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Political suicide

A former South Korean President has jumped off a cliff, partly as a result of a corruption scandal:

Former South Korean president Roh Moo-Hyun, who was at the centre of a multi-million dollar corruption probe, has plunged to his death off a mountainside in an apparent suicide.

Police said they were investigating whether Roh, who was in office from 2003-2008, killed himself on Saturday. A former aide said the ex-leader jumped off a cliff after leaving a suicide note.

Roh, 62, had left home around dawn, accompanied by a bodyguard, and climbed a mountain near his retirement village of Bongha close to the southeast coast.

“He jumped off a rock in the mountain at 6.40am,” former chief presidential secretary Moon Jae-In told journalists.

“He left a short suicide note addressed to his family members.”

Nadine Dorries MP is fearing a suicide at Parliament as a result of the expenses scandal. Although the MPs expense scandal in the UK is shameful and pathetic, it is still in a different league compared with other corruption cases. It would be regrettable if someone took their life for a duck house. Not that you’d think that listening to Radio 5 Live, whose listeners helpfully texted in offers to provide ropes for suicidal MPs.

I don’t have much sympathy for MPs’ plight. Most people in private industry or the public sector, do not get the opportunity to make such ludicrous claims, and if some MPs are ashamed and struggling to reconcile their new public image with the self-image they had developed, tough. However, the public anger does seem to be burning out of control. Yesterday, I heard a Times columnist say that David Aaronovitch had labeled this as the reverse Diana effect. A sort of yin of unthinking hate, to the yang of over-indulgent sorrow we saw then.

Have we left the bounds of justifiable anger and set out on the road to an act of collective madness? There is a chance that Parliament may become a better place as a result of this scandal, that would be preferable to jumping off the cliff with the MPs if we take this too far.

UPDATE: Dave Osler is right to dismiss Dorries’ other claim of McCarthyism.

Fun With Maps

The self-styled Muslim Association of Britain and Palestinian Solidarity Campaign have found a new cause: campaigning against ads for Israeli tourism in London.

Posters have recently appeared in London Underground tube stations advertising Israel as a tourist destination. The map on the advert depicts Israel as incorporating the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

Please write to London Underground, the Advertising Standards Agency and CBS Outdoors – the company which manages the poster sites – asking for the removal of these posters, which deliberately deny the existence of Palestine.


I’m sure the MAB’s and PSC’s next righteous struggle for cartographic accuracy will target groups using logos like these:

Interpal, a British charity linked to Hamas:


The Palestinian Return Centre, a pro-Hamas political group based in London:


And, um, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign itself:


If the MAB and PSC are really ambitious, the campaign could go international, for example by targeting the terrorist groups Palestinian Islamic Jihad and PFLP-GC:



I mean, it’s just a co-incidence that this harassment campaign, sorry, righteous struggle, has started with an Israeli outfit, no?

Many thanks to Venichka, who has tracked down the offending pizza story (Word file) of HP lore.

Unhappy Birthday Morrissey

Today, Morrissey reaches his half century.


So, here’s the very best of birthday wishes to the greatest living British anti-hero.

The mystery of the missing bumf

Guest post by Jon d

I’d been wondering why I’d not received any political bumf from any parties in the run up to the Euro election, not even the famous identity fraud leaflet. I was starting to feel I was being taken for granted by the parties; doesn’t my vote matter to them? Not even to the Tories, whose blood seems to be up in every other part of the nation? The mystery deepened when it turned out none of my friends nearby have had so much as a sniff of a political mailsshot and neither had anyone at the pub quiz received item one of the anticipated blizzard of postal communication from the candidates.

I’m pleased, nay proud to report there’s a rational explanation to the mystery.

Royal Mail workers have refused to deliver British National Party election leaflets as their union accuses Royal Mail of breaking a ‘conscience clause’ allowing staff to refuse to deliver literature they find offensive.

A number of the 160 delivery staff at a postal depot in Macclesfield told bosses they would not distribute the material. Some postal staff in Prestwich, Bury, Glossop, Wilmslow, and Alderley Edge have also objected to delivering the leaflets.

Sian Jones, spokeswoman for the Communication Workers Union said: “At Macclesfield staff were apparently told by delivery depot manager that if they did not deliver the BNP leaflets they would not be allowed to deliver any political leaflets, and so would lose money, as they get extra for delivering them. That is a clear breach of the clause we agreed.”

Ben White sees conspiracy in synagogue bomb plot

This is a guest post by Seismic Shock

Here is Ben White’s take on the alleged plot to blow up a synagogue in New York.

Have a read:

A fully controlled threat to our freedoms
May 21st, 2009
A federal law enforcement official described the plot as “aspirational” — meaning that the suspects wanted to do something but had no weapons or explosives — and described the operation as a sting with a cooperator within the group.

It was fully controlled at all times,” a law enforcement official said.

Ben White thus seemingly admits that those arrested were planning an attack on a synagogue, yet bizarelly titles his post ‘A fully controlled threat to our freedoms.’ So what are ‘our freedoms’ here then? Is this about our freedom to worship in synagogues without fear of terrorist attack, or about our freedom to plot attacks on synagogues so long as we aren’t successful in carrying them out, or don’t actually have explosives? Must the police wait until the crime has been committed before any action is taken?

Surely law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear by the police arresting those demonstrably planning attacks on synagogues. Which makes Ben White’s blog post pretty creepy, does it not?

Perhaps Ben could explain what he meant?

Hate Crimes

This is a guest post by Dave Rich

Today’s post by David T about the murder of Ilan Halimi is one of the most sobering I have read on Harry’s Place for some time.

One of CST’s main functions is to record and analyse antisemitic incidents – hate crimes – that are reported to us here in the UK. Nothing like the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi has happened in this country in living memory and I desperately hope it never does.

The disagreement over whether or not Halimi’s murder was antisemitic revolves around the fact that it can be construed as having both rational and irrational motives. The rational motive is similar to that of a lot of crime: to make money. The irrational motive is what makes it a hate crime: if it was driven by hatred of the victim due to his race, religion, colour, sexuality or other identifiable group label. In crimes like this, some people have a tendency to over-emphasise one motive to the exclusion of the other, when in fact both are often relevant and it is the interplay between them that defines the nature of the crime.

Another example of this is in the news today. Four men have been arrested in New York, accused of trying to bomb a synagogue and a Jewish community centre, as well as to shoot down American military aircraft. The group had been under surveillance by the FBI, who ensured that they did not have real bombs. During this surveillance, one of the defendants told an FBI informant in June 2008 that, because of his family connection to Afghanistan, he was “upset about the war there” and “unhappy that many Muslim people were being killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by the United States Military forces.” Five months later, the same defendant told the same informant: “I hate those motherfuckers, those fucking Jewish bastards…I would like to get a synagogue.”

There are some who will identify his desire to attack American military aircraft as a rational, though misguided and illegitimate, response to his anger over American military activity in Afghanistan: the ‘foreign policy’ explanation for terrorism. Others will explain the attempt to blow up a synagogue as antisemitism, pure and simple. Some may try to elide the two, by assuming that because this person was angry about the war in Afghanistan, he was probably angry about Palestine too, thereby explaining the selection of a synagogue as a target.

Think this is a straw man? Think instead of Mumbai, and the argument put forward that the selection of Chabad House for attack was an anti-Israel act, not an antisemitic one, because the sole surviving terrorist said that it was chosen to avenge Palestinian suffering. What was striking was the effort to grasp at any evidence that the perpetrators of such a horrifically inhumane act, requiring a total absence of human pity or empathy, were rational actors.

There are plenty of examples of people explaining attacks on synagogues, or other Jewish targets, as rational acts: the understandable, though wrong, response of angry people to what they see in Israel/Palestine. Normally, the person ‘understanding’ such attacks is at pains to make clear, quite rightly, that they do not support such acts, just that they are trying to explain them. Here is an example from Ben White, arguing that he is not antisemitic, but that he understands how people can look at Israel and dislike Jews:

The Guardian article…cites a poll undertaken by the Sigmund Freud Institute in Frankfurt, in which thirty-six per cent of participants said they would agree with the statement “I can understand very well that some people are unpleasant towards Jews.” This was taken to indicate an increase in anti-Semitism, since it was a dramatic increase from 20% three years ago.

I was somewhat startled by this, since I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are. There are, in fact, a number of reasons. One is the state of Israel, its ideology of racial supremacy and its subsequent crimes committed against the Palestinians. It is because Zionists have always sought to equate their colonial project with Judaism that some misguidedly respond to what they see on their televisions with attacks on Jews or Jewish property.

I have just provided a by no means comprehensive list of reasons why “I can understand very well that some people are unpleasant towards Jews.” I do not agree with them, but I can understand.

Many people have watched the documented rise in antisemitism in recent years and asked why so much of the anti-racist left has abandoned Jews to face it alone. Even amongst those on this part of the left who acknowledge the rise, there has been much shrugging of shoulders and little solidarity. This is Ken Loach, in Brussels a few weeks ago:

”I know there have been recently statements, or presentations, about the rise in antisemitism. Well, of course we all abhor racism in whatever form, wherever it comes. But nothing has been a greater instigator of antisemitism than the self-proclaimed Jewish state itself. And until we deal with that, until that is acknowledged, then racism, I’m afraid, will be with us.”

In other words, Israel is the cause of antisemitism, and until Israel is sorted out, society will just have to live with the antisemitism.

There is a worrying idea on the anti-Zionist left that what rise there may have been in contemporary antisemitism is the product of a rational thought process, albeit based on wrong information or mistaken interpretation of that information. According to this line of thought, a person gets angry about Israel and, based on their mistaken association of Israel with their local synagogue, or their ignorance of other, better, forms of protest, they go and firebomb the synagogue. It’s a rational thought process, so the thinking goes, certainly wrong but sadly quite common. Similarly, Halimi’s murderers, so the idea goes, were just criminals who wanted money. Based on their mistaken association of Jews with money, they picked a Jew as their victim. Any antisemitism they displayed was merely an aggravating factor in the crime, not its main driver, and certainly not something that should be prioritised for particular concern.

The problem with ascribing rationality to racism is that you deny the hatred and bigotry which forms its central component. Neo-Nazis never get this excuse: when they firebomb a synagogue, everyone knows it is because they hate Jews. Nobody disputes that it is a hate crime, because nobody accepts the neo-Nazis’ starting premise that there is a Jewish conspiracy to destroy the white race through immigration. But if the attackers are perceived to be driven by anger over Israel, then for many anti-Zionists who share that premise – who perhaps hate Israel themselves and recognise the urge to act on that hatred, but would never do so – then the firebombing of a synagogue is a crime, for sure, but not a hate crime; there is no bigotry, just a mistaken politics; no antisemitism, no need for anti-racist solidarity and certainly no need for Zionism and Israel. I am yet to see anyone try to explain the attempted bombing of a synagogue in New York as an understandable, though misguided, expression of anger about Israel. But I won’t be surprised if someone does.

Finally government makes Gurkha response

It is frightening how long this took them to do. The Brown government must have a special unit working on PR gaffes. They take their work very seriously.

Finally, home secretary Jacqui Smith has announced on behalf of the government that all Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 with at least four years’ service will be allowed to settle in the UK. Gordon Brown met Joanna Lumley, who has led the fight so well, as the decision was announced.

10 Downing Street issued this statement: “For many years, the Brigade of Gurkhas have shown bravery, commitment and dedication in serving this country, and continue to do so on operations today.

“This Government has done more for Gurkhas than any other. It was the first Government to grant settlement to Gurkhas and the first to equalise pay and pensions, with over 6,000 former Gurkhas and their families already given the right to live in the UK.  In April we took steps to increase the number of Gurkhas eligible to come to this country by 4,000 or, including families, 10,000 people.

“The House of Commons has now expressed a clear view that all Gurkhas should be entitled to settle in the United Kingdom if that is what they wish.

“This Government respects the will of the House of Commons and recognises the strong feeling and public support for this cause.  Consequently, we have announced today that all former Gurkhas who served for longer than four years will be eligible to apply for settlement in the United Kingdom.  They will also be entitled to bring their spouses and dependent minor children.  There will be no time limit on applications.

“This scheme recognises the unique nature of the service given to the UK by the Brigade of Gurkhas and is offered to them on an exceptional basis.

“We believe that in announcing the new policy today, we have met their concerns and those of Parliament.

Happy 100th Birthday Tel Aviv

I haven’t posted much these last few months because I have been bogged down in my novel and current project – a book on Bernie Madoff. But I thought I would link anyway to my article on Tel Aviv at 100 in the June edition of US Conde Nast Traveler.

It’s more of an essay about the city’s birth, its importance as the centre of modern Hebrew culture and its relationship with neighbouring Jaffa. I tried to trace some of Tel Aviv’s ‘forgotten history’, its absorption of vanished Arab villages, and the now demolished area of Manshiyyeh, that was the border area between Jaffa and Tel Aviv. And I think I have the answer for the Israel-Palestine imbroglio: not two states, but three: Israel, Palestine and Tel Aviv. Viva the Hebrew city state!

A French Daniel Pearl?

The centre-right New Majority has a piece on Ilan Halimi, whose murderers are presently on trial in France.  

A few photos  of Ilan Halimi’s torture by a gang knowns as the Barbarians and lead by Youssouf Fofana have now been leaked to a voyeuristic French magazine, Choc (“Shock”). 

There has been some debate as to whether Halimi’s murder was merely a robbery-gone-wrong with a racist overtone, or whether it was from the very start, a plot to murder a Jew. 

There is no doubt that the Barbarians were racists, however:

 Jean-Christophe G., nicknamed “Zigo,” was one of the “jailers” who took turns guarding Ilan. He was seventeen at the time of the crime. Zigo has admitted to putting out a joint on Ilan’s forehead. One of his fellow “jailers” is reported to have explained the gesture by the fact that Zigo didn’t like “feujs” (Le Monde, 21 March 2006). Feuj is French slang for “Jew.” Fofana himself, moreover, has made no secret of his anti-Semitism. For example, when questioned by investigative judge Baudouin Thouvenot, Fofana is reported to have expressed a preference for Thouvenot’s colleague Corinne Goetzmann. “I like you a lot,” Fofana told Thouvenot, “But I prefer Madame Goetzmann, because she’s a Jew and I prefer to deal with my enemies face to face rather than via an intermediary” (L’Express, 23 January 2008). Such remarks have been dismissed by French media commentators as an “act.”

It is also well known that Youssouf Fofana had declared an interest in hunting down a Jew, and had made various attempt to capture other Jews. The widely reported rationale for catching a Jew was said to be Fofana’s belief that Jews were wealthy, and therefore would be rich pickings, and good hostages. 

That is, of course, an intrinsically racist reason for choosing a Jew as your victim. Nevertheless, in minimal sense, pure greed might be said to be a mitigating factor. Youssouf Fofana’s motivation, it has been argued, was to make money: the choice of target was informed by a racist belief in the wealth of Jews. 

The thesis of the New Majority article is that Halimi’s Jewishness was not incidental, in this sense. Rather, it is argued, Youssouf Fofana is a murderous antisemite who specifically set out to torture and murder a Jew, as an end in itself. Moreover, the way that Halimi was photographed and recorded, indicates that Fofana sought to re-enact the murder of Daniel Pearl. 


Here is the argument:

Under the title “An Anti-Semitic Crime: Same Scenario, Same Target”, Choc usefully juxtaposes the photo of Ilan Halimi with three photos of Daniel Pearl in captivity. What the juxtaposition reveals is that the Halimi photo is a kind of composite of the Pearl photos. The newspaper as proof of date, the bound hands, the pistol emerging from outside the frame, the background drape: all these elements are present as well in the Pearl photos. The only major differences are the tape around the head and the bloodied nose. 

In her recently published memoir “24 Days” [24 jours], Ilan’s mother Ruth recalls that the kidnappers also dispatched an audio cassette. On it, Ilan can be heard saying the following: “I am Ilan. Ilan Halimi. I am the son of Halimi Didier and of Halimi Ruth. I am Jewish. I am being held hostage.” “How could one not think of Daniel Pearl, who was forced, like Ilan, to recite…that he was a Jew?” Ruth Halimi comments. 

Moreover, the macabre parallels continued, in effect, right to the end. It is Youssouf Fofana himself who is alleged to have stabbed Ilan and set him on fire on the day of his “release” south of Paris. According to the deposition of Samir Ait Abdelmalek, one of Fofana’s lieutenants, Fofana told Abdelmalik that after stabbing Ilan twice in the throat, he in fact then tried to “cut his neck” (Le Monde, 21 March 2006).

New Majority reports that Choc has now under investigation, for reporting this matter, by the public prosecutor with the support of Ilan Halimi’s mother.  

I can understand that Mrs Halimi might very well be mortified by the release of these images in a magazine whose name indicates that its mission is the peddling of horror-porn. 

Now, it might be argued that the similarities are incidental. The pointing of guns, the use of newspapers, the binding of the hands are common to many kidnappings and murders: not just that of Daniel Pearl. But the format of the taped ‘confession’?  I am now finding it increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that Ilan Halimi’s death was not a robbery that ended in the murder of a Jew, but a plot to murder a Jew, simpliciter.

o noes!!!!

Nothing British About the BNP reports:

So Nick Griffin has wangled a ticket from his friend, London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook, to join the 8,000 people invited to the Buckingham Palace Garden Party this summer.

It’s a grim reminder of what’s in store if the BNP win seats in next month’s Euro elections.

No one should be fooled by the BNP’s hollow re-branding. Racists in top hats and tail-coats are still racists. There’s no room at Buckingham Palace for the leader of party that wants to deport British people because of their skin colour.

Poor Queenie!