Daily Archives: January 24, 2013
Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, has stepped down from his post (sigh of relief).
Williams’s role as a figure of unity in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is represented in over 130 countries, meant that he was in a position to “bring the needs and voices of those fighting poverty, disease and the effects of conflict to the attention of national and international policy makers and donor agencies”. Or so we were told.
Bearing witness meekly, silently
In 2010, when the archbishop announced he was planning a visit to Gaza just a year after the slaughter and devastation of Operation Cast Lead, I asked his Lambeth Palace office for more information. Whom would he meet? Would he see the health minister? Would he sit down and talk with the elected prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, man of God to man of God (for Mr Haniyeh is an imam)? Would he do Gaza (and all of us) proud by spending a generous amount of his time with senior members of the Islamic faith?
His office didn’t reply.
According to the Archbishop’s website he did none of those things. At least, he didn’t mention them if he did. Unless I’m mistaken, he said nothing about Gaza in the House of Lords, where he had the ear of Parliament and the support of 25 other Church of England bishops.
Yet he began his Ecumenical letter that Easter by declaring: “Christians need to witness boldly and clearly.”
A lady wrote to me saying she had emailed Lambeth Palace 18 times asking if the qrchbishop’s party could please bring back some deaf children’s art, which should have been picked up by members of a recent Gaza blockade-busting convoy. The palace eventually declined saying the Israelis wouldn’t allow it.
If he’d been “witnessing boldly” as he exhorted other Christians to do, the archbishop would surely have instructed his staff to pick up the children’s art and dare the Israelis to confiscate it.
The archbishop’s website joyfully reported how he hobnobbed with the Chief Rabbinate, paid his respects to Yad Vashem and the holocaust, and talked with the president of Israel…
She complained that by not using his position in the House of Lords and elsewhere the archbishop was failing to improve the situation for Palestinians, quoting the words of Desmond Tutu: “Where there is oppression, those who do nothing side with the oppressor.”
It was later revealed that the Israelis severely restricted the archbishop’s time inside Gaza. I asked why such interference with the church’s pastoral business in the Holy Land, of all places, wasn’t broadcast on the website, in mainstream media and in Parliament.
His office confirmed that the archbishop had initially been refused access to Gaza but was eventually permitted one-and-a-half hours. This was just enough for a hurried visit to the Ahli hospital and no more. When my questions were forwarded to the archbishop’s public affairs spokesman, the reply was headed “NOT FOR PUBLICATION”. Suffice to say the Israelis from the start blocked the archbishop’s visit to Gaza and only at the last minute granted him a piddling 90 minutes.
Was this his idea of “witnessing boldly”?
The archbishop’s website joyfully reported how he hobnobbed with the Chief Rabbinate, paid his respects to Yad Vashem and the holocaust, and talked with the president of Israel – the latter no doubt sniggering up his sleeve at his guest’s frustration at being prevented by Israel’s thugs from seeing what horrors they had inflicted on the Gazans.
Why did he agree to fraternize with Jewish political and religious leaders when his wish to carry out his Christian duty in Gaza was so rudely obstructed? Did Lambeth Palace not realize that meekly accepting such insults only served to legitimize the Israelis’ illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and gave a stamp of approval to the vicious siege of Gaza, the ongoing air strikes against civilians, the persecution of Muslim and Christian communities, and the regime’s utter contempt for international law and human rights?
There was no mention of a get-together with senior Islamic figures, leaving a question-mark over Williams’s real commitment to interfaith engagement.
Earlier, while the Jewish state was putting its finishing touches to Operation Cast Lead (the infamous blitzkrieg launched over Christmas-New Year 2008/09 against Gaza’s civilians, including the Christian community there), the archbishop joined Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in a visit to the former Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland to demonstrate their joint solidarity against the extremes of hostility and genocide.
The Holy Land is the well-spring of the Christian faith, but you wouldn’t think so from the don’t-give-a-damn attitude among senior churchmen.
“This is a pilgrimage not to a holy place but to a place of utter profanity – a place where the name of God was profaned because the image of God in human beings was abused and disfigured,” said the archbishop. “How shall we be able to read the signs of the times, the indications that evil is gathering force once again and societies are slipping towards the same collective corruption and moral sickness that made the shoah [holocaust] possible?”
Read the signs? Surely they were plain to see. The forces of evil had already pushed some societies into the moral cesspit. He needed to look no further than the hell-hole that the Holy Land had been turned into by the Israeli occupation, with good old England’s blessing. If ever there was a place where “the name of God was profaned” this is it.
Who will step forward and save it? The Holy Land is the well-spring of the Christian faith, but you wouldn’t think so from the don’t-give-a-damn attitude among senior churchmen.
Open door for the bully-boys
The multitude of interfaith committees and Christian-Jewish councils has opened the door to the Zionist lobby and made it easy for them to meddle in Church business and bully Christians into submission. There’s even a propaganda outlet calling itself Anglican Friends of Israel. A few weeks ago Zionists, no doubt emboldened by the church’s appeasement policy, put the squeeze on the Bishop of Newcastle, Martin Wharton. The Representative Council of North-East Jewry wrote to him complaining that he voted for a motion at the General Synod which supported the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) despite their “grave concerns … that it would encourage anti-Semitism”. His action, said the letter, “makes any further contact with the Jewish community in the North-East impossible”.
So be it, would seem an appropriate response. But oh no. What brought this on, according to the Church Times , was Bishop Wharton’s agreement to speak at a conference, “Peace and Justice in the Holy Land”, organized by a group of people who had taken part in the EAPPI programme. Its sponsors included Christian Aid, CAFOD and Friends of Sabeel UK.
The chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), the Reverend David Gifford, said that the conference had “the potential of becoming yet another anti-Jewish meeting, creating more anxiety and distrust between the north-east Jewish community and the Church”. Then the Board of Deputies of British Jews chimed in saying that the EAPPI was “partisan” and “anti-Israel”.
Let’s be clear what the EAPPI is actually about:
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. When they return home, EAs campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.
The EAPPI programme was set up by the World Council of Churches in response to a call by the churches of Jerusalem. Its mission includes engaging in public policy advocacy and standing in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the illegal occupation. Few people except those who support the brutal Israeli regime would disagree with the programme’s principles and objectives. And few, surely, would condemn the humanitarian work the EAPPI carries out with great courage in the face of criminal hostility. Nevertheless its success has whipped the usual suspects into an orchestrated frenzy.
As reported in the Jewish Chronicle, John Dinnen, whose motion sparked the Synod debate, pointed out that well-known Jewish groups such as Jews for Justice for Palestine and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition [ICAHD] are entirely supportive of EAPPI, and that five per cent of EAPPI volunteers are Jewish “which is a higher ratio than the number of Jews in England”.
But despite having the moral high ground Wharton caved in and decided not to attend the conference “for the sake of good relations between all the faith communities in Newcastle”. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham, also decided not to attend. He told the Jewish Chronicle that he had become aware “that many Jewish people in the north-east were angry and upset”. Perhaps the angry and upset should go themselves to the West Bank and experience the behaviour of their brethren towards Palestinian women and children and the EAPPI volunteers.
Throughout his time on the archbishop’s throne Williams was mad-keen on interfaith dialogue, for what good it has done, and spent an inordinate amount of time with Chief Rabbi Sacks. At one point the Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post suggested that the chief rabbi had “in some respects eclipsed the archbishop as the religious voice of the country”.
This is the UK, remember, where Jews comprise just 0.5 per cent of the population and Muslims are eight times greater in number.
Nor was the Archbishop the best-known Christian, according to a survey three years ago. Harry Webb (aka Cliff Richard) beat him into second place . The survey made Cliff even “bigger than the Pope”, who trailed in seventh place.
Now we hear that the squeaky-clean, born-again-Christian megastar is to perform in Israel in July, and the Israeli media are making a meal of it. Does none of these pious dudes understand the appalling, inhuman situation out there?
I’m not sorry to see the back of Rowan Williams – a good guy but not the right man at this time. And what are we to make of his replacement, archbishop number 105, who will be enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March? Justin Welby is touted as an expert in conflict resolution, but he comes from nowhere and is not known for his concern about the Holy Land. His grandfather was a Jewish immigrant and Welby was Bishop of Durham for barely five minutes before landing this top job.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that Welby last year helped mount a Holocaust Memorial Day exhibition in Liverpool Cathedral and – wait for it – abstained in last summer’s vote at the Anglican Synod which endorsed the EAPPI.
In my view, anyone who cannot bring himself to give wholehearted backing to a worthy humanitarian project like EAPPI shouldn’t be leading a great Christian church.
By Jamal Kanj
Israelis voted on 22 January to kill the prospect of peace. Out of 34 factions contesting the election, voters chose right wing parties advocating land annexation and Jews-only settlements.
This should come as no surprise as an opinion poll conducted by Israel Democracy and Tel Aviv University last month revealed that 67 per cent of Israelis supported their government’s policies on the stalled peace process.
For the first time in history, peace was not in the top two issues in the latest Israeli election.
In fact, public opinion surveys carried out over the last year showed that the majority of Israelis preferred the status quo over rigorous efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians.
Having had a de facto peace for the last 10 years, Israelis have reason to aspire to something else in the “hierarchy of human needs”.
In contrast to their extra-judicial assassinations and a “starvation diet” imposed on Gazans, Israelis have enjoyed genuine peace.
…public opinion surveys carried out over the last year showed that the majority of Israelis preferred the status quo over rigorous efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians.
At the same time, governments from all political spectrums have persisted in championing the building of Jews-only settlements, with the intention of prejudging the outcome of negotiation.
In the Tel Aviv University poll, prospective Israeli voters were asked who was best to handle socio-economic issues.
Forty-five per cent believed it was Labour Party leader Shelly Yachimovich, while 36 per cent backed Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
Playing to deep-seated Israeli racism and copying George W. Bush’s second-term “external threat” strategy, Netanyahu succeeded in muddling voters’ priorities – so that overblown fear triumphed over reason.
Despite concern over the economy, Israelis voted for the less qualified candidate to lead their country.
In a meeting earlier this week with a group of American senators, the Israeli prime minister asserted that the “Iranian threat”, not Jewish settlement building, was a threat to world peace.
Likewise, more than 20 years ago Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told then President George Bush that dealing with Iraq took precedence over peace with the Palestinians.
A decade from now, another Israeli leader will likely conjure up another distant threat to avoid dealing with Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Sadly, the international community continues to ignore the fact that these fictitious, remote enemies exist only as a direct result of the Israeli occupation and injustice inflicted on the people of Palestine.
Understanding these palpable facts, world leaders – while remaining powerless – have privately expressed frustration with Israeli policies undermining the peace process.
In 2011, then French President Nicolas Sarkozy was overheard telling President Barack Obama that Netanyahu was a “liar”.
In the same year German Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuked the Israeli prime minister, saying “how dare you” when he called to complain about Germany’s vote at the United Nations Security Council.
Recently, Obama was quoted as saying in a private conversation: “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interest are [sic].”
In the absence of a viable, independent Palestinian state, a single-state option should become part of a new strategy.
Even former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 7 on 17 January, said the current Israeli government was disinterested in peace or reaching a resolution with the Palestinian people.
Israel will continue to be led by a prime minister who bragged in 2001 of his intention was “to put an end” to the peace process.
Since his election in 2009 Netanyahu’s policies of building illegal settlements have made the prospects of a viable Palestinian state very unlikely.
The leaders of the newly-recognized state of Palestine face new challenges.
Should they allow Israel to eviscerate the meaning of UN recognition, or force their agenda before indifferent world powers?
Protesting against illegal land theft should not be limited to boycotting negotiations and oral condemnations.
In the absence of a viable, independent Palestinian state, a single-state option should become part of a new strategy.
Israelis want to continue their occupation and have peace. They can’t have it both ways.
A version of this article was first published in the Gulf Daily News. The version here is published by permission of Jamal Kanj.
By Neve Gordon
Neve Gordon considers the way the results of the Israeli elections are being presented in the Israeli media and compares this with the reality: a victory for right-wing, anti-peace parties.
This is the way the results of the elections are being presented in the Israeli media
Centre-left bloc Right bloc
Other, perhaps more accurate ways to present the election results:
Left bloc Right bloc
Willing to take the necessary steps for a two-state solution?
A version of this was originally published in the London Review of Books blog. The version here is published by permission of Neve Gordon.
By Ziad El-Hady
It’s not clear how many advertisements we are exposed to every day. Taking into account the average hours of TV viewing, radio listening, newspaper and magazine reading, internet surfing, public street and transport use, common estimates range from around 250 per day on the conservative side, to 3,000 and above. Regardless of which is more accurate, there’s no doubt that being exposed to adverts is a ubiquitous and almost necessary part of human experience in the modern world.
As well as showing us products, adverts also present us with values, ideals and social standards. They draw upon major personal themes such as beauty, happiness, love, companionship, sex and self-image, in a positive but unrealistic light to promote their product. As a consequence, these adverts are potentially shaping us towards mental states which are in fact quite inhibiting, insecure and unhealthy.
Mental conditioning through repetition
A common psychological principle used by advertisers is that repetition constitutes mental conditioning. Studies show that the more something is repeated to you, the more you will believe it. So whether it’s “I’m lovin’ it”, “Have a break, have a Kit-Kat”, or “Washing machines live longer with Calgon”, the mere repetition of these messages is able to motivate potential buyers and construct certain ideas in their minds with added cognitive and emotional associations.
A company’s main purpose is to sell a product and make money, even if that means falsely creating insecurities in people and offering their product as a solution.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with such methods. Psychotherapy typically uses the brain’s ability to recondition its associations to heal people and make their lives more fulfilling. This, however, is done with both consent and good clinical intention. Advertising is a different story altogether. A company’s main purpose is to sell a product and make money, even if that means falsely creating insecurities in people and offering their product as a solution.
The link between psychology and consumerism was expanded on in the early 20th century, when Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, used Freud’s ideas regarding primitive hidden sexual and aggressive forces to show corporations how to link purchasable products to unconscious desires. As a result, the insatiable fantasy and anticipation of buying a product became more pleasurable than actually possessing it. This would ensure that people would keep buying irrationally, giving rise to a consumer culture.
Bernays, who worked closely with numerous US presidents and large corporations, was one of the first to use psychological methods such as celebrity association, product marketing in films, and to link products to male or female power. In his book Propaganda (later Public Relations) he causally explains how, in many instances throughout our daily lives “we imagine ourselves free agents”, but are “ruled by dictators exercising great power”. “A man buying a suit of clothes,” he explains, “imagines that he is choosing, according to his taste and his personality, the kind of garment which he prefers. In reality, he may be obeying the orders of an anonymous gentleman tailor in London.” Bernays then explains how the gentleman tailor in London is part of a wider network utilizing the psychological methods listed above. Thus, even our consumer choices are largely an illusion of freedom, as clarified by the official “father of public relations” himself.
Morally reflective messages are usually only found in charity ads, which, although might be sincere, share the principal goal of encouraging some partition with your finances. Thus, your worth still depends on what you can spend.
The values being presented to a nation through major advertising come in all shapes and sizes. Constant images of happy, smiling, healthy people with buyable products both insists on a materialistic existence, and promotes the idea that if you want fulfilment, you need to buy things. As a result, our worth is valued more and more by what we own as opposed to what we do, or who we are. Self-gratification is also excessively promoted by the advertising culture, encouraging a focus on our own immediate desires as opposed to our relations with others. Whenever displayed, family and friendship ties are seen as outlets for gift giving, while intimate and traditional “special occasions” have been mutilated into wholesale consumer events. Not much is offered for the integrity of the self. Morally reflective messages are usually only found in charity ads, which, although might be sincere, share the principal goal of encouraging some partition with your finances. Thus, your worth still depends on what you can spend.
Sexualization and body dissatisfaction
An increasingly concerning issue regarding images in advertising is the consistent connection between women, sex, desire, beauty, thinness and happiness. This collection of associations is one of the most oft-repeated and overtly used advertising methods that modern society is exposed to multiple times a day. It’s now so commonly used that we hardly even notice it.
The American Psychological Association defines “sexualisation” as “when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behaviour, to the exclusion of other characteristics”. Sexual objectification shares a similar definition, and is theoretically accentuated in a consumer-advertising context, where, not only is the individual sexually objectified in the way the body is presented, but also in the fact that they are associated with a purchasable object. Further studies have confirmed that images which sexually objectify women have led to them being seen as “less human”, lacking “mind” and morality, and has caused men to grow indifferent to women’s experience of pain.
It has been argued that the female body-type typically portrayed in adverts is genetically true to some 5 per cent of the female population, while photoshopped images and the portrayal of eternal youth further distances the ideal into an ever-higher fantasy.
The phenomenon of “body dissatisfaction” is defined as the perceived difference between one’s own body image and the ideal body image established and maintained by commercial media. Countless psychological studies show that this “dissatisfaction” is a precursor to both eating disorders and psychological disorders such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, shame and even self-disgust. What permanently cements these disorders into Western culture is that the gap between the reality and the ideal can never actually be closed since the beauty standard set by popular culture is impossible to attain.It has been argued that the female body-type typically portrayed in adverts is genetically true to some 5 per cent of the female population, while photoshopped images and the portrayal of eternal youth further distances the ideal into an ever-higher fantasy. Insecurities are moreover ignited by evidence showing that men who are exposed to “media-perfect” beautiful women tend to view real life average females as significantly less attractive. This would theoretically include their own partners.
Although men are not exempt from an increased sexualization in advertising, it is still nowhere near as prevalent as the sexualization of women. Moreover, due to both the dissimilar perceived ideals and physiological differences of each gender, it is highly unlikely that men will ever be affected in the same way, despite the rise of the metrosexual man. A longitudinal study shows that when girls reach puberty, natural increase in body mass at this age distances them from the thin ideal, significantly increasing the chance of psychological and eating disorders. Boys, on the other hand, tend to grow closer to their bulkier ideal at puberty and thus show no increase in body dissatisfaction during adolescence. The gender bias is further confirmed with national statistics from the UK and US showing that around 90 per cent of cosmetic procedures are carried out on women, with breast implants being the most common, and vaginal modification being one of the fastest growing.
Most critical to the concept of freedom is how the beauty standard is imposed upon children, especially young girls. As one psychologist puts it, “the current aesthetic model for women, characterized by skinniness, is internalized early on, before the age of 10, and remains throughout adolescence”. Since children are below the age of responsible choice, freedom is entirely undercut, directing them to a series of potentially life long social and personal disorders and harms. Although a causal link has not been confirmed, this may well contribute towards explaining the belief that women are at least twice as likely to suffer from depression than men.
In conclusion, meaning is derived from our associations. And advertisers are proving incredibly successful at shaping these associations for the sake of commercial and financial interests. While they may not always anticipate the negative effects, there’s more than enough evidence to suggest that consumer culture, along with its accompanying adverts, promotes far more social problems and insecurities than it does freedoms.