The non-existent Amina Arraf
* The Washington Post: “Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the male bloggers realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian.”
* A “Free Amina!” Facebook page sprang up. “The Obama Administration must speak about this,” declared Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic. “This woman is a hero.”
* On June 7th the State Department announced that it was looking into Amina’s “kidnapping.”
* Mark Steyn: “Now consider it from Assad’s point of view. Unlike ‘Amina,’ ‘Rania,’ and the ‘three armed men in their early 20s’ who ‘hustled Amina into a red Dacia Logan,’ you have the disadvantage of actually existing. You’re the dictator of Syria. You’ve killed more demonstrators than those losers Mubarak, Ben Ali, and Gaddafi combined, and the Americans have barely uttered a peep. Suddenly Hillary Clinton, who was hailing you as a ‘reformer’ only 20 minutes ago, wants to give you a hard time over some lesbian blogger.”
* Steyn: “From CNN to the Guardian to Bianca Jagger to legions of Tweeters, Western liberalism fell for a ludicrous hoax. Why? You can learn a lot from the deceptions a society chooses to swallow. ‘Amina Arraf’ was a fiction who fit the liberal worldview. That’s because the liberal worldview is a fiction.”
* French Newspaper Le Figaro: Hizbullah moves hundreds of missiles from its Syria storage sites to eastern Lebanon, fearing Assad could fall.
* The 8-year-old girl suicide bomber.
* Benny Morris accosted outside the London School of Economics.
1. “How could the Left not fall for the Arab-lesbian-blogger hoax?” (By Mark Steyn, NRO, June 18, 2011)
2. “Dog days in the Hate Israel industry” (By Kelly McParland, National Post, June 23, 2011
3. “U.S. defends participation in Syrian-organized tour” (Associated Press, June 22, 2011)
4. “Hezbollah moving arms from Syria, fearing Assad’s fall” (Ha’aretz, June 26, 2011)
5. “Afghan girl tricked into carrying bomb” (By Alissa Rubin, NY Times, June 26, 2011)
6. “Accosted on Kingsway” (By Benny Morris, The National Interest, June 20, 2011)
[Note by Tom Gross]
I attach nine articles of interest split across two dispatches today. Among the writers of these articles, Mark Steyn, Ethan Bronner, Benny Morris, Kevin Myers, Matthew Kalman and Kelly McParland are all subscribers to this email list.
The other part can be read here: BBC apologizes for anti-Israel dog story (& Gaza Red Cross office attacked). It includes a new video showing “the situation in Gaza” as not described by the BBC.
FLORENCE OF ARABIA
How could the Left not fall for the Arab-lesbian-blogger hoax?
By Mark Steyn
The National Review
June 18, 2011
Last week was a great week for lesbians coming out of the closet — coming out, that is, as middle-aged heterosexual men.
On Sunday, Amina Arraf, the young vivacious Syrian lesbian activist whose inspiring blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus” had captured hearts around the world, was revealed to be, in humdrum reality, one Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old college student from Georgia. The following day, Paula Brooks, the lesbian activist and founder of the website LezGetReal, was revealed to be one Bill Graber, a 58-year-old construction worker from Ohio. In their capacity as leading lesbians in the Sapphic blogosphere, “Miss Brooks” and “Miss Arraf” were colleagues. “Amina” had posted at LezGetReal before starting “A Gay Girl In Damascus.” As one lesbian to another, they got along swimmingly. The Washington Post reported:
“Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian.”
Who knows what romance might have blossomed had not “Amina” been arrested by a squad of Baath Party goons dispatched by Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Tom MacMaster then created “Rania,” a fake cousin for his fake lesbian, to try to rouse the world to take up the plight of the nonexistent Amina’s nonexistent detention.
A “Free Amina!” Facebook page sprang up.
“The Obama Administration must speak about this,” declared Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic. “This woman is a hero.”
On June 7th the State Department announced that it was looking into the “kidnapping.”
Now consider it from Assad’s point of view. Unlike “Amina,” “Rania,” and the “three armed men in their early 20s” who “hustled Amina into a red Dacia Logan,” you have the disadvantage of actually existing. You’re the dictator of Syria. You’ve killed more demonstrators than those losers Mubarak, Ben Ali, and Gaddafi combined, and the Americans have barely uttered a peep. Suddenly Hillary Clinton, who was hailing you as a “reformer” only 20 minutes ago, wants to give you a hard time over some lesbian blogger. Any moment now Sarkozy or Cameron or some other Europoseur will demand anti-homophobic NATO bombing missions over your presidential palace. On CNN Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper will be interviewing each other back and forth all day long about the Gay Spring sweeping the Arab world. You’ll be the first Middle East strongman brought down by lesbianism. You’ll be a laughing stock at Arab League Where-Are-They-Now? nights.
Who needs it? “Release the lesbian bloggers!” commands Assad.
“Er, what lesbian bloggers?” says his vizier. “This is Damascus, remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” And he spends another sleepless night wondering if this is the most devilish CIA dirty trick of all, or if one of their satellite drones merely misinterpreted the grainy footage from the Colonel Gaddafi Lookalike round of Syrian Idol.
The pretty young lesbian Muslim was exposed as a portly 40-year-old male infidel at the University of Edinburgh with the help of “Paula Brooks,” shortly before “Paula” was exposed as a 58-year-old male construction worker from Ohio. “He would have got away with it if I hadn’t been such a stand-up guy,” the second phony lesbian said of the first phony lesbian. As to why stand-up guys are posing as sit-down lesbians, “Paula” told the Associated Press that “he felt he would not be taken seriously as a straight man.”
“He got that one right,” sneered the Toronto gay magazine Xtra.
Indeed. A century ago, a British Army officer went to the Levant and reinvented himself as Lawrence of Arabia. Now a middle-aged American male college student goes to the Internet and reinvents himself as Florence of Arabia. We have become familiar in recent years with the booming literary genre of the fake memoir, to which Oprah’s late Book Club was distressingly partial. Greg Mortensen’s now discredited Three Cups Of Tea took it to the next level, not just near mandatory in the usual circles (grade schools and sentimental punditry) but also compulsory in the Pentagon for commanders en route to Afghanistan. After centuries of disdain for the preferred beverage of imperialists, American officers in the Hindu Kush now drink more tea than the Brits, and they don’t even like it. But a charlatan told them to do it, so the tea allowance now consumes 23 percent of the Pentagon budget.
Yet Tom MacMaster topped even that. He took an actual, live, mass popular uprising and made an entirely unrepresentative and, indeed, nonexistent person its poster “girl.” From CNN to the Guardian to Bianca Jagger to legions of Tweeters, Western liberalism fell for a ludicrous hoax. Why?
Because they wanted to. It would be nice if “Amina Arraf” existed. As niche constituencies go, we could use more hijab-wearing Muslim lesbian militants and fewer fortysomething male Western deadbeat college students. But the latter is a real and pathetically numerous demographic, and the former is a fiction — a fantasy for Western liberals, who think that in the multicultural society the nice gay couple at 27 Rainbow Avenue can live next door to the big bearded imam with four child brides at Number 29 and gambol and frolic in admiration of each other’s diversity. They will proffer cheery greetings over the picket fence, the one admiring the other’s attractive buttock-hugging leather shorts for that day’s Gay Pride parade as he prepares to take his daughter to the clitoridectomy clinic.
Yes, yes, I stereotype. But stereotypes become stereotypes because they’re grounded in observable reality. “Amina Arraf” is grounded in nothing more than a fetish fantasy as preposterous as those lipstick lesbians in porn movies who can’t wait for some hot straight guy to jump in and make it a threesome.
It would be statistically improbable for there to be no women attracted to other women in Damascus. But “Amina Arraf” is nothing more than the projection of parochial obsessions on to distant lands Western liberals are too lazy to try to figure out. In 2007 in The Atlantic Monthly, Andrew Sullivan, not yet mired up Sarah Palin’s birth canal without a paddle peddling bizarre conspiracy theories about the maternity of her youngest child, announced that, never mind his policies, Barack Obama’s visage alone would be “the most effective potential rebranding of the United States since Reagan.” As he explained:
It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees this man — Barack Hussein Obama — is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. . . . If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close.
For crying out loud. The assumption that “a young Pakistani Muslim” in Lahore or Peshawar shares your peculiar preoccupations is the most feeble kind of projection even by the standards of Western liberal navel-gazing. If doting progressives stopped gazing longingly into “Obama’s face” for just a moment, they might notice that in Benghazi “democracy activists” have been rounding up Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. In Bahrain “democracy activists” have attacked hundreds of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, ripping the tongue out of one muezzin and leaving him brain damaged. What’s so “multicultural” about the pampered middle-aged narcissists of the West’s leisurely “activist” varsity pretending that the entire planet is just like them?
You can learn a lot from the deceptions a society chooses to swallow. “Amina Arraf” was a fiction who fit the liberal worldview. That’s because the liberal worldview is a fiction.
“THEY’RE BEING KILLED BECAUSE THEY’D LIKE TO BE MORE LIKE ISRAEL”
Dog days in the Hate Israel industry
By Kelly McParland
The National Post (Canada)
June 23, 2011
Things must be getting tougher in the Hate Israel industry these days, what with Arab leaders slaughtering their own people everywhere you look, in order to hold onto their jobs.
People were killed in Egypt, people were killed in Tunisia and Bahrain, people are still being killed in Yemen, Libya and especially Syria. They’re being killed because they’d like to change the government, which you can do in Israel just by turning up to vote. They’re being killed because they’d like to be more like Israel. How can you focus the world’s attention on the despicable state of affairs in apartheid Israel when the people in neighbouring countries insist on giving up their lives in hopes of winning similar rights to those Israel already offers? It’s almost like the protesters in all those places didn’t realize that the source of all their troubles lies in Jerusalem, not in their own countries.
Hate Israel people aren’t easy to persuade, though, so they’re persevering despite the headwinds. The folks behind the Canadian boat to Gaza sent their little contingent off on the weekend to join the heroic struggle to break the murderous Israeli blockade of Gaza and bring life-saving supplies to its besieged people. The people of Gaza aren’t really besieged, and it’s not really that hard to send them supplies, if that’s your intention, but admitting as much would spoil all the drama and self-serving bombast of the Hate Israel folks, so they’re pretending otherwise. If they’re really lucky, Israel will try to turn back the boat and they can try to provoke a confrontation, enabling them to get a ton of international publicity for themselves, which is what they live for. It might be a bit more difficult than in the past, though, since Israel may be reluctant to play along, and since the blockade has already been eased. And Turkey, which has been supportive of the flotillas, has its hands full trying to deal with the flood of civilians fleeing Syria to escape the government’s murderous campaign to put down a popular revolt. (Syria is one of those countries that kills people who challenge the government, a state of affairs the Hate Israel people have to studiously ignore.)
The United Church of Canada, or a faction within it, is also keeping up its campaign to pretend Israel is worse than the countries that want to annihilate it. A “task force” within the church which has all of 15 members is trying to drum up support for a boycott of firms that do business in Israel. The campaign, as reported by the National Posts’ Charles Lewis, seems a little unfocused. It hasn’t been endorsed by the Church’s national body, “but it hasn’t unendorsed it either,” says Brian McIntosh, a reverend, pastor and spokesman for the campaigners. (The U.S. Senate hasn’t unendorsed it either, so I guess they must also be on board. Kind of a surprise, but there you go.)
Rev. McIntosh acknowledges that the group hasn’t called for boycotts against any of the many oppressive regimes in Africa or the Middle East, or China, where government critics get chucked in jail and members of many religious faiths may be persecuted. So why Israel?
No. 1, because Israel purports to be a democracy. No. 2, they are in violation of international law and even the UN has tried to call Israel to account. So what is left for people who want to see international law enforced? Libya just happened and the U.S. jumped to take on the presumed responsibility to protect civilians; they jumped in with all kinds of force. But they won’t do that against Israel ever because Israel purports to be a democracy.
“Purports to be”, like, they have elections and stuff. Which they don’t bother with in Syria or Libya or Bahrain. They just shoot people, which is evidently cleaner and more effective. One of the companies Rev. McIntosh wants boycotted is Indigo books, because owners Heather Reisman and Gerald Schwartz personally support a foundation that provides scholarships to Israeli soldiers. They do it on their own, but Rev. McIntosh figures they get their money from Indigo, though a quick Google search would show that Mr. Schwartz actually has one or two other business interests as well. So why pick Indigo? Rev. McIntosh doesn’t really have an answer, just as the Hate Israel people don’t really have an answer for why they hate Israel and not its murderous, repressive, anti-democratic neighbours.
They just do.
U.S. DEFENDS PARTICIPATION IN SYRIAN-ORGANIZED TOUR
U.S. defends participation in Syrian-organized tour
By Bradley Klapper
The Associated Press
June 22, 2011
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration struggled Tuesday to explain why its ambassador to Syria participated in a sanitized trip to the country’s restive north that was sponsored by President Bashar Assad’s regime to attempt to justify its military crackdown.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday’s trip to the abandoned town of Jisr al-Shughour allowed Ambassador Robert Ford to “see for himself the results of the Syrian government’s brutality.”
Yet it was unclear how Ford would have gathered such evidence on the government-organized tour. The sight of deserted streets and buildings, in and of themselves, wouldn’t prove the existence of a foreign conspiracy to destabilize Syria, as the government claims, or mass atrocities, as some Western governments and human rights groups allege.
Assad’s government hoped the trip to the restive Idlib province near the Turkish border would lend credence to its claim that criminals are behind the country’s growing unrest. They brought 70 Western and Arab diplomats along to see the town. Authorities claim armed groups killed 120 security personnel there two weeks ago.
Nuland said journalists and foreign diplomats saw an “empty town with significant damage.”
But she acknowledged that no residents were around to offer an opposing view from the one presented by Syrian government officials. And she couldn’t say if Ford asked to see graves or anything that might substantiate allegations of widespread abuses.
“This is a government that has not allowed ... any of the domestic press, any of the foreign press into its country,” she told reporters in Washington. “This is a government that has closed off the Internet and tried to keep its own people from speaking out. So to go north to bear witness, to see with our own eyes what the results of this awful encounter were, has been valuable for us.”
Nuland said Ford was debriefed by Syrian military intelligence, but that he would have resisted any attempts to portray the Syrian yearnings for reform as the work of foreign instigators. Ford’s conclusion was that he saw a “desperate, sad situation of a completely deserted town,” and that he would be sending a full report soon.
Clashes erupted almost two weeks ago in Jisr al-Shughour. Activists say army mutineers refused to participate in the crackdown on demonstrators calling for Assad’s ouster and then clashed with loyalist troops.
Government forces retook the town more than a week ago, but the U.N. refugee agency says more than 10,000 Syrians were forced to flee to Turkey. They are being sheltered in four camps across the border.
Ford’s trip comes after months of criticism from Republican lawmakers who’ve derided the administration for sending an ambassador to Damascus. Ford took up his post in January as part of the Obama administration’s attempt, now in limbo, to thaw chilly relations with Assad’s Syria and improve chances that Syria might be helpful in brokering Arab peace with Israel.
The United States had left the Damascus ambassadorial post unfilled for five years in protest of alleged Syrian involvement in the assassination of a Lebanese politician who had criticized Syrian domination of his country.
Shortly after Ford arrived, unrest spread across Syria. Assad has balanced promises of reform with brutal repression of pro-democracy demonstrators. More than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained in three months of unrest, according to opposition groups.
For the administration, resisting the idea that Ford’s recess appointment amounted to an unwarranted reward to Assad’s often pro-Iran and anti-U.S. government, has been difficult. U.S. officials have been unable to point to any concrete accomplishments under his tenure. And they acknowledge that Ford has been rebuffed in several attempts to speak directly with senior Syrian officials to press the American disapproval of the government’s actions.
Nuland defended Ford’s work.
“The fact that we have an ambassador there, the fact that we have somebody of such seniority, gives us the chance to make the point again and again,” Nuland said. “We stand with the side of those who want change in Syria.”
She said Ford is meeting with a broad group of Syrians and that he is not subject to travel restrictions, even if insecurity hampers his ability to meet people. The crackdown also leaves it unclear how many Syrian opposition figures are able to travel safely to the U.S. embassy in Damascus to speak with the ambassador.
NOTE: The Le Figaro report by Georges Malbrunot, “Le Hezbollah rapatrie son arsenal de Syrie,” is posted here [access requires payment]
HEZBOLLAH MOVING ARMS FROM SYRIA TO LEBANON, FEARING ASSAD’S FALL
Report: Hezbollah moving arms from Syria to Lebanon, fearing Assad’s fall
By Barak Ravid and Amos Harel
June 26, 2011
In recent weeks Hezbollah has moved hundreds of missiles from storage sites in Syria to bases in eastern Lebanon, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported yesterday. According to the report, Hezbollah moved the missiles over fears that a successor to the failing regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad could sever ties with the organization.
The French daily cites a Western expert who the paper said closely follows relations among Hezbollah and Iran and Syria. The expert is quoted as calling Syria the backyard through which Iran sends weapons to Hezbollah, and said efforts have been made to send as much weaponry as possible to Lebanon before the fall of the Assad regime.
According to the report, Western intelligence agencies in recent weeks have identified wide-scale movement of trucks over the Syrian-Lebanese border in the Bekaa region carrying rockets and missiles from storage facilities on the Syrian side. Le Figaro said the operation included sophisticated efforts at camouflage and that the United States and Israel have recently stepped up their monitoring of Iranian weapons smuggling.
The report quoted a “Western expert” as saying that intelligence agencies have monitored the movement of trucks from the Syrian border to Lebanon’s Bekaa region containing long-range Iranian-produced Zilzal, Fajr-3 and Fajr-4 missiles.
Hezbollah had been storing these missiles in depots in Syria. Some of the depots are secured by Hezbollah personnel while others are located on Syrian military bases. According to the report, the movement of the missiles has been problematic, particularly due to concerns that Israel and other nations are monitoring the trucks with spy satellites.
“Hezbollah fears Israel will bomb the convoys,” Le Figaro reported.
The paper added that Hezbollah has moved the missiles using means of camouflage more sophisticated than it has used before.
The report also noted that Syrian intelligence and the Al-Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard recently established a joint operations room at the international airport in Damascus. This step was taken as a result of the lessons learned when an Iranian arms plane was intercepted in Turkey in March. According to the report, the plane, which was on its way from Iran to Syria, was forced to land in Turkey due to a tip American intelligence passed to Turkey. A search of the plane uncovered missiles, mortars and other weapons.
Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, director of Military Intelligence, secretly visited Washington and New York about three weeks ago to meet with White House officials and ambassadors from United Nations Security Council member states over developments in Syria and Lebanon. A knowledgeable Western diplomat said Kochavi warned of the danger of Syrian armaments reaching Hezbollah in the event Assad’s regime fell.
Last year Ha’aretz reported on Hezbollah rocket training over the Syrian border. Now the organization seems to believe its weapons are more secure in Lebanon than in Syria, due to the unrest there.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has recently said on several occasions that Assad’s regime would not survive for more than a few more months. Senior Israeli officials told Ha’aretz last week that Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards have an active role in putting down Syrian unrest.
According to international media reports, on several occasions in the past three years Israel has considered attacking convoys transporting weapons from Syria to Lebanon.
Barak has repeatedly said that Israel would take a grave view of arms transfers into Lebanon and would consider taking action against such moves. UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed after the Second Lebanon War, barred weapons smuggling from Syria to Lebanon but the international community has done little to address the issue.
THE 8-YEAR-OLD GIRL SUICIDE BOMBER
Afghan girl tricked into carrying bomb, officials say
By Alissa Rubin
The New York Times
June 26, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents tricked an 8-year-old girl in a remote area of central Afghanistan into carrying a bomb wrapped in cloth that they detonated remotely when she was close to a police vehicle, the Afghan authorities said Sunday.
Only the girl was killed in the blast, which occurred Sunday morning in the village of Uwshi in the Char Chino District, said Fazal Ahmad Shirzad, the police chief of Oruzgan Province.
Mr. Shirzad said he believed the girl was unaware that the bag she had been given by Taliban insurgents held a bomb. Her body was “taken to a nearby security check post, and the police called her relatives,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Logar Province in southeastern Afghanistan, the death toll rose to 37 after a bombing on Saturday at a small-town hospital, said Dr. Mohammad Zaref Nayebkhail, the director of public health for the province. He said that at least 53 people had been wounded.
But, he said, the actual number of casualties was probably much higher. “Local villagers rushed to the hospital right after the explosion and took the bodies of their relatives to their own villages,” he said.
In other parts of the country, four NATO soldiers were killed. Two of them were Spanish soldiers who died when an improvised explosive device detonated in Badghis Province in western Afghanistan, the Spanish Defense Ministry said. The other two soldiers died in separate episodes in southern and eastern Afghanistan, according to a NATO statement.
Afghan radio stations also reported that rocket fire from Pakistan over the last week had led President Hamid Karzai to register a former complaint with the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, at a regional terrorism meeting in Iran on Saturday. Mr. Zardari promised to investigate, said Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Waheed Omar.
The unexplained rocket fire will be a topic of discussion when senior government figures from the two countries meet this week, Mr. Omar said. The Afghan National Security Council discussed the matter on Sunday.
According to Mr. Omar, President Zardari and the Pakistani Interior Ministry said the rockets, which hit Kunar and Nangarhar Provinces, were not fired by the Pakistani Army.
Mr. Omar said 470 rockets had been fired, killing at least 18 people and wounding 17. Since Pakistan’s tribal areas border eastern Afghanistan and are largely outside the Pakistani government’s control, it is possible that insurgent groups are responsible. But some Pakistani insurgents have set up bases in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces in Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Pakistan, raising the possibility that the rockets may have been fired by the Pakistani security forces.
“We want this resolved peacefully,” Mr. Omar said. He added that if the Pakistani government was not responsible, it should say so publicly and find and stop the attackers.
General Mohammed Zahir Azimi said that Afghan military forces were “ready to retaliate” if instructed to do so. A NATO spokesman said coalition officials were not aware of the rocket fire because they did not have troops in the areas where it occurred.
ATTACKED OUTSIDE THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS
Accosted on Kingsway
By Prof. Benny Morris
The National Interest
June 20, 2011
Last week I had a rather ambivalent experience at the London School of Economics which may point to something beyond the personal – indeed, about where Britain, and possibly Western Europe as a whole, are heading.
I was invited to lecture on the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948. A few hours earlier, a fire had broken out in a nearby building and Kingsway was sealed off, so the taxi dropped me off a few blocks away. As I walked down Kingsway, a major London thoroughfare, a small mob – I don’t think any other word is appropriate – of some dozen Muslims, Arabs and their supporters, both men and women, surrounded me and, walking alongside me for several hundred yards as I advanced towards the building where the lecture was to take place, raucously harangued and bated me with cries of “fascist,” “racist,” “England should never have allowed you in,” “you shouldn’t be allowed to speak.” Several spoke in broken, obviously newly acquired, English. Violence was thick in the air though none was actually used. Passersby looked on in astonishment, and perhaps shame, but it seemed the sight of angry bearded, caftaned Muslims was sufficient to deter any intervention. To me, it felt like Brownshirts in a street scene in 1920s Berlin – though on Kingsway no one, to the best of my recall, screamed the word “Jew.”
In the lecture hall, after a cup of tea, the session, with an audience of some 350 students and others, passed remarkably smoothly. Entry required tickets, which were freely dispensed upon the provision of name and address. The LSE had beefed up security and several bobbies stood outside the building confronting the dozen or so demonstrators who held aloft placards stating “Benni Morris is a Fascist,” “Go home,” etc. Inside, in the lecture hall, surprisingly, there was absolute silence during my talk; you could have heard a pin drop. The Q and A session afterwards was by and large civilized, though several Muslim participants, including girls with scarves, displayed anger and dismissiveness. One asserted: “You are not an historian”; another, more delicately, suggested that the lecturer “professes to be a serious historian.” However, the overwhleming majority of the audience was respectful and, in my view, appreciative (to judge by the volume of clapping at the end of the lecture and at the end of the Q and A), but a small minority jeered and clapped loudly when anti-Zionist questions or points were raised.
The manner of our exit from the lecture hall was also noteworthy. The chairman asked the audience to stay in their seats until the group on stage departed. I was ushered by the security team down an elevator and through a narrow basement passage full of kitchen stores and out a side entrance. Like an American president in a B-rated thriller.
Another disconcerting element in what went on in the lecture hall was the hosting LSE professor’s brief introductory remarks, which failed completely to note the harrassment and intimidation (of which he had been made fully aware) of the lecturer on Kingsway, or to criticize them in any way. My assumption was that some were LSE students.
There was a sense that the chairman was deliberately displaying caution in view of the world in which he lives. Which brings me back to what happened on Kingsway.
Uncurbed, Muslim intimidation in the public domain of people they see as disagreeing with them is palpable and palpably affecting the British Christian majority among whom they live, indeed, cowing them into silence. One senses real fear (perhaps a corner was turned with the Muslim reactions around the world to the “Mohammed cartoons” and the responses in the West to these reactions.) Which, if true, is a sad indication of what is happening in the historic mother of democracies and may point to what is happening, and will increasingly happen, in Western Europe in general in the coming decades. (A video of the LSE talk is on the website. A Muslim cameraman also made a video of the mob scene on Kingsway and posted it on the web – but appears to have thought better of it and subsequently removed it.)