Prayer Conspiracy-Mongering Continues

Following on from yesterday, Israel Insider (described by Conwebwatch as “the Israeli World Net Daily“) has a lengthy conspiracy-rumination around Barack Obama’s (or “Barack H. Obama”, as the Insider reminds us) recent visit to the Western Wall and the subsequent publication of the prayer he left there. After more or less admitting that the Maariv “permission to publish” claim was rather dubious, the Insider presses on nevertheless:

…the suspicion that Barack Obama intended for his “private prayer” to become public knowledge is gaining currency here and abroad. James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal’s influential “Best of the Web” column [says]: “Obama’s so-called prayer was at best an open letter to God–a sentiment intended for public, not divine, consumption.”

He also cities the witty column of Israel’s leading Hebrew-to-English translator Hillel Halkin, who writes in the New York Sun that the content of Obama’s note strikes a false note. “Frankly,” Halkin quips, “I’d feel a bit better about Mr. Obama if his prayer had simply said, “Lord, help me to be president.” It’s perhaps churlish of me, but the suspicion lurks that that’s what he would have written had he felt sure it would not have ended up in the newspapers.”

It’s always refreshing to see the religious poses of a presidential candidate being taken with a bit of scepticism, but what exactly were these people expecting? Obviously Obama was going to have a photo-op at the Wall, and obviously he was going to leave a prayer. And if you’re one of the most-scrutinized people on the planet obviously you’re going to be mindful about what you write on a bit of paper you’re going to leave at a public place. Of course he didn’t “feel sure” the note would never become public – why would he?

…The WSJ pundit adds: “If Obama is insincere about his religious faith, that does not speak well of his character. Then again, it is reassuring in a way, given that wacko church he belonged to for 20 years.”

Whereas McCain was totally sincere when he called Rod Parsley a “spiritual guide”…

The Insider then sets out on its own, drawing attention to the footage on Youtube I noted yesterday:

[David] Cohen’s testimony provides new evidence that suggests that the alleged pilferer, dressed in the garb of a seminary student, may in fact have been a member of Obama’s entourage. If so, there would not need to have been an official authorization by the campaign to publish the note. The actual “pilferer” may have been working for Obama.

Or maybe not:

It important to emphasize that the alleged pilferer has not been publicly identified, and any connection between him and the Obama campaign, or with Maariv, has not been proven…at this muddled stage who can really say?

That’s a bit deflating, given that the article was originally headlined “Video shows prayer note snatched by man IDed as ‘member of Obama entourage'” – changed to “Video source claims prayer note snatched by man in Obama’s ‘entourage'”, although misleading either way; Cohen’s “testimony” merely says that

seconds after Obama left the stones, some of his entourage stepped up to the wall (seen dressed in suits) while young men began gathering notes in their hands in what appeared to be the search for Obama’s freshly placed personal note. He is joined by others who unwrap notes and read them.

The Insider then directs us to an interpretation of the incident from Helen Cadogan, who tells us that this was a ploy by Obama to appeal to Muslim anti-Semitism:

Having gone to the Western Wall, and not to Al Aqsa mosque, having offered a Christian-type “prayer,” he has to regain some credibility in Muslim eyes, without seeming to do that. To distract his Muslim American audience from his genuflection at the Western Wall of the Jews, Obama made his fall guy a yeshiva student…So, Obama called a play straight out of the Farrakhan playbook. The note is stolen and the Jew did it! The Jews, they are always to be blamed for everything.

This is the rather desperate evidence provided by the Insider as to how “the ancient Western Wall was used by Obama as a prop for a public relations exercise that appears to have spun way out of control.”

Prayer Preyer

From the Jerusalem Post:

The yeshiva student who pried Barack Obama’s prayer note from the Western Wall has apologized.

Identified only by the first initial of his name, Aleph, and with his face obscured, the student went on Channel 2 television Sunday to confess that he took the presidential contender’s note last week and passed it to the press.

“I’m sorry. It was a kind of prank,” Aleph said, his hands shaking as he fingered the tightly wadded-up sheet of King David Hotel letterhead. “I hope he wasn’t hurt. We all believe he will take the presidency.”

There have been calls for the Israeli newspaper that published the note to face a criminal investigation, while some right-wing US websites are suggesting that “Aleph” (or “Alef” in some reports) may have been working for the Obama campaign – the astonishing implication being that an American presidential candidate might be using religion to make himself look good.

The funny thing is, though, that an obscure outfit called “CoVisionsProductions” has posted to Youtube a low-quality video apparently showing three ultra-orthodox figures (looks like two students and an older man), swiping the prayer in full view of journalists and other worshippers.  According to the blurb, by a certain David Cohen:

…Seconds after Obama left the stones, some of his entourage stepped up to the wall (dressed in suits) and I recorded a young man gathering notes in his hands in what appeared to be the search for Obama’s freshly placed personal note. He is joined by others who unwrap notes and read them. [Footage includes] one person walking away from the wall with a note that he unwraps as he tries to aggressively block the camera lens.

Strangely, though, the prayer-pilferers don’t appear to mind a camera looming at them. There’s also a shot of an arm in a modern black jacket (at 19 seconds) reaching forward to extract one prayer request, and it’s not one of the three men we see clearly.

John McCain visited the Western Wall back in March, for what was obviously a purely private act of piety and mark of respect, with no political calculations at all.

Ukraine President Makes Alliance with Bartholomew

No, not me – Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constaninople, who is in Kiev to celebrate 1020 years since the Christianization of Kievan Russ, the old Russian state in Ukraine. In 988 Duke Vladimir, ruler of Kiev, accepted Greek Christianity after weighing up the alternatives, and his people were “encouraged” to present themselves for baptism in the river Dnieper. The Russian Primary Chronicle explains:

…Vladimir sent heralds throughout the whole city to proclaim that if any inhabitant, rich or poor, did not betake himself to the river, he would risk the prince’s displeasure. When the people heard these words, they wept for joy, and exclaimed in their enthusiasm, “If this were not good, the prince and his boyars would not have accepted it.”

Alas for Vladimir’s successor, some of Kiev’s citizens of today are rather less keen to “exclaim in their enthusiasm”, if this Interfax report is accurate:

 The management of Kiev’s hospitals and clinics forced the staff to join festive events in the center of Kiev, conducted by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the Interfax-Religion correspondent reported…Asked what the staff’s reaction was like, [a medical attendant] said, “Negative, of course,”

However, it should be remembered that Interfax is based in Russia, and it shares the Moscow Patriarchate’s antipathy to Ukraine President Yushchenko and Bartholomew, who are seen as supporting a “schismatic” Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In turn, Bartholomew is doubtless wary of Russian domination over Orthodoxy, and given the Russian Orthodox Church’s links with the Russian government Yushchenko would prefer a national church closer to Constantinople than to Moscow. Moscow Patriarch Alexei II has also been present at the anniversary celebrations, but Interfax complains that

Large posters showing Patriarch Bartholomew – alone or with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko – can be seen everywhere in Kiev. Pictures of the Russian Patriarch are a much rarer occurrence.

I blogged some of the long-standing tensions here.

George Carey Attacks Mosley Privacy Victory

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, writes in UK tabloid the News of the World concerning Max Mosley’s recent court victory after the newspaper revealed details of his sado-masochistic orgies:

A DANGEROUS precedent has been set this week in the victory of Max Mosley over the press. The first major victim is Free Speech itself. Without public debate or democratic scrutiny the courts have created a wholly new privacy law. In itself that’s bad enough.

…In the past a public figure has known that scandalous and immoral behaviour carries serious consequences for his or her public profile, reputation and job. Today it is possible to both have your cake AND to eat it.

But a case can be clearly made for a direct link between private behaviour and public conduct. If a politician, a judge, a bishop or any public figure cannot keep their promises to wife, husband, etc, how can they be trusted to honour pledges to their constituencies and people they serve?

…The new High Court ruling prevents press investigations into matters of clear public interest. It needlessly shackles the press and removes the right of the public to make informed moral judgements.

We can take issue with a couple of points here: the idea that the News of the World can help the public to make “informed moral judgements” is a laughable one, and most people would hopefully take the sensible view that a private sexual failing does not mean that a person generally untrustworthy: in Mosley’s case, his character will probably be judged in relation to the exploitative and cruel nature of his activities, rather than for their extra-marital status (of course, simple affairs might raise the issue of hypocrisy – as in the case of clergy or “family values” politicians – and usually there is ridicule: see Paddy “Pantsdown” Ashdown and Paul “Spanker” Johnson).

Martin Jacques put the view supporting Mosley’s right to privacy in the Guardian’s Comment is Free in June:

The idea that it is somehow in the public interest that newspapers have the right to invade an individual’s private life in this way and effectively seek to destroy them is unacceptable. There is no public interest whatsoever, but it is certainly in the interests of a tabloid newspaper, giving it the power to break and humiliate individuals by appealing to the public’s worst voyeuristic instincts, all in the cause of sales. What one does in private should remain private, providing it does not contravene the law.

One recalls Adorno’s views on “the attitude of snooping”, which he saw as “closely akin to fascism”.

However, it seems to me, in agreement with Carey, that whether something is “in the public interest” is not the business of judges, and if we find a newspaper to be repellently intrusive we can simply opt to ignore it; free speech should be denied just because some public “instincts” are unattractive. I wrote more about the subject of privacy and free speech here, noting some interesting hypothetical examples raised by (cough) Sean Gabb.

The judge who awarded Mosley £60,000 is Mr Justice Eady, who has also found for Saudi billionaires in UK libel actions. According to Private Eye (1194) magazine, Eady “has found against reporters so often that the law lord Lord Hoffman slapped him down for being ‘hostile’ to responsible journalism in the public interest”. George Carey, in contrast, has been supportive of free speech: despite being an evangelical he apparently “loved” the Life of Brian and in 2005 he called for the repealing of blasphemy laws.

Mosley is now planning a raft of libel actions in the UK and Europe over the claim that his orgies had “Nazi” overtones, rather than simply “German prison” themes. How much exactly will that difference in damage to reputation be worth?

Blogger Threatened with Libel Action from SPCK Bookshops Owner

From the Wardman Wire (link added):

We have another blogosphere Libel Action…

Dave Walker [back-up site here – RB], the official Lambeth Conference Cartoonist in Residence, has taken 75 posts down on his blog after being threatened with Libel Action by the new owner of SPCK – the oldest chain of Anglican Bookshops. He has been reporting the story of alleged mismanagement for two years.

I blogged on the take-over back in 2006. I used to live in a town with an SPCK (“Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge”) bookshop, and it was an incredible resource for intelligent books about religion, including serious Biblical scholarship. In 2006 the shops were sold off by the SPCK to an Orthodox American organisation called the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust. The new owner, Mark Brewer, had religious objections to the range of materials available in SPCK bookshops – in particular, the Koran. The Church Times noted

…Concerns over Islam are apparent on the SSG’s website, where the charity reports: “England has not only become extremely secularised in recent years, but has witnessed the explosion of Islam. . . In an effort to stem the growth of non-Christian faiths and re-establish Christianity in areas where it has been driven out, the Trust has acquired a beautiful building [the redundant St Mary Magdalene’s] in Bradford. (This city has one of the highest percentages of resident Muslims in the UK.)”

Text on the website has been amended since the Church Times published the report announcing the partnership. References to the “misguided beliefs” of those who turned to the Roman Catholic Church, and other references to the Orthodox Church as “the only Church true to the Word of God, and therefore the only one that offers true salvation and eternal life”, have been removed.

Brewer claims that ongoing criticism in the Church Times has been motivated by the fact that the Times‘ owner (SCM-Canterbury) controls some rival bookshops. However, allegations of mismanagement proliferated, and in June the Worcestor local branch manager Steve Jeynes committed suicide after being made redundant. Around the same time, SSG filed for liquidation in the US. The Bookseller reported:

Three weeks ago brothers Phil and Mark Brewer, who run the charity, told staff and publishers that SSG LLC, the trading company that operates the former SPCK chain, had filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code—a form of bankruptcy that allows a business to continue trading.

However, Verlie Rios, a court clerk in Houston, told The Bookseller that this had been converted to Chapter 7 bankruptcy in court. “It basically means the business is in liquidation,” she said. “There will be a meeting for creditors on 22nd July.”

However, not all has gone to plan, as the Church Times now reports:

THE OWNERS of the former SPCK bookshops chain have been halted by inconsistencies in their petition from declaring themselves bankrupt in a United States court. They are said to owe thousands of dollars to hundreds of creditors.

The Bankruptcy Court in Houston, Texas, has issued a notice that says it intends to dismiss the motion for bankruptcy unless it hears from the owners by Monday 4 August.

Randy W. Williams, the trustee of the bankruptcy courts, had filed the motion to dismiss the bankruptcy motion because, he said, the company that petitioned for bankruptcy, “St Stephens the Great LLC”, did not exist. What did exist was “St Stephens the Great”, which bore the same name and same tax code as the charity in the UK that took over SPCK shops’ staff and assets. It is with that charity that many creditors were in dispute….Mr Williams said that it was not in the best interest of the “extensive” creditors that the proceedings should be so far from the UK, where almost all the “tangible business” took place.

Meanwhile, Unity at Ministry of Truth has done some further digging, finding gems such as:

SPCK’s remaining bookshops, including those in Durham and Chichester Cathedrals have been transferred to companies called ENC Shop Management Co, Durham Shop Management Co, and Chichester Shop Management Co. all of which are listed on Companies House as foreign companies (Houston registered, again) and all having the same secretary and directors…

SECRETARY: BREWER, SANDRA K
DIRECTOR: BREWER, J MARK
DIRECTOR: BREWER, PHILIP W

(Hat tip: Dave Cole)

UPDATE: Talk Islam draws attention this blog on the subject.

Walid Shoebat Battles Messianic Polygamists

Yes, it’s that man yet again: just a couple of weeks after my blog post on Walid Shoebat’s past links with the UK-based Simon Altaf, Shoebat’s associate Joel Richardson presents “A Public Rebuke and Warning From The Walid Shoebat Foundation” concerning Altaf. As I noted in my blog post, Shoebat fell out with Altaf when Altaf became involved with a certain Rabbi Moshe Yoseph Koniuchowsky, who is based in Florida and heads a Messianic Jewish offshoot called “Messianic Nazarene Yisrael” or “YATI”. However, not much was in the public domain: Shoebat’s handler Keith Davies simply explained that the split occured “because we didn’t agree with the stuff [Altaf] was putting on his website”.

That seems to have been an understatement, judging from Shoebat’s new pronouncement against Altaf:

You need to beware of this false Rabbi Moshe Koniuchowsky alongside Simon Altaf who turned polygamist and cultist of the first order…When confronted with the facts of this cultic behavior Simon Altaf went to Moshe Koniuchowsky and Moshe told him to cut off communication with me since we the Christians are now evil and only they are the true Nazarene believers.

Shoebat then provides us with letters from Koniuchowsky, as well as from Altaf and Altaf’s  estranged wife. Here’s an extract from Altaf’s letter, in which he explains why God wants him to take a second wife:

The woman’s name is Salmah, not married, single, 25, ex-Muslim, she had explicit dreams of seeing me in her bedroom holding her hands, then she saw me in her room as I am inside her body…There were other dreams but don’t challenge me because I walk closely to YHWH and He has shown His will. I know you are Mr Skeptic but I am Mr Yes Sir to YHWH.

 Altaf’s legally-recognised first wife tells Shoebat that Altaf has

…been acting very strangely ever since he got involved with these lunatics from Florida. He corrected the teaching of a self professing Rabbi who has written the vilest book imaginable and has rubbed HaShem’s holy name in dirt. It’s called “sex and the believer” and it’s disgusting.. You can get it from the YATI website, it’s disgusting and totally carnal. Aside from being proponents of polygamy they are obsessed with having as many women and children as possible and creating “seed for HaShem”. The book mentions lewd things like if you have too many wives, you can have a male concubine, make your wife satisfied so that she does not feel “neglected”.

Koniuchowsky has a number of “synagogues” under his leadership, including in Columbia, Cuba, India, Pakistan, Panama and the UK.

Altaf’s wife also mentions a “Brother Tehseen”, who tried to reason with him. This would be Pastor Tehseen Gul Khan of Yesu Masih Ministries, who, like Altaf, is based in Southall in West London. Khan is apparently “1st Asian Pastor/teacher who teaches the word of Yahweh with full Hebraic & two house Understanding”, and his website includes the notice that

Mr. Simon Altaf is no more part of Yesu Masih Ministries, radio and website. He is 100% responsible for all his actions, statements and newly emerging teachings.  We will not take any responsibilities if you agree or disagree with any of his teachings, actions and statements… We are also not affiliated with Mr. Moshe Yoseph Koniuchowsky.

Moving the Moon

I’ve shifted my occasional “spin-off” blog on Rev Moon and the Universal Peace Federation over to WordPress from Blogger – see the link at the top of the page or click here.

Campe-ing It Up

A thudding rant:

Barack Hussein Obama and his program are contrary to American history and our national destiny. He needs to straighten himself out and speak the truth to the American people. Growing up between Islamic teachings and Socialist theories apparently have confused his concepts…I would classify him as a nonbeliever who pretends to be a Christian, similar to the National Socialist “German Christians” who used the Christian language to promote their Nazi ideology.

Yes, it’s Hilmar von Campe, aged American-German businessman who was born in 1925 and was a member of both the Hitler Youth and then the German army. Presenting himself as a repentant ex-Nazi who realized  – after turning evangelical – that he had been “brainwashed”, von Campe claims now to have a special insight into “Nazi ideology” and its manifestation in just about every political movement or individual he happens to dislike. The ACLU? ” I think the ACLU is distributing Nazi philosophy.” Elian Gonzalez? “The Miami raid reminds me of the time when the discrimination of the Jews started in Nazi Germany”. The ill-considered disruption of a minuteman lecture at Columbia university? “Hitler had storm troopers who would shut up the opposition. And, that is what these people were trying to do, the same thing.” Muslims? Take a guess…

On the other hand, being a ruthless military dictator who liquidated opponents is not necessarily a bad thing:

General Augusto Pinochet, who prevented the totalitarian take-over of Chile by the Allende/Castro gang and their armed thugs, transformed his country into an envied show-case for the whole of Latin America and returned Chile to democracy has been for decades a main target…of persecution.

Another character to get the von Campe seal of approval is the late South African columnist Aida Parker, whom he describes as his “dear and couragious friend”. It should be noted that Parker for many years ran a notorious newsletter which shored up support for the apartheid regime on supposed “anti-Communist” grounds.

Von Campe also dislikes bankers, and his conspiracy-mongering here rivals John Hagee:

Could there be another Alger Hisses at work today in other sections of the policy making establishment, f.i. in the financial system? What about Alan Greenspan and his banker crowd. A mole not necessarily needs to be a socialist. Greed and money can be as devastating an ideology if it gets hold of mind and soul of a person.

…Since the last president and secretary general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Michael Gorbachev, pretending to be a newly born Christian, operates from government property in the United States, it seems to indicate that greedy capitalists and hard core communists work together to destroy freedom and the only nation which can thwart that purpose: the United States of America.

(Actually, that last article, from 2004, does get some points for pointing out that mortgage-lending was out of control and likely to lead to unhappy consequences)

Von Campe is regarded in conservative circles (including churches) as a “renowned intellectual”, and his website boasts that he is included in the 1992 edition of a book called The International Who’s Who of Intellectuals – doubtless a sure sign of something. At least one of his books is published by Five Continents, which is the name of his Colorado-based business.

Von Campe also claims to be an expert on the Middle East, and he recently teamed up with Walid Shoebat and Top Executive Media for publishing and speaking purposes. Although von Campe is a Christian Zionist, it is unknown whether he shares Shoebat’s views on Biblical scholarship.

Brigitte Gabriel: “Some Truth” in New Yorker Cover

From OneNewsNow:

Brigitte Gabriel, founder of Act for America, says the [New Yorker] cover is actually an accurate portrayal of how Obama is viewed in the Muslim world. “The Muslim world does look at Obama as a Muslim,” she contends.

As for the picture of Osama bin Laden on the wall, she continues, Obama has been sponsored by al Qaida. “Al Qaida wants Obama to be president. The terrorist organizations around the world want Obama to be president,” Gabriel notes.

Gabriel also contends that in the Muslim realm Obama is portrayed as someone who has no loyalty to the U.S., and someone who will defend the right to burn the American flag.

Who exactly these Muslims are who see “Obama as a Muslim” is not explained.

Gabriel was repudiated by the United Jewish Communities back in February.

Stop the ACLU Backs “Muslim Antichrist” Idea

The Anti-Christ of Christianity is the Mahdi of Islam? Ever thought about it?…I’ve read Joel’s book, “Ant-Christ” and it is a must have.

See here.

Richardson claims to have sold ten thousand copies of Antichrist: Islam’s Awaited Messiah (endorsed by Robert Spencer), and his associate Walid Shoebat has spread the same idea around American churches in presentations and now in a new publication co-authored with Richardson, God’s War on Terror. As I’ve blogged at more length than deserved (here, here, and here), part of their thesis is the claim that the Greek letters for “666” in the Bible are actually the Arabic for “In the name of Allah”. To reach this conclusion, they point to the Codex Vaticanus manuscript of the Bible, which was written in th Fourth Century. Unfortunately for them, they failed to understand that the original Codex does not contain the Book of Revelation; it was added centuries later using a different script which didn’t exist in the Fourth Century, and the nineteenth-century facsimile edition they consulted replaced this with a typeset version (there are also other objections, but this one highlights their incompetence the most dramatically).

The idea of a Muslim Antichrist is just the latest attempt to spin an American conflict into a divine and apocalpytic battle; Robert Fuller has chronicled some previous identifications in his book Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession. The blurb provides a good summary:

He shows how the colonists saw Antichrist personified in everyone from native Americans to the Church of England. He looks at the Second Great Awakening in the early nineteenth century, showing how such prominent Americans as Yale president Timothy Dwight saw the work of the Antichrist in phenomena ranging from the French Revolution to Masonry. In the twentieth century, Fuller finds a startling array of hate-mongers, such as the Ku Klux Klan, who drew on apocalyptic imagery in their attacks on Jews, Catholics, blacks, socialists, and others. Finally, he considers contemporary fundamentalist writers such as Hal Lindsey and a host of others who have found Antichrist in the sinister guise of the European Economic Community, feminism, and even supermarket barcodes and fibre optics.

Richardson’s book is just the latest in a very long line.

2006

1991

1988

1974

etc, etc…