Anti-Christian Zionist Cartoon Controversy

David Hazony at Commentary stirs up a cartoon controversy with which to beat the Forward:

… It’s a fake ad for a week-long evangelical trip to the Holy Land, and it expresses all the anti-Christian fears that lurk in the heart of many an American Jew. Obese and monstrous Evangelicals are shown going to Israel, praising Hitler as a “Servant of the Lord,” and looking forward to the “mother of all Holocausts for Jews and Muslems who don’t convert.” There are fake ads for T-shirts praising the right-wing mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein… It is so far from the liberal, tolerant views that I think most Forward readers adhere to, that one wonders how it got by the editors.

The cartoon is by Eli Valley, and the whole thing can be seen here. Of course it’s somewhat crude, but as a satire of apocalyptic Christian Zionism (which is not the only variety of Christian Zionism), it generally hits home. Pastor John Hagee famously said that “Hitler was a hunter” sent by God to persuade Jews to move to Israel; Hal Lindsey has enthused over the thought of the Jordan Valley “covered with blood five feet high”, adding the nice detail that the blood will flow rather than coagulate due to radiation. Various Christian Zionists have warned that two-thirds of the world’s Jews will be included in this massacre. Praise for Baruch Goldstein is going too far, but some Christian Zionists have been happy to support far-right groups such as the self-declared “Sanhedrin”.

In reference to other panels of the cartoon, both John Hagee and the late Jerry Falwell have warned that the anti-Christ will be Jewish, and Christian Zionists such as Billye Brim have fantasized about the destruction of the Dome of the Rock (and in 1969 a mentally-ill Armstrongist set fire to the Al-Aqsa mosque). And while many Christian Zionists have been somewhat squemish about stating clearly the shortcomings of Judaism and the need for Jews to “accept Jesus” to avoid damnation – using instead terms like “Judeo-Christian” – very few leaders of the movement have formally accepted the “Dual Covenant” idea, which teaches that Judaism and Christianity are both valid.

The BBC broadcast a documentary about an evangelical coach tour to Israel back in February. I blogged it here.


Mr Justice Eady Watch Part 94

As well as religion, this blog has a couple of other on-going areas of interest. One of these is the issue of free speech, in particular the use of libel law in the UK to suppress unwelcome criticism and investigation. British libel law puts the burden of evidence on the defendants, defendants cannot get legal aid (usually), and although damages are not as absurdly high as they were a few years ago, legal costs can be so devastating that often it is not worth the risk of defending a case.

It is not just the wealthy who take advantage of this: libel action threats can be made quite cheaply if you have a friend or ideological ally who’s a sympathetic lawyer – thus Paul Staines was able to cause trouble for Tim Ireland thanks to help from a Young Tory lawyer named Donal Blaney (just one example among others from the pseudo-libertarian right).

Presiding over many cases is Mr Justice Eady, a man who has been described by Lord Hoffman as “hostile” to responsible journalism in the public interest. Although his judgements are not uniformly bad (he threw out a case brought by the BNP against Searchlight), many of his decisions are worrisome.

The latest Private Eye (1224 p. 7) magazine carries details of a preliminary hearing in a libel case being brought by newspaper owner Richard Desmond against author Tom Bower. Desmond is one of the more unsavoury characters in British public life, and Bower is writing a biography of him. That hasn’t been published yet, but Bower did reference Desmond in his biography of Conrad Black (Conrad and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge), in which Desmond is accused by using his Daily Express to publicise Black’s financial problems as revenge against his rival. Black sued for libel and the Express was forced to settle, but Desmond takes exception to Bower’s claim that he had interfered with the editorial policy of his paper.

This was in the news last year, and the Guardian reported that

Mr Justice Eady ordered Bower to pay £10,000 towards legal costs…

The Eye reports that in a hearing last week Bower presented evidence that Desmond does indeed interfere with the paper’s editorial policy: persons such as Mohamed Fayed and Sir Philip Green had received favourable coverage at Desmond’s behest, and Ulrika Jonsson had been on the end of negative coverage after she sold her memoirs to a rival newspaper. Other examples were also raised. However:

Mr Justice Eady agreed with [Desmond’s barrister Matthew Nicklin] that there was no broader implication: the story in Bower’s book was “not capable of a general meaning”…[The] luminaries were duly struck out of the defence pleadings, because they weren’t relevant to the allegation about Black.

Fortunately for Bower, he has other evidence that Eady has allowed, and which will be deployed at the trial next year. But it is surely worrying to see so much dismissed before the trial has even got underway.