Flog this


We’ve had the photoblog, the linkblog, the blawg and the vlog; but Saudi Arabia, breaking new ground, has created an entirely new form of media output: the flog.

Raif Badawi, a blogger from Jeddah who ran a website promoting debate about religious and political issues, was sentenced by Saudi authorities to 1,000 lashes, shortly before Saudi authorities attended the je suis ‘we heart free speech’ march in Paris a couple of weeks ago.

Fortunately though, Saudi officials have promised to “review” the punishment. Pundits are expecting this impartial review to result in a rave review, I’ve stars for entertainment value and several Oscar nominations.

king-abdullah[1]In other Saudi news, a cleric (which I always thought meant a junior secretary) has issued a fatwa against snowmen. Which is a little rich considering that the (then) King of Saudi Arabia often dressed as one (see right). The ruling was made was because Islam forbids any imagery of human beings… or at least that’s what they say…


(Click the snowball above to listen)

Je suis un citoyen

The House of Commons has just concluded its review into Digital Democracy: how to make the public more engaged in the political process. The review team set itself some fairly modest targets, such as:

text2985But some of their specific recommendations made rather curious reading. For example, they recommended Parliamentary broadcasters to:

text29s85Yes, that will be the “gripping television experience” in which MPs spend an hour and a half discussing UK sea bass stocks, Broadband in Cheltenham or The Rural Paper Industry.

Here’s that exciting new Parliament in full:

bbc parliament gripping camera angles

Je suis Sussex

Creepy-clown-830x450Michael Farthing (pictured left), Vice-Chancellor of Sussex, has been ordered by an independent investigator to apologise to the five students he tried to discipline last year, and to pay out over £10,000 in compensation.

The full ruling can be viewed here.

The Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, who has the final say over students’ complaints against any university, found that Sussex’s decision to downgrade the disciplinary process to the ‘Schedule A route’ – which doesn’t allow the use of lawyers, unlike the previously-used ‘Panel route’ – had been taken “in order to prevent the students involved from being legally represented” by world-class human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC.

The magnitude of the compensation ordered places the case in the most serious of the Independent Adjudicator’s four levels of financial redress.

A statement published on the University website says:


…or in translation…

sussex-university-oiaPhoto 03-02-2015 16 57 01Less favourable sentences in the 19-page report that the University chose not to focus on in its statement included:

  • Farthing was wrong to suspend the five students because the evidence relied upon did not demonstrate that they posed “an ongoing threat to the safety and wellbeing of others” as required by the procedure.
  • Farthing was required to consult his colleagues before suspending, but Pro-Vice-Chancellor Claire Mackie complained that she was being pressured into taking a “snap judgment” (her words) without adequate information or time. Farthing ignored her concerns.
  • Sussex relentlessly pursued five ringleaders but should, if it was genuinely interested in preventing disruption rather than suppressing free speech, have sought to identify the other ~65 people involved. This was in breach of universities’ “responsibility to ensure that their regulations are implemented fairly and consistently for all students”.
  • The University acknowleged, belatedly and after dismissing these arguments at the time, that it would have been “impossible” (their word) to put together a disciplinary panel with no biased members.
  • The Adjudicator held “[t]he University […] responsible for the choice of Panel members which led to the halting” of the proceedings, and for the “delay and poor communication” that followed, causing “additional distress and inconvenience” for the students.
  • Sussex tried to deny said distress and inconvenience by pointing out that at least one of the students had performed well academically during the year. Little bit crass?

But I’m pleased that the Sussex spokesperson unit was able to find that small passage to use in its press release.

A freedom of information request for information relating to the case is pending. We’ll have to see whether it’s refused on the grounds of safeguarding the five students’ personal information… which would be strage as they were perfectly happy to cherrypick the report and quote bits to publish in their favour.

Watch this space!

Je suis chocolat

A family that wants to name its child after a chocolate spread: may contain nuts.

The baby’s family: may contain nuts.

A French judge has refused to let a child be named ‘Nutella’, although largely on trademark grounds rather than because it’s a bloody stupid name.

That said, almost as an afterthought, the ruling noted: “And it is contrary to the child’s interest to have a name that can only lead to teasing or disparaging thoughts.”

Really? You think so?

My real name is Nutella… but don’t spread it.

Thank you.

Je suis anglais (but maybe not for long)

A few weeks ago, the national media was brimming over with a new survey about anti-Semitism which revealed that over half of British Jews “believe they have no future in the UK”.

One commenter on the Sussex Friends of Israel Facebook page responded thus to The Independent giving the story front page coverage: “I must say they have a bloody chutzpah when they’ve done more than any other paper to promote anti-Semitism.” So two questions: (1) Can I take it you wouldn’t be complaining if the Indy had refused to run the story, then? (2) If you think the Indy is the worst newspaper ever then you really never heard of Der Stürmer?

What the media omitted to mention was that the survey – grandly called The Annual Anti-Semitism Barometer, which rather ominously suggests we will have to put up with it again next year – was completed by an entirely self-selecting group of British Jews who actively visited the website antisemitism.uk and gave their views on statements including, “Media bias against Israel fuels persecution of Jews in Britain.” (See if you can spot the methodological flaw in that question.)

The Jewish Chronicle was quick to rubbish the findings of the outragously unscientific survey, although one wonders why they chose to slam this one when they conducted their own surveywith identical findings – equally unscientifically (literally by asking arbitrary people walking past the JC office) in August.

Here’s the latest survey in full…
campaign against anti-semitism antisemitism survey gideon falterNote to readers: before you call me a bad human being for writing the above, remember that you’ve spent the last month defending people’s right to say controversial things.

Potential serial killer on the loose

An unusual spate of suspicous deaths has led one academic to speculate that a serial killer is on the loose.

The number of benefit claimaints who had their payments cut off to have died since the 2010 general election has now, claims Professor Sensible from De Monkey University, reached a “highly suspicious” level.

“It’s almost as if it’s not a coincidence that poor people die of cold or starvation shortly after the government stops paying them vital life-sustaining benefits!” said Sensible. “There may be a serial killer on the loose.”

Other unsolved crimes since 2010 include the theft of a large number of books from within prisons, the mysterious disappearance of the Iraq Inquiry report and a violation of the Trade Descriptions Act by the Secretary of State ‘for’ Justice Chris Grayling.

Je suis vireux

Competition corner: spot the lump of useless organic matter

Competition corner: spot the lump of useless organic matter

We all know that Police and Crime Commissioners’ attempts to engage with the youf of today end in disaster, because they have an uncanny knack of selecting youf strangely unrepresentative of the rest.

Sussex’s pride and joy, Katy Bourne, has cunningly got around this problem of how to look like she cares what voters think by setting up the country’s first (and please God, last) Elders’ Commission.

Absent a Hell’s Grannies-type scenario, their democratic input, about how policeman used to be taller and how there are ever so many shifty people about these days, seems unlikely to cross any lines.

katy bourne irregularsStreet cred
In tonight’s episode, The Snowman was banned by Raymond Brigot. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is managed by Gideon Falter, while the Campaign Against the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’s Paranoia is run by Gabriel Webber. The story of the serial killer was written by Professor Craig Jackson. The Katy Bourne Irregulars are being recruited by the PCC for Sussex. The Ferrero Company was played by little Ella, and Parliamentary broadcasting was rejuvenated by Steven Spielberg. The Independent Adjudicator was played by Rob Behrens. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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Twenty Fifteen already


The events which took place in France were horrendous and outrageous. Human diversity of mind is something to be celebrated, above all by people who purport to be religious and who believe in a benevolent Creator. May the memory of all the victims of last week – cartoonists, Jewish hostages, police officers and others – be a blessing and a call to tolerance, righteousness and justice in the world.

But despite the sadness of this month, a happy new year one and all, and without further chronological ado, let us proceed with the blog…

Taxing times

Last week, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs held its annual ‘in which we try to get some good publicity’ event by releasing a Buzzfeed-style list of the top 10 most hilarious excuses for late tax payments. These included the terribly amusing




But strictly speaking, of course, and in the playful spirit tax bosses seem to have adopted for their new year’s press release, they could have done a list of the most hilarious excuses for HMRC cock-ups, such as…



So easy to do…

Blood, toil, tears and sweat: my time at UJS Conference

In December I was semi-privileged to be chairing the annual conference of the national Union of Jewish Students as someone well-known as impartial and unopinionated.

Towards the end of the day we were all semi-privileged to be addressed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who rather unashamedly played to the gallery in his speech outlining how boycotts of Israel are nothing but “a smokescreen for the oldest hatred”, anti-Semitism. Because he was speaking to an audience of students, he even included a pun on the word ‘w*nker’ just to show how down with the kids he was.

sajid javid churchillHowever unimpressed I was though, clearly our speaker took the rest of humanity by storm, because according to the Jewish Chronicle, the speech by Sajid Javid (pictured)

…has been generally agreed to be the best speech from a British political figure in years!

Wow! The best British political speech in years! Eat your heart out, Tony Blair-with-the-hand-of-history-on-your-shoulder. Move along, Winston. Enoch Powell is so last century.

Because it is “generally agreed” (the identity of this generality was left unspecified in the JC) that Sajid Javid’s speech entitled ‘Never have so many votes been owed by so few to me’, was the best.

And because I was lucky enough to be present for it and want to share my experience, please find below Winston Churchill’s rendering of Sajid’s great oration:

Oh, and…

And on that note, let’s move on.

On Her Majesty’s (former) Service

An Indian civil servant has been sacked from their job with the Central Public Works Department for failing to turn up to work for 25 years. Apparently there was an initial investigation into their absence in 1992 but the report recommending his dismissal only recently reached a minister for signature.

from the desk of sir georgeOur special Gabrielquotes correspondent could, of course, think of only one person whose opinion on the Indian Civil Service was worth asking. So allow us to hand over to a man (is ‘man’ an adequate title for such a timeless phenomenon?) who was Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal under the Empress Victoria, hero of the 1873 Pabna peasant uprisings and colonial administrator extraordinaire… the one and the only Sir George Campbell!


Harping on

harper_logo-with-text-high-res[1]Everyone’s favourite Murdoch-owned publishing house, HarperCollins, has been in trouble this week for publishing a map of the Middle East that doesn’t feature Israel, on the grounds that it satisfies “local preferences” in Arab countries.

This isn’t the only allowance that HarperCollins have made to suit the tastes of its audiences, however. Some of their other publications include:

  • For the Conservative Party, How Criminals Are the Only People to Benefit From Human Rights
  • For optimists, Romeo and Juliet: The Deleted Scene Where They Wake Up and It Was All a Dream
  • For Katy Bourne, It’s Not the Size of Your Majority That Counts, It’s How You Use It
  • For Sarah Palin, ‘Climate Change': What a Load of Old Cobblers
  • For evangelical Christians, On the Origin of Species: the Original Edition by God, Before Darwin Got His Hands on It
  • For Michael Farthing, A Fair Trial Is Whatever You Say It Is
  • For English readers, The West Indies Aren’t Much Good at Cricket (trailer here)

As a post-script, though, I can’t help wondering whether HarperCollins’ ghastly decision to wipe Israel off the map is any worse than Jewish schools’ insistence on using maps that omit to label Gaza and the West Bank, or than this 1960s Hebrew-English dictionary which rather charmingly translates ‘Palestine’ as eretz Yisra’el (‘land of Israel’)…

hebrew-english dictionary translates palestine as eretz yisrael israel

‘Yo Blair’ part two

Insert bromine here

Insert bromine here

As if it weren’t sickening enough when George W Bush was recorded hailing our exalted former Prime Minister with the words, “Yo Blair!”, David Cameron has lowered the bar even further with the revelation that President Obama “sometimes calls [him] ‘bro'” on the ’phone.

Other irritating exposés from his interview with the Daily Mail include how he asked Samantha Cameron for advice before deciding whether or not to deploy the SAS (her experience as a retailer of premium leather-bound diaries was doubtless invaluable) and that if re-elected he’ll reform education – the reason he won’t just do it now is presumably spite.

dial m for murdochrect3773


Two can play at that game

The ICC is based in The Hague

The ICC is based in The Hague

Palestine’s announcement of its decision to join the International Criminal Court and call for a war crimes prosecution against Israel prompted a mixed reaction from Israeli politicians: often mixed from the same people.

For example, former Israeli diplomat Danny Ayalon said: “Membership in the ICC will harm the Palestinians, who commit blatant and obvious war crimes!” Which no doubt explains why he’s simultaneously falling over himself to prevent them from joining.

In other words, the Israeli government is trying the old…

path3005…bluff, so no real change from their existing strategy of treating the Palestinians like easily-bullied children.

Or in other other words, Bibi’s warning the Palestinians that they’re Playing with the Big Boys Now. Click on the green circley thing.

Editor’s note: before you send in messages about the above song, please consult the following Frequently Asked Questions:

Do you support Hamas?

Do you support acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians?

Do you support the BDS movement?

Are you an anti-Semite?

Do you deny that anti-Semitism exists?

Do you ever do anything to advocate for Israel?

Do you hate Israel?
No, if I hated Israel I wouldn’t mind it pursuing self-destructive policies like the above.

You’d have been a Nazi collaborator if you lived in wartime France, wouldn’t you?

Are you poisoning the minds of young people?

Why are you pretending to be Jewish when you have such a Christian-sounding name?
The name ‘Gabriel’ first appeared in the Tanach (Daniel 8:16).

Roslyn Pine Board of Deputies Twitter hypocrisy

I can scarcely credit it, but…
In tonight’s episode, which was dedicated to all those touched by the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, the voice of reason was played by HarperCollins and owned by Rupert Murdoch. Colonial India was administered terribly well by Sir George Campbell. The part of Winston Churchill was played/ taken by Sajid Javid. Tweedledum and Tweedledee were played by Israel and Palestine. The cyber-bullying was provided by North West Friends of Israel and Sussex Friends of Israel. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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