It is no secret that politicians on both the "right" and "left" lie, dissemble, equivocate, misrepresent, misinform, falsify, whitewash and cover up. Not even the noble and honest Cicero was immune to fudging and shifting sides. It is the nature of politics. For much of the time we put up with it until it grows so far-fetched, we can no longer shut our eyes and let ourselves be lulled into further acquiescence. We all put up with this, do our best to spot the lies, or rely on investigative journalists to dig beneath the surface of what governments claim or their opponents hide.
But something strange has been happening to people calling themselves liberals. (Note: The term "liberal" differs enormously between the U.S. and the UK. Americans use it to describe anyone from the Democratic Party through to those even farther to the left. But the British use it for people from the political centre towards the right, and it has no connotations of far left extremism. It is used here in the American sense.) The far left -- the Marxists, Trotskyites etc. -- the campus extremists, even the new leadership of Britain's Labour Party have started to contradicting their own ideals, not least when it comes to free speech, Israel, the Middle East, Islam, and the rights of Muslim women.
All sides of the political spectrum share many ideals in their original form: advocacy of human rights, equal justice under the law; the rights of racial and religious minorities, homosexuals, workers, women. They also share an opposition to racism, anti-Semitism, fascism, and religious fundamentalism. These are ideals in any democratic nation -- views demonstrated by modern legislation across a host of democratic parliaments.
But many liberals appear to distort all this. They take extreme positions, guided by three linked but often confused issues: political correctness, cultural relativism and moral relativism. There seems to be a deep-seated belief, not only that all cultures possess and practice different values (the original premise of neutral cultural relativism in anthropology); or that, God forbid!, Western values are better than non-Western ones. Many liberals appear, instead, to think, that non-Western values are better or certainly no worse, than Western ones.
The idea that Western states, heirs to imperialism and still practitioners of indirect colonialism, have imposed their values on the rest of the world, makes the values of the "victim" -- the "oppressed" and the "occupied" -- superior to those of the West. But it is precisely Western values and laws that have been responsible for the very concept of human rights, for efforts to free former colonies, to bring aid to Third World countries, to grant rights to minorities, to introduce high-quality education, to advocate for women's rights, and more.
No other former imperialists, not least those of the many Muslim empires throughout history, have acted in this way towards the subjects of their former colonies. Unfortunately, many self-proclaimed liberals have responded to this commitment to human rights by charging the West with some form of original sin requiring Europeans and Americans to carry a heavy weight of guilt (as documented so well by the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner in books such as The Tyranny of Guilt).
One of the greatest examples of the excessive focus on the West is universal condemnation of the transatlantic slave trade, supposedly divorced from the Muslim/Arab slave trades, which continues without protest from these liberals in some places to this day. This, even though the Islamic trade was larger and longer-lasting than the Western one. Mauritania today holds anti-slavery protestors in prison, despite slavery there having been outlawed since 1981.
It is not hard to see why so many liberals– not least the large numbers of students involved in campus demonizations of Israel, Jews, whites and other supposed public enemies -- are morally and politically confused, not to say profoundly selective and bigoted, in direct contradiction to their own expressed principles of peace, toleration, diversity, and multiculturalism.
If this sounds a little abstract, here are some examples to show this confusion at its worst.
As a telling example of hypocritical behaviour, for many years now, a range of LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders) organizations have campaigned against the state of Israel. They have marched, carrying rainbow banners, alongside far-left extremists and far-right Muslims, shouting abuse against Israel and calling for an end to the "occupation" of the West Bank.
The annual National Conference on LGBT Equality, Creating Change, is an event held by the US National LGBTQ Task Force, based in Washington D.C., one of the most important bodies in the struggle for gay rights. The 2016 Creating Change conference was held in the Hilton Chicago between 20 and 24 of January.
Writing about this event, leading human rights and pro-LGBT activist and lawyer Melanie Nathan declared that, "This week will go down in history as one of the saddest and most destructive, ever, in the lives of LGBTQ Jews. We became the target of antisemitism disguised as protesting alleged 'Israeli oppression.' Anyone who truly understands the history, the context and milieu will clearly access the bottom line and that came in the form of the chant that served to helm the onslaught by LGBTQ protesters at the Creating Change 2016 Conference, who yelled: 'Palestine will be free from the river to the sea'." As is well known, the river is the Jordan and the sea is the Mediterranean, meaning that Israel will be replaced by a large Palestinian state from which Jews will have been ethnically cleansed.
A pro-Israel LGBT organization, A Wider Bridge, had planned to host an all-inclusive Shabbat reception on Friday 22nd, with the aim of introducing delegates to visiting Israeli LGBT guests. On the 18th, however, conference organizers caved in to anti-Israel demands and banned the reception. Many people strongly objected to this divisive move; on the following day the banning decision was reversed. Clearly, trouble lay ahead, and, true to form, an enormous band of Anti-Israel demonstrators from the LGBT community disrupted the reception, chanting the rhyming slogan above while carrying printed and home-made posters saying "Zionism sucks," "No Pride in Apartheid".
That Palestinians sometimes beat and kill gay men is irrelevant to their way of thinking, as is the moral inconvenience that homosexuality is illegal in all Muslim states, and punished there by imprisonment, execution, or mob violence. These facts are of no apparent interest to those determined to slander Israel at all costs.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East -- and most of Africa and Asia -- where gay rights are guaranteed by law, where Gay Pride parades are held, and where gay tourism is encouraged. Yet, surprisingly, LGBT groups in the West never march or demonstrate to condemn countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and others where gay men are hanged from cranes, beheaded, stoned or thrown from high buildings.
LGBT attacks on Israel and the distortion of gay rights as "pinkwashing" -- claiming that the state of Israel uses its freedoms for all its gay inhabitants in order to whitewash its supposedly evil persecution of the Palestinian people -- represent something psychologically troubling. Israel should be a major source of pride and admiration for LGBT people. Yet the very idea of rights for the LGBT community is simply cast aside in favour of deeply distasteful, profoundly misguided, and frequently anti-Semitic agitation that calls for the destruction of the world's only Jewish state. Liberal politics, post-colonialism, and a staggering inverted moral relativism work together to cancel out all the good that Israel does and all the safety it offers to all its citizens.
The charge of "pinkwashing" carries an even broader message. It would appear that, whatever Israelis and their government do may be dismissed as mere "whitewashing" to cover Israel's original "sin" of being Jewish -- whether it be the remarkable international aid it provides in disaster-stricken regions or even the work of Israeli volunteers rescuing and feeding refugees in the enemy state of Syria, the 17 field hospitals and surgical centres Israel runs to help Syrians, its many advances in life-saving medical treatment, or the protection it affords to many persecuted minority religious communities from Christians to Baha'is. This blanket condemnation of Israel also carries another message: that whatever crimes other nations commit -- from Iran to Saudi Arabia to Sudan, or whatever acts of terror Muslim groups or Palestinians carry out -- these may be passed over in silence or even supported. And they are. There is even another clear message: that even the most positive side of the people we hate is really just a cover for sinister conspiracies. This view falls in line with the conspiracy theories familiar from Tsarist Russia, the Third Reich, Soviet Russia, the Baathist regimes in Syria and Iraq. Those are never healthy models to follow, above all for those who think of themselves as moral or enlightened.
Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Palestinians, members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, member states of the UN, and hundreds of other anti-Israel and anti-Zionist campaigners, supposed intellectuals, and politicians repeatedly argue that Israel is an illegal colonial entity, and that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is illegal under international law. In fact, Israel's presence in the West Bank is perfectly legal.
If there are allegations that Israel has taken land by force and claimed sovereignty contrary to international law, it has not. All Israel's wars have so far been defensive. Either Israel was attacked first or has responded to a legitimate casus belli (legal cause for war) such as the closure by Egypt of the Strait of Tiran in 1967). There are allegations that Israel carries out "ethnic cleansing;" it does not -- and much more.
But when Israel's supporters point out that its opponents are referring to lies that have no relevance to Israel -- and when these supporters list UN resolutions (notably resolutions 181, 242, and 338), League of Nations rulings establishing the Palestine Mandate, and a host of other documents designed to enforce international law -- Israel's opponents shout and declare all these legal instruments to be invalid -- for no apparent legal reason, but presumably that they demonstrate the falsity of their own claims. In other words, they show themselves to be not in the least respectful of international law. International law seems respected by them only if it can be distorted to be used as a weapon against Israel.
On the face of it, liberals often claim to share values that the rest of us hold, too. They declare themselves to be anti-racist, they call for rights for women, for sexually anomalous people, for the restoration of rights for people living in former colonies, for the rights of formerly oppressed people to self-determination, and much else that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But they seem never satisfied by the straightforward promotion of these rights through democratic processes. They appear to prefer angry demonstrations, occasional rioting, and even sometimes terrorism. Using an abusive form of political correctness and insisting on an absolutist version of multiculturalism, many devotees of liberalism often betray the ideals for which earlier human rights activists, feminists, anti-racists, and freedom fighters fought.
Take racism: Liberals rightly work against discriminating against people of colour. But when it comes to the Jewish people, history's most abused and persecuted ethnic and religious community, the pretence of being anti-racist is dropped and hardline liberals explode into racist fury, adopting all the techniques of far-right anti-Semites. In Europe, large numbers of liberal activists have joined forces with ultra-conservative Muslims to march through the streets of Britain, the Netherlands and elsewhere chanting "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas," or listening as their terror-supporting Muslim allies sing "Khaybar, Khaybar, ya Yahud: Jaysh Muhammad sa ya-ud" (which loosely translates as "Remember the Battle of Khaybar, O you Jews: the army of Muhammad is coming back." Khaybar refers to the 629 A.D. assault led by Muhammad against the last Jewish tribe in Arabia.
July 2014: Demonstrators in The Hague, Netherlands chant "Death to the Jews", while flying the black flag of jihad. (Image source: Twitter/@SamRaalte)
Were these left-wing demonstrators to chant and march and threaten to exterminate any other race, they would be known for the racist thugs they really are. But Jews are apparently fair game. Many self-declared liberals behave much as did the Nazis of the early years of the Third Reich.
This clear anti-Semitism by the liberal-Islamist alliance is given another ironic twist that seeks to cover its racism by placing the argument on what appears to be a purely political footing. Although the UN Charter and other mainstream instruments call for the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination, as in Ireland, Turkey, South Africa, India, Pakistan and elsewhere liberal support for self-determination is betrayed by an almost total refusal to recognize the rights of one ethnic (and ultimately indigenous) people: the Jews. Of the post-imperialist states, one alone is singled out for opprobrium: Israel. Rhetoric about Israelis being imperialists, colonizers or fascists, leads one to think that Israel's enemies know nothing about the vast Ottoman empire that was the last legitimate regime to control the territories from which Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the disputed territories all spring. The "Palestine will be free" marchers evidently know nothing much about history. Israelis -- just like citizens in their neighbouring states -- are a people freed from the tyranny of the Muslim Ottomans and awarded a new destiny precisely because Europe's imperial powers, the League of Nations, and the United Nations, relinquished their right to rule in favour of Jewish sovereignty.
Today's new anti-Semites ignore or are wholly ignorant of the long and unprecedented history of the Jewish diaspora. No other people has longed for self-determination for so long or with such sustained intensity.
To leave Israel for a moment, we can find an important anomaly among liberal feminists who actively support the wearing of the Muslim veil and even choose to turn a blind eye to the misogyny of Islamic law, forced marriages, child marriages, female genital mutilation, honour killings and the stoning of women accused of adultery. This is, perhaps, the most hideous example of hypocrisy and double standards -- finding fault with even the most trivial of Western attitudes to women while doing nothing to protect Muslim women simply because it supposedly is "racist" to condemn Muslims. It appears that the fear of being called racist is more important to many than a genuine concern for the human rights of a group that is clearly oppressed. A Western man calling women "chicks" may expect the full force of feminist wrath, but a Muslim man who beats his wife because the Qur'an advises him to, is exonerated because wife-beating is part of his different and purportedly inviolable culture.
Writing in Tablet magazine last year, Heather Rogers relates how she at first dismissed criticism of misogyny within Muslims communities because "Westerners have no right to tell Muslims how to live" and downplayed arguments about the rate of Islamic honour killings. It was only on later reflection, she said, that she began to pose questions such as, "Why aren't more non-Muslim feminists speaking up about violence against women in Muslim-majority countries?" She then gives an example of how liberal feminists distort matters. "In searching the Internet," she writes, "I begin to find the vestiges of a discussion of the subject among Leftists, which suggests some reasons why many non-Muslim feminists choose to stay silent. One controversy is to do with an essay Adele Wilde-Blavatsky wrote in 2012 for The Feminist Wire, an online women's studies journal. Her piece says the hijab is a symbol of male oppression. A storm ensued. One response, signed by 77 academics, writers, and activists, said the essay was an assertion of Wilde-Blavatsky's "white feminist privilege and power." Instead of facilitating a discussion, however, The Feminist Wire editorial collective took down the comments, pulling the essay along with them."
Rogers then cites the 2010 case when Amnesty International fired the head of its Gender Unit, Gita Sahgal, who had protested the charity's alliance with a former Taliban fighter and misogynist, Moazzem Begg, an extremist who still refuses to condemn the stoning to death of women. Sahgal's credentials as a secular Asian woman defending the rights of Muslim women in general were and are undeniable. But Amnesty International, a left-wing non-governmental organization (NGO) put its pro-Muslim politics above women's rights -- a remarkable step for the world's best-known human rights agency.
It is surprising, yet all too predictable, to find pro-peace organizations and political leaders supporting violent and intolerant opinions and groups. The simplest example is the current leader of Britain's Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn regards war as a last resort and has been active in a number of anti-war movements, such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the hyper-pacifist Stop the War Coalition, which informs his current position in parliament. He continues to oppose renewing Trident, Britain's nuclear missile capacity. We have to assume that Corbyn is, in principle, opposed to the use of violence except in extreme circumstances. How, then, is it that he has described the brutal terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah -- the latter declared on 11 March to be a terrorist state by the Arab League -- both of which have an open agenda of committing genocide against Jews, as "my friends"? He explains this as "diplomatic language in the context of dialogue." Dialogue? This answer confirms that Corbyn has read neither the Hamas Covenant nor Hezbollah's Risala maftuha (Open Letter). How does a man of peace enter into dialogue with Hamas? Here are two sentences from its Covenant/Charter:
"Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement... There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors." [Author's emphasis]
I have an Arabic copy of the Covenant in front of me: the translation is perfectly correct.
Here, from the Hizbullah Open Letter, is much the same thing:
Our primary assumption in our fight against Israel states that the Zionist entity is aggressive from its inception, and built on lands wrested from their owners, at the expense of the rights of the Muslim people. Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated.
We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies, for the reason that such negotiation is nothing but the recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. Therefore we oppose and reject the Camp David Agreements, the proposals of King Fahd, the Fez and Reagan plan, Brezhnev's and the French-Egyptian proposals, and all other programs that include the recognition (even the implied recognition) of the Zionist entity. [Author's emphases]
Dialogue, anyone? In his obsession with dialogue, Corbyn has gone further. In a notorious interview with Stephen Nolan on Radio Ulster last year, Corbyn was asked six times, "Are you prepared to condemn what the IRA did?" -- referring to their use of terrorist violence. Each time he refused to give a straight answer. As Nolan himself put it at the beginning of the interview, quoting from a Daily Telegraph article in June: "This is a man who sympathised with violent Irish republicanism in the 80s, invited IRA representatives to the Commons a fortnight after the Brighton bombing in 1984 and at a Troops Out meeting in 1987 he stood for a moment's silence for eight IRA terrorists killed in an SAS ambush." He is also a man who invited Hamas and Hezbollah representatives into the UK parliament. Even The Guardian, regarded by many as anti-Israeli, has castigated Corbyn for this and his other associations with terrorists and anti-Semites.
It does not stop there. During an interview with one of Britain's most eminent political journalists, Andrew Marr, Corbyn called for dialogue with Islamic State. A week later, in The Spectator, Toby Young wrote an article entitled, "Jeremy Corbyn and the hard left are wilfully blind to the evils of Islamist Nazis." Of course, Corbyn himself did not volunteer to fly out to Raqqa to have a cosy chat with Islamic State's self-proclaimed leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a spirit of dialogue.
What is the reason for this staggering naïveté? You can find some of the answer by looking at again at the Hamas Covenant and Hizbullah's Open Letter. Here are some sentences from the former:
The Islamic Resistance Movement [i.e. Hamas] found itself at a time when Islam has disappeared from life. Thus rules shook, concepts were upset, values changed and evil people took control, oppression and darkness prevailed, cowards became like tigers: homelands were usurped, people were scattered and were caused to wander all over the world, the state of justice disappeared and the state of falsehood replaced it. Nothing remained in its right place.
Here is a single statement from the latter:
As for our friends, they are all the world's oppressed peoples.
In other words, both Hamas and Hizbullah supposedly exist to fight for the rights of the oppressed, Franz Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth," the victims of Western imperialism and colonialism, of American arrogance, of a worldwide Jewish/Zionist/Masonic conspiracy. What socialist would not reach out to condemn his own people and his own culture, would not repudiate his own history, merely to reach out to these victims? If Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic State, al-Qa'ida, the Iranian regime, and all the other promoters of violence proclaim themselves to be the champions of the downtrodden masses, are they then to be applauded, rewarded and financed?
It is not just the "hard left" that does this. The broad liberal press, newspapers -- such as the New York Times, the Guardian, the Independent, Haaretz -- together with a broad consensus of politicians and church leaders, are always happy to tell us that when terrorist groups maim and kill innocent civilians it is not their fault, for the conditions of oppression under which they live have purportedly given them no choice other than to fight back; that the Palestinians have given up hope, that they and their children have no other choice but to shoot and stab their way to yet more years of failure, despair and security measures.
Most of us in the West have much to thank many real liberals for: the abolition of slavery, the cause of civil rights and anti-racism, recognition of the rights of homosexuals, empathy for the disabled, free education, the campaign against religious intolerance, and much more. Liberals share these achievements with many others from the "right" and centre, with Jewish and Christian ethical standards, with a growing sense of a shared humanity as set out in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But many pseudo-liberals have betrayed these same values and proven themselves unworthy of the work of their own ancestors -- men and women who would never have sat side by side with terrorists, lied about Israel, fostered anti-Semitism or tolerated the abuse of women and children. In all likelihood they would never have denounced the values of Western civilization, or valued the monstrous over the humane.
Dr. Denis MacEoin is an academic and journalist specializing in Islam and the Middle East.
 The occupation is perfectly legal in international law under UN Resolution 242 (1967), and was reaffirmed in the Oslo II Accord, Article XI. See Alan Baker, "The Legal Basis of Israel's Rights in the Disputed Territories," Jan. 2013.
 For a broad discussion of this, see Kenneth Marcus, The Definition of Anti-Semitism, Oxford U.P., 2015, chapter 6