Middle east conflict in the NZ blogosphere?

oracism_p1Well, it seems that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sparked a local war in New Zealand’s blogosphere! It all started with his speech at the UN Conference on Racism in Geneva. This attacked Zionism as a form of racism and precipitated a walkout by many delegates.

NZ blog Tumeke criticised media coverage of the speech and walkout. He also criticised the formation of Israel as a Jewish state and some of its actions and policies which can be interpreted as racist.  Whaleoil responded by labelling Tumeke as an Holocaust denier and declaring a boycott of Tumeke and his NZ blog ranking statistics at NZ Blogosphere. Half Done (Something should go here, maybe later) and Keeping Stock supported Whaleoil and it was all on. Emotional charges of holocaust denier and “joo hater,” wishing to “wipe out the Jewish state” and “destruction of a legitimate state” were made and inevitably the facts ignored.

Some even saw it as caused by blog rating envy (Half Done also produces a monthly blog rating).

Certainly there was a strong left vs right political element. And as Ethical Martini pointed out (Tumeke boycott a red herring) a right wing “weird Christian intermediate thingy.”

[As an aside, I have noticed that most of the many Christian blogs in New Zealand are politically right wing? Why is that? Surely it's not representative of the whole NZ Christian Community?]

Religious involvement inevitable

Perhaps the religious involvement in this issue is inevitable – it certainly lies at the heart of the Middle East conflict. And although our news media has not commented very much on this, it was also intimately involved in the UN Conference on Racism. And, together with the expected concentration on only  Zionist racism, was central to the decision of the USA, New Zealand, Australia and many other countries not to attend.

This was the issue of the attempts by Islamic countries to impose on the UN resolutions preventing “defamation of religion” which would markedly interfere with freedom of expression and prevent criticism of the violation of human rights in the Islamic countries, amongst others.

With this background Ahmadinejad’s speech was far more dangerous than indicated by concentrating on his criticism of Zionism. He began with salutations to “Almighty God,” Allah, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. Strange for a secular meeting.

A holy campaign?

He declared that the task of the conference was to “work out practical mechanisms for our holy and humanitarian campaigns.” His understanding of racism was that it “is rooted in the lack of knowledge concerning the truth of human existence as the selected creature of God” and sees the solution as “a return to the spiritual and moral values, and finally the inclination to worship God the Almighty.”

Ahmadinejad’s real problem with Zionism is that it “personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuse religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces.”

His call for reforming of international relations “is based on noble aspirations which centres on human beings and the supremacy of the Almighty God.” “Realisation of such a future depends upon the knowledge of the creation and the belief in the hearts of all the faithful.”

“Defamation of religion”

With this sort of language being promoted at a UN conference I think we are wise to suspect the motives of those promoting the “defamation of religion” resolutions. And we would be wise to fear the consequences of such resolutions if incorporated into the legislation of member states.

There had been some hope during preparation for this conference that progress would be made in limiting the dangerous concentration on Zionism (to the exclusion of other forms of racism) and “defamation of religion.” The USA appeared to consider the progress sufficient to warrant participation but change their mind closer to the time. Obviously there would be good arguments both for participation and for non-participation and it is up to the member countries themselves to make decisions based on the evidence they have.

I don’t know if countries like New Zealand, Australia and the USA made the correct decision. But one thing is sure. An honest struggle against all forms of racism and against attempts to limit freedom of expression in the defense of human rights will continue in one form or another.

PS: I intend to post my latest estimation of New Zealand blog rankings this week. But I hope this doesn’t precipitate a new round of conflict.

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See also: With God, anything can be permitted?

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12 responses to “Middle east conflict in the NZ blogosphere?

  1. Regards ranking blogs, is there a measure of visitor contribution (aka comments) as well. I’m struck by how the blog tracker shows a rough idea of the ratio of visitors to those who comment. I’m sure this is true of all blogs, but I still find it striking.

    C’mon lurkers. De-lurk :-)

  2. Should add—to be clear—I’m not thinking of the number of comments, but the ratio of visitors who comment to those that don’t.

  3. One of the things I’ve said to colleagues who’ve been investigating starting their own blog is, don’t worry if no-one actually comments there. (Took ages before someone ;-) said anything on mine!) I suspect people only do that – to start with anyway – if they feel particularly strongly about something in a post, or if they feel comfortable there. Lack of comments doesn’t mean no-one’s reading you :-)

  4. Heraclides – you refer to a “blog tracker”. Have you some specific add on or programme in mind? I myself don’t know an easy way of detecting this sort of info for other blogs.

    Tumeke uses a complicated formula which includes number of posts per week as well as comments. I think he partly relies on information provided him by the blog owners themselves.

    I think Alison’s comments are very pertinent. Getting comments may well encourage the blogger (there an indication someone is actually reading the stuff you write) but there is, unfortunately, no direct feedback that there are lots of others who read but don’t comment.

    I have been surprised (and encouraged) to run into people, old friends, relatives, who tell me they regularly read and appreciated what I write. But these people have never commented.

    While a stat counter gives some figures one has to recognise that most hits are from people who may read nothing and may never come back. I think the RSS subscription counts may give an indication of more serious readers and perhaps are of more value.

    One reason why I have included both Google Reader and Bloglines subscriptions in this months ranking list.

  5. I was referring to the thing you added recently that shows who visited.

  6. [As an aside, I have noticed that most of the many Christian blogs in New Zealand are politically right wing? Why is that? Surely it's not representative of the whole NZ Christian Community?]

    There are plenty of left Christians out there, but they tend not to believe so strongly in either their Christianity or their politics whereas those on the right tend to be strong on both.

    You say that emotion is involved – quite true on my part. Tim has stated that he wants Israel wiped off the map. Of course he sees that this might be done peacefully, but in reality hard experience means that Israel would never agree. Any efforts to do so can only lead to more bloodshed. So the outcome is the same – tyranny is encouraged in it’s anti-semitic way.

    What really annoys me is the suggestion that NZ only did what we did at the insistence of the US.

    Why? Can’t John Key make a decision on whom he supports that doesn’t agree with Tim? If John can’t, can I? What this inevitably boils down to is refusing to accept the idea that other people can honestly disagree with you. I recognise those opposed to Israel have put together a case they honestly believe, but they don’t do me the same cutesy.

    In the end, I found myself disgusted beyond belief and decided I’d rather pass on helping him anymore as I have been.

    I hope you continue your rankings, I believe they are a valuable contribution to the ‘sphere.

  7. Correct adherence to Christian teaching is closest politically to classical liberalism. This is why you correctly note that most Christian blogs are right wing.

    Those Christians that are left wing or centrist simply suck at hermenutics, exegesis.

    P.S. I notice you conveniently left out the major NZ Christian blog that did NOT join the boycott and in fact wrote a post outlining why Tim Selwyn’s was probably not guilty as charged.

    You also failed to mention that far more Christian blogs did not join the boycott than those who did.

    I wonder why you ommitted these details?

  8. With respect, Madeleine, your response is from a right wing Christian perspective so of course you would say that. I want a more objective assessment.

    (Incidentally your comment “I wonder why you ommitted these details?” is surely irrelevant as I wasn’t commenting here on Christian blogs – except as an aside with my question).

    My earliest mature experience of Christianity was via political involvement in the peace movement, the anti Vietnam War movement, etc. I respected the Christians I worked with. I thought, and still think, that had a humane attitude towards life and politics. This has also been my experience with religious people I worked together with in my scientific career.

    Those values are worth sharing – and of far more use to humanity than just prosletysing. I respect Christians, Muslims, atheists, etc., etc., who can work together for the common interests of humanity.

    While there are some of these sort of Christians using blogs for humanitarian purposes, my impression is that they are rare and swamped out by right-wing Christian blogs. Now, I don’t think that is representative,

    Mind you, I don’t things blogs are representative anyway. But I would like to see more blogs promoting a humanitarian line – whatever, the religious views of the blogger.

  9. With respect, Madeleine, your response is from a right wing Christian perspective so of course you would say that. I want a more objective assessment.

    Are you suggesting a neutral person capable of a offering a neutral assessment exists?

    I don’t buy into post-modern reader centric interpretations. Things say what they say, what the writer intended them to mean.

    The Bible is not neutral on the role of the state, it has a clear position. I am not excluded from pointing this out becuase I hold to certain views, that 2+2=4 does not change its truth just because the person making the claim is a maths teacher.

    The Bible teaches responsibility for self, limits charity to be only given voluntarily, not by the state, and only to people trying to help themselves, not sitting on their arses with their hands held out. It condemns governments that tax higher than 10% as immoral and limits the scope of the state.

    To get welfarism or big government out of the Bible is to seriously read into it things that are not there. Those that read these things from it are wrong.

    I have blogged on the role on the state and given an exegesis for this. You can look it up if you want more.

  10. Madeleine – you are still justifying your own position – which is beside the point.

    What I would like to see is some better representation in the NZ blogosphere from other Christian voices – ones I know are out there and may be more representative of the wider Christian community that I am used to.

    The reason may well be historical. It may be motivational (less interest in god-bothering). It may even be something to do with fundamental outlook. It’s an intriguing question – not unrelated to the probable low representation of non-theists in the NZ blogosphere. I would certainly be interested in hearing from those Christians – but then again they probably aren’t motivated to participate.

  11. Scrubone @ April 27, 2009 at 11:36 pm


    “Tim has stated that he wants Israel wiped off the map. Of course he sees that this might be done peacefully, but in reality hard experience means that Israel would never agree. Any efforts to do so can only lead to more bloodshed. So the outcome is the same – tyranny is encouraged in it’s anti-semitic way.”

    I wouldn’t be so definite. We have seen some big changes taken voluntarily, and unexpectedly, by individual countries like South Africa and the USSR. I would like to think that Israel could develop the political maturity to initiate a similar change.

    It’s sad that the country should have been established as a Jewish nation instead of a secular one. In the end only a secular nation will enable solution of the problems in that area.

    I don’t think things can go on as they are – and I agree relgious extremism mon both sides could actually precipitate something far worse. However, when I visited Israel 10 years ago I found many Israeli’s I spoke with genuinely wanted peace and a resolution of the problems. They were enthusiastic about the Oslo agreement. However, it could be that a two-state solution is just unrealistic and a single secular state solution may be what should be aimed for. It will required mature reflection on both sides but would be best for the world in the end.

    By the way – this is what some people mean by “wiping Israel off the map.”

  12. Madeleine (@ April 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm),

    Another way to look at it is to ask if ‘right wing Christians’ are more outspoken, vocal (some would say, pushy). A simple head count of blogs might only be confirming an underlying bias in how different groups behave, not a distribution of the number of different types of Christians. This is the point Ken was asking. Anyone who has done statistics of any sort knows to look for these sorts of issues, as they confound simplistic studies.

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