The Guardian’s Andrew Brown: ‘The most warlike religion in the world is Buddhism’

Andrew Brown, the editor of ‘Comment is Free’ Belief, asks the following question in an April 25th post: Why are religion and violence now so closely linked?

Whilst Brown devotes much of his column to a relatively interesting broader examination of secular and religious ideologies and the question of how, particularly, we should understand religious-based violence, he makes the following extraordinary claim in his introductory paragraph:

It’s a commonplace that wars and religions are closely associated. Since about 1945 there has been an increasing tendency for wars to be fought along religious, as well as ethnic, economic and cultural lines, though I don’t think many people realise that the most warlike religion in the modern world, measured by the proportion of countries at war where it has a significant following, is actually Buddhism.

That’s right – Buddhism!


Brown provides no source to back up his claim. And, whilst there are multiple ways to refute his characterization of Buddhism, we can begin by looking at the countries around the world currently involved in wars and noting that very few, in fact, have significant Buddhist populations.

However, you can also look at his crude – if not bizarre – methodology.

The implicit empirical basis of Brown’s argument – that the most violent religion can be determined by the proportion of countries at war where there is a signficant population of that faith’s adherents – is one which imputes correlation, if not outright causation, without even the most rudimentary analysis of the political, cultural and social factors at play in such conflicts.   

For instance, China has a very large Buddhist population, and also has experienced a Muslim (Uighur) insurgency.  Though the conflict has nothing to do with the nation’s Buddhists, it seems that – by Brown’s logic – this demonstrates an example of Buddhism’s warlike character.

Additionally, Nepal  – which, though largely Hindu – has a significant Buddhist population and has also been battling a bloody Maoist insurgency. Again, applying Brown’s logic, does the fact that there’s been years of war and the presence of a large number of Buddhists in the country indicate that there’s a correlation between the two?  

We could provide additional examples which undermine his facile thesis, but a careful reading of Brown’s entire post, however, may suggest that his comment concerning the ‘war-like character of Buddhism’ was a throwaway line meant to obscure his true narrative objective, which is evident in his concluding paragraph:

…this isn’t a score card. Human beings are so wonderfully imaginative and creative that we will always find ways to hate and dehumanise one another, irrespective of (a)theologies

Yes, and polemicists at the Guardian “are so wonderfully imaginative and creative” in finding ways to obfuscate the most obvious truth of our day, that not all religions generate the same number of adherents who use their faith tradition to justify the desire to commit violence to achieve political ends. 

An open letter to Harriet Sherwood, by Dr. Yakov Nagen

This letter was written by Rabbi Dr. Yakov Nagen, head of the Kollel at Yeshivat Otniel, and is being published at CW with his permission.

Dear Harriet,


Yakov Nagen

I am sorry I have taken so long to respond to your request to meet. I have given the matter great thought and ultimately have decided against meeting. I have even surprised myself by this decision, as essentially I believe that meetings are opportunities to overcome alienation, enable mutual understanding and most significantly create a human connection between the parties. Accordingly I have participated in interfaith dialogue with Muslim leaders; meetings that often give me hope that one day there will be peace in the Holy land.

Nevertheless, as you are a representative ofThe Guardian, I deem it correct to refuse collaboration on any level.  After what I have written above, I feel a necessity to explain this position.

I imagine you are aware of the claim in the report commissioned by the E.U. monitoring center on Racism and Xenophobia that for “many British Jews, the British media’s reporting on Israel is spiced with a tone of animosity, as to smell of anti-Semitism. This is above all the case with the Guardian and The Independent“. I know also that your paper has denied these charges and defends the legitimacy of its criticizing of Israel.

The role of the press is indeed to criticize, to highlight injustices throughout the world and thereby create a better, more humane world. Often, journalists have been exceptionally courageous in speaking truth to power. An outstanding example in our times is the Russian journalists who have critiqued the Putin regime, incurring great personal risk.

Certainly, the role of the press when relating to complex conflict in the Middle East is to present multiple viewpoints and it is legitimate to criticize and disagree with Israeli, or for that matter, Arab polices.

I therefore will attempt to distinguish between legitimate criticism and pernicious anti-Semitism.

I could dispute the many particular critiques of Israel and argue why each is a distortion, but that would miss the point, mistaking the trees for the forest. The heart of the issue is that even if all the critiques were valid, and they are not, I would still paraphrase Shakespeare that, “something is rotten in the state of England”.

Even if it were correct that the steps taken by Israel to stop the murderous attacks, including incessant missile attacks, on its citizens have been excessive; even if it were correct that despite the offers to solve the conflict (that Israel has accepted and the Palestinians rejected) – including  Camp David, the Clinton Proposals, Taba, or more recently and more generously, Olmert’s offers to Abu Mazen – the onus for the deadlock in the peace process still remains on the Israeli side; even if all this were true, it does not come close to explaining the unique position that Israel has achieved among nations.

It is delegitimized and demonized. With all the evil in the world, how is it the focus of a conference on racism at Durban is Israel? That the focus of the U.N.’s condemnations are invariably Israel? That in Britain, the land of The Guardian, the zeal to boycott by academics, trade unions, artists and media – of all the nations on the earth – invariably focuses on Israel? What causes the level of hostility reported not only by Israelis visiting Britain, but also by native British Jews?

Tibet and Palestine – a Tale of Two Nations

As a former foreign editor of The Guardian, you must know the truth, that by any standard Israel’s alleged “crimes” pale in comparison with those of so many nations in the world in which we live.

To bring one example: In the context of my belief in interfaith dialogue, I have spent time in Dharmasala, India with Tibetan refugees. In Dharmasala there is a museum that details the ongoing horrors of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, including the systematic erasing of religion and culture, and the mass settlements of native Chinese in Tibet to erase demographically any possibility of Tibetan independence.

To the best of my knowledge, Tibet’s agenda is not the annihilation of China nor was the Chinese invasion of Tibet incurred in response to attacks designed to destroy China.

Furthermore, the Tibetans have not been offered, as have the Palestinians, a state with 95% of Tibet plus land exchanges for most of the remaining five percent.

In fact the Dalai Lama’s modest hope is to achieve some level of cultural autonomy for Tibet and for that miniscule reason, China pressures world leaders not to meet him.

The occupation of Tibet is only one of the myriad human rights violations of China. But, of course, China is certainly a much more significant trade partner with Britain and has more extensive cultural and academic exchanges with Britain than does Israel, not to mention their recent hosting of the Olympic games.

Why do the forces in Britain crusading against Israel not call for the delegitimization and boycott of China?  Could it be that the Tibetans are less worthy of empathy than the Palestinians? That would be hard to admit, so the one solution that explains this aberration, why the focus and zeal of venomous animosity is aimed on Israel and not China, is that the Chinese, as opposed to the Israelis, are not Jewish.

Thousands of years of murderous European persecution of Jews has metamorphosed into their peculiar relationship to the one Jewish state, which,against all odds and with much hope, the Jewish people have restored in their homeland.

I would like to point out that the Tibetans themselves see Israel and not the Palestinians as the parallel to their situation. Students of mine who have served in the educational corps of the Israel army have told me of summer camps organized for Tibetan children sent to Israel by the Dalai Lama, in order to instill them with hope, so they can see that a nation driven from its land can dream and return home.

To return to the point, with regard to the Jewish people, there is a convergence of three remarkable realities: The same nation that has undergone thousands of years of murderous persecution is the same nation that today remains unique in its being under explicit threats of physical annihilation. It is the same nation that is unique in being condemned and delegitimized.

Is this truly merely a remarkable coincidence? Or are all three, part and parcel of the same phenomena?

The deadly price of modern anti-Semitism

I would like to share with you what for me, on a personal level, are some of the bitter fruits of this animosity to Israel.

Again and again, foreign pressure forces Israel to forego steps necessary to protect its citizens from murderous attacks. Yesterday, we commemorated the Hebrew date on which, seven years ago, Aviad Mansur, the son of a dear friend and neighbor, was murdered together with a friend in a drive-by shooting by terrorist Arabs near our community. Shortly afterwards, three more children from our area were murdered in yet another drive-by shooting by terrorist Arabs.

The writing was on the wall, because giving in to international pressure, Israel had removed several checkpoints in our area despite the army’s view that they were necessary to prevent terror.

I remember the first years of the second intifada when each month was worse than the one before, reaching a hundred victims a month in April 2002. Up until that month, Israel had restrained from entering the Palestinian cities in Area A as a result of the constant international pressure on it. However, after the massacre at the Passover Seder in Netanya, Israel launched the campaign, Homat Magen [Defensive Shield], that ultimately turned the tide, stopping almost all of the terror attacks by eradicating terror at the source. For this Israel, of course, underwent harsh international condemnation.

For many, Homat Magen, came too late. This included my beloved student, the newlywed  Avi Sabag, who shortly after calling his wife to say he would be home in a few minutes was murdered right outside our community –  just two days before the massacre at Netanya. This also includes the four students in my school who were murdered in the middle of the Shabbat meal during a terror attack on my school, after Homat Magen began, but before its aims were achieved.

The list is long, but I will not burden you with the so many more names I could add.

The choice of violence by the Palestinian Arabs was not through lack of options. In the various offers, from Camp David, Clinton’s proposals, Taba etc, the Palestinian Arabs rejected an independent state on  100% of Gaza, 95% of the ‘West Bank’ with land exchanges and a land connection between Gaza and the ‘West Bank’ to make up for the remainder. The capital included East Jerusalem, including Judaism’s most sacred site, the Temple Mount.

The Palestinian Arab decision to turn to violence would therefore seem inexplicable, as certainly they were no match for the Israel army. However, they correctly assessed the situation, deciding that they could reject the offers, turn to violence and massacres and the result would be the increasing isolation of Israel. The predictions were that constant terror would leave Israel isolated and unable to respond – and that result would bring Israel to its knees.

It is just too bad George Orwell isn’t alive to write a satire about this reality, a reality in which when from the adjacent Arab Villages, Palestinian Arabs began shooting constantly at the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, European “peace” activists flocked to be human shields – not in Gilo to protect the Jews, but in the villages that initiated the shooting.

Moving to more recent events, I opposed the forced expulsion of all Jews from Gaza on moral grounds, although I confess I naively assumed that there would be quiet on the border after the withdrawal, but again the Palestinian assessment that violence pays proves itself correct.  Missile attacks against Israel ultimately forced it to respond by a ground attack on Gaza and the result is again not condemnation of the Palestinians, but increased Israeli isolation and delegitimization.

Much of the  European press, and in particular the paper you represent, instead of being a force for peace, is a force that has continuously fueled this conflict. The losers, in addition to the Jews, are the Palestinian Arabs who have lost opportunities to achieve better lives.

In conclusion, I choose to register my protest of the dark truth underlying the mindset that The Guardian represents by refusing your request to meet.

You mentioned that you search for a variety of viewpoints. You are welcome to publish this letter in The Guardian.

CiF reader sees Zionist fingerprints in international condemnation of Syria

Though the Guardian’s editorial (Syria: Russia on the wrong side, Feb. 7), critical of Russia (and China) for preventing the adoption of a watered down UN Security Council Resolution condemning Syria for its continuing civilian massacres, didn’t - unlike David Hearst – weave Israel into the narrative, that didn’t stop committed CiF readers from unleashing their righteous anger in a Zionist direction.

Here’s a comment by “PeteLoud” on Israeli control of U.S. and (therefore) UK foreign policy:

Yeah, I know, another day, another obsessive anti-Zionist conspiracy theory.  Why sweat it? Well, occasionally such Israel Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-ridden CiFers can elicit quite pithy rejoinders, such as the following: 

Further, PeteLoud’s original comment hasn’t been deleted and more than a few other commenters managed to weave Israel into the conversation. So, considering that ‘Comment is Free’ has a staff of moderators whose job it is to delete hateful and off-topic comments, it doesn’t seem, based on my review of the 178 comments so far, that they’ve done a very good job.

I’ll resist my urge to use the site Wordle again, but here are the results of my quick search on the number of times the following words have been used beneath the line:

Syria: 168

Russia: 179

China: 58

Israel: 56

As China was one of the antagonists in the Guardian editorial, and Israel has nothing whatsoever to do with the broader issue, it’s fair to say the Guardian’s professional moderators haven’t done a very good job of keeping the conversation on topic.

But, the story doesn’t end here.

I clicked on the link provided in PeteLoud’s ‘Comments is Free’ user profile, which took me to his personal website.  And, it looks like Peter Loud (evidently his real name) is a lover of maps, photographs, and edgy political imagery.

Here’s a snapshot of the bottom of his home page:

As if we needed further evidence that our friend Pete sees Israel as a Nazi state, here’s a passage from his site’s “Palestine page“:

Quite simply Israel and U.S.A. are evil just as Nazi Germany and the Khmer Rouge were before them.

Yesterday, as I wrote that, the Israelis were firing tank shells into a U.N. school in which civilians were sheltering. At least 40 were killed and another 55 wounded. As I said, Israel and America who provided them with the weapons are evil terrorist states.
* The Guardian – Gaza’s day of carnage – 40 dead as Israelis bomb two UN schools
* The Independent – Robert Fisk: Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask – This is essential reading
* The Guardian – Israel accused of delaying medical access to injured
* The Guardian – Israel shelled Palestinians after evacuating them, UN says

The fact that three out of four of Pete’s recommended links to prove Israel’s Nazi nature are from the Guardian are, OF COURSE, of no particular significance.

The Guardian at 190: Unauthorized CiF Watch Bio, Pt. 3 (1976, Guardian lionizes Mao)

The most important battle in the second half of the 20th century was the West’s ideological war against Communist totalitarianism.

While Hitler and fascism have rightly earned its place among the most evil ideologies of the past century, Communist inspired regimes – The Soviet Union, Cambodia, China and many others – were actually responsible for a greater total number of civilians killed in order to advance its political aims.  

As I’ve noted previously, Communism’s death count approaches 100 million – a staggering 45-72 million (depending on various historical accounts) of which are attributed to China under the leadership of Mao Zedong – which include various political purges of undesirable classes, mass starvation due to his “Great Leap Forward”, and the millions killed in his labor camps.  Mao, like Stalin, can reasonably be compared to Hitler in terms of his record of mass murder.

Yet, strolling back to the Guardian’s obituary upon Mao’s death in 1976, you find this:

The “Great Helmsman”, as the Guardian put it, was characterized in the story as follows:

“Mao has left his mark on China.  He shattered traditional restraints and urged Chinese to stand up and struggle for Socialism.”

It further referred to Mao’s “cultural revolution” without even hinting at the tens of millions killed along the way to the “Helmsman’s” Communist Utopia.

Then there was this:

“Mao was a complex man behind simple slogans. He led China on a difficult but successful path, particularly in the latest years of Cultural Revolution.  He has commanded admiration more than love. Respect as much as affection.”

“Mao’s general line of economic development with its emphasis on agriculture as the base for industrialization is widely accepted despite arguments over ways and means.”

The article concluded:

“‘So many deeds cry out to be done….‘ Mao wrote in his most famous poem, Ten Thousands Years are too long. Seize the day, Seize the hour!‘  Much of the strength of the China which Mao has left behind lies in this confident assertion for the future.”

In contextualizing the Guardian’s continuing assault on Israel’s legitimacy, and its propensity to tolerate and often advance anti-Semitic narratives, it’s necessary, in addition to monitoring such commentary each day, to see their polemics as part of a broader ideological orientation.

The Cold War was the moral test of a generation and it is important to note that, just as many today posit a false moral equivalence between radical Islam and the West and, closer to home, Hamas and Israel, there were those during the post WWII years – till the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – who, often only implicitly, but sometimes more explicitly, advanced a similar equivalence between Communism and the West – a dangerous intellectual tick by some on the left which Jean Kirkpatrick so adeptly characterized in her landmark essay, “Dictatorships and Double Standards.

Richard Landes summarized Kirkpatrick’s principle, as:

“Refusing to accept a wild moral equivalence between the misdeeds of civil [democratic] societies committed, however imperfectly, to defending human rights, with the behavior of totalitarian regimes.”

It is the Guardian’s stunning failure at this urgent moral requirement which lies at the root of their antipathy towards the Jewish state, and their failure to condemn, without qualifications, terrorist movements which seek her destruction.  This dynamic at the Guardian may not have started with the their 1976 hagiography of the Chinese mass murderer, but the obituary does allow us to gleam some insights into the trajectory of their stunning moral decline.  

Fauxtographic Farces at the Guardian

A Guest Post by AKUS

In the space of a couple of days the Guardian has managed to tag articles with archival photographs that seem to prove that the editorial crew there has completely lost its bearings when it comes to Israel.

The first was the use of a picture of chicken coops in Beijing to illustrate an absurd article on November 9th by Harriet “ChickenLady” Sherwood about the misery inflicted on chickens in Israel. Never mind that the entire population of Israel, as a well-worn joke goes, would barely fill a hotel in China, and the number of persecuted chickens in China, or, for that matter far closer to the Guardian’s headquarters in London would vastly outnumber those in Israel. This farcical article was front and center on “World News/Israel” for the Guardian. As has been well reported here the fauxtograph, purportedly showing a vicious Israeli persecuting chickens was actually of a Chinese worker, with the caption:

A worker feeds chickens at a poultry farm in Beijing. Activists in Israel have set up a hidden webcam televising the plight of caged chickens at one Israeli farm Photograph: China Photos/Getty Images

Note the typically shaded language: In China, a worker “feeds chickens”. How humanitarian! But in Israel, caged chickens face a “plight”. No food for you, Israeli chickens!! (h/t – Seinfeld – “the Soup Nazi”).

November 11th brings a new example of the Guardian’s fauxtography – the use of a picture of the Mavi Marmara interception to illustrate an unrelated article in “World News/Gaza”. The caption reads:

Israeli commandos intercept the Mavi Marmara in May. Two of those on board are also on the boat surrounded by Libyan warships. Photograph: Kate Geraghty/Getty Images

It’s a complicated story which you can read in full here. But the Guardian’s header, which reads like a synopsis of the plot of a Marx Brothers movie – perhaps a version of “A Night in Casablanca” – reveals that this has nothing to do with the Mavi Marmara except that “survivors” from the Mavi Marmara are on board:

Gaza aid team trapped on Greek boat

Six British volunteers and Mavi Marmara survivors among those on Strofades IV shadowed by Libyan warships after captain ‘fled port’

Continue reading

Watch what I do, not what I say……

In tomorrow’s JC, the Guardian says “We reject completely the charge of antisemitism”.

Calling Israel “racist” is antisemitic. Here is “Ilan” (Pappé?) doing precisely that on CIF a few hours ago. The post has been there for three hours now. Does The Guardian expect anyone to seriously believe them?

27 Aug 09, 6:35pm
Richard Moore is being disingenuous here on at least two counts.
First up, if he knows anything about Israel at all he will know that Israel is not simply a common or garden serial human rights abuser like other states he names. Israel’s existence is predicated on its on going human rights abuses much as South Africa’s was during the apartheid era.
Second (no particular order) there is, as Loach says, an established boycott of the racist war criminals of the State of Israel. It has been called for by many representative groups of the most numerous and longest suffering of Israel’s victims: the Palestinians. Who in China and Iran has called for a boycott of those states?
The fact that the boycott of Israel is established and that there are not representative groups of victims of other regimes calling for a boycott of those regimes means that it is not Ken Loach granting dispensation to other human rights abusers. Richard Moore must surely know this.
Far be it for me to act as an apologist for Israel but….. But of course Richard Moore is acting as an apologist for Israel by trying to have the racist war criminals of Israel carry on business as usual while he is ignoring the expressed pleas of Israel’s victims.
There is a third issue distinguishing Israel from other serial human rights abusers and that is the fact that whilst Richard Moore claims not to be an apologist for Israel he clearly is one as are many who write in the mainstream media. Can he tell us who is China, Iran and Burma’s Jonathan Freedland at the Guardian? Can he name Zimbabwe’s Matt Seaton at Cif? Do China, Iran and Burma have a Kilroy-Silk at the Express and the Star to abuse their victims? Do they have a Richard Littlejohn at first the Sun then the Mail? Israel has legions of apologists and smear merchants in the mainstream media that other serial human rights abusers just do not have. It is thanks to these that many people still don’t know what it is that is wrong about Israel and of course Richard Moore isn’t going to enlighten anybody by trying to undermine the principled position and the standing of Ken Loach.
There are principled opponents of the boycott of Israel though as we have seen with Neve Gordon’s recent conversion to the cause, they are becoming a rarity. Richard Moore is certainly not a principled opponent of boycott as a potentially effective weapon against the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.
Of course he needn’t be ashamed of himself. Israel apologists are ten a penny in the mainstream media and this disingenuous article certainly won’t do his career any harm.
Since I have space to do so, I may as well mention Richard Moore’s ludicrous and no less dishonest equation of Ken Loach with the chinese state! Perhaps he really can’t distinguish an illegitimate state from an oppressive regime.  One individual is not as powerful as a state, certainly not a state like China. Sometimes I worry that Israel apologetics might be taken seriously by the non-committed but I don’t think that’s a worry in the case of this ludicrous and dishonest article.