Saturday, August 27, 2011

You Can't Say That!

"The ugly cry of anti-Semitism is the bludgeon used by the Zionists to bully non-Jews into accepting the Zionist view of world events, or to keep silent." Harold R. Piety

The Centre for Independent Studies (self-described as "Australia's leading independent policy think tank") held their 2011 "Big Ideas Forum" on August 1. Dubbed You Can't Say That: Freedom of Speech and the Invisible Muzzle (the muzzle being political correctness), the forum, or at least 3 of its 4 speakers, raised the issue of Islam and/or Islamophobia, which they felt was a terribly pc word primarily wielded to shut down what they characterised as legitimate 'debate' on Islam and Muslim immigration. Curiously, 2 of the 3 with Muslims on their minds had nothing to say about another term so often wielded to silence debate on Israel and its crimes: anti-Semitism. The third, however, was not quite so circumspect. Of him, later.

The first speaker, James Allan, a law professor from the University of Queensland, grew most animated on the subject of the infamous Danish cartoons (See my 21/2/08 post A Thorn Among Roses):

"The second factor [in promoting pc] is fear and a good example of that is the Danish cartoons about Muhammad and the absolutely spineless response that was exhibited by the press around the world. They knew that a very small slice of Muslim extremists deliver on their threats... they do actually create murderous mayhem. So in response to these Danish cartoons these newspapers took the path of least resistance. My view... is that there's one proper response to bullying. It's when you stand up [to them, even if] you go down fighting. You make the stakes so high you're going to do nothing else but look the person in the face. You might lose but you go down fighting. It's the only response to bullying. I think that every newspaper in the world should have put the cartoons on the front page."

While Allan didn't mention the word Islamophobia, one can perhaps infer his attitude towards the term. Certainly, the uses and abuses of its counterpart, anti-Semitism, went unremarked. Which, I suppose, is not all that surprising from someone who took the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) to task in the May 2011 issue of Quadrant for its "single-minded focus" on Israel.

The second speaker, columnist for The Australian Janet Albrechtsen, was terribly hurt because "[i]n the last few weeks some on the left claim that those who have raised questions about multiculturalism, immigration and the relationship between Islam and modernity have blood on our hands. I say 'our hands' because I've been named as someone who bears responsibility for what happened in Oslo."

This was "murder used as a muzzle," she wailed, "to close down free speech or even worse, to stifle general inquiry or independent thinking."

Albrechtsen then went on to lament those who played "the victim game":

"It's been fueled by 2 recent developments," she said. "We now live in an age when feelings are treated as a measure of moral values so that you measure feelings against those of another to determine morality. Hence we live in what author Monica Ali calls 'the market place of outrage' where groups vie for victimhood status, each claiming their feelings have been hurt more than others."

Not a whisper of course about what author Tova Reich (If Albrechtsen can trot them out, why can't I?) referred to in her brilliant satirical, highly politically incorrect novel My Holocaust as "the pioneering work of the Jewish people in the creative and conceptual uses of victimhood and survivorship and Holocausts, a stellar acheivement, truly - memorials and museums across the globe as a reward for your persecution, reparations and restitution, and finally, the greatest prize of all, a country of your own." (2007, p 247)

But the climax of Albrechtsen's speech was her truly hilarious use of the opera metaphor to expose the heavy weapon deployed by the Muslim hordes as they cut their swathe through the late, great continent of Europe - Islamophobia:

"Now over the last few years we've witnessed what has been a familiar opera of Muslim oppression used to shut down debate on this front. The 1st act starts with something simple, perhaps it's a book called Satanic Verses or a silly Danish cartoon or a film called Submission... Then comes the libretto. Muslims... scream about hurt feelings. The drama builds in this 2nd act. Death threats are issued, flags and a few effigies are burnt, and maybe even a few boycotts imposed, and then we hear that great aria of all accusations, Islamophobia. The 3rd act is of course the most depressing. The west capitulates, preferring the path of least resistance to launching a staunch defence of freedom of expression..."

Now if I'd been part of the Q&A which followed the speeches, my question to Planet Janet could only have been: 'Janet, mein Liebling walkure, a question about opera if I may. If ze libretto comes between ze first and ze second acts, what, pray, comes between ze second and ze third acts?'

Of course, Planet Janet, whose bread is buttered daily by Rupert Murdoch and whose 2008 trip to Israel, courtesy of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, knocked her in the aisles, would never dream of characterising the false accusation of anti-Semitism as "that great aria of all accusations." Nor, I'm sure, could she bring herself to agree with former Knesset speaker and World Zionist Organisation head Avraham Burg that there's really no business like Shoah business:

"We have pulled the Shoah out of its historical context and turned it into a plea and generator for every deed. All is compared to the Shoah, dwarfed by the Shoah, and therefore all is allowed - be it fences, sieges... curfews, food and water deprivation or unexplained killings. All is permitted because we have been through the Shoah and you will not tell us how to behave." (The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from Its Ashes, 2008)

The third speaker, Thilo Sarrazin, former Bundesbanker, senior member of Germany's Social Democratic Party, and author (Germany Abolishes Itself), had, he said, isolated "13 themes which constitute the main body of pc in Germany." "Islam is a religion of peace," was number 6 on his (hit) list. "Those who see any problems with immigration from Islamic countries are guilty of Islamophobia," he explained.

Thus far, the forum had gone according to plan. Muslim-bashing, under the rubric of free speech, is par for the course for right-wing think-tankers who fancy Israel as some sort of bastion of Western values valiantly holding out against a supposed rising tide of Musim fanaticism from the East.

But then Sarrazin threw caution to the winds, venturing where neither Allan nor Albrechtsen before him had gone: "This is nearly as bad as anti-Semitism."

He said, Whaaat?

Can you imagine the collective gasp of disbelief, the mighty swivelling of eyeballs, and the Did he just say what I thought he said? whisperings?

All present, however, kept their cool. Planet Janet, seated next to old loose lips, made no lunge with a chloroform-soaked cloth, and no one in the audience raised the matter in the Q&A session which followed. In fact, PJ had been exceedingly protective of Thilo in her address, having railed that "[t]he other tactic [used to bludgeon free speech] is to quietly exclude certain people from national discourse. We've seen that in Australia just in the last few days with Thilo, so perhaps it's appropriate that I quote a German word, toshwiktaktik (?), and to be toshed is to be subjected to death by silence. Books, ideas and people who challenge the status quo are simply ignored. No, the ABC has not interviewed Thilo. Nor has the Sydney Morning Herald or any of the Fairfax newspapers."

Nor, PJ, has your very own paper, The Australian. Is it too muzzling poor old Thilo?

Notice that PJ is mum on why Sarrazin's's being toshed? Has she too been muzzled? Is she muzzling herself?

Of course, Sarrazin's toshing stems from an interview he gave last year in which he said that "Jews carry a 'particular gene' that sets them apart from all other nations." (German banker: I'm a man of numbers, not anti-Semite,, 30/8/10)

This caused quite a stir in Germany, with the German government eventually removing him from the Bundesbank and the SPD agreeing to keep him on only after an apology.

But the interesting thing here was not Sarrazin's tosh about genetics but, as Israel's ynet news put it:

"Central Bank executive Thilo Sarrazin spreads anti-Muslim messages on every stage, but only when he speaks against Jews does political establishment unite against him." (ibid)

Not that, given the all-pervasive racism of Israeli society, Sarrazin's statement about Jews upset too many Israelis - as a number of the comments from Israeli Jews in the thread following the ynet report attest:

"Sarrazin has previously said many favorable things about Jews, and this particular statement appears to be correct. He is also spot-on re the Muslim immigration in Germany." Tahl, Ashdod

"Sorry, but the German Banker didn't say anything wrong... The fact is that we, Jews, are the Chosen Nation of G-d and are meant to be different..." Shalom

"Sarrazin is right!!! What is the big deal???... We Jews do have genes in common which set us apart... Kohanim have even more genetics in common. I think the head of the Jewish community blew this out of all proportion." Chaya, Tel Aviv

No, the invisible muzzle which Albrechtsen and her CIS friends (including Sarrazin) refuse to acknowledge is not Islamophobia but the bludgeon of anti-Semitism wielded against legitimate and necessary criticism of apartheid Israel. The CIS couldn't have chosen a better title than You Can't Say That.

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