Archive for February, 2006


From the land of Sibelius — more cowardice

February 28, 2006

A Mohammed cartoon has cost another editor his job, this time in Finland.

Is there no end to the West’s appetite for surrender? Seems not.

A bit of a shame from the land that gave the world Sibelius.

Via Finland for Thought.


For Denmark

February 25, 2006

Thanks to some great work by Christopher Hitchens, a small, quiet and well-mannered group in Washington, D.C., demonstrated in support of freedom of speech yesterday.

Via Vital Perspective.

It’s a long time since I attended a political rally. I don’t like them, generally. I find the sight of columns of people marching along and chanting in unison (‘four legs good, two legs bad!’) pretty depressing as a rule.

But for once, I wish I could have been there. It is morally essential now to support the Danes, as the rest of the west collectively capitulates. This is one of those moments about which your grand-children will challenge you: which side were you on, grandad, grandmum, during those times? Wherever it is that we may be by then, there will be only one answer that attracts moral worth:

I was
for Denmark.

For Denmark. And freedom.

Will we see a similar demonstration in Australia? I fear not. We lack a Christopher Hitchens. Much as I admire and respect the man, I don’t quite see Keith Windschuttle filling the gap.

More at Norm Geras’ place.


Another cartoonist under threat…?

February 18, 2006

Help me out here. I don’t understand it.

This —

— is a placard apparently held aloft during a protest outside the Danish Consulate in New York on 17 February. It situates a picture of Australia’s own Michael Leunig, involuntary cartoonist to the Imams, next to one of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Next to Ali is a picture of, as far as I can decipher the text below it, Flemming Rose, editor of Jyllands-Posten.

Not a natural association for Leunig, I would have thought. Perhaps it was a mistake, after all, to withdraw a cartoon so warmly initially welcomed. And he thought the Imams were so sweet — so understanding.

An email popped open; it was the Iranians. They were courteously apologising, they had been co-operative. They cared.


French resistance

February 16, 2006

On 11 February, Paris was the site of another demonstration by Islamists against the Danish cartoons. This time there was a difference: a quiet counter-protest by two members of La Brigade d’Argent des Francais — the ones in the white coats and blue and red caps — holding placards in support of the cartoonists, Denmark and free speech.

It took a while for the crowd to catch on, but when it did, things got ugly.

Eventually the two were hustled away by the police, who told them, ‘They are going to lynch you!’

Who said les francais have no spunk? (But hang on — do Arthur Wneir and Erik Svane sound French to you?)

You can watch the video here.

More at No Pasaran!


More cartoons

February 14, 2006

This is the cartoon that was submitted to Iran’s Hamshahri newspaper in Leunig’s name, and which was withdrawn after he protested. There appears to be no suggestion that the cartoon itself is faked — Leunig submitted it for publication to The Age in 2002 and it was rejected on the grounds of taste.

Given the paper’s competition is avowedly anti-Semitic, it’s hard not to see Leunig’s involuntary contribution as a natural — even a potential prize-winner.

It’s similarly themed to this one from Jordan, equating Gaza with Auschwitz (not a competition entry, however):

As these cartoons suggest, at the present time we seem to be witnessing a stealthy convergence of right, left, and Islam — and the locus of that convergence is the evil world Jew. His corpse was only half-interred, after all, and now he’s being paraded around the international stage again, thrust from the shadows into the klieglights.

Even some anti-Zionists of the left are becoming concerned. Here is British Israel divestment activist Sue Blackwell, writing in Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper:

Increasingly these days I find myself having acrimonious exchanges, usually by email, with people whose messages start by expressing their support for my stand on Palestine and then continue with “I think you ought to read this.”

“This” often consists of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which for a document over a hundred years old has weathered remarkably well. It crops up everywhere on the internet, including the weblogs of people who claim to be campaigners for Palestinian rights. I had a graduate student in my office not long ago, a highly intelligent young man who is a member of a socialist party in the UK. He told me in all seriousness that I really ought to read this incredible exposé of a world Jewish conspiracy, which was apparently new to him.

One wonders how this message was received in Egypt, given the great popularity enjoyed by the Protocols in that country — as Blackwell herself acknowledges.

A year or two ago, the Australian writer Sophie Masson described anti-Semitism as ‘that murderous old cancer of the soul’. I don’t know if anyone has put it better. It’s back, ugly as ever, and spreading like wildfire.

Update: Further discussion on Leunig’s cartoon at Larvatus Prodeo.


Anne Frank and Hitler

February 14, 2006

Like the government of Iran, The Arab-European League has launched a cartoon counter-offensive in the wake of the furore over the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

This is one of them:


It seems unnecessary to comment, really, except to say one can only hope it will be widely viewed the world over. Get it out in the open, as Monty Python used to say.

I read Anne Frank’s Diary for the first time when I was very young, and several times subsequently. It was the version edited by her father, Otto, who had survived the war, and omitted some material about the family and Anne’s own experiences of growing into adolescence.

A full edition was published in 1986 by the lugubriously-named Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, complete with an analysis of Anne’s handwriting, not least to refute persistent allegations from neo-Nazi groups that the diary was a fake.

A few years ago, I visisted the house in Amsterdam where she and her family were concealed from the Nazis, to whom they were eventually betrayed. It has been preserved almost exactly as it was at the end of the war. It was still powerfully haunted by the presence of the young Jewish girl whose face and words — and whose fate — the world had come to know so well.


Anne Frank died of typhus in the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, towards the end of the northern winter of 1944-5, at the age of 15. The previous spring, she wrote in her diary:

I want to live on,
even after death.

It may be that here, today, so long after she died, in the new, indifferent century, Anne Frank is being put to death at last.

It is necessary, after all, to comment on the cartoon. It is grotesque and obscene. For all that — because of that — it should not be banned.


Of cartoons….and cartoonists

February 13, 2006

It seems to me that it’s now become almost morally necessary to publish, and re-publish, and re-publish the Danish cartoons to remind ourselves of what it’s all about, and what it isn’t — especially now it’s become clear that much of the ‘outrage’ and violence was manufactured and opportunistic, and cynically sponsored by the governments of Iran and Syria.

What it’s all about: one of Jyllands-Posten’s journalists, Per Nyholm (translated by The Brussels Journal):

The cartoons are no longer something Jyllands-Posten can control. They have already been manipulated and misrepresented to the point that few know what is going on and fewer know how to stop it. This affair is artifically being kept buoyant in a sea of lies, suppressions of the truth, misconceptions, lunacy and hypocrisy, for which this newspaper bears no blame. The only thing Jyllands-Posten did was provide a pin-prick which has made a boil of nastiness erupt. This would have happened sooner or later. That it happened more than four months after the publication of the cartoons, raises a question of its own. Are we dealing with random events or with a staged clash of civilizations? One might hope for the former yet be prepared to expect the latter.

That is why I say: Freedom of Speech is Freedom of Speech is Freedom of Speech. There is no but.

Initially I was doubtful of the timeliness of publishing the cartoons. Later events have convinced me that it was both just and useful to do so. That they are consistent with Danish law and Danish custom seem to me less important than this: that we now know that remote, primitive countries deem themselves justified in telling us what to do. Unfortunately we must also note that governments close to us are agreeing with them in the name of expedience. [….]

Perhaps it is time we started mopping up this mess. Perhaps Editor-in-Chief Carsten Juste ought to remove his apology which has gone stale sitting so long on the front page of our internet edition and which does not seem to interest the madmen. Perhaps our government ought to announce to Mona Omar Attia, the strange Ambassador of Egypt, that she is persona non grata.

Perhaps the ambassadors that have been called home to fictitious consultations in the Middle East should be told that they may spare themselves the cost of the return ticket. Insofar as possible, the Lying Imams probably ought to be expelled. And then we ought to make an effort to support those Muslims who in a difficult situation have proven themselves to be true citizens.

What it isn’t: cartoonist Michael Leunig, a couple of days ago in The Age:

The anti-cartoon riot story, as ugly as it is, must surely be the consequence not only of a handful of dull cartoon cliches, but of the accumulated anger resulting from the humiliation, persecution and suffering inflicted on Islam by the West. The cartoons are taunts, probably deliberate, to an aggrieved and traumatised spiritual community who feel at the mercy of the West’s contempt, ignorance and ruthless military might.

Any cartoonist with a heart or a conscience (from whence good cartoons come) would not mock or taunt such a group in this formally transgressive way. I like Manning Clarke’s advice here: look with the eye of pity, which implies mercy and respect, the qualities that redeem a society more than the quality of raw freedom.

I quite like Leunig’s work, though it has declined in recent years. I like his bulbous-nosed runner bean characters and his eye for the moral metaphor. But as a political analyst he makes a great …. cartoonist. Hardly a word of his article withstands the slightest scrutiny. And it’s dangerous, too, and destructive: it takes the paranoid imagining of the Islamists about an oppressed and persecuted Islam, and projects it back on them, re-confirming their own fantasies. As for pity, mercy and respect, the man who lampooned the dying Arik Sharon is hardly in a position to claim the moral high ground.

And finally, just for the fun of it……

Update: Tim Blair has more on Leunig’s moral high ground.