Two Obits for Jesse Helms

From Christopher Hitchens:

He continued to “see” [racial segregation as an accepted part of the world] as an adult…switching his party allegiance from Democrat to Republican in tune with the Nixon “Southern strategy” and famously deploying the “white hands” ad 20 years later, in which the genius of Dick Morris exploited the woes of the rejected white job seeker. That episode did get a mention in the [New York Times] obituary, but there was no recollection of Helms’ role in opposing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, in protecting the apartheid state from the imposition of sanctions, or in defending white Rhodesia.

…Had it not been for Helms, it is unlikely that the United States would have become so fatally embroiled with the scabrous contras of Nicaragua. And probably nobody but Helms could have surveyed the situation in El Salvador in the 1980s and concluded that the problem with that small and tortured country was that its government was already too socialist.

From Billy Graham:

“Jesse Helms, my friend and long-time senator from my home state of North Carolina, was a man of consistent conviction to conservative ideals and courage to faithfully serve God and country based on principle, not popularity or politics.

“In the tradition of Presidents Jefferson, Adams and Monroe — who also passed on July 4th — it is fitting that such a patriot who fought for free markets and free people would die on Independence Day. As we celebrate the birth of our nation, I thank God for the blessings we enjoy, which Senator Helms worked so hard to preserve.

“Over three decades in the United States Congress, Senator Helms was a loyal and effective leader on behalf of our State, with whom I connected during times of national crisis…”

Helms also had his supporters in the UK; in 1985 a group of “libertarian” Young Conservatives headed across the Atlantic to meet the man for themselves.

British Muslim Initiative Threatens to Sue Blog over “Jewish Evil” Claim

UK liberal hawk website Harry’s Place has been threatened with a libel action by the British Muslim Initiative over claims that the BMI’s president, Mohammad Sawalha, had railed against the “[evil Jew/Jewish evil] in Britain” in Arabic. Sawalha’s view was reported on the Arabic al-Jazeera website, which later changed the wording to “Jewish lobby in Britain” (without the “evil” bit), as if that were somehow better. Medyan Dairieh, who wrote the al-Jazeera article, complained in the comments that it was all down to a spelling mistake:

I wrote the report that has been misquoted, I mispelt one word in arabic, ????? instead of ?????? (lobby). The mistake renders the word meaningless in arabic and english except to people who can actually read arabic and posess intelligence who would understand the mistake to read as ‘lobby’. It is fairly obvious that the author of the piece we are discussing has a deliberate agenda, cannot read arabic and has no common sense…The only reference to jews as evil is on this site. Could you please get a grip. This is a non story.

That’s a rather casual way to admit to having made a disastrous error. The BMI responded with a press release, followed up with a legal threat:

Anas Altikriti, spokesman of BMI, commented earlier: “…This is another example of not only very basic incompetence at play, but pure evil that sees no shame or wrong in plainly lying for the purpose of demonising certain individuals and organisations, regardless of reality or facts”.

BMI have alerted its legal advisors to this matter and will be monitoring the blog-site in question as well as any quoting of this error by any other media outlet, and will be pursuing measures to bring those who do to account.

Harry’s Place does have a habit of spinning critics of Israel in the most negative way possible (in ways that I often find quite annoying), but this bombastic response is absurd.

However, as David T of Harry’s Place notes, a legal action will certainly fail. Sawalha has links with Hamas, so the disputed quote would hardly lower his reputation even if the “evil Jew” interpretation is wrong. Further, it seems to me that there there is a public interest in bringing the dispute to light, and the BMI have been allowed to put their side of the story.

Sawalha may have more luck suing Dairieh. I’ll even help him out by noting a precedent, from 1999:

THE SINGER and aspiring politician Patti Boulaye yesterday accepted pounds 15,000 libel damages and a public apology over The Guardian’s allegation that she was a supporter of apartheid… The journalist had misheard what Ms Boulaye said and had understood her to be saying “apartheid” when she was in fact saying “a party”.