Posts Tagged ‘Ottoman Empire’

Czech President Threatens Journalists with Fake Kalashnikov

October 25, 2017

More from Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks on the rising threat to freedom of the press around the world. In this clip they report on and discuss the behaviour of the Czech President, Milos Zeman, who turned up at a press conference waving around a replica gun which had ‘For Journalists’ written on it. Zeman himself hates the press, and in the past has described them as ‘manure’ and ‘hyenas’. At a meeting with Putin in May, he joked about how some of them deserved to be ‘liquidated’. As Uygur points out, there is very strong evidence that Putin has had journalists murdered, so that joke really isn’t funny. Zeman, you will not be surprised to know, is also a colossal Islamophobe. He has said that Czechs need to arm themselves against a coming ‘superholocaust’ against them, which will be carried out by Muslims. Uygur comments drily, ‘Who knew there were so many Muslims in the Czech Republic, and they were so powerful?’

Zeman’s gun-waving comes after the death of a female journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb in Malta. Galizia was dubbed a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks’ for her dogged pursuit of uncovering stories of corruption. She was killed a week after revealing that Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of the island nation, had been involved in offshore companies and the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the Azerbaijani government.

Clearly, Malta isn’t anywhere near the Czech Republic, but her death was reported there. And the president, Zeman, thinks so little of the murder of journalists that he ‘jokes’ about it by waving replica firearms around at the press. Uygur also states that the Czechs have just elected a new prime minister, who is the millionaire head of a populist party. He predicts that this won’t end well.

This is clearly a story from a small nation in the EU, but it shows the way journalistic freedoms are being eroded all over the world. The Young Turks point out that democracy isn’t just about voting – it’s also about the freedom of the press and conscience – and this is what has makes Western democracy so great. The Young Turks have also covered the prosecution of journalists and political opponents of President Erdogan in Turkey, and the persecution of another crusading journo in Azerbaijan itself. As well as the attempted assassination of another Russian journo, who was suspiciously stabbed a madman two weeks after the Putin media declared her and her radio station an agent of America.

About ten years ago, John Kampfner wrote a book, Freedom for Hire, in which he described how countries around the world, from France, Italy, Russia, Singapore and China, were becoming increasingly dictatorial. And we in Britain had no cause for complacency, as he described how Blair had also tried to muzzle the press, especially when it came to the Gulf War. The web of corruption Galizia uncovered was so widespread, and went right to the top, so that Malta was described by the Groaniad yesterday as ‘Mafia Island’.

As for the Czech Republic, after Vaclav Havel its post-Communist presidents have been extremely shady individuals. I can remember reading one travel book on eastern Europe, which discussed how his critics had disappeared or been murdered. And following the Fall of Communism, there has come a series of reports and scandals about rising racial intolerance there. The target of much of this is the Roma. It has been reported that the Czech medical service routinely forcibly sterilised Gypsy women in order to stop them having children, and members of various political parties have called for either their expulsion or their extermination. I am not surprised by the Islamophobia, as a little while ago Counterpunch carried a story about one of their contributor’s meeting with a Czech politician, who had very extreme, right-wing views, including a deep hatred of Muslims. There also appears to be an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the country as well. A few years ago, the BBC’s programme, Who Do You Think You Are, explored Stephen Fry’s ancestry. As Fry himself has said many times on QI, his grandfather was a Jewish Hungarian, who worked for a sugar merchants. It was through his work that he met Fry’s grandmother, who was a member of Fry’s, the Quaker chocolate manufacturer, and settled with her in England. Thus he fortunately survived the Holocaust. Fry travelled to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, tracing the movements of his ancestors in the course of their work through the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fry was, understandably, visibly upset and shaken when he found out just how many of his grandfather’s kith and kind had been murdered at Auschwitz.

He was also very unimpressed by the attitude of some of the Czechs he spoke to in his quest. He quoted them as saying that ‘it is very curious. They knew the Holocaust was coming, but they stayed here anyway.’ He was justifiably outraged at the implication that somehow the millions of innocents butchered by the Nazis wanted to be killed.

It’s possible to suggest a number of causes for the rise in Islamophobia. You could probably trace it back to historic fears about the Ottoman Empire and the conquest of the Balkans by the Muslim Turks in the 15th century. The Ottoman Empire still sought to expand in the 17th century, when its army was just outside the gates of Vienna. It was defeated by Jan Sobieski, the king of Poland, and his troops. The Ottoman Empire persisted until it finally collapsed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, amidst a series of bloody massacres. The majority of these were blamed on the Turks, and specifically the irregular troops, the Bashi-Bazouks. It was their massacres that led to Gladstone calling for Turkey to be thrown ‘bag and baggage out of the Balkans’. But other journalists in the Balkans at the time also noted that the Christian nations, like the Serbs, were also guilty of horrific mass slaughter, but that this went unreported due prevailing Western prejudice.

Part of it might be due to the Czechs being a small nation – there are about four million of them – who have had to struggle to survive against domination by larger neighbours. Their medieval kings had invited ethnic Germans into the country to settle and develop their economy. This led to the creation of what became the Sudetenland, the areas occupied by ethnic Germans, and there was friction between them and the native Czechs. This friction eventually exploded into open conflict in the 15th century in the wars following the attempt of Jan Hus to reform the Roman Catholic church. Czech nationalism was suppressed, and Moravia and Bohemia, the two kingdoms, which became Czechoslovakia, were absorbed into the Austrian Empire. The Czechs and Slovaks achieved their independence after the First world War, but the country was conquered by the Nazis during World War II, and then ‘liberated’ by Stalin. It was then incorporated into the Communist bloc. When Anton Dubcek, the president, attempted to create ‘Communism with a human face’, introducing free elections and a form of market socialism, the-then Soviet president, Anton Dubcek, sent in the tanks to quell the ‘Prague Spring’.

Other factors also include the wave of immigrants from Syria and North Africa, that forced their way through the various international borders to come up through Greece and Serbia in their hope of finding sanctuary and jobs in the West. The Counterpunch article stated that there was a real fear that they would turn east, and swamp the small, former eastern bloc nations like the Czech Republic.

And these racial fears are being stoked throughout the former eastern bloc by the poverty and misery that has come with capitalism. The peoples of the former Communist nations were led to believe that the introduction of capitalism would create employment and prosperity. This has not occurred, and the result has been widespread disillusionment. Counterpunch also ran another article, which quoted the statistic that 51 per cent of the population of the former East Germany had responded positively to the statement that ‘things were better under Communism’ in a poll, and wanted Communism to come back. Similar statistics could be found right across the former Communist nations of eastern Europe.

Now, faced with rising poverty, unemployment and inequality, made worse by neoliberalism, the old fears of racial domination and extermination are rising again, and being exploited by ruthless, right-wing populists. So there are a series of extremely nationalistic, Fascistic governments and parties in Hungary and the Czech Republic. Just like in western Europe there’s Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Germany’s Alternative fuer Deutschland, and Donald Trump and the Alt Right in America.

And across the globe, ruthless, corrupt politicians are trying to curtail freedom of speech and the press, in order to preserve their power. Hence the rising racism, Fascism and violence towards ethnic minorities and the press. These freedoms are at the core of democracy, and have to be defended for democracy to work at all, and governments held accountable by their citizens.

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Boris’ Views on Brexit and Massive Lack of Tact in Myanmar Show Why He Should Not Be In Politics

October 2, 2017

Here’s another Tory politician, who should by rights be firmly ejected from the House, or at least barred from any position of governmental responsibility: Boris Johnson. BoJo would just love to be prime minister, and so has tried to scheme his way there, joining the Leave campaign after he initially backed the ‘Stay’ group, and then stabbed the former Tory leader, David Cameron, and his fellow Tory, Michael Gove, in the back.

As the Tories have complained, he’s trying to drive government policy over Brexit from the backseat. On Saturday, Mike put up an article reporting how the Tories’ Blond Ambition had laid down a set of four conditions that need to be met for a good Brexit deal. One of the experts on politics, who commented about it on Twitter, Ian Dunt, immediately demolished all of them.

It’s not hard to see parallels with the Kippers in this. UKIP are rapidly falling into obscurity. They were a single issue party, pressing for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. And now that’s happening, they’ve lost their entire raison d’etre. So they tried a few months ago to lay down their conditions for Britain’s negotiations over Brexit with the EU. Almost needless to say, they were also rubbish and nobody took any notice of them either.

But it gets worse. For some reason, BoJo the Clown is Britain’s Foreign Secretary, a position for which he is entirely unsuited, for all he likes to boast that his Turkish grandfather was the last vizier of Ottoman Turkey, who was hanged by his outraged people in protest at one of the treaties breaking up Europe in the aftermath of the Great War.

Diplomacy, as part of international relations, requires and prizes very careful, guarded speech in order to prevent avoidable offence, offence which can easily rapidly escalate into disastrous breakdowns in international relations. And in serious cases, war. We talk about ‘tact and diplomacy’, and when describing actions or comments that may cause serious offence, often say, ‘Wars have been fought for less’. BoJo, like Trump, seems to possess none of these qualities.

Covering his official visit to the Shwedagon temple, the holiest Buddhist shrine in Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, Channel 4 showed the tousled twat start to recite the opening line from Kipling’s The Road to Mandalay, about the temple bells calling back an English soldier to the Burmese girl he kissed. Britain ruled Myanmar, then called Burma, from 1824 to 1948. And it’s fair odds that its people just might be somewhat sensitive about our occupation of their country. You can easily understand why reciting a poem by a writer renowned as one of the poets of British imperialism, in the country’s most sacred temple, might just be taken as a slight. The documentary, which included the incident, was shown last night on Channel 4. Fortunately, the British ambassador, Andrew Jenkins, was on hand to stop Johnson. The clip shows Johnson asking him why, to which Jenkins simply answers ‘It’s not appropriate’.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/09/30/boris-johnson-is-out-of-control-again-heres-why-as-if-you-needed-to-see-the-reasons/

It says much about Boris’ complete lack of sensitivity and self-awareness, that he had to ask Jenkins why he shouldn’t recite it. He clearly saw nothing wrong in it, an attitude that could easily be interpreted by his Burmese hosts as imperial arrogance.

This isn’t the first time the Tories have said or done something, that has sparked an international row. I vaguely remember that BoJo managed to upset the Russians, when he went on a diplomatic visit to the Baltic states a year or so ago. And it wasn’t that long ago that Modi’s India accused Britain of colonialist condescension.

If Boris did, by some horrendous mistake of history, get into 10 Downing Street, then it’s clear that within a very short period his lack of tact would have torn the Commonwealth apart, having insulted and alienated as many of its members states as possible, and joined Trump in ramping up international tensions with Russia, Iran, North Korea or whoever into a full-blown shooting war.

Brexit is likely to seriously damage the British economy. True, Boris wasn’t responsible for the Leave campaign, but he did add his weight to it for no good reason than his own, over-vaulting ambition. And now his utter unsuitability for any kind of role in the Foreign Office is amply demonstrated yet again.

Get this oaf, and the other Tories, out of office as quickly as possible.

Counterpunch: The More Young Jewish Americans Find Out About Israel, the More They Despise It

July 2, 2017

On Wednesday Counterpunch published a very interesting article by Jonathan Cook about the way Israel’s attempts to promote its image to Jewish American youngsters, and encourage them to settle there, is backfiring spectacularly. He discusses the various books that have been written to deny the very existence in history of the Palestinians and their connection with the land. These included the book, From Time Immemorial, which claimed that the Palestinians were recent immigrants from the Ottoman Empire. Norman Finkelstein, one of the great Jewish American critics of Zionism and Israel, tore that one to shreds when he was a doctoral student.

Now Brand Israel, an Israeli PR group, has found that many young people taking up the heritage tours offered by Israel to American Jews have taken the opportunity to make their own, unscheduled and decidedly unapproved tours of the occupied West Bank. And they are very definitely not impressed with what they’ve seen of the Israeli treatment of the indigenous population.

Cook writes

One can understand why making the Palestinians invisible is the tactic of choice for Israel’s supporters. But a new report suggests that it would be wise for them to keep Israel in the shadows too.

The Brand Israel Group found that the more US college students knew about Israel, the less they liked it. In the six years to 2016, support for Israel among the next generation of Jewish leaders dropped precipitously, by 27 percentage points.

Traditionally, Israel has nurtured bonds to overseas Jews. Over the past 20 years the Birthright programme has brought half a million young American Jews on free summer trips to Israel for an intensive course of indoctrination.

The students are supposed to leave fervent ambassadors for Israel – or better still, devotees who will immigrate to help in a demographic war against the Palestinians.

But organisers are aware that a growing number sneak off afterwards into the occupied territories to discover first-hand a history their elders have kept from them. It can have a profound effect. Many get involved in protests in the occupied territories or become leaders of boycott activism against Israel on campuses back home.

He also notes that when Israel passed a resolution saying that those who supported the Boycott movement against Israel wouldn’t be allowed in, hundreds of youngsters due to go on an upcoming Birthright tour signed a petition asking if that included them.

Cook also discusses the Sumud Freedom Camp, a joint project in the West Bank between anti-racist Israelis, foreign Jews and the Palestinians, to protest nonviolently against Israel’s maltreatment of the Palestinians. The camp has been repeatedly torn down by the Israeli armed forces, and this has further reinforced the negative opinion the Jews working at the camp have of the Israeli military. One American Jewish woman wrote a piece in the Israeli media about how her experience with the armed forces had shown her that they weren’t superheroes who’d protect her from harm.

Cook concludes

Increasingly, American Jewry is becoming polarised, between an older generation whose ignorance allows them to advocate unthinkingly for Israel and a young generation whose greater knowledge has brought with it a sense of responsibility. In an ever-more globalised world, this trend is going to intensify.

Young American Jews will have to choose. Will they conspire, if only through their silence, in the erasure of the Palestinians carried out by Israel in their name? Or will they stand and fight, in the occupied territories, on campus, in their communities and, soon enough, in the corridors of power in Washington?

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/28/israels-efforts-to-hide-palestinians-from-view-no-longer-fools-young-american-jews/

Norman Finkelstein has also predicted that the links between American Jews and Israel will gradually wither away. He and other Jewish critics of Zionism have pointed out that Israel only became important to American Jews, and was only supported by American Conservatives, after it successfully fought of the Arabs during the Six Day War. Before then, Israel was very much peripheral to American Jewish concerns.

Tony Greenstein, whose blog regularly tears into racists, Zionists, Fascists and Conservatives, also covered this issue. He wrote

It’s an ill wind that blows no good. Despite the adoption of the new fake definition of anti-Semitism and the attempt to depict anti-Zionism as anti-Semitic, the truth has a way of getting through. The American Jewish community is the most valuable to Israel, since it does its diplomatic bidding as well as helping to fund the pariah state.

What a surprise it must therefore be to Israel’s veteran propagandists, the Hasbarists who cry ‘anti-Semitism’ at the drop of a hat, that young American Jews no longer feel an affinity with Zionism and Israel’s racial nationalism. Settling other people’s land, seeing the vast disparity between poor Palestinian peasants and the rich and lush settlements isn’t a winner amongst progressive young Jews.

The far-Right messianism that believes in a racially pure Israel and building a 3rd temple as the way to encourage the return of the Messiah doesn’t hold too much attraction to secular Jewish kids.

The alliance with the anti-Semitic Christian fundamentalists like Pastor John Hagee of Christian United for Israel isn’t a vote winner either.

http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-max=2017-06-24T03:16:00%2B01:00&max-results=7&start=3&by-date=false

As for the Israeli armed forces not being the gallant heroes ready to defend Jews the world over against oppression and genocide, Mr Greenstein has published very many articles on his blog showing that Zionists have many times shown themselves to be completely indifferent to Jewish suffering, unless the Jews being victimised are prepared to immigrate to Israel. In one essay on the heroic resistance against the Nazis of the Warsaw Uprising, he stated that most of the real resistance was done by the Jewish Socialist party and groups, who wished to defend the right of ordinary, working class, Yiddish-speaking Jews to live in what they saw as their historic homeland, Poland. This pieces is particularly interesting, as he quotes one of the heroes of the Uprising, Marek Edelman, who took over its leadership. Edelman’s part in the resistance against the Nazis has been downplayed, because he wasn’t impressed with the way Israel treats the Palestinians and said so. A few years ago he stated that the Palestinian Intifada showed the same spirit as the fighters in the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw.

It’s not hard to see how that might upset patriotic Zionists like Netanyahu’s crew.

Moreover, the early European Jewish colonists in Palestine were quite prepared to use deadly force against other Jews, if it would serve their ends. In one of his other posts, he describes the destruction of a British transport ship carrying Jewish refugees to Israel by the Zionist authorities during the War. The ship was due to arrive in Israel, but the British authorities in the Mandate decided that they should be taken to Mauritius instead. So the Zionists deliberately targeted and sank the boat, killing its passengers, to show their anger at being denied fresh colonists.

It struck me reading that, and other accounts of the brutality inflicted by the Zionists on non-Zionist Jews, that there is an entire book to be written there. The Israeli lobby has worked hard to make sure that their bogus definition of anti-Semitism, which includes criticism of the state of Israel, is the only one accepted. But as they have vilified and attacked other Jews, who do not share their support for Israel to the point, where many Jews feel that they particularly attack Jewish critics, it could be argued that they are also guilty of what they so frequently accuse genuinely anti-racist critics of Israel.

As for Brand Israel, I suspect that many young people, Jews, gentiles or whatever, would become even more sceptical towards Israel if they found out how the authorities were trying to use PR to raise its image. A certain section of the left, and the public generally, has always been against spin and PR. Way back in the 1990s the American comedian, Bill Hicks, joked about the way the PR industry really couldn’t understand him or people like him. Instead of realising that he was genuinely against the right-wing politics of Reagan’s America, and the power of big corporations, he joked that they really believed that he was trying to tap into some demographic as a sales strategy. That was nearly 30 years ago.

And if anything, people have become more cynical since. One of the reasons why the British public became increasingly hostile to New Labour was because the very high profile it gave to spin and PR, at the expense of actually listening to what the public really wanted. Everything had to be carefully scripted and micro-managed to make sure that people were ‘on message’.

And I dare say something similar has happened in America. It’s why many Americans voted for Trump over Killary, as Trump appeared to be more authentic, and more sympathetic to the needs and fears of ordinary Americans. They were wrong. He wasn’t, and isn’t. And the results are disastrous for the American working and middle classes. But for a moment he appeared different from the crafted spin of an increasingly distant political class, whether Democrat or Republican.

The mass surge in support for Bernie Sanders in America and Jeremy Corbyn here in Britain is partly due to the fact that they are genuine in their desire to improve conditions for ordinary working people. They aren’t the smooth-talking products of spin merchants, desperate to appear to be doing something for the public, but who are really deeply opposed to doing anything that will threaten the neoliberal status quo and alienate their parties’ corporate donors.

I suspect that if more people, who are currently pro-, or just indifferent to Israel, were to find out that the country is deliberately using PR to mould the public’s impressions of the country, and counter negative publicity, like the footage of the Israeli armed forces killing innocent civilians in Gaza, they’d also become sceptical of the country. If only in the sense that they wouldn’t automatically take anything its politicians and spokespeople said for granted.

50 + Tory Policies Are Uncosted, But Biased Media Will Not Ask Them About It

May 20, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political yesterday put up a piece showing exactly what voting for the Tories will mean – more poverty, more cuts, more privatisation, including that of the NHS. He also has a graphic that shows that, far from being the party of financial prudence and sound fiscal policy that they are always boasting they are, 50 plus of the policies in May’s manifesto have not been costed.

And the graphic lists them.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/19/this-is-what-voting-conservative-really-means/

But, as far as I’m aware, the Tories haven’t been asked about these. Nor about how they will finance schools, hospitals and other parts of the state infrastructure generally when they are making such savage – and unnecessary – cuts.

Buddy Hell over at Guy Debord’s Cat, has written a couple of pieces attacking the media’s bland, uncritical, and unintelligent assumption that the economic orthodoxy expounded by the Tories makes any sense, and does not deserve the same interrogation and critique that Labour’s policies do. He points out that most of the journos in the media seem to believe that national finances and the economy are the same as household finances, and points to an article by the Angry Yorkshireman, who has also attacked this myth.

The Cat writes

Television and radio hacks, and their commentator allies have accepted the Thatcherite logic of the market and the domestic finance analogy as fait accompli. For supposedly well-educated people, broadcast journalists have shown that they are neither capable nor willing to ask fundamentally straightforward questions about the Tories’ economic claims, and instead have focussed their attention on Labour’s mythologized economic incompetence. But the questions they ask are not intelligent questions and behind them is a discourse of mocking and sneering of anything that diverges even slightly from the orthodoxy.

We see this whenever a Tory politician talks about tax cuts, they are never asked “how much will these tax cuts cost”? Instead, their proposals are taken at face value and their tenuous claims to economic competence are accepted as axiomatic. Yet, tax cuts do cost money and the burden will always fall on the shoulders of those who are least equipped to deal with it. Tories will always claim that they have taken those who earn the least out of taxation altogether. No questions are asked if the richest will pay more or how libraries, schools and the National Health Service are to be funded when ever-decreasing amounts of tax are being collected by the state. Of course, Tory politicians know they will never be subjected to the kind of scrutiny reserved for Labour or even Green politicians (Andrew Neil is a possible exception). The deference with which most media journalists treat these puffed up charlatans is more sickening than eating ten Cadbury’s Cream Eggs in a single sitting and it’s getting worse.

He makes the point that the media’s double standards are shown by the different ways Diane Abbott and Theresa May were treated by the press and media when they appeared confused during interviews on particular questions. Abbott, you will recall, was pilloried by the press after she appeared unable to answer Nick Ferrari’s question about where the money would come from to fund more police officers when she appeared on his show on LBC.

But May was given a very different treatment when Andrew Marr asked her if it was right that nurses should have to go to food banks. Stumped for any kind of proper reply, she could only stammer out that there were ‘complex reasons’.

This is rubbish, and she knew it. But she could rely on the Tory lapdogs in the media not to press her on it, but instead to portray her as ‘strong and stable’. Which sounds to me exactly what various modish modern architects say about their ludicrous monstrosities, often way over cost and behind schedule, shortly before they unexpectedly fall down or have to be closed while major structural repairs have to be undertaken.

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/how-much-will-it-cost/

The Cat’s article also describes how May went ‘full Erdogan’ with the press during her visit to Cornwall, and has a link to a feature about this on the Cornwall Live website. May turned up to support the six Tory MPs, who hold all the seats in the county.

Erdogan is the current president of Turkey, who is rapidly trying to undo the decades of secularisation began with the Turkish nationalist, Kemal Ataturk. Instead of being the head of a modern state, which values free speech, a free press and the other marks of democratic society, Erdogan acts like he would like to be a new Ottoman emperor. Anything that even smacks of disrespect to his fragile, Trump-like ego, is banned and the person who produced it arrested and prosecuted by the rozzers. A few months ago a doctor found himself arrested and prosecuted for insulting the president, simply because he had retweeted a joke about him on his mobile phone.

The ladies and gentlemen of the media in Kernow also found themselves in a similarly tightly controlled environment. According to Cornwall Live, they were locked in a room and forbidden to film. They did ask some questions, and there were some photographs, including one of the locked door. Briefly glancing through the article, I got the distinct impression that May’s answers to questions consisted mostly of the same guff about being ‘strong and stable’.

http://www.cornwalllive.com/prime-minister-theresa-may-visits-cornwall-ahead-of-general-election/story-30306323-detail/story.html#kMAvlh8iYr7EHHod.99

May’s management of the press in Cornwall isn’t unique. Whenever she goes anywhere, the event is very carefully stage managed. Rather than meeting the public, these events are private, and the public are kept very far away from meeting her and asking any awkward questions.

As for locking the press and broadcast media in a room, this seems a very strong metaphor for the repressive state of Tory Britain anyway. Blair, the Tories and the Lib Dems all brought in legislation providing for secret courts, where you could be arrested and tried without knowing the evidence against you, who your accuser was, and with the public and press excluded, if this was all deemed necessary for national security.

Exactly like the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and the Communist states of the former eastern bloc.

One of the underground poems written against the Communist dictatorship in Hungary describes the author looking down at his shoelaces. He still has them, so he can’t be in prison. It’s a succinct, poetic description of the lack of freedom the Hungarians endured in what was basically a Stalinist dictatorship following the quelling of their uprising in the 1950s.

Now have a look at your own feet. Well, we must be free, ’cause we’ve still got our shoelaces. But when May starts locking the press into a room, while her goons prevent her from being properly filmed, you wonder how long.

Uri Avnery on Trump and Israel’s Anti-Semitic Zionists

May 9, 2017

The accusation that Ken Livingstone is a anti-Semite is partly based on his historically accurate statement that there was initially an agreement between the Zionists, or at least, some of them, and the Nazi party, to take Jews out of Nazi Germany and smuggle them into Palestine, then under the British Mandate. This was when sections of the Nazis didn’t care where Jews went, so long as they weren’t in Germany. It’s the Haavara agreement, and is recorded fact. There is an entry for it on the website of the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Israel. The agreement didn’t last very long. Nevertheless, it existed. And at the end of last year, Uri Avnery, an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom, wrote a piece in Counterpunch describing other collaborations between Zionists and anti-Semites.

His article was a response to Netanyahu’s reaction to a UN motion condemning Israel for its expansionism and maltreatment of the Palestinians. The UN had attempted to have similar motions passed many times before, but had been blocked by the US, using its veto. This time Barack Obama had not blocked it, and the motion had passed.

Netanyahu was furious. He withdrew Israeli ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand, nations that have always been friend to Israel, called in foreign ambassadors to upbraid them, and generally ranted and raved.

Avnery states that while it was monumentally stupid on a diplomatic level, it was a very astute move domestically. It allowed Netanyahu to present himself as the virtuous defender of his nation, another David pitted against the Goliath of the UN. He makes the point that Jews and Israelis have taken a perverse satisfaction from the rest of the world’s opposition to them. In his view

For some reason, Jews derive satisfaction from a world-wide condemnation. It affirms what we have known all the time: that all the nations of the world hate us. It shows how special and superior we are. It has nothing to do with our own behavior, God forbid. It is just pure anti-Semitism.

As an example of this bizarre mentality, back in the days of Golda Meir one of the Israeli army’s dance band used to play a tune with the lyrics ‘The whole world is against us/ But we don’t give a damn…’

He goes on to say that the establishment of the state of Israel was supposed to put an end to this, by making Israel a normal country. But it hasn’t. He goes on to observe how Donald Trump has sent a rabidly right-wing Jewish American to Israel as his representative, a man so right-wing he makes Netanyahu seem liberal, while also appointing as one of his closest aides an anti-Semitic White racist. He states that Trump can support both anti-Semites and Zionists simultaneously as both have the same goal of taking Jews out of their historic homelands and relocating them in Israel.

He states that Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, tried the same tactic with the anti-Semites of Tsarist Russia. Herzl offered to persuade the Jews to emigrate, if the Russians helped them. This was during the horrific pogroms of the late 19th century. it didn’t quite work as Herzl wanted, as the Jewish emigrants largely went to America, not Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

He also gives as an example of such anti-Semitic Zionism the British and American evangelicals, who preached that the Jews should return to Israel. This was before the foundation of the Zionist movement proper, though he suggests it may have served as one of the inspirations for it. These evangelicals did so in the belief that the return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland would result in the Second Coming of Christ. This would be followed by the conversion of a minority of Jews to Christianity. Those, who did not convert, would be destroyed.

Later other members of the Zionist movement cooperated with anti-Semites in Poland and Nazi-occupied Europe. 1939 the extreme Zionist leader, Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky approached the anti-Semitic commanders of the Polish army with a similar deal to the Haavara Agreement. If they took on and trained Jews, the Zionists would send them to Palestine to liberate the country from the British, and the Jews would then leave Poland to emigrate there. This plan collapsed after the Nazi invasion.

During the War, but before the Holocaust, Abraham Stern, the founder of the Irgun, approached Adolf Hitler through an intermediary in neutral Turkey, offering to aid the Nazis against the British. Hitler didn’t reply.

Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer in charge of the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz also attempted to make a number of deals with the Zionists. Eichmann approached Israel Kastner and his group in Budapest. If the allies gave the Nazis a thousand trucks, he would halt the deportations. As a good will gesture, he allowed a few hundred Jews to escape to Switzerland. Kastner sent Yoel Brand as his messenger to the Zionist leadership in Jerusalem. However, he caught by the British and so the deportation and extermination of Hungarian Jews continued.

Netanyahu’s right-wing minister of defence, Avigdor Lieberman, also went berserk at the French plan to convene a meeting to secure a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in Paris. Avnery notes that the French plan was almost identical with one he and his friend published in 1957. Lieberman, however, went off ranting that it was the notorious Dreyfus Affair all over again, referring to the case in which a Jewish officer in the French army was court-martialed and sent to Devil’s Island on trumped up charges motivated by his accuser’s anti-Semitism.

Despite the French offer of a peaceful settlement, the Israelis still want Trump, with the Zionists and anti-Semites in his administration, to support them.

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/30/trump-and-israels-anti-semitic-zionists/

Secular Talk on UN Condemnation of Illegal Israeli Settlements

January 4, 2017

Last week, the UN voted 14 to none against the construction of further illegal settlements by the Israelis in occupied Palestine, with America abstaining. As you can expect, this sent Benjamin Netanyahu into the petulant rage he and the Zionist authorities in Israel adopt whenever the international community dares to criticise them. Netanyahu attacked President Obama for apparently betraying Israel to its enemies, and told the UN ambassador for New Zealand that his country had virtually ‘declared war’ on Israel. Which is an utterly preposterous statement. I’m very much aware of the poverty and marginalisation experienced by New Zealand’s Maoris, the racism against them and other indigenous Pacific peoples, that have immigrated to the country. But in many ways, New Zealand is also a profoundly liberal society. I can recall reading in one of the old encyclopedias we used to have at school that a certain number of seats in the New Zealand legislature were reserved for the Maoris. I also think that Kiwi women had the vote in the late 19th century, decades before women in Britain had it. I can also remember looking through the prospectus of one of the universities in New Zealand when I was doing voluntary work for one of the museums here in Bristol. Many of the courses were very ‘right on’, explicitly tackling racism and the brutalisation of Black people. It seems to me that, despite its problem, NZ is very far from being any kind of racist, Fascist state.

Secular Talk have put up a couple of videos about this, pointing out the glaring, risible and grotesque faults in Netanyahu’s entire position and response. Kyle Kulinski, the host, makes the point that the UN has not attacked Israel as a country or denied its right to exist. It has merely demanded that Israel should abide by international law. He notes that whenever Israel is condemned for its human rights abuses, they make a great play of demanding that Israeli should only be condemned the same way other nations are condemned. Which is Kulinski’s position exactly. Kulinski also goes further, and makes the point that by ignoring the UN’s resolution on this, which he recognises is toothless, Israel will be breaking international law, and, by definition, be a ‘rogue state’.

He also criticises Barack Obama for taking a far too indulgent line towards Israel on this matter. Obama has not condemned Israel. He merely abstained from voting, which is hardly any kind of strong criticism. Despite Netanyahu’s ranting, America has always strongly supported Israel. Obama has given billions of dollars in aid to the country, and supplied the Iron Dome missile defence system. At one point, Kulinski says that what is needed is for Obama to cut off all aid the next time the Israelis accuse America of not doing enough for them. He also makes the point that the UN condemnation of illegal Israeli settlements would actually make the country safer, as it would remove one of the major objects of Palestinian resentment.

They also put up another video commenting on an interview on American TV with the Israeli minister of education, Naftali Bennett. Bennett was asked about the illegal settlements, and responded by flatly denying there were any. He also claimed that the Israelis weren’t violating international law by taking over the Palestinian part of the city and making it their capital, because it had been Israel’s capital for 3,000 years.

This is wrong, and a grotesque rewriting of history. Yes, Jerusalem was the capital of ancient Israel after it was conquered from the Jebusites by King David. Before then, it was a Canaanite city state under Egyptian suzerainty. Diplomatic letters from its mayor, requesting Egyptian aid against the other city states, have been preserved along with other documents in the Amarna archive from that time.

But for most of the past 2,000 Israel simply didn’t exist, and Jerusalem was not the capital of a Jewish state. After the Bar Kochba rebellion of the 2nd century, the Jews were expelled from their capital, and it was refounded as a pagan city. The seat of Jewish government moved to Galilee. After the Fall of Rome, it was part of the Arab Islamic caliphate. For a brief period in the Middle Ages it was conquered by the Crusaders, and became a Christian kingdom amongst the other Crusader states of Outremer. It was then reconquered by the Muslims, and up until the British mandate was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Bennett’s statement shows the Israelis’ determination to erase Palestinian history and that of the last 2,000 years. Last year, 2016, Counterpunch carried an article about the Israelis’ attempts to destroy every trace of the Palestinians’ own connection to their land through attacks on their education system. The article pointed out the high number of schools that have been attacked by Israeli forces, and the constraints placed on the Palestinians and the teaching of their culture in Israeli schools. It is illegal, for example, to teach anything about the Palestinians’ connection to their homeland, such as poems celebrating this aspect of Palestinian life.

In his desire to remove an entire people from history as well as dispossess them of their own land, Bennett shows precisely the same attitudes towards history and conquest as the Nazis and Communists under Stalin. He and Netanyahu are utterly disgraceful and should be thrown out of office. And the construction of further illegal settlements on the West Bank should stop immediately.

Roger Williams’ Arguments against Religious Persecution

November 22, 2016

This weekend I put up a piece about the arguments for religious toleration advanced by William Penn, the great Quaker apologist and founder of Pennsylvania. Penn believed passionately in religious toleration, and was himself, along with one of his fellow Quakers, imprisoned and tried for his religious beliefs. His trial, and the way it violated the natural liberties of the English people, were the subject of one of the three pamphlets he wrote attacking religious persecution.

One of the other great champions of religious freedom in the 17th century was Roger Williams. Williams was an English Puritan, who fled persecution in England to make his home in the new colony of Massachusetts in 1630, where he intended to convert the indigenous peoples to Christianity. However, his own refusal to become part of the church establishment resulted in his conflict with the authorities there, and he was expelled three years later. He went on to become one of the founders of another colony, Rhode Island. He returned to Blighty in 1643, seeking to acquire a royal charter for the new settlement. Back in England, he became heavily involved in the debate over religious toleration, writing his classic work on it, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution. Parliament responded by having it burnt by the public hangman in August the following year. Williams left England, but returned to the country of his birth in 1652, leaving once more two years later. During this later sojourn in England, he wrote a sequel to his book, The Bloody Tenent Yet More Bloody. David Wootton in his comments on Williams and his works states

Williams has long been regarded as one of the first exponents of what were to become central principles of the American constitution: the sovereignty of the people and the separation of church and state.

David Wootton, ed., Divine Right and Democracy: An Anthology of Political Writings in Stuart England (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1986) 215.

Wootton’s book contains extracts from The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, including the following passage, where Williams lays out the main themes of his argument.

Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, Discussed, in a Conference betweene Truth and Peace

Syllabus:

First: That the blood of so many hundred thousand souls of protestants and papists, spilt in the wars of present and former ages for their respective consciences, is not required nor accepted by Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Secondly: Pregnant scriptures and arguments are throughout the work proposed against the doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience.

Thirdly: Satisfactory answers are given to scriptures and objections produced by Mr Calvin, Beza, Mr Cotton, and the ministers of the New England churches and others former and later, tending to prove the doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience.

Fourthly: The doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience is proved guilty of all the blood of the souls crying for vengeance under the altar.

Fifthly: All civil states, with their officers of justice, in their respective constitutions and administrations, are proved essentially civil, and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of the spiritual, or Christian, state and worship.

Sixthly: It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Son, the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-Christian consciences and worships be granted to all men in all nations and countries; and they are only to be fought against with that sword which is only, in soul matters, able to conquer, to wit, the sword of God’s spirit, the word of God.

Seventhly: The state of the land of Israel, the kings and people thereof, in peace and war, is proved figurative and ceremonial, and no pattern nor precedent for any6 kingdom or civil state in the world to follow.

Eighthly: God requires not an uniformity of religion to be enacted and enforced on any civil state; which enforced uniformity, sooner or later, is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus his servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls.

Ninthly: In holding an enforced uniformity of religion in a civil state, we must necessarily disclaim our desires and hopes of the Jews’ conversion to Christ.

Tenthly: An enforced uniformity of religion throughout a nation or civil state confounds the civil and religious, denies the principles of Christianity and civility, and that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.

Eleventhly: The permission of other consciences and worships than a state professes only can, according to God, procure a firm and lasting peace; good assurance being taken, according to the wisdom of the civil state, for uniformity of civil obedience from all sorts.

Twelfthly: Lastly, true civility and Christianity may both flourish in a state or kingdom, notwithstanding the permission of divers and contrary consciences, either of Jew or Gentile.

I realise some Jews and Muslims may object to the tone of his comments about them, that they are somehow a threat to the Christian community and Christians should endeavour to convert them. Nevertheless, the points Williams is trying to make are good ones: provided that everyone in a community obeys the same laws, it doesn’t matter what their religious opinions are. In the case of the Jews, the underlying point can be stated more generally: no non-Christian will want to convert to that religion, if it offers them and their people nothing but persecution and hate.

It also needs to be pointed out, that Williams was writing at a time when the Turkish Empire did represent a militant threat against the states of Christian Europe, which Williams would have been acutely aware of. It can’t be argued against his demands for religious freedom and pluralism, that he was living in a more peaceful time.

I’ve put this up because this is one of the founding documents of the great American tradition of religious freedom and tolerance, from one of the Puritan divines who also was one of the great pioneers of American democracy. This is now threatened by Trump and his proposed registry for Muslims. As I pointed out yesterday, this violates the argument for freedom of conscience argued on Christian theological and scriptural grounds by William Penn, just as it violates Williams own arguments on the same grounds for religious toleration.

Trump’s claim to be protecting Americans through this registry not only violates due process, as George Takei, Star Trek’s Mr Sulu, made clear, it also violates the essential theological principles on which America as a tolerant, democratic, Christian nation was founded. If the religious Right are supporting his motion for this registry, then they are showing a complete ignorance and contempt for one of the cornerstones of American and British Christianity and liberal democracy.

The Empire Files on the Foundation of Israel and Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians

November 21, 2016

This is part of a longer piece from The Empire Files, no. 37, presented by Abby Martin, formerly of RT and now, I think, a presenter with Telesur English. This tells the story of the shrinking of Palestine from the foundation of the early Zionist settlements to the carnage of the foundation of Israel in 1948. It’s a grim, ugly picture of organised, imperialist brutality, meted out by people Albert Einstein and other western Jewish critics compared to the Nazis and the Fascists, a view also held by one of the Israelis’ own army officers.

It’s entitled The Untold History of Palestine and Israel, and Martin states that this is the history that is not taught in schools. She and her team had been there filming the Israeli occupation of the West Bank for two weeks. It’s a brutal occupation that is funded by the US taxpayer to the tune of $30 billion in aid. But Israel is presented to Americans through the images of ‘Birthright Tours’, which show Israel as a fun-loving, peaceful land threatened by militant Muslims.

Palestine was originally a province of the Ottoman Empire. During Ottoman rule, it had a population of 500,000 people. 75 per cent of these were Muslims, 20 per cent Christian, and 5 per cent Jewish. Nearly all of them were Arabs. Its cities were centres of intellectual culture and art, drawing visitors and scholars from across the Middle East. Even before it had borders, Palestine constituted a distinct, recognisable nation through its peoples shared customs and culture.

Martin explains that the Zionist movement began in the late 19th century as a reaction to the anti-Semitic violence and pogroms, which broke out in eastern Europe. She correctly states that Zionism was the belief in an exclusively Jewish state. I make this point here, because Nazis used the term incorrectly to mean their stupid and imaginary Jewish conspiracies to enslave gentiles. The Zionists were at this point only a small minority within the Jewish people. Most Jews wanted to stop to anti-Semitism in their own countries. This is illustrated with an article from the New York Times about Jewish Ukrainians organising to stop anti-Semitism in Ukraine. Many Jews resisted leaving Europe on the grounds that this would be giving in to the anti-Semites.

Zionism became a fervent movement under its Theodor Herzl, who claimed to be its father. Herzl was an Austrian atheist. He first considered homelands in Argentina and Uganda, before finally deciding on creating a Greater Israel in the Middle East. As shown on a map, this would include not just Palestine, but also the whole of Jordan and Lebanon, and parts of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a tiny section of Turkey. Herzl spent his time travelling around the West trying to gather support and sponsorship for his scheme. He wrote to the Duke of Baden, for his aid, saying

If it is God’s will that we return to our historic fatherland, we should like to do so as representatives of western civilisation and bring cleanliness, order and well-established customs, … to this plague-ridden, blighted corner of the Orient.

The Zionists promised to make Palestine a vanguard against barbarism, which meant that it would be an extension of western military power, and ‘build highways of the civilised peoples’, which meant trade for western millionaires. Their slogan was ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’. But the Zionists were all too aware that the land already had a people, and were determined to cleanse them. Another Zionist leader, Israel Zangwill, said

Palestine is not so much occupied by Arabs as overrun by them.

From the first the Zionists planned on the expulsion of the indigenous peoples. Much of the country was semi-feudal, with tenant farmers labouring for absentee landlords away in the cities of Jordan or Syria. From 1892 onwards the Zionists began purchasing this land. In many cases the new, Jewish owners evicted the original inhabitants. Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived in peace and harmony in the region for thousands of years, but these purchases and expulsions resulted in immediate conflict.

New opportunities for the further expansion of the Jewish settlements arose during World War I. The Zionists were aware that the Russians, British and French were planning to carve up the region. The infamous Syke-Picot agreement divided the Middle East between the French and British. Britain was given control of Palestine by the League of Nations. The British government, composed of lords, then issued the Balfour Declaration, which pronounced the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British Mandate resulted in riots in Jerusalem by the indigenous Palestinians, who naturally resented having their homeland given away without their consultation.

Again, the Zionist settlers were planning the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. In 1924 the US envoy stated

The Zionists look forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.

At this point, settlers comprised 10 per cent of the population. But this was already producing a refugee crisis. This section of the film shows a picture of rally of Palestinian refugees in Syria from 1929. Already there were 50,000 of such people, thrown out of their homes. As more land was purchased, and people evicted, David Ben Gurion, the future prime minister and mascot of Ben Gurion airport, declared

We were not just working. We were conquering, conquering, conquering land. We were conquistadors.

From 1920 to 1939 the settler population rose from ten to thirty per cent. Ben Gurion himself laid out the settlers’ plans for ethnic cleansing:

We must expel the Arabs and take their places.

This policy naturally produced a rise in clashes between the Palestinians and the Zionist settlers. In 1936 the Palestinians launched a general strike against British rule. This was initially peaceful, until the British declared martial law, and recruited Zionist settlers to attack dissidents and Arab villages. This provoked the strike to become an armed uprising. The British in response embarked on a policy of blowing up Arab homes. 200 were destroyed in the Arab village of Yaffa. The rebellion was eventually crushed three years later in 1939. The death toll was 5,000 Palestinians against 300 settlers and 250 British soldiers. The Zionists formed their own armed forces, which were later used in the war of independence. These comprised the Hagana, the official force recognised by the British authorities, and various unofficial militias, the largest of which was the Irgun. These militias began by attacking the Palestinians, before moving on to British soldiers. It was the Irgun which bombed the Kind David Hotel, killing 91 people, including 17 Jews. This was so popular that one of the militias’ leaders, Menachem Begin, later became president of Israel.

Abroad, many Jews were far less impressed. Albert Einstein and a group of other Jews wrote a letter to the New York Times condemning Begin’s movement. They wrote that it was

A political party closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.

But the Zionists continued with their plans for the country’s ethnic cleansing. Joseph Weitz, the head of the Jewish National Fund, wrote in 1940

There is no room for both people in this country … and there is no way besides transferring the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries, to transfer them all.

… We must not leave a single village, a single tribe.

The terror created by the Holocaust with its six million Jewish dead, along with the mass murder of other peoples, political prisoners and gays, propelled Zionism from the political fringe to a mass movement. In 1947 the British turned Mandated Palestine over to the UN. This finally gave in to 70 years of Zionist campaigning, creating the state of Israel. The new state was given 70 per cent of the area’s land. Palestine was divided into three zones. However, the new Israel still had a population that was forty per cent Arab. This was a situation that the Israeli founders and leaders were determined to remove. Ben Gurion announced that

There can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of 60 per cent.

In 1948 the tensions culminated in a full-blown war, during which the Israelis launched Plan Dalet for the mass terrorisation, murder and expulsion of the Palestinian people. This was the Nakba, the Palestinian term for the destruction of their homeland, a word which means, ‘disaster’ or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic.

This section of the film describes some of the massacres that were committed, and the atrocities perpetrated against innocent civilians. One of the villages targeted for extermination was Deir Yassin, where there had been no terrorist attacks committed against the settlers. Israeli soldiers murdered nearly the entire population, raping the women before butchering them. One survivor described seeing his entire family lined up to be shot, including his mother, who was breastfeeding a baby. 200 people were murdered. A Red Cross official stated

Here the cleaning up had been done with machine guns, then hand grenades. It had been finished with knives.

!2 days after this, the Zionists attacked and massacred the people of Haifa. At the same time the Israelis broadcast radio messages intended to terrorise the Arabs. These included recordings of women wailing, and the message ‘Flee for your lives. The Jews are using poison gas and nuclear weapons.’ In Abu Shusha, the Palestinians who remained in their homes were raped, then hacked to death with axes. Those who tried to flee were shot on sight. 110 people were killed. At al-Dawayima 450 were killed, with a further 250 missing. In another village, the mosque was bombed, killing the 80 people, who had sought refuge within it. The remaining villagers were rounded up in the town square and shot, leaving a further 70 dead. In Lydda the Zionists massacred around 250-500 people, 250 of which were killed in about half an hour. This was supposedly in response to gun shots being fired from the local mosque. John Bagehot-Howe, a British army officer, commented

It would be an exaggeration to claim that great numbers were massacred. But just enough were killed, or roughly handled, to make sure all the civilian population took flight.

A senior Zionist officer, Joseph Imani, saw Palestinians shot after they came out of their homes waving white flags and carrying food. He said

Where did they come by such a measure of cruelty, like Nazis. Is there no more humane way of expelling the inhabitants than such methods?

During this period 800,000 Palestinians fled their homes, comprising 80 per cent of the Palestinian population of Israel. 500 villages were razed to the ground.

This is the history that you will mostly definitely not find taught in schools, as Abby Martin says. Nor will you see it covered on the mainstream news, whether in the US or over here, by the BBC. Lobster has remarked on the way the Beeb ‘ties itself in knots’ trying to tell itself that it is not biased towards Israel, while being biased towards Israel. And that monster and apologist for mass murder, Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, would scream blue murder if anyone in the mainstream media dared to do so, or called those responsible for these atrocities what they are – butchers and mass murderers. As Einstein and the other Jewish critics said, the Zionists responsible for such atrocities and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are very much like the Nazis and Fascists. But Regev will scream that you’re an anti-Semite or ‘self-hating’, if you’re Jewish, if you dare to mention this.

But we do need to be aware of these atrocities, if we are to understand the paranoid mindset of the Muslim radicals in Britain today. Kalim Saddiqui, a vile bigot, who was one of those responsible for the hate campaign against Salman Rushdie in the 1980s and 1990s, was filmed at his mosque by the Beeb telling his congregation that

British society is a monstrous killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to them.

When the documentary team challenged him on this, he tried to bluff his way out of it by blustering about how Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses had been published as part of a propaganda campaign to prepare for a ‘holocaust of Muslims’. It’s a risible, stupid slander. But to some Muslims, it has a terrible verisimilitude. Many mosques do cover the atrocities committed against Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere around the world in their equivalent of Christian parish magazines. They’re acutely aware of campaigns of terror against their co-religionists. Hence such hysterical claims over here. But these atrocities are deliberately kept hidden from us, so that Islamic terrorism can appear as completely irrational, and Muslims presented as violent terrorists and butchers, killing for the sake of it. That is, admittedly, true to a certain extent of Daesh and al-Qaeda, though even with these cases there is more to it than simply that. If there is ever to be a just peace in the Middle East, we need to know about the real history of the region, how it has been conquered and its people brutalised by western imperialism and the rapacity of multinational corporations. Not only do we need to defeat the Islamists, we also need to defeat the thugs, genocides and corporate despoilers in our own societies.

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.

Counterpart on American Foreign Policy and Regime Change in Syria

October 15, 2016

With the Conservatives and their pet media now howling for further military action against Assad in Syria in this country, and the American government gearing up for the same, Counterpunch has published an article by Gary Leupp. Entitled, ‘An Urgently Necessary Briefing on Syria’, it discusses the country’s history in the 20th century, and the very numerous attempts by the US to undermine or overthrow its government.

Its first paragraph gives a brief description of Syria’s size and population, states that it is not a threat to the US, and has cordial relations with very many other nations. It states that at various periods it was rule by the Persians, Arabs, and Ottoman Turks, before being ruled by the French from the First to the Second World. The current ruling Ba’ath party was founded in 1947.

Under the French and after independence, the Syrian authorities tolerated the Communist party. The Americans thought they were too soft. It is widely believed that the 1949 military coup in Syria was sponsored by the US to install an anti-Communist regime. The CIA openly acknowledges that it was responsible for two further abortive coup attempts in 1956 and 1957. After the latter was exposed, embarrassing the US, America responded by declaring Syria to be a Soviet client.

It notes that Syria and Egypt were briefly united in the same state, until this collapsed in 1961. The Ba’ath party seized power a couple of years later in Iraq and Syria. The Ba’ath party continued ruling Iraq until the western invasion in 2003.

Up to the 1967 war the US broadly favoured the Ba’athist as the middle ground between Islamism and Communism. The Ba’ath party stood for pan-Arab nationalism, economic nationalism and secularism. After the 1963 coup Saddam Hussein worked with the US to round up and execute Communists in Iraq.

After the 1967 war, America was strongly influenced by the Israel lobby to declare Syria an ‘Anti-Zionist’ and ‘Anti-Semitic’ state, because it provided political and other support to the Palestinians and Lebanese other one hand, and demanded the return of the Golan Heights, which had been seized by Israel. America declared Syria and Iraq to be ‘terror-sponsoring states’. From 1976 onwards the Syrians also interfered militarily in Lebanon.

This did not prevent the Americans also allying with Syria when they found it convenient, such as during Gulf War I in 1991, and then with the extraordinary renditions programme of suspected terrorists after 9/11.

It notes that in the 21st century, the American authorities have been divided between the Neocons, who wanted to overthrow the Syrian government in a strategy of regime change across the Middle East, and those who did not, fearing the consequences.

The Iraq invasion was part of a Neocon strategy which planned the overthrow of the governments of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Iran. George Dubya’s government included individuals, who parroted Israel’s accusation that the missing WMDs not found in Iraq were in Syria. They are also supported the Israeli bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor.

Although Bashar al-Assad was hailed as a reformer when he came to the Syrian presidency, and Shrillary was still calling him such in 2010, the plans to overthrow him were in place before 2011. After the Arab Spring and the regime’s attacks on demonstrators, Clinton and Obama demanded that Assad should step down. Shrillary was keen to start arming rebels. A group of 53 were so trained in Turkey, but gave themselves up or defected after they entered Syria. The backbone of the anti-Assad movement is forces descended from al-Qaeda, such as Daesh, which seized the area around Raqqa, and al-Nusra, which has connections to Pakistan, which holds Damascus and Aleppo. Al-Nusra is the core of the ‘Free Syrian Army’, and receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Obama was all set to invade Syria after a Sarin gas attack in a Damascus suburb was attributed to Assad. The Russians prevented this by claiming that it may have been the opposition instead, and manoeuvring to allow the Assad regime to surrender its chemical weapons to the UN.

The article points out that the rapid expansion of ISIS in Iraq is a severe PR disaster for the Americans, as it shows how the Iraq invasion overthrew a secular state and created the militant theocratic regime based on torture and other horrific human rights abuses. The US has been forced to bomb Daesh, but not al-Nusra, which it continues to support. At the same time, it claims that the real reason for the rise of ISIS is opposition to the Ba’ath regime.

The article makes clear that this claim is utterly nonsensical. The Ba’ath regime is authoritarian and Fascistic, but it was the Americans who created ISIS by arming the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, destroying Iraq and trying to overthrow Assad. Daesh was formed after the Americans threw its leader, al-Zarqawi, and his troops out of Afghanistan, alienated Iraq’s Sunnis and then weakened Syria.

The American government is also torn by indecision about what it can or should do about the situation, whether to overthrow Assad or destroy Daesh. Most of the American administration now favours overthrowing Assad.

In 2015 General Petraeus, then the director of the CIS, recommended using al-Nusra against ISIS in Syria. This means allying with al-Qaeda to destroy an even worse branch of that organisation, as a means of ultimately overthrowing Assad.

Russia began bombing ISIS a year after the Americans began their attacks. It was at the request of the regime, which is supported by the UN and a plethora of other nations. Under international law, the Russian action is legal while the Americans’ isn’t.

It also notes that the US press has ignored Russian successes in aiding the Syrians to recapture Palmyra from ISIS and destroying the terrorists’ illegal oil convoys. Instead it just follows the State Department’s line of attacking Russian support for the Syrian state against the rebels.

The Russian successes forced the Americans to ally briefly with them in operations against the various terrorist groups. A one week ceasefire was arranged to allow the US-backed rebels to separate themselves from the al-Nusra front, which would then be attacked. At the same time, peace talks were to begin in Geneva. The US-backed rebels refused to do so, and some turned on the US. The Americans then accidentally bombed a Syrian army base then fighting against Daesh. Syria then resumed attacks on east Aleppo, controlled by al-Nusra. The US then blamed the bombing of an aid convoy on Syria or Russia, although Counterpunch notes that the bombing is still unexplained. America has thus sabotaged the peace talks designed to end a conflict American foreign policy has massively exacerbated.

Hillary Clinton supports a no-fly zone, although she realises that this will mean the deployment of tens of thousands more troops and result in a war with Syria and Russia. Last June, 51 members of the State Department signed a memo of dissent demanding that the focus be switched from combating Daesh to overthrowing Assad. She also wants to appoint Michele Flournoy as her Secretary of Defence. Flournoy also supports no-fly zones and limited military action to overthrow Assad involving the deployment of US troops.

Leupp’s article concludes

Is it not obvious? Public opinion is being prepared for another regime-change war. The most high-stakes one to date, because this one could lead to World War III.

And it’s hardly even a topic of conversation in this rigged election, which seems designed to not only to inaugurate a war-monger, but to exploit crude Russophobia to the max in the process. The point is for Hillary not only to ascend to power—whatever that might require—but to prepare the people for more Afghanistans, Iraqs and Libyas in the process. The point is to lull the people into historical amnesia, blind them to Hillary’s record of Goldwater-type reckless militarism, exploit the Cold War mentality lingering among the most backward and ignorant, and insure that the electorate that, while generally deploring the result of the rigged election in November, will soon afterwards rally behind corrupt Hillary as soon as she seizes on some pretext for war.

Very, very dangerous.

Please read the whole article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/14/an-urgently-necessary-briefing-on-syria/

The article notes how the US media automatically follows the government’s line on Syria, as does ours. And I think Leupp’s article is correct in its conclusion that the western public is being prepared for Hillary’s assumption to power as the latest American warmonger. As the article shows, the Americans have long wanted to overthrow the Ba’ath regime in Syria because it was too ‘soft’ on Communism, allied to Russia, and a threat to Israel.

I think there are other factors involved. I’ve no doubt that the Americans also want to seize its oil industries and reserves, as well as its state assets, which will also be sold to suitably grasping American and western countries, just as the Americans looted Iraq. And somewhere lurking behind this is the Saudis. My guess is that they want the Syrian regime overthrown because of its secularity, and tolerance of Christians, Shi’a and Alawis. The last two are bitterly hated as heretics by the Wahhabis, who would no doubt like to see the creation of a theocratic state similar to their own.

We are being brought to the very edge of a nuclear war to enable Hillary Clinton get into power, destroy another nation in the name of corporate profit, and support the emergence of yet another theocratic state under the influence of the Saudis.