Brussels Journal has a posting on how Belgian authorities have given permission for a march sponsored by United for Truth protesting Bush’s involvement in 9-11, but not for one against the imposition of Sharia in Europe. The reasoning:
Unlike the anti-Sharia demonstration, planned to be held next September 11 in Brussels, the “9/9 United for Truth” demonstration of September 9 has been authorized by the Brussels authorities. Last week the Brussels mayor, Freddy Thielemans, banned the anti-Sharia demonstration because he fears it will upset the Muslim inhabitants of Brussels.
It is a favorite trope of the “progressives” to claim that they are courageous because they “speak truth to power,” or as a French journalist said to me in 2003 while France was protesting the American threat to invade Iraq, “Courage is resisting the powerful, and right now, America is the most powerful.” This goes to the heart of our current dilemma. The most powerful today – the US in the world, Israel in the Middle East – are also the most tolerant of criticism. So any American can say Bush was involved in 9-11 — including congressmen — and at worst, suffer criticism from others. Similarly, a journalist can compare Israel to the Nazis or South African apartheid and still operate freely in Israel. But try criticizing Muslims and you get real problems.
The mayor’s response is reminiscent of the British journalist’s association that gave their annual prize to a disgusting political cartoon showing Ariel Sharon in a Goya-like pose devouring (not his own children as the Goya original depicted) but Palestinian children. Unvarnished blood libel (Sharon’s sure doing it on purpose). When confronted by Martin Himel in the movie: Jenin: Massacring the Truth, with why Arafat wasn’t also in the cartoon, the Peter Benson, head of the British editorial cartoonists’ society which honoured the Independent‘s Sharon-eating-babies cartoon responded:
Himel: My question to you is, why, in all these paintings [sic] don’t we see Sharon and Arafat eating babies?
Benson: Maybe Jews don’t issue fatwas.
Himel: What do you mean by that?
Benson: Well, if you upset an Islamic or Muslim group, um, as you know, fatwas can be issued by Ayatollahs and such, like, and maybe it’s at the back of each cartoonist’s mind, that they could be in trouble if they do so.
Himel: If they do what?
Benson: If they depict, uh, say, an Arab leader in the same manner.
Himel: Then they could suffer?
Benson: Then they could suffer death, couldn’t they? Which is rather different.
Benson is grinning throughout this section of the interview.
And of course, he is right. When the Jews and Israelis objected vehemently to this blood libel, the response was contemptuous dismissal. Wrote one journalist:
“the accusation of anti-Semitism is also a favourite weapon of those who wish to suppress debate on the measures Israel takes in the occupied territories.”
Wrote a member of Parliament:
The labelling as anti-Semitic of Dave Brown’s cartoon, which depicted the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a naked, child-eating ogre, was entirely spurious – but entirely predictable. Nor is it surprising that the lynch-mob was led by the Israeli embassy in London, once a respected diplomatic mission, but now the instrument of Israel’s worst- ever Foreign Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
Then, when he received the award for the best political cartoon of the year, Brown “thanked the Israeli embassy in Britain for increasing the cartoon’s publicity by its angry reaction.” So apparently the lynch mob didn’t really lynch… illustrating the weak hold that some British analysts have over the difference between metaphor and carnal reality… “it’s not meant to be taken literally, it’s meant to refer allegorically to everybody in the Zionist business.”
But when it comes to real violence, these people have no problem distinguishing metaphorical from real lynch mobs. The full measure of the cowardice and hypocrisy of this affair came out two year’s later with the publication of the Muhammad cartoons and the really violent response of Muslims. The selfsame Independent which showed it could stand up to the Jewish mafia, all of a sudden found that politeness and concern for hurt feelings of Muslims trumped independence.
…while we `defend Jyllands-Posten’s right to publish, we also question its editorial judgement. It is not a decision we intend to emulate…There is no merit in causing gratuitous offence, as these cartoons undoubtedly do. We believe it is possible to demonstrate our commitment to the principle of free speech in more sensible ways. It is interesting that the entire mainstream British press feels the same way. No national newspaper has printed the cartoons.
In other words, we’re all cowards and our solidarity shows we’re right. As Taguieff put it in describing European anti-Zionism in the 21st century: “When all the fish are swimming in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead.”
Which brings us back to Brussels and the problem of the 21st century. Part of the reason that all the fish are lined up in the same direction in Europe has much more to do with intimidation and appeasement of genuinely violent and demonizing Islamists and genuinely tolerant and self-criticial Israelis/Jews/Americans, than it does with any of the intellectual merits bandied about. And until we begin to understand the impact of this pervasive intimidation, we will have enormous difficulty reality testing.
It’s not talking back to civil power that counts so much as speaking truth about ruthless exercise of power. When the same people who claim to speak truth to power, then turn around and wax sychophantic about ruthless killers with genocidal programs, we’re all in trouble except the thugs.
This doesn’t mean you can’t criticize the USA and Israel. Almost everybody does. It just means that you don’t engage in grotesque criticism and think yourself brave because you get yelled at, but then fall silent about real dangers, like people who’s idea of a good fatwa (a religious ruling on any issue), is a death sentence to people who have offended Islam.