Antagonists: Professor Geoffrey Alderman and Tom Watson.
Tom Watson deserves censure – indeed, expulsion – from the Labour Party for his role in accusing innocent members of anti-Semitism – but he doesn’t deserve it for correctly quoting scripture.
It seems that a professor of Jewish history, Geoffrey Alderman, has made an official complaint against Mr Watson about the Labour deputy leader’s Easter message:
In his Easter 2019 “message” to his followers, Mr Tom Watson MP referred to the arrest of Jesus of Nazareth. Specifically, he said that Jesus was arrested by “a squad of Roman soldiers under the direction of a servant to the High Priest.”
The allegation that Jews were Christ-killers, implicated in if not actually responsible for the death of Jesus, is widely regarded as the oldest antisemitic trope.
This is interesting, because scripture itself is very clear on the subject – that the Jewish priesthood of the day were expected to betray Jesus as it would fulfil prophecy, but they were not empowered to kill him.
All four Gospels state that Jesus was arrested by order of the Jewish priesthood of the day. Consider Matthew 26:47*:
“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared; with him was a great crowd armed with swords and cudgels, sent by the chief priests and the elders of the nation.”
And at Matthew 26:51 we may read:
“At that moment one of those with Jesus reached for his sword and drew it, and he struck at the High Priest’s servant and cut off his ear.”
It goes on to say that Jesus was led off, under arrest, to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest, where the chief priests and the whole Council “tried to find some allegation against Jesus on which a death-sentence could be based; but they failed to find one, though many came forward with false evidence. Eventually they settled on blasphemy.
Mark tells the same story in chapter 14: 43-64.
It is in Luke, chapter 22: 47-53, 66-71.
And it is in John, chapter 18: 3-14, 19-24, 29-32.
Maybe this part of the Christian story has been used to raise anti-Jewish sentiment in the past. It is also possible that it was concocted when Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire, for political reasons.
But my experience is that any such animosity, if it did exist, has long since been dropped.
In any case, I would be very interested to see Professor Alderman’s evidence to show that the story didn’t happen as described in the Bible. What historical records can he produce?
I attended a church school – Anglican – and we were taught to respect people who belonged to other religions; not to attribute the sins of their fathers (for want of a better phrase) upon them; and also that “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword”.
My Religious Education class visited a synagogue (and a mosque, come to that) to learn about other beliefs. It was never suggested to us that this story was the “oldest antisemitic trope”. If it was, I would say it had been laid to rest.
So I find it extremely strange that Professor Alderman wants to resurrect it.
If anything, it seems that he is trying to create an anti-Christian spin on it.
I certainly hope that none of his fellows in the Jewish religion follow this bad example.
Tom Watson is a wrong ‘un, no doubt. But to demonise him by trying to stir up animosity between Jews and Christians is completely unacceptable and I hope everyone of both religions condemns his words.
*All Biblical quotes are from my old copy of the New English Bible.
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Jacob Rees-Mogg and his nanny: The parents should take the blame.
Remember Tory darling Jacob Rees-Mogg’s appearance on Good Morning Britain, when he tried to justify his opposition to gay marriage and abortion – even in cases where pregnancy has occurred after rape – by referring to his Catholic Christian values?
Here’s the clip again:
Well, Iain Rowan of Sunderland had the perfect answer.
Writing in a newspaper (the name of which I don’t know because it isn’t mentioned in the following tweet, he stated:
For clarity, that’s: “Rees-Mogg justifies his opposition to gay marriage and abortion even in cases of rape on the basis of his Christian beliefs (Report, 7 September). So where is his opposition to welfare cuts on the grounds that Jesus went out of his way to demonstrate his compassion for the poor and the lame? When Jesus says ‘blessed are the peacemakers’, how does that fit with Rees-Mogg’s consistently voting for military intervention? Where are his statements on executive pay, reminding other MPs that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven? I thought being a committed Christian meant following the teachings of Jesus, rather than standing at the pick-and-mix counter in a sweetshop, only choosing the fizzy snakes.”
Strong words – and accurate.
And you know what?
If you take them from “Where is his opposition to welfare cuts”, they could be used to apply just as easily to that other well-known Tory “Christian” – Theresa May.
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Richard Page says televised remarks opposing gay adoption stemmed from his Christian faith [Image: Matthew Walker/SWNS.com].
It is interesting that Richard Page’s claim to have suffered religious discrimination over his Christianity follows Theresa May’s claim that her own Christian beliefs are informing her conduct regarding Brexit.
This Writer’s opinion is that it is right that Mr Page should have been sacked as a magistrate and as a director of an NHS trust if he was allowing his religious bias to override the value of the evidence that was put before him, as he carried out those roles.
This story raises the following question, then (let’s run it as a poll):
A former director of an NHS trust is suing Jeremy Hunt for religious discrimination after he was effectively barred from applying for positions following his public opposition to gay adoption.
Richard Page has lodged a claim at the employment tribunal, saying his televised comments in 2015 that it was in the best interests of a child to have a mother and father stemmed from his Christian faith.
His remarks led to him being sacked as a magistrate in March for serious misconduct, after 15 years on the bench. Two years earlier, the lord chancellor and lord chief justice reprimanded Page after finding his religious beliefs, rather than evidence, had influenced his decisions during a family court hearing.
Page, 70, was also a non-executive director at the Kent and Medway NHS and social care partnership trust. In March, following a complaint by the trust’s LGBT staff network, Page was suspended for the final three months of his four-year term in office.
In August, the NHS Termination of Appointments Panel told Page “it was not in the interests of the health service for you to serve as a non-executive director in the NHS”, in effect barring him from applying for directorships in the future.
Page, a former NHS manager from Headcorn, Kent, is bringing a claim against the health secretary and NHS Improvement, which has the power to appoint non-executive directors. He is pursuing a similar case against the lord chancellor over his sacking as a magistrate.
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity will be holding a mass demonstration against the government’s austerity measures on Wednesday (July 8) – which is when George Osborne is set to deliver his benefits-bashing ’emergency’ budget.
They have invited Maggie Zolobajluk, who organised the petition in support of my bid to find out how many people have died while claiming sickness/disability benefits, to speak – but not me.
Maggie kindly asked me if I would be able to make it to London and speak instead of her – and I’d love to – but I don’t think it’s possible. The distance is too great, and I can’t justify being away from Mrs Mike – and also the blog, on a day that will affect the way the UK develops for the foreseeable future.
I started drafting out a few words for her to deliver on my behalf – but they turned into a full-blown speech instead. I ended up writing far too much – so, rather than ask her to say it, I’m publishing it here instead.
A previous demonstration, staged by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in 2014.
I am neither sick, nor disabled – but I choose to side with the sick and disabled against oppression.
It isn’t an entirely altruistic choice. Mrs Mike – as she is known on my blog, Vox Political – has been ill for many years, and we have fought battle after battle with the Department for Work and Pensions over the benefits to which she is entitled.
You’re probably sick of hearing the famous verse by Pastor Martin Niemoller, but he was right. Who’s going to stand up for me, if I don’t stand up for other people first?
Mrs Mike and I are used to winning those battles, and I wonder how much of that success is due to the fact that I am able-bodied. Think about it – if you are battling constant pain, or are a victim of depression, or your condition fluctuates so you simply don’t know if you’ll be able to get out of bed in the morning, or you have any number of the other maladies that may affect the sick or disabled – then the last thing you’ll want to do is argue over tiny details with a gang of suited pedants in Whitehall.
Additionally, these pedants have employed private contractors to make sure they judge the severity of a person’s sickness using information that is wrong.
If you’re sick, or disabled, the pressure can be too much to bear. And not every sick or disabled person has an able-bodied partner like me to take up the slack.
So, inevitably, the worst happens.
Only last weekend I learned about Graham Shawcross, of Manchester. Mr Shawcross had lived – and worked – with Addison’s Disease for 40 years before having to claim sickness benefit. It is a potentially fatal condition whose symptoms include exhaustion, muscle weakness, dizziness, fainting and cramps that can lead to adrenal crisis, which can be fatal. But that isn’t what killed him!
No – Mr Shawcross died of a heart attack in February, after being ruled “fit for work” by the DWP in November last year. He had been preparing to present an appeal against the decision – writing out the details several times a day, and talking about it constantly.
His widow said the stress of having to do this – stress that was created by, and only by, the DWP’s “fit for work” decision – was what killed him.
You should be aware that the DWP says it is “irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim”, and “mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher than those among the general population”. We’ve seen that comment in the newspapers very often over the last few weeks.
It’s a statement that falls flat when the DWP’s own position is that the individual was “fit for work” at the time of his death.
Months after Mr Shawcross passed away – and despite being told this had happened by his widow – the DWP initially invited him to an appeal hearing, and then admitted he was seriously ill and deserved Employment and Support Allowance.
It’s a bit late for that now!
How many other benefit denials have been reversed after the claimant has died?
We don’t know – but it’s the subject of my next Freedom of Information request!
The man responsible for this regime, Iain Duncan Smith, is said to be religious so he should understand me when I say people claiming benefit must feel as though they have been crucified by their physical or mental ill-health. Instead of offering relief, Mr Duncan Smith and his department complete the job with a ‘crown of forms’ that push them into an early grave.
One has to question the morality of a supposed Christian who approves of crucifixion!
But then, it seems even leading members of the Catholic Church to which he belongs have tried pleading with him to alter the fatal direction of his policies – there was an article to that effect in the most recent edition of Catholic newspaper The Tablet.
But government ministers say it is “irresponsible” to claim that the benefit assessment system had anything to do with the death.
I wonder if they’ll say that to Mrs Shawcross, who is adamant that the system is what killed her husband. That would be a conversation worth hearing!
I first became concerned about the number of people who were dying while claiming benefits when the DWP itself revealed that 10,600 deaths had occurred between January and November 2011. Note that the official figures did not include December, which is considered to be a season of increased suicides.
This concern became alarm after I learned that Freedom of Information requests by other individuals, calling for updated figures, had been refused for no reason other than that the 2011 statistics had been part of an ‘ad-hoc’, one-off, release.
So I sent off a request, and asked readers of the blog to support it with requests of their own – to show that it was a matter of wider public concern. Only 23 did, but that was enough for the DWP to refuse me on the grounds that I was being “vexatious” – trying to flood the Department with work.
I’m still not sure how that claim can be justified. It’s the same information – all they had to do was put it together and send it off to the people who wanted it. It seems that creating a mailing list of email addresses is too much for a government department with more than 100,000 employees.
The tribunal that turned down my appeal did express considerable sympathy for my position, and suggested that another FoI request should result in publication of the statistics. So I wrote another one.
I won’t go into the details – it’s enough for you to know that, after several months of fighting with the DWP, I won.
The DWP then chose to take the matter to a tribunal, employing an expensive Treasury barrister to make out the case. It seems that, while Freedom of Information requests cannot cost more than £600 – that’s the legal limit – the government can spend as much of your money as it likes, if it wants to withhold the facts.
That’s when Maggie Zolobajluk started her petition, calling on the tribunal to refuse the appeal.
Now, instead of 23 supporters, my request has 230,000.
So David Cameron told Parliament that the figures will be published. What he didn’t tell Parliament was that they would be homogenised, amortised, Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, that show the deaths as a ratio compared with the death rate amongst the wider population – and he certainly won’t tell anyone how many people have died while claiming sickness and disability benefits since November 2011.
And now the Justice Secretary is trying to make it harder for Freedom of Information requests to succeed. It seems the embarrassment they cause is just too much for the administration that once said it intended to be the most open government ever.
Michael Gove wants to include “thinking time” in the cost of handling FoI requests.
What does that even mean?
Parliament’s Justice Select Committee has already stated that including “thinking time” in FoI costs would introduce an unwelcome variable into the system, which relies on everyone having equal access to the facts. The cost of “thinking time” would depend on the abilities of the civil servant dealing with the request.
Not only that, but we should ask what “thinking” has to do with it in any case. When a request is made under the Freedom of Information Act, the only questions a public authority may ask are whether it has the information and can publish it within the £600 cost limit. Questions about – for example – the motives behind the request are immaterial.
What are we to conclude?
That we have a government that intentionally complicates benefit claims for the sick and disabled.
That people who might live decent and, in many ways, productive lives are having those lives cut short because of goverment policy.
That the government does not want the wider population of the UK to know the true number of deaths.
That the government wants to shut down the Freedom of Information system so inconvenient questions like this can no longer be asked.
In short, that the government wants to smother any attempt to question it.
Too many sick and disabled people have been smothered already.
Laughing at the law-abiding: IS militants at a captured checkpoint in northern Iraq [Image: AFP/Getty].
David Cameron has no strategy to protect Christians who are threatened by violent religious groups like IS, and his policy is determined by the “loudest media voice”, according to the Church of England.
There’s no arguing with it. A letter from the Bishop of Leeds, Nicholas Baines, endorsed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, points out that Cameron’s UK has turned its back on the suffering of tens of thousands of Christians fleeing IS jihadists in Mosul, Iraq’s second city, while the government responded promptly to reports of Yazidis trapped on Mt Sinjar.
The letter also condemns Cameron’s failure to offer sanctuary to Iraqi Christians who have been driven from their homes, when the French and Germans have already done so. Parliamentary questions tabled last month to find out whether the UK intends to offer asylum to Iraqi Christians have lain unanswered. Perhaps this is a political decision as Cameron thinks more foreigners coming here will push up support for UKIP; if so, that would support the Church’s view that he is reacting to the media, rather than following his own policy.
In fact, Cameron’s approach is becoming clearer. He wants to involve us in another war.
But, burned by his defeat in Parliament last year over Syria, he is taking a ‘softly, softly’ approach.
“He warns that Britain will have to use its ‘military prowess’ to help defeat ‘this exceptionally dangerous’ movement, or else terrorists with ‘murderous intent’ will target people in Britain,” the Telegraph report states.
Didn’t Tony Blair also use the possibility of a threat to the UK to cajole Britain into supporting the last round of wars in the Middle East? The antagonist may change but it seems the script does not.
In fact it is true that something must be done about IS. A lawless gang of murderers is setting up a lawless state in parts of Iraq and Syria that have been weakened by wars we either fought or did nothing to prevent – and fears that they could radicalise gullible Brits and send them home to carry out terrorist acts on our soil are real.
What is needed is a co-ordinated response from all law-abiding powers – not just in the west but Middle-Eastern countries and others. IS is the political equivalent of a rabid animal; its members don’t care who they attack, as long as they cause maximum harm, and every country in the world should be aware of this.
Cameron potters around the edges instead, following the same plan the UK always uses.
We could have sorted out these problems before withdrawing from Iraq a few years ago. We could have done it in the 1990s, after the first Gulf War. We could have sorted them out at any time before then – and with greater ease, but that does not suit a western industrial complex that is geared towards perpetuating warfare.
Cameron’s attitude is media-driven. His defeat over Syria has led him to revise his strategy, waiting for public opinion to be swayed by media reports of the bloodshed taking place abroad, stoked by fears that it could happen here in Blighty. When the public is supportive again, he can announce action – but only just enough action to keep the Middle Eastern countries at odds with each other, making further military conflicts inevitable.
Today, it seems he has decided he can act, if comments like “we need a firm security response, whether that is military action to go after the terrorists, international co-operation on intelligence and counter-terrorism or uncompromising action against terrorists at home” are to be believed.
Cameron also wrote that this is a “struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology, which I believe we will be fighting for the rest of my political lifetime.”
His political lifetime will end in May 2015, so he’s right about that.
It seems his evil strategy for the Middle East will continue to affect the region long after the end of his physical lifetime, too.
Face the facts: David Cameron has been sucking up to Hindus, Jews and now Christians because he wants religious people to vote for his Conservatives – in the same way Satan, the great deceiver, tries to lure the righteous into sin. If he worships any religious figure, it is Mammon, the personification of greed.
Perhaps he’s had a breakdown in the wake of the Maria Miller scandal.
Visiting Christian leaders were no doubt amazed to hear the leader of the most evil British government in decades telling them he has been doing “God’s work”.
David Cameron told them his Big Society concept – the vain attempt to get volunteers to do for free what public sector workers did before he sacked them all – was invented by Jesus of Nazareth, in Roman-era Israel.
If you think that’s a warped vision of Christianity, try this: He said, “Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world. We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”
Trying to start another war, David?
He won’t be fighting the Jews, it seems. Only last month he delivered a strongly pro-Jewish speech to the Israeli Knesset (their Parliament), supporting the religious slaughter of animals to make Kosher meat (in the face of calls for more humane methods) and rejecting calls to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements like the occupied West Bank.
He even mentioned the fact that he had a Jewish great-great grandfather, although the Daily Mail reported, “he made no mention of reports that he may be descended from Moses”.
Cameron has also prostituted himself for the Hindu vote.
But let’s get back to his claim that his policies come from Christ himself. On the day Cameron finally accepted Mrs Miller’s resignation, he had nothing to say about the choice of music accompanying his Easter reception in Downing Street (Ave Maria). Instead, he told Church leaders that, if they believe there are obstacles preventing them from doing more to support his failed pet project, they should think of him as “a giant Dyno-Rod”.
And why not?
If anything in this country deserves to be flung down a drain, it’s David Cameron.
Vox Political deplores the manipulation of religion for political ends
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You may have noticed that yesterday was Christmas – the day when Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, whose teachings in later life form the basis of their faith.
Jesus was born into a world of politics and political machinations – the Roman world was much the same as our own in this respect – and had an effect on it, right from his birth.
According to one of the Gospels, when King Herod learned that a child had been born who had been named ‘King of the Jews’, he sent spies to find out who this possible usurper was; failing in this attempt, he gave orders for the death of all boys aged two or less in Bethlehem and nearby.
Joseph (husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother) was warned in a dream that Herod intended to kill Jesus, so the family fled to Egypt until after the King’s death – then moved to Nazareth in Galilee to avoid living under Herod’s son Archelaus (the Romans had divided the kingdom into three, and Nazareth was ruled by another of Herod’s sons, Herod Antipas).
Regarding the Massacre of the Innocents, doubt has been cast on whether the event ever took place. No other account of the period makes reference to it. Some have said that this may be because the number of male children of the right age might have been less than 20.
Since the point of this article is to compare what happened then with current events, here in Britain, it seems best to bookmark the disputed event; we’ll come back to it if we must.
The part we are told under no uncertain terms is that Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt until Herod’s rule was over. In modern terms, they were made homeless because of political persecution that was so extreme, they had to flee the country.
The situation in the UK today, as stated by Shelter, is no less than 80,000 times as bad.
The charity told us (in November): “Government figures show that 80,000 children in Britain will be homeless this Christmas.”
Vox Political said then that government policies had caused the dramatic rise: “The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.” This blog had warned that this would happen, as long ago as January.
In contrast with the Bible story, in which the family fled to safety, most homeless families interviewed by Shelter said they felt more unsafe, witnessing violence, sexual offences, drug use and dealing.
This is more than 2,000 years after the Biblical incident; civilisation is supposed to have improved over that time. Why are we allowing our government to do this to our children on such a massively more widespread scale?
Perhaps we can take some small comfort from Herod’s fate. Modern medicine suggests he had chronic kidney failure, complicated by Fourier’s gangrene – but let us see how it was described at the time. The historian Josephus – in Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6, Verse 5 – describes the disease that killed him shortly after he set out to murder Jesus: “a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also ex-ulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, further, his privy-member was putrefied, and produced worms; and when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endued with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the king on account of his great impiety.”
Eric Pickles, Iain Duncan Smith, and above all David Cameron, beware.
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I wasn’t going to mention this, but some commenters on this blog have already done so, and in that case I would rather have my opinion registered than leave people guessing.
It is too early to tell why two men drove a car into a third – who is believed to have been a serving soldier – then got out and attacked him with machetes – or at the very least, large bladed objects – dragged him into the road, and then danced around shouting admittedly Muslim-style slogans or got passers-by to film speeches they made about why they did it.
However, a friend of mine – who has been a member of the armed forces in the past – was so affected by what happened that he posted a message on Facebook to the effect that he wanted all Muslims killed.
This is what such attacks achieve. They don’t solve anything; they just perpetuate the misery.
I do not sympathise with my friend’s point of view. Even if this was the work of Muslims, those two people do not speak for all of Islam. I have encountered many Muslims during what is still a relatively brief life; some I have been privileged to have been able to call friends. I’ve also known several Jewish people whose company was also a delight. And earlier this week I attended a Catholic religious ceremony (a funeral) and felt very welcome.
My point? All these faiths are about peace.
A man standing on the street with bloodstained hands, telling us that women in his country have had to witness worse than what he has just done, has nothing to do with peace – and therefore nothing to do with religion.
It’s a trick, you see – pointing you in one direction so you don’t see what’s been happening in the other. Politicians do it all the time – and if you don’t think so, consider the UK Statistics Authority and its assertions about the number of times Iain Duncan Smith has parted company with the facts.
What happened in Woolwich was not rooted in religion; it was about violent crime, which is something that all religions abhor.
But it seems to me that, until we can eliminate the religious rhetoric, from all versions of what is going on, we are all – Christian, Muslim, whatever denomination we may be – going to have the hardest time bringing the murderers, and the murderers who demand the murders, to justice.
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