Posts Tagged ‘League of Nations’

Sargon of Akkad Defends Internet Personality’s Approving Comments on the Holocaust

October 30, 2017

Well, not the real Sargon of Akkad, one of the great founders of Assyrian civilisation in ancient Mesopotamia, obviously. He’s been dead for about 3,000 years.

No, this Sargon of Akkad is a British vlogger from Swindon, real name Carl Benjamin, who was a major figure in the internet sceptics’ movement. Unfortunately, he moved from simply vlogging on subjects like atheism and scepticism, to becoming a mouthpiece for all manner of extreme right-wing views. I have a feeling he’s one of those people, who consider themselves politically moderate, while pushing all manner of racist, misogynist and generally politically extremely illiberal bilge. I think he’s turned up recently to at least one Alt Right or manospherian conferences.

In this very short little video, Kevin Logan calls him out for his defence of some truly astonishingly horrific comments by another right-wing blogger, Mouthy Buddha. Mouthy Buddha claimed that Hitler was very lenient with the Jews in the Holocaust, and ‘was a decent man’. And, oh yes, that the Jews got what they wanted after the war – a Jewish homeland – because of the Shoah.

Sargon goes on to say that Mouthy Buddha ‘did nothing wrong’ and that he was ‘steel-manning’ the argument for the Holocaust. Ominously, he goes on to say that he intends to do a series on ‘the Jewish question’.

Logan has responded by intercutting Sargon’s comments with footage from Mouthy Buddha himself, and a film clip of a bloke on a train saying exactly what these views about the Holocaust are: ‘Bullsh*t’.

He ends by putting up in front of Sargon’s face the words ‘You F***ing Pr*ck!’

Sorry for the language, peeps, but I think that the obscenity is entirely justified in the context of rebutting an obscene view. And the attitude that Hitler was somehow humane in his maltreatment of the Jews is far more obscene than any foul language or profanity.

The ‘steel-manning’ Sargon refers to is supposedly a rhetorical device in which one tries to undermine one’s opponent’s argument by putting in even stronger terms, as opposed to ‘straw-manning’, which is deliberately misstating it in far weaker terms. I hadn’t heard of ‘steel-manning’ before, and I don’t think many other people have either. One of the commenters on Logan’s video on YouTube states that it was thunk up by an internet group, and isn’t recognised by professional philosophers and scholars of logic and rhetoric.

There was nothing humane or restrained about the Nazis’ brutalisation of the Jews. Nothing at all. And the evidence for their extreme cruelty is so widespread and well-known that it isn’t necessary to provide any sources for it. All you have to do is go and look at any of the books on the Third Reich or the Holocaust by a mainstream publisher to see for yourself how horrific the Holocaust was.

As for the ‘Jews’ getting what they wanted from the Holocaust in the foundation of Israel as an independent state three years after Nazi Germany’s defeat, in 1948, it’s true that some Zionist groups and organisations were certainly more than happy to collaborate with the Nazis in the hope of creating further Jewish emigration to Palestine, such as during the brief Ha’avara agreement and the Sterngang. That’s established historical fact. It’s acknowledge by Zionist historians, like David Cesarani. It is only apparently denied by some Zionist groups, who attempt to defend themselves from the charge of collaboration by smearing those, who raise the issue of ‘anti-Semites’.

However, the Zionists were only one section of the Jewish community. The vast majority of Jews wanted to remain in the countries of their birth, as fellow citizens with the same rights and privileges as their gentile fellow countrymen. And they fought hard and bitterly against the Nazis and the other Fascist, anti-Semitic regimes. Those Zionists, who collaborated with the Nazis are entirely unrepresentative of the Jewish people as a whole. This has been pointed out again and again by anti-Zionists, including self-respecting Jewish scholars and activists like Tony Greenstein.

But Israel as a settler colony for European Jews was founded before the Holocaust, after Britain obtained control of Palestine during the period of the Mandate granted by the League of Nations. The followed the Balfour Declaration, in which the British Foreign Minister, Arthur Balfour, pledged that the British Empire would support a Jewish state in the area.

So Mouthy Buddha’s very, very wrong there. Norman Finkelstein and other anti-Zionist writers have pointed out how the Holocaust has been exploited by Israel and its supporters to garner international support, and that, quite understandably, Jewish emigration to Palestine did increase after the War. But reputable historians have also pointed out that during the War comparatively few Jews went to Palestine. The majority fled elsewhere, particularly to America.

As for writing blog posts about ‘the Jewish Question’, there is no question at all about the Holocaust. I’ve already blogged about how an American judge in California officially ruled that the evidence for the Holocaust was so plentiful that it could not reasonably be doubted. The same should go for the brutality of the Nazis and their collaborators, who instituted and conducted it.

It is, however, entirely fair and reasonable to discuss the historical complicity of various Zionist groups and individual Zionists, who hoped to exploit Nazi and anti-Semitic persecution generally to support their political goals of an independent Jewish homeland in Palestine, but this is very different from claiming that the Jews as a whole were somehow complicit in their own persecution. And it is this latter claim Mouthy Buddha has apparently made here, and it can rightly be attacked as anti-Semitic.

I am absolutely astonished that anyone outside of the various Nazi groups and their own twisted, ahistorical worldview, could ever make those comments, and if they were intended as a rhetorical tactic, it was certainly a poor one. Not least because of the way such comments and will be used by the extreme Right to encourage support. But that’s if Mouthy Buddha’s remarks were simply a piece of ill-judged rhetoric as Sargon says. But from the looks of it, it doesn’t seem that it was. Either way, Sargon is wrong about Mouthy Buddha having done nothing wrong. His comments were abhorrent and dangerous, and he should never have made them. The Alt Right have risen to prominence through their use of the internet. They and their vile views should be attacked and refuted at every turn, not given more ammunition to assault democracy and decency.

Counterpunch: Palestinians Wish to Sue Britain for ‘Balfour Agreement’

November 8, 2016

Last weekend’s online edition of Counterpunch carried an article by Ramzy Baroud, reporting that 99 years after the Balfour Declaration the Palestinians wish to sue Britain for giving away their homeland to the Zionist colonists. Balfour was the British Foreign Secretary, who, in a note given to Walther Rothschild, the leader of Britain’s Jewish community on 2nd November 1917, in which he pledged British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Baroud quotes the letter, which read

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

And concluded

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Baroud puts this agreement in context, as part of a wider movement by the colonial powers to divide up the Middle East and the Arab nations for themselves. This was the geopolitical background to the Picot-Sykes agreement, drawn up a year or so earlier, which settled the boundaries of British and French mandated territories and colonial possessions in the region.

Last July, the Palestinian Authority took the step of asking for wider Arab support in suing Britain for the agreement. Baroud states that at the time the Declaration was made, and the Picot-Sykes Agreement signed – the latter in secret – Britain was not in possession of Palestine or the other territories, which were still part of the Ottoman Empire. This was dismantled after the War. Baroud reproaches the British and the West for their hypocrisy in supporting Zionist emigration and colonisation of Palestine. At the same time, Britain also gave a series of spurious promises to the Palestinians, including offering them independence. The Palestinians finally rebelled when it became obvious that the British were helping the Zionists. Nevertheless, the League of Nations mandated the new Arab territories to Britain. The Balfour Declaration prepared the international stage for the full-scale ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in the decades to come, and that the British continued their support of the Jewish colony after it became Israel, while at the same time also promising some small measure of support to the Arabs.

Baroud concludes

While Balfour cannot be blamed for all the misfortunates that have befallen Palestinians since he communicated his brief, but infamous letter, the notion that his ‘promise’ embodied – that of complete disregard of the aspirations and rights of the Palestinian Arab people – that very letter is handed from one generation of British diplomats to the next, in the same way that Palestinian resistance to colonialism has and continues to spread across generations.

That injustice continues, thus the perpetuation of the conflict. What the British, the early Zionists, the Americans and subsequent Israeli governments failed to understand, and continue to ignore at their own peril, is that there can be no peace without justice and equality in Palestine; and that Palestinians will continue to resist, as long as the reasons that inspired their rebellion nearly a century ago, remain in place.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/04/why-palestinians-want-to-sue-britain-99-years-since-the-balfour-declaration/

I think the Palestinians are right to sue Britain. We clearly had no right whatsoever to grant a territory we did not have to the Zionist Federation in complete disregard to the wishes of its indigenous inhabitants. There are also other aspects to the Balfour Declaration, which are not mentioned in Baroud’s article, but which give a different perspective on domestic Jewish support for the embryonic Zionist state. According to Lobster, many, perhaps the majority, of British Jews did not support its creation. Herbert Samuel, the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, opposed it, as did very many Jews, including many leading members of the British Jewish community. I think that Samuel may have presented the government with a list of 72 leading Jewish families, who were against it. Samuel, along with the majority of European Jews of the time, at least in western Europe, wished to be patriotic members of their European homelands, and to be seen and accepted as such by their gentile compatriots. Samuel was afraid, with considerable justification, that the creation of an independent Jewish state would lead to Jews being suspected of having double loyalties, of not really being ‘British’. It’s easy to see why he feared that. This is, after all, the attitude that has led to Jews being persecuted throughout history, and which has survived in stupid conspiracy theories like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and similar fantasies of the Nazis and the Alt Right.

It also needs to be pointed out that the Palestinian population also included indigenous Jews, who have also been exploited and expelled by Israel. About 60,000 Arab Jews, or Jewish Arabs, were forced out of Israel in the 1960s. The Mizrahim, Arab Jews, who were invited to immigrated to Israel to build up the labour force, were given the poorest housing and jobs, and looked down upon as inferior by the European Zionist colonists. As Counterpunch has also pointed out in previous articles, Israel sees itself as a Western state, and has maltreated its indigenous inhabitants according to the manner other western settler states have brutalised and ethnically cleansed theirs.

Balfour’s note states that he wanted the civil and religious rights of the indigenous Palestinians respected, and did not want it to prejudice the rights and the way Jews elsewhere were seen. But this has been what has occurred. And Baroud is absolutely right to say that there can be no real peace without a just settlement of the Palestinians and their right to a homeland of their own.

Review: The Liberal Tradition, ed. by Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock

November 6, 2016

(Oxford: OUP 1967)

liberal-tradition-pic

I picked this up in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I am definitely not a Liberal, but so many of the foundations of modern representative democracy, and liberal political institutions, rights and freedoms were laid down by Liberals from the 17th century Whigs onward, that this book is of immense value for the historic light it sheds on the origins of modern political thought. It is also acutely relevant, for many of the issues the great liberal philosophers, thinkers and ideologues argued over, debated and discussed in the pieces collected in it are still being fought over today. These are issues like the freedom, religious liberty and equality, democracy, anti-militarism and opposition to the armaments industry, imperialism versus anti-imperialism, devolution and home rule, laissez-faire and state intervention, and the amelioration of poverty.

Alan Bullock is an historian best known for his biography of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, which remains the classic work on the Nazi dictator. In the 1990s he produced another book which compared Hitler’s life to that of his contemporary Soviet dictator and ultimate nemesis, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. The book has an introduction, tracing the development of Liberalism from its origins to the 1930s, when the authors consider that the Liberal party ceased to be an effective force in British politics. This discusses the major issues and events, with which Whig and Liberal politicians and thinkers were forced to grapple, and which in turn shaped the party and its evolving intellectual tradition.

The main part of the book consists of the major historical speeches and writings, which are treated in sections according to theme and period. These comprise

Part. Fox and the Whig Tradition

1. Civil Liberties.

Two speeches by Charles James Fox in parliament, from 1792 and 1794;
Parliamentary speech by R.B. Sheridan, 1810.
Parliamentary speech by Earl Grey, 1819.
Lord John Russell, An Essay on the History of the English Government and Constitution, 1821.
Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1828.

2. Opposition to the War against Revolutionary France

Speeches by Charles James Fox, from 1793, 1794 and 1800.

3. Foreign Policy and the Struggle for Freedom Abroad

Earl Grey, parliamentary speech, 1821;
Marquis of Lansdowne, parliamentary speech, 1821.
Extracts from Byron’s poems Sonnet on Chillon, 1816, Childe Harold, Canto IV, 1817, and Marino Faliero, 1821.

4. Parliamentary Reform

Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1822.
Lord Melbourne, parliamentary speech, 1831.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1831.

Part II. The Benthamites and the Political Economists, 1776-1830.

1. Individualism and Laissez-faire

Two extracts from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, 1776.
Jeremy Bentham, A Manual of Political Economy, 1798.

2. Natural Laws and the Impossibility of Interference

T.R. Malthus, Essay on Population, 1798.
David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 1819.

3. Free Trade

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations,
David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy,
Petition of the London Merchants, 1820.

4. Colonies

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.

5. Reform

Jeremy Bentham, Plan of Parliamentary Reform, 1817.
David Ricardo, Observations on Parliamentary Reform, 1824.
Jeremy Bentham, Constitutional Code, 1830.
John Stuart Mill, Autobiography.

Part III. The Age of Cobden and Bright.

1. Free Trade and the Repeal of the Corn Laws

Petition of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to the House of Commons, 20 December 1838.
Richard Cobden, two speeches in London, 1844.
Cobden, speech in Manchester, 1846,
Lord John Russell, Letter to the Electors of the City of London (The ‘Edinburgh Letter’) 1845.

2. Laissez-Faire

Richard Cobden, Russia, 1836.
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1846.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1846.
Joseph Hume, parliamentary speech, 1847.
John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 1848.

Education

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech 1847.
John Bright, parliamentary speech 1847.

4. Religious Liberty

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833.
John Bright, two parliamentary speeches, 1851 and 1853.

5. Foreign Policy

Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1849;
Viscount Palmerston, speech at Tiverton, 1847;
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1850; speech at Birmingham, 1858; speech in Glasgow, 1858;
John Bright, letter to Absalom Watkins, 1854;
W.E. Gladstone, parliamentary speech, 1857;

6. India and Ireland

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833;
John Bright, four speeches in parliament, 1848, 1849,1858, 1859;
Richard Cobden, speech at Rochdale, 1863.

Part IV. The Age of Gladstone

1. The Philosophy of Liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859;
John Stuart Mill, Representative Government, 1861;
Lord Acton, A Review of Goldwin smith’s ‘Irish History’, 1862;
Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877.
Lord Acton, A Review of Sir Erskine May’s ‘Democracy in Europe’, 1878.
Lord Acton, letter to Bishop Creighton, 1887.
Lord Acton, letter to Mary Gladstone, 1881;
John Morley, On Compromise, 1874.

2. Parliamentary Reform

Richard Cobden, two speeches at Rochdale, 1859 and 1863;
John Bright, speech at Rochdale, 1863; speech at Birmingham, 1865; speech at Glasgow, 1866; speech at London, 1866;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Chester, 1865; speech at Manchester, 1865; parliamentary speech, 1866;

3. Foreign Policy

W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1877 and 1878; speech at Dalkeith, 1879; speech at Penicuik, 1880, speech at Loanhead, 1880; article in The Nineteenth Century, 1878.

4. Ireland

John Bright, speech at Dublin, 1866 and parliamentary speech, 1868.
W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1886 and 1888.

Part V. The New Liberalism

1. The Philosophy of State Interference

T.H. Green, Liberal Legislation or Freedom of Contract, 1881;
Herbert Spencer, The Coming Slavery, 1884;
D.G. Ritchie, The Principles of State Interference, 1891;
J.A. Hobson, The Crisis of Liberalism, 1909;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;

2. The Extension of Democracy

Herbert Samuel, Liberalism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Plymouth, 1907;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Newcastle, 1909;
H.H. Asquith, speech at the Albert Hall, 1909.
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

3. Social Reform

Joseph Chamberlain, speech at Hull, 1885, and Warrington, 1885;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Saltney, 1889;
Lord Rosebery, speech at Chesterfield, 1901;
Winston S. Churchill, speech at Glasgow, 1906;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Swansea, 1908;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 8th July 1912;

4. The Government and the National Economy

H.H. Asquith, speech at Cinderford, 1903;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Bolton, 1903;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Bedford, 1913, and speech at Middlesbrough, 1913;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

5. Imperialism and the Boer War

Sir William Harcourt, speech in West Monmouthshire, 1899;
J.L. Hammond, ‘Colonial and Foreign Policy’ in Liberalism and the Empire, 1900;
J.A. Hobson, Imperialism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Stirling, 1901.

6. Armaments

Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at London, 1905;
William Byles, parliamentary speech, 1907;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches from 1909 and 1911;
Sir J. Brunner, speech at the 35th Annual Meeting of the National Liberal Federation, 1913.

7. Foreign Policy

House of Commons debate 22nd July 1909, featuring J.M. Robertson and Arthur Ponsonby;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches, 1911 and 1914;
House of Commons debate, 14th December 1911, featuring Josiah Wedgwood and J.G. Swift MacNeill;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 1 August 1914;

Part VI. Liberalism after 1918

1. The End of Laissez-faire

J.M. Keynes, The End of Laissez-Faire, 1926;
Britain’s Industrial Future, the Report of the Liberal Industrial Inquiry, 1928;
J.M. Keynes and H.D. Henderson, Can Lloyd George Do It? 1929,
Sir William Beveridge, Full Employment in a Free Society, 1944.

2. The League and the Peace

Viscount Grey of Fallodon, The League of Nations, 1918;
Gilbert Murray, The League of Nations and the Democratic Idea, 1918;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 24th June 1919;
J.M. Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919;
D. Lloyd George, speech at London, 1927;
Philip Kerr, The Outlawry of War, paper read to the R.I.I.A., 13 November 1928;
The Liberal Way, A survey of Liberal policy, published by the National Liberal Federation, 1934.

Epilogue

J.M. Keynes, Am I a Liberal? Address to the Liberal summer school at Cambridge, 1925.

In their conclusion, Bullock and Shock state that Liberal ideology is incoherent – a jumble – unless seen as an historical development, and that the Liberal party itself lasted only about seventy years from the time Gladstone joined Palmerstone’s government in 1859 to 1931, after which it was represented only by a handful of members in parliament. The Liberal tradition, by contrast, has been taken over by all political parties, is embodied in the Constitution, and has profoundly affected education – especially in the universities, the law, and the philosophy of government in the civil service. It has also inspired the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth. It has also profoundly affected the British character at the instinctive level, which has been given expression in the notion of ‘fair play’.

They also write about the immense importance in the Liberal tradition of freedom, and principle. They write

In the pages which follow two ideas recur again and again. The first is a belief in the value of freedom, freedom of the individual, freedom of minorities, freedom of peoples. The scope of freedom has required continual and sometimes drastic re-defining, as in the abandonment of laissez-faire or in the extension of self-government to the peoples of Asia and Africa. But each re-definition has represented a deepening and strengthening, not an attenuation, of the original faith in freedom.

The second is the belief that principle ought to count far more than power or expediency, that moral issues cannot be excluded from politics. Liberal attempts to translate moral principles into political action have rarely been successful and neglect of the factor of power is one of the most obvious criticisms of Liberal thinking about politics, especially international relations. But neglect of the factor of conscience, which is a much more likely error, is equally disastrous in the long run. The historical role of Liberalism in British history has been to prevent this, and again and again to modify policies and the exercise of power by protests in the name of conscience. (p. liv).

They finish with

We end it by pointing to the belief in freedom and the belief in conscience as the twin foundations of Liberal philosophy and the element of continuity in its historical development. Politics can never be conducted by the light of these two principles alone, but without them human society is reduced to servitude and the naked rule of force. This is the truth which the Liberal tradition has maintained from Fox to Keynes – and which still needs to be maintained in our own time. (pp. liv-lv).

It should be said that the participation of the Lib Dems was all too clearly a rejection of any enlightened concern for principle and conscience, as this was jettisoned by Clegg in order to join a highly illiberal parliament, which passed, and is still passing under its Conservative successor, Theresa May, legislation which is deliberately aimed at destroying the lives and livelihood of the very poorest in society – the working class, the disabled and the unemployed, and destroying the very foundations of British constitutional freedom in the creation of a network of universal surveillance and secret courts.

These alone are what makes the book’s contents so relevant, if only to remind us of the intense relevance of the very institutions that are under attack from today’s vile and corrupt Tory party.