Middle East

Stop The War: Parroting The Arguments Of A Thuggish Putin

The premier antiwar movement in Britain, the Stop the War Coalition, are in a bit of a bind.

They owe their existence to campaigning against the invasion of Iraq. They actively campaign on the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Yet for years they were silent on Assad’s slaughter of Syrian civilians. For the first years of the Assad dictatorship campaign of mass murder not a word of criticism was heard from Britain’s Stop the War Coalition.

They were always very quick to criticise British and US governments, but could barely mumble a single scornful word against Assad.

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Nevertheless, this time around they have learnt their lesson.

So instead of shuffling their feet and talking about anything else they have issued a statement on the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military involvement in the Crimea.

It is a pitiful piece, that could have been written by one of Putin’s trusted advisers. It is basically soft propaganda for the Russian regime, full of disjointed arguments and non sequiturs

The Economist has thankfully fisked it:

8) The historical divisions within Ukraine are complex and difficult to overcome. But it is clear that many Russian speakers, there and in the Crimea, do not oppose Russia. These countries have the right to independence, but the nature of that independence is clearly highly contested. There is also the reality of potential civil war between east and west Ukraine. The very deep divisions will only be exacerbated by war.

This comment is perhaps the easiest to rebut: Ms German is mistaking the Ukrainian protest movement for the aggressors in the current crisis. The new government in no way threatens Russian-speakers in the Crimea. Moscow, not Kiev, is the preeminent belligerent thus far.

9) Those who demand anti-war activity here in Britain against Russia are ignoring the history and the present reality in Ukraine and Crimea. The B52 liberals only oppose wars when their own rulers do so, and support the ones carried out by our governments. The job of any anti-war movement is to oppose its own government’s role in these wars, and to explain what that government and its allies are up to.

Ms German does not enlighten us on how, precisely, the British government is guilty of “war” against Ukraine or Russia. She also fails to explain why the “job” of an “anti-war” movement is to attack its own passive government while parroting the arguments of a thuggish, illiberal power threatening its neighbour with invasion.

10) The crisis in Ukraine has much to do with the situation in Syria, where major powers are intervening in the civil war. The defeat for intervention last year has infuriated the neocons. They are determined to start new wars. After the US failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, the neocons are looking for a defeat of Russia over Ukraine, and by extension, China too. The situation is developing into a new cold war. The rivalry between the west and Russia threatens to explode into a much larger war than has been seen for many years.

Again, Ms German conveniently ignores interventions in Syria by those “major powers” that she finds more palatable than the US or Britain—Iran and Russia. That, and her comment about China, suggests a preference for illiberal non-Western powers over liberal Western ones. It is an oddly one-sided comparison: she delights in listing Western flaws (real and imagined) while unquestioningly accepting anti-Western dogma. For one who leads an organisation committed to “stopping the war”, it is a fatal error.”

Update 1:I have commented on Russia’s role in Syria before.

Refugees From Assad’s Campaign of Murder

The level of ambivalence found in the West towards the mass death of Syrian civilians is truly grotesque.

In March 2014 it will be the three year anniversary of the conflict, which started with peaceful protests and continues with the Syrian government dropping barrel bombs.

Nearly three whole years of slaughter. A point to ponder.

This map shows only one aspect of the conflict, mass refugees.

HIU_syria1

We need to be under no illusion that the cause of suffering in Syria is placed squarely at the feet of the Assad government and their allies, Russia, China and Iran. The latter countries have fuelled the conflict from the outset and propped up Syria’s murderous dictatorship.

What I find most galling in the West is the denial of basic facts about the Assad regime. Westerners seem to have an infinite amount of concern about the Middle East until it affects real people.

Hussein Ibish, one of the most intelligent Middle East commentators, re-enforces that point by asking “Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk are being starved to death by the Syrian regime. Does anyone care?”

Please do read it:

“There isn’t much the Palestinian people haven’t suffered. But the use of enforced starvation against them by the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad at the Yarmouk refugee camp breaks new ground in cruelty. Hundreds are said to be facing imminent death by starvation, lack of water and medical care, and the loss, for almost a year now, of all heat and electricity.

The crucial thing is not simply that Assad and his allies – Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia – must be held fully and completely responsible for this outrage. It must also be noted that the international community and the Arab world are not doing enough to respond to it, practically or politically. They have done virtually nothing as Yarmouk’s pre-war population of 250,000 has shrunk in the past three years to 18,000 famished, cowering, and shivering souls.

Those who still worship at the altar of the false idol of “resistance” and see Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies as the embodiment of the Arab cause are not simply disingenuous or delusional propagandists. Their thinking – not even, but especially, if it is sincere – is profoundly sick.”

I have covered Syria elsewhere.

Fake Quotes And Nelson Mandela

As I commented elsewhere, even before Nelson Mandela’s body was cold various cynical operators were trying to expropriate his memory.

As distasteful as that is, it is to be expected. Political activists have axes to grind and often very little self-awareness.

They cannot understand when they are being tasteless, silly or cynical. That applies across the political spectrum from the Left to the extremes of the Right.

However, there are no excuses for using fake quotes.

These are very common in the arena of debate on the Middle East.

Regrettably, the speaker and personality Mohammed Ansar has allowed himself to be manipulated in this area.
MoAnsar1

Mohammed Ansar may have had the best of intentions. But it is incredibly sloppy for anyone in the lime-light, with access to Google. Public figures and organisations on Twitter need to take extra care.

We know this is fake because the original author, Arjan El Fassed, admits it.

Even the Electronic Intifada site acknowledges that fact:

Editor’s note, 28 June 2013: This article was written by Arjan El Fassed in 2001 in the satirical style then being employed by Thomas Friedman, of writing mock letters from one world leader to another. Although it carries El Fassed’s byline, it has been repeatedly mistaken for an actual letter from Mandela. It is not. It is a piece of satire. El Fassed has written this history of the piece and how it subsequently was mistaken for a real letter, on his personal blog.” [My emphasis.]

My own view is, by all means criticise any government for their actions or deeds, but don’t get pulled into demonisation or use fake quotes. In the age of Google there is no excuse.

World Socialist Web Site: Doing PR for Assad

Cherry picking is not just confined to fruit.
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It is incredibly popular amongst politicos. Such an approach can be seen from the World Socialist Web Site’s defence of the Assad government on the Houla massacre.

A copy is left below as a public record, as the original was recently removed!


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confirms: Houla massacre committed by Syrian “rebels”

By
Clara Weiss

16 June 2012

On June 13, journalist Rainer Hermann confirmed his earlier report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung refuting the official version of the Houla massacre in Syria.

The media have almost unanimously described the May 25 events in Houla as an atrocity committed by the Syrian government, relying almost exclusively on reports from the so-called “rebels.” Western powers have used the massacre as a pretext to whip up pro-war sentiment and intensify their pressure on the Assad regime. The US and UK reacted to the massacre by withdrawing diplomats from Syria.

In his June 7 report, Hermann asserted that the victims of the massacre in Taldou, a village in the Houla region, were members of the Alawite und Shi’ite minorities and that the killers were not troops loyal to the Assad regime, but forces aligned with the Sunni-based sectarian Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Although the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is one of the most prominent German-language newspapers and Hermann a well-known journalist, the report has largely been ignored by the German and international media and criticized in a few reports.

In his new article June 13, Hermann defends his reporting and adds further details about the massacre. This report has also been met largely with silence.

The Houla plains region, Hermann writes, “is burdened by a long history of sectarian tensions. … Of the names of the civilians killed, 84 are known. These are the fathers, mothers and 49 children of the Al Sayyid family and two branches of the Abdarrazzaq family. … Additionally killed in Taldou were relatives of the … member of parliament Abdalmuti Mashlab.”

Hermann goes on to describe what happened: “The family members were targeted and killed with only one exception. No neighbour was injured. One had to have knowledge of the place to carry out these well-planned executions”.

Hermann then quotes 11-year-old Ali, the only member of the Al Sayyid family to survive the bloodbath: “Those responsible had shaved heads and long beards”. In Hermann’s opinion, this points to “fanatical jihadists” and not the Shabiha militia.

The version of the event advanced in the global media, in particularly lurid fashion by Britain’s Observer and Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, blames the Shabiha militias, regarded as assault detachments of the Assad regime. These articles rely on the testimony of a Major Jihad Raslan, said to have first served in Assad’s army, who then deserted because he was so appalled by the “events in Houla”. Hermann’s article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung exposes these reports as a bunch of lies.

Hermann reconstructs the sequence of events as follows: “After the Friday prayers on May 25, more than 700 armed people led by Abdurrazzaq Tlass and Yahya Yusuf, forming three groups from Rastan, Kafr Laha and Akraba, attacked three army checkpoints around Taldou. The numerically superior rebels and the (mostly also Sunni) soldiers fought bloody battles in which two dozen soldiers, mostly conscripts, were killed. During and after the fighting the rebels, supported by residents of Taldou, wiped out the Al Sayyid and Abdarrazzaq families. They had refused to join the opposition”.

In his article, Hermann refers to earlier reports by other journalists and nuns from the Jacob Monastery in Qara. Nuns had described to Dutch journalist Martin Jannsen how the “rebels” piled the bodies of dead soldiers and civilians in front of the mosque and told UN observers their version of the alleged massacre in front of cameras from “rebel”-friendly television channels.

The nun Agnès-Maryam had already described the escalation of sectarian violence around Homs in an open letter toward the end of April. She warned of a step-by-step liquidation of all minorities by the Sunni “rebels” and described the displacement of Christians and Alawites from their homes and the rape of young girls who had been given to the “rebels” as spoils of war.

Herman also refers to Russian journalist Marat Musin, who works for the Anna news agency and was in Houla on May 25 and 26, thus becoming an eyewitness to the events as well as a reporter. So far, Musin seems to have given the most detailed description of what took place. His version coincides with Hermann’s and that of the nuns on all decisive points.

These reports and the latest article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confirm that Syria is being ravaged by a civil war deliberately promoted by Western powers to destabilize the country and prepare it for regime-change. The rebels do not speak for the majority of the population. They are made up of former members of the regime, soldiers, mercenaries, terrorists and secret agents pursuing a reactionary political agenda, many of them using the support by the West to settle old scores and carry out sectarian conflicts.

International news media are supporting the war preparations of US imperialism and its allies in an unprecedented campaign of agitation and propaganda. That is why Hermann’s article and the well-documented reports of other journalists and eyewitnesses are mostly being hushed up.

Human Rights Watch on Syria:

“On May 25, at least 108 residents of Houla near Homs were also killed, most shot at close range. According to survivors and local activists, it was pro-government armed men who were responsible for the executions. In late August, residents from the Damascus suburbs of Daraya and Moadamiya also described finding hundreds of bodies following ground operations there. Some of the victims appeared to have been executed by government forces.”

I have covered Syria many times before.

On Syria

Syria and the West are intimate friends. For years Western leaders courted Bashar Assad, arguing he was a moderate and a vehicle of change. Vogue even produced a propaganda edition on the Assad family. Elsewhere, Russia and China continued to support and supplied buckets of armaments to the Syrian dictatorship or shuffle their feet at the UN.

queenAssad1a With a few notable exceptions, many Western activists simply coughed and looked the other way when the various Assads committed atrocities, as Galloway argued in June 2011:

“The BBC, Galloway complained, is denouncing Syria for using Apache helicopters to attack its own people. “I’ve never understood,” said Galloway, “why it is worse to kill your own people than other people’s people.” The BBC had cheered a week or 10 days earlier for Apache helicopters used by Britain to kill Libyans. The problem with Syria, Galloway said, is not that it’s run by the latest Adolf Hitler of the month, but that it harbors Palestinian leadership, supports Lebanese national resistance, and refused to participate in the attack on Iraq.” [My emphasis.]

That was good enough for them, deliberately forgetting Assad’s unsavoury allies.

Yet there is a foul stench that pervades any discussion on Syria, the inability to stop a dictator from openly murdering civilians for 2½ years. The West in terms of political leaders and supposed “activists” have given this smiling dictator an easy time. Complacency has rules from March 2011 onwards, with Westerners largely hoping that the slaughter in Syria would go away, all by itself.  MIDAEST SYRIA UK

Syria is not far from Europe. A mere 300 miles from Cyprus. A relatively quick trip from Italy, under three hours in a plane. Just over 4½ hours from London but it could as well be a world away, whilst the Assad regime carried on torture and murder, under Russia and China’s protection and it slipped down the media priorities.

Leaving aside the question of intervention for the moment, the inability of Westerners to inform themselves on the nature of the Assad dictatorship is exceedingly troubling. From 1963 coup d’etat to the later one in 1970 when Hafez Assad took power, civil rights were never on the agenda. However, Western Human Rights organisations have covered abuses over the years and those with access to the Internet have no excuse.

Human Rights Watch reports on Syria: 1997, 2000,2002,2010,2013.

Amnesty International reports on Syria: 1995, 2000, 2007, 2011, 2012.

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Greenbelt: British Christians, Syria And Assad

A yearly Christian festival has come in for criticism to the extent that Greenbelt felt compelled to put out a Statement on Israel/Palestine programming by Greenbelt. Whilst there is the broader question of, whether or not Westerners should be interfering in the Middle East, there should be no circumscription on criticising the human-rights record of any governments. Any.

cross1 There is much to criticise in the Middle East and the Israeli government is not immune from it. The continued occupation in the West Bank. The treatment of immigrants to Israel and the rise of right-wing racist ideas. However, we must not forget that it has been Israelis at the very forefront of these issues and opposing their own government.  That opposition takes various forms from the human-rights organisations, such as B’Tselem to Rabbis For Human Rights and beyond.

Where it is, Syria?

Except that Israel is not the only country in the Middle East.

Nor is it the only one connected to the Christian faith and therefore of interest to many Westerners or festivalgoers at Greenbelt.

I could not help notice a strange omission from the festival programme, any mention of Syria. Whilst it has slid down the news agenda, the 2½ year conflict involves many millions, with probably over 120,000 dead, millions of refugees flooding into neighbouring countries and should deserve at least one word of commentary. I thought it was a peculiar oversight, but then, is it?

I wondered, could it be that those fixated with Israeli misdemeanours give the rulers of Syria an easy time? There is one whole article on the Greenbelt site relating to Syria, whereas the search result on “Israel” amount to 7 pages of searches, 63 entries.

A Hypothesis.

The  hypothesis, that strident and negative views on Israel would lead to a bias in reporting of the Middle East needed testing, the question was how?

Well, I supposed that choosing the most strident Christian critics of the Israelis I could think of might prove illuminating. Surely, I reasoned, they could not fail to indict Bashar Assad for instigating the conflict in Syria? Or using tank shells and aircraft on unarmed civilians?

All of this did not happened overnight. The conflict started in March 2011 when the Syrian government decided to shoot peaceful demonstrators. The Western media begun to document the abuse by the Assad regime, including disappearances and regular use of torture.

I thought that even the harshest adversary of the Israelis would not be so lopsided as to moderate their acerbic attitudes when it came to the quasi-dictatorship in Syria.
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Rod Liddle’s Open Racism At The Spectator

specy1

This post is a public record, because I would expect that Rod Liddle’s open display of racism at the Spectator will soon be removed.

It is utterly senseless and disgusting.

Therefore, it is worthwhile recording Liddle’s racism and its appalling implications:

“I was slightly puzzled by the early media reports of the appalling murder in Woolwich and particularly the wrangling over whether or not this could be called ‘a terrorist attack’. Does it make much difference? Two black savages hacked a man to death while shouting Allahu Akbar; that’s really all you need to know, isn’t it? In a sense calling it an act of terrorism somehow dignifies the barbarism. The media will now go into crowd-control mode and tell us how all Muslims are as shocked by this attack as are the rest of us and how Islam is a peaceable religion. No, it isn’t.

All credit to the woman police officer who shot the scumbags, although I suspect we will soon have an inquest into why it took the ‘boyden’ (that’s ghetto slang for police, apparently, dear readers) took 20 minutes to arrive. “

It is like reading a commentary from a 1970′s National Front member: bigoted, stupid and openly racist.

Update 1:  That page vanished but not before a screenshot was taken:

rliddle1

Update 2: At this time, I can’t see much of the media taking Liddle to task for his racism, but the Huff Post covers it, Rod Liddle’s ‘Two Black Savages’ Spectator Blog Draws Accusations Of Racism.

If any readers find good links on this issue please do leave a comment, I will try and update the post.

Update 3: I had forgotten about Liddle’s previous form in this area. Spectator to pay out £5,625 over Rod Liddle’s Stephen Lawrence article:

“The Spectator has been ordered to pay £5,625 in fines and compensation for breaching reporting restrictions over a Rod Liddle comment piece published during the trial of Stephen Lawrence’s killers.

Judge Howard Riddle ordered the publisher of the Spectator to pay a fine of £3,000, plus £2,000 in compensation for distress to Lawrence’s parents, in a hearing at Westminster magistrates’ court in central London on Thursday morning.

The Spectator pleaded guilty to breaching a court order with the Liddle article, published in November 2011 at a key moment in the trial.”

Update 4: I think Liddle’s comments reflect a wider racism towards Muslims in British society. The antiracist campaign, Tell Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (MAMA), summarizes part of that racism as:

“•632 anti-Muslim hate incidents reported to ‘MAMA’ since March 2012,
• Muslim women increasingly targeted (58% of all incidents),
• Victims of incidents range from a five-year-old child to an 89-year-old pensioner,
• 2:1 ratio of female victims in Islamic clothing to men in Islamic clothing,
• 74% of incidents take place on-line,
• 6% of incidents involve attacks on mosques/property,
• 5% of victims are white converts to Islam,
• Three-quarters (75%) of perpetrators are male,
• Far Right BNP/EDL supporters linked to over half (54%) of all cases,
• 23 arrests, 18 prosecutions (cases pending),
• MAMA pursuing review of police decision not to charge EDL leader,
• Trend of rising Islamophobia, recorded by YouGov figures (7 March)”

Update 5: Liberal Conspiracy deals with Liddle’s half-hearted semi-apology, Rod Liddle apologises for ‘black savages’.

Update 6: If you have a strong stomach, the comment box on the revised article at the Spectator is overflowing with xenophobia, anti-Muslim racism and the odd bit of antisemitism, dressed up as “anti-Zionism” not pretty:

“allymax bruce jjjj • 4 days ago −
Most you describe is true, BUT, what you fail to realise /question, is that this is being functionsd by the Zionists. I’m not being anti-semetic in saying this; in-deed, closing down intelligent thought & discourse is the result of using that anti-semetic excuse! Moreover, most Jews living in Israel are against the Zionists; are they anti-semetic too? No, ofcourse not. Slurring intelligent thought & discourse as anti-semetic only further disenfranchises us, but more importantly, furthers what you fear is happening to us. If you want to to truly stop the rot by this political Establishment, then you must consider it is a Zionist enforcement.”

Update 7: This is rather good, Rod Liddle and the Economics of the Commentariat:

“While a pretty poisonous clutch of miserablists all told, I wouldn’t consider them racist. Dan and Brendan, definitely not. Mel, well, she has written plenty of things that could certainly be construed that way but as awful as they are, but she just about stays on the right side of the line. But Rodders is a different kettle of fish. There are only so many situations available for former liberals and lefties as they migrate to the lucrative uphills of remunerated bigotry. And though Rod has been on his journey for a while, he’s taken his own sweet time. I blame his penchant for footy forums. But the market for anti-Islam rants is a crowded one, so how to stand out among the swivel-eyed and hard-of-thinking? Well, why not dance pack and forth across the line. And so, of last week’s appalling murder in Woolwich, he writes “two black savages hacked a man to death while shouting Allahu Akbar; that’s really all you need to know, isn’t it?

It’s not so much a problem of Rod’s dinner party racism, but with the whole economy of media commentary.”

Update 8: Talking of racism, another thread at Liberal Conspiracy seems to have succumb to antisemitism, again, Meet Woolwich Truthers who claim attack a “hoax”:

“Once you dig far enough and realise thru the Rothschild/Rockefella Ashkenazi-faux-jews and other pretend ‘Christian’ satanist-elitist families of the “Western World” (demon-strated quite clearly in the bible as “Synagogue of Satan” club ‘members’) that the West is dictatorially dominated by such eg all senior cabinet and top politicians are all so-called ‘Jews’ thoroughly misleading the vast majority (who are totally ignorant of this stitch-up) and making our lives hell.
Go back to Khazar history and you will find the same parasites who are in charge today as bankers and parasitical crony corporation owners stealing direct from the taxpayer and avoiding most or all taxes.”

Update 9: Musa Okwonga makes an excellent point:

“When bile such as “black savages” is sent unchecked into the atmosphere, it poisons the air. In this context, after all, “black savages” suggests that beneath the thin veneer of the apparently civilised Western-born black male lurks an irredeemably violent thug, and that all it takes is the right triggers to unleash him. That is precisely the same thinking upon which imperial attitudes were, and indeed still are, proudly based. “

Gitmo Must Be Closed

I can not even begin to imagine what it is like to be incarcerated, without trial, at Guantánamo Bay.

gitmo2

I am sure readers have read the many accounts of innocent individuals scooped up by questionable security services and dumped in Gitmo, but this account is even more troubling, Salon reports:

“Mohamedou Ould Slahi began to tell his story in 2005. Over the course of several months, the Guantánamo prisoner handwrote his memoir, recounting what he calls his “endless world tour” of detention and interrogation. He wrote in English, a language he mastered in prison. His handwriting is relaxed but neat, his narrative, even riddled with redactions, vivid and captivating. In telling his story he tried, as he wrote, “to be as fair as possible to the U.S. government, to my brothers, and to myself.” He finished his 466-page draft in early 2006. For the next six years, the U.S. government held the manuscript as a classified secret.

Part three is disturbing:

“Chess is a game of strategy, art, and mathematics. It takes deep thinking, and there is no luck involved. You get rewarded or punished for your actions, your moves. [ ? ? ? ? ?] brought me a chessboard so I could play against myself. When the guards noticed my chessboard, they wanted to play me. When they started to play me, they always won. The strongest among the guards was [ ? ? ? ? ?]. He taught me how to control the center. Moreover, [ ? ? ? ? ?] brought me some literature, which helped decidedly in honing my skills. After that the guards had no chance to defeat me.

“Now you understand how chess must be played,” he commented. I knew [ ? ? ? ? ?] had issues dealing with defeat, thus I didn’t enjoy playing him because I didn’t feel comfortable practicing my newly acquired knowledge. [ ? ? ? ? ?] believes there are two kinds of people, white Americans and the rest of the world. White Americans are smart and better than anybody. I always tried to explain things to him by saying, for instance, “If I were you … or … If you were me,” but he got angry and said, “Don’t you ever dare compare me with you or compare any American with you.” I was shocked then, but I did as he said. After all, I didn’t have to compare myself with anybody. [ ? ? ? ? ?] hates the rest of the world, especially the Arabs, Jews, French, Cubans, and others. The only other country he mentioned positively was England.

After one game of chess with him, he flipped the board.

“Fuck your nigger chess, this is Jewish chess!” he said.

“Do you have something against black people?” I asked.

“Nigger’s not black, nigger means stupid,” he argued.

We had discussions like that, but we had only one black guard who had no say, and when he worked with [ ? ? ? ? ?] they never interacted. [ ? ? ? ? ?] resented him. [ ? ? ? ? ?] has a very strong personality, dominant, authoritarian, patriarchal, and arrogant. “

Guantánamo Bay must be closed.

UKIP, Casual Racism And BBC’s Bias

UKIP Election Poster 2013

If you ever wanted to understand bigotry in Britain then this UKIP poster from South Shields is a fine example.

It sums them up nicely, scaring people and putting out a simple xenophobic message.

Logan Smith wrote an intelligent piece on casual comments and racism.  I think it has a wider application in society and in particular relationship to UKIP:

“It’s that the people I retweet – the vast majority of which appear to be teenagers – genuinely don’t understand whether they’re being racist. It’s a generation that never had to grow up during the times of Jim Crow, civil rights marches or apartheid, and has never been confronted by the institutional racism that older generations saw on a daily basis. As a result, many teens seem to think racism simply means active hatred of another race, and not the apparent prejudices and stereotypes displayed by the people I retweet. “

Speaking of prejudice, the BBC’s has not helped itself over the years, when it comes to the Jewish community, according to a recent poll:

“36% – The proportion of Jews who believe BBC news coverage is “heavily” biased against Israel, according to the report

14% – The number who say that the corporation reporting is “balanced” “

Bowen and Gaddafi
Over the years I have watched Jeremy Bowen display an unsophisticated vista of the Middle East, so I am surprised the 14% figure is that high.

The full report is here, Jews and the News: News consumption habits and opinions of Jews in Britain. Some 79% of those sampled replied they felt the BBC is biased against Israel. That is a lot, for one community to perceive the BBC’s way of reporting the news.

A reminder of where such prejudice leads, murder in Eltham.

Finally, Doreen Lawrence’s words.

Update 1: A reminder of Richard Dawkins’ stupid words from 2007:

“”When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous, I am told – religious Jews anyway – than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.”

Such views are common on the Far and Extreme Right. This essay explains the antecedents of such beliefs, What are “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”? I do wish that Professor Dawkins would educate himself on these issues and not assume he knows everything.

Update 2: Any Richard Dawkins’ supporters who can not see the possible racist connotations here should examine the evidence and come to some reasoned conclusion.

Finally, try and work out why neo-Nazis would proffer such views?

Update 3: Apparently, UKIP banned extremists from its ranks, good first start but did not seem to inform its lay officials, Stand for Peace explains:

“Evidence has emerged that a senior UKIP figure, the Chairman of UKIP Hillingdon, Cliff Dixon has links to the English Defence League (EDL), a far-Right group with a long history of attacking Muslims.

Dixon, formerly involved with the English Democrats party, boasted on his blog, in 2011, that he has ”joined my friends from March for England to tag along on the EDL Tower Hamlets demonstration.”

Colin Cortbus, a Stand for Peace fellow, notes: “If Mr Dixon thinks extremists should get off our streets, perhaps he should lead by example.”

Mr Dixon’s blog also records his attendance at a number of nationalist marches, mainly through the relatively small ‘March for England’ group. One event was co-organised by the British Patriots Society, which is described by anti-extremism campaign Hope not Hate as “a tiny splinter of the English Defence League”.

One photo shows Dixon posing with EDL leader Kevin Carol and other EDL and BNP figures.”

Q:Can any of my readers suggest why UKIPers might be found associating with the neofascists in the English Defence League?
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The “Israel Apartheid Week” And “Don’t buy from the Jews week”

Over at Engage, David Hirsh’s acid wit skewers the Palestine Solidarity Campaign with, “Israel Apartheid Week” – Don’t Buy from the Jews Week.

syria_week1

I looked in at the PSC’s site, to see if they had covered the recent death of Palestinians in Syria, but alas couldn’t find anything. Conceivably, just possibly, something is hidden beneath the mountain of vitriol aimed at Israelis, but I doubt it.

I couldn’t see any genuine concern for Palestinians, outside of the West Bank and Gaza. Even Google couldn’t draw out any articles on the on-going slaughter in Syria from the PSC.

The PSC’s feed on Twitter was barren and bereft of any mention of Syria over the past month.

As Reuters reported a few weeks ago, some 10,000 Syrians have been killed since the start of 2013.

Still, the PSC were probably more interested in organising “Don’t buy from the Jews week” and must have missed what has been going on in Syria.

I think we know where the PSC’s priorities lie, all in all, David Hirsh was too kind to them.

Update 1: Liberal Conspiracy has surprisingly given Matt Hall the chance to put a persuasive argument, Pro-Palestinian activists are wrong to shut down debates by pro-Israelis.

Is Liberal Conspiracy Hung Up on Jews?

Snap 2013-02-01 at 18.35.06

I like Liberal Conspiracy. As a blog it has much to recommend it, there is a diversity of posters and a variety of topics.

Well, that’s what I like to think, however, some of its recent posts suggests an unhealthy concentration.

At Liberal Conspiracy within the space of a few days, there have been two, rather mean spirited and fairly questionable, posts.

Scarfe.

One which seemed to categorically argue that nothing was wrong with Gerald Scarfe’s offensive cartoon.

Another takes a pop at the Jewish Chronicle’s editor, Stephen Pollard.

The former, I could, just with some effort, understand. There is a debate to be held on what constitutes racism towards Jews. There is a diversity of opinions on this lurid cartoon, but to argue emphatically that it couldn’t ever be seen as offensive to one particular ethnic minority is silly, in the extreme.

The fact the author of the posts doesn’t find such cartoons offensive doesn’t mean other people can’t, or see elements of the past in it, as Mark Gardner argued:

“Unfortunately for Jews – and for satirists – antisemites and antisemitism also have ‘a thing’ about blood; and especially about the allegation that Jews murder others (children in particular) in order to use their blood or organs for heinous purpose. It is a harsh fact that blood has long played a profoundly disturbing part in the history of antisemitism, and this has obvious consequences for Jews and antisemites today. The actual intentions of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times count for very little within this broader context of history, and its contemporary emotional and racist impacts.

But as I say, there is a debate to be held on these issues. I feel the way the Liberal Conspiracy brushed over, even the possibility, that this cartoon, content and timing could be seen as offensive, was intellectually loutish and distasteful.

Pollard And Cartoons.

[Up front: I am not a fan of Stephen Pollard, still less his time at the awful Daily Express.]

The other post is ostensibly on Stephen Pollard’s hypocrisy on offensive cartoons.

The post goes on to argue that Pollard is guilty of double standards, etc. Apparently, condoning the publication of the anti-Prophet cartoons but decrying ones when they are aimed at Jews. Some of the commentators point out the obvious difference between, right to publish and having the sense sometimes not to.

Pollard’s own arguments can be heard in this audio extract of the BBC Radio 4 Today programmme. They are more sophisticated than the post suggests.

Initially, I had put the odious tone of the post down to another spat between media types. It seems fairly common. The underlying argument is normally disregarded as an opportunity to settle scores.

Not very edifying, but such is the media. Then I began to ponder alternative possibilities, and I did not like them. To settle scores but with whom?

Hung Up on an ethnicity?

For quite some time I had noticed that the comment boxes at Liberal Conspiracy often became cluttered with nasty remarks, in one certain direction. Time and again, there were the stray arguments of the Far and Extreme Right. Most covered with euphemisms, but a well-worn animus was evident. Those common themes.

I have seen such derangement at Comment is Free, and it seems prevalent in parts of the British media.

Yet I debated, was a persistent sub-plot at Liberal Conspiracy that I was missing? Not in the comments, but the articles and their focus.

Analysing Bias

Fortunately, there was a methodology which was developed many years back, to remove my or anyone else’s subjective judgement.

It is fairly simple.

You tally up the articles around a certain subject matter and then categorise them, negative or positive. If that result is balanced or within expected tolerances that is one thing. However, if the majority of the articles are hostile towards one or more particular ethnicity then there is an issue. The Over Coming Hate portal discusses these issues and its section, Fanning The Flames, provides a useful background on the media, racism and the issues. Teun A. van Dijk’s Racism and the Press is helpful in explaining some of the issues [PDF].

Gwen Sharp summarised one application of this approach, Who’s Reporting The News? An Analysis By Race And Ethnicity.

If I ever get the time I might apply those techniques to Liberal Conspiracy and see what patterns come out.

Personally, I would prefer if Liberal Conspiracy employed its usually politically sophisticated approach to this and related subjects.

Yet I am not sure that will happen where one particular ethnicity is concerned. Worrying.

Update 1: This is a fair summary of the arguments about Scarfe’s cartoon from the JLC:

  • “Jews (and others) throughout the country reacted to this cartoon with a visceral disgust that is unprecedented in recent years. This was due to the gratuitous and offensive nature of the image, made worse by its use of blood and its being published by Britain’s leading Sunday newspaper on Holocaust Memorial Day.
  • Blood has a long and ugly tradition within the history of anti-Semitism, premised upon the notorious medieval Blood Libel, with Jews being alleged to steal the blood of others for religious purposes. The use of blood, including on occasion the actual Blood Libel, persists in extreme Arab and Iranian anti-Israel propaganda. It is a profoundly disturbing example of the adaptation of anti-Semitism for modern day usage.
  • These historical and contemporary contexts have racist impacts upon victims and proponents alike. This is why so many Jews were wounded by the cartoon, regardless of the initial motivations of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times.

Update 2: This is a good interview with Jeremy Newmark from Radio 5 Live, as an MP3.

Update 3: Marc Goldberg looks more broadly at these issues, nevertheless argues:

“But what I hated was the timing of all this, for me an undercurrent of hostility which occasionally raises it’s head, the dark side of an England in which I was hard pressed to feel at home came into the light. The Holocaust Educational Trust has done sterling work in making sure that the tragic event that saw so many Jewish communities in Europe wiped out has become a part of the national consciousness but there has been a blowback effect, the likes of David Ward and Gerald Scarfe put this on centre stage and the people who rallied around Ward in particular, show off the extent to which this is a point of view that is bigger than him alone.

Update 4: Mark Gardner in 2010 wrote:

“Anti-racists must condemn anti-Jewish racism as readily as they would any other type of racism. Anything less and they risk fostering the notion, seductive for a dangerous minority, that antisemitism in the name of anti-Israel hatred is somehow a legitimate form of political protest. On previous occasions when we have tried to discuss the issue of antisemitism on this forum, we have been accused of various things. First, that we are part of some global conspiracy to shut down criticism of Israel. Second, that the figures are fake and exaggerated. Third, that even though the figures are lies, they paradoxically prove that the escalation in antisemitic incidents is the fault of Israel and the fault of Jewish representative bodies. Indeed, the fault of everybody but antisemites.”

Update 5: For the moment, the final word will go to a poster at Liberal Conspiracy:

“32. Shatterface 10:53 pm, February 1, 2013

  • attacking someone for hypocrisy is a weasely way of dodging the main issue which is the continual use of antisemitic tropes by British cartoonists.
  • It’s perfectly possible to criticise the Israeli politics without falling back on stereotypes of big-nosed puppeteers using blood as an ingredient just as it is possible to comment on African politics without images of black people with bones through their noses cooking missionaries in a pot
  • or, for that matter, portraying the English as football hooligans with the George Cross tattooed across their faces. ” [My emphasis.]

Update 6: Certainly, whatever your opinion of Liberal Conspiracy’s choice of topic, many of its posters have grotesque views:

“46. sara ann 12:27 pm, February 3, 2013

why is it wrong to not like Israel or Judaism?

we are encouraged not to like say iran, argentina, mali etc and certainly to dislike Islam .”

Update 7: Barely a week passes and Liberal Conspiracy are at it again.

A nonsensical and linguistically illiterate piece attempts to compare David Ward MP’s disparaging remarks with those of the Israeli Prime Minister, Why is there no backlash when Benjamin Netanyahu focuses on “the Jews”?

I suppose the simple answer is context.

Here is an easy example, suppose a tattooed neo-Nazi skinhead went around making disparaging remarks about ethnic minorities and then invokes the “N” word. Suppose that.

Would it be the same if an Afro-American rapper used that awful expression in the song? No, of course, not.

But that’s an argument often heard on the Far Right: that because ethnic minorities occasionally use the “N” word that therefore it is legitimate for the Far Right to use it. All nonsense but that’s how they argue.

Bigotry at Liberal Conspiracy Goes Unchallenged

Liberal Conspiracy is an interesting and frequently informative blog, however, its occasional forays into commentary on the Middle East often allow racist or bigoted comments to go unnoticed or unchallenged.

That is what happened recently.

Unrelated to the topic, one of the posters started comparing the number of Jewish MPs & the number of British Jews.

As the CST pointed out last year:

The concept of “Jewish entitlement”, whereby Jews (or other minority groups) are limited to a certain number of seats in Parliament according to their numbers, is entirely alien to British democracy. Candidates are supposed to appeal for votes on the basis of their policies rather than assuming “entitlement” because of their religion or ethnicity; and for a party to select candidates on the basis of their religion or ethnicity would almost certainly be illegal.”

There are, broadly, three themes to consider: the roots of this remark, the blog’s comments policy and the wider applicability of this line of reasoning.

Snap 2013-01-25 at 00.50.20

Firstly, it is a very common feature found on the Far and Extreme Right.

Stormfront, the neo-Nazi forum, covered this in January 2012, for the obvious reason that to the hardcore antisemite “one Jew is one Jew too many”.

Antisemitism is predicated on conspiracy theories, of secretive power and supposed manipulation, etc. which underlies the comment.

This is ingrained into the antisemite’s consciousness and an obvious tell-tale sign of their thinking. Anyone remotely familiar with antiracism should have familiarised themselves with these particular tropes, which is why it is exceedingly annoying to find it at Liberal Conspiracy, a left-wing antiracist blog.

The comment (#9) itself is cut and paste from an article by the racist, Stuart Littlewood from May 2010. The essence of the comment is common currency across anti-Jewish and racist web sites as any simple search of Google would show.

Secondly, this is all the more egregious as Liberal Conspiracy prides itself on having a tight comments policy aimed at fostering constructive debate.” [My emphasis.]

I can only assume that moderators at Liberal Conspiracy can’t see the implication of the comment or understand its antecedents.

I had tried to illuminate this issue to those running Liberal Conspiracy, but it seems that the comments policy varies considerably in implementation, although they say:

“We believe in free speech but not your right to abuse our space.
Abusive, sarcastic or silly comments may be deleted.
Misogynist, racist, homophobic and xenophobic comments will be deleted.”

Thirdly, such interjections and conceits are a mainstay of racists. The particular target may vary, but the argument is similar, running along the lines of “there are too many …….[fill in ethnicity] here” or “why are so …….[fill in ethnicity] doing this job”.

In Britain that applies, whether or not the target is Polish immigrants**, Afro-Caribbean nurses or other ethnic minorities.

In short, I think that Liberal Conspiracy is right to provide critiques on the Middle East and related matters, but they should be conscious of how anti-Jewish racism is fostered. They should educate themselves in the various figures of speech and arguments use by the Far/Extreme Right. Their comments policy should be implemented in an even-handed but intelligent manner. Its moderators should be aware, more broadly, of these racist arguments and where they lead.

Finally, ignorance of this type of racism is no excuse, particularly at Liberal Conspiracy.

PS: **Apologies for linking to the Daily Mail, but the atrocious comments connected with the article illustrate my point.

Chagossians, An innumerate Iain Duncan Smith And More

I had hoped to start 2013 on a better footing, with longer, more thoughtful post but time and life are not so generous. I think the plight of the Chagossians deserves a wider audience:

“For the uninitiated, in the 1960s, the US wanted Diego Garcia (one of the Chagos Islands) as a major air base. It spoke nicely to the UK, its owners, who consequently evicted and banned all the inhabitants from it and the neighbouring islands. The constitutional arrangements were apparently decorous. A new UK colony was established (the British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT) with a Commissioner to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory. “

Iain Duncan Smith is a loathsome politician, but he’s also innumerate as Channel 4′s Factcheck shows:

The claim

“Tax credit payments rose by some 58 per cent ahead of the 2005 general election, and in the two years prior to the 2010 election, spending increased by about 20 per cent.”

The verdict

We asked the Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which administers work and child tax credits, how much has been paid out since the current system started under Labour in 2003 (before that it was the Working Families Tax Credit).

It said that in 2003-04, £16.4bn was paid, and the following year – the one that included the general election to which Mr Duncan Smith refers – £17.7bn.

That’s an increase of 8 per cent, not 58. “

The German army still has a problem with neo-Nazis as Zeit On-line points out, original in German or the Google translation.

In the US, White Supremacists are planning an anti-immigration rally according to the ADL.

The Guardian looks at the companies set to benefit from the privatisation of the NHS.

The Automatic Cat’s commentary is to the point:

“That doesn’t matter, anyway. The purpose of his statement was to demonise a section of the public in order to justify cuts which themselves are aimed at proving to ‘The Markets’ how fiscally astute and fearless we are. ‘The Markets’ being, in large part, the global banking system which brought us to the edge of catastrophe in the first place.

We’ve seen this kind of demonisation before, with the unemployed and the long-term ill. The suggestion that they’re really putting it on somehow, or shirking, or somehow otherwise undeserving of any help at all. It goes hand in hand with the policy that the safety net has made us all soft and needy and that taking it away will get us off our lazy behinds and make us take all those jobs which are out there.

It really won’t do. Personally I’m rather insulted that the government thinks so little of us that it believes we’ll swallow this nonsense. It shows a rather interesting lack of sophistication and, indeed, compassion. A government which believes we can be so easily manipulated is really not a government worth having. “

Reuters reminds us of the ever increasing death toll in Syria: 60,000 at the last estimate.

Will 2013 be better than 2012? Not looking good thus far.

Rev Stephen Sizer: More Anti-Israeli Than Pro-Palestinian

Rev. Stephen Sizer is once more indulging in victimhood and self-promotion. He has managed to convince some worthy individuals to write him references.

Ever shy and retiring Rev. Sizer has published them on his website.

They say, essentially, ‘he’s a jolly good fellow, not a racist, but a fighter for human rights’.

This is an extract from Rev. Dr. Don Wagner of Chicago:

“I have known and worked with Stephen for nearly 15 years and have the utmost respect for his writing, pastoral ministry, and his speaking around the globe on behalf of the victims of persecution and human rights violations.

I suppose, in part, that might be true, however, Rev. Sizer silent criticism of the Assad regime is noticeable.

You might, not unreasonably, think that in 21 months of slaughter in Syria that Rev. Sizer could have made a critical comment of the Syrian government. After all, he’s immensely capable of criticising Israelis, but suddenly acquires writers’ block when it comes to Assad and Syria.

It is a symptom which seems to inflict many Western “pro-Palestinian” supporters, capable of criticising Israelis at the drop of a hat, yet barely able to muster any criticism whilst Assad is slaughtering civilians.

Just to be clear, I am not accusing Rev. Sizer of hypocrisy, racism or anything else. Merely observing that in 21 months he might have at least commented once on the hundreds of Palestinians killed in Syria.

Rev. Sizer has written on Syria, but I can’t find any criticism of Assad. In fact, the opposite when he uses a proxy to say in June 2012:

“Revd Awad insists Qatar and Saudi Arabia along with the US are funding mercenaries from Libya and Iraq to attack civilians in Syria and that the army are not responsible. He is convinced the President enjoys the support of at least 75% of Syrians. He insists none of Syria’s diplomats around the world has defected to the opposition. He is confident that the Kofi Annan report will exonerate the Syrian government and that the external forces seeking to destabilise Syria will not succeed. “

It drips of paranoia and defensiveness, but later on of that month, June 2012 invokes Robert Fisk to argue Syria: Its all about oil.

For want of his own opinions Rev. Sizer employs Elizabeth Kendal’s Syria: The Lies Being Told.

Unfortunately, it appears that Ms. Kendal is a conspiracy theorist and believes that the Houla massacre committed by the Assad regime’s forces was a contrivance:

“For more on the Houla massacre, now exposed as a false flag operation wherein Free Syrian Army forces disguised as pro-Assad ‘thugs’ massacred unsympathetic mostly non-Sunni families and blamed the regime…”

So as far as I can see Rev. Sizer has written nothing to criticise Assad or his dictatorship which brought about the events in Syria after massacring peaceful protesters in March 2011.

In August 2012, Rev. Sizer utilises the words of others and latterly employing a questionable photograph to hint at something else:

“The first reaction of President Bashar al-Assad was to initially respond with hints of reform. But soon he launched violent crackdowns that could have dispensed with the opposition if not for outside support.

So what we see is conscious effort to blame everyone else, but the repressive Syrian government. The idea that people could rise up against a dictatorship, of their own free will, after being shot at, murdered and tortured seems to have escaped Rev. Sizer and these various proxies.

Despite 21 months of conflict Rev. Sizer can’t say a single word against Assad.

In short, Rev. Sizer is proclaimed as “speaking around the globe on behalf of the victims of persecution and human rights violations” yet I have not read one word from Rev. Sizer critical of Assad on the hundreds of Palestinians killed, the 40,000+ Syrians dead, hundreds of thousands injured and millions displaced within the country.

A curious omission?

Update 1: Whenever I post on Rev. Sizer’s antics the blog gets a lot of spam, incoherent or abusive comments. I would remind potential commentors to read, disgest and understand the Comments Policy.

Update 2: You might almost say “the world goes to hell in a handbasket whilst Rev. Sizer has other preoccupations”. Despite the mounting death toll in Syria, Rev. Sizer’s main concern is, somewhat predictably, Rev. Sizer.

More recently he has cajoled some friendly clergy into supporting him, Bethlehem Bible College, Canon Dr Mike Butterworth, Friends of Sabeel, Revd. Phil Hill, Manfred W. Kohl, Professor Scott Elias, Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church USA and Bishop Riah Abo El-Assal.

The excuse “some of his best friends are…” is threadbare by use, but I am sure these theologians will be able to explain why Rev. Sizer continually, regularly and mistakenly posted links to vile, hardcore, antisemitic filth.

London BDS, Racism And Press TV

London BDS & Jim Dean

Anti-Israeli boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigners often claim they against antisemitism and racism, yet their actions tell another story.

London BDS as an unfortunate habit of using material from the racist, Press TV.

Recently, they praised an article by Jim W. Dean.

Astute readers will know that Dean is intimately connected to the terrible Veterans Today, not only that but any cursory reading of the article would ring alarm bells amongst any antiracist, where he argues:

“Real historians like David Irving were attacked for printing the forbidden truth and made examples of to cower the rest of the sheep. And yes, Jewish lobbies had their fingerprints all over the dirty deed. “

If London BDS and other Western pro-Palestinian activists wish to be more convincing than they should stop digesting the racist filth that Press TV puts out.

Anyone ignorant of David Irving should read Holocaust Denial on Trial and the Guardian’s special report.

The SPLC on Veterans Today.

Update 1: The PSC have put out a statement distancing themselves from the @LondonBDS account:

“Palestine Solidarity Campaign is shocked and disgusted that a twitter account @londonbds tweeted an article with clearly anti-Semitic content. We oppose all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Anti-racism is a core value of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and the broader Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Palestinians face systematic discrimination and building opposition to all forms of racism is a key part of our campaigning.

Supporting Palestine is supporting an anti-racist struggle and we shall continue to make clear that there is no place for any form of racism in our movement.

PSC has been informed that this is not the twitter account of London BDS group, whose account is @londonbdsgroup, but an apparently lone individual. We have reported this to twitter as hate speech. “

All very laudable, however, the PSC is not adverse to the racist Press TV, as a matter of principle, any simple search shows that.

The rest of their statement is decidedly implausible, as anyone with access to Google can see.

Readers will remember how long it took the PSC to kick out a self-proclaimed Holocaust denier, Francis Clark-Lowes, from their ranks. Even then about 1/5 of the conference delegates did not think Holocaust denial was antisemitic and wanted to keep him as a member.

Moreover, the notorious Ben White saw no problem with the @LondonBDS as can be seen.

My bet is their next gambit will be “Some of our best friends are….”

In Short: Syria And Egypt

Despite the many benefits of the Internet, access to news from all parts of the world and almost instantaneous translation, it is sometimes difficult getting a grasp of what is really happening in a certain country, particularly those in the Middle East.

Syria is but one example. After nearly 20 months, tens of thousands killed, millions of people displaced and hundreds of thousands injured, there is lethargy in the Western media concerning the fate of Syrians.

It used to be said that in journalism, what bleeds leads, but that clearly isn’t the case when it comes to Assad’s victims.

Yet as NPR reports things are changing, Project Looks At A New Way To Report On Syria.

Watch Syria Deeply for more developments.

The people in Egypt have been, rightly, demonstrating against authoritarianism, in the form of President Morsi and the new, proposed, constitution.

I am not a fan of the Middle East Research and Information Project but Ahmad Shokr makes some intelligent points:

“The draft constitution does not reflect a democratic consensus, as many in the opposition have argued that it should. It reflects an emerging relationship between the Muslim Brothers and existing state institutions, like the army, along with a great deal of appeasement of the salafis, whom the Brothers have embraced as junior partners. The rush to a referendum suggests a deep anxiety among the state elites about continuing instability and a desire to seize the opportunity to cement a new political framework as quickly as possible. More worrisome than the text itself is the vision these leaders have for which voices count and which alliances matter in the new Egypt. Should this vision go unchallenged, the losers would be all those who have been calling for more pluralistic and inclusive system.

(more…)

Punishing Israel

In light of recent events an adage needs updating:

Benjamin Netanyahu never seems to miss an opportunity, to miss an opportunity.

I am not the only one annoyed at Netanyahu’s maladroitness.

Two astute Middle East analysts, Meir Javedanfar and Hussein Ibish have noticed the issue, how Netanyahu has succeeded in isolating Israel and himself from potential allies by his own clumsy actions.

Ibish remarked on the UN vote:

Israelis must ask themselves how they lost their “quality minority” and why so many European and Western states that have been historically supportive of them or neutral moved rather dramatically today in the Palestinian direction. The war between Israel and Hamas shows that the situation on the ground is fundamentally unstable and untenable. The dramatic shift in the diplomatic landscape at the U.N. today demonstrates that the international community understands that and is losing patience.

Javedanfar puts his finger on it:

“The Iranian regime was hoping that the recent Gaza conflict between Israel and Gaza based militants would create a diplomatic crisis for Israel.

Unfortunately for the regime, this did not happen.

Ayatollah Khamenei must have been very disappointed to see that his regime’s military support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups did not lead to an Israeli military response which created a diplomatic crisis in Israel – EU and Israel – US relations.

What Iran could not achieve in Gaza, Netanyahu achieved for the Iranian regime with his latest plans for new settlement homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank: diplomatic crisis in relations between top EU countries and Israel. As Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz: “Europe threatens to withdraw support for Israel over settlement building plans”. According to the article the top 3 EU economic powerhouses Germany, UK, and France are protesting, so are the Dutch. More countries could follow.”

(more…)

Rounding Up Romney, Sesame Street And The World

The US Presidential election is almost over, in a day or two voting will be completed and the counting starts.

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, has received a more than fair hearing by the world’s media, but as far I can see they have avoided talking about his weirder views and what might happen under a Romney Presidency.

Mitt and Big Bird

Some have strong opinions about Romney’s proposed cuts to PBS:

“Organizers of the Million Puppet March on Capitol Hill in support of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television and National Public Radio (NPR) put the turnout at around 1,000 people, three days before the US presidential vote.

Characters from the children’s show “Sesame Street” — a PBS staple since the network’s founding in 1970 — figured prominently, including two Big Birds, many Kermits and Elmos, and a Miss Piggy grooving to “Dancing in the Streets.”

But the family-friendly rally on a chilly and cloudy day also attracted a frisky marionette of President Barack Obama and a blue-suited protester in a Mitt Romney mask jammed into a trash can with Big Bird on his back.

There was no shortage of sometimes witty placards, like “Keep your Mitts off Big Bird,” “puppets for peace” and, on the arm of a middle-aged gentleman with a skunk puppet, “Romney smells funny.”

The New Yorker looks at Mormonism, private equity, and the making of a candidate:

“Just about the only thing in life that Mitt Romney is obviously not very good at is the public aspect of running for office. During his four campaigns for office—U.S. senator, in 1994; governor, in 2002; President, in 2008 and 2012—he must have undergone endless hours of training and practice, but the magic just isn’t there. In June, I spent a few days on the campaign trail with him, in Wisconsin and Iowa. Romney’s trip had several purposes. A film crew was gathering footage for campaign commercials to run in the fall; Romney stopped in Janesville, Wisconsin, talking privately and doing an event with Paul Ryan, soon to be his running mate; and it was another attempt, apparently fruitless, on the part of the campaign to demonstrate the candidate’s concern with ordinary people. This segment was officially called the “Every Town Counts” tour. Romney rode around in a sleek bus painted with all-American scenes of mountains, church steeples, and ships in harbors. “

Joan Smith looks at a similar issue, men with power and keeping it to themselves:

“Now he’s been criticised by the first female head of the Home Office, the kind of person who very rarely speaks out, for excluding women from top government posts. Dame Helen Ghosh, who left her job as permanent secretary last month to run the National Trust, told students at a Cambridge college that Westminster is run by powerful networks of men which are hard for women to break into. She pointed out that there was a “magical moment” six years ago when half the heads of government departments were women, but now there are only three female permanent secretaries. “

The West-friendly Bahrain regime is locking up people, again:

“MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A defense lawyer in Bahrain says a prominent human rights activist is in custody after defying an official ban on protest gatherings in the Gulf kingdom.

The detention of Yousef al-Muhafedha could further embolden Shiite-led demonstrators seeking a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.”

(more…)