Saturday, 30 October 2010
A Culture of Calumny
The Blether Region has been debating with the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Nelson McCausland, over at the latter's blog page. The spark came when Mr. McCausland criticised as unbalanced a podium discussion on Conflict in the Middle East held under the auspices of the Belfast Festival at Queen's, an event that he had not himself attended (the Blether Region was actually present and can confirm that it wasn't half as unbalanced as Mr. McCausland suggested). Nelson-watchers will recall that this comes on top of many highly detailed public complaints from the Minister about the policies and practices of arts organisations — complaints that, rightly or wrongly, could easily be interpreted as attempts to bully the cultural community into absolute adherence to the personal agenda of the man who is, after all, controller of their purse-strings.
Alarmingly, in his blog posting, the Minister repeats a transparently baseless accusation made by the right-wing journalist Melanie Phillips against one of the participants in the discussion, Professor Beverly Milton-Edwards, who, she said, has "a history of promoting the interests of Islamist terrorists". Phillips once memorably labelled Independent Jewish Voices "Jews for Genocide", i.e. of fellow Jews, but her ugly record of distasteful hyperbole seems not to have perturbed the Minister.
Although sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, Professor Milton-Edwards made it abundantly clear during the event at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast that she is not a supporter of Hamas, criticising it both for its "abhorrent" violence against civilians and for its anti-semitism. Indeed, Mr. McCausland makes no attempt to explain why an outspoken Western feminist should lend her support to Islamic fundamentalism, instead drawing readers' attention to the rather circumstantial fact that Professor Milton-Edwards had apparently not succeeded in having the claims removed from Melanie Phillips's blog — assuming, of course, that the Professor had actually read them.
The Jewish Chronicle has since reported that the family of Professor Milton-Edwards has been threatened.
Yet still the Minister has not removed from his blog the wholly false allegation that he blithely repeated against her.
Unfortunately, the Blether Region's last substantive contribution to the debate on the Minister's blog seems not to have appeared, although Mr. McCausland did publish a now meaningless correction to it. No doubt the post, which mentioned the threats against Professor Milton-Edwards and the Minister's connections with the white-supremacism-tinged British-Israel World Federation, got lost in the ether. One suspects that many Jews, including vocal supporters of Israel, might have qualms about canvassing the support of someone with such dubious associations.