Posts Tagged ‘London Review of Books’

Lobster Review of Pro-Jewish, Pro-Zionist Book Against Israel, and Against Israel Lobby In America: Part One

April 8, 2018

I found this review of by Lobster’s Tom Easton of Michael Neumann’s The Case Against Israel (Oakland: Counterpunch & Edinburgh: AK press) and James Petras’ The Power of Israel in the United States (Atlanta and Black Point: Clarity Press adn Fernwood Books) in Lobster 52. That issue of the magazine is on line, but it’s one of those you have to pay for. I’ve decided to reproduce it here, because it shows the issues that are really at stake over the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party. This is about preserving the Israeli state from criticism for its barbarous and murderous campaign of persecution and ehtnic cleansing against the Palestinians, and the way it has built up a powerful lobby to hide its activities through a very aggressive advocacy campaign in the US.

Here’s the article.

In a year in which Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza were accompanied by more stories of New Labour loans and the arrest (twice) of Tony Blair’s fundraiser and Middle East ‘envoy’ Lord Levy, it would have been good to have seen British publications examining how Israel is bound up with the politics of its allies. But apart from the decision in March by the London Review of Books (LRB) to publish US academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on the Israel lobby in their country, Britain has no serious recent initiatives on that front.

The New Statesman (NS) made a stab at the job in the 2002, but suffered very heavy criticism for its’anti-Semitism’ from, among others, the then Labour general secretary and now Foreign Office minister and colleague of Lord Levy, David Triesman. In the week that I write this, the award-winning NS political editor Martin Bright describes ‘Blair’s twin shame of Iraq and cash for honours’ as ‘on the one hand, a foreign policy catastrophe; on the other, a classic domestic sleaze scandal’. Several American writers, including one of the two authors under review, try to investigate links between ‘foreign policy catastrophe’ and ‘domestic sleaze’. One wonders how many years will pass before the NS will feel aboe to return to the subject of Zionism and New Labour, and when the LRB will feel able to run a piece on the Israel lobby in the UK.

When journalists and academics tiptoe around this elephant in the front room of British politics they leave a gap in our political understanding that is important for at least two reasons.

The one is that links between Israel and its supporters in Britain are a legitimate subject for inquiry given the extent to which those advocating terrorist tactics here often identify themselves as critics of Israel. If, as Home Secretary John Reid said in October, the ‘war on terror’ now demands the ingenuity shown by Barnes Walls and Alan Turing in opposing Nazi Germany, we are surely under a democratic obligation to ask how matters have come to such a pass that our traditional liberties are being so readily and uncritically jeopardised.

A second reason is that thre ‘war on terror’ agenda has now become indelibly linked in the minds of many with hostility to Muslims, a recipe for serious difficulties in a society as diverse as Britain. This is paralleled in some circles with talk about the ‘clash of civilisations’ stimulated by Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntingdon soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The work of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jonathan Institute (Lobster 47 et seq) in promoting the ‘war on terror’ agenda to serve the interests of Israel goes back well before that time. But once the Berlin Wall fell, the blame for terrorism switched from the Kremlin and KGB to Israel’s neighbours and Islamic radicalism. Yet virtually all of the British electorate remains in ignorance of the origins and pruposes of this strategy.

These two books by small US publishers are not in themselves likely to change the direction of global politics. But in the extent that they chime with shifting American perceptions of Israel and policy in the Middle East (this is written ahead of the November mid-term elections), they may inform some in that movement for change. As we in New Labour Britain follow the US on so many things, the work of Michael Neumann and James Petras may just tempt the odd British writer and publisher into trying something similar here.

Neumann is a philosopher who, in the first sentence of The Case Against Israel, spells out his biases: ‘Mine are pro-Israel and pro-Jewish’. He says he uses ‘no material from Palestinian sources’ and adds that his book ‘presents the case against Israel, not Israelis’. Having further cleared the decks by telling us of his family’s suffering at the hands of the Nazis and his early predisposition towards Israel, he sketches his main agrument as follows:

‘The Zionist project, as con-
ceived in the 19th and early
20th century, was entirely
unjustified and could reasonably
be regarded by the inhabitants
of Palestine as a very serious
threat, the total domination by
one ethnic group of all others
in the region. Some form of
resistance was, therefore,
justified. That Zionist Jews,
and Jews generally, may later
have acquired pressing reasons
for wanting a Jewish state does
not change this. The legitimacy
of the Zionist project was the
major cause of all the terror
and warfare that it aroused.’

Neumann says what followed did not result from a long-standing territorial dispute between long-established populations. Rather, he says, the Zionists sought

‘to implant an ethnic sovereignty
in what was to them a foreign
land, on the basis of a population
expressly imported to secure that
end. Unlike other occasions for
territorial compromise, this one
did not involve two existing people
pursuing competing claims. Instead,
there was a claim at whose service
a people was to be created by
immigration from outside the area.
That claim was to be pursued against
the existing inhabitants, who had
never thought to advance some claim
of their own against the Jewish
people.’

The writer concludes his section on the birth of Israel thus:

‘The illegitimacy of Zionism
has important implications
for the legitimacy of israel
itself and for the early history
of that state. It was wrong to
pursue the Zionist project and
wrong to achieve it. For that
reason, how it was pursued and
achieved has little bearing on
the fundamental rights and wrongs
of the Israel/Palestinian conflict
…Zionism initiated a process
whose evolution was foreseeable
and understandable. Zionists are,
therefore, to an unusual degree
responsible for the consequences
of that fateful step. Their
project was not like raising a
child who, unexpectedly, turns
psychotic, but like releasing a
homicidal maniac – a child of
ethnic nationalism – into the
world. This is why the blame for
the conflict falls so heavily on
Zionist and so lightly on Palestinian
shoulders.’

But all that, says Neumann, does not argue the case for Israel’s destruction, any more than that fate should befall the United States because it was founded on genocide, massacre and exploitation. He says: ‘Israel’s existence is tainted, not sacred, but it is protected in the same useful international conventions tyhat allow others in the name of peace, to retain their ill-gotten gains.’

Continued in Part Two.

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The Break-Up of American Zionism and the Anti-Semitism Allegations

May 28, 2016

I’m aware that I’m in serious risk of doing this subject to death, but this needs to be said. I’ve put up several blogs featuring the videos of talks and interviews given by Israeli and American Jewish activists and historians – Ilan Pappe, Elizabeth Baltzer and Norman Finkelstein, laying bare the terrible history of Israel’s persecution and systematic ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population. As I’ve repeatedly said, this is because of the smears against leading figures in the Labour party that they are anti-Semites, when they are nothing of the sort, and demonstrably nothing of the sort. Ken Leninspart, when he was leader of the GLC, was notorious and reviled for his anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia stance. And if you want to read what he has to say about anti-Semitism, it’s written down in his book, Livingstone’s Labour. He decries it as one of the worst forms of reaction, along with all other forms of racism, whether it be against Blacks, Jews and Irish. Naz Shah has the backing of her local synagogue. And Jackie Walker is the daughter of a Russian Jew and Black civil rights activist, deported from America as one of the ‘Reds under the Bed’ McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover were so scared of. Her other half is also Jewish. It’s truly grotesque that she should be slandered as an anti-Semite when it is clearly not the case.

Jimmy Carter

These slanders have not been confined to Britain. They were made against the Jewish Outreach Officer of one of the Democratic presidential candidates. The lady was forced to resign, despite the fact that she was not only Jewish, but a very active member of her community dedicated to their welfare. They even tried it on with Jimmy Carter, who was just about called everything bar a card-carrying member of the American Nazi party and supporter of Stormfront. Again, dead wrong. I can remember way back in the 1970s when old peanut teeth hosted the Camp David peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt. In his own state, he was instrumental in removing the colour bar and segregation laws against people of colour. He is not, and never has been an anti-Semite or a Nazi, whatever his failings as president were. And he certainly doesn’t have the sheer amount of blood on his hands that his successor, Reagan, had through his sponsorship of real Fascists in South and Central America.

And Carter showed that he wasn’t afraid to prove he was innocent of all charges, guv. He went in front of the students at Brandeis University, the biggest secular Jewish university in the US to debate one of the author of the smears, Alan Dershowitz. He got three or four standing ovations simply for appearing on stage. And when it came to Dershowitz’s time to speak, 2/3 of the audience walked out even before the old Neo-Con warmonger had opened his mouth.

Jewish Americans Liberal

American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal. Most of them want a two-state solution – for the Palestinians to have their own state. By and large they despise George Dubya Bush and 70 per cent of them are opposed to the war in Iraq. And despite the move of the majority of Israeli voters to the right, Ilan Pappe stated in his video that Israelis were decent people. He stated that going around, talking to people, especially small businessmen and farmers, who knew what it was like to have to struggle to make something for yourself, won people over to the Palestinian cause.

Livingstone, Shah and Walker Historically Correct

Nothing Leninspart, Shah or Walker said should be remotely interpreted as racist. Red Ken was factually correct: Hitler did briefly support Zionism and the emigration or deportation of the Jews to Israel. Walker was smeared because she compared the treatment of Black Africans under slavery to the Holocaust, and the persecution of the Palestinians in Israel. Now, I can understand historians picking at this to see if they really are equivalent. Africans were captured and worked to death simply as instruments of labour, rather than because there was a conscious desire to exterminate Black Africans, as in the Holocaust. Though against that was the gradual erection of the whole intellectual edifice trying to justify their enslavement as racially inferior, just as the Nazis used twisted biological theory to justify their extermination of the Jews. It’s reasonable for historians and political scholars to debate the similarities and dissimilarities between them. But I don’t think many genuine scholars, certainly not of the slave trade or the Holocaust, would dispute that these are terrible crimes against humanity. And the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians should be no different. There is a real debate on the legal definitions of genocide, because there are so many of them. So many, in fact, that I’ve heard an academic of the subject state that these definitions should be dropped simply in favour of ordinary, common sense. When states, or their majority populations start persecuting an ethnic group or trying to suppress their identity through force, then it’s genocide.

What also comes out is that the views of Livingstone et al by and large are supported by historical scholarship, including those of mainstream historians. Finkelstein states that there’s little difference between Israeli school textbooks and dissident, left-wing scholars on the origins of Israel. It is known that Israel had a programme of ethnic cleansing from the very first. It is incontrovertible that Israel is engaged in mass torture and human rights violations. And Finkelstein himself states that it is the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who consistently failed to ‘give piece a chance’ in the words of Lennon and Ono.

Denial of Palestinian’s History ‘Historicide’

As for the view produced by the historian, Peters, that there were no Arabs until the Jews settled in Israel, bringing development and jobs, this has been comprehensively disproven. Finkelstein or Pappe, I can’t remember which, describe it as ‘historicide’, the deliberate destruction of a people’s historical reality.

Jewish and Israeli Opposition to Persecution of Palestinians

There is absolutely no question that the facts are on the side of the accused. And I honestly believe that if Leninspart, Shah and certainly Walker were given the chance to rebut their enemies in debate at a university, they would do so in the same way Carter and his supporters vociferously routed Dershowitz. 72 per cent of British Jews say that Israel is important to them, compared to only 50 per cent of American Jews under 35. But that does not mean that British Jews do not want to see an end to their country’s persecution of the Palestinians. There are Jewish organisations in Israel helping the Palestinians defend their homes, families and livelihoods. You can find pictures of Orthodox rabbis in the long, black coats and broad-brimmed hats, forming cordons and lying down in front of bulldozers. University anti-racism and Palestinian solidarity groups have invited members of these organisations to speak. It would surprise me not one whit if many of those Brits reaching out to Palestine were Jews, and active members of their universities’ Jewsocs.

Political Motives behind Accusations

This isn’t about historical truth, however. This is about the Israel lobby trying to derail any criticism of the state and its persecution of the indigenous Arabs with accusations of anti-Semitism. It’s about the Blairites trying to hang on to power in Labour party by playing the race card against Jeremy Corbyn. But those accused have no real case against them. In any just court of law, they would be declared innocent, with damages found against their accusers.

Libel and Establishment Lies and Smears

Unfortunately, when it comes to libel, there is no justice in Britain. You are guilty until proven rich. And the accusations suit the British establishment very well. The Tories love it, because it harms Labour. And the Beeb’s Newsnight programme with Evan Davis uncritically swallowed all the guff from the guests that Labour had an ‘anti-Semitism problem’. One of the guests on RT’s Going Underground, with Afshid Rattansi, stated that the smears looked like the establishment coup against a leftwing British prime minister, as described in the novel and Channel 4 TV series, A Very British Coup. Listening to Finkelstein, I think that’s entirely plausible. There were smears by the establishment against Harold Wilson, which accused him of being a Communist spy. Many of them seemed to come from MI5. Finkelstein states that American funds Israel far and beyond the amount it gives to other nations, because it sees it as defending its interests in the Middle East.

Britain and America Supporting Israel to Retain Power in Region

I believe that this, or something like it, explains the British establishment’s attitude to the allegations. I can remember reading years ago a discussion on a right-wing American website about Israel, the Arabs and Britain under the Mandate. The site took the bog-standard right-wing American view that Brits must be anti-Semites, ’cause all Europeans hate Jews, as shown by the Holocaust and the increasingly secular nature of European society. The participants in the debate argued that the British deliberately set the Jews and Arabs at each other’s throats in order to maintain their control over the region. They quote the correspondence between one of the British officers involved in the Mandate, on this point. The quote was merely his own conclusion after studying the situation, and did not conclusively prove that it was so. They also quoted other correspondence, in which one British politician accused another wishing to establish a Jewish presence in the region as a kind of outpost of British influence, similar to Protestant Belfast amidst Roman Catholic Ireland.

It would not surprise me if something like that were the case. It may simply be that Britain gives unconditional support to Israel, because the Americans also give Israel their unconditional, or nearly unconditional support, in order to retain influence in the region. And since we declined as a world power, we’ve been acting as the American Empire’s junior partner and lickspittle. One former British ambassador to the US even went on Radio 4 and said that he was told by the Mandarins in London that his job was to go to Washington and ‘get up the American’s arse and stay there’.

The Beeb is the voice of the British establishment. It’s news programmes consistently support the Conservatives and industry, especially finance industry, against Labour and the trade unions. The establishment undoubtedly identifies British interests with those of Israel, though Robin Ramsey, the editor of Lobster, has said that the Beeb ties itself in knots trying to deny that it is pro-Zionist. So it is, unfortunately, a foregone conclusion that the Beeb and the establishment won’t give the accused a fair hearing. Not if there’s even more millions to be made from another bloody war.

Fighting Back against the Lies

Which doesn’t mean that the accused can’t win. The mainstream American media is also very staunchly pro-Israel and rabidly demonises the Arabs and the Muslim world. Despite this, in the polls Israel is just one point more popular amongst Americans than Iran. And you consider the massive negative campaign and image of that country in American media. The Israel Lobby – AIPAC and the leadership of J Street in America, the Labour Friends of Israel and BICOM over here, know that they’re losing the public’s hearts and minds. Hence the smears. I think the best course would be for Livingstone, Shah and Walker to stand up to them, call them out on their lies. Don’t expect any honesty from the press, ’cause that went long ago. But do it in the court of popular opinion – at public meetings, university seminars and talks, at literary events. Adam Shatz, of the London Review of Books, introduced Finkelstein and Baltzer when they spoke in New York. Perhaps the LRB can be relied on to give an unbiased platform. They should, at least regarding Jackie Walker. I can remember way back in the 1990s they published a piece on slavery at the time it was once again coming back into national consciousness. The treatment of Black people, and their abuse and discrimination, is of obvious acute interest to Jackie Walker, and so I think that more than some of the other media, they could be more inclined to give a sympathetic hearing.

This ain’t just about defending a group of accused Labour MPs. This is also about defending free speech and historical scholarship against the personal smears and gross historical distortions of a mendacious and deceitful establishment. An establishment that is prepared to grind down and destroy Jews, as well as Muslims, Christians, and those with no religion, in its campaign to preserve a monstrously racist order.

Norman Finkelstein and Elizabeth Baltzer on Young American Jews Rejecting Zionism: Part 1

May 27, 2016

This is as another video, which has some indirect relevance to the accusations of anti-Semitism against leading members of the Labour party – Ken Livingstone, Naz Shah and Jackie Walker. None of these are anti-Semites, and all of them have taken a strong part in anti-racist activism. Jackie Walker’s mother was a Black civil rights activist, who was deported from America for her protests against the official maltreatment of Black Americans. Her father was a Russian Jew, and her partner is Jewish. These allegations have nothing to do with anti-Semitism. They are about the Israel lobby attempting to deflect criticism of its oppression of the Palestinians by attacking its critics as anti-Semites, even when they most obviously are not. Coupled with this is the attempt by the Blairite faction in the Labour party, Progress, to hang on to power by smearing their opponents.

Yesterday I put up a post and a video by the Israeli critic of his country’s abuse and massacre of the Palestinians, Ilan Pappe. Dr Pappe is certainly not along amongst Jewish critics of Zionism and its persecution of the indigenous Arabs. A number of people , who were either Jews or of Jewish heritage, commented on an earlier piece in this blog, that they did not support Israel’s horrendous policies. This video is of a talk given by two more of the leading American Jewish critics of Zionism, Norman Finkelstein and Elizabeth Baltzer, introduced and moderated by Adam Shatz, of the London Review of Books. I think its from a literary festival in New York, and both Finkelstein and Baltzer have written a number of books about Israel and the Palestinians. They’re both activists, and Baltzer has spoken at various social, religious and political gatherings, including synagogues and churches. In this video, they talk about the growing abandonment of Zionism by young American Jews. The event consists of first a talk by Dr Finkelstein, followed by Madam Baltzer, and then a longer session where they respond to written questions from the audience.

Finkelstein in his talk describes how for a very long time Jewish identity was not automatically bound up with Zionism, and many Jews were either hostile or indifferent to the idea. The initial Jewish settlers were few. Most Jews wished to stay in their homelands in Europe. Many were opposed to the foundation of a Jewish state, as they feared that this would revive the suspicion that they had dual loyalties. Dr Finkelstein doesn’t mention it, but this was very much the case when Balfour’s Cabinet announced that it would support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The ‘Balfour Declaration’ was opposed by Samuel Montague, the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, because he feared that British Jews would be seen as less than British, with their loyalties ultimately more towards the new Jewish state. Montague was backed in his campaign against the decision by 75 of the leading British Jewish families.

Finkelstein continues, and states that even after the foundation of Israel, many Jews remained sceptical and hostile. He notes that Commentary, the main Jewish magazine in America, frequently ran articles by some of the now most zealous supporters of Israel, criticising it for the maltreatment of the Palestinians. This opposition changed after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the defeat of the Arab armies. Israel then became imbued with the same sense of spiritual election and special destiny that informs the American self-image – ‘a shining city on a hill’, ‘a light to guide the Nations’. However, support for Israel by American Jews is by no means unconditional, especially amongst the young. Jewish American politicians, when given a choice between what will benefit Israel as against America, have consistently chosen America. And Israel increasingly plays little part in the self-identity of the younger generation, who increasingly see themselves as American with little connection to Israel.

Baltzer provides more information on young Jewish Americans rejection of Zionism, and their opposition to the continued abuse and maltreatment of the Palestinians. She discusses the dwindling membership of the Zionist organisations. The chapter in her home in Sonoma in California claims to be thriving, but won’t give the number of synagogues that are affiliated to it. On the other side, she lists a plethora of Jewish groups and organisations devoted to defending the Palestinians. These include such groups of as Young, Jewish and Proud. Baltzer, however, makes the point that ultimately it isn’t about Jews speaking on behalf of the Palestinians. They have their own voice, and it is they who truly deserve to be heard. She notes that some people feel that they somehow need Jewish permission before they support the Palestinians. She makes the excellent point that nobody should need permission, of Jews or anyone else, to listen to the Palestinian people and support them.

I am actually very glad she made this point, as I’ve refrained from blogging about this issue previously as I don’t want to appear anti-Semitic, nor give any succour to the genuine anti-Semites, who are trying to ride on the coat-tails of principled anti-racist opposition to persecution of the Palestinians. It is, paradoxically, good to hear a Jewish voice stating that you shouldn’t need Jewish permission to support the Palestinians, from the perspective that it is understood that the people she’s addressing aren’t anti-Semites.

Despite having the same ultimate gaols, Finkelstein and Baltzer have differences over tactics, and the form the emancipation of the Palestinians could take. One of these differences is over language. Finkelstein does not think that opponents of Israeli policy should use the term Zionism. Most people don’t understand it, and the gaols of the pro-Palestinian movement can be better expressed simply using plain language. These means just stating that you’re opposed to the occupation of the West Bank, or the inferior status of the Palestinians in Israel, the seizure and destruction of their farms, homes and property by the Israeli state.

He also makes the point that if the term ‘Zionism’ is used, their opponents will seize on it to make the worst claim they can about the person using it – that he or she is actively seeking the destruction of Israel, because of the ambiguity about the term’s meaning. They will also use it to try to divert the argument into one about Jewish identity – whether the Jews are a race, religion or people, or perhaps all three. The argument isn’t about Jewish identity. It’s about the appalling way Israel treats the Palestinians.

Baltzer, on the other hand takes the view that there is some good in a limited use of the term within certain contexts.

Tom Easton on the Israel Lobby and Spurious Accusations of Anti-Semitism

May 3, 2016

I’ve just posted a piece about Tom Easton’s review of Michael Neumann’s The Case Against Israel (Oakland: CounterPunch/ Edinburgh: AK Press) 2006. Written by an author, who declared himself to be ‘pro-Jewish’ and ‘pro-Israel’, the book was fiercely critical of Zionism and the continued occupation of the West Bank. Easton’s introduction to the review of the two books is also extremely relevant and worth quoting. Easton was writing when Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s The Israel Lobby was published in the US. This was attacked as anti-Semitic, even though it mostly said what everyone already knew, and what had been pretty much said already. The New Statesman over on this side of the Atlantic had made a similar attempt to write about the subject four years earlier, but was also heavily criticised as an anti-Semitic for daring to do so. Easton writes of the controversy surrounding these pieces

In a year in which Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza were accompanied by more stores of New Labour loans and the arrest (twice) of Tony Blair’s fundraiser and Middle East ‘envoy’ Lord Levy, it would have been good to have seen British publications examining how Israel is bound up with the politics of its allies. But apart from the decision in March by the London Review of Books (LRB) to publish US academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on the Israel lobby in their country, Britain has seen no serious recent initiatives on that front.

The New Statesman (NS) made a stab at the job in 2002, but suffered very heavy criticism for its ‘anti-Semitism’ from, among others, the then Labour general secretary and now Foreign Office minister and colleague of Lord Levy, David Triesman. In the week that I write this, the award-winning NS political editor Martin Bright describes ‘Blair’s twin shame of Iraq and cash for honours’ as ‘on the one hand, a foreign policy catastrophe; on the other a classic domestic sleaze scandal’. Several American writers, including one of the two authors under review, try to investigate links between ‘foreign policy catastrophe’ and ‘domestic sleaze’. One wonders how many years will pass before the NS will feel able to return to the subject of Zionism and New Labour, and when the LRB will feel able to run a piece on the Israel lobby in the UK.

When journalists and academics tiptoe around this elephant in the front room of British politics they leave a gap in our political understanding that is important for at least two reasons.

One is that the links between Israel and its supporters in Britain are a legitimate subject for inquiry given the extent to which those advocating terrorist tactics here often identify themselves as critics of Israel. If, as Home Secretary John Reid said in October, the ‘war on terror’ now demands the ingenuity shown by Barnes Wallis and Alan Turing in opposing Nazi Germany, we are surely under a democratic obligation to ask how matters have come to such a pass that our traditional liberties are being so readily and uncritically jeopardised.

A second reason is that the ‘war on terror’ agenda has now become indelibly linked in the minds of many with hostility to Muslims, a recipe for serious difficulties in a society as diverse as Britain. This is paralleled in some circles with talk about the ‘clash of civilisations’ stimulated by Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntingdon soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The work of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jonathan Institute (Lobster 47) et seq.) in promoting the ‘war on terror’ agenda to serve the interests of Israel goes back well before that time. But once the Berlin Wall fell, the blame for terrorism switched from the Kremlin and KGB to Israel’s neighbours and Islamic radicalism. Yet virtually all of the British electorate remains in ignorance of the origins and purposes of this strategy.
(Lobster 52, Winter 2006/7: 40).

As the spurious accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at Naz Shah, show, Easton’s comments still remain acutely topical now, nine years after he wrote them.

The Young Turks on the Destabilisation of Syria and Treason by American Generals

January 5, 2016

This is another fascinating and chilling report by The Young Turks on origins of the war in Syria. The veteran American journalist, Seymour Hersh, has had an article published in the London Review of Books discussing the origins of the conflict. He has revealed that it began back in 2006, when Bush’s government decided that they were going to destabilise Assad’s government by creating sectarian divisions and fomenting rebellion amongst the disaffected and dissident groups in Syria, such as the Kurds and Sunnis. They also backed the government in exile of a previous Syrian vice-president, then resident in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. They also began funnelling guns and money to these groups via the CIA, through Britain, Turkey and Libya. The centre for the shipments in Libya was Benghazi, where the American embassy was attacked and the ambassador murdered by Islamist terrorists.

In 2013 the Joint Chiefs of Staff had changed their views about the desirability of supporting the Syrian rebels. They found out that the main groups benefiting from the arms shipments were Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. The al-Nusra front are al-Qaeda. These groups were also being funded by the Saudis. They were also concerned that the Turks had also co-opted the scheme, and were no longer funding moderate opponents of the Assad regime, but also turning a blind eye to the funding and training within Turkey of the radical Islamists. As for the moderates themselves, increasingly they didn’t exist. The rebels, who were trained and armed by the Americans and their allies, overwhelmingly defected to the radicals once they were in Syria. As for the Free Syrian Army, a German journalist, Jurgen Todenhofer, who toured ISIS held territory, states that they were regarded by Daesh as a joke.

The American generals took these concerns to Obama, and recommended that the attempts to overthrow Assad should be stopped. Obama disagreed and ordered them to carry on with the existing policy. So they attempted to undermine and circumvent it by giving outmoded and second-rate weaponry to the rebels, including arms that hadn’t been used since the Korean War and soviet military equipment. They also shared intelligence about the extremists with countries, known to be sympathetic to Syria, whom they knew would share it with Assad. The Turks’ presenter, Cenk Uygur, forthrightly calls this policy treason. It’s direct disobedience by the American generals of their commander-in-chief, the US President. He states that it runs against American democracy. It might be the right decision, but to act against the decision of the elected head of state is wrong. As for Obama’s Syrian policy, this has the bi-partisan support of the Republicans as well as the Democrats. There is a very revealing quote from one of the generals involved in these machinations, where he states that if the American people could see the intelligence they were receiving daily on Syria, ‘they’d go ballistic’.

This adds more information on why Syria is the mess it is, and whose decision it was to destabilise the regime in the first place. And Britain shares some of that responsibility through aiding the Americans in the funding and equipping of these rebel groups.

Uygur also shows how hypocritical the Republican rhetoric about Obama’s supposed ‘Muslim’ sympathies are. A large number of Americans really do think Obama is a Muslim, as well as a Socialist, Communist and Nazi. But it was Bush who started the policy of funding the radical Islamic Muslim Brotherhood.