Month: May 2012

The Shabiha In Syria

Fifteen months on, some 13,000+ killed, 100,000s injured and about half a million people displaced in Syria and finally, the role of the Shabiha is being questioned in the Western media.

Ghosts of Syria: diehard militias who kill in the name of Assad:

“”Women, children and old men were shot dead,” Syria’s foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, told reporters this week. “This is not the response of the heroic Syrian army.”

Then who did kill 108 people in Houla, including 49 children, in cold blood? The answer appears to lie with the armed civilian militias from nearby Alawite villages, who are known to Syrians as shabiha, from the Arabic word for ghosts.

The term initially referred to shadowy gangs of smugglers who grew up around the coastal city of Latakia in the 1970s, and whose immunity from law seemed to come from their tribal and village connections to the ruling Assad family.

These early shabiha thrived under the wary eye of President Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, and for good reason. In 1980s, with Syrian troops occupying Lebanon and its economy crippled by goods shortages, smuggling goods across the Lebanese border became one of the best ways for well-connected Syrians to make money.

One result of this illicit economy was a reserve army of loosely employed, poor young men from the Alawite offshoot of Shia Islam that has proved very useful to a regime that has made paranoia about enemies, real and imagined, the cornerstone of its survival.”

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David Hirsh On The Merchant Of Venice And Habima

Over at Engage, David Hirsh has scrutinized, picked apart and provided informed cultural analysis on Shakespeare’s Merchant Of Venice within the context of Habima, and some decidedly non-Shakespearean bigots

“When I see a production of the Merchant of Venice, it is always the audience which unsettles me. The play tells two stories which relate to each other. One is the story of Shylock, a Jewish money lender who is spat on, excluded, beaten up, and in the end mercilessly defeated and humiliated. The other is an apparently light-hearted story about an arrogant, rich, self-absorbed young woman, clever but not wise, pretty but not beautiful, and her antisemitic friends. Shakespeare inter-cuts the grueling detailed scenes of the bullying of Shylock, with the comedic story of Portia’s love-match with a loser who has already frittered away his large inheritance.

Shakespeare offers us an intimately observed depiction of antisemitic abuse, and each time the story reaches a new climax of horribleness, he then offers hackneyed and clichéd gags, to see if he can make us laugh. It is as if he is interested in finding out how quickly the audience forgets Shylock, off stage, and his tragedy. And the answer, in every production I’ve ever seen, is that the audience is happy and laughing at second rate clowning, within seconds. And I suspect that Shakespeare means the clowning and the love story to be second rate. He is doing something more interesting than entertaining us. He is playing with our emotions in order to show us something, to make us feel something.”

Ben White Indulges His Hatred Of Jews

Ben White is an anti-Israeli obsessive, who once said he could understand antisemitism.

Since then he and his apologists have indulged in a touch of backtracking, but every now and again his mask slips as with White’s recent tweet which caricatured Howard Jacobson:

“If you need another reason to support a
boycott of Habima, I present a massive
picture of Howard Jacobson’s face
https://twitter.com/SFV4I/status/206460553743446017/photo/1/large

Now you will appreciate that Ben White has nothing against Jews, in fact, some of his best friends are….

Yeah, right…

Update 1: Just in case the penny drops and White realises the racist implications of his tweet then seeks to remove the evidence:

The Habima Theatre Of Israel, For Want Of Rational Discussion

At the moment I am not much of a theatre goer but I thought this guest post at False Dichotomies asked relevant questions of those who support BDS:

“I tried to talk to the group making their brave stand next to me. I pointed some of the above out, by way of introduction. The women to my immediate left stared vacantly past me, possessed of her own righteousness. “What of the 5 million Palestinians who don’t have a voice”, she said to herself, as I attempted to find out what she knew of the siege of Nahr El-Bared by the Lebanese army in 2007 as compared with the Battle of Jenin in 2002 – whether, as people often wonder, Palestinian suffering counts when it is inflicted by the Lebanese, or Syrians, or Jordanians, or themselves – by anyone, in fact, but the Jews.

No reply.

Perhaps the best one of the night – and this is not saying much – came when a man stood up and pompously intoned “do the Palestinians not have eyes” and “if you prick us, do we not bleed” as he was taken out. Someone told him to piss off, to gales of laughter. As Shylock hesitated on stage, a voice cried out for him to carry on, “we’re all with you”. And, bar a lone woman shouting out that Israel was an apartheid state built on stolen Palestinian land in the street outside, that was it. To her, and all the others I saw in action tonight, I would ask the following questions.

Why are you unable, for the most part, to engage in rational discussion with people about the issues you protest? Why does the BDS movement appear to reject a solution that reflects the aspirations of both peoples for independence and self-determination?

Why is your “justice” so partial, so one-sided?

Why are you so palpably consumed by hatred?

Why do you never, ever, address the appalling treatment of the Palestinians by the countries in which they are left to rot in refugee camps? Why do you not recognise that it is impossible to turn the clock back to 1948? Why are you so obsessed with the need to self-aggrandize yourself in actions which merely make you look foolish and ignorant and do nothing to contribute to a better future for the people you purport to represent? ” [my emphasis.]

Panorama: Neofascism In The Ukraine.

This evening’s BBC Panorama programme investigated neofascism and football in the Ukraine and it was horrific to watch.

The blurb states:

“With just days to go before the kick-off of the Euro 2012 championships, Panorama reveals shocking new evidence of racist violence and anti-semitism at the heart of Polish and Ukrainian football and asks whether tournament organiser UEFA should have chosen both nations to host the prestigious event.

Reporter Chris Rogers witnesses a group of Asian fans being attacked on the terraces of a Ukrainian premier league match and hears anti-Semitic chanting at games in Poland. And with exclusive access to a far right group in Ukraine which recruits and trains football hooligans to attack foreigners, Panorama asks: how safe will travelling football teams and their supporters be at this summer’s European festival of football? “

It is available on the BBC Iplayer and will be rebroadcast on Thu 31 May 2012, 04:30 – BBC News Channel, Fri 1 Jun 2012, 01:35 – BBC One and Sun 3 Jun 2012, 20:30 – BBC News Channel.

Also see the HOPE not hate blog.

Dennis Skinner And David Cameron

The comparison between David Cameron and Dennis Skinner is stark, as an unlikely source reminds us about the Tories:

“Two thirds of the Cabinet — 18 out of 29 ministers — were millionaires, the new Cabinet “rich list” found.

Wealth-X, a consultancy specialising in analysing the financial affairs of US politicians, based its figures on salaries as well as declared shares and properties.

The consultancy’s analysts estimated Mr Cameron’s net worth at £3.8million, with liquid assets of £190,000 from current and previous salaries – half as much as President Barack Obama.

His fortune was in part self-made and from “property, most likely funded from parents/inheritance”.

The analysis also forecast that the combined wealth of Mr and Mrs Cameron was likely to rise sharply in coming years because they would inherit an estimated £25.3 million. “

The Indy describes Skinner’s relationship with Cameron:

“Then along came David Cameron, who seemed to think that a really clever way to put down the veteran socialist was to ridicule him for being old. Replying to a barbed question about the former Downing Street spin doctor, Andy Coulson, Mr Cameron told him: “I often say to my children, ‘no need to go to the Natural History Museum to see a dinosaur, come to the House of Commons’.” At another session, last month, the Prime Minister ignored the question altogether, and peevishly remarked: “He has the right at any time to take his pension – and I advise him to do so.”

Some of Parliament’s older MPs were offended to hear a youngish Prime Minister imply that someone should shut up because he is no longer young. Mr Cameron took note and last Wednesday adopted a very different tone. Challenged again by Mr Skinner, a contrite Mr Cameron replied: “My last response to him was a bit more sharp than it should have been and I hope he will accept my apologies.”

As far as Mr Skinner is concerned, the apology was pointless because the insults were water off a duck’s back. “I don’t let that worry me – never have. I think it diminishes him,” he said.”

Some of Dennis Skinner’s better quotes.

Tony Blair at Leveson Inquiry

The Guardian’s coverage of the Leveson Inquiry is good and they have allocated a slot for Tony Blair’s contribution.

Update 1: Surprisingly. the Leveson Inquiry doesn’t seem to have an official channel on YouTube, but there are others.

The Leveson Inquiry by ITN News Channel.

YouTube – Leveson Inquiry auto-generated by YouTube.

Update 2: CNN has a good summary:

“The Leveson Inquiry was established after British public anger at Murdoch’s News of the World about the hacking of voice messages of a missing teenage girl who turned out to have been murdered.

The case of Milly Dowler came on top of apologies from the tabloid for the hacking of the phones of celebrities and politicians, and proved to be the last straw for the paper, which was shut down in July.

Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry to explore press ethics in Britain more widely, alongside a police investigation into phone hacking, e-mail hacking and police bribery by people working for Murdoch’s British newspapers.

More than 50 people have been arrested. Prosecutors this month announced charges against six people, including Rebekah Brooks, a former News of the World and Sun editor who later became chief executive of News International, the British newspaper publishing arm of Murdoch’s News Corp.

She, her husband and four others are charged with interfering with the police investigation.

Blair’s former director of communications said this month that the relationship between the press and the political elite in Britain was too cozy.

“I’ve been arguing for some years (that the relationship) got itself into a very, very bad place, and I hope it can lead to change,” Alastair Campbell told CNNI’s Christiane Amanpour.

“It’s not just about Rupert Murdoch,” he said. “We have a lot of newspapers in a geographically fairly small country. … And I think any political leader has to take account of the role they play in the political debate.”

Campbell, a former newspaper editor who became Blair’s spokesman when the Labour party was in opposition in the 1990s, said he hoped “some form of proper regulation” would arise from the hacking and bribery scandal. “

Update 3: My mistake, the Inquiry’s web site does provide video even if it is not obvious, on their hearings page. Still, a pity you can’t download them without a degree of mucking about, etc etc

Syrian Government: Was The Martians What Did It

No, they didn’t say that, but they could have.

If you took the trouble to listen to the early reports of the massacre in Houla, Syria then you could be forgiven for wondering how the Syrian government would respond.

Instead of admitting that they have tanks and heavy artillery, and that the Syrian opposition none.

Instead of admitting that they have slaughtered more and more civilians, and done so in the last 15 months, the Syrian government is blaming someone else.

They might as well have blamed Martians, such is the cynical obscenity of their excuses.

There is no logic, no reason, no plausible denial, no humanity, nothing, just the daily murder of Syrian civilians by the Assad regime.

Yet this farce goes on in the West, where instead of admitting that the Syrian government have consciously slaughtered more than 13,000 people in the past 15 months, the Western media sometimes leave the culpability open.

Martin Chulov describes the terrible killing at Houla:

“In a few short hours, the town of Houla joined the sorry list of localities whose names have become synonymous with the merciless slaughter of civilians. Srebrenica. Nyarubuye. My Lai. Up to now, the Syrian conflict has killed 13,000 people. But until this weekend, it had yet to include the mass slaughter of nursery-age infants.

“The shelling started around 3pm,” said Abu Jaffour. “I was in the fields at the time and we tried to reach the area being bombed. It took us three hours to get there. When I reached the houses it was dreadful. I was carrying babies’ bodies that had parts of their heads hanging out.”

A second Houla resident, Imm Mowafik, said that nightfall brought more brutality. “The Shabiha [pro-regime civilian militias] came into town from the direction of the Allawite villages. They entered from five to seven checkpoints and were killing people in their homes. We could hear the shots and nobody could help them.” Abu Jaffour said: “We have buried around 110 martyrs and there are still some people under the rubble. Twenty-two of the children are nursery age.”

Last night, the UN security council convened an emergency session to discuss what the White House called a “vile testament to an illegitimate regime”. The foreign secretary, William Hague, will arrive in Moscow on Monday to take up the matter with Assad’s closest security council ally, Russia. The UN special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, whose tattered peace plan remains in effect on paper alone, will head for Damascus on an emergency mission to stop the crisis from unravelling even further. “

Update 1: The Guardian gives space to an Assad apologist, Patrick Searle. He argues this nonsense:

“Major-General Robert Mood, the Norwegian head of the UN observer mission, has been cautious in pointing the finger of blame for Friday’s Houla killings: “Whatever I learned on the ground in Syria … is that I should not jump to conclusions.” Probably, the truth is that the two sides share the responsibility.

Which is flatly contradicted by this piece from Reuters:

“The letter from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which was obtained by Reuters, said the observers “viewed the bodies of the dead and confirmed from an examination of ordnance that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential neighbourhood.” “

Patrick Searle doesn’t even think on as to who has artillery and tanks? Oh, yes, the Syrian government.

Update 2: I haven’t follow Searle before, but he has form, Patrick Seale, Assad Apologist, Welcomes the New Cold War.

Update 3: I remember Asa Winstanley doing an appalling piece for RT which minimalised the Syrian government’s culpability, but this article explains their role in greater detail:

“While it’s unsurprising that the network’s coverage of the Syrian uprising would track closely with positions staked out by the Kremlin—for example, when Russia vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the regime, an RT correspondent stressed that the resolution “could have sent an unbalanced signal to all sides of the conflict”—RT hasn’t simply promoted an anti-interventionist or anti-NATO viewpoint. Instead, it has frequently parroted Assad’s narrative by providing a platform for paranoiacs and conspiracy theorists to dispute that civilians are being killed by the regime, accuse America and Israel of being behind the deaths of Syrian civilians, and argue that the government in Damascus is a beacon of tolerance in the region. “

Gerard Donovan, Israel And Ireland

The novelist, Gerard Donovan, has been targeted by anti-Israeli activists as Ha’aretz reported recently:

“Irish writer Gerard Donovan has attacked the pro-Palestinian boycott movement for trying to “bully” him to abstain from visiting Israel and take part in the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem this week. Donovan, a prominent novelist and poet, accused the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) of “outright intimidation.”

Over the last few weeks, Donovan has been the focus of a campaign by pro-Palestinian activists to observe a pledge to boycott Israel, signed in 2010 by 219 Irish artists, and not to legitimize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank by participating in the writers’ festival. Open letters and petitions were addressed to him over the internet but Donovan, who is currently living in a cabin in New York and recovering from cancer, said in an interview with the Irish Times that he was unaware of the letters. He explained that he had cancelled his visit two months ago due to his ill health and that the activists were “idiots” for targeting him.

“If I had been well, I would have gone to Jerusalem,” he told the newspaper. “It is the job of the novelists to write things people don’t want to read and to go places where other people don’t want to go. Nobody tells me where I can or cannot read my work. I’m not going to allow myself to be drawn into any political controversy for any people’s ends, I don’t care how many other writers they line up, it is completely irrelevant to me.”

Last week, two Irish bands cancelled concerts in Israel due to pressure from the boycott movement. Cathy Jordan, the leader of Dervish, one of the bands, apologized for the cancellation saying that I wasn’t quite prepared for the extent of the venom directed at us.” Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter accused the activists of “cyberbullying.” “

Donovan Gerard is not giving in to their bullying. He replied in the Irish Times:

“I have always had a mistrust of organised mobs. I marched against one in the 1970s beside my father, who was active in the Itinerant Settlement Committee, along with a handful of others. Our family used to get bullets in envelopes, and my father made the front page of The Irish Times getting himself beaten up. Everyone has certain memories branded on to their young minds – that day is one of mine. Even if those mobs have in time changed to keyboard warriors expressing a more cultivated umbrage, the threats are still threats.

My brother Richard, a high-profile figure in the ultramarathon world, reached out to Dr Deane by email and phone.

There followed an exchange of emails. I would have imagined that Dr Deane would have welcomed dialogue with a leading sports figure. Instead, he terminated my brother’s polite and thoughtful points, including the obvious one that sports and politics should never mix, with the following response: “This discussion, as far as I am concerned, is hereby terminated. And further reply from you will go to spam.” “

(H/T: Eamonn McDonagh)

A View Of Anti-Zionists, The CST’s Take

The CST does the admirable job of providing security, assistance and help to the Jewish community in Britain.

But not only that, its annual reports detail the rise (and occasional dip) in antisemitism.

Further, the CST blog describes in detail instances of racism towards Jews and is a required reading for anyone seriously opposed to antisemitism.

Boycott Israel: Zionists are “the most hateful people imaginable”, their latest entry looks at the inflammatory and disparaging language which is invariably found within boycott Israelis type groupings:

“The website of the London branch of the boycott Israel movement (the people who intend to disrupt next week’s Israeli performances of The Merchant of Venice), carries an article stating that Zionists are

the most hateful people imaginable

The boycott Israel article also describes Zionism as:

a murderous, parasitic doctrine

Dehumanisation and demonisation are the basic building blocks of racism and racist violence. Zionism is a political choice, so anti-Zionism is not exactly racism.

Still, most Jews are Zionists; and Zionism is inextricably linked with Jews, Judaism and Jewish history. To be a Zionist in a post-Holocaust world is, for many Jews, simply the most basic issue of survival.

In 2010, JPR’s survey showed that 72% of British Jews self-categorise as “Zionist”.

If Zionists are “the most hateful people imaginable” then surely Zionists, as well as Israel, ought to be boycotted? Hell, Zionists probably deserve a good kicking also. After all, who ever complained when neo-Nazi skinheads get assaulted?

So, if you dehumanise and demonise Zionists there will be an antisemitic outcome.

Nobody asks Jewish victims a survey about Zionism before hitting them over the head, or trying to burn down their synagogue, or trying to murder children at a Jewish Primary school. (Indeed, this is why the anti-Zionist leftists have nothing to say about any of this, not even when it comes down to dead children.)”

[My emphasis on last part.]

Such rabble-rousing language amongst anti-Zionists is all too common and has filtered into the mainstream, evidenced by the content of Comment Is Free or the thinking behind BBC’s HARDtalk, as another CST post demonstrated:

“Jewish conspiracy theory is fundamental to antisemitism. It relies on the notion of Jewish wealth and power, working against the rest of society. It is commonly expressed as Jews controlling politicians and the media.

This does not render discussion of Jewish political and media influence illegitimate. It does, however, require discussion of them to be sensitive and careful. If one is not discussing a Jewish conspiracy, then a responsible journalist should say so, explicitly. For example, Peter Oborne knew the antisemitic risks in his Channel 4 programme, ‘Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby’. He explicitly stated that he had found no conspiracy, nor anything resembling one. (Sadly, the risks were made clear when many of those covering the programme made no such distinctions.)

Unfortunately, BBC’s flagship HARDtalk programme took no such care in its recent interview with the controversial Norman Finkelstein. On the contrary, the interview proceeded as if American foreign policy is beholden to Israel and that this can only be explained by “the Jewish lobby”.

Complaints to the BBC solicited the answer you would expect: this is HARDtalk, so we have to reflect the views of our guest, Norman Finkelstein, and we then robustly challenge those views.”

Questionable Exam Questions, Syria And The EU

There is some debate as to whether or not it was appropriate for an exam paper to ask:

“Explain briefly why some people are prejudiced against Jews.”

My gut feeling was how inappropriate such a question might be for children, and the result of mainstreaming of anti-Jewish racism within academia. We have seen it manifest before.

But on reflection (and I’m glad that Norm seems to agree with me), I think discussing racism is a good idea, even if the wording is poor.

Opening up the subject, not letting it fester away in the corner, but facing all our prejudices, both individual, collective and societal is a good idea.

It helps us address the question, why is antisemitism still prevalent in western societies?

In Syria, according to the BBC there is continued killing of civilians in Rastan. Not unsurprisingly there is little indignation in the Western media concerning the shelling of the defenceless by Assad’s murderous gang.

Elsewhere, Chris Dillow makes an acute observation on Leveson inquiry:

“Tittle-tattle about whether Hunt should resign or not symbolises an ideology that disfigures our politics – the idea that what’s needed for proper decision-making is men of the right character. But this is not enough. You also need the right systems. And these have not been in place. If Hunt does have to resign – and I can think of nothing I care less about – he will pay the price for a political system which over-rates the role of personality and under-rates the role of structure.

Alfred North Whitehead famously said that “civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.” By this standard, government hasn’t advanced very much. “

Over in Egypt.

I have never much followed the Daily Beast but Hussein Ibish is a must read for anyone serious about understanding the Middle East. His, Stop Settler Violence, is a very necessary post.

How much enrichment is really just for medical purposes? You decide:

“There are civilian uses for 20% enriched uranium, but it is also a significant technical step towards producing weapons-grade uranium.

Iran has told the agency it was a mistake in starting up the cascades of centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium.

Nuclear experts say that is plausible. But one senior diplomat in Vienna refused to speculate. “It can happen,” he said, “it needs to be checked”. “

Mystical Politics explains it better.

Apparently, EU to look into antisemitism on continent.

Nativism, Racism And Riots In Tel Aviv

Demagogical politicians and nativism are nothing new.

Across the world from the Balkans to the resurgence of nativism in North America, it is a common political current. However, we are now seeing the consequences of nativism in Israel, race riots.

Noam Sheizaf reports:

“More than 1,000 Israelis protested this evening (Wednesday) against the African refugees and asylum seekers who have settled in South Tel Aviv in recent years. According to eyewitnesses’ reports, the crowd grew angry and ultimately violent, following speeches from Knesset members, including members of the government coalition.

It was one of the most violent protests Tel Aviv has known in recent years. Confrontations were continuing between police and Jewish citizens at around 10:30 p.m. local time.

Dozens of protesters tried to move from the Hatikva neighborhood, where the rally was held, towards Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood, where most African asylum seekers and migrants live. They were stopped by police. Protesters attacked a car passing by carrying African passengers, smashing its windows. Shops associated with the African community were vandalized. [UPDATE: As of midnight, activists in Hatikva are still reporting looting and occasional attacks on immigrants.] “

(more…)

The Anti-gay Pastor, Partisans And Brands

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised when another religious leader comes out with hate speech against Gays, but it is really part of an old 17th century mentality.

I wonder if Pastor Charles L. Worley dreams of burning witches too? The  Long Island Press has more:

“A North Carolina pastor outraged by President Obama’s recent support for same-sex marriage stirred up controversy with an sermon on May 13 in which he suggested gays and lesbians be penned in and made to die off.

“The bible’s against it, God’s against it, I’m against it, and if you’ve got any sense you’re against it,” the pastor, who is identified in the video caption as Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church, told his congregation.

He then enlightened his listeners on how he would opt to get rid of gays and lesbians.

“Build a great, big, large fence,  150 or 100 mile long, put all the lesbians in there,” he said. “Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die.”

“They can’t reproduce,” he said. Of course, straight couples have gay and lesbian children all the time, so the pastor’s idea wouldn’t really kill off all the gays and lesbians, if he somehow managed to build such a concentration camp.

The pastor added that he won’t be voting for Obama, and described him as “a baby killer and a homosexual lover.” “

(more…)

The Colour Of Her Skin

NPR has a piece on the Colour Bar:

“”My Dear Mr. Thompson,

I desire at this time to explain why I want to enter the college and why I believe my application should be granted. If denied admission, I must either abandon my ambition, or go elsewhere to obtain the same advantages which could be made available to me at home. My parents are not well-to-do …”

That was the US in the 1950s, yet Britain had such problems long after, as the BBC reminds us of 1966:

“A West Indian refused a job at Euston Station will now be employed there after managers overturned a ban on black workers.

Two months ago Asquith Xavier, a train guard from Dominica, was refused a transfer from Marylebone Station to Euston because of his colour.

The new job would have meant a pay increase of around £10 a week for Mr Xavier who started work for British Railways (BR) as a porter 10 years ago. “

British Royals Suck Up to Bahrain’s Despot

 

Never one to let human rights get the way of business and old pals Her Majesty’s Government, in the form of  Lilibet, has invited the King of Bahrain to lunch:

“The King of Bahrain, whose regime has been accused of brutally suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations, will have lunch with the Queen in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee.

The Middle East ruler is one of a number of foreign monarchs criticised for their human rights records or extravagant lifestyles who have been invited to dine with the British Royal Family.

Buckingham Palace has released a guest list for the Sovereign Monarchs lunch being held at Windsor Castle – the biggest gathering of foreign royals in the UK since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding last year.

Bahrain’s King Hamad Al-Khalifa has been condemned as a despot by former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane in the run up to the lunch.

The Labour MP said many would regret Foreign Secretary William Hague’s decision to approve the inclusion of the Middle East ruler. But the Foreign Office has stressed it is supporting Bahrain in its attempts to improve its human rights.

Guests from controversial regimes include Swaziland’s King Mswati III, Sheikh Nasser Mohamed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait and Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

Mr MacShane said: “Arab nations must let their citizens vote in free elections and let them speak without fear of arrest, torture or death.

“For too long we have turned a blind eye to the repression carried out under the rule of royals in Arabia.

“The FCO should protect the British Queen rather than expose her to having to dine with a despot.” “

Lest we forget, the Guardian’s page on Bahrain.

Meeting Bahrain’s hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

AI’s page on Bahrain.

(more…)

Ratko Mladic

Ratko Mladic’s trial at the Hague is a welcomed event.

The West’s inaction and complacency in 1995 led to the Srebrenica Massacre and more, carried out by Mladic’s forces.

Since then justice has alluded its victims, but hopefully the ICTY can rectify that situation, to some degree.

However, the arrogance of Mladic is still evident, as the Independent reports:

“Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic taunted Srebrenica survivors on Wednesday at the start of his trial for genocide, running his hand across his throat in a gesture of defiance to relatives of the worst massacre in Europe since World War Two.

Mladic, now 70, flashed a thumbs-up and clapped his hands as he entered the courtroom in The Hague, where he faces possible life imprisonment for allegedly leading the slaughter of 8,000 unarmed Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica in 1995.

In the packed public seating area, a mother of one of the Srebrenica victims whispered “vulture” several times as prosecutors opened their case.

Later, Mladic made eye contact with one of the Muslim women in the audience, running a hand across his throat, in a gesture that led Presiding judge Alphons Orie to hold a brief recess and order an end to “inappropriate interactions.”

Wearing a dark suit and tie, he sat, spectacles in hand, listening intently and jotting notes as prosecutors made their opening remarks.

Prosecutor Dermot Groome said Mladic and other Bosnian Serbs had divided the territory of the former Yugoslavia along ethnic lines and implemented a common plan to exterminate non-Serbs.

“The prosecution will present evidence that will show beyond a reasonable doubt the hand of Mr Mladic in each of these crimes,” he said.

Two dozen mothers of victims of the Srebrenica massacre gathered outside the court, some holding signs, one of which read: “Mladic, the greatest murder of innocent people and children.”

Kada Hotic, who lost her 29-year son, husband and two brothers, said she was worried Mladic might not live long enough for the verdict, like the late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who died during his trial.

Mladic is the last of the main protagonists in the Balkan wars of the 1990s to go on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

He is accused of orchestrating not only the week-long massacre in Srebrenica, at the time a UN “safe haven”, but also the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in which more than 10,000 people were killed by snipers, machineguns and heavy artillery.

The list of charges stemming from his actions as the Serb military commander in the Bosnian war of 1992-95 ranges from genocide to murder, acts of terror and other crimes against humanity. “

I would recommend readers study the Srebrenica Genocide Blog.

Update 1:  This seems to be a good resource, The Mladic Files - An exploration into atrocities in the Balkans and Missteps that led to a tragedy.

Update 2:  Some context to Mladic’s arrest in 2011, Europe’s most wanted arrested.

Update 3: This piece from Richard L Kent is worth a read, Bosnia: After A Decade, It Still Haunts.

LoonWatch, How Not To Combat anti-Muslim bigotry

I have been asked for my view of LoonWatch and feel it might help to air these issues.

I think the issue of anti-Muslim bigotry is a real problems in Western societies. In Britain and Ireland, it is often a mutated form of racism which previously targeted Asians. Now it is used against those from North Africa, the Middle East, their descendants or those seen to have different customs.

Not sure if that descriptions does it full justice, but I imagine my more astute readers will see what I am getting at.

On Twitter

In the past I use to followed LoonWatch on Twitter.

Good Material

Anyway, I wanted to keep up with the extent of racism and bigotry towards Muslims and LoonWatch certainly covers it with vigour.

On their web site, LoonWatch, they publish some commendable articles and posts on anti-Muslim bigotry.

This one on Sweden’s Jews, Muslims Face Web Hate Rise: Study is a good example. As is this Dean Obeidallah: Sacha Cohen’s Movie a Minstrel Show.

Also, they have excellent material on cooperation between Jews and Muslims.

However

Less so their defence of Gunter Grass.

I could put that down to a matter of opinion and give them a pass, but I find their attitude towards anti-Jewish racism a bit unsatisfactory.

I could, without much trouble, find examples of their posts which have questionable language for antiracists to use. Often their comments boxes contain sneering and snide comments, either directly or indirectly aimed at Jews, Israelis or “Zionists”

Conspiracy Theories

I am sure that some of the smarter authors at LoonWatch would recognise that conspiracy theories are integral too many of the Far Rights’ attacks on Muslims. Further, that conspiracy theories are the key to a hardened forms of anti-Jewish racism, such as the Protocols, etc etc

Then to publish a piece which indulges in conspiracy theories and broadbrush demonisation of “Zionists” shows a clear lack of introspection and insight into the issues surrounding racism. Readers with access the Internet will be able to confirm that “Zionist” is a common Far Right euphemism for Jew.

Sensitivities

So there is a need for sensitivity in this area, and I find Loonwatch wanting in that respect.

Having said that, I think there is a dire need for web sites to combat anti-Muslim bigotry, but such sites need to be aware of certain sensitivities, not to cross certain lines, not to invoke, even by stealth, conspiracy theories.

Nevertheless, I did enjoyed their cover of the awful Pam Geller and terrible Robert Spencer.

In short, there is a need for insight and that is what I find lacking at LoonWatch.

I wish them well in their work to combat anti-Muslim bigotry. I just wish they would think a bit more, reflect on what they are getting at, and not generalise as much. If they wish to combat racism they should avoid such practices, as that is what racists and bigots tend to do.

Perhaps they might want to tidy up their comments boxes too?

Greece, Holocaust Denial & Nikolaos Mihaloliakos

The leader of the Greek neo-Nazis has come out as a Holocaust denier.

Yahoo News reports on Nikolaos Mihaloliakos’s malevolent views:

“ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s government and Jewish community on Monday condemned the leader of a far-right party for saying there were no gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps.

Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, whose Golden Dawn party became potential kingmakers after an inconclusive election on May 6, also challenged the view that six million Jews were killed in World War Two.

“There were no ovens, this is a lie … there were no gas chambers either,” Mihaloliakos said on Sunday in an interview on the private Mega television station.

Golden Dawn, whose members give Nazi-style salutes, took nearly 7 percent of the vote in a surge for fringe parties opposed to austerity policies under Greece’s international bailout deal.

Mihaloliakos said the number of six million Jewish victims was an “exaggeration” and that “many people from different nations” died in German concentration camps, just like many Japanese died in U.S. camps.”

I suppose if we were being cynical we shouldn’t be surprised that a neo-Nazi denies the Holocaust? Or that he uses an interview to air his foul opinions.

That’s what they do.

However, this instance confirms one of the many reasons why Holocaust denial must be fought.

Not only does it defame the memory of those killed by the Nazis, but it also seeks to diminish the Nazi’s crimes and in doing so rehabilitate National Socialism as an ideology.

That is why we must all be vigilant, to stop such views entering the mainstream,

Any concession to Holocaust denial, Holocaust deniers or Holocaust revisionists is toxic.

Any organisation or individual that tolerates, excuses or obfuscates on these issues is really a friend of Nikolaos Mihaloliakos.

Remember that next time you see him or his supporters giving a Nazi salute.

Gay Marriage, Politics And the Congo

I suppose one of the rules of politics is never to admit anything, but I confess I had never thought of Gay marriage as such a political issue.

Granted, in parts of puritanical America (or backward bits of the Home Counties) it might cause convulsions or foaming at the mouth, but you might imagine by now most people, most adults, intelligent adults would have got over their hangups about homosexuality.

In the wake of President Obama’s support for Gay marriage I had noticed increasing commentary on this topic.

An Australian couple went all the way to Argentina to get married, because they couldn’t do it in Australia.

The Huff Post reports that 4 Gay men are soon to be hanged.

Pew Research shows changing attitudes in the US.

Norm on Gay marriage and Post-modernism, who else could combine the two? Great linkage and a good point.

Even Israel’s right-wing Vice Prime Minister says the State must recognize gay marriage.

An Oxbridge student makes a very pertinent point on societal racism:

“The fact is that society is self-perpetuating. These inequalities of access and opportunity exist and take their toll long before a black (or, for that matter, ‘relatively disadvantaged’) potential applicant even comes to think about applying. “

The Tablet looks at racism in an Israeli football club, Betar Jerusalem.

Last month Doug Saunders suggested that the US is more progressive than you might think.

A Green argues Gove and Hague: The Contradictions of Social Darwinism.

This Obama ad takes on Mitt Romney.

The Israeli military show how stupid they can be, effectively closing a Palestinian school.

Whilst in the Middle East, I had intended to write a long post on the Palestinian hunger strikers and how the Israeli government should try to come to some accord with them, and get around to implementing habeas corpus, but events passed me by and it seems a deal has been done.

Good for the moment but unless there is solid evidence leading to a trial then those under administrative detention should be released.

Habeas corpus is not a luxury, we cannot go back to the era of lettre de cachet. Habeas corpus needs applying, be it in the Middle East, Guantánamo Bay or Northern Ireland.

Dr. Nabeel Hameed, a Bahraini physician on CNN.

The ADL looks at antisemitic text books:

“The books contain passages contrasting Islam with “the Jews and the Nazis,” as well as descriptions of Jews as a “racist,” “treacherous” and “crafty” people.

The books, A Glance at the life of the Holy Prophet of Islam and Prophet Muhammad: A Brief Biography, justify engagement in violent acts of jihad “whenever the time comes for it,” and claim that the Jews of Medina “conspired to kill Prophet Muhammad” after signing covenants with Muhammad and his early followers.

One of the books even highlights to the reader that the very name “Jew” has become “synonymous for treachery” and “the slaying of prophets.” “

Finally, 7 UN peacekeepers were shot in the Congo. Maternal care and mothers in the Congo.

EDL In The News

The English Defence League are a pile of thick neofascist thugs, that should be plain enough to anyone with the intelligence to read a newspaper:

“MEMBERS of a race hate ‘mob’ have admitted taking part in a violent showdown with Asian rivals in an East Lancashire town.

Supporters of the English Defence League descended on Brierfield last July and were involved in a series of flashpoints with locals.

And 12, including a man previously convicted of causing a serious brain injury to a pubgoer, have now confessed to their roles in the public disorder.

Earlier that day an EDL ‘flash mob’ had also surrounded the Simonstone home of north-west Euro MP Sajjad Karim, with his wife and children trapped inside, police said.

The Conservative MEP said his family, wife Zahida and their two young children Bilal, and Rabia, were left terrified as the mob assembled outside.

Later a 25-strong contingent became involved in a series of incidents in the Colne Road area of Brierfield, police said.”