Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

Real News Network on Israeli Political Interference against Jeremy Corbyn

March 1, 2019

This is another great video from the Baltimore-based The Real News, posted on YouTube four days ago on the 25th February 2019. The news service’s host, Greg Wilpert, talks to Asa Winstanley of the Electronic Intifada about Israeli meddling in British politics to smear and discredit Jeremy Corbyn.

The Campaign against Ilhan Omar and Leah Whitson

Wilpert reports that the same day that Ilhan Omar in the US was attacked for anti-Semitism for comments she made about her country’s Israel lobby, an orchestrated campaign was launched in Britain to smear Leah Whitson of the Middle East section of Human Rights Watch. She had tweeted ‘Why is Israel interference in British politics acceptable? Is it only a problem when Russia does this?’ She was talking about the al-Jazeera documentary about how Israeli politicians tried to delegitimise left-wing politicians, particularly in the Labour party.  Then the eight Labour MPs split, accusing Corbyn of bad leadership on Brexit and anti-Semitism. The deputy leader, John McDonnell, said they were making a mistake and should hold bye-election. This is followed by a clip of McDonnell saying that they should remain in the party to fight their corner. But if they don’t, they lose Labour party support, and should hold an election.

Wilpert then introduces Winstanley, mentioning his recent article for the Electronic Intifada, ‘Yes, Of Course Israel Is Interfering in British Politics’. Wilpert states that Israel has allocated considerable funding for Hasbara -propaganda-operations through various channels. Hasbara groups are very media savvy and have coordinated attacks in America and Britain. He then asks Winstanley what they are trying to do. What would they gain by the sacking of Leah Whitson.

Winstanley replies that they have been doing a huge number of things over the years with various degrees of success and failure. Human rights watch has been a thorn in their sides for many years because Israel is a state that abuses human rights, and this is impossible for Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to ignore. Human Rights Watch puts out detailed information about human rights abuses in Israel, war crimes against Palestinians and injustices that Israel has always perpetuated against them.

Corbyn and the Labour Party

Wilpert then asks about what Israel is trying to achieve by smearing the Labour party with anti-Semitism. Winstanley replies that the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour party is a campaign by racists to smear anti-racists. It’s a complete inversion of reality. Which is not to say that there is no such thing as anti-Semitism in the Party, it’s a mass movement of half a million people according to the latest figures, so statistically there are going to be some anti-Semites. In the main all the headlines about anti-Semitism in the Labour party have been at best an exaggeration and in many cases outright fabrications. A narrative that pro-Israel groups in the UK have been pushing for the last 3 1/2 years in order to sabotage the Labour Party. There’s footage at this point of pro-Israel demonstrators, wrapped in the Israeli flag, standing around with megaphones. Winstanley states that the party’s left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has for many decades been a Palestine solidarity activist. It fits in with the Israel lobby’s decades-long strategy of accusing anyone who is involved in Palestine solidarity of being an anti-Semite.

Wilpert remarks that Corbyn seems to be taking a passive approach to these attacks and is not going on the offensive against pro-Israeli groups. that are trying to undermine him and his party’s electoral chances. He asks Winstanley why he thinks Corbyn’s taking this approach. Winstanley replies that he doesn’t know the answer, and believes that there are several different reasons. But Winstanley feels that essentially he feels boxed in and limited it what he can do. Corbyn’s support from the party’s grassroots always comes most strongly when he fights his corner, as he had done on so many issues. Unfortunately the issue of anti-Semitism goes straight to the heart of what it means to be an anti-racist popular movement. Jeremy Corbyn has a strong record in this regard for decades, and the accusations of racism really hurt and are having an effect. Anyone on the left, who doesn’t realise this is deluded, and there are too many people in denial about it. Smears and allegations of anti-Semitism are the main weapon of the anti-solidarity movement, and this needs to be faced up to before it can be combated.

Why No Official Investigations of Israeli Propaganda Groups?

Wilpert goes on to say that it isn’t just Corbyn, but the Israel/Palestine debate as been a major issue in British politics although Britain has not occupied Palestine for 71 years. Why doesn’t Britain investigate accusations of espionage by Israeli hasbara groups? And what do the eight former Labour MPs hope to achieve by going against the dominant political views of their own constituents? Winstanley replies that it’s an excellent question, and that when the al-Jazeera documentary ‘The Lobby’ first came out, showing Israeli interference primarily here in the UK, mainly in Labour but also in the Conservatives and others, the Labour Party’s initial response, even from people like Emily Thornberry, Corbyn’s shadow foreign secretary, who was one of the Israelis’ supporters in parliament, a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel, called for an investigation into ‘improper interference in British politics’. But this was not followed up and nothing came of it. And this week, with the defection of the eight, now nine, Labour MPs away from the party, all but one of whom joined this new group, called the Independent Group, a political party in all but name, the vast majority of whom were pro-Israel. Of the initial eight, six were listed as supporters of Labour Friends of Israel, and Ian Austin, who also resigned today [25th] is also a member of Labour Friends of Israel. This calls into question Labour Friends of Israel. If a number of its MPs are not in the Labour party, then what is it doing in the Labour party. In Winstanley’s opinion the NEC should proscribe this organisation. After all, it’s a front group for the Israeli embassy in the UK, and its activities really need to be investigated.

Ryan and the Theft of Labour Membership Details

We have also seen this week Joan Ryan, one of the MPs, who’s joined this Independent Group, she’s being accused of improper access to Labour Party members’ data. Winstanley doesn’t know the full details about this yet. It looks like she accessed Labour members private electoral data. With her known links to Israeli embassy agents, including the embassy spy, Shai Masot, who was expelled from our country in 2017 after being exposed by the al-Jazeera documentary, questions have to be asked. There should be an investigation by the British authorities into this. What is she doing with that data? and it is a completely fair question to ask if she’s sending it back to Israel. In the al-Jazeera documentary on America, one of the LFI’s members, Jon Rubin, said in his own words ‘Joan will talk to Shai most days.’ She was in close association with someone who was effectively an Israeli spy. Is she still talking to the Israeli embassy most days? This is a real question to ask, but the mainstream media aren’t going there.

 

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Scientists Told to Halt Development of War Robots

February 15, 2019

This week’s been an interesting one for robot news. Yesterday, or a few days ago, there was a piece about the creation of a robot that could draw and paint thanks to facial recognition software. The robot’s art has been sold commercially. This follows an artistic group in France that has also developed an art robot. I’ll see if I can fish that story out, as it sounds like one of the conceits of 2000AD is becoming science fact. The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic told its readers that all its strips were the work of robots, so that the credits for the strips read ‘Script Robot X’, and ‘Art Robot Y’. Of course it was all created by humans, just as it really wasn’t edited by a green alien from Betelgeuse called Tharg. But it was part of the fun.

Killer robots aren’t, however. Despite the fact that they’ve been in Science Fiction for a very long time, autonomous military machines really are a very ominous threat to humanity. In today’s I for 15th February 2019 there was a report by Tom Bawden on page 11 about human rights campaigners telling the scientists at an American symposium on the technology that these machines should be preemptively banned. The article, ‘Scientists warned over ‘killer robots’ in future wars’, runs

Killer robots pose a threat to humanity and should be pre-emptively banned under an international treaty, the world’s biggest gathering of scientists was told yesterday.

Lethal, autonomous weapons – military robots that can engage and kill targets without human control – do not yet exist.

But rapid advances in autonomy and artificial intelligence mean they are well on their way to becoming a reality, delegates attending the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s symposium on the technology were told in Washington DC.

A poll conducted in 26 countries found that 54 per cent of Briton’s – and 61 per cent of respondents overall – opposed the development of killer robots that would select and attack targets without human intervention.

“Killer robots should be banned in a similar way to anti-personnel landmines,” said Mary Wareham, of the arms division at the campaign group Human Rights Watch, who also co-ordinates the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

“The security of the world and future of humanity hinges on achieving a ban on killer robots,” she added. “Public sentiment is hardening against the prospect of fully autonomous weapons. Bold, political leadership is needed for a new treaty to pre-emptively ban these weapons systems”.

The article was accompanied by a picture of one of the robots from the film Terminator Genisys, with a caption stating that it was perhaps unsurprising that most Britons oppose the development of such robots, but they wouldn’t look quite like those in the film.

I’ve put up several pieces before about military robots and the threat they pose to humanity, including a piece from the popular science magazine, Focus, published sometime in the 1990s, if I recall. Around about that time one state or company announced that it intended to develop such machines, and was immediately met with condemnation by scientists and campaigners. Their concern is that such machines don’t have the human quality of compassion. Once released, they could go on to kill indiscriminately, killing both civilians and soldiers. The scientists were also concerned that if truly intelligent killing machines are developed, then they could have the potential to turn on us and begin wiping us out or enslaving us. This was one of the threats to humanity’s future in the book Our Final Minute by the British Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees. When I saw him speak at the Cheltenham Festival of Science about his book a few years ago, one of the audience said that perhaps it would be a good thing if humanity was overthrown by the robots, because they could be better for the environment. Well, they could, I suppose, but it’s still not something I’d like to see happen.

Kevin Warwick, the robotics professor at the University of Reading, is also very worried about the development of such machines. In his 1990’s book, March of the Machines, he describes how, as far back as the 1950s, the Americans developed an autonomous military vehicle, consisting of a jeep adapted with a machine gun. He also discussed how one of the robots currently at the university could also be turned into a lethal killing machine. This is firefighting robot. It has a fire extinguisher, and instruments to detect fire. When it sees one, it rushes towards it and puts it out using the extinguisher. Warwick states, however, that if you replaced the extinguisher with a gun, gave it a neural net and then trained the machine to shoot people with blue eyes, say, then the machine would do just that until it ran out of power.

This comes at the end of the book. But it’s introduction is also chilling. It foresees a future, around 2050, when the machines really will have taken over. Those humans that have not been exterminated by the robots are kept as slaves, to work in those parts of the world that are still inaccessible or inhospitable to the robots, and to hunt down and kill the very few surviving humans that remain free. Pretty much like the far future envisioned by the SF writer Gregory Benford in his ‘Galactic Centre’ series novels.

Warwick was, however, very serious about the threat posed by these robots. I can remember seeing him also speak in Cheltenham, and one of the audience asked whether he still believed that this was a real threat that could occur about that time. He said he did, but that the he’d lowered the time at which it could become a real possibility.

Warwick has also said that one reason why he began to explore cyborgisation – the cybernetic enhancement of humans with robotic technology – was because he was so depressed with the threat robots cast over our future. Augmenting ourselves with high technology was a way we could compete with them, something Benford also explores in his novels through an alien race that has pursued just such a course. This, however, poses its own risks of loss of humanity, as depicted in Star Trek’s Borg and Dr. Who’s Cybermen.

This article sounds like something from Science Fiction, and I don’t think that at the moment robots are anywhere near as sophisticated to pose an existential threat to humanity right now. But killer robots are being developed, and very serious robotic scientists and engineers are very worried about them. Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are right. This technology needs to be halted now. Before it becomes a reality.

Democracy Now on the Crimes and Mass Murders of President George H.W. Bush

December 10, 2018

The Friday before last, former president George H.W. Bush, the father of former president George ‘Dubya’ Bush, finally fell off his perch at the age of 94. Like Monty Python’s parrot, he had shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. He was an ex-president, and well and truly. He was buried with due state honours last Wednesday.

And the press and media fell over themselves to praise him to the rafters. If you believed them, you would have thought that America had lost a statesman of the stature of the ancient Athenian politico, Pericles. Or that he combined in himself the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, Maddison and the rest of the Founding Fathers.

He wasn’t. He was the successor to Ronald Reagan and a former head of the CIA, and had been involved with shady dealings, dirty, proxy wars and invasions in Latin America and Iraq, that had cost thousands their lives, while thousands others were tortured by the dictators he supported. And domestically he was responsible for racist electioneering and a highly discriminatory drugs policy that has resulted in the massive disproportionate incarceration of Black American men.

Mehdi Hasan on George Bush Senior

He was a disgusting creature, and Mehdi Hasan wrote a piece in the Intercept describing just how disgusting and reprehensible he was. In the piece below, he also appeared on Democracy Now! to talk to host Amy Goodman about Bush senior and his legacy of corruption, murder and terror.

Bush was elected president in 1990. He was a former director of the CIA, and served from 1981-89 as Reagan’s vice-president. Despite calling for a kinder, gentler politics when he was vice-president, Bush refused to tackle climate change, saying that the American way of life was not up for negotiation, defended future supreme court justice Clarence Thomas even after he was accused of sexual harassment. He was responsible for launching the first Gulf War in Iraq in 1991. During the War, the US air force deliberately bombed an air raid shelter in Baghdad killing 408 civilians. The relatives of some of those killed tried to sue Bush and his deputy, Dick Cheney, for war crimes. The attack on Iraq continued after the end of the war with a devastating sanctions regime imposed by Bush, and then his son’s invasion in 2003.

The Invasion of Panama

In 1990 Bush sent troops into Panama to arrest the country’s dictator, General Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. Noriega had previously been a close ally, and had been on the CIA’s payroll. 24,000 troops were sent into the country to topple Noriega against Panama’s own military, which was smaller than the New York police department. 3,000 Panamanians died in the attack. In November 2018, the inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Washington to pay reparations for what they considered to be an illegal invasion.

Pardoning the Iran-Contra Conspirators

As one of his last acts in office, Bush also gave pardons to six officials involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. This was a secret operation in which Reagan sold arms to Iran in order to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, despite Congress banning the administration from funding them. Bush was never called to account for his part in it, claiming he was ‘out of the loop’, despite the testimony of others and a mass of documents suggesting otherwise.

The Collapse of Communism and Neoliberalism

Bush’s period in office coincided with the collapse of Communism. In the period afterwards, which Bush termed the New World Order, he was instrumental in spreading neoliberalism and the establishment of the NAFTO WTO treaties for international trade.

Hasan not only wrote for the Intercept, he also hosted their Deconstructed podcast, as well as a show, Up Front, on Al-Jazeera English.

The Media’s Praise of Bush

Goodman and Hasan state that there is a natural reluctance against speaking ill of the dead. But they aren’t going to speak ill of Bush, just critically examine his career and legacy. Hasan states that as a Brit living in Washington he’s amazed at the media hagiography of Bush. He recognizes that Bush had many creditable achievements, like standing up to the NRA and AIPAC, but condemns the way the media ignored the rest of Bush’s legacy, especially when it involves the deaths of thousands of people as absurd, a dereliction of duty. He states that Bush is being described as the ‘anti-Trump’, but he did many things that were similar to the Orange Buffoon. Such as the pardoning of Caspar Weinberger on the eve of his trial, which the independent special counsel at the time said was misconduct and that it covered up the crime. And everyone’s upset when Trump says he might pardon Paul Manafort. Bush should be held to the same account. It doesn’t matter that he was nicer than Trump, and less aggressive than his son, he still has a lot to answer for.

The Iran-Contra Scandal

Goodman gets Hasan to explain about the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Reagan sold arms to Iran, then an enemy state, to fund a proxy war against a ‘Communist’ state in South America despite a congressional ban. He states that it was a huge scandal. Reagan left office without being punished for it, there was a Special Council charged with looking into it, led by Lawrence Walsh, a deputy attorney general under Eisenhower. When he looked into it, he was met with resistance by Reagan’s successor, Bush. And now we’re being told how honest he was. But at the time Bush refused to hand over his diary, cooperate with the Special Counsel, give interviews, and pardoned the six top neocons responsible. The Special Counsel’s report is online, it can be read, and it says that Bush did not cooperate, and that this was the first time the president pardoned someone in a trial in which he himself would have to testify. He states that Bush and Trump were more similar in their obstruction of justice than some of the media would have us believe.

Iraq Invasion

They then move on to the Iraq invasion, and play the speech in which Bush states that he has begun bombing to remove Saddam Hussein’s nuclear bomb potential. It was done now, because ‘the world could wait no longer’. Because of Bush’s attack on Iraq, his death was marked by flags at half-mast in Kuwait as well as Washington. Hasan states that Hussein invaded Kuwait illegally, and it was a brutal occupation. But Hasan also says that Bush told the country that it came without any warning or provocation. But this came after the American ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, told Hussein that American had no opinion on any border dispute with Kuwait. This was interpreted, and many historians believe, that this was a green light to Hussein to invade.

Bush also told the world that America needed to go into Iraq to protect Saudi Arabia, as there were Iraqi troops massing on the border of that nation. This was another lie. One reporter bought satellite photographs of the border and found there were no troops there. It was lie, just as his son lied when he invaded twelve years later. As for the bombing of the Amariyya air raid shelter, which was condemned by Human Rights Watch, this was a crime because the Americans had been told it contained civilians. Bush also bombed the civilian infrastructure, like power stations, food processing plants, flour mills. This was done deliberately. Bush’s administration told the Washington Post that it was done so that after the war they would have leverage over the Iraqi government, which would have to go begging for international assistance. And this was succeeded by punitive sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. It all began on Bush’s watch.

Racism, Willie Horton and Bush’s Election Campaign

They then discuss his 1988 election campaign, and his advert attacking his opponent, Michael Dukakis. Dukakis was attacked for having given a weekend pass from prison to Willie Horton, a Black con serving time for murder, who then went and kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and repeatedly raping the woman. This was contrasted with Bush, who wanted the death penalty for first degree murder. The advert was created by Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes, who later apologized for it on his deathbed. This advert is still studied in journalism classes, and until Trump’s ad featuring the migrant caravan appeared it was considered the most racist advert in modern American political history. Atwater said that they were going to talk about Horton so much, people would think he was Dukakis’ running mate. Bush approved of this, and talked about Horton at press conferences. And unlike Atwater, he never apologized. Roger Stone, whom Hasan describes as one of the most vile political operatives of our time, an advisor to Donald Trump and Nixon, actually walked up to Atwater and told him he would regret it, as it was clearly a racist ad. When even Roger Stone says that it’s a bad idea, you know you’ve gone too far. But the press has been saying how decent Bush was. Hasan states he has only two words for that: Willie Horton.

In fact, weekend passes for prison inmates was a policy in many states, including California, where Ronald Reagan had signed one. Hasan calls the policy what it was: an attempt to stoke up racial fears and division by telling the public that Dukakis was about to unleash a horde of Black murderers, who would kill and rape them. And ironically the people who were praising Bush after his death were the same people attacking Trump a week earlier for the migrant caravan fearmongering. It reminded everyone of the Willie Horton campaign, but for some reason people didn’t make the connection between the two.

Racism and the War on Drugs

Hasan also makes the point that just as Bush senior had no problem creating a racist advert so he had no problem creating a racist drug war. They then move on to discussing Bush’s election advert, in which he waved a bag of crack cocaine he claimed had been bought in a park just a few metres from the White House. But the Washington Post later found out that it had all been staged. A drug dealer had been caught selling crack in Lafayette Square, but he had been lured there by undercover Federal agents, who told him to sell it there. The drug dealer even had to be told the address of the White House, so he could find it. It was a nasty, cynical stunt, which let to an increase in spending of $1 1/2 billion on more jails, and prosecutors to combat the drugs problem. And this led to the mass incarceration of young Black men, and thousands of innocent lives lost at home and abroad in the drug wars. And today Republican senators like Chris Christie will state that this is a failed and racist drug war.

This was the first in a series of programmes honouring the dead – which meant those killed by Bush, not Bush himself. The next programme in the series was on what Bush did in Panama.

Dark Rock and Bush: The Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Vision Thing’

I’ve a suspicion that the track ‘Vision Thing’ by the Sisters of Mercy is at least partly about George Bush senior. The Sisters are a dark rock band. Many of front man Andrew Eldritch’s lyrics are highly political, bitterly attacking American imperialism. Dominion/Mother Russia was about acid rain, the fall of Communism, and American imperialism and its idiocy. Eldritch also wanted one of their pop videos to feature two American servicemen in a cage being taunted by Arabs, but this was naturally rejected about the bombing of American servicemen in Lebanon. Another song in the same album, ‘Dr Jeep’, is about the Vietnam War.

‘Vision Thing’ seems to take its title from one of Bush’s lines, where he said, if I remember correctly, ‘I don’t have the vision thing.’ The song talks about ‘another black hole in the killing zone’, and ‘one million points of light’. It also has lines about ‘the prettiest s**t in Panama’ and ‘Take back what I paid/ to another M*****f****r in a motorcade’. These are vicious, bitter, angry lyrics. And if they are about Bush senior, then it’s no wonder.

Counterpunch on George Monbiot and Nuclear Experts Spreading Propaganda about Syrian Nuclear Weapons

November 26, 2017

Thursday’s Counterpunch carried a long piece by Jonathan Cook reporting on an important piece of investigative journalism by Gareth Porter. In 2007 Israel bombed a plant they claimed was a secret nuclear reactor, constructed by Assad. Recent evidence strongly suggests that the building was no such thing, and that the International Atomic Energy Agency knew it wasn’t at the time. Nevertheless, they went ahead with the lie as part of the strategy by the Americans and Israelis, who were hoping to use the incident to bring down Assad and draw Iran into the conflict, so they could conquer that nation too.

The article also goes on to criticise the Guardian’s George Monbiot. Monbiot has, according to Cook, taken it upon himself to be a ‘Witchfinder General’, attacking figures on the left, like Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, who are cautious about accepting claims of atrocities by Assad. Like the recent gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, which appears to have been faked by al-Qaeda themselves. He also states that Human Rights Watch has also falsified information about the war between Israel and Hizbollah. Insiders lower down the organisation knew that what it said was untrue, but were silenced by their superiors.

He also states that now the attempt to unseat Assad has failed, or is failing, the Israelis and Saudis are trying to start a war in Lebanon -again- in order to draw Iran into a war they hope they can use to overthrow them.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/11/22/syria-experts-and-george-monbiot/

I’ve no doubt that this is true, and while I like much of what Monbiot says, it does show how far the Guardian has fallen as a supposedly ‘left-wing’ paper. Tony Greenstein has written several articles attacking the Groan for its blatant anti-Corbyn bias, and its willingness to spread the anti-Semitism smears on behalf of the Israel lobby. And I’m not surprised. The Groaniad backed the SDP and the Liberals in several elections, and its staff seems to be full of Blairites and Neocons. So no surprise that Monbiot is also uncritically spreading disinformation about non-existent nuclear reactors, and attacking anyone he thinks is too pro-Assad.

Trump Officially Declared Major Threat to Human Rights

January 30, 2017

In this piece from the David Pakman show, the presenter discusses an announcement by the respected human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch, that Trump’s government and the rise of the far Right in Europe represent a major attack on human rights. The organisation publishes yearly reports on the state of human rights in 90 countries. In this year’s report, they list the threats and attacks Trump poses to human rights. These are

* Deportation of immigrants
* Curtailment of women’s rights
* Threats to media freedom
* Threats to going back to using torture
* Threats to kill the families of terrorists
* Threats to invade countries to extort oil
* Confusion about why nuking Europe would be bad.

The report notes that the combination of Donald Trump’s administration and certain far Right European politicians would lead to tyranny.

Pakman and his staff state very clearly that Trump is a demonstrable threat to human rights, because of his mockery of a disabled reporter, the family of a Muslim soldier, who fell doing his duty to America, and his jokes about sexually assaulting women. They also discuss Trump’s plans for a Muslim registry, and make it clear that they think that it isn’t just a case that Trump merely said all his illiberal nonsense just to get votes. At some level, he really believes it.

Considering that Trump has passed his ban on Muslim’s entering the US, I think it’s very clear that the Orange Duce believes all his vile, racist and misogynist policies. As one senior right-wing statesman said of Adolf Hitler, ‘This man is dangerous. He believes his own propaganda’.

Trump is a threat to human freedom. And as Pakman and his producers show, their only defence against this will be to make ludicrous counter-accusations about how it’s all biased ‘fake news’, written by the paid hacks of George Soros or some other multi-millionaire with liberal, or ‘liberal’ views, who haunts the right-wing imagination like a Bond villain. But this won’t stop increasing numbers of people across the world from rising up to oppose him.

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.