Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 26, 2005

Bill of Rights Stolen

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:04 pm

No, I’m not making this up. It’s totally for real. See here and here.

No Freedom of Press in Italy

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:37 pm

Oriana Fallaci is one of the most intriguing writers and journalists of the century (this one or last). She was born in Florence, Italy (or if you prefer, Firenze), and joined the Italian anti-fascist resistance with her father at the age of 10. After Italy was captured by the Allies and switched sides, her father was tortured by the Nazis but released alive; Oriana was honorably discharged from the Italian Army at the age of 14. She started writing at age 15, and became a reporter in Florence at age 16. She is famous for interviewing people that no one else can or wants to interview, and for interviewing in a penetrating style that gets her subjects to let down their guard and reveal things they normally would not reveal to a reporter. In other words, she gets around the spin, instead of getting caught up in it like a “typical” journalist. She has interviewed Henry Kissinger, Walter Cronkite, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Yassir Arafat, the Shah of Iran, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Willy Brandt, the Aytollah Khomeini, Moammar al-Qaddafi, and many others. (Online biographies are here and here.)

More recently, I have been influenced by her penetrating commentaries on the September 11 attacks and on the Iraq War, and her transcription/interview of an Iraqi soldier wounded in Kuwait in the 1991 war.

And now, at the age of 74, Oriana Fallaci has been indicted for writing a book which allegedly defames Islam. And she has been indicted in Italy, which she fought to make a free country:

Judge Orders Italian Author to Stand Trial

By Marta Falconi
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 25, 2005; 7:19 PM

ROME — A judge has ordered best-selling author Oriana Fallaci to face trial on charges of defaming Islam in her recent book “The Strength of Reason,” the writer and an attorney in the case said Wednesday.

The case arose after Muslim activist Adel Smith charged that “some of the things she said are offensive to Islam,” said Smith’s attorney, Matteo Nicoli. He cited a phrase from the book that refers to Islam as “a pool … that never purifies.”

Fallaci, who is in her 70s, said she is accused of violating an Italian law that prohibits “outrage to religion.”

The case is proceeding even though a prosecutor who handled it previously sought dismissal of the charges on the grounds that Fallaci had a right to state her own political beliefs, Nicoli said.

“I have expressed my opinion through the written word through my books, that is all,” Fallaci told The Associated Press.

No date has been set for the trial to begin in the northern town of Bergamo, he said.

Fallaci, a former resistance fighter and war correspondent who lives in New York, has often stirred controversy for her blunt publications and provocative stances. During her journalistic career, Fallaci became known for uncompromising interviews with such world leaders as former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

In the ruling obtained by the AP, the judge said that “Fallaci is addressing her hostile expressions against every manifestation of the Islamic religion and world and not only against certain extremist sectors.”

So according to this judge, if you criticize “extremist sectors” of a religion, that’s within your right to freedom of speech. But if you criticize “every manifestation” of a religion, that’s illegal in Italy, even if you no longer live there.

I eagerly await this judge’s indictment of those Muslims who criticize “every manifestation” of Christianity and Judaism. But I am not holding my breath.

UPDATE (5/26/05 2:05pm):

The blogosphere does not seem to have picked up this story yet, at least not in a big way. But Eugene Volokh has noticed and has some questions and The Cranky Professor has some details on the accuser in the case.

Jeff Goldstein points out:

Another victory for the leftist gold standard of “tolerance,” the great enemy of free expression and the rhetorical mechanism by which totalitarianism is practiced by academic elites and leftist ideologues (on the right, this same impulse manifests itself in appeals to decorum or properly “moral” speech—impulses regular readers of this site will recognize as frequent targets of my scorn).

Make no mistake, people: what you are witnessing here is a carefully crafted velvet insurgency, a diminution of freedoms on the part of leftist governments and judiciaries by way of gaining control of the parameters for acceptable speech and discussion.

And Glenn Reynolds is even more biting:

Basically, where people warn about theocracy in the United States, we’re seeing what amounts to a trial for blasphemy in Italy.

Tom Wolfe once said that Fascism is forever descending on the United States, but that somehow it always lands on Europe. Perhaps the same is true with theocracy?

Sometimes, You Can’t Please Anybody

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:03 pm

Patriarch Irineos, head of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, has been in more flavors of hot water than you can imagine. First, when the office of Patriarch was vacant in 2001, the government of Israel was asked to approve his appointment, and decided to oppose it:

Under a law dating back to the sixth century [Eastern Roman] emperor Justinian, the government of the Holy Land has the right to approve or disqualify candidates for the office of the patriarch.

The list of candidates was submitted to the governments of Israel and Jordan, as well as to the Palestinian Authority. While Jordan and the Palestinian Authority approved all nominees, Israel rejected five. Their objection was overturned by the Supreme Court of Israel.

In an official statement, the Greek Orthodox Church said it would ask Jordan and the Palestinian Authority for the approval of their new patriarch but did not mention Israel.

So he starts out has the head of a Church in Israel’s capital, with the approval not of Israel, but of Jordan, which does not claim soveriegnty over Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Authority, which claims such soveriegnty except when it is demanding it.

And if Irineos does not seem favorably disposed towards Israel anyway, and hatred of Jews may have motivated some of his supporters, Israel’s opposition would seem to make him even less so.

Yet, now the Jew-haters in the Greek Orthodox Church who once supported Irineos because (they thought) he hated Jews, are now trying to remove him from office on the grounds that he either sold
or leased some Church property in Jerusalem held for investment purposes to … Jewish investors!

As Rachel Raskin-Zrihen puts it,

There’s a huge controversy brewing over what is described as “explosive” allegations that the Greek Orthodox Church’s patriarch in Jerusalem sold property in that city to Jews.

Clearly a tragedy and an outrage. I mean, property in the Jews’ holy city being bought by Jews. Imagine that.

If some group in the United States threw a hissy fit over property being sold to or bought by members of racial or religious group, my guess is that the outcry would be over the hissy fit. But the Arab world is definitely not the United States.

The Arab world, particularly the Palestinians, are reportedly up in arms over what they term “the Judaizing” of Jerusalem.

Specifically, the Church’s patriarch, Irineos I, is being pressured to resign because one of his top aids may have made 198-year leases with Jews for some church property, according to the Associated Press. AP also reports that World [Greek] Orthodox leaders voted Tuesday in Turkey to stop recognizing Irineos I, asserting a rare unified position during a rare “pan-Orthodox” gathering. Irineos refuses to resign.

Let’s examine this.

It is apparently grossly unacceptable for the Christian owners of property in Israel, in Jerusalem, the city of David, built by the Jews in antiquity, to sell or lease any of it to Jews.

Or to put it another way: Irineos is in trouble because he failed to live up to his supporters’ expectations of the extent of his antisemitism.

Zorkmidden points out that they Church doesn’t actually have the authority to get rid of Irineos, and points to this news article:

ATHENS, Greece – Leaders of Orthodox churches from Russia to the ancient Christian centers in the Middle East prepared Monday for a rare gathering forced by a crisis in their ranks: The refusal of the Holy Land patriarch to step down even as his authority is shattered by rebel clerics, angry followers and the hair-trigger issue of land rights in Jerusalem.

But the meeting beginning Tuesday in Istanbul, Turkey — the ancient spiritual heart of Orthodoxy — has ripples beyond the fate of Patriarch Irineos I and the explosive allegations that his church leased property to Jewish investors in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider their capital. [And which Israel uses as its actual capital. --DR]

“The church cannot ignore the Arabization of the patriarchate,” said the Rev. Peter Herrs, a theologian based in Greece. …

The Istanbul proceedings are the first major pan-Orthodox summit in more than a decade. [This is what finally made it important enough for them to meet? --DR] The gathering has no authority to formally dismiss Irineos or pick his successor. That duty rests solely with the synod, or governing council, of the Jerusalem church. And Irineos refuses to convene the synod.

But leading clerics from across the Orthodox world may use the Istanbul meeting to further isolate Irineos and voice opinions about how to regain the church’s credibility after months of upheaval in Jerusalem.

A former financial adviser to Irineos is accused of giving Jewish investors 198-year leases for two church-owned hostels and several shops in the Old City. Palestinians were outraged, claiming the deals were part of Jewish encroachment into Arab quarters.

In other words, he is accused of not refusing to do business with people because of their religion.

Palestinians were outraged, claiming the deals were part of Jewish encroachment into Arab quarters.

In March, Palestinians spat and shouted at Irineos on Good Friday. This month, a group of Orthodox prelates staged a mutiny against Irineos and broke all contact.

How nicely they handle their disagreements!

Irineos had stood firm, denying any knowledge of the alleged leases. He traveled to Istanbul to defend himself.

What’s he going to say? “No, really! I do hate the Jews! Honest! The idea that I would treat them as human beings is a vicious lie!”

He’ll face the most powerful assembly of Orthodox patriarchs and envoys since 1992, when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I called a similar meeting to examine critical internal church relations following the Cold War.

Gosh, selling a few storefronts seems at least as important as that.

The patriarchate is one of the biggest landlords in the Holy Land — holding leases that include the sites of Israeli government buildings and large tracts in some of Jerusalem’s most coveted neighborhoods. Israel worries about Palestinian Christians exerting greater influence over church policies.

And from here:

The Greek Orthodox Church is the oldest, richest and most powerful church in Jerusalem. As head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Irineos is responsible for its extensive land holdings, including the land on which the Knesset was built, the Prime Minister’s and the President’s official residences, parts of Jerusalem’s wealthiest neighborhoods and many locations in the Old City.

(On a parenthetical note – isn’t it funny how Jews manage to control the world but don’t seem to have a very good handle on their own real estate?)

OK, now this really doesn’t make sense. (1) How can leasing a few storefronts to Jews be so bad, when they leased them their three most important government buildings?!?!?! (2) If they hate the Israel so much, why don’t they just repossess those properties and evict the Israeli Parliament, Prime Minister, and President?

Seriously, what — if anything — are these people thinking?

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