participation in the truther movie Zero: An Investigation into 9/11. Writing in the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw had this to say about that:
To recap: this movie, like an earlier essay called Loose Change, promotes the belief not merely that 9/11 was a bogus pretext for war, but that it was a bogus event itself, faked, stage-managed and orchestrated by the powers that be. The twin towers were not brought down by kamikaze terrorists, but demolished by covert military-grade explosives, smuggled into the building, of which molten metal in the ashy ruins is the residual evidence. The crashing planes were a diversionary stunt. The so-called terrorists were CIA-mujahideen stooges, who may or may not have been on board, but in any case were ordered to establish their existence on dozens of security cameras to establish an alibi. The plane that crashed into the Pentagon must have been a missile, because the hole isn’t big enough for anything else.
And so on. These theories are rehearsed by Dario Fo, with an insufferably smug grin inappropriate for discussing an event whose casualties he presumably does not dispute, and who is pointedly described as a “Nobel prizewinner” – though his prize is for literature, not engineering…
Italy’s president, a largely (but not solely) symbolic figure, is chosen by parliament, and I doubt this would be a nomination that Grillo could really swing (even if he were to prove to be serious about it), but Italy could certainly do better than Fo.

Insensitive Kerry Brags to Germans about Nazi Freedoms in America

Pic: suckersonparade

By Yori Yanover

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry bragged about freedom of speech, religion and thought in the United States in front of an audience of German students, telling them that in America “you have a right to be stupid if you want to be.”

Forgetting, perhaps, that he was in Berlin, former home to the most terrifying regime under Heaven, Kerry bragged, according to Reuters:

“As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view.”

Then Kerry really turned it on, telling his audience how in the land of the free neo Nazis are permitted to strut in their jackboots and swastika wherever they feel like, even in the Jewish suburbs of Chicago. This is how Mr. sensitivity phrased it:

“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another.”

Heart warming.

Except that, in Germany, the law restricts neo-Nazi propaganda and Nazi symbols are banned, with the exception of artistic or historic reenactment purposes. In 2005, Germany’s parliament tightened the restrictions on neo-Nazi marches to keep them away from sensitive memorials such as former concentration camps. The changes make it easier for local authorities to ban such gatherings.

Oblivious to all that, Kerry boasted: “The reason is, that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be… And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that.”

Actually, not all of us – certainly those unlucky Jews who used to live in Berlin while all that stupidity was going on, starting in 1933.

“Now, I think that’s a virtue,” Kerry declared proudly. “I think that’s something worth fighting for. The important thing is to have the tolerance to say, you know, you can have a different point of view.”

So now what, revoke all those intolerant laws against neo Nazi marches through Berlin? Because that certainly sounded like the natural conclusion from the uber-tolerant Kerry.

Kerry made the comments in favor of letting Nazis be Nazis on his first foreign trip since becoming secretary of state on Feb 1. After one-night stops in London and Berlin, he is visiting Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha before returning to Washington on March 6.

So little time, so many folks to embarrass…

Pink Anti-Semitism Is No Different from Brown Anti-Semitism

By Alan Dershowitz

The core characteristic of anti-Semitism is the assertion that everything the Jews do is wrong, and everything that is wrong is done by the Jews. For the anti-Semite every rich Jew is exploitive, every poor Jew a burden on society. For the anti-Semite, both capitalism and communism are Jewish plots. For the anti-Semite, Jews are both too docile, allowing themselves to be led to the slaughter like sheep, and too militant, having won too many wars against the Arabs. For the anti-Semite, Jews are too liberal and too conservative, too artsy and too bourgeois, too stingy and too charitable, too insular and too cosmopolitan, too moralistic and too conniving.
To the anti-Semite, every depression, war, social problem, plague must have been the fault of the Jews. Whenever the Jews appear to be doing something good – giving charity, helping the less fortunate, curing the sick—there must be a malevolent motive, a hidden agenda, a conspiratorial explanation beneath the surface of the benevolent act.
Now the very twisted illogic that has characterized classic anti-Semitism is being directed at the Jewish state, which for the anti-Semite has become “the Jew” among nations. When Israel sent help to Tsunami and hurricane victims, the Jewish state was accused of merely trying to garner positive publicity calculated to offset its mistreatment of Palestinians. When Israeli medical teams save the lives of Palestinian children, they must be up to no good. When it was disclosed that the Israeli Army has the lowest rate of rape against enemy civilians, radical anti-Zionists argued that this was because Israeli soldiers were so racist that they did not find Palestinian women attractive enough to rape! Nothing the Jew or the Jew among nations does can be praised, because its purpose is always to “manipulate,” to “conceal,” to “divert attention away from” or to “distort” the evil that inheres in all Jewish actions and inactions.
That is the bigoted thesis of a new anti-Israel campaign being conducted by some radical gay activists who absurdly claim that Israel is engaging in “pinkwashing.” This burlesque of an argument first surfaced in a New York Times op-ed that claimed that Israel’s positive approach to gay rights is “a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violation of Palestinians human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.” In other words, the Jew among nations is now being accused of feigning concern over the rights of gay people in order to whitewash—or in this case pinkwash—its lack of concern for Palestinian people.
How this pinkwashing is supposed to work, we aren’t told. Is the media supposed to be so obsessed with Israel’s positive policies toward gays that it will no longer cover the Palestinian issue? If so, that certainly hasn’t worked. Are gays around the world supposed to feel so indebted to Israel that they will no longer criticize the Jewish nation? That surely hasn’t worked, as evidenced by increasingly rabid anti-Israel advocacy by several gay organizations.
Well, to the unthinking anti-Semite, it doesn’t matter how the Jewish manipulation works. The anti-Semite just knows that there must be something sinister at work if Jews do anything positive. The same is now true for the unthinking anti-Israel bigot.
In Israel, openly gay soldiers have long served in the military and in high positions in both government and the private sector. Gay pride parades are frequent. Israel is, without a doubt, the most gay friendly country in the Middle East and among the most supportive of gay rights anywhere in the world. This, despite efforts by some fundamentalist Jews, Muslims and Christians to ban gay pride parades and legal equality for gays. In contrast to Israel are the West Bank and Gaza, where gays are murdered, tortured and forced to seek asylum—often in Israel. In every Arab and Muslim country, homosexual acts among consenting adults are criminal, often punishable by death. But all this doesn’t matter to the “growing global gay movement” against Israel, which according to The New York Times op ed, regards these positive steps as nothing more than a cover for malevolent Israeli actions.
The pinkwash bigots would apparently prefer to see Israel treat gays the way Israel’s enemies do, because they hate Israel more than they care about gay rights. Nor do these pink anti-Semites speak for the majority of gay people, who appreciate Israel’s positive steps with regard to gay rights, even if they don’t agree with all of Israel’s policies. Decent gay people who have themselves been subjected to stereotyping, recognize bigotry when they see it, even—perhaps especially—among other gay people. That’s why so many prominent gay leaders and public officials have denounced this “pinkwashing” nonsense.
Now this pinkwashing campaign is coming to the City University of New York. A pinkwashing conference is being sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Studies Center at The Graduate Center on April 10-11, 2013. It will be yet another hate fest against Israel, but this time it will cross the line into classic anti-Semitic tropes. Don’t be fooled by its benign pink hue, or its academic pretext. At its core, the newly-fashioned charge of pinkwashing is little different from the old-fashioned charges leveled by brown-shirted anti-Semites—namely, that neither the Jews nor the Jewish state ever does good things without bad motives. And this time, the hate conference is being cosponsored by the Philosophy and Psychology Departments and The Graduate Center of the City University of New York—as well as by the Center for The Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University.
Shame on anyone who exploits his or her sexual orientation to promote anti-Semitic bigotry. And shame on anyone who sponsors those who practice pink anti-Semitism.

The Return of Politics

Photo: luups

By Andrew Stuttaford
One of the major questions that has hung for years over the Eurozone was who would revolt first? Voters in the northern ‘donor’ countries, being fleeced in the name of a project that makes ever-decreasing amount of sense (if that’s really possible: it made none to begin with), or voters in the PIIGS, being ground down by a pro-cyclical austerity policy, and, more broadly, the constraints of a single currency for which they were neither politically nor economically ever suited.
Well, the north won that race, with the rise of the euroskeptic Finns Party (the True Finns), the party single-handedly responsible for forcing the Helsinki establishment to insist on collateral on the more recent bailouts. How well that collateral would hold up in the (unlikely) event of a “starburst” break-up of the single currency is a different question, but for now it is part of the reason that Finland has retained its AAA rating.
Now, however, we see in Italy the first substantive ‘debtors revolt’.
The Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner discusses what that might mean:
Financial instability, it seems, is to be replaced by political instability, with electorates grown weary of the repeated rounds of self defeating austerity forced on them by Europe’s political elites. Last time this happened, the response was to impose unelected technocratic governments on the wayward nations, but it is not going to be so easy this time. Italians are in open rebellion, with Mario Monti’s pro-reform Civic Choice finishing a distant fourth. Italians have voted en masse against Berlin’s prescriptive austerity agenda.
Already the signs are that this political explosion will reignite the financial crisis. Italian bond yields spiked, and equity markets fell sharply. It will be recalled that crucial to stilling the financial crisis was the European Central Bank’s promise of “outright monetary transactions”, an open ended commitment to buy sovereign debt without limit. In the end, not a single bond had to be purchased. The promise was enough to break the destruction cycle of deteriorating sovereign debt and banking conditions. It’s possible that markets will now test the ECB’s resolve afresh. However, to avail themselves of the programme, countries have to agree to certain economic and fiscal measures. There is not a snowball’s chance in Hades of the Italian parliament now agreeing to the sort of conditions that would be imposed. Hold onto your hats. It’s about to get interesting again.
Indeed it is, particularly if the non-establishment parties of the north now start—as they should—to question yet again what their countries—Finland, the Netherlands, and the rest of them, are doing in a monetary union that serves no continuing purpose other than to keep alive the catastrophic errors of the past, and, of course, empty the pockets of the frugal.
It was time for the Northern Euro. And it is time for the Northern Euro. This farce has gone on too long.

Stop persecution against Danish and Swedish Jews!

To: Danish Parliment / Danske Folketinget & Swedish Parliment/Svenska Regeringen

In 2001, the Mosaic Religious Community started to write down the serious events that are experienced by the 6,500 Danish Jews.
It is difficult or impossible to wear skull caps or Star of David on the street. There are telephone threats and vandalism...

How Sickening Will Sweden Get?

By Douglas Murray
Their gamble is that if we give the Organization of Islamic Cooperation just a little something -- just a "harmless" little law -- then we might all just be able to get along. But for every inch of encouragement the free nations of the world give the OIC, the more Reza Jabbaris we sacrifice -- and a million more free-thinking souls.
How to deal with one madman is tricky enough, but how do you rectify things if the whole world has gone mad? Take Sweden and its apparent determination to deport Reza Jabbari back to his native Iran, most likely to be killed for having converted from Islam to Christianity.
First, there is the growing phenomenon of individuals being targeted for retribution if they have been seen to "insult" Islam. In particular there is the terrible recent case of Lars Hedegaard, who was targeted by an assassin at his home in Denmark earlier this month. The larger tapestry that hangs behind incidents such as the attempted assassination of Lars Hedegaard, Kurt Westergaard and others, however, is not just the attempt to silence a few brave voices, but the attempt to silence an entire planet. I refer of course to the attempt to criminalize – around the world – any speech which is deemed to be offensive to Islam.
This process is not only ongoing among the 57 Islamic countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), but is being considered – rather than laughed out of the room – by, among other countries, the United States of America.
For more than a decade the OIC, originating from Pakistan, has been attempting to bring in legislation via the UN to criminalize "Defamation of Religions." Last December Hillary Clinton made a speech at the Istanbul Process's meeting (in London, shamefully) on "Combating intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief."
Here is the first paragraph:
Well, good afternoon, everyone, and I want to thank you all for participating in this conference where we are working together to protect two fundamental freedoms – the right to practice one's religion freely and the right to express one's opinion without fear.
Right there is the problem. Because her two "fundamental freedoms" might be a square peg or a round peg. But there is absolutely no way that either will ever fit into an OIC-shaped hole. Of course the OIC will continue to talk in generalities. So let us talk specifics. While the OIC pretends to worried about its feelings, let us consider a real-life, concrete, current example.
Reza Jabbari is an Iranian by birth. He is also a convert to Christianity. He is currently seeking asylum in Sweden. Why would this possibly be necessary? Surely if the OIC are being honest, Mr. Jabbari is merely someone with a different opinion from the people who run the country of his birth? And surely if the Iranians are worried about "offense" to religion, they would be standing up to ensure that Mr. Jabbari does not have his Christian faith insulted by the claims of Muslims that he is forever Muslim because he happened to have been born into a Muslim family.
Alas, the realities of the OIC are otherwise. As are those of the Swedish authorities, who appear to be doing everything they can to ensure that Mr. Jabbari is returned to Iran, where he is likely to be imprisoned, sentenced to death, or both. I suppose the Swedes reason that do not have room for him, even with all those empty homes the Jews left behind when they fled Malmo.
But let us take the Hillary Clinton view of things. Iran is one of the countries which has been pushing for an international blasphemy law. If you are Iran, hungry for people like Mr. .Jabbari to be put in their appropriate place, at the end of a crane, would you think, when the American Secretary of State even speaks on your favorite fake subject at your best pet forum, that things are going your own way, or more in what used to be known as the American way?
Put conversely, if you are, say, one of the millions of people who happen to have been born in a country such as Iran or another majority Muslim country, and you had thought that you might like to move around a bit faith-wise -- as plenty of cultural Jews, Christians and atheists do -- would you think that things globally were going in a good-ish direction for you and your religious freedom? Or would you think that the opposite was true and wonder about acting accordingly?
To put the most benign motives on the Obama administration's willingness not to "offend" the OIC, I suppose it is possible that they think that they can encourage the Islamic world in a more tolerant direction. "Nudge" it perhaps? Perhaps Hillary and Barack can sort of "nudge" the Islamic world in a better direction? Sure, it does not understand the idea of freedom of conscience or freedom of religion or freedom of belief right now. And sure, it hasn't had such a good record in any of these matters over the course of fourteen hundred years. But perhaps this time the Islamic world might start to see infidel light?
Well, the administration then is more optimistic than I am. If there is one thing you can say about this subject, after countless discussions over the years, it is that if anything ever does move, it does not move fast.
Some years ago I found myself on the BBC debating a very moderate sort of gentleman, Dr. Tim Winters, who teaches at Cambridge University, England. He is a quiet, reflective type; and as a convert to Islam, he is known as Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad. In Britain, he is widely thought to be just about the most moderate theologian going.
Anyhow – during our discussion we got into a disagreement on the matter of the punishment for apostasy. I mentioned that it is particularly regrettable that the punishment still mandated in all the major schools of Islam -- to this day -- continues to be death. But Tim mentioned something interesting – apparently game-changing. He said that he had recently attended a seminar in Jordan with some muftis from that neighborhood; and that the interesting upshot of all their discussions was that there had been some agreement that death may not after all be absolutely necessary for apostasy. The ultra-moderate compromise was that "maybe a custodial sentence" would do. [See 8 minutes into the video] "Too kind, too kind", I found myself replying.
Anyway, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and all the other people who are meant to be leading the free world are busy launching us – again to take the kindest possible interpretation – on one of the grandest gambles of all time. Their gamble is that if they give the Islamists of the OIC just a little something – a little nod, a little encouragement, just a "harmless" little law -- then we might all just be able to get along.
They are looking at this in exactly the wrong way. Because for every inch of encouragement the free nations of the world give the OIC, the more Reza Jabbaris we sacrifice to them. Literally. And for every one of the Reza Jabbaris we sacrifice to them, a million more free-thinking souls within the Muslim world will reckon that the strong horse in all this, such as the U.S., is the weak horse and the weak horse, such as the Arab World, is the strong horse. And those millions of people will act accordingly. In Tehran first, but then in Sweden, and Denmark, and finally in America. Perhaps the next American Secretary of State can address the next OIC conference by simply saying, "Whatever you want is perfect!"

Denmark: A Century and Three Quarters of Telling the Truth about Islam

By Andrew G. Bostom
Over the past two years, I have chronicled the ongoing travails of my intrepid colleague Lars Hedegaard, the Danish journalist and historian, most recently, his narrowly surviving an assassination attempt by a likely Muslim assailant.
Hedegaard's plight, and his voiced (and written) opinions on Islam whetted my curiosity about what the profound 19th century Danish writer and polymath, Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), may have opined -- if anything -- on the Muslim creed. Kierkegaard, although renowned as the "father" of existentialist philosophy, produced a vast, highly original output, as summarized by the venerable Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which transcended
... the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, literary criticism, devotional literature and fiction.
Kierkegaard brought this potent mixture of discourses to bear as social critique and for the purpose of renewing Christian faith within Christendom. At the same time he made many original conceptual contributions to each of the disciplines he employed. He is known as the "father of existentialism", but at least as important are his critiques of Hegel and of the German romantics, his contributions to the development of modernism, his literary experimentation, his vivid re-presentation of biblical figures to bring out their modern relevance, his invention of key concepts which have been explored and redeployed by thinkers ever since, his interventions in contemporary Danish church politics, and his fervent attempts to analyze and revitalize Christian faith.
In the wake of the Danish cartoons debacle, Carlin Romano interviewed then 94 year old Kierkegaard scholar Howard Hong (the interview, entitled, "What Would Kierkegaard Do?," was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 5, 2006). During a career of more than 60 years, Hong edited and translated with his wife, Edna, the complete works of Kierkegaard (co-founding the Howard V. and Edna H. Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College, Minnesota, the largest Kierkegaard research library in the world). However, Romano's discussion with Hong (reproduced in full here) yielded only suggestive, rather thin gruel on Kierkegaard's views of Islam.
Undaunted, I sought out the recent (2007) academic English translation, Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks: Vol. 1 -- Journals AA-DD, published by Princeton University Press, and described thusly:
The first of an eleven-volume series produced by Copenhagen's Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, this volume is the first English translation and commentary of Kierkegaard's journals based on up-to-date scholarship. It offers new insight into Kierkegaard's inner life. In addition to early drafts of his published works, the journals contain his thoughts on current events and philosophical and theological matters, notes on books he was reading, miscellaneous jottings, and ideas for future literary projects. Kierkegaard wrote his journals in a two-column format, one for his initial entries and the second for the marginal comments he added later. The new edition of the journals reproduces this format and contains photographs of original manuscript pages, as well as extensive scholarly commentary. Translated by leading experts on Kierkegaard, Journals and Notebooks will become the benchmark for all future Kierkegaard scholarship.
As it turns out, Kierkegaard took a rather dim view of "Islamic monotheism," relative to Judaism. Moreover, Kierkegaard was also forthright about Muhammad's -- and his Islamic votaries' -- perceived mandate for global conquest via military means (i.e., jihad), which he compared to the violent, late 18th to early 19th century Napoleonic land grab.
June 8, 1837: Judaism develops in the first books of Moses, where God appears more in his omnipotence as lawgiver (Moses steps completely into the background); then in Job the detached individuality appears in a kind of opposition to God, and in the Psalms finds peace in the thought that God is after all God the Almighty against whom man must not strive. Mohammedanism develops a caricature; God's omnipotence becomes arbitrariness, and his guidance becomes fatalism. [emphasis added]
September 12, 1838: [note: 155 years after the Ottoman jihadist siege of Vienna was broken] It occurs to me that Napoleon much more resembles Mohammed than do any of the great generals of the past. Napoleon felt himself to be or at least played the part of a missionary, as one who brought along with him and fought for certain ideas...Napoleon's expedition went in the opposite direction to Mohammed's expansion, but through the same countries -- Mohammed from East to West, Napoleon from West to East.
Kierkegaard's overarching sentiments on Islam were echoed by America's first, and arguably still pre-eminent scholar of comparative religions, James Freeman Clarke, in his 1871 treatise "Ten Great Religions -- An Essay in Comparative Theology." Clarke sees in Islam's conception of Allah -- "that which makes of God pure will . . . divorced from reason and love" -- a regression from the Judeo-Christian God. Comparing Islam to Judaism, Clarke observes,
Goodness does not consist in obedience to divine will, but in conformity to the divine character. This is the doctrine of the Old Testament and one of its noblest characteristics. . . . Mohammedanism is a relapse [from Judaism] . . . for it makes God only an arbitrary sovereign whose will is to be obeyed without any reference to its moral character.
Clarke further notes that Islam's Allah was "abstracted from matter, and so not to be represented by pictures and images; God withdrawn out of the world, and above all -- in total separation." In contrast, Judaism conceptualized God as being "with man, by his repeated miraculous coming down in prophets, judges, kings; also with his people, the Jews, mysteriously present in their tabernacle and temple."
Clarke maintains that Islam's alternate "central idea concerning God" -- its conception of Allah -- has not been salutary for Muslim societies. He concludes with these remarkably compendious assessments of Islam's liberty-crushing essence, rooted in abject submission to the unrelenting autocracy of Allah:
Islam saw Allah, but not man; saw the claims of deity, not the rights of humanity; saw authority, failed to see freedom -- therefore hardened into despotism.
Its governments are not governments. . . . It makes life barren and empty. It encourages a savage pride and cruelty. It makes men tyrants or slaves, women puppets, religion the submission to an infinite despotism.
Lars Hedegaard simply reiterates (here, here) the still eminently valid 19th century observations of his own compatriot Danish forbear, Søren Kierkegaard, and America's James Freeman Clarke, in a contemporary idiom:
We [at the Danish Free Press Society] have made no bones about the fact that we consider Islam -- as it is presently being preached by all influential clerics and ideologues -- a deadly threat to all our freedoms among which is freedom of expression. For this consistent stance we have been vilified and called every name in the book, but we will not budge. I'm aware that some of my friends think that Islam can be reformed, domesticated, and civilized. I welcome that day, but must relate to the fact that it hasn't happened yet -- though Muslims have had 1,400 years to complete the project.
In this country one is able to without the slightest risk stand up and pronounce that of course Sharia [Islamic law] will be introduced with everything that it implies in terms of barbaric punishment and repression. One can also, without anyone touching a single hair on one's head, state that immoral women must have stones thrown at their heads until they die, and that Muslims who turn their back on Islam of course must be killed. But if you say or write that this is what Islam is all about then you are guaranteed to be accused of racism, risk criminal prosecution, and -- as we have just witnessed -- attempted murder.
It is worth remembering that Hedegaard's views of Islam were independently validated by the modern research of Danish linguist, and mainstream academic, Tina Magaard. Dr. Magaard -- a Sorbonne-trained linguist specializing in textual anal­ysis -- published detailed research findings in 2005 (summarized in 2007) com­paring the foundational texts of ten major religions. Magaard con­cluded from her hard data-driven analyses:
The texts in Islam distinguish themselves from the texts of other religions by encouraging violence and aggression against people with other religious beliefs to a larger degree [emphasis added]. There are also straightforward calls for terror. This has long been a taboo in the research into Islam, but it is a fact that we need to deal with.
For example, in her 2007 essay "Fjendebilleder og voldsforestillinger i islamiske grundtekster" ["Images of enemies and conceptions of violence in Islamic core scriptures"], Magaard observed,
There are 36 references in the Koran to expressions derived from the root qa-ta-la, which indicates fighting, killing or being killed. The expressions derived from the root ja-ha-da, which the word jihad stems from, are more ambiguous since they mean "to struggle" or "to make an effort" rather than killing. Yet almost all of the references derived from this root are found in stories that leave no room for doubt regarding the violent nature of this struggle. Only a single ja-ha-da reference (29:6) explicitly presents the struggle as an inner, spiritual phenomenon, not as an outwardly (usually military) phenomenon. But this sole reference does not carry much weight against the more than 50 references to actual armed struggle in the Koran, and even more in the Hadith.
My own copiously documented The Legacy of Jihad describes the doctrinal rationale for Islam's sacralized jihad violence, and its historical manifestations, across an uninterrupted continuum from the seventh-century advent of the Muslim creed through the present. Consistent with Magaard's textual analysis, I cite the independent study of Australian linguist and renowned Arabic to English translator Paul Stenhouse, who maintained the root of the word jihad appears forty times in the Koran. With four exceptions, all the other thirty-six usages in the Koran and in subsequent Islamic understanding to both Muslim luminaries -- the greatest jurists and scholars of classical Islam -- and to ordinary people meant and means, as described by the seminal Arabic lexicographer E. W. Lane: "He fought, warred or waged war against unbelievers and the like."
Erudite, honest Danish intellectuals, and academics, spanning 176 years, from Søren Kierkegaard, to, at present, Lars Hedegaard and Tina Magaard, have openly expressed forthright truths about Islam. It is only now, in our sad era, that the free expression of such honest wisdom has been threatened by the mutually abetting totalitarian scourges of cultural relativism, and Islamic supremacism.