Posts Tagged ‘Amnesty International’

‘Florence’ Suggests I should Compile a Book about British & American Support for Fascist Dictators

November 12, 2017

Yesterday I put up a piece commenting on a video from the Aussie left-wing blogger, Democratic Socialist. This showed the Tory media’s double standard in reviling Jeremy Corbyn as a supporter of terrorism, Iran, and an anti-Semite, when he is none of those things. But the hacks of the Telegraph definitely did not make those accusations against their Tory molten idol, Maggie Thatcher, when she by association supported all of the above through her friendship with General Pinochet.

Corbyn’s support for Iran was based on an interview he made to an Iranian group, the Mossadeq Project. Mohammed Mossadeq was the last, democratically elected prime minister of that ancient and extremely cultured nation. He was no theocrat, but a secular liberal. He was also a Baha’i, a post-Islamic, syncretistic faith which embraces human equality, including that of men and women. The Shi’a Muslim establishment have hated them since the faith first emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and there have been terrible pogroms against them. This hatred is not shared by all Iranian Muslims, and I have personally known Iranian Muslims, who are heartily sick of the way their Baha’i friends are treated.

Mossadeq’s crime was that he dared nationalise the Iranian oil industry, then dominated by the British-owned Anglo-Persian Oil, which became BP. This resulted in us and the Americans organising a coup, which toppled Mossadeq, and began the long process by which the Shah gradually assumed absolute power, ruling through terror and a secret police force, SAVAK.

‘Florence’, one of the many great commenters on this blog, commented

In the early 70s I volunteered to help type up translation transcriptions of reports from torture victims of the “Shit” of Iran, as Private eye called him. (It was as evidence for Amnesty.) Its not something you can ever forget. When the revolution happened, it was simply new bosses at the same slaughter houses. This is another lesson learned; the violence required by a state to terrorise its own people seeps into the culture, and remains for generations (maybe longer, its too early to tell in most of the cases you cover in this interesting and evocative piece). The violence of the state becomes symmetrical in the revolution in many countries, Iran, Iraq, etc. that follows such repression.

(For this reason I also worry that, for example, the almost visceral hatred of the disabled (and other poor) in the UK bred by the eugenics of neoliberalism for decades will not be so easily dislodged with a change in government. )

I see that the experience of having lived through those times is no longer part of the wider political education of the younger members of the left. In Labour the excesses of the neoliberals all but wiped out that generation and the links. I talk sometimes to our younger members in the Labour party and they are fascinated – but totally clueless. I do try to point them at this blog for this very reason. They are oblivious to who Pinochet was, why it mattered to us then and now, the refuge given to that butcher by Thatcher, the entire history of the Chicago school etc. The traditional passing in of this history, personal history too, through social groups in the Labour party has all but broken down.

As a suggestion, perhaps you could edit your blogs into a book we could use in discussion groups? You would help us be that collective memory board for the newer (not just younger) activists. It would help tease out the older members stories of their personal part in the struggles at home and abroad, but more than that your pieces on the collision of religious and political also show the rich complexities of life.

I am really honoured that my blog is so highly regarded and useful. While talking to Mike earlier today, I mentioned the idea to him. He was enthusiastic and supportive, making a few suggestions on how I should go about it. I told him I have had problems finding a mainstream publisher for some of my other books I have written. He suggested I should try Lulu again, and have the cover done by a professional artist. This would be a great help to actually selling the book, and he could put me in touch with some of the great comics artists he’s worked with.

I am therefore definitely going to look into this.

Now for the other points ‘Florence’ has raised in her comment.

As for the point about how a whole generation in the Left and the Labour party having an awareness and opposition to the various Fascist leaders run riot around the world thanks to British and American support as part of their political education, I think that’s how very many people got involved in politics. Private Eye covered these issues, as it still does, and there was the series of comedy reviews put on in support of Amnesty in the 1980s called The Secret Policeman’s Ball. These featured some of the greatest comedy talents of the day, such as the Pythons and the languid, caustic wit of Peter Cook. I don’t think you had to be particularly left-wing to be a fan, only a supporter of democracy and civil liberties. Very many of the other kids in my Sixth Form were into it, including those, who could be described as working-class Tories.

But come to think about it, we haven’t seen anything like that on our screens for many, many years. The series was becoming long and drawn out towards the end, but nevertheless there’s no reason something else like it, which could be launched. And I don’t doubt that there are young, angry, talented comedians out there, who are perfectly capable of stepping up to the mike and doing it.

And some of the absence of comment and criticism of the monsters, who ran amok across the globe thanks to British and American support does come from the victory of neoliberalism. Including its adoption by New Labour. Blair was an Atlanticist, and an alumni of the Reagan-founded British-American Project for the Successor Generation, or BAP for short. This was a group that trained up future British political leaders, sending them on free jaunts to the US, so that on return to Britain they would be enthusiastic supporters of the ‘Special Relationship’. And they did a superb job on Blair. Before he went on one jaunt, he was a supporter of unilateral disarmament. When he returned, after meeting the American nuclear lobby, he was fully on board with us supporting America’s siting of nukes in Britain, as well as our own, independent nuclear deterrent.

Much of the activism against these thugs came out, it seems to me, of the campaigns against the Vietnam War. This inspired the radical young people of the time to look more closely at what America and the West were doing in the Cold War, and the people we supported as the bulwark of ‘freedom’ – which really meant ‘capitalism’ and western big business – against the Soviets. And the brutal realities of Pinochet’s regime, and that of the Shah of Iran, and very many others, were extensively reported. Clive James in one of his TV reviews written for the Observer, acidly commented on an interview on British TV with some high level thug from the Shah’s Iran. This torturer was asked about the brutal methods of interrogation employed by SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police. There was no problem, said the thug. They were improving all the time. Oh yes, commented James, or something similar.

Incidentally, an Iranian friend of mine told me had some experience of the activities of the Shah’s secret police himself. Back in Iran, he’d been a footie fan. But he noticed that several of his mates kept disappearing. He then found out that one of his friends was a snitch for the secret police, and had been informing on them. It’s when you hear these experiences from the people, who observed what was happening, that really begin to understand why so much of the world is less than enthusiastic about western imperialism. And why so many Iranians were taken in by that other thug, Khomeini. When he returned to Iran, he promised freedom to all Iranians. That didn’t last long, as it was back to normal with the rapists and torturers in Evin prison under his regime.

I was also part of a British medieval re-enactment group. One of the great peeps I met in that was an American chap, whose ancestry was South American. He was proud of his Incan heritage, and in America he’d been part of a similar group, that recreated the warrior traditions of this Andean people. He’d also been a translator for one of the human rights organisations, translating documents on abuses from Spanish.

There is indeed a whole generation out there, with personal experience of the dictatorship supported by the West, people whose wealth of knowledge and experience should be passed on.

But part of the problem is the supposed break with dictatorship and the entry of neoliberalism into the Labour party. The Fall of Communism was meant to be the End of History, as heralded by Francis Fukuyama. From now on, Western liberal democracy and capitalism would reign unchallenged. And with the threat of Communism gone, the Americans decided to cut their losses and move against the Fascist dictators they’d been propping up. Hence their ouster of General Noriega.

This gave the impression that the world was going to be nicely democratic, with the unspoken assumption that western, Euro-American culture would remain dominant and unchallenged.

But the old culture of lies, coups and regime change when the dominated countries in the developing world get too uppity is still there. As are the Cold Warriors. We didn’t invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to free its peoples. We invaded because the Neocons wanted their state industries for American multinationals, and the Saudi-American oil industry wanted their oil fields. And Israel wanted to stop Hussein from aiding the Palestinians. Human rights was just a convenient pretext. And it’s been like this for the last 14 years.

Just like we’re also being told lies about the situation in Ukraine. The Maidan Revolution was not spontaneous. It was staged by the CIA, National Endowment for Democracy, George Soros, and Victoria Nuland in Obama’s state department. It was to stop Ukraine becoming too close to Putin’s Russia. Ukraine has always had strong links to its eastern neighbour. Indeed, Kiev was one of the earliest and most powerful of the Russian states to emerge in the Middle Ages. Trying to sever the links between the two is similar, as someone put it, to Canada moving away from America to side with the Communist bloc.

But we aren’t being told any of that. Nor are we told that real, unreconstructed Nazis from the Pravy Sektor are in the ruling coalition, and that there is credible evidence that human rights abuses have been visited on the Russian minority and Russian speaking Ukrainians.

We are just being told that Putin is a thug – which is true – and that he’s ready to invade the former Soviet satellites. Which probably isn’t.

There is also a further problem, in that some of the countries, whose Fascist leaders Britain and America supported, are very remote. I’d guess that many people really wouldn’t be able to find them on a map, let alone know much about their history. And so we face the same problem the Czechs faced, when Chamberlain sacrificed their country to Hitler at Munich. They are faraway countries, of which we know nothing.

And this is a problem with British imperial history generally. Salman Rushdie once said that the British don’t know their own history, because so much of it happened abroad. This is true. British capitalism was stimulated through the colonisation of the West Indies, the slave trade and the sugar industry. How much is a matter of debate. Black and West Indian scholars have suggested that it was the prime stimulus behind the emergence of capitalism and the industrial revolution in Britain. Others have argued instead that it added only 5 per cent to the economy. But that it did have an effect is undeniable, especially on its colonised peoples. In the West Indies, this meant the virtual extermination of the indigenous Amerindian peoples and their replacement with enslaved Africans.

Well, the Empire has gone, and been replaced by the Commonwealth. But western domination of these countries’ economies still remains through the various tariff barriers that the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal called Neocolonialism. As well as the domination of their industries by western multinationals.

There are book available on the British Empire, some of them critical. Like John Newsinger’s The Blood Never Dried, and a recent book about the internment, torture and mutilation of the indigenous Kenyans during the Mao Mao crisis, Africa’s Secret Gulags. But the people, who appear on TV to talk about imperialism tend to be those on the right, like Niall Ferguson, who will admit that the British Empire was seriously flawed, but on balance did more good. Which might be true, but still glosses over some of the horrors we perpetrated.

And many of these are still kept from us. The public documents supporting the allegations of the victims of British torture in Kenya only came to light because they fought a long and hard battle in the British courts to get them released. I honestly don’t know what other nasty little secrets are being kept from us, in case it embarrasses senior ministers or industrialists.

So if you want to see the brutal reality behinds the West’s foreign policy, you have to read specialist magazines, many of them small press. Like Robin Ramsay’s Lobster, which has been going since the 1980s, and which is now online, and Counterpunch, an American radical magazine and website, which has been digging the sordid truth up about the American Empire and the rapacity of capitalism and the global elite. I also recommend William Blum’s The Anti-Empire Report, and his books, as well as Greg Palast’s dissection of the real reasons we invaded Iraq, Armed Madhouse.

More material on the rapacity of western imperialism is coming to light through the internet, and especially the emergence of alternative news sites. And there is a growing audience for it, as young and older people from across the world are brought together through international links. This isn’t just business, but also through the foreign students coming to Britain, as well as Brits living, working and studying elsewhere in the world.

The problem is getting it out there, and moving it from the sidelines so that it becomes a major topic that can be used to challenge our leaders and hold them to account, without being written off as ‘loony radical lefties’ spouting about things no-one else wants to know about or even hear. About other ‘faraway places, of which we know nothing’.

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Media Lies Exposed Again: Most Misogynist Abuse Comes from the Tories

September 6, 2017

Mike today put up a piece blowing away another lie that the Tories and their servants in the media have hawking: that the Left is full of misogynists, who harass and abuse women MPs. In fact Amnesty International have published a report showing that the opposite is true: most abuse comes from the right. And the female politico, who most often suffers it is Diane Abbott.

Who in the Left is honestly surprised by this? There are Conservative varieties of feminism, as you’d expect, but feminism, or women’s lib as it was known in the 1970s, is most often associated with the Left. And as the Austrian democratic socialist Marxist, Karl Kautsky argued, socialism is all about equality. This is why they champion the working class, and why left-wing governments, particularly Communist, have encouraged women to enter politics and the workplace, even if their countries’ traditional culture is very sexist, as it is in Russia and some of the countries of the former eastern bloc.

Conservatives, on the other hand, stress the importance of tradition, and despite having given Britain two female prime ministers, Maggie Thatcher and now Theresa May, this usually also means stressing and promoting traditional gender roles. Thus, while the right-wing broadsheets may earnestly discuss the issue of getting more women into the boardroom, and equal pay, the Daily Heil has been telling its female readers that stable families, and indeed western civilization as a whole, needs women to concentrate on staying at home to raise children, rather than both pursuing independent careers. The image the right projects of feminism is of angry misandrists, which has been a factor in why so many young women a few years ago rejected the term ‘feminism’, even when they had strong feelings about winning equality and rejecting sexism.

There’s also more than a little racism on the Tories’ side as well. The Tory right has always had links to Fascist right, including inviting members of central American death squads over to their annual dinners. A few days ago I put up a piece about Owen Jones’ video on YouTube, in which he commented on an odious conversation by the Tory youth movement, Activate, about gassing chavs and shooting peasants. This wasn’t the first time they had made Nazi comments and bullied the poor and underprivileged by a very long chalk. Jones discussed some prize examples of their foul behavior. This included the members of Oxford University Conservative society goose-stepping around like the real Nazis, singing songs about ‘Dashing through the Reich … killing lots of ****’, the last a very unpleasant terms for Jews. Their comrades north of the border ain’t no better either. This crew thought it would be jolly fun for one of them to dress up as a slave master, while another cringed before him as a slave. It wasn’t that long ago that the Tories in Scotland were known as the Unionist party, and their antics and Thatcher’s complete dismissal of the country was a large factor in the decision of so many Scots to vote for the SNP.

As for the Tory press, they’ve been consistently against coloured immigration since Windrush. And long before then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were busy campaigning against allowing ‘aliens’ – that is, eastern European Jews, to enter this country as asylum seekers fleeing the pogroms in eastern Europe. This anti-immigration stance has frequently been blatantly racist. Private Eye, when covering the prosecution of the Scum yet again for racism by the Press Complaints Commission, as it then was, noted that the wretched paper had had 19 judgements against it previously for its racist content. I can remember how the Torygraph, Mail and Express back in the 1980s railed against ‘unassimilable’ immigrants and the way they were forming little ghettoes.

Racism became a major issue in that decade following the 1981/2 riots, and the publication of government reports that revealed a massive culture of institutional racism and Black deprivation in Britain. To the Tory press, however, the riots were all the fault of racist Blacks. While there have been Black and Asian politicians before, Diane Abbott was one of the group of very visible Black politicians and activists to achieve public office during the decade, along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant, the leader of Brent Council. They were all very vocal in their opposition to racism. Grant died the other year, and I think Boateng more or less vanished into the depths of Whitehall. There are a number of other Black politicos, like David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Oona King, but Abbott is one of the longest-serving and most reviled. The Scum tried running a Communism scare against the Labour party in the 1987 election, by putting up a two-page spread with the photographs of Labour MPs and candidates, below which was a few brief quotes or comments showing how they were a threat to British society. Red Ken is supposed to have said that he wasn’t in favour of the British army, but wanted the workers to be armed so they could guard the factories. Under Abbott’s was a quote, ‘All Whites are racist.’

That was very much the image she had at the time. She’s supposed to be very keen on tackling racism, because she felt that her mother’s career was blocked because of her colour. This is actually quite likely. But it’s highly questionable that she’s anti-White. Many of the stories the press published about the supposed hard-left extremists in the Labour party at the time were either exaggerations or completely made up. Ken Livingstone, whom the Eye has frequently mocked under the nickname, Ken Leninspart, really did believe in worker’s control. But he was never a Marxist, and in fact worker’s control used to form only a small part of the subjects he discussed with the, um, ‘gentlemen’ of the press. Most of the time it was rather more mundane. But they played up the worker’s control, and attacked it, because it frightened their proprietors and editors, quite apart from the rest of the middle class. The veteran gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, who was also beginning his career as a Labour politico, was another who was made to appear much more extreme than he was. At one point the papers published a story about him going on holiday to one of the great gay centres on the American west coast. Except that he hadn’t, and didn’t even know the place existed. They also did the same thing to Marc Almond. In his case, they didn’t think he looked sufficiently effeminate, and so retouched his photograph.

Given this long record of telling porky pies about radical politicians, you can’t be sure that Abbot made the above comment, or that it represents her views now. But as Sid James remarked to Tony Hancock in ‘The Scandal Magazine’, mud always sticks, boy. They’ve carried on portraying her as a threat to White history and culture. A few years ago, the Daily Mail ran a story about how the London borough she represents in parliament decided to replace the paintings in their civic offices. Down came the traditional portraits of the White guys, who had previously served on the council, and up came paintings of Black children.

The story was part of a larger article about her, and didn’t offer any details about this, nor the reasons for the decision. Without putting it in so many words, it was presented merely as Abbott’s coterie of angry Blacks removing Whites from the history of the borough. How this supposed racist anger compares with her appearing regularly alongside Michael Portillo on Andrew Neil’s The Daily Politics, where she appears perfectly calm and genial with her White presenters, as befits a grande dame of British politics, I really don’t know.

Nevertheless, she remains a Tory bete noir, and given the fact that there have always been members of the party, who can’t understand why a Black person could ever object to golliwogs, the Black and White Minstrels or why you can make derogatory comments about Black people’s supposed character defects as a race, or use the unpleasant terms previous generations used to insult them, and it becomes quite easy to see why she should be the target for so much abuse.

As for the supposed sexism in the Labour ranks, there was never much substance to that anyway. It was never more than an attempt by wealthy, entitled right-wing Labour female politicians to smear their male rivals. These women had nothing to offer ordinary working Brits, including women. While ordinary women are finding it difficult to pay the bills and feed their families, thanks to the ravages of neoliberalism, these female politicians simply offered more of the same. More cuts, more privatization, more precarity. But like Hillary Clinton, from whom they got the tactic, they wanted to present themselves as representing women in general, even if in fact they only represented rich, entitled women like themselves. And so just Clinton was outraged by the popularity of Bernie Sanders, these women were infuriated by Jeremy Corbyn. Clinton claimed that she had been vilified by the ‘Bernie Bros’, who didn’t actually exist. And so her counterparts in the Labour party over here decided to follow her, and lie about how they were the victims of savage misogyny from Corbyn and the Old Left.

The reality is the opposite. I don’t doubt that there is racism and sexism on the Left. But there’s far less of it than on the right. But the press are still liars for claiming otherwise.

William Blum on the Police Bombing of Black Americans

February 9, 2017

I found this passage in William Blum’s America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy absolutely mind-blowing as it says so much about Reaganite and post-Reaganite America’s willingness to use deadly force, regardless of who gets killed, and the militarisation of the police.

In the chapter on human rights and torture, Blum discusses the continuing misuse of American drone strikes to assassinate terrorist leaders. These are notorious, as most of the victims so far have been civilians, including women and children. Blum mentions that Amnesty International has protested several times against their use. He makes the point that drones are only ever used against poor countries, like Yemen and Pakistan, and would never be used against America’s allies in the Developed world, like Britain. But bomb strikes have been used by the police in America against terrorists in poor Black neighbourhoods, with the resulting massive loss of innocent lives and destruction of people’s homes. He writes

Can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a house in Paris or London or Ottawa because they suspected that high-ranking al-Qaeda members were present there? Even if the US knew of their presence for an absolute fact, and was not just acting on speculation, as in the Predator cases mentioned above? Well, they most likely would not attack, but can we put anything past Swaggering-Superarrogant-Superpower-Cowboys-on-steroids? After all, they’ve already done it to their own – US drone attack killed two American citizens in Yemen in 2011, and on May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter over Philadelphia, Pennsylvania burned down an entire block, some sixty homes destroyed, eleven dead, including several small children.. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this operation to evict an organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.

The victims in Philadelphia were all black of course. So let’s rephrase the question: can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a residential area of Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side of Manhattan? Stay tuned. (p. 127).

No, of course they wouldn’t.

But what in the name of Heaven is a police force doing with bombs? This whole affair reads like something from a dystopian SF novel. You know, something like Stephen King’s The Running Man, which was set in a Fascist America where the cops shoot people rioting to get bread. That one was filmed in the 1980s with Arnie. Or The Hunger Games. It does not sound like the actions of a responsible democracy based on ‘justice for all’.

I’m not disputing that sometimes it is necessary to use force against armed, violent criminals and terrorists. But I am absolutely amazed that the US police was militarised to the extent that the used bombs. As for the victims being Black, that explains so much about why so many Blacks in America hate the police, and the entire point behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

Norman Finkelstein on the Media Lies of the Israel Lobby

May 31, 2016

I would like to drop blogging about Israel and the Palestinians for a bit, having posted a number of articles about them over the past few days. However, just as I think I’ve said enough about the subject for now, something else crops up.

Porky Scratchings Zionist Trolling

On Monday Mike posted up a piece about how somebody calling themselves ‘Porky Scratchings’ and declaring themselves to be a Zionist, had slandered him on a Twitter as an anti-Semite. This was simply because Mike has published many pieces disputing and refuting the charges of anti-Semitism made against members of the Labour Party. These charges are obviously wrong and should be deeply shameful for the people who made them. Those accused, like Ken Livingstone, Naz Shah and Jackie Walter, are not certainly not Jew-haters, but principled people who have criticised Israeli’s barbarism towards the Palestinians. In addition to his slander, Porky Scratchings tried to lure Mike into writing something anti-Semitic. When Mike disappointed him, Mike’s Twitter account went down. Somebody had tried to hack it. Twitter had frozen it, and advised Mike to change the passwords. I blogged yesterday about how Mike is certainly not either racist or anti-Semitic, and further pulled apart Porky Scratchings utter lack of logic. Commenting on the incident over at Mike’s blog, Florence said that she believed that Porky Scratching was not some isolated troll. Instead, he looked like a paid interrogator. This sounds likely and it fits with the cyber-attack. The accusation of anti-Semitism brought against Jackie Walker ultimately came from a Zionist cybergroup, who based it on remarks she made on her Facebook page comparing the enslavement of Black Africans to the Holocaust and Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians. Walker’s father is a Russian Jew, her partner is Jewish, and one of the friends she was talking to is also Jewish. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist. By any reasonable standard, the accusation is risible and should be laughed out of court, along with the fools who made it. But it seems clear from this that the Israel lobby is engaged in cyber espionage and warfare. And it seems from Mike’s experience with Porky Scratchings that if the Israel lobby can’t find any quote from you they can reasonably claim is anti-Semitic, they will hack into your account and invent one. And as this video with Norman Finkelstein shows, unfortunately the Israel lobby has long history of outrageous, unchallenged lying.

The Lies of the Israel Lobby

Finkelstein here lays into several falsehoods that are manufactured and deployed by the Israel lobby. These are that the conflict with the Palestinians are based in ancient, Biblical feuds; that the experience of the Holocaust was unique, and so normal standards do not apply to Jews in their treatment of the Palestinians; that there is a massive revival of anti-Semitism and rise in assaults on Jews, and concludes with a discussion of the sheer mendacity in Alan Dershowitz’s In Defence of Israel.

Arab Opposition Not Biblical, Based on Zionist Colonisation in 19th and 20th Centuries

The video begins with him saying that the conflict between Israel and the Arabs is not based on the ancient struggles between Israel and the surrounding Canaanite and other states in the Bible, nor in some thousand-year old antagonism between Arabs and Jews. It is simply resistance to the attempts of the Zionist settlers in Palestine to take over their land and expel the indigenous peoples. He states that this is just obvious common sense when applied to every other nation, but it literally jumped off the page at him when he read Benny Morris say it in his book in the 1980s. Morris has since become very right-wing in his attitude to the Palestinians, but that doesn’t change the value of the remark. He compares the situation to the resistance the Amerindians put up to White colonisation in America. He states very clearly that, unless you’re very PC, it’s recognised that the Amerindians were very brutal in their assault on Whites. They killed women and children. Nevertheless, they did so not because they were inherently anti-White, or motivated by some anti-Christianism, but because they were defending themselves and their homeland from subjugation and dispossession.

The Origins of the Different Moral Standards Claimed by Zionists

He states that the attitude that Jews are not subject to the same moral constraints as others first appeared in 1967, with the Jewish rediscovery of Israel. This was the time when the Holocaust industry first got going. As for the allegations that there is a rise in anti-Semitism, he states that every ten years there is a new piece on ‘the new anti-Semitism’ in the media. It ultimately goes back to a 1974 article by the joint heads of the Anti-Defamation League, with the title ‘The New Anti-Semitism’. And what was it about? The musical Jesus Christ Superstar. They claimed it was anti-Semitic because it made Pilate sympathetic to Jesus, and put the responsibility for His crucifixion on the Sanhedrin. The film was directed by Norman Jewison, who wasn’t Jewish, but was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who was now, in Finkelstein’s words, the new Hitler. And then the charge that there was a new anti-Semitism appeared again in another article written by the heads of the ADL again in 1982. And its appeared regularly every ten years or so ever since. He compares the attack on Jesus Christ Superstar with the recent controversy over Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

Lies about the Rise in Anti-Semitic Attacks

He then lays into recent article which claimed that there was a rise in assaults on Jews on campuses throughout the US, after a report in one of the newspapers that a Jewish student at Harvard had been assaulted by an Arab. He rang up the universities, and contacted the Hillels. These are the Jewish representatives on campus. There had been no rise in attacks on Jews. And Harvard and its Hillels stated that the attack reported in the papers had not occurred. So he phoned up the journo who wrote it, and asked her where she got it from. She got it from Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. Robertson is right-wing televangelist, who like so many of them says things that are just outrageous and sheer bonkers. Secular Talk has taken a number of pot-shots at him over the years, because of some of the terrible things he’s said. These have included advising men on when it’s Biblically permissible for them to cheat on their wives, and to hit their kids if they say they’re atheists. So not exactly a reliable or unbiased source. Furthermore, if you look at the official statistics, you find that actually there was less anti-Semitism in 2004, presumably when the video was made, than 13 years previously 1991.

Anti-Semitism Allegations Made to Attack Critics of Israel

Finkelstein states clearly that most of the allegations of anti-Semitism are directed at criticisms of Israel, and its treatment of the Palestinians. Where there are genuine anti-Semitic comments made, they’re usually a result of the above. And not surprisingly, says Finkelstein. Israel is the Jewish state, and all the Jewish organisations support it, so it isn’t surprising that Jews become the subjects of hostility for its actions. He compares this with the growth of anti-Americanism around the world, which was a response to American atrocities committed during the Vietnam War.

Dershowitz and In Defence of Israel

As for Dershowitz’s book, In Defence of Israel, Finkelstein states that it’s so bad, he doesn’t think that Dershowitz either wrote or, before he debated with him, had even read it. Whole sections of it are plagiarised. He uses uncritically the work of Joan Peters, who argued that there were no Arabs in Palestine until the Jewish settlers arrived. Finkelstein states its a lie, concocted from a very selective use of Ottoman (Turkish imperial) sources. She also alters and amends these texts to suit herself as well. And when he isn’t plagiarising, he’s simply making stuff up. For example, he talks about the case of a Palestinian who was shaken to death in Israeli custody. All the doctors and physicians, who examined the case concurred that this was the case. Dershowitz, however, states that an independent body concluded that he had died of a pre-existing condition. This is simply not true. Dershowitz, or rather his ghost writer, simply made it up. And nowhere in the book does Dershowitz cite or quote any of the recognised human rights bodies – Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN. He doesn’t for a very good reason. If he did, he’d have to alter the book and change its title to The Case for Palestine.

Finkelstein states that for most cases of pseudo-scholarship, all you have to do to tell it’s wrong is to look at the author’s biography, what organisations they belong to, and who’s publishing it. But this simply isn’t the case by the stuff churned out by the Israel lobby. It’s published by very reputable publishers, its authors often hold prestigious academic places – Dershowitz himself is a professor of law, and the head of a law department at one of the US universities.
And these books and their lies are given very good reviews by the papers and literary journals. For example, he said that after he debated Dershowitz, there was a bit of back forth between him and others about the book, and one of the journos wrote something about it. And then the book received four and five star reviews from papers like the New York Times.

Israel Lobby’s Attitude to Truth that of Revolutionary Communists

So why do they do it? Finkelstein states that they’re motivated by the same attitude as some revolutionary Marxist organisations: that it’s true, if it serves the cause. Finkelstein was a Maoist in the ’60s and ’70s, and used to know a member of the Vietnamese Communist party. In the ’70s there was some debate over whether The Diary of Anne Frank had actually been written by her, or was really the work of her father. Finkelstein states that in 1978 he asked his Maoist mentor about it. He said, ‘It’s true, even if it isn’t’. In other words, if it serves the cause, then it’s true, even when it’s a lie. And these lies serve the Israeli cause.

Here’s the video.

Finkelstein’s detailed exposition here of the sheer mendacity of the Israeli lobby and the deep complicity of the mainstream media, who automatically repeat it without even bothering to do the most basic checks for factual accuracy, is astonishing. These are people, who lie without any qualms, destroying their lives and reputations of decent people, including many active, proud, observant Jews, without any conscience whatsoever. This explains how it is that one of their trolls tried to bait Mike into saying something anti-Semitic, and then tried to fabricate something when Mike didn’t.

This shows that the Israel lobby are liars, and it’s long past the time they were called out, exposed, and discredited for their lies, along with the mendacious and compromised media that repeats and supports them.

Norman Finkelstein on the Coming Break-Up of American Zionism: Part 2

May 28, 2016

What changed Jewish attitudes to Israel was the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The Americans saw Israel very much as a kind of outpost of American interests in the Middle East, and identified its people with great American heroes like Davey Crockett, and the struggle of the Texans for independence from Mexico. There was an equivalence between Israel’s soldiers and the heroes of the Alamo. The Israelis were invested with all the heroic values Americans believed characterised themselves, and from it being unpatriotic to support the Israelis, it became the reverse. It was super-patriotic to support them.

Crucial to this was the Israeli claim to have practised ‘purity of arms’. Unlike Vietnam, where the Americans were losing and committing terrible atrocities, the Israelis were winning without committing massacres and other breaches of human rights. This record has gradually darkened as the wars between Israel and its Arab neighbours continued. The classic case of the ‘bad war’ was Lebanon, where the Israelis killed tens of thousands of people, the majority of whom were civilians. But as historians like Benny Morris examined Israeli’s own history and war record, it became increasingly clear that Israel at its foundation had not practised ‘purity of arms’. In fact, if anything, the record of the Israeli army had actually improved and become cleaner over time.

And just as more was known and published about Israeli massacres of Palestinians and ethnic cleansing, so more information appeared about the regular use of torture by the Israelis. Previously the very few people writing and reporting on this were a Communist, a Trotskyite and an industrial chemist. They were marginal figures, whose work it was easy to shrug off and dismiss. But more and more Jews and Israelis brought to light information on torture. As Jews began their investigations, so it encouraged international groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to become involved. These had originally remained aloof from examining Israel’s record in this regard, partly from entirely noble reasons: accusing Jews of torture was too much like the accusation made against the Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust. And then the use of torture reached truly epidemic proportions of tens of thousands of detained Palestinians in the 1990s during the Second Intifada.

At the same time, Israeli politics has also become more corrupt and sleazier. Finkelstein states that Israel’s founders were idealists, who believed in the Jewish state as an ideal, and lived austere lives. They were not concerned with their own enrichment. As a result, Israel was one of the most transparent – that is to say, not corrupt, countries. Yitzhak Rabin, for example, was forced out of office in the 1980s because his wife was found to have an American bank account. There was nothing in it, but the simple fact that she had it was enough to torpedo Rabin’s stint in office. Now, Finkelstein states, hardly a day goes by without an Israeli politicians appearing in the papers because of a financial or a sex scandal.

The views of the Israelis as the injured party in the conflicts with the Palestinians, who were always provoked into war, has also been reversed. The previous received wisdom was that it was the Israelis who always made peace overtures, which were rejected by the Palestinians, ‘who never missed a chance to miss a chance for peace’. In fact, the historical reality is the exact opposite. Finkelstein quotes a book, 800 pages in length, by an Israeli scholar at one of the country’s institutes for military strategy. This academic went through everything that was written on the various Arab-Israeli wars and their causes, and found that in all of them it was the Israelis, who were the aggressors, and the Palestinians, who wanted peace. Which was nearly always rejected.

And the views of the New Historians, like Benny Morris, about how Israel from the first advanced a programme of ethnic cleansing – ‘population transfer’, in the coded jargon of the generals and politicos – and apartheid against the Palestinians has gradually entered mainstream Israeli scholarship. The lie that the Palestinians were ordered to flee their villages by the invading Arab armies was exposed by Benny Morris, who found that no such call actually took place. Finkelstein makes the point that you can now read a mainstream Israeli history school textbook, and it’s very little different from what left-wing, dissident historians have been saying. At the same time, it’s now accepted that what the Israelis are inflicting on the Palestinians through their systematic discrimination is indeed apartheid. It’s actually been described as such by the Israeli paper of record, Ha’aretz. And when Ha’aretz uses the term, you know that attitudes have changed.

As a result, American Jews, and especially young American Jews, have been increasingly indifferent and distanced from Israel, despite the AIPAC and the official Israel lobby.

Finkelstein’s talk lasts for about 1 hour and 22 minutes, or thereabouts. After this is there’s about another hour or so where he answers questions from the audience. These cover topics such as the religious dimensions to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the historical friendship between Muslims and Arabs, and Finkelstein’s work exposing the ‘Holocaust Industry’ – the exploitation of the suffering of the Jewish people during the Nazi genocide for the profit of the campaign’s leaders and the Jewish organisations. This is particularly odious to Dr Finkelstein, as it demeans the real human suffering of the true victims, who all too often don’t see a penny.

One of those asking the questions is a young woman from a very Christian background. She states Dr Finkelstein has not tackled the spiritual motives at the heart of Zionism. She admits she does not know much about the conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs, but is impressed by the strong similarities between Judaism and Muslim, Arab culture. She understands from the people at her Presbyterian church that the Jews have a very strong urge to settle in the land of their ancestors, based on the Covenant between the Lord and Abraham. Finkelstein replies to this by saying that the reason he did not discuss it, as once you start invoking religion you put it beyond the possibility of reaching a political solution. He states that if someone came up to you and said that, according to the Bible, you should move out of your house because it was of great spiritual significance to them, you would not do so. At this point, some of the audience clap and cheer. He shuts them up, stating that although he’s an atheist, he has no wish to damage other’s faith. He also states that she must be aware that during the period of slavery, the Southern lawyers defending the institution did so using tracts from the Bible about Ham, whose descendants were forced to serve Noah’s other sons, because he saw his father naked when drunk. Finkelstein states that the justices, who ruled against slavery did not tackled the religious arguments, but simply ruled according to secular law.

The girl responds by making a comment about Arab terrorism. This is answered in turn by an Arab member of the audience, who understandably denies that his people are terrorists. He states that they are loving people, and advises her to read the book L’Amite Judeo-Arabe by a French author, which details the long friendship between Jews and Muslims. It was the Islamic world, he states, which took the Jews in and protected them after they were expelled from Europe. Later, another audience member, a Palestinian, adds further information to this. He is a Palestinian, and states that in his village there were Jews, who had Arab names, just as there were throughout the Arab world from Yemen to Iraq. There was no spiritual animosity between them. Indeed, he states that the desire of the Jews to possess the land seems to start in the Bible 3,000 years ago, and then absolutely nothing until the foundation of Israel. He argues very strongly that the conflict between the Isrealis and the Palestinians is not religious.

US State Department Supporting Fascism and Puppet Government in Ukraine

April 8, 2016

I’ve put up several articles recently discussing and critiquing the rise of various Fascist movements in eastern Europe, such as Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and the Ukraine. None of the peoples in these countries should have anything to do with these squalid movements, and their equally grotty leaders. The Nazis when they invaded these countries and the former USSR in World War II came to enslave and annihilate them, not to free them from Communist tyranny. After they had finished murdering the Jews and Gypsies, the Nazis intended killing 30 million Poles, Ukrainians, Russians and Belorussians, in an area extending across these nations as far as Lviv/ Lvov. This was to be reserved for colonisations by Germans and other Teutonic peoples, including the English. Its indigenous people were either to be deported or exterminated. The remaining population of this part of eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia, were to become peasant farmers and slave labourers, denied access to any form of higher education, whose purpose was to provide the agricultural produce to support the new German colonists.

The Nazis openly compared the Slavonic peoples of these nations to Black Africans under western European colonialism. The head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, declared: Eastern Europe is our Africa, and the Slavs are our Negroes. And the Nazis carried out this policy with great brutality. Seven million people from eastern Europe were forced to serve the Nazis in their own nations. A further seven million were deported to Germany to work as slave labourers for the factories in the Reich itself. And 3.7 million Russians died of starvation and horrific maltreatment in Nazi prisoner of war camps.

I’m writing about all this, not because I want to stir up old nationalist hatreds or resentment against the Germans, who are now some of the most genuinely anti-racist people in Europe. I’m doing so as I want to make it clear just what Nazism stood for. The people, who goose-step around in Nazi-inspired or blatantly Nazi uniform, shouting ‘Sieg Heil’, and showing off their SS tattoos ain’t patriots. They’re traitors. They’re the people the true patriots of these countries – those who joined resistance cells – fought against.

And what is now even more revolting and disturbing is that the US government has been supporting a coalition, which includes these thugs, in Ukraine.

Michelle, one of the commenters on this blog, sent me this link to a compilation of videos which another blogger, Dragan Stankovic, who also blogs on various left-wing and global issues, had put up on his Facebook page: https://plus.google.com/116332978520282633934/posts/TpEV2cpfcsv
It’s an hour-long collection of pieces from different news sources, including the Beeb, CNN, Faux News, and RT. Several of the pieces, including the first video, have been made by a peace group, St. Pete’s for Peace.

Many may not find this easy viewing. The footage in these documentaries includes scenes of brutal violence by members of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi far Right as they shoot and beat their opponents. It does, however, show them exactly as they are: not pacifists trying to lead a peaceful revolution in their nation, but as violent and brutal thugs.

The first video concentrates on Svoboda and its leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, one of the various far-Right groups and organisations within the Pravy Sektor, or ‘Right Sector’ grouping of such parties. The word Svoboda simply means ‘freedom’, which is innocuous enough. It was, however, previously known as the ‘Social Nationalist Movement’, which was directly modelled on the monicker of the National Socialists. They weren’t the only neo-Fascist movement to describe themselves as ‘social’. The main Italian neo-Fascist organisation, before it split with one section reforming itself as the centre right Alleanza Nazionale, was the Movimiento Sociale Italiano – the Italian Social Movement. These were full-blown Fascists, standing for the Corporate state and authoritarian rule. They were involved in attacks on Socialists, trade unionists, left-wingers generally, and immigrants. Svoboda’s name change was merely cosmetic. At various points in the compilation, leaders of Svoboda and other neo-Nazi outfits now lowering the tone in the country of Gogol, Moussorgsky and Vladimir the Great, try to claim that they aren’t really Nazis, and don’t worship Adolf Hitler. One says that they don’t want Nazism in Ukraine. Not for any good reason. He goes on to say that he doesn’t want it, because it wouldn’t work there, but it did work in Germany. The storm troopers in these groups sport tattoos with numbers ’88’. That’s a notorious design used by the goose-steppers across Europe. The ‘8’ stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet, and the two together stand for ‘Heil Hitler’. Others have the number ’18’ tattooed on them, which stands for ‘Adolf Hitler’. One of the groups shown in the video is ‘C18’, whose name recalls ‘Combat 18’, a notorious neo-Nazi outfit over here, who were set up by the American Nazi and Klansman, Harold Covington. And some of them don’t even bother to hide their Nazi sympathies. There’s a scene in one of the news reports of funeral of one of the extreme Rightists in the far west of the country. The mourners gather in their national dress, and a company of re-enactors in World War II Nazi uniform fire their rifles over the grave in salute.

And then there’s the abuse of various ethnic groups Svoboda, C18 and the like consider their enemies. There are several scenes of them screaming, or raising toasts, to the killing of Russians, Poles, Communists, and, of course, the Jews. A few of them in the interviews are rather cagey about talking about their anti-Semitic beliefs. A few start by saying that they are just against certain ethnic groups. When pressed, they then start to explain that they’re against the above peoples. At one point, one of the storm troopers says that the Jews don’t control Ukraine; they control the banks, which control Ukraine. So we’re back to the ‘international Jewish banking conspiracy’ of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Adolf Hitler, Arnold Leese and the Britons, and bonkers American Nazis. The practical effects of this have been attacks on synagogues. A couple of rabbis are interview, talking about Nazi attacks on their places of worship. One Nazi tried to burn down one with Molotov cocktails. Another suffered some damage, and abusive graffiti, which translated into English, reads ‘Jews Get Out’. Except that it used a particularly ugly term for them instead.

And if the neo-Nazi iconography wasn’t bad enough, the Ukrainian super-patriots have been importing other far-Right symbols from the USSR. One of the documentaries discusses the use by Ukrainian Nazis at a demonstration of the Confederate Flag. RT interviews a Black American activist about this, who is understandable shocked at the flag’s continued appearance and use by Nazi groups. This particular gentleman makes it clear that to him and his people, it represents slavery, and he’s trying to educate the people of Ukraine about what it really means.

What is perhaps most interesting, and deeply sinister, is the fact that the Coalition, of which Svoboda was a part, was bank-rolled and at least partly controlled by the US State Department. The first documentary plays part of a leaked phone call between Victoria Nuland, the Department’s head, and one of her aides, about how she doesn’t want the former boxer-turned-politico, Sergei Klitchko, to serve in the Coalition under Tiahnybok. This documentary states that when the recording was released, most newspapers concentrated on Nuland’s use of the ‘F’ word to express her feelings about Europe. This was a diversion from the real news, which was that Nuland and her colleague, John McCain, were effectively running the Ukraine from behind the scenes, with the Coalition merely a puppet regime.

That part of the report opens with the way the American newspapers failed to mention the true identity of the snipers, who fired on protestors during the mass demonstrations that initially overthrew the government. The papers initially reported that they came Yanukovych’s side. The supporters of the ousted president were not, however, responsible. The shots instead came from Svoboda on the Coalition side. The documentary plays part of a conversation between Urmas Paet, the Estonian Foreign Minister, and Cathy Ashton, the head of the EU foreign ministry, discussing this and how the news has been suppressed.

Several of the documentaries are extremely biased in their turn. There are several from RT – Russia Today, which is the official Russian news agency. This takes the line that Russia is the innocent victim in this, the maligned subject of the machinations of the US and its partners. It doesn’t really need to be said that Putin’s own domestic regime is hardly whiter than white itself, and has perpetrated its share of human rights abuses. But despite their bias, and some of the very extreme claims RT makes, such as that Medecins Sans Frontieres and Amnesty International are now CIA penetrated US front organisations, it does seem that they’re basically accurate. The overthrow of Yanukovych’s regime does seem to have been orchestrated by the US and its western allies as part of geo-political strategy to weaken Russia internationally, and this has involved collaboration with neo-Nazi groups as constituent elements of the puppet regime.

Private Eye on Parliamentary Committee Scrutinizing Arms Trade

March 11, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye for the 15th-28th November 2013 reporting the questioning of representatives of the arms trade by a parliamentary committee in that issue’s ‘Called to Ordure’ column. It’s still relevant now, after nearly three years, because of the way we are still selling arms to brutal, anti-democratic regimes like Saudi Arabia.

Please don’t call them “missiles” or “landmines”, and certainly not “tools of military repression”. They are, according to the arms trade, “goods”, and the foreign regimes that buy them are “the ultimate end users of the goods”.

So heard MPs more than once when Westminster’s arms export controls select committee took evidence from four “defence exporters” (to use another euphemism). Unofficial leader of this genteel quartet was middle-aged Brummie called David Hayes from the Export Group for Aerospace and Defence, a trade lobbying group which uses the acronym Egad. Egad, indeed.

Alongside Hayes: arms-trade consultant Michael Bell; Susan Griffiths from weapons manufacturer MBDA; and Bernadette Peers, from the Strategic Shipping Company, a company name so bland you might believe it was exporting nothing more dangerous than cauliflowers to the Canaries.

MPs noted that government reporting on arms dealers has been reduced, Whitehall’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) now doing only an annual report of statistics instead of the quarterly updates it used to offer. The people from Egad were breezily unconcerned by this, insisting it made no difference. Hayes said there was a “very, very low risk” that less frequent reporting of special arms-sale licences wold be detrimental to transparency.

Three critics of the arms trade also gave evidence. Roy Isbister, from conflict-reduction group Saferworld, said that the reduction in ECO’s reports had come as “a bombshell”. You can say that again, Roy. Several bombshells, really, packed and ready for shipping. Oxfam had sent along one Martin Butcher. With that surname, shouldn’t he have been on the other side of the argument?

Committee chairman Sir John Stanley (Con, Tonbridge & Malling) wondered if the arms dealers were concerned about “extra-territorial” prosecutions, under which a British arms trader may be guilty of wrongdoing if he or she breaks British law while abroad. Bell was most aggrieved by this. “We have reservations of principle!” he declared, this peddler of munitions with a highly-tuned sense of ethics.

Extra-territorial prosecutions meant that a business executive would be “subject to two jurisdictions for the same actions” and that offended Bell’s strong sense of morality. Bell also had “reservations of practice” because “the only people who suffer are the compliant”.

Richard Burden (Lab, Birmingham Northfield) noted that the United States had recently relaxed its arms-trade licence requirements, meaning US weapons manufacturers can now export pretty much willy-nilly to 36 countries where they would previously have faced greater government checks. Hayes argued that with one of these countries being Turkey, “American exporters are at a clear advantage over UK exporters”. Western government might want to beware, because it was hard to know who would be “the ultimate end user of the goods” in an arms deal. Interesting to hear an arms trader make this argument; it is usually heard from the peaceniks.

Bell pointed out that one of the countries covered by the US’s new, looser rules is Argentina. Uh oh. The MPs went a rather greeny-grey tinge. The tension was relieved only when Ann Clwyd’s mobile trilled into life at high volume with a Gangnam-style ringtone. Clwyd (Lab, Cynon Valley) didn’t know how to turn the device off and had to leave the room to take the call. Good to see the arms trade being scrutinised by such tech-savvy legislators.

The meeting was not just about multi-million pound weapon systems. The committee heard about the enthusiastic exporting of machetes, police whips, handcuffs and sjambok-style truncheons to troubled countries, where, presumably, democracy-hungry protestors can draw comfort from being gored, whacked and manacled by “goods” made in Blighty.

Surprise, surprise, the kingdom of GCHQ (and, er, the late News of the World) is also a world-leader in producing “anti-privacy equipment” as Stanley put it. Isbister flourished statistics about how arms licences to the Middle East recently have, er, rocketed and now form half our arms exports. Perhaps it is no wonder the government was so keen to life the arms embargo on Syria and why it has given “priority market” status to Libya, despite that country’s alarming political instability.

Mike Gapes (Lab, Ilford South) had unearthed statistics on gun exports. These included 24,000 assault rifles, 9,000 rifles, 1,000 “super rifles” and 3,000 “sporting guns” to places such as Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and the Maldives. I say, Jeeves: how is the grouse shooting in the Maldives this season?

These guns were exported without much paperwork because they were listed as being required for “anti-piracy” purposes. Gapes suggested that “some of these weapons might be diverted to othe5r purposes than anti-piracy”. Surely not! Sir Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem, Gordon) said that some 40,000 firearms had been shipped from Britain under the anti-piracy label and wondered if “there is a danger a perfectly genuine concern about piracy could be a cover for getting more weapons” sold to foreign governments.

Oliver Sprague from Amnesty International was worried that such weapons were often sold to countries where there was not much “human rights training”. Human rights training? Perhaps that can become the next growth area for British exports.

With the Middle East now forming over half the market for British arms exports, this explains why David Cameron was so keen to boast about having sold ‘wonderful things’ to Saudi Arabia and places like it in his visit to the BAE plant in Wharton, Lancashire.

Vox Political: Saudis Want Britain to Respect them for Executions, Because it’s the Law

January 16, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has a report from the Independent, reporting that Adel al-Jubair, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, has given a press conference recognising that the kingdom has an image problem over its use of the death penalty. They criticise the West for its outrage over this, saying that their use of the death penalty should be respected because ‘it’s the law’. They also state that they don’t disrespect us for not having the death penalty’.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/16/saudi-arabias-foreign-affairs-minister-urges-britain-to-respect-the-kingdoms-use-of-the-death-penalty/

Way back on 26th August 2014, The Young Turks did an item on their show commenting on the Saudi use of the death penalty. After first discussing ISIS’ beheading of a suspected informer, they remarked on how Daesh weren’t alone. Saudi Arabia also inflicted the death penalty. That month the state had executed 23 people, often for minor or trivial offences. Four men from the same family were killed for importing marijuana. Another man was executed because he practised ‘black magic sorcery’. And another man, who was mentally ill and suffered from auditory hallucinations, was also killed for drugs offences.

It’s unclear whether any of these people were actually guilty. It is common practice in Saudi Arabia to force confessions from the accused. In the case of the mentally ill man, the son states that it was he, who actually did the crime. He has been sentenced to 11 years or so and something like 1,000 lashes. When the family members complained to Amnesty International, they were threatened by the authorities.

The Turks’ quote Said Boumaha, Amnesty International’s deputy director in the Middle East, on the illegality of most executions, which take place far beyond the actual remit of the law. Saudi Arabia is one of the leading practitioners of the death penalty. It is the fourth on the list of countries with the most use of the death penalty. No. 3 was Iraq in 2012, #2 was Iran, and no. 1 was China. America was no. 5. They condemn the various miscarriages of justice which have sent innocent people to the chair or the gas chamber in America, including cases where the mentally subnormal have been killed. The Turks state that it is hypocritical for America to condemn atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, while refusing to condemn the Saudis for their use of the death penalty.

Here’s the video.

It isn’t just the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, which appals and offends. Most Brits would probably vote to reinstate the death penalty if they could. This would be a mistake. There have been too many miscarriages of justice to ensure that it would only be the guilty, who would meet the hangman. Exonerating a person after their death does not bring them back, nor is it much comfort to their bereaved. As for it being a deterrent, Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman, stated that in his experience it had no deterrent value whatsoever. It was merely a state sanctioned form of revenge. He later changed his mind shortly before his death, but this observation – from the man, who actually did the job, deserves serious consideration.

What is particularly horrific about the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is the medieval brutality of the executions. In the West since the Enlightenment, it’s been intended to be quick and painless. Hence the limitation of the methods of execution to hanging, electrocution and gassing. These can be horrific enough. There’s a film, starring Michael Caine as a attorney, which contains a scene in which his character explains just how horrific the electric chair can be. There are two electrodes, attached to the heart and the head. The shock from one stops the heart, while the other destroys the brain. If the electrode on the head works, but the other doesn’t, the result is a blubbering vegetable. Other results can include the executed man literally frying, and cases where the liver has shot out of the man’s body through the force of the electric shock.

As for hanging, before the invention in the 19th century of the ‘long drop’ method, which breaks the criminal’s neck, death was by strangulation. This was slow and agonising. Recent films set in the past, which have hanging scenes show the friends and family of the executed man running forward to grab his legs. This is actually historically accurate. They did so in order to put their weight on the man’s body to hasten his death. Other results of the asphyxiation was that the eyes would pop out, along with a tongue that would go black. The reasons why the condemned traditionally wore the black mask was not to save them from the terrible sight of the hangman and his tools in the last moments of their lives. It was to conceal their faces, with the hideous rictus of death, and stop it from scaring the crowds.

Execution in Saudi Arabia may be worse, much worse, than this. Their methods of putting someone to death include crucifixion and beheading. In the latter, the brain may live on several seconds or even moments afterwards, so the victim may well be conscious as their head separates from their body. And scientists have also suggested that it may be accompanied by excruciating pain.

And very little needs to be said about how horrific and barbaric crucifixion is. There’s a reason the Romans used it so much on their enemies: it was the most painful, drawn-out and humiliating form of execution they could devise.The victim dies from slow asphyxiation over hours or, in some cases, days. It was used on Spartacus and his followers, and by the Romans, when they conquered Palestine. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Romans put to death 19,000 Pharisees when they suppressed a Jewish revolt.

Given the rampant injustice in its application, and the sheer horrific nature of the means of carrying it out, I see absolutely no reason why anyone should respect the death penalty, whether in Britain, America, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else in the world.