About the essay: Genocidal anti-Israelism is a 21st-century apocalyptic movement that began in the year 2000 with the global call to obliterate Israel: the so-called Second Intifada. It is still raging 20 years later.
It is mainly an Islamist movement, of course, but implicates also the Christian and post-Christian West, and the Communist and post-Communist nations. In fact in the United Nations forums (UNGA and UNHRC) since the turn of the Millenium, Israel has received more country-specific condemnations than all the other nations of the world combined.
The “oldest hatred” traditionally demonised Jews in the midst of the nation (particularly the Christian nations). Today it demonises the Jewish nation in the midst of all nations. This anti-Israelism is amplified by the newest medium: the World Wide Web, which itself came of age at the turn of the Millennium, which is when the first social media sites appeared.
My joint essay (10,000 words) with the brilliant Richard Landes explains things as they are, and why we, in the West, must wake up to the overwhelming antisemitic threats not just to Jews and Israel but to all of us.
Richard’s background and mine could hardly be more different, which, I think, helps make the piece powerful if not unique. I cannot think of a better co-writer or scholar with whom to write this essay. At the end of the 20th century, Richard saw what was coming. He met with Rabbi Lord Sacks in 1999, in the hope of persuading the Chief Rabbi that the relative philosemitism that Jews had been enjoying for a generation was about to come to an abrupt end. Rabbi Lord Sacks was later to write in the Jewish Chronicle (in 2008):
“Towards the end of 1999, I received a strange request. A professor of medieval history at Boston University, Richard Landes, asked to see me. He had, he said, something urgent and important to communicate…
“I concluded that Landes had got it wrong. Then came September 29, 2000, the collapse of the Middle East peace process and the birth of a new intifada. Within weeks it became clear that Israel was being blamed. Not the seven years of Oslo, nor the courage of Yitzhak Rabin, nor the unprecedentedly generous offer of Ehud Barak to the Palestinians at Taba counted in its favour. Israel’s efforts to make peace were as if they had never been.
“Then, at the end of August 2001, came the notorious United Nations Conference against Racism at Durban, which turned out to be the launchpad for a new and vicious assault on Israel. Barely a week later came 9/11, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Within days, conspiracy theories appeared, blaming Israel… Combined, these phenomena bespoke a new and ominous mood. That was when I began to suspect that Landes had got it right.”
How to heal ourselves – and then the world: We need more co-operation between those who want to save the world, and those who want to save Jewish life
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Chronicle, 3 October 2008
Today in the UK it is Easter Sunday for most Christians (although not those of the Eastern and Orthodox denominations) and it is the last day of Passover for Jews.
To be celebrated in this Holy season for Jews and Christians – the Feast of Unleavened Bread – is the human potential for freedom, nay, eternal freedom.
This freedom in turn depends on certain constraints, the most important of which is trust, love, and fear of our Creator. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom”, goes the Biblical proverb. The Roman Catholics call this awe-full fear of God filial fear, as distinct from servile fear of man. Of course, historically the Church, Catholic, Reformed and Anglican, has often itself been culpable of totalitarianism, and of creating servile fear in order to achieve its leaders’ goals, including typically at this time of year, demonisation of Jews. ‘Blood Libel’ – in which the Church claimed that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make their unleavened bread – was often used by the English clergy on Good Friday to encourage mobs to attack the Jews of England.
Servile fear is what man imposes on us, be it Pharaoh, Atilla
the Hun, Ferdinand and Isabella… the Ayatollah, Islamic State, President Erdogan,
President Xi-Jinping, or, increasingly and intentionally
here in the UK, Chris Whitty, Sage, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Too few have criticised the Government’s fearmongering, including through state-sponsored and state-funded TV (BBC and Channel 4). As is now becoming obvious, the deliberate engendering of fear has been used to achieve the aims of government, reinforced by draconian measures that claim to be ‘the science’, much of which is spurious science and misleading data to maintain the fear. Perhaps most unforgivably of all in our Christian nation, Her Majesty’s Government has been promoting the fear of death. “Death, death, death…” for a disease whose average age of fatality is about the life expectancy, in a year that has not seen an excessive number of deaths. Yes, the health services have been under enormous pressure at times, but that does not excuse the Government’s use of fear to manipulate the public’s psychology and behaviour.
The mainstream media in general has been very much implicated in transmitting the message of fear. But very recently, and not before time, some of the mainstream media has become self-questioning, and has started to question ‘the science’ (and why many dissenting scientists have been ‘cancelled’). And it has started to question the morality of inflicting fear. For instance, in The Daily Telegraph on Good Friday (2 April) Associate Editor Gordon Rayner wrote a piece headlined: State of fear: how ministers ‘used covert tactics’ to keep scared public at home (telegraph.co.uk).
I remember when Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary, calling for a robust response against Russia following the Novichok poisonings in Salisbury and Germany. Johnson warned that our liberal democracy is not some kind of ‘default’, but the exception, hard-won over many centuries, and always vulnerable to attack. But now he is leader, Johnson is failing to defend, and has revealed his own propensity for totalitarian rule through engendering fear. Today, I am far from the only one to recognise that our hard-won Christian civilisation with liberal democracy is reverting to default, and is become defenceless against insidious new and godless ideologies and cults (even doomsday cults, such as Extinction Rebellion), each of which thinks it can redefine the goal of history and the destiny of the nations from those upon which Judeo-Christian civilisation is built.
The default position for mankind, at all times and in all places is totalitarianism, and its most obvious global manifestations since WWII are Communism and Islamism. The Conservative Government, with the full support of the Official Opposition, has taken the UK dangerously close to this default status of totalitarianism. Some Conservative MPs have consistently rebelled, including notably here in Manchester my own constituency MP Sir Graham Brady, but because the Labour Party refuse to provide any meaningful opposition to Boris Johnson, our participative democracy has disappeared before our eyes, and its reinstatement does not seem to be a priority of ‘the new normal’.
In Toby Young’s excellent blog – Lockdown Sceptics – we were recently pointed to an encyclopaedic definition of totalitarianism, which, as Toby says, is ‘scarily apt’ for a new word he has coined: ‘virocracy’:
“The totalitarian state pursues some special goal, such as industrialisation or conquest, to the exclusion of all others. All resources are directed toward its attainment, regardless of the cost. Whatever might further the goal is supported; whatever might foil the goal is rejected. This obsession spawns an ideology that explains everything in terms of the goal, rationalising all obstacles that may arise and all forces that may contend with the state. The resulting popular support permits the state the widest latitude of action of any form of government. Any dissent is branded evil, and internal political differences are not permitted. Because pursuit of the goal is the only ideological foundation for the totalitarian state, achievement of the goal can never be acknowledged”.
Apart from the home-grown ideologies that threaten civilisation, such as ‘cancel culture’ and Woke, perhaps the greatest threat to Christian civilisation today is the Chinese Communist Party.
Even before the Covid-19 Chinese/WHO virocracy, Johnson was making all kinds of excuses for appeasing the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions to run British infrastructure, such as nuclear power stations and the next-generation communications network (5G). In early March 2020 – when ‘coronavirus’ was but still but a rumour of war – Boris Johnson saw 38 of his back bench side with the Opposition against his naïve sponsoring of Huawei. And the Government’s own Intelligence experts, not least Colonel Richard Kemp, have warned against Chinese all-pervasive influence, including in this important piece by Kemp a year ago: Coronavirus: Another 9/11 Moment for the West :: Gatestone Institute. And just last week, Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley wrote for The Conservative Woman: We must halt China’s creeping conquest | The Conservative Woman.
No-one can credibly deny that the Chinese regime is totalitarian,
in pursuit of the false religion of Communist rule of the world. And yet,
ironically, China might just well be our best hope for saving Christian civilisation,
as I will explain.
Persecution of Christians in China is now severe, and, according to the Christian charity Open Doors, Covid-19 is being used by the government “as a quasi legitimate excuse to increase surveillance and control of their citizens”. On 13 January 2021 Open Doors, Theresa Villiers MP hosted a parliamentary and online session for the launch of the Open Doors World Watch List 2021 on persecution of Christians. The event was attended by at least 97 MPs, who learned that about 340 million Christians are being persecuted globally.
China, with 92 million Christians, is of particular concern
to Open Doors. This year, China has entered the top 20 of the Open Doors World Watch
List for the first time in two decades. Religious communities throughout China
– including of course the Uighur Muslims – that refuse to worship President Xi
Jingping and the Party are being persecuted, and the situation is worsening
through ‘Covid’ surveillance.
There is in fact a battle for power and influence in China right now that will impact the world. There are presently more Christians in China than there are members of the Communist Party. Party numbers are declining, whereas Christian numbers are increasing by about 7% a year, according to Open Doors. If the trend continues, by 2030 there could be several times more Christians in China than Communists Party members. Already, there are now more practicing (church-going) Christians in China than in Europe. Open Doors tells us that although, ostensibly, Christian worship is permitted in China, on pain of reduced social status, the Party monitors carefully what is being said, preached, and studied in the churches. Ironically, this means that Party officials are inevitably exposed to the Bible, and its messages, and, occasionally, a Party official loses faith in the Party takes an interest in the Christian faith.
This week, fearful Communist Party members are likely to hear of the women at the empty tomb, being told to have no fear, not even of death.
To my fellow Christians: Have a happy and peaceful Easter. To my Jewish friends, Chag Sameach!
[This article was first published on the Times of Israel Blogs, 14 March 2021]
I don’t want to be overly negative about the Pagan elements in the Christian faith, or deny their historical and cultural significance. In any case, Jewish and Pagan wisdom and knowledge cross-fertilised long before Christianity. Moses and Joseph obviously had the wisdom and knowledge of the Egyptians and pharaohs. And 2,000 years ago, the Greek language of the Pagans was the lingua franca, including for Jews and Romans. The Torah had been translated into Greek (the Septuagint), in the 3rd BCE, by 70 Jewish scholars according to tradition.
Alexander the Great, pupil of the great Pagan philosopher Aristotle, wanted his empire to be an intelligent and cultured Greek-thinking empire, and imposed the Greek language on his subjects, including in Egypt. Indeed, his new Egyptian city of ‘Alexandria’ would become an overwhelmingly important centre of Christianity.
A lingua franca, and the routes of communication made possible by Pax Romana, enabled the Church to spread quickly throughout Europe. Christian thinkers and ‘evangelists’ began to write Greek ‘books’ or codices to add to the Septuagint (it was not until the 4th century CE that the 27 books in today’s Christian ‘New Testament’ were officially listed, or ‘canonised’ in Alexandria).
We all, then, have much Pagan in our roots – including modern-day Israel – some of which has borne good fruits: democracy, the Hippocratic Oath, musical theory, and in fact all the Liberal Arts of Hellenistic education. All the big theological words in Christian scripture and theology, such as Logos, hamartia (sin), metanoia (usually poorly translated into English as ‘repent’) come from Greek philosophy, Aristotelian ethics, and drama. Greek drama was the social media of the hoi polloi two millennia ago, long before the days of written media. If Jesus did actually walk into the Jerusalem Temple and shout ‘hypocrites’ he probably did use the Greek word hypokrites, meaning ‘actor’. The Gospel genre itself uses the Greek dramatic and biographical form, which seems to be often lost on the modern reader, especially if he or she is seeking empirical history to support a ‘Christian [Biblical] fundamentalist’ position.
My point in this article is that Christianity has dogmatised certain Pagan ideas in its core theology that, as a Christian today, I feel compelled to challenge. Obviously, Greek Paganism was not just about learning, it was what today we call ‘religion’ with gods (that were accepted, with some name changes, into the Roman pantheon) and theologies. Some of these theologies entered the Church.
Perhaps this integration of Jewish theology with ‘spurious’ Pagan theology was inevitable in its time. Rabbi Jesus instructed his 12 Disciples to go ‘to the ends of the earth’, and ‘go out and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). But the Disciples were Jews! As we see from the arguments recorded in the Christian Bible after Jesus’ death, the Disciples came to realise that true Judaisation would be impossible. Paul – the self-declared ‘Apostle to the Gentiles’ – convinced the early Church to drop the brit milah (Acts 15:1-2). And Peter had a vision whilst staying in Jaffa (Acts 10) convincing him that we Gentiles of the Nazarene movement had no need to follow the dietary laws.
I feel no obligation to take the covenant of circumcision, or to follow Jewish dietary laws, but deep in my soul, I do feel the overwhelming need to come ‘home’ spiritually to Israel, not as a Christian supersessionist, but in accepting that, all along, God has been piloting the history of the world through the Jews, and their restitution of Israel. In this, I am far from unique as a Christian, and, since the Abraham Accords in 2020, even some influential Muslims voices have been surprisingly critical of Islamic supersessionism, which is one of the main drivers for Jihad and Arab irredentism in the Holy Land. Some Islamic scholars are now openly supporting Israel as the Jewish nation state, including challenging the consensus view that the Al-Aqsa mosque of the Qu’ran was located in Jerusalem (‘Jerusalem’ being never mentioned in the Qu’ran). It is surely a very significant sign of the times that in November 2020 an Islamic lawyer in Saudi Arabia wrote his exegesis on this in a Saudi daily newspaper – in a nation that suffers heavy and oppressive censorship.
As I see it, the primary purpose of Christianity in the great sweep of history is to bring all nations to the centre: Zion: Home: the House: the House of God and the House of Prayer for all nations.
In my previous piece for Times of Israel Blog, I wrote that every week I ‘grab a Jew by the hem’ (Zechariah 8:23) – virtually at least – by tuning into the Parashot discussions between Rabbi Yishai Fliesher and Rav Mike Feuer on the Land of Israel Network. I’ve listened to lot of religious discussions in my life, including Jewish ones, and I moderated an online Anglican discussion group for several years, but I can’t recommend Yishai and Mike broadcasts from Judea to the world highly enough. There is never a dull moment! Despite all the insane consensus reality in the world today, and all the spurious ideas of ‘progress’, the ebullience and resilience of Yishai and Mike give me hope that there are signs of true progress – the promises of the Torah – coming through. I think that we are all coming home to the house of prayer for all nations. Please God, may it be soon.
It is worth pointing out here the route of my becoming ‘plugged in’ to Israel, despite the historical baggage that Christianity carries, which makes things difficult.
I was an atheist between the ages of 10 and 30. Approaching 30, I started to take my atheism seriously, even learning French in order to read the French Existentialists at source, somehow finding vicarious solidarity in their angst and sense of the absurdity of civilisation and life. But at age 31, I had an overwhelming and joyful epiphany. Either I had been seeking God all along, or God had been seeking me. I don’t know, but from this moment, my deep-thinking atheism became deep-thinking theism. I now wanted to know more about God, and so naturally became acquainted with the Church of England (into which I had been baptised as a baby), which in its traditional forms was culturally familiar, not least because I had been classically trained in music.
My years of Existentialism made me question everything in life, and I carried that over into the Church. I soon became highly critical – privately at first – of Christianity in all its forms. There are many blatant contradictions. For instance, clergy preach about idolatry and graven images, whilst being surrounded by venerated graven images and consecrated idols.
Christianity, I’m afraid to say, is a conspiracy of half-truths and platitudes, hoary with age. The ‘divine’ platitudes are rooted in millennia-old propaganda, half-truths, and Paganism.
Second-century propaganda – including in the ‘New Testament’ that was slowly beginning to take form in the second century – was used to set the Church apart from the Jews, to make the Church the ‘new’ Israel. And as church schisms started to form, each church developed propaganda to denigrate what it saw as schismatic or heretical in the others. Christians on the non-consensus side of a schism were invariably in danger. Consider the monks who followed the influential theologian Origen of Alexandria (d. circa 253). Origen was posthumously declared a heretic, and in the fifth century Pope Theophilus order the slaying of 10,000 monks who adhered to Origen’s teachings. Theolophilus’ nephew, Bishop Cyril of Alexandria, was equally ruthless. He set about the Pagans, perhaps to obscure that fact that Christianity had inherited so much Pagan religion. The clergy of Alexandria famously destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria. Cyril then came into conflict with the patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorious, in arguments about the divinity of Jesus. Was he wholly divine, or wholly human? Or – according to Bishop Cyril – was he both fully human and fully divine? Saint Cyril’s theory is, more or less, taught by the Church to this day. It is one of Christianity’s logical contradictions.
[ This is a logical contradiction, because for a human to be fully human, he cannot be more than human. If he is more than human, he is not fully human. Of course, we can say that, theoretically, to become fully human is to become fully divine – imago dei. But this is not what the Church meant. The Church meant that Jesus was “God from God”, born of a virgin.
Jesus himself, according to the records, never claimed to be fully divine, even chastising a follower who called him ‘good’: ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God’. (Mark 10:18).
Also in the gospel of my namesake (Mark 12:29), Jesus says the greatest of all commandments is the Shema Yisrael, saying “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One”. Unlike most of my fellow Christians, I have always refused to accept that God has three parts, be it three persons – i.e. three centres of consciousness, or three personas – i.e. three faces for engaging with the world (known to some as the Sabellian heresy). There are several theories of ‘trinity’, and of the hierarchical status of three ‘persons’ in it. One of these disputed theories divides the Western Church from the Eastern Church to this day: the so-called ‘Filioque controversy’. ]
‘Saint’ Cyril, a Trinitarian, could not tolerate true monotheists. He first incited pogroms against the very large Jewish community in Alexandria, and then set about persecuting the Nestorian Christians who, though they accepted that Jesus was anointed Messiah, refused to refer to his mother as ‘the mother of God’.
In the western or Latin half of the Church, things were even worse. The Latin Church was more zealous in its persecution of schismatics (including Greeks), and Jews, even before the Great Schism of East and West in 1054.
The Western Church (including the Church in England before and after King Henry VIII and the Reformation) has generally taught that its purpose is to ‘save’ people from a place called ‘Hell’. This place was apparently created for the purpose of eternal punishment of human souls. The Church therefore believed itself morally obliged to kill all the ‘false’ teachers. After all, if these false teachers (i.e. the schismatic churches, the Jews, and the Muslims) were destined for eternal punishment in Hell, the moral case was made for ending their life immediately, lest they recruit others on the path to perdition.
Similarly, here in England, this was the reason for executing ‘witches’ (male and female). Our King James Bible of 1611 is famed the world over, but the same (Scottish) King James VI who lent his name to it had written his own philosophical treatise – Daemonologie, In Forme of a Dialogue, Divided into three Books: By the High and Mighty Prince, James &c. James explains the threat of witchcraft, and the need to persecute witches, whom he would later send to the gallows when installed as England’s King James I, and head of the Church. (William Shakespeare, as one of the King’s Men Playing Company, use ideas from the King’s treatise in Macbeth.)
And so I think it is fair to say that the Western Church has historically assumed the responsibility of killing those who are likely to jeopardise the salvation of those who are ‘saved’.
However, not all Church leaders wanted, or allowed, the killing or forced conversion of Jews. Church Father, Augustine of Hippo (d. 430), made the theological case for allowing Jews to ‘survive but not thrive’, in the hope that their degraded status would validate Christianity in the eyes of Christians. Eventually such ideas led to Church-enforced Jewish ghettos. Pope Paul IV issued his papal bull Cum nimis absurdum in 1555, decreeing ghettoization, the title being taken from the bull’s opening: “Since it is absurd and utterly inconvenient that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal slavery…”
Apart from the schisms, the churches started to dogmatise logically-impossible half-truths, which were carried over into the Reformed (Protestant) churches. Although the earliest Christians, or Nazarenes, where closely aligned to Jews, and even worshipped in the same buildings and the Jerusalem Temple, the Church came to interpret God’s promise to Israel of salvation of the world as almost wholly about ‘salvation’ of the individual in a world that was ‘fallen’ and ‘totally depraved’. This doctrine of ‘total depravity’, for some influential teachers, even applied to the human mind, thereby denying that the human intellect is God’s great gift to mankind. The emphasis therefore, even in the Church of England today, is not on seeking wisdom and knowledge, but on receiving ‘grace’ for ‘salvation’ through ‘belief alone’.
Of course, Judaism teaches to this day that there is nothing worse for the individual than eternal separation from God, but, as I am sure my Jewish friends and teachers would agree, the overwhelming purpose of Judaism is not individual ‘salvation’, but salvation of the world: bringing the world home to God: making an Israel-centred world of loving-kindness in which it is possible for the messianic age to come.
The idea that the Creation is depraved (or created by a Demiurge) comes from our Pagan roots, not our Jewish roots, as does the Church’s historical attitude to the human body, sex, and the supposed virtues of celibacy, virginity, and therefore of not having children if you want to be fully virtuous.
Similarly, the idea that man can kill god (Deicide) is Pagan, and blasphemous in my view, but most of my fellow Christians seem to believe it. The belief depends of course on the doctrine of the Trinity, which itself depends on another Pagan belief: a god being born to a virgin goddess. And here, in the ‘Incarnation’ we come to another logical contradiction, based on long-outdated natural philosophy (science), that the Church refuses to address. The authors of the New Testament, and the councils such as Nicaea and Chalcedon who set the creeds and the dogmas – deciding that Jesus was at once fully God and fully man – used the Greek science of the day now known as “preformationism”. Preformationism had been deduced by philosophers such as Pythagoras and Aristotle, and not overturned until relatively recently. It tells us that a very tiny man exists in a sperm (or seed), and that this tiny-man-in-the-sperm develops into a baby and then back into a man (as preformed), or into a woman if it is ‘misbegotten’ (according to the Aristotelian scholar Saint Thomas Aquinas). The woman’s body was believed to serve only as a suitable material substrate for the seed, just as, say, an acorn needs a suitable soil to become the oak tree it is preformed to become. (The mammalian ovum was not discovered until the 19th century.)
We can excuse our Christian forebears for believing, literally, that the begotten seed of God Himself grew in the womb of the Virgin. But today, not only is this scientifically unacceptable, it is theologically unacceptable, according to the very criteria of Nicaea and Chalcedon, because if Jesus did not have 46 chromosomes, from both his biological parents, he was not fully human.
I suggest that the Jewish faith, the faith of Jesus himself, which has not constructed dogmas based on Pagan beliefs and outdated science, can help us out today. Judaism – or much of it at least – has been able to evolve, and embrace the modern world, in the way that Christianity has not (apart from the liberal and cultural strands of Christianity, such as Christian Atheism, but they have done so at the expense of describing all the fundamentals of faith, including ‘God’, as merely metaphor).
Christianity has spread monotheistic civilisation across the world, and brought news of God of Israel to the world. But intellectually-honest Christians need to acknowledge that if Christianity was/is ‘the great light’ for the world, then it has equally projected a very dark shadow.
Personally, I do accept that Jesus was the Messiah (or the Christ in Greek transliteration) for the world. And I accept that he was resurrected from the dead. This makes me Christian, or Nazarene, almost by definition. But as Amy-Jill Levine says in her excellent and necessary book The Misunderstood Jew – The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (HarperOne, 2006), there was nothing that Jesus could give Jews that Jews did not already have. Jews already had knowledge of God of Israel, the Torah, the Oral Torah, and they had prophets, teachers, resurrections and messiahs (or ‘anointed ones’).
The new religion, Christianity, for us Gentiles/Pagans, deprived of the Holy Language centred on the Holy Name, understandably needed to put ‘holy’ things in place. The Church leaders made no secret of their need to do this, hence the expression, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’, attributed to Saint Ambrose, 4th century Bishop of Milan. We Christians face East to the Sun: almost all church naves point east because Emperor Constantine’s favourite god was Sol Invictus – to be worshipped not on the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday or sabbato in Latin) but on dies Solis: Sun-day.
Alas. Today the names Abraham, Jacob (Israel), Moses, etc. are familiar to billions of worshippers of God. This is the great success of Christianity (and Islam). But I suggest the time has come to shrug off our Paganism and half-truths, and the antisemitism that has cursed the Church throughout its history, to this day.
The Church cannot be holy if it is anti-Semitic, i.e. anti-Shem. ‘Hallowed be thy Name’ is the first line of prayer that Jesus taught his followers. Deep down (although there is not enough space to explain here) I think that antisemitism, including in its Christian forms, is the human soul’s rejection of the House of the Name. And as I wrote in my last blog, when we cease to accept that holiest of the holy names in the holy language is holy, then nothing in any language is holy, and objective truth becomes impossible.
I am currently studying (partly to advance my Biblical Hebrew) a very dense book titled Hebrew Language and Jewish Thought (Routledge 2005) by Dr. David Patterson, Jewish theologian, holder of the Hillel Feinberg Chair in Holocaust Studies, and a personal friend (since I met David at conference on antisemitism at Oxford in 2019). He writes:
‘Among the chief causes of the Holocaust is the Christian doctrine of supersession, which declares Judaism to be now theologically meaningless and Jews therefore to be ontologically superﬂuous. Hence Jews and Judaism have no place in the world. Both, according to traditional Christian thinking, are archaic. Further, once the Jews have been declared superﬂuous and Judaism archaic, so too does the Torah become unnecessary and outmoded in any relation to the Holy One. Having thus abandoned Torah, as Rav Abraham Isaac Kook rightly pointed out well before the Holocaust (in 1920),
Perhaps Rav Kook is right. Perhaps deep down, subconsciously, Christianity’s fear and hatred of Israel, and of the religious Jew, is fear of being absorbed back into our Jewish source, and the House of the Holy Name yod hey vav hey.
Removal of Pagan accoutrements would force us to properly admit that Jesus lived by the Shema Yisrael, and who told us to follow him, not worship him, and not to venerate statues and idols of him. We are to worship God of Israel.
Christianity will come Home. But when we move home – as I literally did very recently here in England – we get rid of all the unnecessary and ugly clutter we have acquired over the years. As a priority, the Church must dump its antisemitism rather than, as a present, allow it, nay often encourage it, to mutate into new forms, particularly anti-Israelism (such as that led by the World Council of Churches).
As I have written often elsewhere, since 2000, the United Nations (UNGA and UNHRC) have issued more country-specific condemnations on Israel than all the nations of the world combined! Whereas historically nations would condemn the Jews in their midst, today they condemn the Jewish nation in the midst of all nations. Might I suggest that so long as the nations are in a state in which it is impossible for the Jewish nation to build the Temple of the site of God’s all-centring dwelling on Earth – the Jerusalem Temple of music – the nations cannot know harmony and peace, or rather true Peace: Shalom.
“I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them.”
A Chief Rabbi, an RC Cardinal, and an Anglican Archbishop walk into a pub…
This is a bad joke of course, because in April 2020 we were all locked out of English pubs, as we are today. Some pubs will never reopen, already abandoned by their owners: derelict and boarded-up eyesores where they were once landmarks of English towns and villages. Churches are haemorrhaging money too, and their bells and choirs are sadly silent, some perhaps permanently.
Despite there being no room at the inn, in April 2020 England’s faith leaders Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and Archbishop Justin Welby came up with a workaround: a virtual meeting. The video call has had only 2000 views so far, suggesting that the good people of England are, with me, not convinced that our Judeo-Christian faith leaders have much meaningful to say in these challenging times.
If I might state a declaration of interests, my faith community is the Church of England, High Anglican wing. I admit to feeling not much intellectual kinship with the Archbishop, or the incumbent C of E management’s apparent need to accommodate the Wokerati. (“Wokerati” is a term introduced to me by my friend Colonel Richard Kemp, a good Catholic boy, and perhaps, with Melanie Phillips, the best-known English journalist who consistently and persistently advocates for Israel, the significance of which we will come to at the end of this piece.)
The best word to describe the three-way video call is “nice”. The three men are nice to one other. I imagine they come across as nice to the viewers who manage to get through the whole megillah, lasting 23 minutes.
God sustains us in our suffering
The importance of prayer
The value of faith
The value (at least occasionally) of space and silence.
The need for forgiveness
I can’t disagree with any of that, but such platitudes are predictable from our religious ministers, and do not register with those of us who have heard them thousands of times before. Little wonder that people of our post-Christian nation are seeking the answers from Bill Gates.
Things deteriorated for me when the discussion turned to Almighty God.
“I feel the presence of the Almighty with me, as I’m sure you do right now”, says the Chief Rabbi.
“I do, I do, I do”, says the Cardinal.
But then the Cardinal goes on to say,
“I struggle when people question where is God in all of this? Why is God letting this happen? And it does strike me there are two very important lessons. One is, this is an event of the natural order… It’s not a question of how this came about. Science [sic] tells us that now. It poses the question, what should change in my way of life?”
How has the Cardinal arrived at this conclusion if, at the same time, he senses the presence of God Almighty? Presence is a big word.
The Lord of History was not and is not surprised by this corona-virus, and its impact on the history of the world.
If we are going to use the word “natural”, we also need to use the word “supernatural”. Indeed, all Jewish and Christian theology worth its salt is based on this duality: the world we see, and the domain that is concealed.
Yes, God imbued Earth with so much agency that He can call Earth to “bring forth” the green life, but God has dominion over all things, and can bless or curse all things. Things revert to desert and war and famine if we fail to harmonise our lives to God, who is Life. “Choose life, or choose death, blessing or cursing”, said the lawmaker.
Consider the Ten Plagues on Egypt. Some exegetes have attempted to explain the first nine ecologically: The Nile turning to “blood” being the crimson tide of red algae that sometimes afflicts the Nile. It carries with it the anthrax bacterium, which thrives in marsh. The anthrax-laden algae kills fish, which means that when frogs lay tens of thousands of eggs per frog, there is no predator, hence a plague of frogs. Frogs denude the banks of the Nile of available sources of food, causing the many millions of frogs to die. A plague of insects now proliferate on the dead frogs. Cattle graze on land infected with anthrax spores and become diseased. Humans eat the anthrax-infected cattle which causes a plague whose signs of infection are black sores and boils… Indeed, the only plague on Egypt that cannot be attributed to natural causes is the final plague, which finally led to Pharaoh’s temporary change of heart, allowing the Israelites to escape through the Sea of Reeds. The 10th plague cannot be attributed to nature: it was an act of Almighty God. In any case, the timing of the plagues, whether some were ecological domino-effect or not, was divinely ordained.
Pestilence can hardly be detached from the divine schema. In the Christian Apocalypse, there are four horses (more or less cut-and-paste from Zechariah): Famine, War, Pestilence and, the common denominator, Death. These four phenomena have never been far from each other in the recorded history of civilisation, and seem to curse us when we radically turn away from God, or abuse His Name in the name of religion. Let’s face it, Germany’s ecumenical Protestant Reich Church, and Pope Pius XII’s accommodation of Hitler, and then the Stalinisation of the eastern half of Christendom, were never going to lead to God’s blessing, or even tolerance, of the Christian nations.
Consider the 1918/1919 flu pandemic: War, Famine, Pestilence and Death roamed Earth together, and following the October Revolution set the scene for three or four generations of world war and Cold War (which was very much real war, Communist revolution, and mass starvation in many parts of the world). And consider in our times Yemen, an Islamist war zone that has created widespread famine and the worst outbreak of cholera in modern times. To exacerbate things in 2020, the Middle East (including Yemen) and East Africa saw the worst plague of locusts since the Ottoman-Syria locust swarms of 1915.
God has allowed the corona pestilence to happen, and has allowed it to have an overwhelming impact on all nations. And unusually, for a pandemic, the richer nations, despite their advanced medicine and sophisticated healthcare, have been hit harder than the poorer nations (at least by the disease itself; some poorer nations have been economically devastated by the rich-nation lockdown). Perhaps we should accept there might be spiritual reasons, rather than accept scientific ‘explanations’ of the experts who are baffled but are too proud to admit it.
It seems to me that the three faith leaders want to account for calamity by denying the omnipotence of God, or at least evicting God from what the Cardinal calls the domains of ‘nature’ and ‘science’. But Almighty means Almighty, at once imminent in all nature and transcendent to it.
Belief in God Almighty, or Omnipotent, is the opening of the Credo shared by almost all denominations of Church, West and East. Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem. Like many observant Jews and Christians (and Muslims), I do accept that God, the Creator, is Omnipotent. In other words I do not believe that God has left the Creation to its own devices (as in the Deist philosophy that has been continuously popular in parts of the Church of England since the 18th century).
Of course, to a certain extent, God has left us to our own devices: our human self-conscious free will. But our free will is limited because God’s will ultimately will be done on Earth. Similarly God allows Creation to do its thing, to an extent. Genesis does not say that God individually fashioned all the diverse life on earth; it says that God commanded Earth to “bring forth” all the diverse kinds of plants and creatures. In other words, God defined the rules, geometries, beauty, and taxonomy (“kinds”) of life. God animates Earth with life, and gives Earth agency (read the third and sixth days for instance) to bring forth the great biodiversity, and the power to evolve. But this is not to deny the omnipotent power of God, including over all of Earth, nay every atom of the cosmos.
Nothing happens unless God allows it to happen. To suggest otherwise is to undo the Jewish and Christian foundations to Western civilisation, and we are left with merely ‘cultural’ and ‘liberal’ Judaism and Christianity, or even Christian Atheism. We believe that God revealed the Torah at Mount Sinai. We believe that God resurrected Elijah; we (Christians) believe that God resurrected Jesus, the Son of Man. We believe that God has the Almighty power over the world to keep His promises to the world. But to believe such things and at the same time to believe that God cannot prevent a deadly (to humans) coronavirus crossing from a creature into a human being is to swallow a camel and strain at a gnat.
I suggest that not only must we accept that God allowed ‘Covid-19’ to happen, but we have no intellectual grounds for dismissing out of hand the possibility that God made Covid-19 happen.
I know that the Chief Rabbi, the Cardinal and the Archbishop would all agree that God keeps God’s promises to the world. In the great divine sweep of history as God brings all things into the ultimate Good, there might well be a divinely-ordained reason for Covid-19, a reason that makes sense in the context of eternity, and the ultimate Peace (Shalom) on Earth, when all is very Good. The great and consistent promise is that the world will come into the knowledge of God – as surely as the waters cover the sea.
Of course, when we properly acknowledge that God is Almighty, theology ceases to be merely nice and starts to become challenging.
I should say that I think it would be wicked to suggest that any individual who has suffered or prematurely died from any disease, or poverty or war, has incurred the wrath of God. We cannot dismiss the possibility that God can inflict suffering on an individual, but it is not wise and moral, in my view, to contemplate any individual’s suffering (including our own suffering) in this way. The Book of Job provides some of the best Biblical answers (and questions) on the indiscriminate nature of suffering. And throughout the Bible, many good individuals and people suffer extremely. True justice, we are taught, is only known in the context of eternity.
In the video call, the Chief Rabbi says the “will of God prevails”, then echoes the Cardinal in saying, “sure enough, this is a natural phenomenon”. The Archbishop confers, but goes on to say we must pray for the protection of health workers and key workers from the disease. In other words, he is advocating petitionary prayer for God to intervene to physically protect (intervene in nature in other words) health workers and keep them safe. Such petitionary prayer presupposes that the power of God is without limits: omnipotent.
And so it seem to me that our three faith leaders have a kind of cognitive dissonance with regard to the omnipotence of God. All things in nature – including human nature – that are perceived as not good are wholly attributed to nature, whereas all things in nature that are perceived as good are attributed to God Almighty.
As I said, all this stuff is nice. But nice doesn’t cut it. And ultimately, it seems to me, nice does more harm than good, because it makes thinking people suspicious of our faith leaders and perhaps therefore suspicious of faith in God. The children’s hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful is fine for children, but if our faith leaders want thinking adults to return to faith, we need to do better than nice.
Explicitly accepting God’s omnipotence in the Creed, but then implicitly denying God’s omnipotence in the vicissitudes of life, can only lead to pessimism, not least when we consider the destiny of our soul, and the soul of those nearest and dearest to us.
We cannot second-guess God, but we can see there are things radically not right in the world, from the Communism in the East, the Islamism in the Middle East, and the Scientism in the West. Throughout the world we see systemic financial corruption and general greed. There are radical problems with the Church itself, not least in England, including the revelation in 2020 of thousands of cases of sexual predation of children since 1970 in the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England. We had no right to be content with the loveless way the world was in 2019.
In many nations, people are persecuted for their religion, either by peoples of other religion, or by the Communists. In China, where there are more practicing Christians than in Europe, the persecution of Christians and Muslims is severe. Persecutions of Christians by Muslims is severe in Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and many other Muslim nations today, according to the Christian charity Open Doors, which has now published its World Watch List for 2021. I was surprised to see on the watch list that India, which has 64 million Christians (5% of the population) is now ranked in the top 10 persecutors of Christians (due to Hindu nationalism).
And as I have written often elsewhere (including this recent piece in the Times of Israel), the Church (not least the World Council of Churches), the United Nations, many governments, and many NGOs, are deeply antisemitic/anti-Israel. For instance, the United Nations Human Rights Council in its history has condemned Israel (the only nation in the Middle East and North Africa that has human rights) more times than all the other nations of the world combined. In 2020, the UN – which Colonel Richard Kemp rightly calls an antisemitic “mob” – made more country-specific condemnations against Israel (17) than all other nations of the world combined (6)!
Israel, the blessed nation, the apple of His eye, the light unto the nations, must not be used as the world’s scapegoat. Should Israel improve? Of course she should: she is to be the head nation, not the tail (Deut 28:13). Rather than wishing for her obliteration, the nations, united, must encourage and help her to be the house of prayer for all nations. The many Christian and Muslim nations with superessionist pretensions must allow the one Jewish nation the space to be the dignity of Israel. Prayerful dignity is difficult for a tiny nation that is surrounded by, and must defend herself against, nations with unhinged and murderous regimes that believe that Israel is the metaphysical obstruction to their goals. And, frankly, some of the Christian Europeans nations that engineered the Holocaust are, today, outsourcing their genocidal antisemitism by funding Jihadist irredentism and funding the corruption of children through antisemitic education. (Search the website NGO Monitor for a catalogue of the obsessive anti-Israelism of the UN, EU, the World Council of Churches, the Islamic bloc (OIC), and many of the world’s NGOs.)
The world is upside down. Perhaps, who knows, the crowned white horse (Revelation 6:2) of pestilence with his arched bow chaotically seeking targets in all nations, is demanding that nations think in quite new ways, within the nations and between the nations.
Alas, 2020 was not all bad. It saw the “Abraham Accords”, and, for some, a new way of seeing Israel.
God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
If you can hack the rules of mRNA, “essentially the entire kingdom of life is available for you to play with,” says [Stephen] Hoge, a physician by training who left a position as a health care analyst to become Moderna’s president in 2012.
‘Adjusting mRNA translation to fight disease “isn’t actually super high-risk biology,” he adds. “It’s what your genes would do if they were rational actors”.’
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for the Times of Israel entitled ‘Vaccine Apartheid’ – blatant blood libel but too good to resist‘. I wrote that there is such an international appetite today for ‘Israel is apartheid’ libels that influencers in the world’s legacy media, mainstream political parties, governments, and NGOs seem unable to help themselves in combining it with a high-tech version of oldest antisemitic libel of all: the Blood Libel. (Just today the BBC has admitted it was wrong in its reporting that Israel has responsibility for vaccinating Palestinians, but as always, the antisemitic damage has already been done, and the BBC will continue its cycle of obsessively libelling Israel, and then apologising after the damage has been done.)
What I neglected to say in my ‘Vaccine Apartheid’ piece is that my personal choice is to not have the jab. This means that if the proposal by Israel’s Transport Ministry for the COVID-19 vaccine ‘passports’ are accepted, and similar proposals by my own government here in the UK are accepted, I will not be able to visit Israel any time soon. It will be a pity if this happens, because in recent years I have been a regular visitor to Israel, to holiday, and to meet friends, scholars, and advocates for Israel with whom I share similar interests.
I am not anti-vaccination. I have my flu jab every winter. And when I served in the British Forces I was obliged to be vaccinated with the common vaccines, in case we were deployed anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat.
I do hope that the vaccine (or rather vaccines) deployment achieves its aims of achieving herd immunity against COVID-19, and I hope there is minimal short-term and long-term harm. Of course, every vaccine carries risk. There is some risk even for the well-established and fully-approved vaccines.
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Both the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine employ a novel method of vaccination that involves triggering the human body’s mRNA, or messenger RNA.
For the purposes of this article, and for the sake of simplicity, I will consider the Moderna vaccine only. It has been widely deployed here in the UK.
Welcome to Moderna. We believe mRNA is the “software of life.” Every cell in the body uses mRNA to provide real-time instructions to make the proteins necessary to drive all aspects of biology, including in human health and disease.
I accept the first part of the third sentence as true. The rest of the sentence, from ‘to drive all aspects of biology…’ seems to me to be misleading, but, I suppose, this is marketing copywriting, not science writing.
[ In my profession as scientific technical writer, I spent three years from 2012 in the life sciences, involved in the study of proteins, or proteomics. Proteomics, itself a new field, sees the human body more holistically than the Moderna copywriters suggest. Proteins network, contrary to the ‘central dogma of molecular biology’, which explains information flow as only linear and unidirectional, from DNA to RNA to the protein. Protein forms and nourishes and determines the geometry of every structure of our body, from head to toe, and most of it needs to be replenished with food, including the protein in food, to keep us alive. ]
If I were to write that food and water ‘drive all aspects of biology, including in human health and disease’, it would be an improvement, and more medically meaningful, because the annual deaths caused by diarrheal diseases, malnutrition, and obesity in 2020 are many times more than the 2 million global deaths (reported to WHO) caused by COVID-19.
The second sentence of Moderna’s ‘About Us’ is more problematic: ‘We believe mRNA is the “software of life.”’
I most certainly do not believe, and I am very philosophically opposed to, the belief that mRNA is ‘the software of life.’ This worldview gets even worse when you couple it with the off-the-cuff words of Moderna’s president: ‘the entire kingdom of life is available for you to play with,’ once you ‘hack the rules of mRNA.’
Now, we have known for decades that we can simulate some of the extremely complex systems that make our bodies work by using software, including Artificial Intelligence (AI). This has had applications in medicine, toxicology, forensic science, drug testing in sport, and military defense (against nerve agents and other forms of chemical and biological threat). This use of software in systems biology is known as ‘bioinformatics.’ In fact, bioinformatics was my route into the life sciences. Although my background is in the physical sciences, not biology, I am a certified IBM developer in the computer sciences. The life sciences today is a very interdisciplinary field.
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I do not object to anyone’s choosing to receive the mRNA vaccines. A few colleagues and friends have told me that I am an ‘idiot’ or a ‘Luddite’ or an ‘anti-vaxxer’ for declaring that I will not be taking the vaccine. They are entitled to their opinion. I would not call them idiots for choosing to be vaccinated with the new generation of biotech vaccines, and I wish them well. However, I have serious concerns about the many voices and lawmakers in governments calling for international take up of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines through a combination of coercion and law. Former PM Tony Blair wants the UK to use its influence in the G7 to push for ‘digital vaccine passports.’ Here in the UK, there is even talk of ‘domestic passports.’ On February 14, 2021, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab MP, refused to rule out domestic vaccine passports, even to enter shops!
In the meantime, there seems to be in the UK an aggressive carrot-and-stick ‘public education’ campaign, using celebrities such as Elton John and Michael Caine. This campaign will of course make it easier for our democratically-elected lawmakers to pass laws that discriminate against those of us who have chosen to decline the vaccine, unless we start to speak up soon.
Policy-makers seem to be refusing to admit that this novel vaccine carries unknown risks, and downplaying the novelty. We only need to look at what Moderna and the FDA publicly tell us about the Moderna vaccine on their websites, compared to what our governments offer for the public’s education.
“The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA, under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID 19) for use in individuals 18 years of age and older. There is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19”.
“The vaccine contains a nucleoside-modified messenger RNA encoding the viral spike (S) glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 formulated in lipid particles. It is an investigational vaccine not licensed for any indication”.
“The EUA for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 EUA declaration justifying emergency use of the product, unless the declaration is terminated or the authorization is revoked sooner”.
As noted, I hope the vaccine deployment achieves its aims, and safely too. But we need wider discussions, including theological and philosophical discussions, on what synthetic mRNA molecules actually are, especially if this is to become the standard technology for future vaccination medicines. And I suggest that there must be greater respect for those of us who choose not to accept these medicines, at least until we know a lot more about them. Already we are told by the US Centers for Disease and Control: ‘future mRNA vaccine technology may allow for one vaccine to provide protection for multiple diseases, thus decreasing the number of shots needed for protection against common vaccine-preventable diseases’.
And having allowed editing of mRNA, how far are we from genetic modification (GM), supposedly to ‘improve’ our human being? Which leads me to my final ethical (and rhetorical) question: why are many secularists and scientists of the West so desperately keen on accessing their ‘software of life’?
Now, as noted, I do not accept Moderna’s claim that mRNA (with DNA) is ‘the software of life’. To claim this, and to work within such a paradigm, is to enter a whole field of philosophy and medical ethics that we all need to discuss, rather than be coerced into accepting it through denial of ‘vaccination passports.’
Suddenly, through the USA’s ‘Emergency Authorisation’ of mRNA vaccines (in the country of origin), we seem to be one step closer to the realm of transhumanism which amongst some of the billionaire visionaries of California’s Silicon Valley has become a quasi-religious movement. The transhumanist founder of Google, Larry Page, on setting up his life sciences company Calico, made it his mission “to solve death,” he famously said, or to at least go for massive life extension.
Life is not in fact software. Every single cell of all life is extremely complex, with its own veritable sub-microscopic ‘galaxy’ of information (largely unknown), some of which is analogous to software. If life were merely software, man could create life, but we cannot. We cannot create a single cell of life (claims to have done so are in fact synthetic DNA nurtured in existing life), just as, in fact, we cannot create a single atom of matter. To claim that life is software is scientific reductionism in the extreme, and is, I suggest, barking up the wrong tree of knowledge.
The faith that the People Israel gave the world informs us to keep the body holy, a temple, a dwelling place for God, as we are reminded in this week’s parsha.
Of all the nations of the world, the Holy Land, I suggest, must be very careful about joining the international voices, such as the UK Government, proposing stipulation of a new breed of vaccines and potential future biotechnology medicines that first need to be discussed by all of us, and in all aspects, including theological and philosophical.
I don’t believe there is a software of life. Life is the breath of God. It is the breath of God that animates the human soul. And the entire kingdom of life has only one King, God of Israel, in whom, and only in whom, I trust my eternal life.
I have to confess a mild addiction to the Yishai Fleisher Show on the Land of Israel Network, which I first discovered about six months ago. I especially try not to miss the live parasha-based discussions between Rabbi Yishai (in Hebron) and Rav Mike Freuer (in Jerusalem). These English-language discussions, always with some Biblical and Talmudic Hebrew uttered and explained, are a highlight of my week. This might seem a strange thing for me to say, as an English gentile and a scientist whose faith community is the Church of England. But I have a thirst for a better knowledge and understanding of the Torah, and its backstory (Talmud and Midrash), and the Holy Language, and the deeper meaning of Israel.
Rabbi Yishai and Rav Mike have the talent to teach and entertain at the same time, and the confidence and humility to test out new thoughts with each other on air, often trying to relate the Torah portion to the unfolding events of our times. If I miss a live Land of Israel parasha discussion due to my day-job commitments, it is easy to catch up later, because all the parashot transmissions are embedded in the dust of the earth – or computer memory.
Rav Mike often reminds us how and why memory – rather than the genre we now call ‘history’ – is fundamental to the Jewish story. Miraculously, the Jews, unique amongst ancient peoples, have continuously carried, intact, memory, language and religion through all the appalling (and extant) adversities, since the Exodus, into our time in which human memory can be embedded, forever, into our technological fabrications. Even Rav Mike’s injunctions to remember cannot be forgotten, because they are embedded, and made available to the world for all time, in computer memory!
We, mankind, have learned to fabricate metals, and minerals, and semiconductors such as silicon. We cannot create any of this ‘dust’ of the earth, of course. As our scientific knowledge informs, matter (like energy) can be neither created nor destroyed, not by man or by anything else made of matter (due to Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence). Similarly, the very second word of the Bible, bara’ (or ‘created’) applies only to God, never to man.
In order for us modern human beings to encapsulate, or record, our words (written and spoken) and images in the materials of the earth, mankind had to collectively arrive upon on a common language to code and decode all this data: theEnglish language.
Websites in Hebrew/Ivrit for instance, like websites in all the world’s languages, are wrapped in English, the universal language of the sciences including the computer sciences. By way of example I have taken a screenshot of the Hebrew version of Bar-Ilan University. It has the Hebrew that the visitor sees, but behind the scences everything is wrapped in English-language mark-up and scripting in order that it can be rendered on any Internet-ready device anywhere in the world (providing the government of the region has not blocked Internet access to everything it considers incompatible with its state propaganda):
Of course, none of this has surprised God Almighty. It has not surprised God that we have discovered how to encode semiconductors, and it has not surprised God that we have arrived at a global language (English) that enables us to ‘create’, amongst other things, a world wide web (‘www’). God has allowed us, at last, to complete the allegorical Tower of Babel, in the sense that from the world’s great babble of tongues has evolved the world’s first truly universal language. Modern English is indeed the language through which we cooperate internationally to enter the sky, or the first heaven (and even outer space in fact): all international pilots and air traffic controllers are obliged work in English.
As I see it, then, there are two holy languages. Through the Providence of God Omnipotent in history there is English, through which we moderns now have the potential to make things whole (holy), in the world. And there is the Holy Language, or Lashon Hakodesh, at the centre of which is the holiest of holy names of God: the Name, Housed (Deuteronomy 12:11) in Jerusalem, herself , “set in the centre of the nations” (Ezekiel 5:5). In other words, Hebrew is the Holy Language that God set in stone (the Ten Words), and in which He chose to set His Name in the House (dwelling, shekhinah) in Jerusalem. Being less than 3,000 years ago, this was very, very recent considering the tremendous age of earth, and even relatively recent compared to sophisticated ancient civilisations and cultures that have come and gone for over 10,000 years.
Hebrew in the time of the Prophets was, the classicists tell us, a kind of calculus of the world’s languages, at the geographical crossroads of the continents of Europe, Arabia, Africa and Asia. Hebrew, the language of revelation, carrying the Name, established the holy centre of all language.
The English language, once a little-spoken and unremarkable language limited to certain tribes of what we now call England, reached the ends of the earth and set the circumference. English is the world’s first truly universal language, although more usually a second or third language for the majority of its users today. English is also by far the biggest language in the world, its vocabulary being bigger than those of French and Spanish combined.
“English has been this vacuum cleaner of a language, because of its history meeting up with the Romans and then the Danes, the Vikings and then the French and then the Renaissance with all the Latin and Greek and Hebrew in the background.”
English as a Global Language, Dr. David Crystal (British linguist)
However, in order to make the world whole, and good, it is vital that, those of us who care ensure that the English language, in thought, word and deed, remains attached to the House: the Holy, nay, the Holy of Holies.
Native English speakers such as me, an Englishman, must be especially diligent in the way we use language. I am always conscious of the need to keep language holy by relating it back to the Holy Language. We do this at the end of every English-language prayer in fact, with the Hebrew ‘Amen’.
The Hebrew Bible, not least the Decalogue, is implicit in the English language, whether its users realise it or not: our law, psychology, literature, morality, music/song, economics, and democratic values are all structured and discussed in the language of the Bible. Indeed the fact that God is everywhere implied in European languages so troubled modernist and postmodernist atheistic philosophers that, encouraged by the ultra-secularist French intelligentsia, they have attempted, and are still attempting, to deconstruct the English language from its implied centre: the Name of God, or what the Hellenised Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, and then the Christians, called Logos.
The atheistic French Jew Jacques Derrida declared European languages ‘Logocentric’, and set about the ‘Deconstruction’ from implied Logos in all fields of study (or ‘ologies). For Derrida (and the equally destructive Michel Foucault) the objective centre of language, and the belief that there is a unity to all things, was to be removed. In order to be authentic atheists, objective truth and categories in language had to be dropped. Western language, to the postmodernists, is an oppresive religious ‘power structure’ that is standing in the way of man’s authentic existentialism and self-expression.
In postmodern philosophy then – and its spin offs such as neo-Marxism and neo-anarchism – now overwhelmingly prevalent in the humanities departments of Western universities, you can make up your own words, and your own truths, because every word, in every language, is merely contingent on the other word of that language.
All this nonsense has been around now for about 3 or 4 generations, and so I am hoping the curse will soon be done, although the movement, in its death throes, seems to be putting a fierce and determined fight against Western civilisation.
One of the first victims of this academic movement – determined to remove all allusions of the Holy from language – is, for obvious reasons, Israel. The Holy Land, ‘Israel’, in her very name, is the banner, the ensign, of God. Israel, in her very name, is a reminder to the nations that God has planned the destiny of all nations. And that plan is not Communism/Socialism or other forms of Internationalism, or scientism, secularism, economism, existentialism (‘authenitic’ individualism) , Islamism, Christian supersessionism… The peaceful destiny of the nations is to happen when the world comes fully into the knowledge of God of Israel. Pray, that might be soon.
God’s plan for uniting all nations in the unity of God depends on our keeping things holy. Israel has an especial responsibility to protect the divine inheritance, and conserve God’s chosen “holy nation”, “light unto nations”, “kingdom of priests”, “His own treasure”… for the sake of all nations.
In many ways, Israel has to be set apart from all other nations: “And ye shall be holy unto Me; for I the LORD am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that ye should be Mine” (Leviticus 20:26). As Rabbi Yishai and Rav Mike sometimes reflect, this is a great dichotomy, a divine tension, with Israel being at once the unifying centre and yet obliged to be holy and apart in order to fulfil that divine purpose and be the ensign of God’s rule. The Holy City of Jerusalem is to be open to all, whilst maintaining its Jewish holiness. The key, as Yishai Fleisher emphasises, is Jewish sovereignty, not exclusivity, in a tiny patch of land that is the Land of Israel. The Land is tiny in comparison to the surrounding landmass of the Arab peoples. In the words of Yishai (from my memory) it is “the size of a matchbox on a football field”. Yishai reminds us that Jews have no right to give away Judea and Samaria, even if secularists of the West think, naively, that it would be politically expedient to do so.
Speaking from personal experience, I have been to several nations of the Middle East and North Africa, all under Arab and Islamic sovereignty, and none is as diverse and inclusive as the small region under Jewish sovereign rule. I’ve sojourned in the (Biblical) port city of Jaffa several times. Under Jewish governance Jaffa is surely the most diverse, tolerant and multicultural city in the Middle East and North Africa. Jaffa is perhaps the most overtly-religiously plural place on earth, with a cacophony of church bells from Western and Eastern denominations, the Muezzins’ frequent call to prayer, and men with flowing tzitzit muttering psalms in Hebrew, or binding tefillin.
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I suggest that we must work hard to properly connect the English language back to its implicit holiness. Although at times we seem to be becoming overwhelmed by antisemitism/anti-Israelism, even from some very influential and popular secular Jews, those of us who care really must help Israel to help the world to see the light.
I have suggested that where Hebrew is the Holy Language at the centre, English is the language that has evolved – that the history of mankind has brought forth – to make the world whole (or holy). English is the circumference, having reached “the ends of the earth” in the language of Christian scripture. It is through the English language that I can type into my Internet browser TheLandofIsrael.com, and ‘touch’ with Rabbi Yishai and Rav Mike for my weekly portion. I am reminded of the prophecy of Zechariah: ‘In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you”.’ English, the circumference, we might say, is the hem, the skirt, the edge, that brings us into the centre, and the Holy Name.
I am deeply disappointed then in my own faith community, the Church of England, which, as I have written often elsewhere, including this Op-Ed in the Algemeiner, is generally anti-Israelist. Arab Anglican clergy in the Holy Land even lead the Christian demonization of Israel and the theology of contempt, as I wrote in my op-ed.
The problem is not new. I don’t think the Church (the Western Church in particular) has ever understood the Jews, the Torah, let alone the Talmud (which through history the Church has periodically attempted to obliterate). And with this lack of understanding comes a lack of understanding of The Land.
The English (Roman Catholic) writer and Journalist Paul Johnson, in his excellent book A History of the Jews, tells us that it wasn’t until he started research for the book that, “I became aware for the first time in my life of the magnitude of debt Christianity owes to Judaism. It was not, as I had been taught to suppose, that the New Testament replaced the Old…”.
Alas, we cannot change the past, but thanks to the universalising power of the English language, we can in the virtual sense be ‘zoomed’ to Jerusalem or Hebron and ‘take firm hold of a Jew by the hem’ by clicking on interactive broadcasts such as TheLandofIsrael.com and discover what Christianity has been missing (and Church leaders tried to hide or destroy) for the best part of 2000 years.
Of course, civilisation is overwhelmingly indebted to Christianity, as it is, I suggest, to England and the Church of England. There is much to admire, with gratitude, about England and the Church of England. But I suggest that the time has come for the Church to break out of its ‘lectionary’, and look more seriously at the Torah.
Although three-quarters of the Christian Bible, such as the English King James Bible (1611), is the Jewish Bible, very little of the Torah or wider Tanakh is ever read out in Church. When I look at the lectionary statistics for the Roman Catholic Church (which the Church of England follows) even in the full weekday lectionary (a two-year cycle), for those who attend church every day, they would hear only 28% of Genesis, 17% of Exodus, 5% of Leviticus, 6% of Numbers, and 5% of Deuteronomy. Until the 1960s, and the Second Vatican Council, these statistics were even more contemptuous of the ‘Old’ Testament. We do better with the Psalms, it should be said, which are all sung in the liturgical year. Those of us whose church attendance is limited to Sundays and major feasts will hear, or read out, a mere 9% of Genesis. As we go further into the Tanakh, the stats get even worse. Of 2 Chronicles for instance, the last book of the Tanakh: only 2% of it is heard in England’s established Church. And ‘the whole Megillah’ for the Church is a mere 2.6% (of Esther)!
I have long found the Church’s historical contempt for the Torah and the Tanakh rather strange. After all, in the New Testament (King James Version), Jesus says after his Sermon on the Mount that the Law must be kept intact: not “one jot or one tittle” (Matthew 5:18) is to be changed. But surely, using only highly selective parts of the Torah and rejecting all the rest is to radically change it. Thankfully, however, I am far from the only Christian to challenge this traditional ‘theology of contempt’ which is largely responsible for the Church’s history of antisemitism.
Time to be the Mother of all Israel Lobbies
“England is the mother of parliaments”, famously said the politician John Bright in the 1860s. England’s part in the restitution of the State of Israel cannot be overstated. It is worth noting also that the centre of the Houses of Parliament, between the Lords and the Commons, is the ‘Central Lobby’. The word ‘lobbyist’ and the verb ‘to lobby’ derive from this place, because people from outside Parliament would be allowed into the Lobby to attempt to persuade politicians to understand and support their cause. Inscribed into the floor of the Central Lobby is a large star-shaped mosaic, with Latin words from Psalm 127:
‘Unless the Lord builds the House its builders labour in vain’.
Jews and the Jewish nation have been subject to libels throughout the history of the People Israel. The latest ominous libel meme – ‘Israel is Apartheid’ – has been gaining ground since the international Israel-bashing conference in Durban in 2001: the so-called UN Conference against Racism. As I wrote in a piece for Times of Israel Blog last week, which challenged my own Anglican faith community: “In 2001, the World Council of Churches and the Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu decided to poke a stick in the apple of God’s eye. These churchmen convinced the United Nations to accept the 57 Islamic-bloc narrative, first introduced to the UN by President Idi Amin, that Israel – a tiny nation home to half the world’s Jews – is the most racist nation in the world. Tutu continues to push this absurd and perverse Israel-is-apartheid narrative to this day”.
Today, there is such an appetite for ‘Israel is apartheid’ narratives that influencers in the legacy media, mainstream political parties, governments, and NGOs seem unable to help themselves in combining it with a high-tech version of oldest antisemitic libel of all: the Blood Libel.
The latest mutation of the Blood Libel – ‘vaccine apartheid’ – is so obviously a libel, that all parties now uniformly involved in the conspiracy will come to realise they have fallen into a trap of their own making that could have so easily avoided by seeking the truth – the facts on the ground. At a time in which legacy media and politicians are losing the trust of their public, you might expect that such institutions would start to take more care with information gathering and distribution. Instead, we are witnessing influential groups and individuals broadcasting and publishing narratives that are not based on facts, but are based on supposedly credible supporting authorities that are now all appealing to one another to support the same libel. Especially popular sources of authority are Israel-bashing figures with a Jewish background who support vaccine-apartheid or medical-apartheid narratives, such as Noam Chomsky, Ariel Gold, Kenneth Roth (executive director of Human Rights Watch), and, here in the UK, prominent members of the Corbynite and anti-Israelist group Jewish Voice for Labour, some of whose Jewish members have been expelled from the Labour Party on account of their antisemitism.
(I recommend listening to this debate of 14th January, in which the brilliant Malkah Fleisher of the small Jewish community in Hebron faces up to Ariel Gold and patiently takes apart Gold’s apartheid narrative.)
The adage ‘a lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is lacing up its boots’ is certainly appropriate for the ‘vaccine apartheid’. And I think that we are also witnessing a globalised example of the fallacy of argument from authority, or even what the psychologist R.D. Laing, in Politics of Experience, coined ‘the Gaderene Swine Fallacy’, in which each member of the formation is convinced he or she is heading in the right direction because the senior leaders heading the group are trusted navigators.
This article in The Algemeiner a few days ago reports on recent claims by the influential Democrat Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, using the vaccine-apartheid libel to prove that Israel is ‘a racist state’. Tlaib, who denies Israel’s right to exist and promotes BDS, said in an interview reported in the The Algemeiner article:
“They have the power to distribute that vaccine to the Palestinian people, their own neighbours, again, feet away from where they live, many of which, again, could expose them and their family… If anything, it just reiterates what the Palestinian people and even human rights groups have been telling us, is that this is an apartheid state.”
You see here that Tlaib is supplementing her own considerable authority as a high-profile congresswoman with an appeal to the authority of ‘human rights groups’, and well she might, because the usual antisemitic and Israel-bashing human rights groups have lazily adopted the vaccine-apartheid narrative, oblivious to the truth.
Appeals to ‘human rights’ are generally difficult to deconstruct, because, in the largely-secularised West, it is an appeal to the highest authority of our times. Year-in-year-out, the UN Human Right Council (UNHRC) condemns Israel for racism and other human rights abuses more times than it condemns all the other nations of the world combined.
Here in the UK, Labour MP Nadia Whittome tabled a motion in Parliament last week, in which she said: “The Israeli government is shirking its legal and moral obligations to 4.5 million people. While it has already vaccinated more than a fifth of its population, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have not even begun to receive their jabs. Israeli settlements are being vaccinated yet Palestinians living metres away are not… The British government cannot be neutral in the face of such injustice and must make clear to the Israeli government that it is obligated to vaccinate all those living under its occupation without discrimination”.
Whittome, at age 24, is the UK’s youngest Member of Parliament, but she has every right to feel secure in her anti-Israel vaccination libel because all the grown-up authorities who should know better are heading up the ‘Gaderene Swine’.
The legacy media, left and right, have conspired in the libel, as have human rights groups and NGOs. Whittome’s motion correctly says that, ‘human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UNHR [sic], have raised concerns about the Israeli government’s lack of action in vaccinating Palestinians who live there’. But the problem is that Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UNHRC are organisations that are notoriously antisemitic/anti-Israelist, up at the top of the Israel-bashing list with Christian Aid and the World Council of Churches. (You can search catalogues of the antisemitic and obsessively anti-Israelist history of these organisations on the websites for UN Watch and NGO Monitor.)
Few British journalists (or at least their editors) seem willing to challenge the ‘vaccine apartheid’ libel against Israel. I’m sorry to say it, but, in England, antisemitism sells. It seems to be written into our DNA. Just as in the original English Blood Libel (see below) Lincoln and Norwich cathedrals were partly funded by the pilgrims amassing to pay homage to children whose blood, they believed, had been consumed by Jews, today our ‘Fleet Street’, or legacy media, left and right, and the BBC, seem unable to resist any temptation to demonise Israel. Perhaps they think it would not make commercial sense to tell the truth, or to avoid sellable anti-Israel narratives based on a highly selective subset of facts.
But thankfully there are some highly-regarded non-Jewish English journalists whose overriding concern is the truth, notably the journalist Colonel (Retired) Richard Kemp CBE, some of whose articles are syndicated into the legacy media. Here is Richard’s recent piece for the Gatestone Institute debunking the vaccine apartheid libel.
England’s sorry and extant antisemitic history of Blood Libel
One of England’s most notorious Israel bashers today is the seasoned politician Baroness Jenny Tonge, former patron of Christian Aid. Only last week, whilst Nadia Whittome MP tabled her motion in the House of Commons, Baroness Tonge was active in the House of Lords, blaming Israel for the deeply troubling rise of antisemitism on the UK’s university campuses.
One of Baroness Tonge’s most notorious blood libel motions in the House of Lords dates back to 2010, when she called for an “independent inquiry” into her claim – that she learned from Palestinian media – that the soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces who were deployed to Haiti in 2010 to help with the earthquake relief were there to “harvest the organs” of the victims. The Haiti blood libel was published in the English-language online newspaper Palestine Telegraph, of which Tonge was a patron, but it seems that it was first reported on the Lebanese Hezbollah TV channel Al-Manar.
Here in England, the first-known Blood Libel – superstitious belief that Jews stole Christian children to use their blood in the manufacture of unleavened bread – dates to 1144, and the city of Norwich. The idea soon spread to many English cities and towns: missing or dead children were attributed to Jewish malevolence. Some of these children became “martyrs” or even “saints”, leading to their cults – such as, famously, Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln – encouraged by the Church, which came to realise there was a reliable revenue from the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrines of child martyr-saints.
The Blood Libel led to persecution of Jews throughout England, such as murder, prosecution in law (leading to execution) and pogroms. Church and Crown were equally convinced by the Blood Libel. In 1218, the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton persuaded Henry III to proclaim the Edict of the Badge, a yellow badge of shame to identify the Jew. In 1289, King Edward I issued the royal Edict of Expulsion of all Jews from England (not overturned until the English Civil War, and Oliver Cromwell’s re-admission of Jews to England in the 1650s).
Today, England’s Blood Libel is preached verbatim throughout the Middle East. Media-watch groups such as MEMRI and CAMERA have catalogued many of these in sermons, newspapers and TV broadcasts. To take just one of countless examples, MEMRI have recorded the Jordanian MP Hamza Mansour (of the Muslim Brotherhood) preaching that “the Jews make matza out of innocent children’s blood”. The preacher Ra’ad Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel’s Northern Branch, to whom Jeremy Corbyn “looks forward” to “giving tea on the terrace [of the Houses of Parliament]” because “his voice must be heard”, also preaches the English Blood Libel, saying, and quoting from European authority:
“We have never allowed ourselves to knead the bread that breaks the fast in the holy month of Ramadan with children’s blood. Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the [Jewish] holy bread. Great God, is this a religion?… Is this what God would want? God will deal with you yet for what you are doing”.
It is ironic that Israel-bashers in the West, including supporters of BDS, want Israel to compel the Palestinian regime to inject medicines that Israel has imported, and are partly the products of Jewish intellect, such as Albert Bourla who heads Pfizer, and Moderna’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tal Zaks, an Israeli who received his doctorate from Ben-Gurion University and speaks to the Israeli media in Hebrew. (Israel has deployed both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines.) In fact, as Colonel Kemp says in his article on the subject: “Under the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s, which created the Palestinian Authority (PA), it alone and not Israel, is responsible for their health care, including vaccinations”. The Palestinian health ministry has approved and ordered the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. Of course the Palestinian medical authority is lagging behind Israel in its vaccination program. Every medical authority in every nation of the world is presently lagging behind Israel in its vaccination program.
For a millennium, at every onset of pestilence, the Jewish Diaspora in Christendom has been accused by their Christian host nations of poisoning the rest of us, not least here in England. Today, somehow, this lethal untruth has become a bizarre upside-down untruth. The West, not least England, has suddenly become consumed by the virulent fake news that Israel’s national vaccination programme amounts to “vaccine apartheid”.
Today, 17 January 2021, is precisely 20 years since Pope John Paul II gave a remarkable General Audience, warning about mankind’s disastrous relationship with nature. Man is no longer the Creator’s steward, the Pope said, but an “autonomous despot”. The Pope chose to give his General Audience on Italy’s “Jewish-Christian Friendship Day”.
Sadly, in the ensuing 20 years, mankind’s relationship with nature has worsened, as has Christianity’s antisemitism/anti-Israelism, and as has antisemitism/anti-Israelism globally. In fact as we will see, the nations’ explicit and perverted ganging up against Israel began later in 2001, at Durban, and a (Protestant) antisemitic Church-led initiative. This is all the more reason to return to Pope John Paul II’s message to the world of 20 years ago today. As I see it, man’s relationship with his fellow man, with nature, and with God all depend on man’s coming into the wholeness of knowledge of God of Israel. And this process is centred on where it started: Israel, Jerusalem, Zion. It is from Zion, and the House of God, says Isaiah, that nations and their leaders are called into their harmonious destiny.
The English version of the General Audience is on the Vatican website, here: 17 January 2001 | John Paul II (vatican.va). At only about 1300 words, I recommend it to all people of faith in God Almighty, God of Israel.
I do believe that faith, in our times of ecological crises, should be profoundly “Green”. We, human being, or ben Adam in the Hebrew, have dominion over Earth, but this means as stewards, or gardeners, not as exploiters. Half of the world’s wildlife has been lost in the past 40 years, according to some methods of gathering data. That our generation is destroying the integrity of life on earth is beyond dispute. And if 2020 and the Coronavirus pestilence has proved anything, it is that mankind must urgently find ways of reforming our relationship with nature if pandemic zoonotic viruses are not to destroy civilisation. I suggest that this cannot be solely an economic or technological “Great Reset” or so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” proposed by the World Economic Forum at Davos, and to which the Government here in Britain has enthusiastically signed up. In fact, the “Great Reset” happened about 4000 years ago, or rather merely 4000 years ago considering the great age of human being, when God introduced God to mankind, and promised to raise Israel as the light unto all nations.
The Pope chose Jewish-Christian friendship day to call for “ecological conversion” with good reason. With the Psalmist, his General Audience relates the Creation to the 22 letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet. He draws from the Wisdom of Solomon, and he even quotes from Martin Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim in reminding his audience of God’s omnipotence and immanence in all of Creation.
John Paul II did seem to have a genuine respect and interest in Jews and Jewish faith, culture, and tradition. In his youth, in pre-War Poland, he took an interest in the thriving Jewish culture of his native Kraków. In 1986, John Paul II became the first Pope to visit the Great Synagogue of Rome, whose foundation dates back to the second century BC. According to this archived article in Time magazine, the Pope stood by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, in silent prayer. The visit is thought to be the first visit of a leader of the Church to any Jewish house of worship since the first century AD, when the first leaders of the new movement called “Church” called themselves “Christian”, or at least were called by outsiders as “Christian”. These leaders, such as Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and Saint James the brother of Jesus were, all, of course, Jews, and all well-acquainted with the Jerusalem Temple, where they continued to worship alongside fellow Jews.
I am not a Roman Catholic; I am an adherent of the Church of England, but, in my view, John Paul II was one of a few great Western faith leaders within living memory who were not just great leaders, but great philosophical theologians. Two others of note are our wartime Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple (d. 1944), of my own faith community, and Rabbi Lord Sacks. All three were indispensable voices for their generation, and gave the world a remarkable outpouring of original and inspiring philosophy. All three saw philosophy as indispensable to the study of theology, and all three consistently expressed their concerns about ecological destruction. Here is just one of many examples of the recent work by Rabbi Sacks for instance, about what he calls the “ecological imperative” in Jewish law: The Ecological Imperative (Shoftim 5779) – Rabbi Sacks.
Archbishop William Temple’s concern for the environment, and the need to use earth’s resources wisely, for the sake of all mankind and all future generations, was prescient, as we can see from his wartime “Message from Canterbury” of 1942, released by the British Council in 1944. It is remarkable that Temple could think ahead to beyond world war to the environmental disasters that would subsequently face the world. I recommend this 22-minute British Council film for its artistic and cinematographic merits alone. Canterbury, in Kent, was dangerously close to the European continent, and although it suffered bomb damage, it miraculously did not sustain serious damage. The film begins with a long cinematic introduction, in the bucolic surroundings of Canterbury, with church bells, and snippets of church music of the English composers Henry Purcell, Orlando Gibbons, and Thomas Tallis. Peaceful order and harmony is then broken by the sound of aircraft and the screeching bombs of the Nazis. A shepherd cowers by a haystack, surrounded by his sheep, which are shaking with fright… The film is wartime propaganda, of course, but good-spirited propaganda in the original sense of the word: propagation of faith, or Congregatio de Propaganda Fide.
Archbishop Temple was also prescient in his concerns for Church’s relationship with Judaism. With the UK’s Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz, he founded the extant Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ).
Sadly, today, forums for Christian-Jewish relations today are invariably not helpful. Those who monitor such NGOs, such as my friends at NGO Monitor, have catalogued persistent antisemitism, usually in the form of anti-Israelism in groups that claim to be battling antisemitism and improving Christian-Jewish relations. It seems that many Christians are attracted to Christian-Jewish dialogue precisely because they are anti-Israelist, and, whether they know it or not, antisemitic.
Petra Marquardt-Bigman, a writer and Times of Israel columnist who sadly died last week, often noted that the Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune” has, in the 21st century, morphed into “The Jewish state is our misfortune”. Christians of nations such as Germany, Austria and Italy, and indeed here in the UK, are (usually) no longer overtly antisemitic, but nothing stops them from outsourcing their anti-Jewish animus to Palestinian Jihadist irredentists or other genocidal antisemites of the region. We see this in the World Council of Churches and its so-called Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, which is supported by the Church of England. Indeed, just over a year ago I wrote a piece for The Algemeiner explaining that the Arab leaders of the Anglican Church in the Holy Land are leading “The Jewish state is our misfortune” narrative, and invoking 21st-century blood libels against Israeli Jews.
And anti-Israelism in contemporary Jewish-Christian groups is by no means the preserve of Christians. There are Jews of course, often of Reform or Liberal or atheistic persuasion, equally attracted to Israel bashing in the name of Jewish-Christian dialogue.
In my view, and in the view of my good friend Dr David Patterson, this is all a result of man’s rebelliousness against God of Israel. His book Anti-Semitism and Its Metaphysical Origins is the best philosophical-theological analysis I have come across of the various forms of antisemitism/anti-Israelism: Pagan, Christian, Islamic, Marxist/Socialist, Secular… and Jewish.
Alas, most people involved in advocacy for Israel will not remember 2001 for Pope John Paul II’s General Audience on 17th January. 2001 has very negative connotations for Jewish-Christian dialogue. It was the year, in Durban, at the United Nations Conference Against Racism, that the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu decided to poke a stick in the apple of God’s eye. These churchmen convinced the United Nations to accept the 57 Islamic-bloc narrative – first introduced to the UN by President Idi Amin – that Israel – a tiny nation home to half the world’s Jews – is the most racist nation in the world. Tutu continues to push the absurd and perverse “Israel is apartheid” narrative to this day.
In other words, in 2001 Desmond Tutu and the WCC helped to wind the clock back to the 1920s, when Henry Ford, through his antisemitic weekly propaganda paper The Dearborn Independent, persuaded much of the world that “the international Jew” is “the world’s foremost problem” (in a series of that title). When Hitler came to power, he was to cite Ford as his main inspiration. Ford was immensely popular in the USA. He ran for Senate as a Democrat for Michigan, and narrowly lost. A few year later he was almost convinced by his following to become presidential candidate in 1924. I’m ashamed to say that Henry Ford was an Anglican, who, like Hitler, was enthused about reviving the antisemitic Good Friday Oberammergau Passion Play.
Incidentally, the German Pope, Benedict XVI, undid the good work of John Paul II (in my view) in 2007, by reintroducing – in his Summorum Pontificum – the supersessionist theology of praying for the “illumination of their [Jews’] hearts” in order that they might accept Jesus as their “saviour”. And sadly, and alarmingly, Berlin is once again, the antisemitic capital of Europe reports Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld for the BESA Center. What would John Paul II have made of this?
The Church, I suggest, has many vital tasks it needs to attend to in conserving Western (Christian) civilisation, including saving it from Islamism and Socialism/Communism and antisemitism, but Christian “illumination” of the Jews is not one of them.
God promised to pilot the destiny of all nations through the Jews. And He will, as surely as the Pope is a Catholic. We will see the world anew. The world will know God anew. There will be harmony, as in the very last words of the very last Psalm (150), including our “ecological conversion”.
Since mid-2020, the BBC has openly supported the goals of BLM. It used Christmas comedy (The Vicar of Dibley) to promote BLM and, predictably, it broadcast a Christmas-season World Service programme titled ‘Black Jesus’.
The presenter of ‘Black Jesus’ was Robert Beckford, professor of ‘Black Theology’. Apparently Professor Beckford’s hero is Malcolm X, Nation of Islam, who preached that white people are a race of ‘devils’ created millennia ago by an evil scientist called Yakub. Today Nation of Islam is headed by Louis Farrakhan, or Louis X, who is equally deluded and dangerous, and believes in the ‘Yakub’ theology.
I have no intention of listening to the BBC’s ‘Black Jesus’ programme. But I do know that it refers to Jesus as ‘Palestinian’, because this has caused a storm-in-a-teacup in the Anglophone world.
The BBC’s anti-Israelism is a serious problem. But we need to challenge the BBC’s long and sorry catalogue of serious libels against Israel, rather than minor anachronisms such as, ‘Jesus was Palestinian’. And we must also take seriously the overt antisemitism in the BLM movement: see the excellent recent Conservative Woman article by Karen Harradine, including her concerns about Farrakhan and Nation of Islam. As Farrakhan rides the crest of the BLM wave, his antisemitism remains blatant. Amongst his notorious speeches was one in Iran in 2016: “I call [Jews] The Synagogue of Satan… And they are working day and night to destroy any unity among Muslims”. This echoes Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Iran’s Press TV in 2012, blaming ‘the hand of Israel’ for Arab-nation internecine chaos.
Farrakhan is popular in the USA, and is courted by the Democratic Party, not least ‘the Squad’. This should worry us even more than the enabling of antisemitism under Corbyn’s rule of the Labour Party.
The most serious form of antisemitism today is Israel-exterminism, i.e. ideological extermination of the sole and tiny Jewish state that is home to half the world’s Jews. This is now the default ideology in much of the Middle East and Iran, and Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, etc. Islamic antisemitism is exported to the West, including successfully to the Corbyn cult and other “friends” of Hamas and Hezbollah.
As the late Rabbi Lord Sacks warned in speeches in the House of Lords in 2018 and 2019 on British antisemitism and global antisemitism: when antisemitism moves from the political fringes to a mainstream party – and when antisemites don’t think they are antisemites – we are all in serious trouble.
Antisemitism starts with Jews, but it never ends with Jews. And I’m afraid to say the churches on the whole are returning to their antisemitic traditions, particularly those represented by the World Council of Churches. See this piece by Melanie Phillips on the antisemitism of the WCC, and the pusillanimity of the senior clergy of the Church of England – my own faith community – towards BLM. And as I wrote in a piece for The Algemeiner, the Anglican Communion, in cahoots with the Jihadists, is now leading what it calls Palestinian ‘Liberation Theology’, a Marxist movement that Pope John Paul II had the good sense to proscribe when it first appeared in the Sandinista movement and Roman Catholics of Nicaragua. Communism/Socialism is not the Way.
In 2004, the BBC commissioned a formal report – the ‘Balen Report’ – following persistent accusations of anti-Israel bias. To date the BBC has spent about £330,000 of public money in legal costs to hide the report from the public. This cover-up is itself scandalous. The reasons for the BBC’s anti-Israelism, like that of French-state TV (France 2), are multifarious, but one reason is that Western institutions are easily duped by Islamist propagandists fluent in the old colonial languages, and expert in feeding the liberal egocentrism of the West. Hence the BBC and France 2 report what their Arab hosts tell them, but fail to report the common-place preaching and incitement of genocidal antisemitism in Arabic and Persian by clerics, politicians and media. Similarly, Qatar-state TV, Al Jazeera, broadcasts democracy in English, but gives a weekly perch to the intellectual head of the Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi to broadcast genocidal antisemitism in the form of fatwas against Israel, including advocating the use of Muslim children as suicide bombs.
I recently wrote a joint essay with the historian and Jerusalemite Dr Richard Landes, partly on the dangers of this ‘lethal journalism’. Islamists are winning the cognitive war, and this results in an existential threat to us all, especially if the anticipated Farrakhan-loving Biden administration is lenient with Islamism and the nuclear ambitions of the Ayatollah. As it is, through its political proxy Hezbollah, Iran already has about 150,000 rockets hidden within the civilian populations in south Lebanon, all pointing at Israel to bring on the Shiite Apocalypse.
Richard Landes and I are both frustrated that these really serious problems – the ticking time bombs – are being ignored by Western intellectuals and legacy media alike. Even many who claim to be battling antisemitism – including some Jewish leadership – get bogged down in pedantry and political correctness.
Forget storms in teacups
Of all the dangerous antisemitic/anti-Israelist libels of our times, labelling the family of Jesus and the other peoples of the 1st-century Holy Land as ‘Palestinian’ is insignificant, unless, of course, the speaker then goes on to appropriate Jesus for 21st-century Islamists terrorists who identify as ‘Palestinian’. Referring to ‘first-century Palestinians’ is an English-language anachronism long used for convenience by English-language classicists. How else does one collectively refer to 1st-century shifting Roman client kingdoms and provinces such as Judaea, Idumaea, Samaria, Galilee, Peraea, Gaulonitis…?
In sum, anachronisms and the colour of Jesus’ skin are not worth worrying about, rather we have some profoundly serious battles against anti-Israelism that we must take to BBC and the wider world. We must win, and we will.
My hope for 2021 is that all thinking people – including scientists – become more questioning and critical of science.
2020 has made a false god of science, not least here in the UK.
If we fail to temper science by our other kinds of knowledge, we are likely to return to the chaos and political experimentation of the last century. The 20th century began with La Belle Époque, and its over-enthusiastic embrace of science (until the lights went out in 1914). And not until the 1990s did Europe emerge from the “scientific atheism” imposed by the Socialist Bloc on much of Europe, including half of Germany.
Today, science has become dependent on “Big Data” made possible by the Internet. These data are interrogated by Artificial Intelligence (AI), and used for everything from monitoring earth temperatures, to drug testing in sport, to weather forecasting and earthquake forecasting. Big Data are also used to track underhand uses of science, from fake drugs to Russia’s use of a novel nerve agent in the Salisbury poisonings of 2018.
The World Wide Web itself was invented by scientists who needed to share huge data generated at CERN in Geneva. Sir Tim Berners Lee – credited as the web’s inventor – created the prototype while working for CERN.
The life sciences now also depend on Big Data. The Human Genome Project (HGP) – mapping of over 3 billion base pairs – could not have happened without the Internet.
The completion of HGP in 2000 was announced with hype and fanfare by President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair, flanked by scientists. But almost nothing that Clinton, Blair and the scientists predicted 20 years ago is true. “The science” has not delivered.
HGP has not, as Clinton promised, “revolutionised the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of most, if not all, human diseases”, and it has not had a “great impact on our lives”.
The American scientist Francis Collins, then head of HGP, and at Clinton’s side at the announcement in 2000, said: “Perhaps in another 15 or 20 years, you will see a complete transformation in therapeutic medicine”.
Today, life expectancy is decreasing in the USA as this study in 2019 suggests. No “transformation” in medicine has, or will, reverse the trend. In fact prescription medicine is a leading cause of American deaths. Add to this fatalities caused by drug abuse and unnecessary surgery.
The moral of the story is: beware of political leaders flanked by scientists.
What went wrong in 2000?
In a word: hubris. Clinton announced that genome mapping was knowledge into “how God created life”. In fact, we have since learned how very little we know about life.
Genomics has spawned other fields of “omics”, whose Big Data make HGP look puny. The hopes of 2000 are dashed: most serious disease cannot be attributed to a ‘faulty’ gene or gene mutation.
From 2012 to 2015, I worked as a technical writer in one of these new “omics” fields: proteomics (for the Waters Corporation). It is worth briefly explaining here how proteomics came to be:
Before 2000, biology was dominated by “the central dogma of molecular biology”, which insisted that the genes at the centre of our every cell instruct the cell’s proteins (the main material in our cells) to “fold” into their 3D structure, be it a fingernail, eye, organ, bone, skin, eyelashes… The central dogma insisted that our proteins only ‘listen’, i.e. that our genes instruct our proteins how to build or replenish, and that the flow of information is unidirectional. We now know that proteins ‘talk’. There is protein-to-protein networking throughout our whole body. And with many thousands of proteins in our every cell, and trillions of cells in the human body, the data is impossible to map.
Holistic study of the sugars in our body – metabol-omics – has created similar data problems. Bill Clinton was wrong to suggest we have: “insight into how God created life”. Victor Frankenstein’s hour has not yet come, thank heaven.
HGP was the death throes of the kind of scientific reductionism that had dominated biology since the late 19th century.
Interestingly, the most recent field of “omics” is “phen-omics”, which is recognition of the obvious: the health of the human body, apart from diet and lifestyle, is subject to all kinds of phenomena that are external and environmental: air pollution, chemical pollution, birdsong, trees, music, noise, depressing ugliness, or conversely, beauty that gladdens the soul.
And one of the external phenomena that impacts human health is religion. It is ‘scientific’ fact that those of us in the West who worship God are generally healthier than our coevals who attempt to find meaning in lesser things. Some honest atheists readily admit this, such as Bruce Sheiman, who writes in An Atheist Defends Religion:
“Extensive empirical research has shown that religious affiliation of almost any kind is positively correlated with better mental health, measures of life satisfaction, and prosocial behaviours; which in turn are associated with enhanced physical well-being and healthy lifestyle practices; which are further related to enhanced quality of life and extended longevity”.
Time to pull up the floorboards and repair the philosophy
The philosopher Mary Midgley (1919–2018) compared philosophers to plumbers, both essential to civilisation, but whose need is generally ignored until the system goes wrong, and we need to ascertain the source of the stink. Midgley was the scourge of Richard Dawkins and other figures of the scientific pretension that she called “scientism”.
Scientism has crept into all our major institutions, including, here in the UK, the mainstream media. The BBC’s institutional contempt for Judeo-Christian religion, tradition, culture, and Israel is blatant. The BBC’s undermining of this heritage through a kind of insidious cultural revolution is relentless.
The BBC elevated Dawkins – on his becoming “Professor for the Public Understanding of Science” – to celebrity, promoting his “Darwinian view of life” in a godless universe with “no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (River Out of Eden). For Dawkins and the BBC, moral value is determined by man’s choice in an otherwise value-free world. But no civilisation could ever have been built on such hubris, and no civilisation can survive on such hubris. It is the allegorical serpent of Eden saying: you can be as God.
What is Science?
Francis Bacon (d. 1626) envisioned a world run by scientists: enrobed fellows guiding society to truth. He coined the motto scientia potentia est, or “knowledge is power”, scientia being one of the three Latin classifications of knowledge. Followers of Bacon were known derogatorily as “scientists”. The word has stuck, and so has the extreme idea that scientists have the truth of human being.
Science, or scientia, is extremely dangerous if detached from sapientia (wisdom) and prudentia (vision). I hardly need give historical and contemporary examples.
As I wrote in my last piece for The Conservative Woman, I believe that Covid-19 will naturally disappear as quickly as it came. When it does, let us rebuild things with science put back in its proper place. Perhaps the restoration of our British sovereignty in the New Year will help. Providing we can replace Boris Johnson with a Conservative leader who knows what he or she is supposed to conserve, there is hope. In the famous words of Margaret Thatcher – scientist and the most overtly Christian Prime Minister since Gladstone – “you cannot build Jerusalem in Brussels”.
Simplification of the Numbers, and the meaning of False Positives and False Negatives and Moonshots
My trust is waning in medical science, and some of its influential representatives and policy makers here in the UK and internationally (the UN’s World Health Organisation, or WHO). Furthermore, as a scientific technical communicator by profession, I am appalled at the way that science is being communicated. “The science” is being misunderstood by politicians, journalists, and even often scientists, almost all of whom in our times are inevitably very highly specialised, and in general seem to lack a holistic view not only of the sciences but of mankind’s place in the world.
You might expect that our senior politicians, and the mainstream journalists who interview them almost daily on the public’s behalf, would by now have got a grasp of terms such as “false positives” and “false negatives”. Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP clearly does not understand, and neither does Julia Hartley-Brewer who, on national radio (TalkRadio), frequently interviews Hancock and his colleagues on Covid-19 policy and measures.
In an interview in September – which I dissect below – Hartley-Brewer brought up data on “false positives” to oppose an anticipated Covid-19 lockdown, whereas Hancock was using the same data to justify the anticipated lockdown. All they proved is an alarming lack of understanding of simple data. This should worry everyone because what goes on in Hancock’s mind affects us all, not least the mind of the Prime Minister who suddenly finds himself enjoying repressive and punitive powers that curtail our liberties (especially here in Greater Manchester, condemned to “Tier 3” lockdown) in everything from making love to playing golf, visiting elderly and isolated parents, meeting friends, making friends, visiting our houses of worship, and, even, for many, making a living.
PM Boris Johnson, doubtless informed by Hancock, announced “Operation Moonshot” (continuous weekly testing for all of us) several weeks ago, as the strategy to bring the UK back to normal as soon as possible. The estimated cost is a staggering £100 billion according to a Government report that was leaked and seen by the British Medical Journal, now widely reported in the press. By contrast, in June the Government allocated a mere £40 million pounds for the “Recovery” of Nature, with the aspiration of becoming the first Government in history to leave Nature in a better, not worse, state than we inherited. £40 million goes into £100 billion 2500 times! As Tony Juniper (appointed as Chairman of Natural England by former Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP) often warns, the failure to invest in Nature results in huge economic penalties for all, something we knew about long before the abuse of Nature that caused Covid-19.
Johnson’s plan is to deploy the world-first continuous and universal testing. Many, including Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries, have pointed out the grave dangers and futility of doing this, even apart from the flabbergasting if not bankrupting use of the nation’s money. (Harries, as a medical doctor, seems to be concerned by the inevitable false negatives; I am more concerned, looking at the bigger picture beyond medicine, about the inevitable false positives, as I will explain soon when I explain the significance of the scientific jargon.)
I believe that Operation Moonshot is now being “dumped”, or at least scaled down. Nevertheless we are left with the problem that our Prime Minister and Health Secretary are (to put it kindly) misinformed, and the fact that the sniff of even a part of Moonshot’s £100,000,000,000 (a significant part of which has already disappeared down the Mersey Tunnel) is likely to attract lobbyists from the science corporations and elsewhere who hope to persuade Boris Johnson to keep aiming for the moon. Indeed, we already see evidence of this. Furthermore, the only English city to date whose mayor has enthused about, and agreed to, mass testing is Liverpool, historically the most politically corrupt city of England. We will return to the (Labour) Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, and his enthusiastic take up of Johnson’s lunatic scheme.
As if to cover up his embarrassing mooning, Boris Johnson has suddenly lurched to Operation “Bum’s Rush”, deciding that Britain be the first nation to approve the deployment of an American (Pfizer) vaccine that is not even yet approved for use in the nation that designed it, a nation whose standards for medicine and the way it is consumed are far lower than in the UK and Europe. Indeed, the USA is the only modernised nation in the world in which life expectancy is decreasing, largely due to drugs (prescriptive and recreational) and suicide. Prozac is evidently not working in the “Prozac nation”. The USA is the nation of the Opioid Epidemic (one hopes that President Trump’s “opioid bill” passed two years ago succeeds in its aims). The USA is the nation of Botox (trade name for the botulinum toxin), the nation of growth hormones in livestock, and the nation that has made a huge new commercial sector out of chemical and surgical gender “transition”, even for children.
In our imperfect world, there is much, in my view, that is good about the USA that merits the USA’s being “leader of the free world”, a position threatened by the Communist and post-Communist nations and various Islamist (Caliphater) forces wreaking havoc throughout the world. But there is evidently much wrong with the American food and drug industries, including the overuse of medicine – which too often harms rather than heals. According to the USA’s own National Institutes of Health (NIH), prescription medicine is now the third highest cause of death in the USA, and this is not accounting for unnecessary surgery.
Our sceptred isle, this blessed plot, this fortress built by Nature for herself against infection… is to be a fortress against litigation, for American Big Pharma. The UK Government has within the past few days granted Pfizer legal indemnity. This is a win-win-win for Pfizer: we buy the intellectual property for millions of doses of the vaccine; we volunteer to be Pfizer’s guinea-pig nation, and we remove all risk for Pfizer by promising not to sue if it all goes horribly wrong in the long term.
I need to say: I am not anti-vaccine (I have had my annual flu jab), or a conspiracy theorist who thinks the Covid-19 virus is part of some global controlling agenda. The virus, I’m sure, is due to mankind’s general abuse of the ecology. Covid-19 is far from the first lethal virus that has crossed into the human species from China’s “wet markets”, in which caged living species of the world’s wildlife (some endangered) are in proximity with domesticated animals and meat: the perfect crucible for mutating “zoonotic” pathogens. Similarly, the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil almost suffered the same fate as the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan, due to the Zika virus epidemic, which also – it seems – is a product of ecological destruction, as I have written elsewhere. And how many of us in the UK, before 2020 – and the Covid-19 virus mutating in Danish minks and crossing to humans – knew that Denmark farms tens of millions of mink, whose fur is apparently fashionable in China, to where most furs are exported?
Although I supported the UK lockdown in the spring of 2020 – and wrote a blog piece in support of the UK Government – when it was impossible for anyone in the world to get a good understanding of what this pandemic-causing virus actually was, I am now very concerned about the “scientific priesthood” that has manifested itself in 2020.
Readers of my blog will know that I am a Scientific Technical Writer by profession, whose job is to simplify what scientists in one discipline want to communicate to other scientists in another discipline, and to simplify what scientists need to communicate to a non-scientific target audience.
Bad Simplification in the UK of the Science on Covid-19
In the UK, politicians and mainstream journalists have typically studied PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics), or Journalistic Studies, or Classics, or Law, or so-called ‘political sciences’, at Oxford or Cambridge. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was somewhat different; she was not of the “toff” class, and had graduated in chemistry at Oxford. What we would give for someone in political leadership today with the acumen of the Iron Lady!
Thatcher would not have needed a simple and true explanation of terms like “false positive”, but our political and journalistic influencers today evidently do.
Let us analyse the dialogue de sourds on national radio of Matt Hancock and Julia Hartley-Brewer, of September 18, now available on YouTube. My comments in blue background:
Hartley-Brewer:What is the false positive rate?
Note: A very recent paper in The Lancet estimates the UK false-positive rate to be between 0·8% and 4·0%.
A paper on the Government’s own website (Gov.uk) suggests “95% sensitivity and specificity” which means that the widely used PCR test results could yield as high as 5% false positive and 5% false negative (false negatives being failures to detect the infection that is present in the people being tested).
The same Government paper gives a real-world figure – i.e. allowing for human error or varying standards in such an industrial scale test – or “operational false positive rate” as 2.3%. In other words, the theoretical efficacy might be 1%, but in the real world it is good to assume 2.3% according to the Government’s own data. As Dr. Michael Yeadon (former Pfizer head of research in respiratory diseases) has pointed out: such sensitive testing on an industrial scale has never been done before, and therefore it is impossible to say what errors are being introduced, and where.
The most recent (3 December) Covid-19 surveillance report  on Gov.uk puts the rate of Covid-19 detections at about 4% for the general population (“Pillar 2”). It gives a figure of about 10% positive tests for Pillar 1 (the healthcare environment), which is of course a concern.
Incidentally, in some analytical situations a 1% false-positive rate can have very serious outcomes. Think of drug testing in sport for instance. (From 2011 to 2014 I worked as a “Scientific Technical Writer” for the Waters Corporation, whose instrumentation was used in drug testing for the 2012 Olympic Games in the UK, and has been subsequently been used to develop a whole new field of systems biology which aims to understand the impact of the environment and other external factors on the human body.) Imagine if for every 100 world-class athletes, 1 were to be rejected, and his or her career and reputation destroyed as a result of a 1% false-positive testing regime. Similarly, false positives in cancer and other serious diseases have a devastating effect on the individual’s life.
Hartley-Brewer:Eminent people in this field have pointed out that a false positive rate of 1.8% would pretty much account for all of the daily positive tests.
Note: This statement is meaningless without a context, i.e knowing the evident rate of infection in the community being tested. However, Hartley-Brewer does refer to a Professor Carl Heneghan at Oxford University, whom, I presume, would have stated the context.
Hancock:Under 1 per cent means that for all the positive cases, the likelihood of one being a false positive is very small.
Note: This statement is meaningless, and untrue at the time that Hancock said it (and at the time of this writing).
I infer from the above that Hancock thinks that 1% false positive means that of all positive tests, only 1% are false. But it doesn’t. If you test 100 people, none of whom are infected with Covid-19, but you get a test result saying that 1 of them is infected, this is a 1% false positive.
In other words, in a group of 100 people with no infection, or a very low rate of infection, using a testing method that has 1% false positive (or 4% false positive) “the likelihood of one being a false positive” is not, as Hancock says, “very small”. It is VERY LARGE.
The likelihood of a detection error being “very small” with a test estimated to give 1% to 4% false positive is only true if there is a very high infection rate (say 60% of people for the sake of argument) in the community of people you are testing.
In other words, Covid-19 testing is only useful and meaningful if you are testing people who are displaying symptoms of Covid-19 or in close contact with them.
Hartley-Brewer:There is a really easy way of determining if a positive is a false positive, and that is to test people a second time.
Note: Absolutely not true.
Note: Having falsely acknowledged that Hartley-Brewer is “right”, Hancock is then on the back foot when she asks him for data on how many people have had a second test. He doesn’t “have it to hand”.
In testing material samples of the human body (“in vitro diagnostics”), the false positive usually comes from the material itself. A notorious example of this is the PSA test to detect prostate cancer. Until very recently, the NHS subjected many thousands of British men to invasive cancer treatments for cancers they most probably did not have. The Government has now dropped its screening programme. As we read today on the NHS website:
“There’s currently no screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK. This is because it has not been proved that the benefits would outweigh the risks. PSA tests are unreliable and can suggest prostate cancer when no cancer exists (a false-positive result). Furthermore, up to 15% of men with prostate cancer have normal PSA levels (a false-negative result), so many cases may be missed”.
And so, dear reader, I hope that you are as alarmed as I am that the NHS is in the hands of Matt Hancock, who has the ears of Boris Johnson, and, it seems the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, who agreed to conduct the first city-wide pilot for “Operation Moonshot”, with weekly testing for the whole nation, which, if it goes ahead, will bankrupt the nation.
An article on 27 November on Bloomberg.com – Freedom Passes Show How a City’s Trial Could Unlock the U.K. – informs us that more than 160,000 tests (costing £millions) in Liverpool have been carried out on a voluntary basis as a result of a promotion campaign.
“Johnson has this week talked up Liverpool’s success, telling a television crew on Friday: ‘I don’t want to exaggerate the importance of what mass testing can do, but it’s definitely helped in Liverpool, it can help across the country’.”
On 10 November, BBC News reported that of 23,000 city-wide tests by that date, 154 had tested positive. That is a rate of about 0.7%, which is actually less than the 1% that Matt Hancock says we would expect to find in a community with no infection!
Days later, after 153,000 tests had been carried out, there were about 2000 positive detections. This is a detection rate of only 1.3%.
Now, screening people – with no symptoms or with no known close contact with people with symptoms – when the Pillar 2 community rate of infection is about 1% is futile when you know the false positive rate is between 1 and 4%. Think about it.
But this won’t stop Boris Johnson’s Operation Moonshot. Equally Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, enthused about Operation Moonshot to the press:
“Mass testing in itself isn’t a panacea – it never will be,” Anderson told the Observer. “But it’s a tool in the armoury. We’ve got a couple of thousand people now that have tested positive within the pilot, and that means 2,000 fewer people are spreading the virus.” 
Mass-testing project in Liverpool offers hope for the whole of England, The Observer
In other words, Joe Anderson has deployed a test of infection to 153,000 people without symptoms, a test that he knows will yield 1 or 2 % of false positives, and he has decided that the 1 or 2% of positives are all true positives – this is obviously a logical contradiction – and has asked those people (and those surrounding them) to self-isolate.
And it gets worse: of the 153,000 people tested, there might well be a few false negatives, i.e. who really do have the infection, and therefore will not self-isolate. And so despite the enthusiasm of Joe Anderson and Boris Johnson, Operation Moonshot is not stopping the spread of infection at all!
As it turns out, the Mayor of Liverpool will soon have plenty of opportunity to reveal to his head for figures. On 4 December 2020 he was arrested by the police with four other men, including Derek Hatton (according to several newspaper reports) following a year-long investigation in the awarding of contracts, and “suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation” according to the BBC News website. He has now been suspended from the Labour Party.
It seems to me that political madness in Liverpool has been endemic since Liverpool City Council was taken over by the Derek Hatton and his Trotskyist Militant Group – widely known at the time as the “Looney Left” – out to destroy the nation during the reign of PM Margaret Thatcher.