Gerard Henderson publicises my emails to him

I discovered a few weeks ago that Gerard Henderson wrote dismissively of an article I wrote, misrepresenting my opinions. I wrote privately to him saying that he had twisted my words. He denied this was the case. After a few emails were exchanged, and we rapidly ran out of patience with each other, I assumed it was over (and, really, being criticised by Henderson is an honour). However, I’ve found that Henderson has printed the correspondence on his media watch page. I did not ask him to do so, if he had asked me if I wanted him to print my private emails to him, I would have said no.

That said, now that they are public, readers can judge them for themselves. I now know what I knew not before about Henderson. Interestingly, he found my last email to him incoherent. I’m not sure why. It seems to me that he doesn’t know anything at all about the Muslim world (note how he informs me Pakistan is Muslim, AFTER I’d cited it in response to his challenge about crimes against the Muslim world, or that he seemingly has no idea what the drone attacks are).

And Henderson seems to miss my point with regard to Messrs Sheridan, Pipes and Howe. I don’t think they want to commit crimes against the Muslim world. I think they are Western extremists who have supported crimes against Muslims, and will almost certainly support likely future crimes.

Email to Gerard Henderson from Michael Brull – 29 October 2009

Hello,

I’ve just discovered, on August 14, you write dismissively of a column I wrote on newmatilda. It reads as follows:

New Matilda ’s Old Obsessions 11 August. Writing in New Matilda, Michael Brull declared that the likes of “John Howard, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair” and many more “have committed terrible crimes against the people of the Muslim world and would like to commit more of them.”  He provided no evidence of where or when this quartet would like to commit the said crimes.

That’s not entirely true. I wrote:

But there is also a small group of Western extremists who have committed terrible crimes against people in the Muslim world and would like to commit more of them. They’re presidents and prime ministers, people like John Howard, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and many more.

This didn’t imply – as you seem to suggest – that Blair, Bush, Clinton and Howard continue to plot new crimes against Muslims.

Furthermore, you say I provide no evidence of said crimes. This is perhaps partly true, though I imagined my views on the matter would be plain to newmatilda readers by now. Within the article, I did, however, have a link for those who couldn’t understand why the Muslim world might be unhappy with us. Plainly, if you read the article, you would have noticed that this was not my primary focus when I wrote that particular article to which you objected. [See newmatilda 30 July 2009].

What crimes might I suggest the West is guilty of against the Muslim world? Well, there’s the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The history of both countries is pretty grim – support for Muslim extremists in Afghanistan. Support for Saddam Hussein, the sanctions in Iraq. Besides that, there’s support for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians (and also against Lebanon in particular), support for the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and so on.

What other crimes? Well, there is a possibility of an attack on Iran, as an example. It is true that I cannot prove plans to commit more crimes against the Muslim world (though I consider our complicity in ongoing oppression a crime against the Muslim world). For example, I cannot prove a new invasion of the Middle East is being planned. However, I consider the bombing of Pakistan as a crime against the Muslim world, and there was a time when I may not have anticipated that. I think the indifference to the rights of Muslims by Western governments makes it likely that the rights of people in the Muslim world will continue to be violated by Western governments.

These are perhaps more extended than your observations. Yet they have the merit of being honest, which yours did not.

Best wishes,

Michael Brull

Email to Michael Brull from Gerard Henderson 29 October 2009

Mr Brull

I refer to your email received today in which you allege that I am dishonest in that I misquoted you in the 14 August 2009 issue of Media Watch Dog.  You seem extraordinarily sensitive to criticism:

In your article in newmatilda.com on 11 August 2009 you wrote:

…there is also a small group of Western extremists who have committed terrible crimes against people in the Muslim world and would like to commit more of them.  They’re presidents and prime ministers, people like John Howard, George Bush, Tony Blair and many more.  We must create a space to reject them all, to stand for human rights and against the slaughter of innocents.

In the 14 August 2009 issue of Media Watch Dog I wrote about you under the title “New Matilda’s Old Obsessions”. It was part of a series of comments which reflected on some exaggerated remarks made during the week.  The specific reference to you was as follows:

11 August. Writing in New Matilda, Michael Brull declared that the likes of “John Howard, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair” and many more “have committed terrible crimes against the people of the Muslim world and would like to commit more of them.” He provided no evidence of where or when this quartet would like to commit the said crimes.

 

A comparison of the two texts indicates that my quote was accurate and honest.  Contrary to your claim in your email dated 29 October 2009, you did state that Messers Blair, Bush, Clinton and Howard would like to commit more terrible crimes against people of the Muslim world.

You seem somewhat out of your depth.  If you do not wish to be quoted unfavourably – my advice is that you should desist from making wild, hyperbolic and undocumented comments in the first place.

I would also advise that you be more sophisticated in your writing.  It is ludicrous to suggest that an event which has not happened – i.e. “the possibility of an attack on Iran” – is a crime. Also, your claim that “the bombing of Pakistan” amounts to a “crime against the Muslim world” overlooks the fact that the military action against the Taliban in Pakistan is being undertaken by the Pakistani Defence Force.  As you should know, Pakistan is a Muslim country.

The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are currently being killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are being murdered by radical Islamists. I do not recall that you have criticised these murders.  Nor, do I recall that you have ever acknowledged that Arab citizens of Israel have many more democratic rights than Arabs of any Arab nation.

Gerard Henderson

Email to Gerard Henderson from Michael Brull 30 October 2009

Dear Mr Henderson,

I don’t know why you quoted your own passage in full again. I quoted it in full for you: do you think I forgot it?

As you should have realised in what I wrote, I said that there are extremists in the west, who comprise two categories, those who have committed crimes against the Muslim world, and those who would like to commit more. As examples, I gave presidents and prime ministers. I think you should be able to realise by now, everyone I cited could be taken as an illustration of the former category (those who have committed crimes). Western extremists might be people like say Daniel Pipes, or Alan Howe, or perhaps Greg Sheridan. Regardless, those I cited were obviously not intended as illustrative of the second category, and what I wrote implies they belong to one of the two categories, not both.

On Iran: well, I think you might find that threatening to bomb Iran (which Israel has done) is a crime under international law. But again, my point was that this was a crime that some might like to see committed against the Muslim world. I understand you think Muslims enjoy being bombed, and don’t consider it a crime against them. I find it a little incredible that you think to point out to me that Pakistan is Muslim, when it’s an example I cited. I don’t see why the complicity of the Pakistani government in what I was talking about – specifically, the drone attacks, which have killed hundreds of Pakistani civilians – somehow means it isn’t a crime. Do you realise how hated the US is for these attacks? Or does the opinion of the Muslim world not matter to you?

You conclude by implying that I’m not critical enough of Muslim and Arab human rights violations. If you read what I wrote, you would see, for example, that I specifically am critical of the West for its support of tyrannies like the House of Saud. Are you in print criticising it? You shouldn’t find it hard to see that I have been extremely critical of it, and Obama for his endorsement of the graciousness and wisdom of the Saudi King. And also the misogynist warlords we support in Afghanistan. And for that matter, the radical Islamists we have supported in Iraq.

I’m also not sure what you seek to prove by your reference to Israel. It is true that I do not recite Israeli MFA talking points. Palestinian citizens of Israel do indeed have more democratic rights than Arabs in Saudi Arabia. Would you say the same applies to Palestinian non-citizens of Israel living in the occupied territories? Or do they simply not count?

Yours

Michael Brull

Email to Michael Brull from Gerard Henderson 30 October 2009

Mr Brull

Your email of today is so badly written it is almost incoherent.

Clearly, you are in denial.  You did refer to John Howard, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as Western extremists who (allegedly) have committed terrible crimes against the people of the Muslim world and who (allegedly) would like to commit more crimes.  It is denial to now claim otherwise.  And your implied claim that the likes of Daniel Pipes, Alan Howe and Greg Sheridan would like to commit crimes against the Muslim people is bizarre, defamatory and unproven.

Your assertion that I believe that “Muslims enjoy being bombed” is an invention of your imagination and unsupported by any evidence. You should be able to do better than this.

For the record, I note that you still have not objected to – or even recognised – the fact that the overwhelming majority of terror attacks on Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are currently carried out by militant Islamists.

As far as I am concerned, this correspondence is concluded.

Gerard Henderson

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