Daily Mail Claims KGB Responsible For Rise of Islamic Extremism

From the Daily Mail:

New book reveals how KGB operation seeded Muslim countries with anti-American, anti-Jewish propaganda during the 1970s, laying the groundwork for Islamist terrorism against U.S. and Israel

The highest-ranking Soviet-bloc intelligence officer ever to defect to the West claims in a new book that anti-American Islamic terrorism had its roots in a secret 1970s-era KGB plot to harm but the United States and Israel by seeding Muslim countries with carefully targeted propaganda.

…Those claims come from former Romanian Lt. Gen Ion Mihail Pacepa and University of Mississippi law professor Ronald Rychlak.

…Andropov commissioned the first Arabic translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian-forged 1905 propaganda book that alleged Jews were plotting to take over Europe – and were being aided by the United States.

…The Protocols book, Pacepa claims, became ‘the basis for much of Hitler’s anti-Semitic philosophy.’ And the KGB, he writes, disseminated ‘thousands of copies’ in Muslim countries during the 1970s.

…Pacepa and Rychlak conclude that much of the anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and elsewhere can be traced back to Soviet clandestine operations, in which he himself played a major role.

Kennedy-era Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s disinformation campaigns ‘widened the gap between Christianity and Judaism,’ according to the authors…

Pacepa famously defected to the USA in 1978; the new claims appear to be an attempt to maintain relevancy through the continued revelation of privileged information that supposedly provides the secret key to understanding world affairs (Reza Kahlili is another example of this tendency). It is the case that the USSR promoted notions of Jewish conspiracy in the wake of the Six Day War, but to see this as the explanation for the existence of “Islamist terrorism” today is to boil down complexity to an absurd degree.

One very obvious alarm bell is that Andropov did not in fact commission “the first Arabic translation” of the the Protocols; the first translation was actually made in the 1920s. According to Binjamin Segel’s A Lie and a Libel: The History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (p. 62)

In the summer of 1925 a complete Arabic translation appeared in Damascus and immediately achieved wide circulation. The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem made effective propaganda for it throughout the Orient.

Two conservative polemicists concur: Daniel Pipes writes in The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy (p. 311):

Christian Palestinians first translated the forgery into Arabic and published it perhaps as early as 1921 and certainly by 1926, followed by many others in subsequent years. Indeed, more translations and editions of The Protocols have appeared in Arabic than in any other language. Leading figures lent their names to editions, including the distinguished Egyptian writer ‘Abbas Mahmud al-‘Aqqad.

While Bat Ye’or adds in Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (p. 169):

The first Arabic translation of The Protocols from the French edition appeared in the review, Raqib Shayun (15 January 1926), published by the Roman Catholic community of Jerusalem. This propaganda, repeated by the Arab press and  radio, was contested by the Egyptian Jewish community.

Of course, the USSR may indeed have played an active propagandizing role from the late 1960s, as alleged, but if so it was pushing on an open door. The unhappy fact of the popularity of the Protocols in the Arab world cannot be reduced to a plot orchestrated by Yuri Andropov, and much less does this explain Islamic extremism in the twenty-first century.

Pacepa’s claim harks back to an age when “Communist conspiracy” could be trotted out as an explanation for any unwelcome development in politics or society. No need to think about how the west may have helped to give rise to Islamic extremism  (see, for instance, Mark Curtis’s Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam); and no need to think too much about the history of anti-Semitism in the West (or was Henry Ford a Soviet agent?). The claim that the Soviets “widened the gap between Christianity and Judaism” manages to gloss over both Christian anti-Semitism and the differences between Christianity and Judaism (I discussed the latter trend in fundamentalist forms of American Christianity here).

Pacepa and Rychlak’s book is entitled Disinformation, and it is not the first collaboration between the two men: in 2007 Pacepa alleged he had been part of a Soviet plot to smear the memory of Pope Pius XII. That claim is discussed by Zenit here.

UPDATE (11 July): Milking Pacepa’s supposed inside information further, WND now has a follow-up article, on the Vietnam War:

Secretary of State John Kerry’s 1971 testimony before a Senate panel claiming American troops in Vietnam regularly committed war crimes against civilians was a product of a Soviet KGB disinformation campaign, according to the highest-ranking Soviet-bloc defector.

“Although Kerry never fully revealed the source of the accusations, I recognized them as being a product of another KGB disinformation operation,” says Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa in a new documentary produced by WND Films.

…In the new documentary [tie-ing in with the book], retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin, an original member of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force who spent 36 years in the Army, challenges Kerry’s testimony.

“He never saw those things. He was perpetuating the myth of the left about our young men and women who served in Vietnam,” Boykin says.

(more on Boykin’s own extravagant claims here)

This, of course, rakes over old objections made by the Swift Boat Veterans to John Kerry’s “Winter Soldier” investigation.

In 2004, Annenberg Political Factcheck produced a useful round-up and assessment of Kerry’s testimony, which in 1971 Kerry had said was based on statements by “150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans”. Factcheck notes that this evidence did in fact turn out to be problematic: “many of the Winter Soldier participants later refused to speak to investigators for the Naval Investigative Service even though they were assured that they wouldn’t be questioned about atrocities they might have committed personally”, and there is evidence that some of the witnesses had been impostors. We can speculate that some of these impostors may have been working for the KGB, but Pacepa’s vague assertion that he “recognised” disinformation in Kerry’s words is too vague to be helpful.

It’s also worth making a more general point, despite the risk of stating the obvious: evidence in support of a claim may be tainted in any number of ways, but that does not always mean that it should therefore be dismissed out of hand, or that other independent evidence leading in the same direction is also discredited. Of course the USSR would seek to use the Vietnam War to propagandize against the USA, but Factcheck draws attention to plenty of other readily-available and well-known sources of authoritative information showing that war crimes undoubtedly did occur, and that it was these that turned Americans against the war.

Once again, Pacepa’s claim is both reductive of historical complexity and superfluous to historical understanding.

Footnote

The Mail article was written by David Martosko, a controversial figure with a background in corporate PR before being taken on at the Daily Caller (see this profile in Mother Jones). Martosko’s appointment with the Mail earlier this year appears to be part of a strategy to get traffic from US conservative websites; Pacepa and Rychlak’s book is published by WND Books, and the Mail article has received a prominent link from WorldNetDaily.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer Rail Against British Reporters Ahead of Planned UK Visit

As has been widely reported; from the Independent:

Right-wing American speakers planning to join the EDL’s Woolwich march ‘should be banned from entering the country’

The Home Secretary is understood to be considering a request to ban two of the people behind a campaign against New York’s “Ground Zero Mosque” from entering the UK.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who are among America’s most notorious anti-Muslim campaigners, have been invited to speak at an English Defence League rally in Woolwich to mark Armed Forces Day and the death of Drummer Lee Rigby. But the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz has written to Ms May expressing his concern and labelling them “incendiary speakers”.

…Neither Ms Geller nor Mr Spencer responded to requests for comment.

I expect that the two will be excluded from the UK on the catch-all grounds that their presence is deemed to be “not conducive to the public good” – other Americans who have been banned from entry on these grounds in recent years include the abusive anti-Islam polemicist Michael Savage and the faith healer Todd Bentley.

Spencer previously visited the UK in 2009, although at that time he wanted no association with the nascent EDL and he made noises about “libel” when it was suggested he had met figures from the group. For a time, Geller was ambivalent about the EDL, although she finally cemented links a year ago. In September, Yaxley-Lennon and Kevin Carroll attended an event organised by Geller in New York, which involved Yaxley-Lennon using someone else’s passport to enter the USA. Yaxley-Lennon’s subsequent arrest over the passport fraud was described by Geller as “shariah inspired victimisation”, and he and Geller asked Americans to make donations for his legal defence.

The Independent report  – by Kevin Rawlinson – has not been received well by Spencer:

Why is it “right-wing” to fight for the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and equality of rights for all people?…

“Anti-Muslim”: Leftists and Islamic supremacists favor this label because it implies that those who are fighting for freedom are actually against a particular group, and want to deny them rights rather than protect the rights of all…  We never speak about “all Muslims” in any way, or call for any illegal action or any action at all against innocent people.

… Rawlinson is lying outright. He made no attempt to contact me.

As ever with Spencer, the affected righteous outrage ignores a few issues.

First, it’s clear that Geller and Spencer are right-wing: Geller describes Barack Obama as a “mad commie clown”, and she has promoted claims that he is a secret Muslim and that there are mysteries about the circumstances of his birth and parentage (although she objects  bitterly when anyone brings up an article that appeared on her website promoting the thesis that Obama’s father was Malcolm X, on the grounds that the piece was written by someone else and that she only semi-endorses its  claims). They are also both closely allied with conservative groups and individuals.

Second, while it’s true that Geller and Spencer do pay lip-service to a distinction between “anti-Muslim” and “anti-Islam”, I’m not convinced that it’s anything more than a paper-thin rhetorical strategy – I discussed a libel action threat made by Geller over the anti-Muslim label here, and a similar complaint by Spencer here. Their allies include  Babu Suseelan, a Hindu militant who claims that Muslims “breed like rats” but that Islam can be “wiped out”, and it was only bad publicly that prompted the two to cut links with John Joseph Jay, a man who openly called for violence against Muslims and others.

Meanwhile, Rawlinson has responded to the claim that he is “lying outright” by posting a screenshot of his request, which was sent to the Facebook page of their Stop Islamization of America organisation.

Rawlinson is not the only British media figure to be facing the duo’s wrath; an article in the Huffington Post by Jessica Elgot described them as “far-right, anti-Islam”, prompting Geller to call Elgot “a less than affable Eva Braun”. The insult was derived from an old piece of abuse by Ann Coulter against Katie Couric; Elgot, who is Jewish and formerly worked for the Jewish Chronicle, says that the “the sheer volume of Nazi-themed insults” is “quite baffling”.

EMET To Give “Speaker of Truth Award” to Reza Kahlili

From Sarah Stern’s Endowment for Middle East Truth:

Rays of Light In the Darkness Dinner
Wednesday June 19, 2013

Washington, DC
EMET is proud to bestow the Speaker of Truth Award to honor a courageous defender of truth, Reza Kahlili, a former CIA operative in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). He is the author of the award-winning book, A Time to Betray.

Bret Stephens will also receive the distinguished Speaker of Truth Award. Mr. Stephens is the Deputy Editor of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. In addition, Mr. Stephens writes the Journal’s “Global View” column on foreign affairs.

The words “Reza Kahlili” and “Truth” do not fit well together at the best of times; in the context of an “award”, the word  association becomes simply ludicrous.

Kahlili, as I’ve noted previously, writes for WorldNetDaily, and he claims to be the continuing recipient of secret information from inside the regime. However, his claims are so extravagant that Anatoliy Golitsyn would blush: these include the awful disclosures that Iran is in the process of weaponizing smallpox and liaising with al-Qaeda to attack France and Germany.

According to a 2010 Washington Post review of his book, Kahlili did have some association with the CIA while in Iran in the 1980s, but he appears to have exaggerated his significance, and there’s no explanation as to how he continues to receive highly-sensitive information, which he chooses shares with WND rather than a credible news source. However, Kahlili’s stream of revelations has made him a fixture on the Conservative speaker circuit, and the obligatory conversion to Christianity means he now also has a religious audience.

However, Kahlili – who only ever appears in public wearing a medical mask – has declined to accept the award in person; according to an announcement:

The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) regrets to announce that due to heightened security concerns, Reza Kahlili – in consultation with EMET – has determined that he will be unable to attend in person to receive his Speaker of the Truth Award at the EMET Rays of Light in the Darkness dinner on June 19th in Washington, D.C.

This unfortunate situation is yet another reminder of the reality of the threat posed by the Iranian regime against those who have the courage speak out against their tyranny.

Naturally, we are not given any actual details of the supposed “heightened security concerns”

Estonian Catholic Group Gathers 40,000 Signatures for “Traditional Marriage”

From LifeSiteNews:

The founder of Estonia’s pro-family movement said in an interview with a Polish Catholic television program that the country’s draft law on same-sex marriage will not go forward after his group presented the government with nearly 40,000 signatures defending traditional marriage. Law professor Varro Vooglaid told Polonia Christiana that presentation of the petition from the Estonian Foundation for Defense of Tradition and Family will not allow the homosexualist ideologues to frame the issue in terms of “human rights”.

According to a report from the site from last month:

Spokesman for the Estonian Foundation for Defense of Family and Tradition, Slawomir Olejniczak, told LifeSiteNews that the petition campaign was the largest and most successful collection of signatures ever carried out in the country of 580,000 households against a proposed change of law.

Petition forms were apparently mailed out to the households.

Olejniczak is Polish rather than Estonian, and he previously organised a direct mail campaign in Poland. Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute (previously blogged by me here) has a profile:

Mr. Olejniczak met TFP bureau in Krakow in 1995 and he started collaboration with the organization one year later. He is one of the founders of two TFP affiliated organizations in Poland. First one was created in 1999 and its name is the Association for Christian Culture of Fr. Peter Skarga [Stowarzyszenie Kultury Chrze?cija?skiej im. ks. Piotra Skargi]. The second organization was founded in 2001 and it is a foundation called the Institute for Social and Religious Education of Fr. Peter Skarga. He is also a President of the Board of Directors for both entities which have become main conservative Catholic movement in the country.

Under his presidency the organizations apart from their public activities started fundraising campaigns in 2001 and after eight years they have achieved over 200.000 donors. In 2005 the Association of Fr. Peter Skarga organized by direct mail a successful protest campaign against legal recognition of  homosexual unions.

“TFP” is “Tradition, Family, and Property”, a well-known right-wing Catholic group that operates in a number of countries – I discussed some of its activities here. The American TFP site has a 2005 piece by Olejniczak here.

Varro Vooglaid, meanwhile, co-directs “Fundamental Rights Protection Centre” (Põhiõiguste Kaitse Keskus), although it doesn’t appear to be very active; he is also a partner in Ignatius, a  Catholic law firm founded by the organisation’s co-founder, Erik Salumäe.

A profile of Vooglaid from Ekspress can be seen here; it includes the detail that he is the son of Ülo Vooglaid, a sociologist; in the 1960s, Ülo Vooglaid founded a Laboratory of Sociology that was closed down by Soviet authorities. A 2004 interview here shows him fulminating about “deviant behaviour”; more recently, a piece in Delfi quotes him warning about European elites and local collaborators supporting “pederastide” (1).

Note

(1) A Russian translation of the same article has “?????????”. The Oxford Russian-English Dictionary translates this as “p(a)ederast, sodomite”, and it appears from Google Translate that the Estonian language has the same conflation of concepts. So, it’s not clear what exactly Ülo Vooglaid means here.

Todd Bentley Recalls a Levitating Boy and a Woman’s New Breast

Typically extravagant claims from Todd Bentley, as he recalls a visit to Uganda in 2002 in a new message to supporters:

…They brought a woman that had been to all the witch doctors and all the magic soothsayers and whatever she could do to get healed because she had breast cancer… As she was standing in the crowd, the power of God came all over her and she grew a brand new breast… Right after that, they brought two more people onto the platform. The woman was born without the parts that a woman needs, and the man as well because of a cancerous tumor. Both of them were instantly healed.

…I started to break the power of witchcraft, and 1,835 people at the same time started manifesting demons and fell to the ground writhing like snakes. We counted 1,835 people vomiting, rolling in the mud, writhing and hissing on the ground like snakes. There were even people levitating off of the ground by the power of witchcraft, even a young boy.

Bentley’s visit occurred before he had become generally (in)famous, but his reputation as an “international evangelist” was on the rise: he had been profiled in Charisma magazine, and the visit was noted in local media; the Monitor reported:

Todd will hold a huge five-day crusade starting on November 6th at Main Street primary School grounds in Jinja, every afternoon.

…Pastor Gerald Mwebe of Streams of Life church, Kampala, FFM Coordinator in Africa says Todd will leave some of himself behind in the form of a School of Ministry. Fresh Fire School of Ministry, opening on Tuesday, November 5th, 2002 in Mukono, will train pastors from all over East Africa and ensure that other people can tap some of Todd’s anointing and follow in his footsteps.

Jinja was also chosen because it has been a traditionally hard place for the gospel to breakthrough. Reinhard Bonnke had his crusade stopped in 1990. Prayer Palace founder, Apostle Deo Balabyekubo died in a grisly motor accident while on his way to organise a crusade in Jinja. Todd’s crusade therefore is also an act of defiance against what Christians say the devil has done in Jinja.

Bentley also mentions Bonnke in his new message:

I’ve talked face to face with Reinhard about the story because I told him I preached in Jinja, Uganda, and I need you to tell me the story. He said, “It was the only time I was ever driven out of a city and I said I would never go back.”

Just like the disciples, you know if they don’t receive you and honor you, the Bible says, “Dust off the feet and just walk out.” Reinhard said it was the only time, “When I stepped out of Jinja, I dusted my feet off and I said, I’ll never come back to Jinja.” Well, a curse came over the city for many years-nobody was getting saved, nobody was getting healed, and nobody was getting delivered.

Bonnke’s visit took place in 1990; according to Colin Whittaker’s biography (which, incidentally, notes that Christine Darg was there as a member of his team), his campaign in the town was cancelled by armed police on its third night at the behest of the local District Commissioner, who overruled permit papers issued in Kampala:

Reinhard shook the dust from his feet and flew to Nairobi. He said he would have been willing to return to continue the event, but ‘The Holy Spirit told me not to trust the permit paper’.

“Shaking the dust from the feet” of course is a Biblical sign of rejection, and the notion apparently spread in Uganda that Jinja had come under a curse. This blog cites a magazine called The Evangelist:

God swung into wrath as his servant moved down the pulpit and descended a curse over the land.  As Bonnke removed his coat, He said, “Jinja is cursed”.
 
Indeed it was confirmed from above and horror fell on Jinja as one observer who preferred not to be named in this article , narrated how Jinja faced God’s wrath.  “A town that was the second developed after Kampala, lost its glory instantly, said the observer. It spread to the whole area, the town and its surrounding areas were attacked by jiggers, to an extent that even the elderly fell victims…”
This was written as Bonnke finally returned to the town, in June 2012. The Kampala Observer reported:

Now, the Bible says when you come bearing good news but are turned away, dust yourself off of that place and move on. The minister at Redeemed said that on this occasion, Bonnke did not dust himself off of anything, but he is said to have sorrowfully removed his jacket and left it in Jinja as he departed.

And anyone who knows Jinja and understands things spiritual, knows that the town has never been the same since. This jubilee crusade from June 6 to 10 is, among other things, expected to turn fortunes around.

Bentley’s recollection of 2002 – and his name-dropping of Bonnke – comes as Bentley seeks to re-build his reputation post-sex scandal: he has just begun the second leg of a campaign in South Africa; I noted the first part here.

Russian Patriarch Visits Greece, Discusses “Moral Crisis of Humanity” with President

The Patriarch of Moscow has been in Greece for a seven-day visit, which began with a meeting with the country’s president. According to the Russian Orthodox Church website:

President Papoulias conferred a high state award, the Grand Cross of the Order of Honour, upon His Holiness.

Patriarch Kirill thanked the President for the privilege and said: “We, the fraternal nations, are of the same faith, which is a solid basis for relations of Greece with the countries of historical Rus, including Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. I believe that any problems on our relationship will be solved in a peaceful and fraternal manner for mutual benefit. I assure you in our prayers, support and openness to cooperation for the good of our Churches.”

…Discussed at the meeting were relationship between legislative and moral standards and the present moral crisis of humanity as a prime reason of the recent financial crisis in Europe.

I discussed Kirill’s links with Belarus here, and his views on the “moral crisis” here.

The visit also reunited Kirill with Ephraim, Abbot of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos. According to Interfax, Ephraim

….praised Russia and called for global Orthodox unity.

“Even though it has been nearly a year and a half, our taking the Cincture of the Theotokos to Russia, the main relic of our monastery, is still fresh in our memory,” Ephraim said after a prayer service at Vatopedi on Thursday that he co-led with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

Nearly 4 million people, including top Russian leaders, came to see the cincture and partake of its supposed miraculous powers while it was shown in various Russian cities between October 20 and November 28, 2011. It had been brought to Russia by Father Ephraim.

The “Cincture of the Theotokos” is a belt which believers say was worn by the Virgin Mary; I wrote about its background, and the tour of Russia, at the time. Its “miraculous powers”, according to Ephraim, relate to fertility; Vladimir Putin opined that “if this helps to solve our demographic issue, it is most welcome”, and he added:

…our efforts certainly show the bonds between our nations and will strengthen them. This will undoubtedly give an impetus for further development of the relations between our countries. Thank you very much.

A short while afterwards, Ephraim ran into trouble with the Greek authorities over some financial dealings.

Closer links between Russia and Greece are not confined just to Kirill’s religious diplomacy; as Greece sells off its assets to meet its financial obligations, Gazprom and Sintez have put in offers for Greek gas companies, and Russia’s state railway company has an eye on acquiring the Thessaloniki Port Authority.

Panorama Reveals the Mind of Patrick Mercer

As has been widely reported, last night saw the broadcast of BBC Panorama‘s investigation into “cash for questions” at the UK Parliament, in which Patrick Mercer MP was secretly filmed accepting funding from a journalist (Daniel Foggo) posing as lobbyist for Fiji. The main outline of the story has been known for several days now; as the Telegraph reported:

A Daily Telegraph and BBC Panorama investigation found that the MP for Newark, had tabled five questions to government ministers and put down a parliamentary motion after being paid £4,000 as part of a contract he believed would earn him £24,000 a year.

..Mr Mercer also established an all–party parliamentary group in support of the cause being promoted by the lobbyists, which he boasted he had persuaded around 20 other politicians to back publicly. He also agreed to provide the fictional client with a Parliamentary pass.

“I do not charge a great deal of money for these things,” Mr Mercer said during a meeting to arrange his “consultancy” fee. “I would normally come out at £500 per half day. So £1,000 a day.”

What came across strongly in the programme was Mercer’s capacity for self-deception. Although he began by claiming not to know much about Fiji (“I have to confess, I have no idea what Fiji is like”), his enthusiasm quickly grew as he sought to persuade himself that acting on behalf of the island would not make him a lobbyist’s creature; unprompted, he came up with his own reason for an interest in the country – issues around Fijian soldiers in the British military – which would also allow him to circumvent a potential conflict of interest over competition between Fiji’s sugar industry and jobs in  his constituency. Mercer also tweaked the wording of the parliamentary motion that was given to him, presumably so that he could feel it was his own, and he was easily reassured when he began to feel unease about the lobbyist’s credentials. For psychoanalysts, the most telling  moment was perhaps when Foggo  fed Mercer some rope by bringing up the issue of human rights abuses in Fiji – Mercer suddenly became very interested in ordering more coffee and ensuring it came with milk.

The programme also drew attention to the way Parliamentary passes are handed around; according to the Times, more than eighty passes given out to members of special interest groups are now under review. Mercer himself told Foggo:

I have three passes, which I’m allowed to give, and one of which is with my full time PA, one of which is out with a chap who used to work with me on the counterterrorism group. Another one’s elsewhere.

It seems somewhat sloppy that Mercer would have left a pass with someone who “used” to work with him – and one would like to know more about this “counterterrorism group”, and about who this “chap” may be. There may well be no cause for concern, but Mercer does not have a record of good judgement here; as Hugh Muir noted on Monday:

Mercer has long been a favourite of tabloids seeking a friendly quote to bolster half-baked stories. And it was in his guise as an expert on all things intelligence that we once had cause to refer to him. He gave high-profile endorsement to Glen Jenvey – a “freelance terror consultant” who fed an inflammatory story to the Sun about a Muslim plot to kill Lord Sugar.

I outlined the fiasco and its aftermath here.

Mercer also worked with a man named Dominic Wightman (at that time, using the spelling “Dominic Whiteman”), who presented himself as an expert in tracking on-line extremism and as the director of a group called the “VIGIL Network”. This was in 2006, at a time when the police were struggling to come to terms with the post-7/7 situation; Mercer arranged for Wightman to visit New Scotland Yard (the two men posed outside the building for a Telegraph puff-piece), and Mercer probably facilitated Wightman’s appearance on BBC Newsnight in November 2006. VIGIL collapsed the following year, in circumstances that showed Wightman to be dishonest and, under a veneer of charm, to be unpleasant – an ex-employee of VIGIL asked Mercer for help in getting £14,000 she was owed, but Mercer made it very clear to her that he was uninterested in helping or in even engaging with her evidence of duplicity; we now know from Panorama that Mercer sees only what he wants to see (more on Wightman here).

By way of a coda, the Panorama programme also featured Mercer making small talk by reminiscing about a recent visit to Israel:

I got a sort of rifle stuck up my nose when I was trying to get into one of the intelligence establishments by, I don’t know, an 18-year old girl wearing uniform, but with her sort of hair in plaits and, and crazy jewellery and open-toed sandals, with a rifle up my nose. And I thought, “who the fuck are you?” You know? “Well I’m a soldier.” Are you? You don’t look like a soldier to me, you look like a bloody Jew. And I’ve no doubt if I’d come up with the wrong answer I’d have had my head blown off.

Probably not the kind of anecdote he would have used in 2010 when he addressed the Zionist Federation of the UK.

UPDATE (15 July): From the Jewish Chronicle:

Under-fire MP Patrick Mercer has offered to ask questions in Parliament on behalf of pro-Israel groups.

Following a meeting with Zionist Federation chairman Paul Charney, Mr Mercer said he was willing to put forward questions in the interest of the Jewish community in an attempt to repair relations after he appeared to make an antisemitic remark.

Mr Mercer said: “I’m putting down a series of questions about various issues that interest me. I’m pretty concerned about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. I will continue to help my friends in the Jewish community.”

The report says that Charney had written to Mercer after seeing the television programme, and that Mercer “came across as very genuine.”  In June, Mercer said that he would be writing to the Chief Rabbi; it’s not known how that turned out.

Once again, Mercer manages to persuade himself that using his position as an MP to advance his own own self-interest – in this case, the rehabilitation of his reputation rather than receiving extra money – just happily happens to coincide with addressing an issue of public concern. The bad faith and self-delusion are chilling.

Texas Pastor Announces “Hiram Code”, Links Native Americans to Hebrews

An advert from Ron Phillips Ministries, of Hixson, TX:

Could the Phoenicians have been the ones who really discovered America? How is it possible that Native Americans share DNA markers with the Hebrew people? Could the gold of Ophir that was in Solomon’s temple have come from America?

…In the nearly hour long teaching on “The Hiram Code and Anointing,” Pastor Ron Phillips lays out biblical and historical evidence that the Phoenicians and Jews could have sailed to America to trade and bring back gold.  He also shows you the key of the Hiram Code and how it releases prosperity and blessing.

As we discover in this message, the Gentile Hiram was blessed by blessing Israel. You can bless Israel, too, when you purchase a tallit, made in the Holy Land. Your purchase of this prayer shawl not only brings business to the people of Israel, but it helps Pastor Ron to continue broadcasting on TV and the internet.

This may seem to be somewhat idiosyncratic and marginal, but I found the advert via a link from Charisma News, a popular news-site for conservative American Christians, particularly neo-Pentecostals. Charisma News is owned by Stephen Strang, who was described by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America”, and Strang’s Charisma House publishing outfit has published titles by Phillips that include An Essential Guide to Speaking in Tongues and Everyone’s Guide to Demons and Spiritual Warfare.

Unusually, Phillips is Charismatic Southern Baptist, despite the denomination’s wariness of Pentecostalism; he served as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention in 1991, but he is also part of a wider neo-Pentecostal “scene”, and appears on TBN. Phillips’ advert is of wider interest as it encapsulates a number of trends within neo-Pentecostalism.

First, there’s the very idea of a “Hiram Code”: the title is obviously meant to tap into the same rich seam of public curiosity about ancient mysteries that has made Dan Brown a household name, but Phillips is also positioning himself as a pastor with special insight into supposedly hidden Bible teachings with practical application. In this, he is very much like Jonathan Cahn, who has over the past year or so (thanks to puffs from Strang and Joseph Farah) achieved phenomenal success with his claim that a Biblical template can be applied to the events of 9/11, and that the Bible shows that America must repent to avoid further disaster. Before he achieved fame, Cahn’s religious teachings emphasised his special understanding of “Hebrew mysteries”, such as the “the long-hidden, never before revealed, Mystery of the Temple Doors”.

Cahn’s doom-mongering is the flipside of Phillips’ “releasing prosperity” – God’s blessings and curses are mechanistic, and can be unleashed or held back by careful attention to aspects of Israelite history as recorded in the Bible, including details that appear to be obscure.

Second, we have the appropriation of Jewish religious culture in the idea that Christians ought to purchase a prayer shawl. This goes beyond acknowledging the Jewish context of Jesus and the New Testament,  and I noted and discussed the trend here and here; differences between Christianity and Judaism are elided (sometimes with eccentric results), and there is also a vicarious identification with modern Israel.

Most striking, however, are Phillips’ pseudo-historical and pseudo-scientific questions, which  appear to be derived from Mormon claims about ancient links between America and Israel. Of course, it’s possible to appropriate fringe historical theories without endorsing the theology that inspired them, but it’s unexpected for a Christian pastor to put such unusual ideas at the centre of his religious teaching. However, the Mormon narrative, which links Israelite history and Jesus to America, is doubtless attractive for some Americans who want a form of religious belief that also expresses their sense of nationalism, and it complements the interest in Jewish religious culture.

One wonders how far this might go: most Christians have historically regarded Mormon theology as being incompatible with Christian belief, but the barriers appear to be breaking down, perhaps in part due to Glen Beck and Mitt Romney. Christian Right figures David Barton and Jim Garlow have affirmed that Beck is “saved”, and John Hagee has led pastors in endorsing Beck as a religious revivalist; Romney’s presidential candidacy prompted neo-Pentecostal evangelist Rick Joyner, who is very close to Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, to opine that the “White Horse Prophecy” was “maybe… one of those true prophecies”, and even the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association toned down its views on Mormonism as being a “cult”.

Judaism is now more or less accepted as valid by conservative Christians in the USA; this is not usually spelled out with theological coherence –  there is still the occasional announcement that Jews need to be evangelised, and qualms about a formal “Dual Covenant” theology – but the place of Jews and the modern State of Israel within a wider religious story has proven just too compelling not to incorporate positively into an evangelical interpretation of the world. It’s unlikely that Mormonism will come to be perceived in the same way – but individual Mormons and some Mormon ideas may be accepted, for similar narrative reasons.