Tag Archives: judaism

One pig flu over the cuckoo’s nest

We are officially now in the grip of a new panic. Quite how justified all this screaming and shouting about swine influenza is remains to be seen, but there is certainly a lot of secondary nonsense starting to form.

My favourite thus far is the Israel government’s insistence that it should be renamed “Mexican flu” on the basis that pigs are not kosher. Are we to infer from that that eating Mexicans is Okay?

I’ve written about this strange mutation of Jewish (and Islamic) dietary law into a perverted list of “animals which must not be mentioned” before. A couple of years ago there was the bizarre attempt to replace the Three Little Pigs with dogs in a school play (the council apparently “stepped in” and insisted the heroes were porcine). My favourite remains the finger wagging Labour got in 2005 for portraying Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin as “flying pigs” by, erm, the Ham and High (the local paper for a sizeable proportion of North London jews). None of this seems to have anything to do with religion and everything to do with people (either religious people themselves or silly people claiming to speak on their behalf) going out of their way to find offence in nothing. And it seems to be getting worse. I am quite certain that if Leon the Pig Farmer were made today, a combination of the media and a small bunch of hopping idiots would have lead to it being branded as anti-semitic. The idea that religious people have an inalienable right to not be offended is still only believed by a minority of people, but that minority seems to be growing, getting louder and become increasingly irrational.

There is absolutely no connection between pigs and Judaism (they aren’t actually mentioned in the Torah) except in the mind of someone who can’t get over the fact that the latter don’t eat the former despite the deliciousness that is bacon. It is no more offensive to Jews to talk about pigs as it would be to talk about rabbits or elephants (or indeed pretty much any animal which Jews can’t eat – i.e. most of them). Yet strangely, people like Yakov Litzman seem to now be making the connection themselves. Ultimately, the only thing that all this hypersensitivity seems to achieve is to give true anti-semites another stick to beat Jews with.

Go back a hundred years ago, and the images of choice for anti-semites were spiders and octopi. We were meant to associate Jews with alien, many tentacled creatures spinning webs of deceit. Portraying them as cute, wuddly piggy-wiggies – at least as far as I am aware – simply didn’t come into it. Yet start shouting foul every time a pig appears in popular culture, and you can bet the BNP et al will leap at every opportunity to goad.

Why on Earth would you want to arm your true enemies like that? And why on Earth would you want to muddy the water between your true enemies and your friends in this way? It is a perverse form of madness.

Addendum: I have to admit to being entertained by this related web page which I came across (I was going to make a gag about man flu, but the Mexican joke was better), for two reasons. Firstly, it seems unaware of the commandment against murder, which one would have thought prohibits most opportunities for cannibalism straight away. Secondly, Leviticus does in fact prohibit man from eating any animal from eating any animal which doesn’t have cloven hooves or chew cud but pointing that out would mean admitting that humans are animals and that most Christians ignore the Bible when it comes to dietary laws in the first place. And I love the conclusion that cannibalism is okay so long as there’s nothing else on the menu. Who writes these things?

Addendum 2: I’m a little uncomfortable, by the way, at this talk of equating references to usury with disguised anti-semitism. Usury has a lot to answer for – and is explicitly prohibited by the Torah. The only reason we historically find jews specialising in banking is that is one of the few professions Europeans allowed them to perform back in the day when the church actually enforced those particular laws. I don’t doubt that the BNP do use it in a coded way, but I hope that won’t be used as an excuse to stifle debate about economic reform.

The Great Faith School Swindle

The Phantom Laurence points me to this excellent article by Francis Beckett about faith schools.

In a weird cosmic juxtaposition last night (which, were I of lesser intelligence I might attribute to a Higher Power), after watching Munich on DVD I found myself watching the tail end of Jonathan Sacks’ BBC programme about Rosh Hashanah.

It was basically propaganda about the need for faith schools, in which he visited a Jewish school in Birmingham which accepts pupils from all denominations. All very nice and fluffy, except that this is the exact same Chief Rabbi who said the following about government proposals to ensure that at least 25% of pupils in a faith school must come from a different religion or no religion at all:

“A measure this fundamental, undertaken at such speed without adequate consultation with the parties affected, is bad legislation, bad government and bad governance. It was created in haste and will be regretted at leisure.”

As Beckett acknowledges, Sacks’ intervention – along with the Catholic church’s – proved successful.

So, here we have a man lauding the power of faith schools to bring people together, while actively fighting legislation that would actually mean it happened. On a programme about a religious festival; some would call that politicisation. And he uses license fee payers’ money to indulge in this wanton hypocrisy. Doncha just love it?

New Kosher Koke with added Kosher!

I read this article about Kosher Coke a few weeks ago, found it vaguely amusing, and forgot all about it. Then yesterday I was in Waitrose and noticed that in their passover section they had Israeli Coke.

This is odd because, as the Guardian article says, UK Coke uses real sugar and not the dastardly high fructose corn syrup which causes the problem. So why offer the Israeli version?

It’s certainly true that if you walk into any corner shop these days you will find Coke from all corners of the world. Occasionally I wonder if I ought to catalogue the stuff and review each one – I could become the Coke equivalent of Hugh Johnson. I certainly detest French Coke, and I suspect it may be because of HFC (either that or they piss in the water). But this is Waitrose – the only Coke they sell in their drinks section is from Uxbridge.

Presumably, the reason is that the Coke-not-kosher thing has spread largely by word of mouth and has taken on urban myth status. The only Coke you can truly rely on to be definitely kosher is the Israeli version and consumer demand has done the rest. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating that there is enough demand for the stuff that it gets pride of place among all the other basics in what is not that large a display. And it suggests that a hierarchy of kosher is developing, in which ancient laws of food is getting mashed up with contemporary geo-politics.

On a related note, whatever happened to Mecca Cola? It got a lot of publicity in 2003 and I remember enjoying a couple of bottles on 15/2, but I haven’t seen it since and their website appears to have not been updated for years. I tried to work out from it whether their drink was kosher or not, but couldn’t find an ingredients list. Poor show.

Can religion make animals disappear?

Honestly, who’d be a pig these days?

It was bad enough in the 70s and 80s when you were associated with the police force (George Orwell’s doing?). Now, your very existence is regularly said to offend both Jews and Muslims.

The latest example of this is an attempt (ultimately futile, but why let that get in the way of a good rant?) in Yorkshire to make a school play featuring the Three Little Pigs change the said porcine characters into canines, on the grounds that it would offend Muslims.

This is of course palpable nonsense. Not only are living pigs not offensive to Muslims (it is the smoke-cured variety that causes them difficulty), but living dogs very much are. Actually, let me be clearer, it isn’t forbidden to own a dog in Islam, but there are certain restrictions on what you do with it regarding purity laws. As with many religions though, cultural practice is often assumed, by practitioners and outsiders alike, as being religious decree. I’ve known Muslims who had a problem with dogs, either regarding them with utter contempt, or having an irrational fear of them. Indeed, the dislike of dogs has been cited as part of a rejection of Zoroastrianism, which highly valued dogs. The rise of Islam in Persia went hand in hand with a persecution of Zoroastrianism and cultural norms about not liking dogs may have started then.

Yet, because the most that the average brainless local government bureaucrat knows about Islam is that his Friday night kebab doesn’t have any pork in it, the rise of the pig as the ultimate in pariah animals has been inexorable. A friend of mine who used to work in educational publishing once told me that she had got a furious complaint, from a teacher who made it clear that she was not herself Muslim, because they had published an alphabet wall chart with “p” for “pig” on it. Last week I mentioned the ludicrousness of the Ham and High of all newspapers claiming that Labour was anti-semitic for portraying Michael Howard as a flying pig.

In turn, I have no doubt that this will become mutually reinforcing. Anxious Jews and Muslims, reaching out to find new examples of how they are being persecuted, are bound to lap all this up. Soon, people will be calling for Charlotte’s Web to be banned (Wilbur is an innocent being manipulated by the sinister, spidery Charlotte whose actions are driven by the Zionist Protocols); I can guarantee that the loony fringe of the Jewish lobby will start asserting that Animal Farm is anti-semitic (after all, Nelson=Marx, and Marx was a Jew). The lunacy can only continue. The only logical outcome of all this is to ban the pig, not merely the animal, but the concept itself. Only then can we guarantee that Jews and Muslims, and people claiming to be speaking for Jews and Muslims, will not be traumatised by their existence.

All of which suggests that Heather Mills is perhaps not thinking things through in her latest attempt to get the public on her side by convincing them she is Linda McCartney protesting at how pigs are treated on farms. She might just as well start doodling pictures of Mohammed.