Not Supporting Greater Israel Explains Unfortunate Events: Tornado Edition

Boing Boing‘s science editor Maggie Koerth-Baker ponders recent tornadoes in the USA:

In just five months, the United States has experienced more tornadoes than we often get in an entire year. And far, far more people have died. 2011 is already the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1953. As of May 23rd, 498 people have been killed. That’s a big jump from normal. I was born in 1981. In my entire lifetime, annual tornado deaths in the United States have only broken the 100-person mark three other years–1984, 1998, and 2008. Clearly, there is something different about this year. …The big question–Are tornadoes caused by climate change?–is made up of lots of little questions. And we don’t know all the answers to the little questions yet.

…The future of human life depends on how we respond to the risks of climate change. How we respond to those risks depends on how well the general public understands the messy world of real science.

But is Koerth-Baker missing something? WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah has taken time off from his Birther-mongering to proffer an alternative explanation:

Once again, we’ve seen the U.S. hit with a series of deadly superstorms following Barack Obama’s pledge to return Israel to pre-1967 borders.

Just days after Obama insisted Israel must give up lands it won through military victory with its enemies, some 200 people were killed by a tornado in Joplin, Mo.

There’s a pattern here.

We saw it in Katrina, when George Bush forced Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. In fact, as everyone from Israeli rabbis to U.S. senators have noted, it seems to happen every single time the U.S. pressures Israel to divide the land.

…It goes right back to Genesis and God’s pledge to bless those who bless the children of Israel and curse those who curse them.

I blogged on the “Israeli rabbis” who linked Katrina to Gaza here.

Obama’s speech was on 19 May, and the Joplin tornado was on 23 May; although Joplin had the highest number of fatalities in a single incident, the “series of deadly superstorms” actually began in February. I can think of better ways for an omnipotent deity to convey geopolitical preferences.

As for the possible role of climate change, Farah believes (or, rather, purports to believe – he’s essentially an opportunist) that scientists working in the field are embarked on a conspiracy to promote a “false religion“.

Battle over Nigeria’s “Child-Witches”

Child-witch stigmatisation continues in Akwa Ibom state in Nigeria:

…The Akwa Ibom State government has concluded plans to rehabilitate 21 abandoned children who were discovered taking refuge at two locations in Eket local government Area.

The commissioner for Women Affairs and Social welfare, Mrs. Eunice Thomas disclosed this when she visited the children at the premises of the Eket Sports Stadium and the moribund Qua River Hotel.

…Interacting with the commissioner, the some of the children said they were chased out by their parents and relatives who alleged that they were witches, while some of them said they were forced out on allegations of pilfering and truancy.

Most of them alleged that their ordeals were caused by their step mothers. Master Godswill Felix Okon said he was about taking his Common Entrance Examination when her aunt took her to a church where the pastor alleged that he was a witch, culminating in his being sent out of the house by his aunt.

Back in September, state governor Godswill Akpabio had assured CNN that the problem of children being accused of witchcraft was “under control”.

The Akwa Ibom authorities have been quick to find someone else to blame for the children’s plight: some of the children had been receiving support from Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation, an affiliate of the UK-based charity Stepping Stones Nigeria. Back in March I noted that SSN, which brought the problem of “child-witches” in Nigeria to international attention in 2008, was recently forced to terminate its link to CRARN, a hostel for stigmatised children in Akwa Ibom, over a child protection issue. According to Thomas and to Aniakan Umanah (Commissioner of Information and Social Reorientation), this means that SSN, rather than the government, is responsible for the abandoned children:

… Umanah… described the activities of Stepping Stones Nigeria as a scam. “All the money they have used Akwa Ibom children to make is not commensurate with what they claimed to do for the children; they have nothing to show for it. £2m is not a small amount of money. Stepping Stones Nigeria and its team of blackmailers should not use tar brush to paint Akwa Ibom black in the eyes of the world. They should stop advertising our children to the global media to make money. It’s a ruse; and we are tired of them.”

I dealt with accusations against SSN here, and SSN’s accounts and reports can be seen on the website of the UK Charity Commission here (total income since 2007 in fact comes to less than £1 million). I should also add that last week I attended a public event organised by SSN in London, and I have confidence in the organisation’s probity and competence.

Sadly, the politically-motivated attacks on SSN appear to have the support of CRARN, which was angered by the termination of the relationship. Last month, it was reported that:

A High Court Judge in Akwa Ibom State, Justice Joy Unwana has commended the Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) for initiating the campaign against branding, torturing or killing of children as witches and wizards in the State. Justice Unwana made the commendation while answering questions in the Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Accusation and Child Abuse having submitted a memorandum to the commission.

…”I have children and know what it takes to maintain them. I have been to CRARN several times even when UNICEF commissioned a complex recently. I have been talking to the Director, Sam Itauma, to know what is happening there. If people like these decide to shoulder the responsibility of others and the society, I think they should be encouraged. I learnt in the news that the UK organisation, Stepping Stones pulled out their support with phoney excuses after using CRARN and Akwa Ibom children to make a lot of money. Government should really check the recurrence of this and avoid unnecessary touting by such foreign NGOs.”

However, Unwara’s recommendation for CRARN appears to have been at least partly unheeded, and Thomas has recently removed a number of children from CRARN to a “Security Village”. This site says 200 children were removed, although other sources give a much lower figure. One of those involved in the removal, Ata Ikiddeh, had previously worked with CRARN and has left a comment on this critical article (link added):

I am Ata Ikiddeh. I am the one who has been accused in an earlier article by Sahara Reporters of kidnapping and abducting these children from CRARN center in Esit Eket to Uyo. If you feel i abducted these children, you can walk into a police station and ask for a warrant for my arrest.

Listen, no child was coerced or forced. I negotiated and spoke to the children, knowing that any form of duress or coercion would have been a scandal both in the national and the international press. We have captured the whole process on video.

In the end 19 children willingly agreed to come with us and about 70 children chose to stay behind.

The Honorable Commissioner has done a lot to rescue abandoned children in the State…

In contrast, CRARN’s counsel, James Ibor, claims that 100 children were taken, and that the “Security Village” is unsuitable:

On May 16, 2011, a mere six days later, Mrs. Eunice Thomas, Akwa Ibom State’s infamous Commissioner for Women Affairs, together with her team, stormed the premises of Child’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), with a centre at Esit Eket, abducted over one hundred of its children, forced them into Akwa Ibom Transport Company (AKTC) coaster buses and drove them to Akwa Ibom State Special Children Centre, Uyo.

Interestingly, the Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Accusations and Child Rights Abuses made a finding on the said centre to the effect that it is understaffed and lacks adequate facilities to cater for as few as fifty children. Moreover, even its few staffers are ill-trained; and they freely profess belief in witchcraft, and that the children under their charge are indeed witches as charged.

The National Mirror, meanwhile, raises a question about the removal team’s authority:

The team claimed to be executing an order made by the Witchcraft Panel currently investigating the “Child Witch syndrome”  in the state which alledgedly ordered that the centre be closed down. But, investigations carried out by National Mirror at the Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Abraham showed that the commission is yet to submit its report to the government, neither did it make any such order as claimed.

Abstinence Group to Advise UK Government on Sexual Health

From the Guardian:

A group which is opposed to abortion in all circumstances and favours an abstinence-based approach to sex education has been appointed to advise the government on sexual health.

The Life organisation has been invited to join a new sexual health forum set up to replace the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV.

…In contrast, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has been omitted from the forum despite its long-term position on the previous advisory group and 40-year track record in providing pregnancy counselling nationwide.

…The invitation to the group by Anne Milton, the public health minister, appears to have caught some forum members by surprise.

That’s a surprising development from Milton; back in March it was reported that she had stated that a “‘Just say no’ message will not happen on her watch and we should contact her if we hear politicians say it.” This comes in the wake of a motion put forward in Parliament by Nadine Dorries for abstinence materials to be included in sex education.

LIFE, according to its website,

….exists to save lives and transform the futures of some of the most disadvantaged children and young people in the UK by supporting vulnerable pregnant mothers and young families through difficult times, offering them the help they need to turn their lives around.

Among its services are supported accommodation, “non-directive” pregnancy counselling, sex education, and a natural fertility centre. It describes itself as “a non religious, pro-life charity”, and that while “LIFE presentations approach topics from a pro-life perspective… they are not didactic”. Further (emphasis in original):

Many people don’t understand, or have never heard, the reasons for which pro-lifers oppose abortion, embryo research and the legalisation of assisted suicide.  One of the most important aspects of LIFE Education’s work is to explain these reasons, to demonstrate that one can be a pro-lifer and also be reasonable, well-informed and interested in what others have to say

The organisation was founded in 1970 by Professor John Jack Scarisbrick, a historian of the English Reformation, although some of its employees have science backgrounds.

LIFE’s fertility programme promotes natural family-planning through “NaProTechnology” and the “Creighton Model FertilityCare System“; these were devised by Dr Thomas W. Hilgers, who is  the founder of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and a professor at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha (the LIFE website unfortunately confuses Omaha with Utah).

The Purpose-Driven Death Squads

From the Kigali New TimesNovember 2009:

Renowned American pastor, Rick Warren, founder of Saddleback Church, yesterday delivered a special sermon at a prayer breakfast with a cross-section of Rwandan leaders, in which President Paul Kagame was chief guest.

Pastor Warren began his sermon recalling how he was invited to Rwanda by Kagame nearly six years ago and how he immediately pledged to bring his church members to the country he had just discovered to make known the positive deeds he had seen.

….Attributing to lessons he has picked from President Kagame, Warren described what he had discovered about leadership; “as having clear vision, willingness to take risks, sense of expectancy in faith and persistent hope.

…Tony Blair, who is on a two-day visit to Rwanda, also dropped by the event held at the Kigali Serena.

From the London GuardianMay 2011:

The Metropolitan police have warned two Rwandan exiles living in London that they face an “imminent threat” of assassination at the hands of the Rwandan government.

The dissidents received letters within hours of one another which advised them to take extra steps to increase their safety and raised the possibility of them leaving the country, the Times reported.

…Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, another founder member of the Rwanda National Congress and former head of Rwandan intelligence, was the subject of a failed assassination attempt in South Africa in June, last year.

In 2005, Warren famously unveiled plans to turn Rwanda into the world’s first “Purpose-Driven Nation”, following the principles of his religious motivational-cum-management book The Purpose-Driven Life. Warren called his strategy the “PEACE Plan”, and this has since become central to his branding. As was reported in March this year:

Pastor Rick Warren and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair shared an evening conversation Sunday in front of more than 2,600 people about faith, the Middle East, globalization, and 9/11.

…At the end of the night, Rick Warren and his wife Kay presented Blair with the third International Medal of PEACE for promoting reconciliation and advancing the goals of the PEACE initiative: Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation.

…Past winners of the PEACE medal include former President George W. Bush in 2008 for his work in caring for those infected with AIDS in Africa, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame for his work on reconciliation following his country’s genocide.

I had wondered whether Warren’s uncritical support of Kagame might one day cause him problems; back in 2009 Warren was obliged to downplay his links to the Museveni regime in neighbouring Uganda as the anti-gay hysteria there  increasingly gained international attention. Maybe he’ll have better luck with Kenya.

Also in March, Blair’s association with Kagame was the focus of a critical Daily Mail article:

Both he and his wife Cherie are regular guests of Kagame, flying in on a fabulously luxurious private jet… and staying in a smart suite at the Rwandan capital Kigali’s finest lodgings, the Serena Hotel.

Their relationship, it has to be said, is something of a love-in. Mr Blair describes Kagame, a former rebel soldier in the once war-torn country, as a ‘visionary leader’ and ‘great friend’. For his part, the grateful Kagame has called on his people to name their children after his new English chum.

…The plane is one of two blue-and-white Bombardier BD-700 Global Express jets — costing  £30?million each — owned by the ruler of a country where 60 per cent of the people live in poverty.

In a bid to cover up the millions he has splurged on the aircraft, Kagame’s government set up a private investment company, registered in South Africa, as a front.

…As long ago as 2009, [Blair] was spotted using one of the jets to attend meetings in Israel, Zurich and Abu Dhabi, before being flown into Kigali for a meeting with President Kagame.

It’s looking increasingly like another “typically Blairite” farrago, to borrow David Starkey‘s curt but memorable assessment of the LSE-Gaddafi fiasco.

Glenn Beck and His Tour Operators

Last week, Glenn Beck announced his “Restoring Courage” rally planned for Jerusalem. His Blaze website has further details:

The “Restoring Courage” event will take place August 24th at the excavation site at the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount.

Tickets for the primary location there are very limited. Only 600 are being made available to listeners in the United States. Only two tour operators have been designated to handle the the tickets and travel packages.

Beck was in Israel just recently – he reported that the Temple Mount “almost pulsated”, although it is unclear whether it always does that or whether this was a special sign given to Beck from God.

The two tour operators are the Utah-based Humanitarian Travel, which has rebranded itself as “Beck824” in honour of the event, and DuCar Tours, which specialises in the Holy Land. Ducar is run by Duke Westover and his family; Westover was the late Jerry Falwell’s executive assistant, and his client list includes Jonathan Falwell, Ergun Caner, Benny Hinn, and Mike Hukabee (Hukabee also provided a Foreword for Westover’s memoir, Wow! What a Ride). Last year, Beck gave the commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University, during which he received – with the usual tears – an honorary doctorate.

In one of those interesting synergies between the Christian Right and law-enforcement in the USA, DuCar also offers counter-terrorism training trips to Israel for the American College of Forensic Examiners and the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security (and formerly, it appears, for Sheriff Mike Brown of the National Sheriffs’ Association).

Costs for the Glenn Beck trip, which be a 10-day tour, are “from $4,997 per person”, plus air-fares and taxes.

Tim LaHaye Against “Trivializing” Bible Prophecy

Stern words from Tim LaHaye:

The Rev. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the “Left Behind” series of Christian prophecy novels, said [Harold] Camping “trivializes the very serious study of Bible prophecy by ignoring Jesus’ statement that everyone seems to know except him, and that is that no man knows the day nor the hour” that Jesus will return.”

That would be the same Tim LaHaye who launched his apocalyptic potboiler The Rapture on 6 June 2006, just so that he use the advertising tagline “The Rapture—Coming 06.06.06“. And let us not forget

versions of “Left Behind” for young readers, a comic book adaption, “Left Behind” t-shirts, a daily devotional guide, desk calendars and even a “Left Behind” board game. (In the game, players collect “Left Behind Tokens” that they can later use to defeat the Antichrist.)

Plus, of course, the controversial video game.

Not trivializing “the very serious study of Bible prophecy” at all.

T.D. Jakes to Make Heaven is for Real Movie

Movie news:

Sony Pictures has acquired screen rights to the bookHeaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip To Heaven And Back, written by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent.  Joe Roth will produce with T.D. Jakes.

Burpo is a small town Nebraska pastor whose four-year old son, Colton, nearly died during an emergency appendectomy operation. As he recovered, Colton began telling his family that he went to Heaven, actually looking down at the doctors operating on him and his family praying in the waiting room. And he slowly began telling them details about his miscarried sister, and his long-dead grandfather, none of which he should have known about. He then revealed to his family what it was like during his visit in Heaven, before he was sent back to his family. He’s now 11.

I blogged on the book here. “Revealed to his family” is not quite accurate: in fact, the details of Colton’s purported experience emerged during “conversations” with his father “over time”, becoming progressively more detailed. Colton saw the throne room where God the Father sits with Jesus and Gabriel on either side, met John the Baptist, saw various winged creatures, and had a chance to pet Jesus’ “rainbow horse”. II Corinthians 12:2 pales in comparison.

The primary attraction is doubtless the book’s claim to have positivistic evidence for the afterlife, although it also has apocalyptic elements:

“there’s going to be a war, and it’s going to destroy this world. Jesus and the angels and the good people are going to fight against Satan and the monsters and the bad people. I saw it.”

…”in heaven, the women and the children got to stand back and watch… But the men, they had to fight. And Dad. I watched you. You have to fight too.”

Todd Burpo will apparently be given a “bow and arrow”.

The book has become a best-seller for Christian publisher Thomas Nelson, and as well as the film, a children’s edition of the book is currently being planned.

Returning to the film:

Heaven Is For Real was brought in by Sony Pictures’ exec DeVon Franklin, a Christian minister who just published and has been promoting his inspirational book, Produced By Faith: Navigating the Road to Success Without Compromising Your True Self.

Franklin and Bishop T.D. Jakes recently worked together on a comedy, entitled Jumping the Broom, and in 2009 they made Not Easily Broken, based on a novel by Jakes. According to a profile at Urban Faith, Franklin is a Seventh-day Adventist, and his own book (co-written with Tim Vandehey) is a “how-to guide for believers looking to integrate their purpose and profession”.

It’s interesting to note that Burpo’s ghostwriter, Lynn Vincent, has also ghosted volumes for Sarah Palin and for Gen William “Jerry” Boykin (according to an article in Newsweek, Vincent complained that having worked on Going Rogue had led some reviewers to take Heaven is for Real less seriously). However, while Boykin sees Obama as a Marxist tyrant in cahoots with Islam (and Palin needs no introduction), Jakes supports Obama and recently took part in an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House. He has also rebuked Franklin Graham for his anti-Obama conspiracy-mongering.

Nadine Dorries: What Does She Mean?

Alongside the controversies over Nadine Dorries’ expenses and bogus allegations of stalking (see here), the MP is also currently at the centre of a storm over her stated wish to promote “abstinence education” to schoolgirls. Commenting on Dorries’ pronouncements on this subject is a crowded field, but there are a few points of clarification worth making.

First, the prevalence of sex in society:

I am sure that many Members will be aware of the broadcaster Dame Joan Bakewell. I always had the impression that she and I were on separate sides of the political divide, but I was intrigued a year ago to read something that she had written in the Radio Times and in the newspapers, in which she said that Mary Whitehouse, who campaigned against declining moral standards on television, was right to fear that sexual liberation in the 1960s would damage society…

“The liberal mood back in the ’60s was that sex was pleasurable and wholesome and shouldn’t be seen as dirty and wicked. The Pill allowed women to make choices for themselves. Of course, that meant the risk of making the wrong choice. But we all hoped girls would grow to handle the new freedoms wisely. Then everything came to be about money—so now sex is about money, too. Why else sexualise the clothes of little girls, run TV channels full of naked wives, have sex magazines edging out the serious stuff?”

…Dame Joan said that our society is saturated in sex: a typical prime-time hour on TV contains 2.6 references to intercourse, 1.2 references to prostitution and rape, and 4.7 sexual innuendoes.

The article by Joan Bakewell was published in the  Radio Times for 5-11 June 2010 (pp. 122-3). Although it was entitled “I agree with Mary Whitehouse”, Bakewell in fact argued that Whitehouse for the most part had been wrong-headed, and that it was a good thing that  TV is now able to portray and discuss sexual matters more freely. Bakewell only agreed with her  on the issue of commercialization leading to exploitation.

The statistics cited by Dorries do not appear anywhere in Bakewell’s article: as I blogged here, their actual source is obscure, although they are at least 20 years old and refer to the USA. They, have, though, been cited repeatedly in conservative Christian media. This suggests that Dorries has been given talking-points by a group such as Christian Concern (with which she has links), and that she sloppily mangled these when raising the matter in Parliament. What could have been a reasonable point – that there is recognition across the political spectrum that sex has been commercialized and that this is corrosive – was unnecessarily obscured.

Second, the issue of “abstinence”:

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes.

…I believe that the answer to ending our constant struggle with the incredibly high rate of teenage sexual activity and underage pregnancies lies in teaching our girls and boys about the option of abstinence—the ability to just say no as part of their compulsory sex education at school.

…In our sex education programmes, we need to promote the notion of abstinence and all the advantages that it brings, such as self-respect and not making relationship mistakes.

This was misreported as suggesting that Dorries wishes to advance “abstinence only” education, along lines seen in parts of the USA and parts of Africa. Dorries didn’t help herself, though, by going on to attack sex education as it is currently delivered (or rather, as she believes it is currently delivered; Unity at Ministry of Truth has shown that she was misinformed on a number of points). She’s also gone on to trumpet a pseudo-survey which suggests most parents do not want schools to teach sex education – why do that, if she only wants “additional” education?

Further, what “additional sex education” materials on abstinence are there, besides those published by conservative Christian educators? Speaking on the Vanessa Show on 16 May, Dorries now says that she didn’t like the word “abstinence”, but that she had been obliged to use it in Parliament as a piece of “legalese” – although what expression she would have preferred instead remains unclear.

Again, though, there is a reasonable point in there somewhere: it seems sensible that in teaching young people how to navigate the sexual world, educators ought to include advice on how to resist media messages and peer pressure, and perhaps to raise awareness of saying no as an option.

Third, Dorries become the focus of particular opprobrium for linking abstinence with the subject of sex abuse while on the Vanessa Show:

If a stronger ‘just say no’ message was given to children, there might be an impact on sex abuse. A lot of girls, when abuse takes place, don’t realise until later that that was wrong because sex is so common in society.

This has been interpreted as implying that sex abuse victims who didn’t “just say no” are to some extent responsible for their own abuse, and has caused distress to some victims. I don’t think she meant that: rather, it seemed to her that linking her campaign to efforts against sex abuse would generate more support, and so she simply blurted out a typically unthought-through utterance. A more substantive objection to what she meant to convey would be that sex abusers have more often taken advantage of a child’s general ignorance about sex, or of a climate in which the discussion of sexual matters was tinged with shame and taboo. Her claim is based on some vague “evidence” that she “heard”.

There is now a clarification on Dorries’ blog, although – yet again typically – it is embedded in an abusive screed against one of her critics, and she airily dismisses victims who have objected to her statement as using “their tragedies to score political points”.

Nadine Dorries and Dominic Wightman: A Mutual Interest

At the risk of some repetition, I return again to the subject of Nadine Dorries and her attempt to use bogus accusations of harassment to discourage critical scrutiny of her expenses and her performance as a Member of Parliament. As I noted in an update to my previous post on the subject, Tim has published a notification which he has received from Bedfordshire Police:

I write to inform you that the harassment complaint made against you by Nadine Dorries, MP, on 12th July 2010 is now concluded.

This was in relation to you attending the Flitwick Hall Hustings, Bedfordshire on 4th May 2010, knowing that Nadine Dorries was in attendance. As advised, others could construe this type of behaviour as harassment or stalking. There is no action against you concerning this matter, apart from the verbal warning given by me to you during the Voluntary Interview in January 2011.

Nadine Dorries has been informed of this result.

The above Non Crime Report has been generated today, Monday 16th May 2011, as the paperwork for this complaint now needs to be referenced and filed.

As Tim explains:

Dorries’ claim that I had lied to organisers about my intentions was one of the main reasons why police had initial concerns about my presence at Flitwick, but the truth was that I had gone out of my way to secure permission and be clear about my intentions. In fact, I was not only able to produce emails backing this up, but also (surprise evidence!) audio of my explaining it to the Chair and getting her approval prior to broadcast!…

Police were furnished with this audio, along with all other unedited footage of the event from my main camera, plus my every email communication with Dorries and/or her office for good measure. Dorries claims to have received hundreds of “vile and abusive” messages from me, but nothing like this turned up during the investigation that I’m aware of, and Dorries has so far refused to honour a legitimate DPA request from me that would require her to (at least) provide a copy of every email and letter sent to her in my name. 

…Since this investigation began, Dorries has been repeatedly leaking incorrect and distorted versions of privileged information in an attempt to politicise it. The antics included an entirely false claim that I was arrested that Dorries (the source if not the author) has yet to explain or apologise for.

However, Tim also acknowledges that Dorries may have been genuinely upset to see him in Flitwick, based on an impression she may have gained “from ill-informed mates”. In particular, there is the blogger Iain Dale, whose accusations against Tim I dealt with here; at the Flitwick event, Dorries mentioned two other MPs: Anne Milton and Patrick Mercer. Milton did not like Tim’s critical scrutiny of her election campaign in 2005 (which included appalling conduct by a couple of her campaign workers), while Mercer did not want to have to admit that his association with the now-defunct “terror-tracking” outfit VIGIL had been ill-advised and had resulted in false stories about terrorism appearing in tabloids (Mercer is a regular pundit on terrorism).

Tim adds the detail:

Dorries followed up on an initial July 2010 letter about the Flitwick event by presenting to police a series of passages from articles by Dominic Wightman.

Dorries publicised Wightman’s website on her blog in the autumn of 2010; it seems unlikely she was aware of it much before this date.

Wightman, as I have blogged previously, used to run VIGIL; as I blogged here, he enjoyed friendly associations with Mercer, and by his own account, Milton is a “supporter” of his.  Tim and I met him early in 2009, and he told us a tale about how VIGIL had collapsed due to the machinations of an ex-associate. He urged us to “expose” this ex-associate, and a few months later he drew our attention to a document uploaded to Scribd which contained personal attacks on Tim, and distorted personal information. Wightman insisted that the former associate was responsible, but police traced it back to Wightman. The truth was that VIGIL had collapsed because of Wightman’s dishonesty, of which his ex-associate had become aware, and Wightman had hoped to manipulate us into attacking this man for his own advantage.

Once the truth was apparent, Tim then became the focus for an actual harassment campaign, involving another associate of Wightman, named Charlie Flowers. Tim’s home address was posted on-line alongside threats of physical violence and the claim that  his details would be sent to everyone he’d ever “pissed off” (this would have included the BNP), and anonymous abusive websites were created (a few jibes were fired in my direction as well).

Wightman was desperate to paint our exposure of his lies as a political spat, based on his support for the Conservative Party, and his website continually references Tim’s various opponents as justification for his behaviour. So far, though, only Dorries has taken the bait and decided to use or endorse Wightman’s material.

In turn, Dorries’ continued bad-faith accusations about harassment and police warnings have been the spur for continued acts of real harassment, mostly against Tim but also myself. It seems that at some point Flowers realised that Wightman had been manipulating him, too, but he was too proud to admit it – perhaps because he’d also persuaded some friends to join in. Dorries’ accusations became a way for Flowers to save face and to give a retroactive motivation for his typically-botched vigilantism.

On-line harassment and abuse have been ongoing ever since: last summer, an anonymous site was created targeting Tim’s family, and recently around ten anonymous hit-and-run one-post smear blogs were created to abuse me and spread falsehoods. In April, Flowers accused me of “aiding and abetting” Tim’s supposed stalking, and he warned that someone would “slap” me “upside the cheek” as a consequence (there have also been other threats).

As with most vigilantes, we find bullies cloaked in self-righteousness, and the more that Dorries makes bogus complaints and accusations, the more likely it is that abuse aimed at Tim’s direction and my own will continue and escalate. One defence might be that she simply doesn’t know what’s going on – however, I explained the situation to her last year in a letter, and a Conservative blogger who knows her may have tried to have a word.

Mosab Hassan Yousef and Former Shin Bet Handler Respond to Walid Shoebat


Ron Brackin’s website carries further details of the dispute between Walid Shoebat and Mosab Hassan Yousef. Both men are ex-Muslim converts to Christianity of Palestinian heritage now based in the USA, and both have vehemently anti-Islam views. However, while Shoebat is an apocalyptic Christian Zionist who has repudiated any kind of Palestinian identity, Yousef, despite having collaborated with Israel’s Shin Bet against Hamas, supports Palestinian rights (although not a Palestinian state, according to a quote here).

Recently, as I blogged here, Shoebat – who purports to have planted a bomb for the PLO in the 1970s and therefore to be an expert on Islamic terrorism – denounced Yousef as fraud who is “only against Hamas methodology, but not their agenda” and whose “main goal in coming to the U.S. is to infiltrate the main source of international support for Israel: the American church.” Shoebat provided quotes from Yousef made in Arabic media to support his case, including one in which Yousef advises Palestinians not to collaborate with Israel, even if information about terrorism is involved. However, Yousef had always made it clear in English that he was not a Zionist, and that he was motivated by opposition to Hamas’ violence.

Brackin, meanwhile, co-authored Son of Hamas with Yousef; as I noted here, Brackin previously co-authored a book on evangelical Palestinians entitled Between 2 Fires: The Untold Story of Palestinian Christians. This book is sympathetic to Palestinian anger about Israel, and it includes an appendix (solely authored by Brackin) on “The Zionism of Man vs the Zionism of God”, which accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing”.

Yousef has now responded to Shoebat with two public letters, and his former Shin Bet handler has provided a new endorsement. Yousef’s first letter was published on 10 May on Brackin’s site, and 11 May on Yousef’s:

The quotes in the article were taken from an Arabic-language interview on Al Hayat Satellite TV, which I believe to be the biggest and most effective ministry to Muslims in the Middle East. I had appeared the first time in 2008, after it was reported that I had become a follower of Jesus Christ. My appearance was a celebration and encouragement to tens of thousands new believers in Jesus Christ who watch Al Hayat.

…A year later, following the release of Son of Hamas, many people were shocked to learn that I had worked for Israeli intelligence. They suddenly believed me to be just a greedy Israeli collaborator who betrayed his people and used Christianity as a cover. This was very hurtful for the ministry of Al Hayat and caused many to wonder whether Al Hayat too was what it claimed to be… Al Hayat is about Jesus Christ and nothing else. And they were concerned that the accusations might damage the future of the ministry.

…One caller was a new believer in Christ from my hometown of Ramallah. Rashid, the host of the show, asked this young brother an innocent question, which Walid Shoebat translated in his article as: “If you were in Mosab’s position and have two choices: either someone from Hamas will be killed, or school children in a bus will be killed, will you report it?” In the Palestinian territories, you cannot just make an anonymous call to 911. If you give information to Israel, even if it saves lives, you are dead. Any Palestinian has the right to kill you.

Palestinian Christians are under no obligation to work or die for Israel. I risked my life in the most dark and dangerous places to save lives. That was my choice. I did it for my own reasons. As Christians, we are all obligated to die for Christ, if necessary, but not for any political regime.

Based on this reality, therefore, I said (again, addressing Walid Shoebat’s translation from Arabic): “If I was in your shoes, you should not report it to Israel. If anyone hears me right now and they are in relation to Israeli security, I advise them to work for the interest of their own people—number one—and do not work with the [Israeli] enemy against the interest of our people. They should collaborate with the Palestinian Authority only.” By this, the caller understood me to mean, “Then don’t report to Israel. I am not here to encourage you to work for your enemies or giving them any information. Report to the Palestinian Authority.” If God does not require a Palestinian Christian to do as I did, who am I to put a burden on thousands of brothers and sisters by asking them to risk their lives for a political regime?

During a separate interview on Al Arabiya TV, I said that I am playing a big role in the Church in the West to represent my people and build bridges of understanding. Since my people believe that Christians are plotting day and night to destroy the future of Muslims, and since many Western Christians view all Muslims as evil, an important part of my mission is to help people in the West and the Middle East understand and experience one another—not to travel to churches as a sideshow freak, the bad boy who came to Christ. I have never promoted the Palestinian agenda or any other agenda in a church…

As a PS, Yousef reproduces a 2008 email from Shoebat’s handler Keith Davies, in which Davies invites Yousef  to be a speaker for the Walid Shoebat Foundation. Yousef sees this as an attempt “to recruit me to use my story to raise money”.

On 12 May, former Israeli Shin-Bet agent Gonen ben Itzhak weighed in (also on Yousef’s site here):

…Last week, I read an article by one, Walid Shoebat, who claims to have been a PLO terrorist who bombed Bank Leumi in Bethlehem. Yet, I never heard his name before, never saw his name in any Israeli intelligence files, and there is no record of any such attack.

I found it strange that, while his brothers and sisters are being slaughtered in Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen, Mr. Shoebat’s biggest concern seems to be a year-old television interview. He claims to be a great supporter of Israel, but where was he and what was he doing during the Second Intifada? While Mosab was risking his life day and night, Mr. Shoebat was busy collecting donations with his 800 number.

….Mosab’s goal was never to recruit people for the Israeli Shin-Bet. His goal is to build bridges, to help his Palestinian brothers see the truth and understand the meaninglessness and futility of violence. I know this, because we talk about it together almost every single day. How many times have you spoken with Mosab, Mr. Shoebat? Or do you think you know a man’s thoughts and the motives of his heart by listening to a television interview?

Mosab helped Israel more than anyone can believe. This is why the Israeli Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee wrote him a letter of gratitude, perhaps the first of its kind in Israeli history. But somehow Walid Shoebat knows something Israeli officials missed? He knows something members of the U.S. Congress missed? He is smarter than the former director of the CIA, smarter than Jewish leaders in the United States?

I am a trained intelligence officer, with degrees in business, law, and psychology and have extensive experience in the world of lies and deception. I can smell a fraud and recognize a fake hero on the spot. During his service, Mosab never lied to us, and believe me, we had all the tools and the means to find out. Unlike Walid Shoebat, Mosab did not commit fictitious crimes against Israel. And unlike Mr. Shoebat, Mosab served hard time in prison and paid for what he did…

Perhaps of particular wider interest, ben Itzhak backs Yousef’s account of the Maskubia prison. According to Shoebat, in his attack on Yousef:

Mosab portrays the Jerusalem prison as a center for torture and persecution of Palestinians. The reality is much kinder; each inmate has his own bed and an in-the-cell shower as well.

I know this — I was a prisoner there myself.

We ate three full meals a day, and drank tea or sweet punch. And Mosab fails to mention that the Maskubia had Jewish inmates as well, who received the same treatment as the Palestinians and ate out of the same menu. Yes, you were beaten by security when lives were at stake: I witnessed first-hand Israeli soldiers in the corridor beating an inmate who attempted to kill his cellmate (I was selected to clean the mess afterward). What was so shocking to me at the time? The attempted murderer was a Jew.

Ben Itzhak is incredulous:

As part of my job as an Israeli Shin-Bet agent, I visited many times the Masqubiyeh Prison. Reading Mr. Shoebat’s description of the place, I can only say, Mr. Shoebat, you know nothing of the Masqubiyeh!

The next day, Brackin published a second letter from Yousef to Shoebat (this appeared on Yousef’s site the day after):

…As you know, if you read my book, I come from a deep Islamic heritage, from a family that practices, teaches, and spreads Islam. I am a Palestinian who spent several years in Israeli jails, who was tortured and beaten almost to death by angry Israeli soldiers. Yet, Christ pursued me until I “found him” and accepted his challenge to forgive and love my enemies. This was very hard for me to do and took a long time. For nearly ten years, I worked for Israeli intelligence, dealing with cool guys and really bad guys, moderate soldiers and fanatics, humanitarians, and racists. Are there racist Israelis? Yes, there are, just as there are Hamas racists.

…I learned on my own, the very hard way, that extremist Israelis were no less dangerous than extremist Palestinians. Israelis are not the problem, and Palestinians are not the problem. Extremism is the problem. A racist Palestinian is no different than a racist Israeli. Racism is the problem. Greed and corruption are the problems, not greedy or corrupt Israelis or Palestinians. Gonen and I used to talk with other Shin Bet agents, what if we swap Palestinian leaders and Israeli leaders? Will there be peace? And we all agreed that there would be no difference, because they would still fight for their selfish goals, because they were selfish and corrupt, not because they were Jews or Arabs.

[M]y reputation is torn apart everyday by one side that hates me because they think I am a Zionist and the other side that hates me because they think I am a Palestinian extremist….

Yousef also mentioned his friendship with Sarah Stern.

Yesterday, Shoebat’s response was published:

Yet you rejected my call to you in which you expressed in your post insinuating that we wanted to recruit you for a financial agenda. My record proves beyond any doubt that I have always reached out with others who speak for the cause. I have spent over $70,000 on the Forthood massacre event, brought in speakers and paid them there due as required by our Lord, a servant is worthy of his hire. I simply wanted to open an avenue for you to speak at Universities. I have done the same for many others.

Now, your Shen Bet handler has stated I was a fraud, that he checked my records and found nothing. How could he have done this in the last few days, especially when he no longer is a Shen-Bet operative? Now I have to defend myself from his false accusations, which I must do to correct the record. For the first time in my life, you will see indeed that I am no fraud.

…I did attempt to contact you through a brother in the past. I have sent Zachariah Izzat, an Egyptian believer and he had exchanges with you which reached nowhere. He was disappointed. In the end, I had concluded you wanted nothing to do with us.

[M]y wife brought a video to view in which you were dressed in the Kaffieh, the very symbol of the Palestinian cause. I ignored it. Then hours later, I had thought to myself, perhaps I should pay attention. When I did, I was saddened of what I saw. Statements that were clearly intended to show that you wanted a Palestinian state.

Mosab, I am not Palestinian. I am not from Palestine. I am a Judean Arab and nothing more. I am not ashamed to say also that I am a true Zionist.

I am also keen to [word missing] the Palestinian-Christian ideology, which comes from the pit of hell. For Brackin to compare the Zionism of God with the Zionism of man, that tanks and armed strength of Israel is “Zionism of man” is a message from the pit of hell. Such are not your friends; such is the nature of the enemy that uses half-truths. God said that He would bring Israel back to be a great nation. This Mosab also means that God planed for a strong Israel.

…I am a man who translates doublespeak by all who express an evil intent. I was the first to translate the works of Feisal Abdel Rauf and exposed him throughout the nation [I blogged this claim here – RB] . I was the first to translate Rashad Hussein’s intent to interfere with the Nuclear issues since he now works under the president of the United States. For Gonen to say that I have done nothing, sacrificed nothing—is slander to say the least.

…Palestinian Christianity is no Christianity whatsoever. It is a cult from the pit of hell and I want to so much get you out of it…

Certainly, Shoebat’s message is more likely to be well-received than Yousef’s: a vicarious identification with a strong and uncompromising Israel is central to the self-identity of many conservative Christians in the USA, and Israel is regarded as the model to which the USA should aspire in its dealings with the Muslim world. This is one reason why Shoebat – who accuses Obama of being a secret Muslim working to advance terrorism – is welcome to speak at so many churches and at secular events such as the recent Homeland Security conference in South Dakota. Unconditional support for the Israeli right is today more central to the religion than anything in the now mostly-forgotten Nicene Creed.

UPDATE: Israel Today has a quote from Aaron Klein:

Aaron Klein, Middle East correspondent for conservative Internet news giant WorldNetDaily, agrees that Mosab Yousef is no friend of Christian Zionists, and certainly does not believe that modern Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

“Mosab believes in the leftist line that Israel needs to withdraw from ‘occupied’ lands,” Klein told us. “He is absolutely misguided and I do think his view here is not something that should be given a platform.”

“To suggest he was sent to infiltrate the church is ridiculous. Hamas could care less about what the church thinks, plus they’re not that smart,” said Klein.

As I blogged here, Klein instead prefers to give “a platform” to the Israeli far-right.

UPDATE 2: Glenn Beck’s “End-Times Prophet” Joel Richardson has entered the fray, in a piece for the birther-conspiracy website WorldNetDaily:

…while Yousef should be acknowledged for his stance against the violence of Hamas, it does not erase the fact that he still seems to agree with the end-goals of Hamas, which is the establishment of a Palestinian state. This position, although sadly embraced by many churches today, is not only fundamentally contrary to the concepts of justice, but also unarguably in conflict with the Lord’s position on this issue as defined for us in the Scriptures.

…Walid and Yousef have both opened the idea of meeting together to work through their disagreements. My hope is that beyond reconciling as brothers in Christ with very similar pasts, Yousef would also come around to understand that if one is to truly follow Jesus, they must move on to embrace the full revelation of who Jesus is, what He does when He returns and whose side He has told us He will be on.

It’s interesting to note that while Richardson advises Yousef that he doesn’t properly know Jesus because he’s not a Zionist, he’s happy to regard Glenn Beck as a “prophet”, even though, as a Mormon, Beck’s religious beliefs are far from orthodox or historic Christianity. Richardson also assures us that Shoebat’s backstory is true:

Upon hearing that Walid was coming to Phoenix, an old friend from Bethlehem had emailed him and asked if they could get together. After recording the show, we all went out for dinner, with Walid and his friend sitting across from me. This was the first time they had talked since they were young adults in Bethlehem.

…not once did his friend ask him why he was busy traveling the country making up lies. Instead, I listened for hours as these two recounted many old stories that validating Walid’s story.

At one point, Walid recounted nearly beating an Israeli soldier to death with a piece of wood during a riot. Walid’s friend chimed in, “Walid, don’t you remember? I was the one who handed you the stick.”

For a moment Walid and his friend looked at each other, remembering the crime they had committed together. Then they both hung their heads, shaking them in shame and together they grieved out loud, “Lord have mercy on us. This was nothing to be proud of.”

Many other things were discussed, which shouldn’t be recounted here.

Meanwhile, Shoebat has also published a new piece, attacking ben Itzhak and – with typical vulgarity – accusing Jerusalem Post journalist Jorg Luyken of being a “Holocaust-denial supporter”. This is because Luyken has expressed the view that genocide-denial should be opposed by “reason” rather than by passing laws.