Tag Archives: George Galloway

Norman Finkelstein calls out Dame Hodge and speaks to “the crucifixion of Corbyn”

Here is a brief summary of Margaret Hodge’s role in the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn – for a fuller account read the addendum to this post which also includes an interview with Palestinian scholar Ghada Karmi:

Having defamed Corbyn by calling him “a f—ing racist and antisemite” deliberately within earshot of journalists, Margaret Hodge was rightly called to a disciplinary hearing by the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC). Following that hearing she then gave an interview to Sky News in which she compared her own treatment to how it felt to be a Jew in Nazi Germany. A transcription of the most relevant section of the Sky News interview and the interview itself are below:

“On the day that I heard that they were going to discipline me and possibly suspend me, it felt almost like – I kept thinking what did it feel like to be a Jew in Germany in the Thirties?

“Because it felt almost as if they were coming for me. And it’s rather difficult to define, but there’s that fear, and it reminded me of what my Dad used to say. He always said to me as a child, “You’ve gotta keep a packed suitcase at the door, Margaret, in case you ever have to leave in a hurry. When I heard about the disciplinary [action], my emotional response resonated with that feeling of fear that clearly was at the heart of what my father felt when he came to Britain.”

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And here is Norman Finkelstein’s response in full:

“Dame Hodge hasn’t a clue what it means to talk about deportations, having a suitcase and being prepared to flee. My parents, both of them, were in the Warsaw Ghetto from 1940s until the repression by the Nazis of the uprising in 1943. They were deported at the Umschlagplatz. If you go there now there’s a monument to the deportees, and my mother’s name Maryla and my father’s name Zacharias; they’re on that monument.

“You haven’t a clue, Ms Hodge, Dame Hodge, you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. You know the suffering? You know the death? My mother used to talk about how she walked the streets of the ghetto and there were dead bodies all around her. She lost both of her parents, all of her family: her sisters, her brother were deported. But unlike you Dame Hodge they weren’t deported to a summer home, they were deported to a death camp. My parents ended up in Auschwitz and Majdenek, and slave labour camps. Where are you going Ms Hodge? To Switzerland? To your chalet? And you have the gall, the brass, the audacity to compare your life with what my parents endured.

“You felt it was like 1930s, when you got a letter from the disciplinary committee. I wonder Dame Hodge when you were in sixth grade and your principal called you down to his office, did it bring back memories of the Holocaust? Or maybe you got a letter from the tax office, and they called you down, did that remind you of the Holocaust? What’s the point… What’s the relevance… What’s the pertinence of dragging in the suffering, the death, the martyrdom of what Jews endured during World War II in this context, except to cheapen and exploit the memory of Jewish suffering, as you carry on a blackmail and extortion racket against Jeremy Corbyn.

“It’s disgusting, it’s revolting, and if any of the rules that are now being implemented in the Labour Party have any meaning whatsoever, if they have any content whatsoever, the first person who should be booted out of the Labour Party is Dame Hodge, for trivialising the memory the Nazi Holocaust and for making wretched, disgusting, repulsive comparisons between herself and what Jews endured during World War II.

“Speaking of bags and suitcases, Dame Hodge, it’s time now to pack your bags, pack your suitcase, and get the hell out of the Labour Party.”

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Norman Finkelstein later spoke with George Galloway on his ‘TalkRadio’ show about “the crucifixion of Corbyn and how to combat it”:

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Addendum: the fuller background story and a Palestinian’s response

The smear campaign that falsely accuses Jeremy Corbyn of antisemitism on the basis of guilt by association goes back all the way to the period of his first election as Labour leader, but this latest episode involving Margaret Hodge comes at a time when the party has been considering the adoption of the full IHRA definition of “antisemitism”: a change to the rules that if implemented will curtail the freedom speech of party members to openly speak out against Israel.

On August 13th, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu waded into this debate after he provocatively accused Corbyn of laying a wreath on the grave of “a terrorist”. Margaret Hodge was one of a number of Labour MPs who seized upon the opportunity to further tighten pressure on Corbyn. As the Guardian reported on August 14th:

The Labour MP Margaret Hodge said the only way “Jeremy Corbyn can put this issue to bed” is to “adopt the internationally agreed definition of antisemitism in full”. She said: “Until he does that, incidents such as his presence at the laying of wreaths at the graves of those responsible for torturing and murdering innocent Jewish Israeli athletes in Munich will continue to emerge.”

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Ghada Karmi is a Palestinian scholar and doctor of medicine who lives in England and teaches at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in the University of Exeter; she is also a member of the Labour Party. On August 21st, Marc Steiner of The Real News interviewed Karmi to hear the viewpoint of a Palestinian on the “antisemitism” campaign against Corbyn. Transcribed below is part of her interview – the complete interview is embedded within:

“I mean that is so ludicrous it makes one laugh. First of all the [laying of the wreath] incident took place in 2014, now you’ve got to ask yourself why do they wait till 2018 to make such a fuss if it was so offensive, it should have been pointed out in 2014. However, they’ve waited four years because, of course, it’s not about whatever happened in Tunis, it’s about attacking Jeremy Corbyn.

Now the event was very simply this. Corbyn and some other British political leaders were invited by the Tunisian government to a conference whose subject was Israeli aggression and its effect on the Palestinian people: that’s actually what the conference was. Now the ceremony was to commemorate and lay a wreath on the graves of Tunisians and Palestinians together, who perished in an Israeli bombing attack in 1985. Now that’s what actually happened. It’s not my perspective; it’s what happened. Now Netanyahu, who has joined the pack of Corbyn hunters for his own reasons, came into this and outrageously really – he’s a foreign leader, he’s the leader of a foreign state; he has no business interfering in a domestic issue, however he barged in – and he accused Corbyn of laying a wreath on the graves of quote “terrorists”. Now there were no terrorists amongst the victims of the Israeli bombing attack.

So the problem is that he has joined the side of the people who want to discredit Corbyn so he never becomes a Prime Minister – and I can’t stress this too strongly – that the idea of a pro-Palestinian, a pro-justice British Prime minister is anathema to certain groups of people, Israel and its friends most prominently.”

[from 5:20 mins]

 “The issue really is that the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been subjected to an unprecedented attack, by members of his own party, by a lobby of people claiming to hunt anti-Semites, and by some parts of the British press. It is an unprecedented and very bad attack which he does not deserve. Now, in terms of what he has actually done, the answer is nothing. What has he done to offend these people – the thing he really has done to offend them, is that he supports Palestine, and the rights of Palestinians, and he has supported that all of his political life. That is something that is an anathema to certain Jewish groups in Britain, friends of Israel, and members of his own party who don’t want him to become Prime Minister. That is the reality of the position. It’s very depressing and very wrong, but that aspect of it has not been put forward often enough and strongly enough. This is about Palestine and it’s about Israel’s maltreatment of the Palestinian people and it’s about the desire of defending of Israel to attack people who support the Palestinians because they want to defend Israel.”

[from 3:05 mins]

“We as a Palestinian group are very, very anxious that our voice is heard and that our point of view is taken into account because far too often the media, the political elite, is held hostage to a lobby that does not hesitate to use the “antisemitism” smear because they know it’s effective, and it discredits the people whether it’s true or not. Now we as Palestinians have found it almost impossible to persuade people who are so devoted to Israel that they can’t see straight to try to explain to them there is a whole story there which is not simply a question of being anti-Jewish when you criticise Israel. You have to criticise Israel because it behaves in ways which are illegal and very aggressive. And if you don’t feel able to criticise a state that does that and not be labelled as some kind of racist then you know it’s a terrible world we’re living in.”

[from 10:20 mins]

“But you know it’s very, very serious to allow groups of people with their own agendas to use antisemitism as a tool – to weaponise it, to use a popular term – to weaponise it in order to defend certain behaviours on the part of Israel. It’s very, very serious. People should take it seriously. I mean it’s not a joke to try to discredit any political person… discredit what they’re saying by accusing them of being Jew-haters. The term “anitsemitism” by the way is not very useful any more. It’s very emotive. We need to talk about Jew-hatred. Is it really the case that if you criticise the policies of the Israeli state and its army that this is hatred of Jews? Of course not. When you put it like that you know very well it’s nonsense. But, it’s weaponised, it’s used cynically by people who want to defend Israel.”

[from 14:45 mins]

Please note that all transcriptions are my own.

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the “Philip Cross” affair – or why you can’t trust Wikipedia: an ongoing exposé by Craig Murray

A caution to all journalists, politicians, and other significant public figures with viewpoints divergent from the sanctioned narrative: a mysterious entity known as “Philip Cross” is likely re-editing your Wikipedia entry on a routine basis. Craig Murray, former UK ambassador and a key target whose own entry in the world’s favourite encyclopaedia is subjected to endless revisions and censorship, has been closely examining the activities of “Philip Cross”. This is what he has unearthed to date…

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The “Philip Cross” Affair

UPDATE “Philip Cross” has not had one single day off from editing Wikipedia in almost five years. “He” has edited every single day from 29 August 2013 to 14 May 2018. Including five Christmas Days. That’s 1,721 consecutive days of editing.

133,612 edits to Wikpedia have been made in the name of “Philip Cross” over 14 years. That’s over 30 edits per day, seven days a week. And I do not use that figuratively: Wikipedia edits are timed, and if you plot them, the timecard for “Philip Cross’s” Wikipedia activity is astonishing if it is one individual:

The operation runs like clockwork, seven days a week, every waking hour, without significant variation. If Philip Cross genuinely is an individual, there is no denying he is morbidly obsessed. I am no psychiatrist, but to my entirely inexpert eyes this looks like the behaviour of a deranged psychotic with no regular social activities outside the home, no job (or an incredibly tolerant boss), living his life through a screen. I run what is arguably the most widely read single person political blog in the UK, and I do not spend nearly as much time on the internet as “Philip Cross”. My “timecard” would show where I watch football on Saturdays, go drinking on Fridays, go to the supermarket and for a walk or out with the family on Sundays, and generally relax much more and read books in the evenings. Cross does not have the patterns of activity of a normal and properly rounded human being.

There are three options here. “Philip Cross” is either a very strange person indeed, or is a false persona disguising a paid operation to control wikipedia content, or is a real front person for such an operation in his name.

Why does this – to take the official explanation – sad obsessive no friends nutter, matter?

Because the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation is systematically to attack and undermine the reputations of those who are prominent in challenging the dominant corporate and state media narrative. particularly in foreign affairs. “Philip Cross” also systematically seeks to burnish the reputations of mainstream media journalists and other figures who are particularly prominent in pushing neo-con propaganda and in promoting the interests of Israel.

This matters because, an ordinary reader who comes across an article questioning (say) the official narrative on the Skripals, is very likely to turn to Wikipedia to get information on the author of the article. Simply put, the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation is to make certain that if that reader looks up an anti-war person such as John Pilger, they will conclude they are thoroughly unreliable and untrustworthy, whereas if they look up a right wing MSM journalist, they will conclude they are a paragon of virtue and entirely to be trusted.

The “Philip Cross” treatment is meted out not just to left wingers, but to all sceptical of neo-conservatism and who oppose “wars of intervention”. A list of Cross’s victims includes Alex Salmond, Peter Oborne, John Pilger, Owen Jones, Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Hayward, Diane Abbott, Neil Clark, Lindsey German, Vanessa Beeley, and George Galloway. As you would expect “Philip Cross” is particularly active in making amendments to the Wikipedia articles of alternative media, and of MSM critique sites. “Philip Cross” has made 36 edits to the Wikipedia entry of The Canary and, staggeringly, over 800 edits on Media Lens. George Galloway remains the “Philip Cross” operation’s favourite target with a quite incredible 1,800 edits.

Just as revealing are the people who “Philip Cross” seeks to protect and promote. Sarah Smith, BBC Scotland’s uber-unionist, has had “Philip Cross” kindly delete references from her Wikipedia entry to family ties that (ahem) may have helped her career. Labour Friends of Israel’s Ruth Smeeth MP has had reference to the Wikileaks released US diplomatic cable that showed she was an informer to the US Embassy on the secrets of the Labour Party, deleted by “Philip Cross”. Right wing columnist Melanie Phillips had her embarrassing climate change denial excised by Cross.

“Philip Cross” not only carefully tends and protects the Wikipedia entry of Guardian editor Katherine Viner, who has taken the paper four square into the neo-con camp, Philip Cross actually wrote the original hagiographic entry. The Guardian’s MI6 contact, Luke Harding, is particularly looked after by Cross, as are their anti-Corbyn obsessives Nick Cohen and Jonathon Freedland. So are Murdoch hacks David Aaronovitch and Oliver Kamm.

There is no doubt that Kamm, leader writer of Murdoch’s Times, is close the the “Philip Cross” operation. Many people believe that Kamm and Cross are the same person, or that Kamm is part of a multiple persona. Six times I have personally had hostile edits to my Wikipedia page by “Philip Cross” made in precise conjunction with attacks on me by Kamm, either on Twitter, in a Times editorial or in Prospect magazine. Altogether “Philip Cross” has made 275 edits to my Wikipedia page. These include calling my wife a stripper, deleting my photo, removing my reply to attacks made on me by Kamm and Harding among others, and deleting my refusal of all honours while a British diplomat.

Neil Clark and Peter Oborne are among many others who have suffered attacks on them by Philip Cross on Wikipedia simultaneously with attacks by Kamm on other media. Clark is taking Kamm to court for stalking – and “Philip Cross” has deleted all reference to that fact from Kamm’s Wikipedia page.

What is plain is that Kamm and Cross have extremely similar political views, and that the dividing line of those they attack and those they defend is based squarely on the principles of the Euston Manifesto. This may be obscure, but is in fact an important Blairite declaration of support for Israel and for neo-con wars of intervention, and was linked to the foundation of the Henry Jackson Society. Who do we find editing the Wikipedia entry for the Euston Manifesto? “Philip Cross”.

What is particularly interesting is that “Philip Cross”‘s views happen to be precisely the same political views as those of Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales has been on twitter the last three days being actively rude and unpleasant to anybody questioning the activities of Philip Cross. His commitment to Cross’s freedom to operate on Wikipedia would be rather more impressive if the Cross operation were not promoting Wales’ own opinions. Jimmy Wales has actively spoken against Jeremy Corbyn, supports the bombing of Syria, supports Israel, is so much of a Blairite he married Blair’s secretary, and sits on the board of Guardian Media Group Ltd alongside Katherine Viner.

The extreme defensiveness and surliness of Wales’ twitter responses on the “Philip Cross” operation is very revealing. Why do you think he reacts like this? Interestingly enough. Wikipedia’s UK begging arm, Wikimedia UK, joined in with equal hostile responses to anyone questioning Cross.

In response many people sent Jimmy Wales evidence, which he ignored, while his “charity” got very upset with those questioning the Philip Cross operation.

Wikimedia had arrived uninvited into a twitter thread discussing the “Philip Cross” operation and had immediately started attacking people questioning Cross’s legitimacy. Can anybody else see anything “insulting” in my tweet?

I repeat, the coincidence of Philip Cross’s political views with those of Jimmy Wales, allied to Wales’ and Wikimedia’s immediate hostility to anybody questioning the Cross operation – without needing to look at any evidence – raises a large number of questions.

“Philip Cross” does not attempt to hide his motive or his hatred of those whose Wikipedia entries he attacks. He openly taunts them on twitter. The obvious unbalance of his edits is plain for anybody to see.

I have in the past exchanged messages with “Philip Cross”. He says he is a person, and that he edits in conjunction with Oliver Kamm tweets because he follows Kamm and his tweets inspire him to edit. He says he has met Kamm and admits to being in electronic communication with him. That excjange I had with Cross was some years ago. More recent communication with Cross (who has now changed his twitter ID to “Julian”

has been less forthcoming and he has not replied:

George Galloway has offered a reward of £1,000 for the name and address of “Cross” so he may also take legal action.

My view is that Philip Cross probably is a real person, but that he fronts for a group acting under his name. It is undeniably true, in fact the government has boasted, that both the MOD and GCHQ have “cyber-war” ops aiming to defend the “official” narrative against alternative news media, and that is precisely the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation on Wikipedia. The extreme regularity of output argues against “Philip Cross” being either a one man or volunteer operation. I do not rule out however the possibility he genuinely is just a single extremely obsessed right wing fanatic.

Finally, it is worth noting that on Wikipedia, an operation to boost the mainstream media narrative and denigrate alternative sources has the massive advantage that only information from mainstream media sources is permitted in political articles.

Click here to read the full post on Craig Murray’s website.

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Emma Barnett: A Classic “Philip Cross” Wikipedia Operation

High Tory, ex Daily Telegraph and Murdoch, expensive private school, Emma Barnett is BBC Politics’ rising star and stood in as host of the BBC flagship Marr programme on Sunday. She was there rude and aggressive to Labour’s Barry Gardiner. The “highlight” of her career so far was during the general election when on Radio 4 Women’s Hour she demanded instant top of the head recall of complicated figures from Jeremy Corbyn, a ploy the BBC never turns on the Tories.

The most interesting fact about Emma Barnett is that her exclusive private education was funded by her parents who were pimps and brothel keepers on a large scale, for which both were convicted.

I know of no compelling evidence as to whether Barnett was, or was not, complicit in her parents’ activities, which financed her education into adulthood. But that this background is interesting and unusual is not in doubt. However the MSM’s image protector, “Philip Cross”, has been assiduous in, again and again, deleting the information about Barnett’s parents from Wikipedia. Not only has Cross deleted the referenced information of her parents being brothel-keepers, he has repeatedly inserted the ludicrous euphemisms that her father was a “businessman” and her mother a “housewife”.

Cross has also deleted references to Barnett – who wrote for the Telegraph and then for Murdoch’s Times, being “right wing”. He has instead inserted claims that criticisms of Emma Barnett following her aggressive Corbyn interview were “anti-semitic”, in a classic Cross move to undermine any left-wing point. Naturally he had references from the Times and the Guardian – evidence free articles – to back up these claims – and naturally from journalists whose Wikipedia pages Cross curates. You get the circle?

On 21 June 2017 editor Alfonz-kiki complained that Cross’s continual whitewashing of Barnett’s entry was by “paid PR”. He pointed out that he had references on her parents’ brothels from the BBC and the Daily Telegraph. Alfonz-kiki is one of scores to have separately noticed and complained of Cross’s activities over years, but Cross has been defended by Wikipedia again and again and again.

Barnett is demonstrably right wing from her Murdoch and Telegraph columns. Her expensive private education – which got her where she is – was undeniably paid for by the proceeds of prostitution and by the trafficking in persons that led to the operation being closed down. But Philip Cross makes sure you can see none of that on Wikipedia.

In case you are saying that Cross is justified, Barnett’s parents activities were not her fault and ought not be on her Wikipedia page, let me remind you of one thing. The same “Philip Cross” edited my own Wikipedia page to state that my wife Nadira used to be a stripper, sourced to the Mail. Cross abuses family information, as all other information, to defame dissidents or to burnish Establishment defenders, not according to a moral code.

Click here to read the article on Craig Murray’s website.

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The “Philip Cross” MSM Promotion Operation

“Philip Cross” has just 200 Twitter followers, but has more MSM journalists following him than are to be found among my 42,300 twitter followers. Despite the fact a large majority of “Philip Cross’s” tweets are mere retweets, with Oliver Kamm and Nick Cohen most frequently retweeted. “Philip Cross” has never broken a news story and the few tweets which are not retweets contain no gems of expression or shrewd observation. In short, his twitter feed is extremely banal; there is literally nothing in it that might interest a journalist in particular. Do not take my word for it, judge for yourself.

Why then does James LeMesurier, founder of the “White Helmets”, follow Philip Cross on twitter? Why does ex-minister Tristram Hunt follow Philip Cross on Twitter? Why does Sarah Brown, wife of Gordon, follow Philip Cross on twitter?

Why then do so the following corporate and state journalists follow “Philip Cross” on twitter?

Oliver Kamm, Leader Writer The Times
Nick Cohen, Columnist The Guardian/Observer
Joan Smith, Columnist The Independent
Leslie Felperin, Film Columnist The Guardian
Kate Connolly, Foreign Correspondent The Guardian/Observer
Lisa O’Carroll, Brexit Correspondent The Guardian
James Bloodorth, Columnist The Independent
Cristina Criddle, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme
Sarah Baxter, Deputy Editor, The Sunday Times
Iain Watson, Political Correspondent, The BBC
Caroline Wheeler, Deputy Political Editor, the Sunday Times
Jennifer Chevalier, CBC ex-BBC
Dani Garavelli, Scotland on Sunday

Prominent Freelancers

Bonnie Greer (frequently in The Guardian)
Mason Boycott-Owen (The Guardian, New Statesman)
Marko Attilla Hoare (The Guardian)
Kirsty Hughes
Guy Walters (BBC)
Paul Canning

Let me recap, The official story is that “Philip Cross” is an obscure and dedicated Wikipedia editor who edits every single day for five years. His twitter feed has never contained any “news”. Yet among the 160 followers he had last week before the media spotlight was turned upon him, were all these MSM journalists, many more than follow anyone but the most prominent individuals, more than follow an activist like me. Plus big figures like Sarah Brown, Tristram Hunt and James Le Mesurier. What does this tell us about who Philip Cross is.

The largest single category of Philip Cross’s historic 160 followers is anti-left and anti-Corbyn twitter accounts, especially those that specialise in making accusations of anti-semitism against left wing or anti-war figures. These include:

UK Media Watch “promoting accurate coverage of Israel”; ALT Putin’s Capitalist Wealth “@medialenswipe”; Antinat; Jeremy Corbin Prime Minister; Jewish News; Anti-Nazis Utd [which thinks I am a Nazi]; Labour Against Anti-Semitism; Jews Aganst Jeremy Corbyn. A very much larger number of individual followers of “Philip Cross” have twitter streams which predominantly consist of attacks on Jeremy Corbyn or the anti-war left in general, and of vociferous support for Israel. Of personal interest to me, there are at least seventeen of Philip Cross’s supporters who have made utterly unprovoked attacks on me on social media over the last twelve months.

So let us recap what we know. “Philip Cross” spends a quite astonishing amount of time on Wikipedia making malicious edits to the entries of anti-war or anti-corporate media figures, while at the same time polishing and protecting the Wikipedia profiles of corporate and state media figures. “Philip Cross” had done this obsessively for 13 years and not had a single day off, even at Christmas, for five years.

“Philip Cross” is not very active on twitter, mostly just retweeting, and as you would expect has therefore not had many followers. But an extraordinary percentage of that very limited number of followers are MSM journalists or senior Establishment figures. There is absolutely no reason on the face of his Twtter stream why Philip Cross would attract this particular type of following. His retweets are mostly of Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm, and his followership is concentrated in the Guardian and Times, which nowadays have very similar neo-con agendas.

“Philip Cross”‘s own twitter stream makes no effort at all to hide the fact that he has the strongest of neo-conservative biases, hates the Left and anti-war movement, and strongly supports Israel. “He” is part of an active social media network trolling these views. The purpose of “his” continual Wikipedia editing could not be clearer. I suspect strongly that this particular Philip Cross twitter follower gives us a clue:

That is a twitter account founded by a collective of Guardian writers to attack MediaLens, whose Wikipedia entry “Philip Cross” has edited over 800 times. I suspect “Philip Cross” is a similar collective effort, which may hide behind the persona of a real life individual called Philip Cross. The intention of this effort to denigrate and demean alternative media and anti-war figures through their Wikipedia entries, and at the same time to burnish the Wikipedia entries of mainstream media figures, is proven without doubt, as is the continued complicity of Wikipedia in enabling and defending the long-term operation.

Analysis of “Philip Cross” tweets.

FOOTNOTE Since Philip Cross’s activity was brought into prominence throughout social media a few days ago, his Twitter followers have increased, mostly by people who dislike his activity wishing to keep an eye on him. I have disregarded these new followers, and it in no way diminishes my argument for trolls to point out that he now has left wing followers as well.

Click here to read the article on Craig Murray’s website.

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“Philip Cross” Madness

Mike Barson, keyboard player of the great ska group Madness, had his Wikipedia entry amended by “Philip Cross” to delete his membership of Momentum and interview with The Canary.

This apparently trivial incident raises an important question. How does the “Philip Cross” Wikipedia monitoring operation work? “Cross”‘s systematic attack on Momentum and The Canary is a matter of record, and his twitter feed proves it is motivated by a visceral hatred of the anti-war movement. But how would “Cross” discover that a reference to Momentum had turned up somewhere as improbable as the page of a member of Madness?

To get this by Google just would not work – try it yourself if you don’t know it relates to Barson, to Madness, or anything about them. To do a daily Wikipedia site specific Google search for the word Momentum might get you there after hours of effort. Are there tools within Wikipedia itself that could alert “Cross” to this sort of reference being added anywhere on Wikipedia, and if so are they available to the general public?

A number of people have opined in reply to my posts that the time spent to make all of Cross’s daily edits, as per the number of keystrokes, is not great. That ignores the colossal effort that goes into research and above all monitoring of Wikipedia by the “Philip Cross” operation.

Finally, this is an excellent example of the bias of Wikipedia. The information about Barson is totally true. He is a proud member of Momentum. It is also quite interesting and an important bit of his life. But according to Wikipedia’s pro-MSM rules, “Philip Cross” can indeed delete it because the information is not from an MSM source. In the unlikely event of the Times or Telegraph ever writing about Barson’s Momentum membership, it would of course be in a hostile attack to which “Philip Cross” could then link.

I hope you are understanding the Jimmy Wales methodology by now.

So, to add to the mysteries of how “Philip Cross” works every waking hour, never takes a single day off and is followed on Twitter by few people but including half of Fleet Street, we can add the mystery of how he has omniscience of left wing references appearing in unlikely places on Wikipedia. Go figure.

Click here to read the article on Craig Murray’s website.

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Additional:

In conclusion, some images from the edit pages of Wikipedia articles give a little flavour of just how busy the dynamic “Philip Cross” has been:

 

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illegal bombing in the name of justice: Syria, Trump and the latest WMD accusations – part 2

Reposted below before my own thoughts and analysis is the full statement released today by Chris Nineham of the Stop the War Coalition.

Gesture Bombing – the Causes and Consequences of a Pointless Airstrike

Theresa May’s cynicism is so deep it’s hard for us comprehend. There was quite simply no possible good outcome from this bombing in the Middle East, even from our rulers’ warped perspective. People will surely have died, the war will be prolonged, it will have done nothing to control chemical weapons and tensions with Iran and Russia will have risen. International law is unambiguous that these strikes were illegal too.

But no matter, Trump has been obeyed and May thinks she looks tough on the world stage. Not really though. It’s too obvious she is frightened of parliament, which is reconvening on Monday and that she is taking orders from Washington. It is also clear that the US’s position in the world is weakening.

Deadly Decline

This action has been shaped by the failure of Western policy in the Middle East. It is not true that the West has been doing nothing in Syria over the last few years. Britain was involved in covert ops before 2015 and regular bombing raids since the vote in 2015. According to Airwars, the West has been involved in more than 50,000 bombing raids in Syria in the last four years, killing thousands of civilians. But their basic plan, to use the Syrian opposition to secure regime change by arming them and providing them with military back up, has been unsuccessful. The project of getting rid of Assad has been abandoned for the time being.

The bombing of Libya in 2011– an intervention most strongly promoted by Britain and France – was clearly a catastrophe. Sold as a humanitarian operation, it ended with 50,000 dead, brutal regime change and complete state failure. Even Barak Obama has said later he regretted sanctioning it. Before that there was Iraq. The invasion and occupation did untold damage to the country and the wider region. That intervention more than anything is the root cause of the current chaos in the Middle East. But it was also a failure from the point of its main protagonists in Washington and Whitehall.

The West’s failure to pacify and secure the country allowed the US’s main enemy in the region, Iran, to strongly increase its reach and influence. Its demonstration of the limits of US power has encouraged other powers to flex their muscles in the region. The resulting interventions in Syria by Russia, Turkey Saudi Arabia and others have of course only increased the death and destruction.

Calculated Killing

So, angry but more and more impotent, the Western powers this time have settled for gesture bombing, and gestures don’t impress anyone. But periods of imperial decline are inherently dangerous. There is no way the US is going to passively accept reduced influence in the Middle East. In so far as there is a Western strategy, it is the attempt to roll back Iranian influence through support of the emerging alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel and thus to reassert control over the region. Assad’s consolidation is only going to encourage a vigorous pursuit of this project. Next time Trump and his most loyal ally are likely to get more serious.

Domestic Damage

Back home this irresponsible and pointless attack will further undermine what is laughingly referred to as May’s authority. What is so heartening – and something that has limited her options from the start – is that the vast majority of people have complete contempt for this kind of calculated killing. All the opinion polls published so far show big opposition to these strikes despite almost blanket support for them in the mainstream media.

The crucial thing is that we continue to build on and to mobilise this opinion. Once again people have shown their willingness to stand up against war. Many thousands have lobbied their MPs, in Stop the War we were notified of 30 protests around the country on Friday – there were no doubt many many, more. A crowd of hundreds closed Whitehall in London. This Monday night in London from 5.30pm we will be back on the streets outside Parliament the day it reconvenes. There will be other protests around the country. Tell your friends, neighbours and workmates protests matter. No to war – yes to democracy.

Click here to read the same article on the Stop the War Coalition website.

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One year ago, America rushed to judgment to condemn Assad for an alleged sarin attack at Khan Sheikhun:

On April 11, the White House released a declassified four-page report meant to prove its case against Assad and serve as a belated justification for the Tomahawk attack on Syria’s Shayrat air base.

The report, which was authored not by US intelligence agencies but by the White House under the supervision of national-security adviser H.R. McMaster, says that “The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017.” 1

Given the undue haste to pin the blame on Syrian forces, many were justifiably suspicious of US claims. Veteran investigative journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Seymour Hersh; former CIA case officer, Philip Giraldi; former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford all spoke out as you can read in this previous post. Meanwhile, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National-Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Theodore Postol, who had previously served as a scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon produced a painstaking analysis of the White House report. Here is more from the same The Nation article quoted above:

Postol’s exhaustive critique of the White House report notes that “The only undisputable facts stated in the White House report is the claim that a chemical attack using nerve agent occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria.” And yet, according to Postol, “the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft. In fact, the report contains absolutely no evidence that would indicate who was the perpetrator of this atrocity.” […]

“In order to cover up the lack of intelligence to supporting the president’s action, the National Security Council produced a fraudulent intelligence report.” Postol concludes that the “report is completely undermined by a significant body of video evidence taken after the alleged sarin attack and before the US cruise missile attack that unambiguously shows the claims in the WHR [White House Report] could not possibly be true.”

The Nation spoke to Postol over the weekend.

“What I think is now crystal clear,” he said, “is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.”

“My best guess at the moment is that this was an extremely clumsy and ill-conceived attempt to cover up the fact that Trump attacked Syria without any intelligence evidence that Syria was in fact the perpetrator of the attack…. It may be,” he continued, “that the White House staff was worried that this could eventually come out—a reckless president acting without regard to the nation’s security, risking an inadvertent escalation and confrontation with Russia, and a breakdown in cooperation with Russia that would cripple our efforts to defeat the Islamic State.”

“If that is not an impeachable offense,” Postol told The Nation, “then I do not know what is.”

Click here to read the full report written by James Carden published in The Nation.

Since this time there has been the UN OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) report which claimed to be “confident” that Syria had been responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun. On the face of it then, the US were correct in their original assessment, and this is how the incident is now reported on. What is seldom reported on is how experts were not permitted to visit the site, and so the JIM report relied instead on samples gathered by the very militants that controlled the area. It is vital to understand that no independent experts ever visited the site.

Back in 2013, Reuters reported that:

Assertions of chemical weapon use in Syria by Western and Israeli officials citing photos, sporadic shelling and traces of toxins do not meet the standard of proof needed for a U.N. team of experts waiting to gather their own field evidence.

Weapons inspectors will only determine whether banned chemical agents were used in the two-year-old conflict if they are able to access sites and take soil, blood, urine or tissue samples and examine them in certified laboratories, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which works with the United Nations on inspections.

That type of evidence, needed to show definitively if banned chemicals were found, has not been presented by governments and intelligence agencies accusing Syria of using chemical weapons against insurgents.

“This is the only basis on which the OPCW would provide a formal assessment of whether chemical weapons have been used,” said Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Hague-based OPCW.

Luhan adds:

 “The OPCW would never get involved in testing samples that our own inspectors don’t gather in the field because we need to maintain chain of custody of samples from the field to the lab to ensure their integrity.” 2

[bold emphasis added]

So we see how just four years on, the OPCW was quite clearly in breach of its own technical standards with respect to ensuring a chain of custody. Furthermore, as the OPCW itself made clear in its legal framework to the mission to Khan Sheikhun:

The scope of the FFM [OPCW Fact Finding Mission] mandate does not include the task of attributing responsibility for the alleged use. 3

Other criticisms of the report are based on technical details that are explained in detailed reports here  and here.

In short, last year’s allegations that Syrian forces released sarin gas at Khan Sheikhun remain unsubstantiated. In any case, allegations of Assad’s use of sarin have since been quietly dropped by the US administration, as Secretary of Defense James Mattis conceded as recently as February this year:

The U.S. has no evidence to confirm reports from aid groups and others that the Syrian government has used the deadly chemical sarin on its citizens, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday [February 2nd].

“We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon. “We do not have evidence of it.” 4

Click here to read the full AP report entitled “US has no evidence of Syrian use of sarin gas, Mattis says”.

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Last Thursday [April 12th], the same James Mattis was called by Congress to speak before the House Armed Services Committee. In his testimony he said that the US and its allies “don’t have evidence” to support the latest allegations although “we certainly have a lot of media and social media indicators that either chlorine or sarin were used”.

What he had seen in other words is that same footage we have all seen. Video showing people – mostly very young children – being hosed down with water in an unknown location, and also the more macabre roving camera footage showing close-ups of corpses lying on top of one another inside what appears to be an apartment.

All of this video footage along with initial reports appeared quite suddenly on social media platforms having been uploaded by a small assortment of “pro-opposition” sources: the al-Nusra front terrorist-affiliated White Helmets and the so-called Douma Media Centre as well as the more grandiosely named Syrian American Medical Society Foundation (SAMS) which is closely associated to USAID and is US State Department funded. It was SAMS that reported on Saturday April 7th:

“Amidst continuous bombardment of residential neighbourhoods in the city of Douma, more than 500 cases – the majority of whom are women and children – were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent”.

This lack of credible sources presents us once again with reasonable grounds for doubt. But even leaving aside the questionable origins of the material, it is not at all clear what we were actually seeing or even whereabouts these events took place.

I shall not dwell on the details of the videos but it is evident the children shown are obviously in distress. They may well be in shock from conventional airstrikes or possibly suffering from smoke inhalation due to subsequent fires. We simply don’t know. More chillingly, it is also possible that these children are the victims of those who appear to be first responders – certainly it would not be the first time that children have been used as props in staged events:

What we do know for certain, however, is that the area under attack was under the control of the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam (“Army of Islam”), a terrorist faction that is responsible for committing many atrocities including the execution and torture of prisoners and the alleged use of chemical weapons. It is also known that Jaish al-Islam – a group that is well known for using hostages as human shields – held literally thousands captive in its basement prisons:

The rebel group has more than 3,500 prisoners and hostages in its prisons in Douma, Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, told Reuters.

Furthermore, the targeted area where the alleged attack took place was literally on the brink of recapture by government forces:

An agreement has been reached to release all prisoners held by Syrian rebels controlling the eastern Ghouta city of Douma in return for the fighters’ leaving the city, Syrian state television reported on Sunday, citing an official source.

According to the agreement, Jaish al-Islam fighters will leave Douma for the northern city of Jarablus, near the borders with Turkey, within 48 hours, the source added.

There was no immediate comment from Jaish al-Islam, which control the city. 5

Indeed, almost immediately after the video footage had been released the area was retaken by Syrian and Russian forces who entered the site without protective gear. And though reports that the Red Crescent likewise confirmed it found no evidence of chemical weapons were later retracted, as Antiwar.com points out:

That the Red Crescent operates a hospital in a city supposedly inundated with wounded and didn’t get a single patient with confirmed exposure, however, is very noteworthy. 6

A detailed overview of the sources which first broke the news of this alleged attack was put together by independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone.

She comments:

So to be clear, we’re being asked by these people to believe that Bashar al-Assad launched a “mass casualty chemical attack”, the thing which would provoke the wrath of the US war machine, just as Trump was seeking a withdrawal from Syria and just as Assad was approaching victory in Douma. We are being asked to ignore the fact that the area is crawling with actual, literal terrorists, to ignore the western empire’s extensive history of using lies, propaganda and false flags to manufacture support for military aggression, to ignore the extremely suspicious western funding and terrorist ties of the White Helmets who are circulating these photos and information, and to ignore the fact that Syria has been a target of imperialist regime change for many years. We are being asked to ignore all that and believe instead that Assad spontaneously began acting against his own self-interest so that he could kill children for no discernible reason.

It says so much about the power of western media psyops that this has a strong chance of being believed. 7

Click here to read the full article entitled “New Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack Being Reported By All The Usual Suspects”.

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On Tuesday 10th, former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, was afforded a live interview with BBC Radio Scotland. Here’s what he told presenter Gary Robertson:

Gary Robertson: There’s a lot of tough talk on both sides here. I wonder where you think it will lead us.

Peter Ford: Well I greatly fear it will lead us to the edge of Armageddon. It’s time to take a deep breath and consider where we’ve got ourselves into as a result mainly of hysteria and distortion.

The worst case is that Trump does launch off with some very unwise multiple attacks on Syria. And given that Russian forces are deeply embedded with Syrian forces – in particular air defence – it’s highly likely that scores of Russian soldiers will be killed. If anyone thinks that Russia will take that just lying down I think they need to think again. Russian planes in the last twelve hours have been buzzing UD destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Please – I think everybody needs to take a deep breath before something truly horrible occurs affecting the security of us all including in this country. We have forces in Syria. The government don’t like to talk about this, but one was sadly killed two days ago revealing the extent of our existing military involvement in Syria. So at the very least our own forces would be exposed to grave danger.

GR: Indeed it’s not just the UD President though who’s appalled by what they’ve seen in terms of these pictures coming from Douma. We’ve had condemnation from President Macron, likewise from Prime Minister Theresa May too. If it isn’t the sort of military action that you’ve just outlined there, what should be the response to this use of chemical weapons if it’s proved.

PF: The correct response is obviously – and I think a child could see this – to get inspectors on to the alleged site of the alleged offences. And in fact in the last few hours Russia has offered to provide military escorts for inspectors from the recognised body in this field: the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Warfare.

GR: And if it’s proved then what – because, of course, we know that Assad has form on this. We’ve had investigations previously and there has been fairly conclusive proof that chemical agents have been used.

PF: I don’t think that Assad is in the least worried that the inspectors would find out his guilt because he’s probably not guilty at least on this occasion. I mean we have to engage our brains as well as our emotions here. Not be stampeded by those videos which are described as being unverified but which by dint of being repeated over and over and over again come to acquire a spurious credibility.

We have to ask ourselves what are the sources of the information on which we’re in this stampede to war. They are twofold – and I’m sorry but the media are falling down on the job of investigating this – the sources are the Syrian American Medical Society, which is a pro-Islamist propaganda outfit based in the United States…

GR: So are you saying these pictures are being staged? Are you saying that people haven’t died?

PF: Yes, yes, in all probability the incidents have been staged. Come on, we know how easy it is to fake images for the internet. Look at the images – anybody could stage those. And then the second source is supposed to be the so-called first responders. Who are the first responders? In this case they are the White Helmets, which is another pro-Islamist jihadi propaganda outfit.

GR: This is an awful lot of effort to discredit Assad isn’t it?

PF: Please let me finish this important point. The witnesses to these terrible events are people who themselves were involved in beheadings: literally picking up the body parts. And we choose to give credence to testimony from these alleged first responders.

GR then interrupts before PF is allowed to continue.

You don’t allow. The BBC does not allow questions of important details to be addressed.

GR: We have a short period of time. I’m trying to probe what you’re saying. The point surely is that Assad’s reputation is already dented. What would be in the interest of these people to stage these events?

PF: Is that not obvious? A child can see that the intention was to produce the hysteria and now the military action that we are on the point of taking, risking our own safety. What the jihadis have done is jerk our leash.

And frankly for one I think it’s pretty disgusting that we are allowing ourselves to have our own leash jerked by these Islamist fanatics. This is what’s going on and ask yourself how has it profited Assad?

Please engage with your brain. Answer the question: how has Assad benefitted from all this mayhem? In fact it’s rebounded against him. Why would he do such a thing when he was already winning [and] the battle for Eastern Ghouta was virtually over? Why would he choose this moment to do the one thing that was guaranteed to pluck defeat for him from the jaws of victory?

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On Wednesday 11th, erstwhile political opponents Peter Hitchens and George Galloway discussed the build up to war in Syria and the potential repercussions:

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So just why did Trump, Macron and May launch a barrage of cruise missiles towards Damascus at a cost of multiple millions that might otherwise have been usefully invested in our terribly underfunded public services at home? The corporate media which has been screaming for “a response” wants us to believe that it is because these leaders care so much about the people of Syria and especially the children. Opinion polls in Britain, however, reveal that only a minority are quite so easily deceived.

If Trump and May really wanted to perform a grand humanitarian gesture then they would have been far better served in ending support to the Saudi regime’s murderous assault and blockade of Yemen that is now causing widespread famine and the most terrible outbreak of cholera. Instead they recently welcomed the Crown Prince in extended visits before signing new contracts for arms sales. Alternatively, they might have sanctioned Netanyahu’s government, forcing it to bring a halt to the massacre taking place on the border with Gaza where more than a thousand of peaceful protesters have been wounded and dozens more killed by the live ammunition of Israeli snipers. But instead of taking the moral high ground they chose predictably to bomb an already war-torn country to the sole benefit of western defence contractors and the arms industry, and for furthering shared Anglo-American-Saudi-Israeli geopolitical interests.

The corporate media do not want you to worry about the geopolitical context. They want you to overlook the fact that when the very same western powers carried out the illegal “shock and awe” campaign to oust Saddam they shamelessly led the propaganda offensive. That they also cheered on Nato as it provided air cover for terrorist militia that quickly swarmed across Libya. And obviously they hope everyone forgets about Wesley Clark’s infamous statement of Pentagon plans to bring about regime change in “seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”

Yesterday’s fireworks over Damascus achieved nothing at all for peace, but did transfer a little more wealth from the public purse (the poor) into the hands of the arms manufacturers and other defence contractors (the rich). It also left people across the entire world a little less safe than before.

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Additional: the return of John Bolton

Until now Trump has proved himself to be the great blusterer and for this we ought to be grateful. Yes, he talked tough to North Korea, but instead of following through with his threats he eventually gave way to Kim Jong Un and agreed to negotiate instead. Thus, the coming war with China was back on ice and all who care about the already perilous state of world affairs could breathe a small sigh of relief. Likewise, having unleashed a nearly atomic-sized explosion, the so-called MOAB (“Mother of all Bombs”), on the villagers and goatherds of Afghanistan, with this vile experiment completed, Trump returned to overseeing his country’s conventional and everyday devastation by drones. And again, following last year’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun, Trump instantly launched a tremendous barrage of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airbase. Then, having publicly beaten his chest to the satisfaction of the corporate media, he left the US military to continue its pursuit of regime change by less overt means. Under Trump, in other words, it has been business as usual regarding the “war on terror”, occasionally interspersed by a few more exceptional and shocking instances of long-distance slaughtering. However, all this happened before John Bolton returned to the White House again.

A draft-dodger who once confessed “I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy” 8, John Bolton has always been highly dependable whenever it meant sending others off to die. Even by the bellicose standards of the Bush Jr administration, Bolton was an exceptional warmonger. For instance, in a speech to the Heritage Foundation back in May 2002, he told the assembled:

Beyond the axis of evil, there are other rogue states intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction – particularly biological weapons. Given our vulnerability to attack from biological agents, as evidenced recently in the anthrax releases, it is important to carefully assess and respond to potential proliferators. 9

“Beyond the axis of evil… Other rogue states”? It transpired that there were as then three main targets circled on Bolton’s hit list: these were Libya, Syria and… wait for it… Cuba. So did anyone else seriously believe that Libya, Syria or Cuba represented an existential threat to America due to these purported arsenals of biological weapons? And does anyone seriously believe Bolton believed so either? The very idea is actually a measure of the mounting hysteria in the months following the 9/11 attacks. It also gives a useful insight into the sociopathic mind of John Bolton.

Aside: Incidentally, although al-Qaeda and Iraq were both separately accused of perpetrating the post-9/11 anthrax attacks it was later discovered that the strain originated from a US defence lab. After wrongly suspecting bioweapons researcher Steven Hatfill who was afterwards awarded damages of $5.82 million, the FBI turned attention to senior bioweapons scientist Bruce Edwards Ivins. No formal charges were ever filed against him and no direct evidence has been uncovered but while under investigation Ivins apparently committed suicide.

Two years later, Bolton went gunning for Iran both publicly and privately:

Bolton’s high-profile advocacy of war with Iran is well known. What is not at all well known is that, when he was under secretary of state for arms control and international security, he executed a complex and devious strategy aimed at creating the justification for a U.S. attack on Iran. Bolton sought to convict the Islamic Republic in the court of international public opinion of having a covert nuclear weapons program using a combination of diplomatic pressure, crude propaganda, and fabricated evidence.

Despite the fact that Bolton was technically under the supervision of Secretary of State Colin Powell, his actual boss in devising and carrying out that strategy was Vice President Dick Cheney. Bolton was also the administration’s main point of contact with the Israeli government, and with Cheney’s backing, he was able to flout normal State Department rules by taking a series of trips to Israel in 2003 and 2004 without having the required clearance from the State Department’s Bureau for Near Eastern Affairs.

Thus, at the very moment that Powell was saying administration policy was not to attack Iran, Bolton was working with the Israelis to lay the groundwork for just such a war. During a February 2003 visit, Bolton assured Israeli officials in private meetings that he had no doubt the United States would attack Iraq, and that after taking down Saddam, it would deal with Iran, too, as well as Syria. 10

Click hear to read the full article by Gareth Porter entitled “The Untold Story of John Bolton’s Campaign for War With Iran”.

In short, John Bolton will stop at nothing to start a war and according to the testimony of Jose Bustani, the first director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) during the lead up to Bush’s war on Iraq:

“I got a phone call from John Bolton – it was first time I had contact with him – and he said he had instructions to tell me that I have to resign from the organization, and I asked him why, he said that [my] management style was not agreeable to Washington.”

When Bustani refused to resign, saying he “owed nothing” to the US, Bolton told him:

“OK, so there will be retaliation. Prepare to accept the consequences. We know where your kids are.” 11

Bolton’s admirers say he is a foreign policy realist akin to Kissinger and so different to the bona fide neo-cons who refrain from dropping American bombs unless in the service of spreading human rights and democracy. And if you think I’m joking then read this extract taken from an article published by the Henry Jackson Society:

For Bolton, the liberation of Iraq was coincidently about universal moral concerns, usually a ruinous basis for any state’s foreign policy (look at Somalia, he says). Fundamentally, Saddam was destroyed because he posed an unacceptable risk to U.S. security – a risk that could be lessened. The democratisation of his one, long-time fiefdom is undertaken because the odds of a democracy threatening U.S. security are far less. The enfranchisement of women across the Middle East may well be a happy consequence of his removal but it is not an issue that keeps Bolton awake at night. William Kristol, on the other hand, a far more eager intervener, wants us to believe that women’s rights are basic to America’s global mission. For sure, Kristol likes Bolton, but this does not make Bolton a neocon. 12

So according to the Henry Jackson Society, the preeminent British neo-con foreign policy think tank, Bolton correctly foresaw that Saddam “posed an unacceptable risk to U.S. security.” Again, who actually believes this nonsense? And who beyond the corridors of the neo-con/humanitarian-bomber establishment has swallowed any of the lies of such hypocrites as Kristol or Blair? Aside from associates of HJS, scarcely anyone believed the cant that set the stage for the downfall of Saddam even though the media did its utmost to manufacture public consent by uncritically repeating the lies long before Bush and Blair took us to war anyway.

Today another war is looming and Bolton has the ear of Trump. Trump who blusters and tries to look tough in vain attempts to prove to a disconnected audience that the US Commander-in-Chief is in control and knows what he’s doing. He is neither. On foreign policy as on domestic issues, he is quite obviously clueless and in the thrall of the corporate elite, and now with Bolton behind him, the chickenhawk neo-cons are ruling the roost.

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1 From an article entitled “The Chemical-Weapons Attack In Syria: Is There a Place for Skepticism?” written by James Carden, published in The Nation on April 19, 2018. https://www.thenation.com/article/the-chemical-weapons-attack-in-syria-is-there-a-place-for-skepticism/ 

2 From an article entitled “’Evidence’ of Syria chemical weapons use not up to U.N. standard” written by Anthony Deutsch, published in Reuters on April 26, 2013. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-chemical-weapons/evidence-of-syria-chemical-weapons-use-not-up-to-u-n-standard-idUSBRE93P0UG20130426

3 https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/Fact_Finding_Mission/s-1510-2017_e_.pdf

4 From an article entitled “US has no evidence of Syrian use of sarin gas, Mattis says” written by Robert Burns, published by AP News on February 2, 2018. https://apnews.com/bd533182b7f244a4b771c73a0b601ec5

5

The rebel group has more than 3,500 prisoners and hostages in its prisons in Douma, Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, told Reuters. Five prisoners were released on Wednesday, after earlier departures by Jaish al-Islam fighters.

From a report entitled “Jaish al-Islam to leave Douma in return for releasing prisoners published by Reuters on April 8, 2018. https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-ghouta-negotiati/jaish-al-islam-to-leave-douma-in-return-for-releasing-prisoners-idUKKBN1HF09Z

6 From an updated article originally entitled “Red Crescent Says No Evidence of Chemical Attack in Syria’s Douma” written by Jason Ditz, published by Antiwar.com on April 9, 2018. https://news.antiwar.com/2018/04/09/red-crescent-says-no-evidence-of-chemical-attack-in-syrias-douma/

7 From an article entitled “New Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack Being Reported By All The Usual Suspects” written and published by Caitlin Johnstone on April 8, 2018. https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/new-syrian-chemical-weapons-attack-being-reported-by-all-the-usual-suspects-bb52e9a4f982

8

“Though Bolton supported the Vietnam War, he declined to enter combat duty, instead enlisting in the National Guard and attending law school after his 1970 graduation. ‘I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy,’ Bolton wrote of his decision in the 25th reunion book. ‘I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.’”

From an article entitled “Bolton’s conservative ideology has roots in Yale experience” written by Sam Kahn, publuished in Yale Daily News on April 28, 2005. https://web.archive.org/web/20100924032144/http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2005/apr/28/boltons-conservative-ideology-has-roots-in-yale/

9 Beyond the Axis of Evil: Additional Threats From Weapons of Mass Destruction originally presented to the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC on May 6, 2002. http://www.disam.dsca.mil/pubs/V24-4%20PDF%20Files%20By%20Author/Bolton,%20John%20R.,%20Axis%20of%20Evil.pdf

10 From an article entitled The Untold Story of John Bolton’s Campaign for War with Iran” written by Gareth Porter, published in The American Conservative on March 22, 2018. http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/why-a-john-bolton-appointment-is-scarier-than-you-think-mcmaster-trump/ 

11 From an article entitled “’I give you 24 hours to resign’: 1st OPCW chief on how John Bolton bullied him before Iraq War” published by RT on April 7, 2018. https://www.rt.com/usa/423477-bolton-threat-opcw-iraq/

12 From an article entitled “John Bolton is not a neocon” written Tim Lynch and published by the Henry Jackson Society on July 20, 2005. http://henryjacksonsociety.org/2005/07/20/john-bolton-is-not-a-neocon/

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anti-Zionism ≠ antisemitism: playing the race card cannot disguise Israel’s guilt

racism n.1 a a belief in the superiority of a particular race; prejudice based on this. b antagonism towards other races, esp. as a result of this. 2 the theory that human abilities etc. are determined by race. 1

As you read on please keep in mind this dictionary definition of racism. Reflect upon it and consider if this definition better fits the supporters of Israel’s policy against the Palestinians, or those who support Palestinian rights and in turn accuse Israel of being an apartheid state. Ask too whether in accordance with the strict definition, it is antisemitic, and thus racist, to take either an anti-Israel or an anti-Zionist stance.

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On August 14th 2002, Democracy Now! interviewed Shulamit Aloni, leading Israeli civil rights activist and former Knesset member who headed the Meretz Party. In reply to the question “Often when there is dissent expressed in the United States against policies of the Israeli government, people here are called antisemitic: what is your response?” she said:

Well, it’s a trick. We always use it.

Continuing:

When from Europe somebody’s criticising Israel then we bring up the Holocaust. When in this country [America] someone is criticising Israel then they are antisemitic… It’s very easy to blame people who criticise certain acts of the Israeli government as antisemitic and to bring up the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people and that justifies everything we do to the Palestinian people.

Click here to read a full transcript and to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website. [The extract above begins at 51 mins in]

Please note that I added the above section with a view to better framing the article. The post originally opened with the dictionary definition directly followed by my own views below.

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Signs of antisemitism?

As the Conservative party divides its time between running the country and tearing itself apart over Europe, Labour has been consumed with a rather different problem. In the past two weeks, it has had to expel two activists for overt racism. That follows the creation of an inquiry into the Labour club at Oxford University, after the co-chair resigned saying the club was riddled with racism. The racism in question is hatred of Jews. 2

writes Jonathan Freedland in a recent Guardian article entitled “Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem”.

Antisemitism has a diabolical history, so can this really be true? Is the Labour Party deeply infected with racism? Or is this really another salvo in the war against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters – a war that began even before he was elected leader? More later.

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Meanwhile, over at AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Hillary Clinton last week addressed the more than 14,000 delegates gathered for their annual Policy Conference. She said:

Many of the young people here today are on the front lines of the battle to oppose the alarming boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS. Particularly at a time when antisemitism is on the rise across the world, especially in Europe, we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people. I’ve been sounding the alarm for a while now. As I wrote last year in a letter to the heads of major American Jewish organizations, we have to be united in fighting back against BDS. Many of its proponents have demonized Israeli scientists and intellectuals, even students. To all the college students who may have encountered this on campus, I hope you stay strong. Keep speaking out. Don’t let anyone silence you, bully you or try to shut down debate, especially in places of learning like colleges and universities. Antisemitism has no place in any civilized society—not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere. 3

Of course antisemitism – and every form of racism – has no place in any society. But since when did boycott, divestment and sanctions constitute racism? And is it true that antisemitism is on the rise again and “especially in Europe”? Where in Europe is it on the rise? More later.

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AIPAC greets The Donald

Attending this year’s AIPAC convention alongside Hillary were all the presidential hopefuls with the exception of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein of the Green Party, the only Jewish candidates in the race. Keen to curry favour with their influential hosts, the rest were soon falling over themselves to heap praise and promise unreserved support to Israel.

Prior to his appearance at AIPAC, Trump had declared that he would remain “neutral” in brokering any peace deal between Israel and Palestine. But fickle as ever, ‘The Donald’ was not about to be outdone by his rivals and overeager to push the right buttons. So besides reassuring the audience of his absolute determination to overturn the Iran deal, here is a sample of what else he said last Monday [March 21st]:

When I’m president, believe me, I will veto any attempt by the U.N. to impose its will on the Jewish state. It will be vetoed 100 percent.

And he said:

When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one.

And:

Already half of the population of Palestine has been taken over by the Palestinian ISIS and Hamas, and the other half refuses to confront the first half, so it’s a very difficult situation that’s never going to get solved unless you have great leadership right here in the United States.

We’ll get it solved. One way or the other, we will get it solved.

And:

We will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel.

And:

The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is absolutely, totally unbreakable.

And then he said:

They must come to the table willing and able to stop the terror being committed on a daily basis against Israel. They must do that.

And they must come to the table willing to accept that Israel is a Jewish state and it will forever exist as a Jewish state. 4

And finally he told everyone in the room how much he loved Israel and how much he loved the people in the room who shared his love for Israel and then they all applauded him until their hands were stinging.

Here is how Haaretz correspondent Chemi Shalev reported on Trump’s performance:

Trump entered the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. as a prime suspect but emerged clean as a whistle. In less than half an hour, he took a skeptical and apprehensive audience and turned them into gushing cheerleaders. He went into the arena as a racist demagogue but soon came out as an ostensibly serious contender. He faced a tough test of his mettle but passed it with flying colors and hardly any effort. He came away with a kosher “K” certificate, issued by one of the most powerful and influential organizations in America.

Adding:

In honor of AIPAC… he undertook an extreme makeover, reading a tightly formulated speech from the kind of teleprompter that he usually mocks. He didn’t deviate from his prepared text, which wasn’t any different from the addresses made on Monday by Hillary Clinton, John Kasich and even House Speaker Paul Ryan, another AIPAC favorite. Ted Cruz, usually considered a far better speaker than Trump, suddenly sounded dazed and confused. 5

There were also a handful of delegates who opted to boycott Trump’s appearance on the grounds that Trump himself is a racist. Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld was one of the few and he wrote afterwards:

[And] the laws and teachings of Judaism make it clear that Trump qualifies as wicked. He has equivocated about whether he would disavow support from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. He has called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. He has suggested that torture be made legal and that the U.S. military kill the families of terrorism suspects (a war crime in international law as surely as it would be an ethical crime in religious law). Sure, he walked back some of those comments, but there is no question that his campaign is inspiring and nourishing the bigots and racists of the world. Lately, he has openly encouraged violence at his rallies. This combination of providing sustenance to racists and encouraging violence is a deadly one that represents an existential threat to our country. That certainly qualifies as wicked.

Before Trump’s speech, I asked other attendees at the AIPAC conference whether they would walk out to protest. Some small groups did leave, to study Torah elsewhere during his address. But most stayed, and many applauded. People told me that they wanted to hear what he had to say. They wanted to hear whether he would be supportive of Israel.

Whether he supports Israel is irrelevant to me. If a person inspires bigotry and racism, we should not overlook those character traits just because he says something with which we agree. Just the opposite: that he does agree with us on some issues makes his message even more dangerous, as it can make his bigotry and racism more palatable. 6

Rabbi Herzfeld is correct and I commend him. The jury can no longer be out on Donald Trump. Trump is an unabashed ethnic supremacist and a racist – he ticks all boxes of any definition. Moreover, those who loudly applaud him, whether within the capricious ranks of America’s so-called libertarian right, or its more rabid offshoot the Tea Party, or amongst Monday’s cheering crowd at AIPAC, thereby condone his racism. To oppose racism, you must denounce Trump.

[But] it is important to note that AIPAC inviting Trump is not an aberration, it is in line with AIPAC’s mission to support Israel regardless of how illegal and repressive its policies are.

writes Samantha Brotman from Jewish Voice for Peace in an article entitled “If Trump’s Racism Shocks You, So Too Should AIPAC’s”.

Brotman continues:

The reality is many of the alarming statements and political proposals that have even AIPAC goers up in arms over Trump’s participation are already policy in Israel. Israel’s Law of Return privileges Jewish immigrants over non-Jews, Israel already refuses to open its doors to Syrian refugees (many of whom are of Palestinian origin), and is building  highly militarized walls both on its southern border to keep out migrants and refugees, and throughout the West Bank to seize land and limit Palestinian freedom of movement. There is not much difference between Netanyahu’s racist fear-mongering to get votes in the 2015 Israeli election, and the blatant racism of Trump, or the no-less-racist dog-whistling by other candidates. And AIPAC unquestioningly supports Israel’s rights to continue these oppressive practices.

She concludes:

If Trump’s racism or policy proposals shock us, then so too should AIPAC. If the other candidates’ dehumanizing rhetoric about Palestinians makes us uncomfortable, then so too should AIPAC. If the claim that the BDS movement—a nonviolent movement that includes many Jews and emphasizes human rights—is essentially anti-Semitic confounds us, then so too should AIPAC. AIPAC represents everything we should seek to purge from politics: racism, inhumanity, fear-mongering, and entrenched commitment to the status quo. 7

Click here to read the full article published by Mint Press News.

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Crying wolf at the ADL

Yoav Shamir is an Israeli Jew and an award-winning documentary filmmaker who set off in the late noughties to answer a nagging question. Having never experienced it, he asked himself, “what is antisemitism today?”

Along the way Shamir posed this same question in various ways to amongst others, political scientist John Mearsheimer, who co-authored The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, and Norman Finkelstein, the son of two Jewish concentration camp survivors and a fierce critic of Israeli policy. But central to his search for answers was the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); the biggest organisation in the world fighting antisemitism with an annual budget at the time of over $70 million. Happily, Abraham Foxman, the then-head of the New York-based ADL, had agreed to give Shamir unprecedented access to his organisation.

Yoav Shamir’s film “Defamation” is also available without subtitles by following the link: http://www.disclose.tv/embed/108237

The original youtube upload has been taken down so here is a different version:

The ADL tell Shamir that they receive reports of about 1,500 incidents of antisemitism a year but are detecting “a spike” in levels which appears to be centred on New York. As Shamir soon realises, however, supporting evidence for this claim is scant. Instead, those inside the ADL have evidently fallen into the habit of mistaking and reclassifying minor irritations and petty disputes as racist assaults.

ADL Regional Director, Bob Wolfson explains the levels to Shamir with the help of a flip chart and a roughly doodled pyramid:

“It starts with an insult, a denigrating statement, and at the very top what you have is genocide—and in between is every bad thing that can happen to someone.”

The film Defamation (2009 – embedded above) is a masterpiece of even-handedness and understatement. What Shamir discovers is how in contrast to very real and often acute feelings of Jewish vulnerability to outside threats and hostility, this sense of jeopardy (certainly in the western world) is for the most part groundless. Moreover, that the ADL itself, having a need to justify its own existence, helps to promote such a culture of suspicion and hypersensitivity by priming a feedback process which promotes and amplifies these anxieties. Unsurprisingly, his documentary was not well-received in all quarters. Shamir answers his critics here.

Today, when Clinton adjudges the BDS campaign antisemitic and places this in the context of the general though unsubstantiated claim that “antisemitism is on the rise across the world” she is appealing to an already heightened anxiety felt by her audience before skilfully playing on its uncertainties and suspicions. In doing so, she further aggravates the situation by saying: “we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.” A quite deliberate muddling together of Israel with the Jewish people that would itself be deemed racist, were it not for Clinton’s pro-Israel stance.

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The Corbyn affair

Jonathan Freedland, who describes himself as a ‘liberal Zionist’, wrote in the aftermath of Israel’s euphemistically named “Operation Protective Edge” military offensive of 2014:

Never do liberal Zionists feel more torn than when Israel is at war. 8

Yet the “war” he speaks of was in reality a one-sided massacre in which more than a thousand totally innocent Gazans lost their lives. Just another of Israel’s perennial acts of bloodletting that its most heinous apologists describe as “mowing the lawn”.

In a separate piece published a month later (also in The New York Review of Books), Freedland added:

In the toxic environment that characterizes much, if not most, debate on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a special poison is reserved for the liberal Zionist. Such a person, who stands by Israel even as he yearns for it to change, is fated to be hated by both camps: hawkish Zionists despise the liberal for going too far in his criticisms, accusing him of a hand-wringing betrayal of the cause that can only comfort the enemy, while anti-Zionists denounce the liberal for not going far enough, for failing to follow the logic of his position through to its conclusion and for thereby defending the indefensible. The liberal Zionist is branded either a hypocrite or an apologist or both. 9

Freedland’s self-pitying sticks in the throat, the more so after one also reads (within his reflections on “Operation Protective Edge” in the first article):

So there is a weariness in the liberal Zionist fraternity. Privately, people admit to growing tired of defending Israeli military action when it comes at such a heavy cost in civilian life, its futility confirmed by the frequency with which it has to be repeated. Operation Cast Lead was in 2008-2009. Operation Pillar of Defense followed in 2012. And here we are again in 2014. 10

This refrain of the ‘liberal Zionists’ is a familiar one. When we strip it to the bone we see how casually it reduces the murder of civilians to an awkward necessity. “Its futility” – its ineffectiveness – as Freedland says, “confirmed by the frequency with which it has to be repeated”. But because Freedland is an artful wordsmith he is seldom so careless when it comes to abetting Israel’s hypocrisy and defending the indefensible.

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Freedland’s current dispute with the Labour Party is ostensibly about two party activists:

The cases of Gerry Downing and Vicki Kirby certainly look pretty rotten. The former said it was time to wrestle with the “Jewish Question”, the latter hailed Hitler as a “Zionist God” and tweeted a line about Jews having “big noses”, complete with a “lol”. 11

These opinions are abhorrent and offensive and in light of which the Labour Party has acted to suspend Downing and expel Kirby. 12 But these tweets, undeniably antisemitic as they are, represent the views of two individuals and are not ones held by the Labour Party or shared by Jeremy Corbyn.

Incidentally, at the time these cases came to light, the Labour leader was not Corbyn but Ed Miliband – Miliband who is the son of Polish Jews who had emigrated to Belgium but later fled the Nazi occupation. Furthermore, “Red Ed” as the tabloids soon labelled him, was the preferred choice of those ‘on the left’ of the party – the constituency Freedland wishes to hold to account.

However Freedland also has a bigger axe to grind and goes on:

[But] this is the brick wall Jews keep running into: the belief that what Jews are complaining about is not antisemitism at all, but criticism of Israel. Jews hear this often. They’re told the problem arises from their own unpleasant habit of identifying any and all criticism of Israel as anti-Jewish racism. Some go further, alleging that Jews’ real purpose in raising the subject of antisemitism is to stifle criticism of Israel.

So does Freedman deny that critics of Israel are routinely pilloried both on the trumped up charge of antisemitism, or, if the critic happens to be of Jewish ethnicity (as increasingly many are), then on grounds that they are “self-hating Jews”. Well, let’s go on:

What of those who attack not Jews, but only Zionists? Defined narrowly, that can of course be legitimate. If one wants to criticise the historical movement that sought to re-establish Jewish self-determination in Palestine, Zionism is the right word.

But Zionism, as commonly used in angry left rhetoric, is rarely that historically precise. It has blended with another meaning, used as a codeword that bridges from Israel to the wider Jewish world, hinting at the age-old, antisemitic notion of a shadowy, global power, operating behind the scenes.

So being anti-Zionist is equivalent to antisemitism too? Read on further:

To state the obvious, criticism of Israel and Zionism is not necessarily anti-Jewish: that’s why there are so many Jewish critics of Israel, inside and outside the country. But it doesn’t take a professor of logic to know that just because x is not always y, it does not follow that x can never be y. Of course opposition to Israel is not always antisemitic. But that does not mean that it is never and can never be antisemitic.

Any clearer? Well let me translate it. Freedland is saying that if I (a Jew) use the word Zionism to criticise Israel then that’s fine, but if you (a non-Jew) make a parallel argument then there may be grounds for suspicion…

Which brings us to Jeremy Corbyn.

Of course it does – where else could his meandering diatribe possibly have been heading?

No one accuses him of being an antisemite. But many Jews do worry that his past instinct, when faced with potential allies whom he deemed sound on Palestine, was to overlook whatever nastiness they might have uttered about Jews, even when that extended to Holocaust denial or the blood libel – the medieval calumny that Jews baked bread using the blood of gentile children.

Thus begins Freedland’s repetition of an old calumny against Corbyn about how he once unwittingly brushed shoulders with a holocaust denier called Paul Eisen. 13 Corbyn might not be an actual in-the-flesh antisemite, Freedland argues, but perhaps antisemitism doesn’t matter enough to him, which self-evidently explains why he is rude about Israel.

Guilt by association is a recognised type of ad hominem fallacy, as any professor of logic would also know, and literally proves nothing. Moreover, by mudslinging of this sort, Freedland and fellow inquisitors of the “new antisemitism” commit a second fallacy: precisely the one they rightly accuse their enemies of. By concatenating Israel with Jewishness and Zionism with Judaism, as they do, they conjure up spurious accusations that ultimately trivialise the true meaning and evil of racism.

*

This is Jeremy Corbyn being arrested at an anti-apartheid protest demo outside the South African embassy in 1984.

And here is Corbyn talking about the incident in the House of Commons later:

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Racism and the Z-word

Here’s what the Urban Dictionary tells us about the word “Zionist”:

1. A person, Jewish or non-Jewish, who, by some action, supports the State of Israel.
2. A substitue [sic] word for ‘jew’ used by anti-semites who, for whatever reason, wish to hide their racist intent.

1. Robin moved to Israel because he is a Zionist. 
2. Any quote by George Galloway using the word ‘Zionist’.

That qualifies as satire apparently.

For the record, I have never heard George Galloway confuse Israel and Judaism. When he was put on trial last February by BBC’s Question Time, denounced by an unbalanced panel (that included Jonathan Freedland) and heckled by hostile audience, he very assiduously outlined the distinction, saying:

“This is a dangerous conflation. It’s a false synonym. Zionism and Israel are different things from Judaism and Jewishness. And anybody who confuses these two things, whether they are an antisemite, or whether they are so-called leaders of the Jewish community is making a grave mistake.”

[from 6:20 mins in]

As I wrote then in an earlier piece, there are plenty of accusations that can be fairly levelled at Galloway, but antisemitism is not on that list. Galloway is not a racist. Indeed, he has consistently spoken out against all types of racism. However, by speaking out loudly against Israel and Zionism, he is now presumed guilty of the “new antisemitism”.

All that said, Galloway’s roasting on Question Time did provide a rare moment of television for another reason. It had been a very long time since such an extended debate about Zionism was broadcast on the BBC.

Today, the word ‘Zionism’ itself is seldom heard in the mainstream media or anywhere respectable outside of Zionist forums themselves. Although within Zionist circles, it is breezily described as the Z-word. For instance, when Ed Miliband visited Israel back in April 2014 and remarked to students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem that “For me, Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people”, adding that:

“I come here very conscious of my family’s history and also with a deep sense of gratitude to Israel for what they did for my grandmother. Israel was a sanctuary for her from the most indescribable grief. So it’s a personal journey for me as well.”

He was rounded on by some pro-Israel voices for “being afraid to use the Z-word”. The Times of Israel afterwards reported:

It was a full and personal answer, but at the same time a dodge and obfuscation. Miliband managed to say he believed in the necessity of Israel and its right to exist without having to use the Z-word. He had landed himself in hot water for calling himself a Zionist once before in March 2013 – a declaration he had to walk back within twenty-four hours, his office clarifying he had “not used the word Zionist to describe himself” – and wasn’t about to do it again. […]

Since he became the first Jewish leader of the British Labour Party in September 2010, Miliband has made a conscious attempt to court Jewish community leaders and institutions. In contrast to the obviously strong relationship between the community and David Cameron and Boris Johnson, Miliband was unknown and is still, to an extent, distrusted.

The big problem for the “Jewish community”, according the same article, was that Miliband had “come out in strong opposition to Operation Protective Edge”:

While it might at first seem incongruous to have come out against Operation Protective Edge at a time when relations with the Jewish community were just beginning to warm up, it should be understood that the considerations of the Jewish community were very much separate and secondary to internal Labour Party politics. Within the Parliamentary Labour Party, it is fair to say, a majority of MPs subscribe to the view articulated by Miliband. 14

The article I quote above is entitled “Ed Miliband has a very Jewish problem”. But does he really? Or might it be fairer and more accurate to say The Times of Israel has a very Zionist problem? A problem that once again involves the all-too casual muddling up of Jewishness with Israel.

There is plenty of reason, of course, for Miliband to have steered clear of the Z-word, since it is one of those words that encourages asymmetric interpretations depending upon who is using it. Zionists may use it freely amongst themselves, but once anyone from an anti-Zionist quarter picks it up, then no matter how carefully they tread, they are more than likely to be accused of the “new antisemitism” – of racism by stealth – a very serious charge and one that is next to impossible to defend against.

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There has in fact been overall decline in the usage of the Z-word that can be traced back to the late 1970s. 15 So what happened to cause the drop-off?

To understand it helps us to go back to 1975 when the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelming in favour (72 votes to 35) of a resolution calling for the “Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination”. What was remarkable and perhaps shocking about Resolution 3379 was that it directly pointed to the equivalence between “the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa”. The Resolution ended with this uncompromising declaration: “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. 16

When this resolution was repealed in 1991, The New York Times reported:

Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, who led the American delegation at this afternoon’s session, argued that repeal would bring the United Nations better into line with the realities of the post-cold-war world.

Equating Zionism with racism, Mr. Eagleburger said, “demonstrated like nothing else before or since, to what extent the cold war had distorted the United Nation’s vision of reality, marginalized its political utility and separated it from its original moral purpose.”

Alternatively:

Speaking against repeal on behalf of the Arabs, Lebanon’s representative, Khalil Makkawi, warned that it would hinder the peace process by whetting the appetite of “Israeli extremists wishing to pursue their policy of creeping annexation.”

It would also, he went on, “fuel the passions” of those Arabs “who believe the whole peace process is an exercise in futility which gives Israel more time to expand and achieve its revisionist Zionist project.”

But he said the Arab group “will revise its assumptions” if the sponsors of today’s repeal motion can now persuade Israel to comply with the Security Council’s demands that it cede occupied Arab lands in return for peace. 17

Sadly, post-Cold War history has shown Khalil Makkawi’s forecast to be the accurate one. Palestinian lands do indeed continue to be eaten away by the never-ending construction of illegal Israeli settlements, and as the Palestinian lands are stolen, their non-Jewish population is subjugated in a myriad ways and subjected to collective punishment that includes the partial starvation of those blockaded inside the Gaza Strip. 18

Given the terrible history of racism and oppression that culminated in the Holocaust, it is understandable and justifiable that the Jewish population demanded a right to sanctuary after the Second World War. But to settle the land of Israel those who arrived then callously swept aside a local people and in doing so transformed from victims into oppressors.

Not all Zionists are hawks, of course, and not all endorse the Zionist hawks of Israel’s right-wing Likud government. But Zionists today, liberal Zionists very much included, who unreservedly defend the right to a Jewish homeland are implicitly committed to supporting Israel’s founding principle of division along ethnic lines. They thereby tacitly approve all Israel’s past and current crimes including the horrors of the Palestinian exodus (or al-Nakbah, literally “the disaster”), an ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Palestinians during 1948 that was long denied. Somehow after a further half a century of brutal occupation, they can square all of this with their conscience.

Meanwhile, the men running Israel today are avowed Zionists of the most fundamentalist hue and the hard-line agenda they adhere to remains one of segregation and victimisation of the Palestinian people. It is a cruel expansionist apartheid system that is racist by any definition.

As Yousef Munayyer, executive director of U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, replied to political scientist Robert Freedman on a recent episode of Democracy Now! [March 22nd], responding to his claim (like Clinton’s) that BDS means “singling out Israel, when there are so many worse things happening in the world, [and] I think, is in fact antisemitism, and there’s no other way of looking at it”:

It’s the same exact argument, and you can go back and read the op-ed pieces that were written by the apologists for South African apartheid. It’s the same argument that we used to hear back in the ’70s and ’80s. When people were saying it’s time to divest from the apartheid system in South Africa, the apologists for apartheid were saying, “Look, there’s all kinds of horrible things going on in Africa and elsewhere. Why are you singling out South Africa? Don’t you understand the blacks in South Africa have it so much better than blacks elsewhere in Africa?” I mean, the arguments are almost word for word the same. And the reality is that the outcome has to be the same, as well, and the apologists for apartheid cannot be allowed to win. It’s only through the efforts—the nonviolent efforts—of civil society to hold Israel accountable for its violations of abuses—and abuses of Palestinian human rights that we are going to see any kind of change on the ground, especially if governments like the United States government, which is playing such a large role, continue to abdicate in their responsibility of doing something. [from 23 mins in]

Click here to read a full transcript or watch the discussion on the Democracy Now! website.

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The final words I leave with Rachel Sandalow-Ash of Open Hillel:

It’s sort of easy to call anything we don’t like anti-Semitism, but that’s sort of to diminish what real anti-Semitism is. And I think it’s very important to call that out when and where it exists but not to use anti-Semitism, and the fear of it, as a way of shutting down voices that challenge accepted viewpoints in our community.

Taken from an excellent recent article published by Mondoweiss entitled “Zionism is finally in the news, as officials seek to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism”.

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Update:

Since I posted this article, Bernie Sanders – “the first Jew in American history to win a delegate, much less a primary” (as CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out) – has likewise been accused of “blood libel”. The accuser on this occasion is former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, an American-born historian who now serves in the Knesset. Oren, who is an unrestrained pro-Israel attack dog, claims that Sanders owes Israel an apology after he inadvertently misstated the number of Palestinians massacred in Gaza in 2014.

On April 14th, Democracy Now! invited Joel Beinin, Professor of Middle East history at Stanford University and the former Director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo, to share his thoughts on Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s stance on Israel. Beinin said:

Bernie has been evolving. If we remember the summer of Israel’s assault on Gaza, when he tried to shout down people in a town meeting who asked him to be more critical of Israel, he was toeing the Democratic Party line. He has now backed off from that. He wants to be more balanced. He has appointed Simone Zimmerman as his Jewish community outreach coordinator. She recently wrote an op-ed in Haaretz, the leading liberal daily of Israel, saying that we should talk about boycott, divestment and sanctions; very friendly to Jewish Voice for Peace. A lot of what he’s saying is still a good bit away from where I think he should be. But compared to Hillary Clinton, who pretty much parrots the Likud line, he’s in a different place.

And regarding Clinton:

Hillary Clinton was giving you the standard cant. Nobody says Israel has the most powerful military between Morocco and Pakistan. They really don’t need any more armaments. They have 200 nuclear weapons and so on. And moreover, yes, there have been terrorist attacks against Israel. None of them, altogether, represent anything remotely resembling an existential threat to Israel. They’re unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss of civilian life when that happens. But from a security point of view, it’s not a big deal. On the other hand, Israel has aggressively attacked its neighbors in 1956, in 1967, in 1982. On balance, Israel has been the aggressor for most of its historical existence.

Hillary, I don’t know if she knows the history, doesn’t care about the history. She says what candidates need to say in order to get elected. Bernie Sanders is inching his way towards a more reasonable position. He is pointing out that Israel is expanding settlements. He mentioned in the interview with the New York Daily News that the settlements are actually illegal, although he wasn’t clear that every single one of them is illegal according to international law. And that’s not a matter of who thinks international law means what. But he’s moving along. It’s clear that the millennials who support him 85 to 15 are more critical of Israel, and he’s getting closer to their views.

Click here to watch the interview or read the full transcript at the Democracy Now! website.

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1 Definition taken from The eighth edition of The Concise Oxford Dictionary published by Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1990.

2 From an article entitled “Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in the Guardian on March 18, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/18/labour-antisemitism-jews-jeremy-corbyn

3 A full transcript of Hillary Clinton’s speech to AIPAC is available here: http://time.com/4265947/hillary-clinton-aipac-speech-transcript/

4 A full transcript of Donald Trump’s speech to AIPAC is available here: http://time.com/4267058/donald-trump-aipac-speech-transcript/

5 From an article entitled “Trump’s Hypnotic Gig at AIPAC Will Go Down in History – or Infamy” written by Chemi Shalev, published in Haaretz on March 22, 2016. http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/u-s-election-2016/1.710222

6 From an article entitled “Donald Trump is wicked. As a rabbi, I had to protest his AIPAC speech” written by Shmuel Herzfeld, published in The Washingon Post on March 23, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/03/23/donald-trump-is-wicked-as-a-rabbi-i-had-to-protest-his-aipac-speech/

7 From an article entitled “If Trump’s Racism Shocks You, So Too Should AIPAC’s” written by Samatha Brotman, published by Mint Press News on March 22, 2016. http://www.mintpressnews.com/trumps-racism-shocks-aipacs/214961/

8 From an article entitled “Liberal Zionism After Gaza” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in The New York Review of Books on July 26, 2014. http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2014/07/26/liberal-zionism-after-gaza/

9 From an article entitled “The Liberal Zonists” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in The New York Review of Books on August 14, 2014. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/08/14/liberal-zionists/

10 From an article entitled “Liberal Zionism After Gaza” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in The New York Review of Books on July 26, 2014. http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2014/07/26/liberal-zionism-after-gaza/

11 From an article entitled “Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in the Guardian on March 18, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/18/labour-antisemitism-jews-jeremy-corbyn

12

At the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday night, MPs urged Jeremy Corbyn to act after it emerged Ms Kirby had recently been given her new post – and that the party had said new evidence was needed of further misconduct to expel her.

The decision to simply issue Ms Kirby with a warning was taken by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee in 2014, under Ed Miliband’s leadership.

But today, as the NEC met for its quarterly meeting, the party changed its position. A spokeswoman said: “Vicki Kirby has been suspended from the Labour party pending an investigation.”

Gerry Downing, who had also spoken of the need to “address the Jewish question”, won an appeal against his suspension as a Labour member, but was eventually expelled after “new evidence” came to light.

From an article entitled “Labour Suspends Party Member Vicky Kirby AGAIN After MPs Urge Jeremy Corbyn To Take Action On Anti-Semitism” written by Paul Waugh, published by Huffington Post on March 17, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jeremy-corbyn-vicky-kirby-anti-semitism_uk_56e80319e4b03fb88ede23bf

13

The most shocking accusation, originating with The Daily Mail, is that Corbyn has “long standing links” with Paul Eisen, a “notorious” Holocaust denier involved in the group Deir Yassin Remembered.

Eisen certainly expresses disgusting views, denying the Nazi Holocaust took place and frequently expressing other anti-Semitic opinions on his blog.

However, his only real notoriety is for his attempts to infiltrate the Palestine solidarity movement.

Once it became clear what his views were, he was widely condemned and shunned by a movement which is fundamentally anti-racist in its basic principles. Indeed, even in the blog post which the Mail relied on as the source for its smear, Eisen admits that the movement has long “despised me.”

The only real link between the two men (as the Mail conveniently omitted) is that Eisen happens to live in Corbyn’s Islington parliamentary constituency in North London.

Eisen claims to have met him in that capacity – as Corbyn is his member of parliament. It is nonetheless odd that the Mail would be so keen to take the word of a Holocaust denier when it comes to his relationship with Corbyn.

From an article entitled ‘4 reasons the “anti-Semitism” attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are dishonest’ written by Asa Winstanley, published by The Electronic Intifada on August 19, 2015. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/4-reasons-anti-semitism-attacks-jeremy-corbyn-are-dishonest

14 From an article entitled “Ed Miliband has a very Jewish problem” written by Liam Hoare, published in The Times of Israel on August 14, 2014. http://www.timesofisrael.com/ed-miliband-has-a-very-jewish-problem/

15 You can find a plot of usage with time here: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=7&case_insensitive=on&content=zionism&direct_url=t4%3B%2Czionism%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3BZionism%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BZIONISM%3B%2Cc0

The graph peaks in 1978 and then declined by about a third in little more than three decades.

16 You can download the document containing Resolution 3379 (XXX) from the United Nations website following this link: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/30/ares30.htm

The full text is also available on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_General_Assembly_Resolution_3379

17 From an article entitled “U.N. Repeals Its ’75 Resolution Equating Zionism With Racism” written by Paul Lewis, published by The new York Times on December 17, 1991. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/17/world/un-repeals-its-75-resolution-equating-zionism-with-racism.html

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Documents, whose existence were denied by the Israeli government for over a year, have been released after a legal battle led by Israeli human rights group, Gisha. The documents reveal a deliberate policy by the Israeli government in which the dietary needs for the population of Gaza are chillingly calculated, and the amounts of food let in by the Israeli government measured to remain just enough to keep the population alive at a near-starvation level. This documents the statement made by a number of Israeli officials that they are “putting the people of Gaza on a diet”.

From an article entitled “Israeli Government Documents Show Deliberate Policy To Keep Gazans At Near-starvation Levels” written by Saed Bannoura, published by International Middle East Media Center on November 10, 2010. http://www.imemc.org/article/59843

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#JezWeCan: why I’m voting for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader

As ballot papers for the Labour Party leadership contest are sent out, here are a few of the reasons I believe Jeremy Corbyn stands head and shoulders above the other candidates. To judge Corbyn better yourself, my own views are interspersed with a selection of recent interviews he has given.

Click here to read “Why I’m standing” on Jeremy Corbyn’s official jeremyforlabour.com website.

When Jeremy Corbyn announced his last minute intention to stand in the Labour leadership election he was dismissed as a 100-1 outsider, but a few months on and he’s become the odds-on favourite – the latest polls in fact putting him so far ahead of his rivals that it seems he may win outright victory in the first round. This is remarkable, however it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

For in a political age dominated by the “centrism” (so-called) of the “Third Way” (Blair’s not Mussolini’s), and consumed by image über alles with advert-style messages that glide slickly on a well-oiled surface of spin, Corbyn stands apart. He doesn’t expend his energies obsessing over soundbites, or how to gesture and strut more assertively. Nor does he get mixed up with publicity stunts like ordering pasties to prove his close allegiance to the ordinary bloke, or masticating awkwardly on bacon butties to show he’s normal or British (or something), or the unveiling tombstones to soon-to-be sunken promises, and we can be as near as certain that Corbyn never will. Yes, Ed Miliband had some god awful advisors, but then why did he keep on taking their god awful advice…? Short answer: to keep up with the Camerons, of course – bad decision!

Is that a scaffold we see behind you, Ed?

Corbyn comes ungarnished. He doesn’t need props to cling tight to, or even a fancy suit to make him look more dashing. Because instead of daft stunts and the rest of the trimmings, Corbyn wins support by virtue of sincerity, intelligence and the authority which comes from a lifetime dedicated to political campaigning. For Corbyn has always spoken truth to power, which is the bigger reason he stands apart.

Here is Corbyn recently interviewed by Afshin Rattansi on RT’s “Going Underground”:

Staunchly anti-“austerity”, anti-TTIP, anti-fracking, Corbyn, who has been an ardent anti-war activist throughout his years as a backbencher, is today a prominent figure both within the Stop the War Coalition and the Palestinian solidarity movement (reasons his name already features so large in my tag cloud right), just as he once championed gay rights and spearheaded the anti-Apartheid movement of the 80s (an era when championing these issues was a recipe for marginalisation).

More courageously still, Corbyn led the vanguard when it came to brokering an Irish peace accord. Unafraid of controversy, he invited Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin president and persona non grata, to talks in London a full decade prior to the start of official negotiations which would lead to the Good Friday Agreement (and shortly before Adam’s voice was banned altogether from British television).

Here is a more extended interview in which Corbyn discusses with Hassan Alkatib his personal role in trying to bring about a peace settlement in Northern Ireland; his experiences in Gaza; his opposition to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria; and his support for Chilean, Palestinian and Irish independence:

Unlike the bulk of today’s career politicians, who plot their narrow course into office with the obligatory PPE degree from Oxford firmly in hand, Corbyn is able to draw upon firsthand experience in many fields both before and since he became an MP. He has worked as a union representative, as an elected councillor, and was a member of a public health authority, but, arguably more importantly, Corbyn is most well-versed in the intricacies of foreign policy. From Ireland to the Middle East, to Latin America, and beyond – across the world, Corbyn has been there and done that; including campaigning to bring former Chilean dictator Pinochet to trial, just as he has more recently (during this Labour leadership campaign in fact) been outspoken in his calls for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes.

Indeed, in the most recent interview given on the BBC [Newsnight August 4th], Corbyn explained why Iraq War was illegal and why he believes Tony Blair should be prosecuted:

In short, Corbyn is a conviction politician – a tag so dreadfully sullied by Margaret Thatcher and others on the right, but one that once characterised the most admired and respected figures of the left. He is, as the late Tony Benn (one such illustrious leftist) so elegantly distinguished, a political ‘signpost’ and not a ‘weather vane’. Integrity that is a big part of the allure which persuades many hundreds of thousands of supporters (myself included) to sign up on the Labour register to cast their vote. It is a quality that the mainstream media, so utterly hung up on matters of image and spin, simply can’t get to grips with at all. A quality so rare in contemporary politics that they try very hard to pretend it has never existed.

Click here to read a summary of “15 times when Jeremy Corbyn was on the right side of history”.

For today there is an astonishing dearth not only of talented, imaginative and honourable politicians (“honourable members” – you really have to laugh!) but, and as a direct consequence, an ever-worsening deficit of democracy. A de facto one party line that serves the corporate sponsors and the special interests, while abandoning the rest of us to a counsel of despair. ‘The mother of parliaments’ reduced to the role of little more than a big business facilitator, with its recent cohorts of members determined, so it seems, to lessen themselves of the already diminished burden of real responsibility, preferring to function instead in some lesser capacity as the middle managers of out-sourced state interests.

Rather than serving the public good, as any government in a democracy should, by, for instance, rebuilding dilapidated infrastructure (a long overdue project in Britain), bolstering public services, hospitals, schools, and pensions and generally improving the standard of living for all – actually not very much to ask for in the Twenty-First Century – our governments have instead repeatedly sold our nation down the river (with sweetheart deals and no-bid contracts). But then, our politicians themselves are sell-outs, who seek election in order to get one foot in the revolving doors of the corporatocracy. It is evident, however, that Corbyn is not intent to follow them through it, why would he be? He is not a career politician, but a campaigner turned politician. And with Corbyn as a leader of Labour, “austerity” and “privatisation” – cuts and sell-offs to use their proper names – the chosen neo-liberal means for transferring wealth from the poor to the richest one-percent will not be so routinely passed off as the only remedy for an ailing economy.

Up until now, the electorate has simply sucked it all up and why? Because – and it is hard to over-emphasise the importance of this – (New) Labour, our only serious opposition party south of Hadrian’s Wall, presented no substantial alternative. This is a deplorable situation which last month culminated in Harriet Harman, the Party’s interim leader, capitulating to Tory government’s latest slashing and gouging Welfare Reform and Work Bill. Yes, Harman’s position was criticised by three of the four leadership election candidates, but actions speak louder than words:

Out of the four leadership candidates, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and Liz Kendall all abstained on the proposals. Jeremy Corbyn voted against. 1

Corbyn voted against – did anyone seriously doubt he wouldn’t?

And this was Corbyn’s response in Parliament to the Tory’s atrocious budget:

Derided as “hard left”, in truth, Corbyn is rather moderate and, above all, a democrat, whereas most of those who accuse Corbyn of extremism fall into two (overlapping) camps: deliberately mendacious or else suffering from psychological projection. Because whether fully cognisant or unwitting dupe, they are unable to see beyond a prevailing orthodoxy for which Tariq Ali perspicaciously coined the term “extreme centre”. A hollowed out politics with an axis so precipitously skewed to the right that refuseniks are, by comparison at least, ‘extreme’ – ‘hard left’ of an ‘extreme middle’.

Another accusation I hear is that Corbyn is ‘a throwback’ or ‘a relic’, which comes with the latent presumption that progress in politics flows always in one direction. But this standpoint is ahistorical. Movements rise and fall, and many times social change pivots to become something appearing to be its opposite: revolution follows restoration; intolerance begets tolerance; and permissiveness bubbles up after droughts of prohibition; and the reverse applies in every case. ‘Progress’ does not sail unerring onward to the bright horizon, but gets caught up on strong currents, drifts into doldrums, and tacks back and forth to find a better course. This is why history repeats, or, as Mark Twain put it better, it rhymes.

During the last three decades (at least) the western world has been neither progressing nor merely regressing, but careering recklessly down a socio-economic cul-de-sac that ends with a cliff. We need to find reverse as fast as we possibly can. For as hard-line “free market” capitalism rushes us into a second financial meltdown (less than a decade after the last close catastrophe), it reveals itself not merely as an ideology without compassion, but as an inherently flawed system incapable of ensuring basic needs and a comfortable life for a majority of people. Rotten to the core, it is ripe for the dustbin of history.

Thus, Corbyn’s late arrival is propitious. In any case, given such an abiding commitment to peace, human rights, and social justice, it is Corbyn who looks forward, and not his detractors – those are the reactionaries, both in the strict sense and more simply by virtue of being opposed to real change (which are sullied words once again, but can be reclaimed). By any regular definition of the term, Corbyn has always been the true progressive.

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win”, said Mahatma Gandhi, although in Gandhi’s day it took a while to proceed through the check list, whereas in our (dis)information age progress has significantly quickened. So once the leadership campaign was underway, Corbyn was ignored only momentarily, and afterwards rather briefly ridiculed, before quickly coming under a sustained barrage of heavy fire – most conspicuously from figures within his own party: the old guard of New Labour being especially vitriolic. “Anyone but Corbyn” – how’s that for negative campaigning?

Then there is the media itself. Here, for instance, is Newsnight producer Ed Brown explaining “Why most of the ‘Stop Jeremy’ schemes won’t work” from BBC Newsnight Live [published on Monday 17th]:

So, in theory, if you, the “stop Corbyn” voter thought that, say, Burnham’s supporters are more likely to have Corbyn as their next preference than Cooper’s, you should put Burnham ahead of Cooper in your preference list even if you ACTUALLY prefer Cooper to Burnham – because it’ll starve Corbyn of the extra votes he’d get if Burnham was knocked out.

The thing is, I am not aware of any decent evidence that this is the case. We have very few polls on the Labour leadership election – and those that exist (necessarily) have small samples of what Burnham and Cooper’s second preferences would be. Very roughly speaking, the polling tables I’ve seen suggest supporters of both split their second preferences about 30/70 between Corbyn and his opponent. So it’s not clear which of these you should give a higher preference to tactically stop Corbyn anyway. 2

Is Ed Brown sticking by BBC’s duty to remain impartial? I let you judge for yourself. Meanwhile, this was Channel 4 news reporter Cathy Newman desperately trying to derail Corbyn by shamelessly playing the anti-Semitism card:

“Mr Corbyn, tell me, have you stopped being a Holocaust Denier?” Unsavoury yes, but these are truly desperate tactics. To return to Gandhi’s famous remarks, “… and then you win.”

I very much hope that Corbyn does win the selection (the result is not due until September 12th), though I anticipate further last-ditch manoeuvres by the both the corporate media and the establishment left as it does everything in its power to block his progress. Whatever the result, however, his campaign has been a resounding success which, in and of itself, marks the prospect for a sea change in political consciousness – another step for a movement that is gaining traction and momentum not only in Britain but across southern Europe as well as vast swathes of the United States – as evinced by the (largely unreported in Britain) momentous surge in support for socialist candidate Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The nitty-gritty of Corbyn’s proposals will need refinement and polishing, but keep in mind that this is a campaign for party leadership and not for government. Importantly, Corbyn says that he is committed to reforming the party itself, and his track record proves both a commitment to fighting for the oppressed and a genuine readiness to serve a greater cause (the democratic one).

At present we are faced with two wars, an economic one at home and another comprised of drone attacks and proxy wars abroad which is now forcing millions of people to flee to our shores. These wars are not unconnected. If Corbyn is elected leader then our resistance to both will be reinvigorated. He is the anti-war candidate. Moreover this country will see a political debate once again – absent since the days of Michael Foot three decades ago.

Click here to follow the hashtag #JezWeCan

(For a discussion of the fall of Old Labour I refer readers to a previous post.)

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Update:

What is taking place in the Labour party is a democratic explosion unprecedented in British political history. Last week more than 168,000 registered to vote in Labour’s leadership election – on one day. About 400,000 people have applied to join Labour as members or supporters since May, tripling the size of the party to more than 600,000.

Writes columnist and associate editor of the Guardian, Seumas Milne, in an excellent article published on Thurs 20th entitled “Jeremy Corbyn’s surge can be at the heart of a winning coalition”. He continues:

You only have to go to one of the campaign’s huge rallies to understand that the idea this is the product of political or union manipulation is laughable – and that his supporters don’t only want a different kind of Labour leader: they want to change the political system.

Meanwhile, the claim that the other leadership candidates – steeped as they are in the triangulating “pro-business” politics of the 1990s – can offer a winning electoral alternative to Corbyn’s commitment to what are in fact mostly mainstream public views, looks increasingly implausible.

Andy Burnham has now broken ranks with the “anyone but Corbyn” bloc, while the Blairites are swinging behind the studiedly New Labour Yvette Cooper. But their spat looks like a battle for second place.

And the nature of the coalition Milne refers to in the title to his piece?

There isn’t in any case only one possible coalition of voters that could beat the Tories in five years’ time. And the idea that any of Corbyn’s rivals stands a better chance of winning back support in Scotland, from disaffected working-class and middle-income voters, Ukip or the Greens is hard to credit.

It’s possible, of course, that the relentless attacks will tip the vote against Corbyn after all. But if not, he will face an even more ferocious onslaught thereafter. That will come not only from the Conservatives and the media, but from sections of the Labour establishment that can be expected to launch a parliamentary campaign to undermine and unseat him.

But Corbyn will have an unprecedented democratic mandate if he wins, backed by a movement of hundreds of thousands. And not only is he committed to creating a leadership of “all the talents”, he also plans to open up Labour’s long-dormant internal democracy. Corbyn makes a point on the stump of emphasising that his policy ideas are currently only “proposals” and “suggestions”.

Click here to read Seumas Milne’s full article.

Seumas Milne also appeared on Saturday’s [Aug 22nd] episode of RT’s Sputnik hosted by George Galloway to discuss Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party leadership campaign. In part 2 of the same show, Galloway spoke with Shadia Edwards-Dashti of the Stop the War Coalition:

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Additional:

On Friday [Aug 21st], RT’s flagship discussion show Crosstalk was given over to debate the rise and electability of Jeremy Corbyn. It featured Lindsey German from Stop the War Coalition, Scottish left-wing activist and political commentator Chris Bambery, and academic Steven Fielding. The complete episode is embedded below.

One clarification I would like to make is that contrary to host Peter Lavelle’s claim to have heard Corbyn admitting on Channel 4 news to reading Karl Marx [10 mins in], in actual fact Corbyn was responding to a question about whether or not he did read Marx. In response to that very direct question, Corbyn said something to the effect that he felt he perhaps should have read more Marx because Marx was obviously an influential thinker, before turning the question around on the interviewer saying, (and I paraphrase from memory) he has influenced us all don’t you think, you included:

 

To finish I have also decided to embed a short clip of ‘the artist taxi driver’ delivering one his most effervescent and inspirational rants. A set of variations on the theme of “end the madness of Jeremy Corbyn” – I know this will not be to everyone’s taste, but I include it because I don’t disagree with a single syllable:

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1 From an article entitled “Welfare bill: These are the 184 Labour MPs who didn’t vote against the Tories’ cuts” written by Jon Stone, published in The Independent on July 21, 2015. The opening paragraphs read:

Below are the 184 Labour MPs who didn’t vote against the second reading of the Conservatives’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

The main changes in the Bill are reducing the household welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000, abolishing legally binding child poverty targets, cuts to child tax credits, cuts to Employment and Support Allowance, and cuts to housing benefit for young people.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/these-are-the-184-labour-mps-who-didnt-vote-against-the-tories-welfare-bill-10404831.html

2 From an article entitled “Why most of the ‘Stop Jeremy’ schemes won’t work” written by Ed Brown, published by BBC news on August 17, 2015. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-politics-33139218

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show trial by television: Galloway was set up by BBC to be accused

A few hours ago I watched BBC1’s Question Time programme. I imagined it might be one of the more interesting outings of what has increasingly become a lame excuse for a serious political debate.

In general, the QT panel is composed of three mainstream politicians, each determined to spin their views as tightly as they can around the gurgling corporate sluice that is nowadays mistaken as political middle ground. Their prefabricated offerings are then juxtaposed against on the one hand, a boring but self-righteous and loud-mouthed journalist/business leader/blogger, and other the other an insane academic (generally an historian) who is no less loud-mouthed or self-righteous, and only less boring by virtue of being so completely potty.

In fact Question Time has long since become just another of the many hours of predicable political dross I occasionally skim through on the iplayer. But then sometimes, when the moon is blue and there are a pair of R’s in the month, there will appear one guest on the panel who not only speaks their mind, but actually has a mind worth speaking.

Just such an occasional panellist is George Galloway. For love or despise ‘Gorgeous George’, Question Time with Galloway is just about worth tuning in for. So tonight’s show (and I choose the word “show” very, very carefully) certainly did not disappoint in this regard. With Galloway posted on the panel, QT was once again livened up immeasurably.

Indeed, tonight’s show actually left me shaking… though not with excitement (as such) or anger, but literally with fear. In fact, by the end of the final half hour, I was trembling and thoroughly exhausted by the spectacle. I could barely even make a cup of tea to calm down afterwards. I also needed to write this post without delay and before I could possibly sleep. Writing in such haste has meant, of course, that I needed to get by with rather minimal research – hence the many references to wikipedia. But in searching wikipedia there was already enough evidence to validate my suspicions without any real need for digging deeper (although I do try to dig deeper as I go along).

It really didn’t take me very long to gather more than sufficient evidence to show how the programme had been deliberately framed with Galloway set up precisely as he had appeared to be: centre stage in a show trial.

The greatest proof of this comes in considering the backgrounds of the assembled hit squad – supposedly a neutral panel – whom I am about to name and shame more or less as they appeared in turn. There was also the audience… but I’ll come back to that later. Let’s begin with the man who led on the prosecution. Here is a little of what the wikipedia entry has on Jonathan Freedland (with original footnotes maintained):

Jonathan Saul Freedland (born 25 February 1967)[1] is a British journalist, who writes a weekly column for The Guardian and a monthly piece for The Jewish Chronicle.

A leading liberal Zionist in the UK,[9] he wrote in 2012 that he only uses the word Zionism infrequently. He explained:

“That is because the word has become so misunderstood, so freighted with excess baggage, that it has become all but impossible to deploy it without extensive explanation and qualification. Most of the time, it is best avoided. Part of the trouble is that a single variant – right-wing Zionism – has come to stand for the whole.”[10]

And this is Freedland speaking at — um — what’s the name of the place…? (also from wikipedia):

Next up on this supposedly balanced panel was someone called Cristina Odone:

Cristina Patricia Odone (born 11 November 1960)[1] is a journalist, editor, and writer. She has written for several newspapers, and was formerly the editor of The Catholic Herald, and deputy editor of the New Statesman.[2]

Odone’s father was a World Bank official, which led to the family regularly moving.

Odone is married to Edward Lucas,[2] a writer for The Economist magazine.[22]

Odone is also from the Legatum Institute think tank. What’s that you may ask? Well, here’s wikipedia again:

Legatum is a private investment firm headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Legatum invests proprietary capital in commercial investments.

So how is Legatum Institute think tank connected to the Legatum private investment firm? Well, read on…

The Legatum Institute is an independent policy, advisory and advocacy organisation within the Legatum group of companies based in London, United Kingdom.[1] The Institute researches and promotes the principles that drive the creation of global prosperity and the expansion of human liberty.

Hmmm, sound lovely, don’t they…? well, if you want more information it helps to go to their own website:

Sian Hansen is the Executive Director.

Previously Sian spent seven years as the Managing Director of the UK think tank Policy Exchange; an educational charity promoting research and discourse on public policy. Sian is a Non-Executive Director of the JP Morgan Income and Capital Trust plc. and is a Non Executive Director on the Advisory Board for Cerno Capital PLC.

And then there is Director of the Transitions Forum Anne Applebaum who “leads the Legatum Institute’s Transitions Forum, a series of projects which examine the challenges and opportunities of radical political and economic change”:

She is a former member of the Washington Post editorial board, a former deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, a former political editor of the Evening Standard and a former Warsaw correspondent of the Economist. Her work also appears regularly in the New York Review of BooksForeign Policy, the New Republic, the Daily Telegraph and many other UK and US publications. She is married to Radek Sikorski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland.

Connected – you might say.

So yes, in short, Cristina Odone is an establishment insider who happens to be married to another establishment insider and neo-liberal enthusiast, Edward Lucas:

Lucas works for The Economist, the London-based global newsweekly. He was the Moscow bureau chief from 1998 to 2002, and thereafter the central and east European correspondent.[1] He has also been a correspondent for The Independent and the BBC. Lucas also writes occasionally for The Daily Mail.

Lucas is Senior Fellow and Contributing Editor at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington D.C.[2]

I come back later to the CEPA too.

It turns out that Edward Lucas has locked horns with Galloway on an earlier occasion:

Whilst on December 22nd, he had tweeted the following: “interesting but incomplete infographic of Putinistas in Europe. Why no Die Linke, Commies, George Galloway?”

So not exactly a friend, we might say…!

Then, of the remaining two panellists, there was also Tristram Hunt:

Tristram Julian William Hunt, FRHistS (born 31 May 1974) a British Labour Party politician, historian and broadcast journalist, who currently serves as Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central in Staffordshire.

He is a regular writer for The Guardian and The Observer.[2]

The Guardian being the paper that Jonathan Freedland is (as noted above) the executive editor. And here is an excerpt from a recent article which offers a flavour of Hunt’s personal position when it comes to Middle Eastern politics and Israel:

Splits within the Labour party over the Palestinian question were laid bare last night as one of Ed Miliband’s most senior frontbenchers invoked Winston Churchill in a passionate tribute to Israel.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, praised the former prime minister’s 1921 declaration that he had “full sympathy for Zionism”. 1

Taken from a Times article published only a month ago under the headline “Hunt risks party split with loving ode to Israel”.

But then the muck gets thicker, as we come to an article published by The Independent on Tuesday, just two days prior to the broadcast of tonight’s Question Time broadcast. It reads:

George Galloway, leader of the Respect Party, has caused a stir in a constituency that has one of the largest populations of Jewish people in the UK after it was announced that he would appear in the area on Question Time this week.

The broadcaster’s inclusion of the MP, who is a vocal opponent of Israel, was criticised as being “deliberately provocative” by Mike Freer, the MP for Finchley and Golders Green in north London. […]

The MP for Bradford West is to sit on the panel alongside Tory education secretary Nicky Morgan, Labour shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, deputy chairman of Ukip Suzanne Evans and The Guardian executive editor and columnist Jonathan Freedland.

This was later changed, of course. After UKIP’s Suzanne Evans went absent without leave, into her seat was plonked Cristina Odone instead: that representative of the UAE’s Legatum Institute; daughter of that World Bank official; as well as wife of Edward Lucas from the globalist think tank CEPA, which gets glowing praise from not only Zbigniew Brzezinski, but also Radosław Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland. You remember Radek, he is husband of Legatum Institute’s Director of the Transitions Forum, Anne Applebaum (see above). But back to The Independent article:

A BBC spokesperson said: “Question Time invites panellists who reflect a significant range of opinions on a number of different topics. Whilst Mr Galloway’s views are entirely his own, as an MP he has a right to appear on the programme and has done so previously.

“A significant range of opinions” Really…? So do they not have access to wikipedia at the BBC?

The piece goes on:

“Subjects for discussion are chosen by our audience ahead of each show and this edition of Question Time will be no different.” 2

Does that include the question asked by audience member Gabriel Rosen: “Why is anti-Semitism rising in the UK and does a certain member of the panel bear some responsibility?” This was the extremely pointed question that actually kicked off the main event of the evening – the last half an hour of the show. An outcome that was hardly surprising given the insinuation of a direct link between “a certain member of the panel” and the rise in anti-Semitism in Britain. In effect, what Galloway is being asked can be reduced to: “are you ashamed of yourself for provoking anti-Semitism in this country?” It’s a “have you stopped beating your wife?” kind of a question.

Part of Galloway’s answer to this more or less unanswerable accusation – an accusation from which he was in any case given inadequate opportunity to defend himself – is embedded below. All of the answers he gave during this inquistion by television were notable for their restraint:

Galloway is a politician and so it is entirely proper that his opinions and actions are closely scrutinised. As I say, you are absolutely at liberty to detest Galloway, but the issue here is what on earth had led the BBC to consider it justifiable for him (or anyone else for that matter) to publicly tried in such a fashion?

This was, in my view, an unedifying spectacle, and one that presents us with a terrifying indication of how narrowly restricted real freedom of speech is becoming. These are scary times, and it was not without reason that as I finished watching earlier, I felt shaken.

We know perfectly well where true racism always leads, and so it is our duty to ask with unflinching honesty, who is really inciting racial division and stirring up hatred? In last night’s so-called discussion, I say it certainly wasn’t Galloway. I go further, and say that for all of his faults, Galloway cannot be justly accused of racism. He is not a bigot. And shame on the BBC for ever orchestrating such a disgusting piece of inflammatory propaganda.

To judge for yourself (if you didn’t watch earlier) then click here to see the whole show on BBC iplayer. [And now I must sleep]

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Update:

George Galloway has since published his own highly critical response to the QT show of February 5th. He writes:

Mr Dimbleby [presenter and mediator] told me immediately after the show that the final question posed by the audience was not in fact the question which had been tabled and selected. The last part of the question which sought to put me on show trial, make the final part of the show about me, had merely been added after the fact by the questioner. This has subsequently been admitted by the questioner in the Jewish Chronicle.

But there there [sic] was no point in telling me this in private with an apologetic air (he did not actually apologise, I gave him more credit than he deserved in my initial comments after the show) when millions of people oblivious to the trickery were about to watch the results on the show.

Mr Dimbleby had a couple of options when this ruse occurred:

He could have shot the question again, the show is not live, there is time for editing (although the only person who was edited was me with a chunk of my answer on Bradford schools mysteriously excised).
He could have made it clear on the recording, immediately, that the question had been changed, with obviously potentially defamatory consequences.

He did neither and with predictable results.

He also points an accusing finger toward both Cristina Odone and Tristram Hunt, whilst singling out Jonathan Freedland as “Hypocrite in Chief”:

A special place in the hall of shame must go to the Guardian’s executive editor Jonathan Freedland selected for the role of chief prosecutor in the show trial. The Guardian, a faux liberal newspaper which last summer accepted (that which even Rupert Murdoch had declined) a paid full page advertisement from an Israeli organisation while the blood was still running in the streets of Gaza seeking to justify the slaughter and slander the Palestinians, thousands of whom had by then been slain.

There is intense competition for the title of Hypocrite in Chief at The Guardian but Freedland in my view shades it.

Once the doctored question had been posed, he lit the touch paper before smugly stepping well back. He made a series of distorted allegations against me knowing that if I got into rebutting them there would have been no time for the bigger picture. Like a latter day McCarthy he patted a portfolio which he claimed contained the basis for his allegations. Who produced this dodgy dossier must be open to question.

Click here to read Galloway’s full reply.

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1 From an article entitled “Hunt risks party split with loving ode to Israel” written by Laura Pitel, published in The Times on January 7, 2015. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4315908.ece

2 From an article entitled “Jewish groups protest against George Galloway appearance in Finchley for BBC’s Question Time” written by Lamiat Sabin, published by The Independent on February 3, 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/jewish-groups-protest-against-george-galloway-appearance-in-finchley-for-bbcs-question-time-10021775.html

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the rise of UKIP calls for new strategies from the left

Behold the rise of Ukip: an Alan Partridge thought experiment that has broken out of the lab and infected millions. Yes, millions. I’ve just read that Ukip have utterly triumphed in the local elections, and are now in full control of the government, the police, the NHS and the armed forces. Nigel Farage is scheduled to be coronated at Westminster Abbey tomorrow afternoon live on BBC1, complete with Dimbleby commentary and Red Arrow fly-past.

So begins Charlie Brooker’s razor-sharp lancing of the hype surrounding UKIP’s unexpected gains in last year’s local elections, published May 5th 2013 in the Guardian‘s “Comment is Free”. And for all those dismayed to see the spectre of small-minded xenophobic conservatism making its stealthy return, I thoroughly recommend reading the whole piece, not only because it will very likely put a smile back on your face (if only briefly), but also because beneath the comic veneer Brooker brilliantly exposes a deeper malaise. That, as Brooker puts it (and it would be a shame to try to paraphrase and loose the vim of his original):

There’s something fundamentally unconvincing, not to mention nauseating, about the wet-eyed brand of pleading and apologetic earnestness repeatedly adopted by Miliband and Clegg. It’s as though, having accurately detected a general level of public revulsion with politics, they have decided the best tactic to worm their way back into our affections is to repeatedly say sorry for existing while tugging at our sleeves. Brr. Horrible. In the words of Ferris Bueller: “You can’t respect somebody who kisses your ass. It just doesn’t work.”

Already seen by most people as incompetent and ineffectual, our would-be leaders have presumably been advised (since, after all, they can’t tie their own shoelaces without advisers to guide them) to present themselves as pathetic and joyless to boot, and so, as Brooker further notes, nothing like as attractive as those more loveable chumps Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, who are in the habit of bumbling around like a couple of jaunty Mr Toads:

By contrast, Farage, like Johnson, appears to be genuinely enjoying himself most of the time, like a delighted Aquaphibian guffawing in a bumper car. And this enjoyment instantly endears him to a huge section of the population on a level that transcends – or at least sidesteps – politics. Many people who hate Nigel Farage the reactionary throwback find themselves liking Nigel Farage the chortling oaf. Being a chortling oaf not only makes you critically bulletproof – oafish chortling being a perpetual escape pod – it functions as a kind of cloaking device, somehow obscuring the notion that you’re a politician at all.

All of which is totally bang on the nail in our postmodern, and, superficially, post-ideological age. A time in history when ideology, by which I mean “a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy”1 has not literally been abolished – since this is impossible – but monopolised. Captured to such an extent that holding any semblance of an alternative that is antithetical to the neo-liberal hegemony is assiduously avoided by all career politicians. “There is no alternative” being pretty much all that any of them have to say to us, and the only differences being tone. Would you prefer to have the pain soothed away, or would you like us to hit the pain hard where it hurts and get on with your lives! It’s all a matter of PR, and in these days when politicians are justly reviled – as loathed and distrusted as double-glazing salesmen once were – then as Brooker goes on to say, “the best way to succeed as a politician is to pretend that you aren’t one.”2

On the one hand then, UKIP’s success might be judged as just the latest indication of a growing popular disaffection with the established Con-Dem-Lab triumvirate. A protest vote that was additionally amplified thanks to an exceptionally low turnout, which BBC news reported as being down 10% from the previous local elections in 2009, but equally because a great deal of the polling took place in Conservative heartlands. In other words, here was a protest vote against all the parties although most especially the government. A shot across the bows from the traditional Conservative base.

So why did the results in May appear to be such a big surprise? After all, as George Galloway memorably remarked following his own more stunning victory in the previous year’s Bradford West by-election, our mainstream parties represent little more than “three cheeks of the same arse”. The local election results were merely illustrating, therefore, how Galloway’s analysis chimes not only with voters sold-out by New Labour, but across the entire political spectrum – Middle England beginning to feel almost as disaffected and disenfranchised as the Old Labour north has felt for decades.

And sharing in this common resentment, neither group is mistaken, for we have all been abandoned to a small crony capitalist elite: the corporations and the less than one-percent who own them. Both working classes and middle classes alike being wrung out and hung up to dry. Of course, the squeeze is tightest at the bottom, and unquestionably so, but this is usual. The poor and the destitute always hit earliest and hardest whenever depression comes to the door; those at the bottom unlucky enough to be our canaries in the pit. And we have three parties prepared to let those at the bottom perish – the Tories doing what comes naturally, and the others sheepishly still towing the neo-liberal line. Our race to the bottom is, however, a trickle up process.

The surprise, if any, is how UKIP have convinced enough of the public that they represent any kind of alternative at all, let alone one worth voting for. And it is interesting perhaps that UKIP are more and more frequently compared to the “Tea Party” in America. A comparison that is, in many ways, a good one. The “Tea Party” having been promptly and effectively co-opted by the Koch Brothers, and thereby steered back into line behind the rest of the reactionaries in the Republican Party. Its supporters slowly ditching their more serious and justifiable grievances and fighting on only to protect the constitutional right to bear arms, whilst simultaneously leading the call for extreme measures as advocated by the discredited Austrian School economists and mad proto-fascist patron saint, Ayn Rand. The “Tea Party” suddenly leading the call for “austerity” like a bunch of turkeys demanding to have Christmas every day.

At the beginning, however, (and you need to rewind many years) the “Tea Party” were offering a more serious alternative: the emphasis of the movement initially placed not on ultra-extreme free market economics, but on the reestablishment of constitutional rights undone by the Bush administration, of bringing the troops home from the wars, and of fundamentally challenging the Federal Reserve system. To my memory, UKIP has never argued for anything half so significant or genuinely progressive. In fact, it has never remotely challenged the status quo other than in its stated demands for a fast-track out of Europe.

Indeed, scratch the surface, and leaving aside for a moment their stance on Europe and European (specifically Eastern European) immigration, there is barely a pimple’s worth of difference between the Tories and their lesser rump UKIP. Just take a peek at UKIP’s hastily cobbled together manifesto (something I imagine few bothered to do, including the millions who eventually voted for them) and judge for yourself.

What you’ll find is that UKIP are certainly extreme, but this extreme is mostly a matter of degree rather than programmatic difference. More eager to slash state spending than the Conservatives – aside, that is, from military expenditure which UKIP somehow proposes to increase by 40% in order to buy three new aircraft carriers and to arm four new submarines with US nuclear missiles. And keener on “austerity”, with welfare cuts and more privatisation, especially of the NHS, ensuring an altogether speedier strangulation of the public sector. Finally, and presumably for good measure, UKIP say they intend to be tougher on the sentencing of offenders with boot camps and more prison places. Of course, there is no specific targetting of the white collar criminals still loose inside the City of London (as if there might be!) and no indication whatsoever of any effective measures for resolving the deepening financial crisis. They are, to extend Galloway’s metaphor, the fourth and most grotesque cheek of that same arse.

Understandably, there are many who now fear a knee-jerk reaction and a consequent lurch to the right, with both the Tories and New Labour expected to fall into line when it comes to tightening restrictions on immigration more generally and to “reviewing arrangements” for already residing immigrant populations. The justification routinely trotted out, that such actions are needed to keep in check the potential rise of the far right, and so this mainstream shuffle to the right just the necessary compensation.

One person who spent many years studying the European extreme right is Daniel Trilling, journalist and author of “Bloody Nasty People: The Rise of Britain’s Far Right”. In an interview with Greek Independent Press he explained how his own research and analysis brought him to a subtly though substantially different conclusion:

But [Ukip’s] real effect lies in pushing the whole of mainstream political discourse to the right. We saw this with the BNP, where government ministers would make increasingly reactionary statements about immigration the more success the BNP had. And it’s happening now with Ukip – all three main party leaders (Cameron, Miliband, Clegg) have recently made speeches where they promise even tougher restrictions on the rights of migrants than Britain already has. But it’s a vicious circle: far from neutralising public concerns over immigration, this merely antagonises them.

[Interviewer:] Do you have fears that the far-right ideology will become even more well-established in Europe?

I do, but the point is this ideology does not come from the far right itself. What far right parties do is parasitical on mainstream ideology. They exploit the resentments, and the racism, and the political disillusion that circulates among the rest of society. And they do not need to be in power to have an effect: what far-right parties can do is provoke our liberal elites into taking ever-more authoritarian positions. That’s the situation we find in many countries, from Britain, which detains more refugees than any other country but Australia, to Greece, where the Samaras government is pursuing a crackdown on leftists and on independent media and telling people “you have to trust in us otherwise extremists will come to power”. We should oppose fascists, but we should also fight against the pressure to let technocrats take control of our lives.

In the same interview, Trilling also outlined why he believes UKIP should not be muddled together with other far-right groups:

Ukip employ a similar discourse to the BNP, but their underlying ideas are different. They’re not fascists, but a break-away section of the centre-right Conservative Party who think Britain should leave the EU and are exploiting anti-immigration sentiment to achieve this goal.

Ukip’s appeal comes from posing as an alternative to the current, “corrupt” political elite. Many people vote for them to send a message to the mainstream – that they’re not happy – but would never realistically expect Ukip to be a party of government.3

Click here to read the full interview.

In any case, UKIP has always and only ever really been a one-trick pony – the rest of their manifesto stuffed together simply to plug up the holes. And so I feel that Charlie Brooker is particularly astute in drawing his comparison directly between Farage and Johnson, since above and beyond their similarly oafish exteriors, the similarities extend, as with the parties they represent, and hugely outweigh any differences – differences being more to do with timescales, if anything, than actual agendas – UKIP ready to lead us into a more authoritarian and socially unjust future, and in half the time of the Tories.

All that said, in a twisted kind of way I must confess that a part of me was rather pleased to see the mainstream parties all take a hit in the council elections, and obviously the Conservatives especially so. It reminded me of the election of Rosie Barnes in the famous Greenwich by-election of February 1987, except in a better way. That Greenwich by-election being a signal moment when the short-lived breakaway SDP made their first genuinely impressive gain, and thereby inflicted such a terrible injury to the Labour Party they’d grown out of. A gaping wound and sustained internal bleeding from which it has never properly recovered. Maybe these latest election results will be similarly remembered: as the moment the Tories suffered an equivalent blow. The opening up of a similarly festering wound, and one that has been ripe for a very long time.

After all, the Conservative party and its base support have been deeply riven for more than twenty years, with the almost but never quite fractured halves mostly bickering over questions relating to Europe. Irreconcilable divorce between the europhiles and the eurosceptics having been on the cards ever since Thatcher was ousted, and the biggest surprise being how such a clearly disjointed party have managed to sustain apparent cohesion for so long. A more acrimonious schism perpetually waiting in the wings, but never the sufficient push to cause the ultimate break up. But now, and all of a sudden, it seems as if just such a blow might finally have been landed, and especially so since Old Tory stalwart (emphasis on whichever syllable you prefer) Lord Lawson added his own considerable weight to further exacerbating the internal discord:

His intervention is sure to further embolden eurosceptic MPs demanding a tougher line to halt the rise of Nigel Farage’s rampant anti-EU Ukip in the wake of last week’s local elections.

Farage has said Lord Lawson’s comments “legitimises the Ukip position and exposes serious divisions in the Tory Party”.4

Click here to read the full article published by the Huffington Post.

So hopefully then, the Conservative Party is about to rupture once and for all. Meanwhile, and if it turns out that UKIP’s minor success also more broadly helps to reinvigorate the old debate over our membership of the European Union, then this too, I very much believe, is greatly to the good. The pity being that it has taken a party as odious as UKIP to raise the profile of what is indeed an important issue, and, most unfortunately, by flying the divisive banner of anti-immigration above their own brand of euroscepticism, UKIP’s position very much detracting from and altogether hampering what needs to be a more serious and rounded debate.

In saying this, I appreciate that some readers will recoil almost as a reflex from my own euroscepticism, but then I am happy to jump out of my allotted box as a liberal leftie (or should I say democratic socialist? – both labels having been equally sullied). In any case, I recognise that it is nowadays a fashionably held opinion that those who are “anti-European” (which incidentally I am not) must all be alike, think alike and even look alike. That any objection to the grand designs of the European Union should be left to little Englanders and modern-day Colonel Blimps. But actually such stereotyping is wrong and not only for the usual reasons that stereotyping goes wrong. Such pigeonholing on this occasion happening to rather conveniently shut out much of the opposition that would otherwise come from the disgruntled left.

Since when it comes to deeper consideration of the EU and of our membership within it, the debate should more properly focus on the capture of the political system itself. A transfer of power away from independence and democratic governance and into the hands of unelected technocrats. This is actually the nub of the European issue, rising high above and far beyond any smokescreen about immigrant numbers coming from Bulgaria. Indeed, the loss of democratic national sovereignty is obviously affecting residents all across the EU member states, including those only recently liberated from the former Eastern Bloc. So if we are ever to seriously challenge the rot at the heart of the EU there needs to be greater solidarity between its peoples rather than renewed infighting.

I think that it is helpful at this juncture to retrace the history of Britain’s entry and EU membership so far. Not only to reveal how perceptions of ‘Europe’ have been significantly altered over the decades, but also to illustrate more clearly, and to back up what I merely claimed above, that many aspects of permissible political alignment come down to little more than slavishly riding on the popular bandwagon of whatever happens to be the trend of the day. Those on both sides of the political spectrum being guilty of this, since, after all, most people are highly susceptible to manipulation of this kind. But losing our way to such political peer pressure is surely one of the biggest reasons we happen to find ourselves in an increasingly terrible mess.

When the UK first joined ‘Europe’ in January 1973, the decision had been a purely executive one; the agreement signed behind our backs by the Conservative government of Edward Heath. But then the European Economic Community or EEC (as the organisation was originally known) was merely a burgeoning association of trading nations, and usually known more simply as the “Common Market”. So this was not a change affecting our rights or our constitution, certainly not to begin with, but apparently little more than an expanded free trade zone – and after all, the UK were already founder members of the European Free Trade Association or EFTA, along with Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland. The United Kingdom along with Denmark only ceased to be EFTA members when both then joined the EEC in 1973.

In these early days of EEC membership, the British public was just as divided on the issue as they are today, and, for the most part, this division in opinion fell along the traditional political fault-line of left against right. Back in the 1970s, however, it was socialists and trades unionists who, concerned by the top-down rule of bureaucrats in Brussels, were the most outspoken opponents. It was then much harder to find opposition within the rank and file of either Conservatives or Liberals (the Liberals being the only party to remain consistently “pro-European”).

A few years on, and with the 1975 referendum, the British electorate were at last given the chance to formally express their support or otherwise for the European project. Not to vote on whether or not to join, of course, since by then it was already a done deal, but on whether or not the UK should leave. So a loaded question obviously, and one further biased due to emphasis on the purportedly grave economic risks of an exit. Thus, with the deck fully stacked in favour of EEC membership, the nation went out to vote, and hardly surprisingly chose to stay put. 67% voting in favour, out of a 65% turnout.

But then something strange happened. Gradually, and throughout the following decade, the political poles were shifted around. The left becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of forming greater ties with our European partners, whilst the conservative right have grown ever more concerned and disaffected. The reason for these shifts actually aren’t hard to understand at all.

Thatcher loathed Europe, although what she really despised was the worker rights and other guarantees of social justice being snuck in through Europe’s backdoor. As a consequence, her almost rabid hostility towards European federalism (federalism being the big new F-word of the 1980s) being almost sufficient in itself to bring many on the left on board when it came to recognising the virtues of the fledgling union. Surely if this was the only route to achieving social justice then it was better to have more of it. Yet even so, a few on the left held on to their previous mistrust of Brussels. Tony Benn, offers perhaps the best example, having remained unflinching in his objection to Europe’s inherent lack of democratic process. And here it is worth remembering that the “No” campaign of the ’75 referendum had been backed not only by Benn by other significant members on the left wing of the Labour Party, including cabinet ministers Michael Foot, Peter Shore and Barbara Castle.

More recently, the EU (which was formally established to replace the EEC after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, and again without any national referendum in Britain) has revealed how the organisation’s fundamentally neo-liberal credentials never went away. Barely disguising its own shameful part in the agonies of “austerity” now being foisted on Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, with these measures insisted upon by “the Troika” of which two of its three parts are the EU itself. These actions serving to highlight what many progressives had failed to understand (and for many years, myself included), which is that the EU was never intended as a socialist project at all, or even an inherently ‘liberal’ one. Rather, and primarily, it has been a vehicle for concentrating power to the advantage of an already powerful financial and corporate elite. Which is why some on the left have remained just as strongly opposed to the EU as many on the right.

The following is NOT taken from UKIP’s manifesto:

Membership of the European Community/Union has contributed substantially to the unprecedented decline of industries in Britain, mass long-term unemployment and inability to trade on the world market. Besides huge contributions to the EU budget we have to purchase high priced food, thanks to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Because of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) we no longer have control over the fishing grounds around Britain with consequent loss of most of the fishing industry and fish stocks and pollution of the sea. Membership of the EU has entailed a switch away from taxing income and profit to consumption through the imposition of VAT. The burden of these costs and taxation is mainly carried by ordinary people especially those with low incomes or the unemployed.

The Treaty on European Union, Euro-federalism and EU Constitution will guarantee further decline as a result of which Britain will become an offshore area of a supranational state. The aim of European Union to be consolidated through the EU Constitution is to have its own military forces and be ruled in secret by unelected governors of an unaccountable European Central Bank, an appointed Commission and committees such as the European Council. These bodies consist of a majority of representatives of member states not answerable to our Government, Parliament or electorate and would be taking decisions which may not be in the interests of Britain.

Rather, it is taken from the “Statement of Aims” of a lesser know left-wing organisation called the Campaign Against Euro-federalism or CAEF. A statement that continues as follows:

Corporatism and fascism are also menaces which emanate from the drive to a European Union. Racism has been encouraged by the Schengen agreement which is now part of EU law with parallel legislation on immigration and asylum in Britain.

Yes, not everyone who opposes the EU is automatically against international cooperation. Nor is everyone who opposes the open border Schengen Agreement a rabid nationalist.5

In any case, internationalism, as CAEF correctly point out, is quite different to European federalism. Internationalism involves the strengthening ties between sovereign nations, rather than the more aggressive dissolving away of borders between them. And European federalism further undermines the independence of the people of those nations (its member states) by passing executive powers that were held by democratically elected governments into the technocratic hands of an appointed commission.6 The EU – as it exists, rather than how we might like it to be – better understood, not as a grand project for furthering international cooperation, but as one of the vital organs of a fully globalised world.

CAEF write:

Internationalism means the right to self determination and national democracy for all nations and nation states of the world which includes close relations with our friends in EU states and co-operating with peoples in all countries of the world.

And hear, hear to that!

*

Final thoughts on Clegg v. Farage:

I actually wrote the above article just over a year ago, but then decided to hold it back. However, with the forthcoming Euro Elections and in the aftermath of the well hyped Clegg v. Farage tallest dwarf competition, now seemed an opportune time to post it.

When Nick Clegg originally challenged Nigel Farage to debate on our membership of the European Union, he was basically on a hiding to nothing. Whereas Farage clearly relished the invitation to steal a little of the media limelight again, as Clegg crossed the stage to his podium, the diminishment of his own political standing was instant. But worse was to follow. In this latest and seemingly most desperate attempt to reverse his party’s fortunes, Clegg’s performance has instead accelerated their transformation back into political minnows.

In truth, the downfall of Nick Clegg began long ago with his failings as a politician and party leader becoming quickly apparent once he conceded to the (unduly) prompt signing of the Coalition pact. After all, prior to the election, the Lib-Dems had been gaining considerable ground on both of the major parties, and largely by virtue of winning over disaffected voters who had been traditional Labour supporters (such as myself). However, by immediately committing his party to its role as silent partners in a de facto Tory government, we all felt betrayed.

During the lead up to that last General Election, support for the Lib-Dems was also bolstered thanks in part to the lasting legacy of their former leader Charles Kennedy who had maintained a principled stance on the Iraq War. On top of which, the Lib Dems were gaining popularity with many voters because of their perceived honesty when it came to “tackling the financial crisis” – or perhaps more accurately, Vince Cable was then trusted as someone more economically literate than any of our other foremost politicians. Back then, Cable was a rare exception – a politician the public actually warmed to.

But Clegg, with the assistance of weak and disingenuous Vince Cable himself, has since managed to lose all of that hard-won goodwill by completely selling out. On health “reforms”, on welfare “reforms”, on privatisation schemes, and on their support for drastic cuts to our few remaining public services, all made worse again after the party’s complete acquiescence when it came to voting in support of air strikes against Syria… and sorry, but did I mention university tuition fees? For any who may have forgotten, here is Nick Clegg’s most heart-rending and sincere apology to us (in the form of a musical remix obviously!):

Prior to taking office, the Lib-Dems had also been synonymous with one electoral issue above all others – their call for significant changes to the democratic process as such, with future elections made fairer under a Proportional Representation (PR) system; a proposed change that was obviously very much in their own self-interest of course. Had Nick Clegg, by more carefully brokering the Coalition deal, succeeded in negotiating and then winning a referendum on PR, rather than losing the chance forever after a quickly forgotten poll on some unheard of compromise called AV (Alternative Vote), his own party might still be sitting closer to the political high table. So here he sold out even those most loyal to his party.

The reputation of the Lib-Dems is now damaged almost beyond repair. They have become the scrawny bully’s mate who hangs around and simpers to their overbearing and obnoxious mate. They are not merely unpopular, but deeply distrusted, and most especially by those whose support they captured over the years, switching allegiance out of frustration, and then finally getting a nasty taste of what they inadvertently voted in.

So in response to their continuing decline in recent polls, the party’s bigwigs evidently felt that they needed a serious makeover – a new focus of some kind and a distinguishing policy that could mark them out as being different from their big Tory buddies. Advocacy of the European Union was that the singular issue, if only because it was one policy area where political differences between the Coalition partners remained intact. Clutching at straws, the party has therefore decided to concentrate on EU membership and move to promote this as their electoral issue of greatest importance, which given the general level of apathy surrounding British attitudes to the EU was a strange decision under the best of circumstances. And how deeply Clegg and his beleaguered party must be regretting their strategy move right now.

In any case, Nigel Farage won the recent debates comfortably, but this had less to do with Farage himself arguing the anti-EU corner effectively, and was mostly down to Clegg’s failure to show up. Rather than pointing to the wonderful benefits of EU membership (and no doubt there are some benefits, although the positives are, in my opinion, far outweighed by the negatives), he instead warned us repeatedly in the debates that “we can’t turn the clock back”, that “an exit would cost jobs”, and moreover, that Britain (or whatever remains of it after the Scottish referendum) might lose much of its political clout. Tired, old rhetoric that plays solely to people’s anxieties.

But then, of course, if the EU was half as good for us as Nick Clegg believes, after more than forty years of membership shouldn’t the debate be settled by now. So Clegg’s own position is most untenable because of his determined preference not to allow a long overdue national referendum and thus his refusal to allow any real contest over Britain’s membership of the European Union. If he actually believed he could win in such a genuine debate – one that puts more on the line than his already dismal ratings in the opinion polls – surely he would jump at the opportunity… as would Ed Miliband.

1 Definition taken from online Oxford Dictionary. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/ideology

2 From an article entitled “Nigel Farage – or how to succeed in politics without really trying: Many people who hate Nigel Farage the reactionary throwback find themselves liking Nigel Farage the chortling oaf – they can almost forget he is a politician at all” written by Charlie Brooker and published by the Guardian on May 5, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/05/nigel-farage-succeed-politics-charlie-brooker

3 From an article entitled “Bloody nasty people: British journalist Daniel Trilling explains the Golden Dawn conundrum in the context of the European far right” published by Eleftherotypia’s Epsilon magazine on May 7, 2013. http://www.enetenglish.gr/?i=news.en.politics&id=831

4 From an article entitled “Lord Lawson Slams Nick Clegg’s European Union ‘Poppycock’” published by the Huffington Post UK on May 7, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/05/07/lord-lawson-european-union-nick-clegg_n_3229023.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

5 Not that Britain is as yet signed up to the Schengen Agreement. And it is worth noting that France and Germany, countries that did join the Schengen Area, unlike the UK, did not then give full access to migrants from the ten countries (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) after they entered the EU in May 2004. Indeed, only the UK, Ireland and Sweden immediately opened their doors to Eastern European workers.

6 The European Commission, which is the EU’s executive body, is comprised of an appointed cabinet of 28 “commissioners” with administration provided by a further 23,000 civil servants.

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50 days and counting: mass hunger strike at Guantánamo is being ignored and downplayed

It is a frankly staggering but barely reported fact that the majority of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay – 86 of the 166 – have actually been cleared by the Obama administration to leave. Indeed, only a tiny fraction of the remaining “detainees” – as few as 34 – are ever likely to be charged by the US government. Yet, in spite of this, the more than fifty percent being held without any charge against them, still see little or no prospect of release after more than a decade of false imprisonment.

To highlight their continuing plight some of these inmates (and I will return to numbers in a moment) decided to go on hunger strike. A mass protest that started on February 6th and which is now into its eighth week. So far, however, the mainstream media has mostly ignored their protest altogether, with only Russia Today consistently reporting on the deteriorating situation at Guantánamo.

Democracy Now! also featured a report just over a fortnight ago on Wednesday March 13th, and this is what Pardiss Kebriaei, senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights as well as counsel for Ghaleb Al-Bihani, one of the hunger strikers, told us back then:

He [Ghaleb Al-Bihani] said what we’ve heard from every other detainee who has communicated with his lawyer since February, which is that there is a large-scale hunger strike in Camp 6, which is the largest of the facilities at Guantánamo. That prison holds about 130 men. He said that almost everyone, except for a few who are sick and elderly, are on strike.

He himself had lost over 20 pounds. He is a diabetic. His blood glucose levels are fluctuating wildly. He told me that medical staff at Guantánamo have told him his life is in danger. And he and others want us to get the word out about this.

At this time, the official version was that “only five or six” prisoners were involved in the hunger strike, but here’s Pardiss Kebriaei again:

They have downplayed the scale of the strikes and have said that there are only a handful on strike and only a handful being tube-fed. It may be a matter of semantics: the way that Guantánamo authorities define people on hunger strike is largely discretionary.

But what we have heard from every habeas counsel who has been down to the base or communicated with their clients since February is the same, which is that there is a large-scale strike, men are refusing food.

Click here to read a complete transcript or to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website.

And here’s a more recent Russia Today article from Monday [March 25th]:

US officials initially denied that a strike was taking place at all.

“As you recall, they started off by saying, ‘no one is on hunger strike, just five or six people who have been on the hunger strike for many years’. Then that figure was revised up to 14 and now we are seeing the figure steadily increasing, but to nowhere near the extent that the prisoners’ lawyers are talking about,” investigative journalist and author of ‘The Guantanamo Files’ Andy Worthington told RT.

Currently the officially-acknowledged number of Gitmo detainees on hunger strike has reached 26 people, according to the US Defense Department. Eight of them are being force-fed, which means they are administered food in the form of a nutritional supplement through a hose snaked into their nose while they are restrained in a chair.1

Click here to read more from the same Russia Today report or to watch video of the report.

Hidden away on the BBC website, you can also find this report from yesterday:

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is urgently sending a doctor to Guantanamo Bay because of a growing hunger strike among detainees.

The ICRC says the doctor and another group member are flying to Guantanamo a week earlier than planned “because of the current tensions” there.2

The same BBC article also reports that officially 31 of the 166 prisoners are now on hunger strike. The official figures rising as news of the hunger strike slowly leaks out… but why so slowly. Here are the thoughts of outspoken British MP George Galloway talking on Russia Today (and published in the same article):

“Nobody else is talking about this subject. If this were happening in Russia, if people disappeared into an illegal black hole in Russia and were facing indefinite incarceration, without trial, without charge and without access of attorneys, we’d never hear the end of it. The Western media would be full of it. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, they’d be screaming from the rooftops of Westminster.

But because this is an American crime, they’re allowed to get away with it. Because the people that control the so-called mainstream media are fully on side with the agenda of the Obama administration.”

Whatever you may think about Galloway, it is hard to deny the truth of much that he has to say. And the fact that during the past fifty days, our own media outlets have consistently declined to draw any serious attention to this important story ought to be a cause for concern for all of us.

Incidentally, I happen to be on the emailing lists of both Amnesty International and Avaaz and neither organisation has sent any news about the mass hunger strike taking place at Guantánamo, let alone any campaigns calling for action to be taken. Shame on both organisations.

*

The following is a Russia Today report from January last year, marking the tenth anniversary of the opening of Gitmo at Guantánamo Bay:

1 From an article entitled “’Nobody else talking about this’: Gitmo inmate hunger strike goes on” published by Russia Today on March 25, 2013. http://rt.com/news/guantanamo-hunger-strike-media-786/

2 From a BBC new report entitled “Guantanamo hunger strike prompts urgent Red Cross visit” published on Mnarch 27, 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21958255

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