On Tuesday last week, Yasmina Haifi, an official at the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism in the Netherlands, tweeted: "ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It is a preconceived plan of Zionists who want to deliberately make Islam look bad."
For the past ten years, Ms. Haifi has been a senior staff member at the human resources department of the Ministry of Security and Justice. For the past two years she has also worked as a project leader at two of the Ministry's subsidiaries, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism and the National Cyber Security Center.
The outcry from the general public that followed her remarks initially did little to make her take back her words. The next day, however, she deleted the tweet, saying: "Realise the political sensitivity in relation to my work. This was never my intention." The same day, Haifi told national broadcast Radio 1 that she had no idea her comments would cause such an upheaval. "I assumed I was living in a democratic country," she said. "Apparently freedom of speech in the Netherlands applies to particular groups and not to others."
Haifi said she had based the information on "multiple sources from the internet." These consisted of a supposed statement by Edward Snowden, that the Mossad and the U.S. created ISIS. A simple background search would have shown this to be a firmly debunked hoax which was created by Iranian authorities. Even Snowden himself vehemently denies ever having said anything about ISIS.
Nevertheless, when confronted by journalists with the true nature of the spurious Snowden report, Haifi persisted and maintained that there was ample evidence to prove that the link between ISIS and Zionists did exist....
The truly shocking part of this story is not that Ms. Haifi faithfully regurgitates all too familiar Islamist anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, but that someone with such radical, conspiratorial and anti-Semitic views can be employed by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism. Something is evidently seriously wrong there with the screening of employees. There is widespread concern that many others with equally radical views were employed there and elsewhere in the security apparatus.
The defiant and self-assured tone of Haifi suggests that she was in no way apprehensive about the backlash from her words and the effect that could have on her career, and that she felt comfortable in her decision to utter them.
What is worrisome is what remarks such as those reveal about the social and professional climate at the Ministry. It is hard to believe that Haifi's conspiratorial and anti-Semitic views were not to some degree common knowledge among her co-workers, and possibly shared by many.
In addition to her career within the executive, Haifi is also a prominent member of the Labor Party. She was a member of the city council of The Hague from 1994 to 1998, and since 2011 has served as a talent recruiter and talent coach for the party's branch at The Hague. The city, which is also the seat of government in the Netherlands, has the country's most sizeable population of immigrants from Islamic countries; and Haifi functioned as one of its most vocal representatives. It is not clear how many people of a similar mindset she recruited into the Dutch Labor Party.
As co-founder of the action committee "Herstel het Vertrouwen" ["Restore Trust"] against "ethnic profiling" by the police in The Hague, Haifi enjoys sizeable backing from the Islamic immigrant community there: within a matter of days 5,600 people "liked" a Facebook page supporting Haifi. Not surprisingly, this page too is filled with conspiratorial and anti-Semitic views while at the same time bemoaning the unfair and discriminatory treatment meted out to Haifi for speaking "the truth."
Haifi's comments come at a time when widespread anti-Semitism among Muslims has become painfully visible. In the past months in The Hague, three pro-Gaza rallies have taken place, all of which have featuring ISIS flags, along with signs in Arabic calling to "Kill all Jews," and a quote from the hadith [the acts and sayings of Muhammad] that, "There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." The police were remarkably reluctant to arrest the protesters.
Despite the discriminatory and conspiratorial nature of Haifi's statements, the leadership of the Labor party, which has always presented itself as the champion of the victims of discrimination, has not ousted or suspended her. They have only announced they will "talk with Ms. Haifi" about her tweet...
Granville County - "Country filling station owned and operated by tobacco farmer. Such small independent stations have become meeting places and loafing spots for neighborhood farmers in their off times."
Edinburgh City Council has decided to fly the Palestinian flag above the city chambers, to send a message to the world "that Edinburgh stands with the people of Palestine", thus continuing "its proud tradition of supporting the oppressed peoples of the world”. They also passed a motion agreeing to send a letter of condolence to "the President of the State of Palestine", and another letter to the Israeli consulate "condemning in the strongest possible terms, the killing of hundreds of innocent civilian men, women and children".
The great Bettye Lavette, 1990, does the old Velvelettes classic:
Posted on YouTube by Ian Levine, producer and Northern Soul impresario. Here's what the man says:
Miss B. sings the Marvelettes classic Sixties hit, and totally, overwhelmingly, makes it her own. Although she was indeed signed to Motown, and therefore was an obvious contender to become a part of Motorcity, the sassy Miss B. was far more well known for her work prior to Motown, on Atlantic, Calla, Big Wheel, West End, Atco, and on so many other labels. I adore her voice. Amy Winehouse has just made a major pop career by sounding like Bettye Lavette. Not only did Bettye sound fabulous, and still does, but she was drop dead gorgeous too, as her pictures will attest. She was a privilege to have on Motorcity, and to record more than an album's worth of material with her, and, in fact, only recently, her old Motorcity recording of "Right Out Of Time" has just gone massive with a brand new version that we cut, a version that's attracted all the acclaim that the original production never had, and even got played on Radio Two. Bettye's biggest ever hit was "Let Me Down Easy", a record on the Calla label that the late Dave Godin revered as if it were a religious experience. We were fortunate enough in Detroit in 1990 to not only re-record it, but to shoot some wonderful footage of the lady singing her heart and soul out like no one else can. At the same time, we cut this, along with loads of other wonderful performances, in Sylvia Moy's Masterpiece Studios.
Yair Lapid, Israel's finance minister and the chairman of the Yesh Aid party, writing in the Times of Israel, looks back at the victims of the Holocaust:
Why didn’t they fight? That is the question that haunts me. That is the question that the Jewish people have struggled with since the last train left for Auschwitz. And the answer – the only answer – is that they didn’t believe in the totality of evil.
They knew, of course, that there were bad people in the world, but they didn’t believe in total evil, organized evil, without mercy or hesitation, cold evil that looked at them but didn’t see them, not even for a moment, as human.....
Hamas, as opposed to us, wants to kill Jews. Young or old, men or women, soldiers or civilians. They see no difference, because for them we are not people. We are Jews and that is reason enough to murder us.
Our moral test, even under these circumstances, is to continue to distinguish between enemies and innocents. Every time a child in Gaza dies it breaks my heart. They are not Hamas, they are not the enemy, they are just children.
Therefore Israel is the first country in military history that informs its enemy in advance where and when it will attack, so as to avoid civilian causalities. Israel is the only country that transfers food and medication to its enemy while the fighting continues. Israel is the only country where pilots abandon their mission because they see civilians on the ground. And despite it all, children die, and children are not supposed to die.
Here in Europe, and elsewhere in the world, people sit in their comfortable homes, watching the evening news, and tell us that we are failing the test. Why? Because in Gaza people suffer more. They don’t understand — or don’t want to understand — that the suffering of Gaza is the main tool of evil. When we explain to them, time after time, that Hamas uses the children of Gaza as human shields, that Hamas intentionally places them in the firing line, to ensure they die, that Hamas sacrifices the lives of the young to win its propaganda war, people refuse to believe it. Why? Because they cannot believe that human beings — human beings who look like them and sound like them — are capable of behaving that way. Because good people always refuse to recognize the totality of evil until it’s too late.
I think he's right about people - Europeans - not being prepared to believe that Hamas deliberately uses the deaths of Palestinian children as part of their propaganda war. I'm not so sure about the "totality of evil" in this context though. Evil - yes. The same "totality of evil" that characterised the Holocaust, though?
Much of the Hamas world-view stems from a different conception of morality, where martyrdom in the name of the Palestinian cause is the highest good, and the claims of the family and the tribe overrule any notion of the rights of the individual. [I'm currently reading Larry Siedentop's "Inventing the Individual", about the origins of Western liberalism and individual morality through the teachings of the early Christian church, which maybe has some relevance here]. It's a whole different ethic. Much of the unique horror of the Holocaust, surely, was that Germany was a modern country at the forefront of advances in science and the arts, and yet it was still capable of such an astounding breakdown of civilised morality.
Then again, I'm not Jewish, and I don't live in Israel. If an Israeli politician wants to invoke the memory of the Holocaust, I'm certainly not going to be the one to tell him he can't.
Update: I should add that this was from a speech delivered yesterday at Platform 17, Holocaust Memorial Site, Berlin.
Isis have germinated so rapidly not because of George Bush and Tony Blair, but because Western governments decided at some point that it would be acceptable for Bashar al-Assad to drop explosives on the Syrian people in order to keep power. It may come as a surprise to those MPs who whooped and hollered when the Commons voted against military intervention in Syria last year to learn that they did not "stop the war".