The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, November 30, 2003

Europeans are incipient Nazis - sez Woolsey!

It would be untrue to suggest that Randy Newman's European policy [1] has, as yet, been formally adopted by the Neocon Tendency.

But, with a government so committed to pre-emptive war as the Bush Administration, for self-preservation's sake, one needs to read the runes early!

According to the National Post (November 30), retired CIA chief and franc-tireur for the Tendency, James Woolsey, has been taking his ease north of the border, and unburdening himself of one or two mots on the subject of
Europe's media and cultural elite

A class of persons who, it seems,
have have breathed "the first breath of totalitarianism."

A marvellously broad and flexible definition of an offence. Almost totalitarian, one might say.

The piece goes on
Jews are history's great champions of the rule of law, James Woolsey said...

And what definition of rule of law is he using, I wonder? I'd be surprised if you could get most legal scholars to agree the rule of law (as commonly understood) was established in any jurisdiction much earlier than the English Bill of Rights of 1689. In which, I suspect, the part played by Jews was somewhat small.

Woolsey's definition is rather different
this notion of the rule of law is something that came to the world something between three and four millennia ago in the Sinai desert.

The piece says he was talking to
a predominantly Jewish audience yesterday at York University.

That's in Toronto.

His notion of the term is that
...the government is above the ruler, and that rulers, whether it's King David or anyone else, are to be held to account by the people, by great prophets, by whomever...

Now, I'm no expert: but my superficial researches suggest that Woolsey's definition is not one that would command universal acceptance amongst scholars [2].

He goes on
Jews have always promoted the primacy of the law over the leader.

"That notion is the biggest threat to totalitarians.

"So once you begin to dabble with the idea that you want to bully people, that you want to order them around, that you want them to do what you say, you very frequently start to drift into anti-Semitism," he said. "I think that is what is happening in some of the cultural elites in Europe."

The most extensive bio of Woolsey that come to the top of the pile gives no hint at the professional expertise that might support so large a judgement.

Very frequently suggests that he has at his fingertips several dozen examples at least. But, of course, in many cases, the drift into anti-Semitism may have been hampered by a lack of available Jews. Has he controlled for that in his analysis, I wonder?

The greatest concentration of clearly authoritarian regimes over the last couple of hundred years has been Latin America. Some - Argentina, for one - have been the home of significant numbers of Jews. Of how many was a ramping up of anti-semitism a major feature [3]?

In Europe, Mussolini's regime in Italy started in 1922 with no particular antisemitic agenda [4]: this review in the Financial Times suggests that
fascism was nonracist for more than a decade until Mussolini cynically began to stoke anti-Semitism in 1938.

And, in Poland, I mentioned on October 19 the case of General Pilsudski, dictator between the world wars, under whom the native antisemitism of the country was to an extent kept under check. Only after Pilsudski died in 1935 did antisemitism flare up again.

As Ira Gershwin once wrote, it ain't necessarily so...

  1. Boom! goes London, Boom! Paree It says here.

  2. A few minutes mooching around Google produces nothing strikingly definitive. But this piece takes a Chinese perspective on the old AV Dicey formulation; and this an Australian. And course notes (PDF) by a University of Quebec teacher have a paragraph on the question of the French translation of rule of law - prééminence du droit, principe de légalité and primauté du droit are considered as possibilities - the last being preferred.

    If there were the same concept in French law, one might suppose that that term would have been chosen.

  3. Further mooching, this time on the Argentinian junta (1976-83) and its record on antisemitism does not suggest that Jews were singled out for harsh treatment by the regime.

  4. Another piece has Guglielmo Marconi (inventor of the wireless) operating a freelance numerus clausus at the Academy of Italy (Accademia d'Italia) from 1930 onwards.

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