Posts Tagged ‘The Guardian’

Gerald Scarfe Caricature of Menachem Begin

June 11, 2018

I found this caricature of the former Israeli premier, Menachem Begin, as a desert tank, on page 71 of Scarfe’s book, Scarfeface (London: Sinclair-Stevenson 1993).

I’m posting it as a rebuttal of the latest attempts to silence criticism of Israel, and particularly the censorship of cartoons commenting on Israeli atrocities and human rights abuses. Like the Guardian’s spiking of Steve Bell’s cartoon of Netanyahu and Tweezer having a chin-wag, while the murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar burns in the fire. Or the German cartoon, which was censored for anti-Semitism, because its depiction of Netanyahu was held by the censor, Klein, to be like the Nazi caricatures of Jews. And then there was the case of Scarfe’s own cartoon of Netanyahu building his wretched wall to keep the Palestinians out a few years ago. Mark Regev, the odious Israeli ambassador, speciously claimed that because it showed Netanyahu building it using the blood and bodies of Palestinians, that it was somehow a reference to the infamous ‘Blood Libel’.

It’s all rubbish. None of these cartoons were anti-Semitic. And as Mike has pointed out, in these cases authorial intention have to be taken into account. Scarfe isn’t an anti-Semite, and neither is Bell, who has vigorously denied that there was any anti-Semitic intention in his cartoon. But the people making these accusations aren’t interested in whether they’re really anti-Semitic. They’re interested solely in using the issue of anti-Semitism as a convenient weapon for shutting down criticism of Israel.

I don’t know when Scarfe’s cartoon of Begin was published, but it was clearly a much freer time journalistically. It’s a comment on his militaristic character and period in office. And I’m very sure that there were no accusations of anti-Semitism, and it was accepted as ‘fair comment’. And looking at it, it is not very different in its intent and comment on Israeli politics as the others that have recently been censored.

How very different to today, where if you draw a cartoon that the Israelis and their supporters don’t like, you will be automatically libelled as an anti-Semites and your cartoon spiked.

It’s time this grotesque infringement of free speech and libelling of perfectly decent people stopped. Journalists should hold everyone to account, including Israel and its leaders, just like every other nation, without fear of defamation and censorship.

It’s

Advertisements

Israel Based Journo Shows How Censorship of Steve Bell Cartoon Plays into Hands of Real Anti-Semites

June 11, 2018

Last week the editor of the Groaniad, Kath Viner, spiked a cartoon by the paper’s Steve Bell for supposed anti-Semitism. The cartoon commented on the complete indifference to the murder of 21 year old Palestinian medic, Razan al-Najjar by the IDF shown by Netanyahu and Tweezer. Bell depicted the two having a cosy chat by the fire, in which al-Najjar was burning. This was too much for Viner, who immediately did what the Israel lobby always does whenever the country is criticised for its brutal treatment of the Palestinians: she immediately accused the critic of anti-Semitism. The cartoon was anti-Semitic, apparently, because al-Najjar’s place in the fire was supposedly a reference to the Holocaust and the murder of the Jews in the Nazi gas ovens. Despite the fact that Bell denied that there was any such intention in his work, or indeed, any overt references to the Holocaust at all.

Bell was naturally outraged, and issued a strong denial. I’ve blogged about this issue, as has Mike, and Bell’s denial was also covered by that notorious pro-Putin propaganda channel, RT. And an Israel-based journalist, Jonathan Cook, has also come down solidly on Bell’s side and against censorship.

Mike posted a piece reporting and commenting on Mr Cook’s view and analysis of the case on Saturday. Cook is a former Guardian journalist, who now lives in Nazareth, the capital of Israel’s Palestinian minority. Cook praised Bell’s cartoon because of the way it held power to account, and indicted the powerful and their calculations at the expense of the powerless. He stated

In other words, it represents all that is best about political cartoons, or what might be termed graphic journalism. It holds power – and us – to account.

He then went on to describe how, by siding with Israel over the cartoon, the Guardian was siding with the powerful against the powerless; with a nuclear-armed state against its stateless minority. He then goes on to make the point that when criticism of Israel is silenced, the country benefits from a kind of reverse anti-Semitism, or philo-Semitism, which turns Israel into a special case. He writes

When a standard caricature of Netanyahu – far less crude than the caricatures of British and American leaders like Blair and Trump – is denounced as anti-Semitic, we are likely to infer that Israeli leaders expect and receive preferential treatment. When showing Netanyahu steeped in blood – as so many other world leaders have been – is savaged as a blood libel, we are likely to conclude that Israeli war crimes are uniquely sanctioned. When Netanyahu cannot be shown holding a missile, we may assume that Israel has dispensation to bombard Gaza, whatever the toll on civilians.

And when we see the furore created over a cartoon like Bell’s, we can only surmise that other, less established cartoonists will draw the appropriate conclusion: keep away from criticising Israel because it will harm your personal and professional reputation.

He then makes the point that doing so plays into the hands of real anti-Semites, and generates more:

When we fail to hold Israel to account; when we concede to Israel, a nuclear-armed garrison state, the sensitivities of a Holocaust victim; when we so mistake moral priorities that we elevate the rights of a state over the rights of the Palestinians it victimises, we not only fuel the prejudices of the anti-Semite but we make his arguments appealing to others. We do not help to stamp out anti-Semitism, we encourage it to spread. That is why Viner and the Guardian have transgressed not just against Bell, and against the art of political cartoons, and against justice for the Palestinians, but also against Jews and their long-term safety.

Mike goes on to make the point that we need to be more critical about the raving paranoiacs, who see anti-Semitism in Steve Bell’s cartoon, and also in Gerald Scarfe’s depiction of Netanyahu building his anti-Palestinian wall using the blood and bodies of the Palestinians themselves. This was attacked by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, as ‘anti-Semitic’, who claimed that it was a reference to the Blood Libel. It wasn’t, but the I apologised anyway. Mike goes on to say that there is no such thing as an unintentional anti-Semite, but authorial intentions are routinely ignored in these cases.

He then goes to state very clearly that as the authorial intentions of these cartoons weren’t anti-Semitic, Viner was wrong about Bell’s cartoon. Just as the Sunset Times, as Private Eye dubbed the rag, was wrong about Scarfe and Mike himself, as was the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. And so are the people, who’ve accused Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and so many others of anti-Semitism. And in the meantime, Netanyahu gets away with mass murder.

Mike concludes

But Mr Cook is right – these attitudes only fuel real anti-Semitism among those who draw the only logical conclusion about what’s going on in the media, which is that the Establishment is protecting the Israeli government against censure for its crimes.

It suggests to me that all those involved in this charade have been creating problems that will come back to harm all of us in the future.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/09/israel-based-journo-shows-how-guardian-editor-helped-anti-semites-by-censoring-steve-bell/

Now part of the problem here could be certain developments in anti-racism and postmodernist literary theory. For example, some anti-racist activists have argued that there is such a thing as unconscious racism, and have used it to accuse people and material they have seen as spreading or legitimising racism, but without any conscious intent to do so.

In postmodernist literary theory, the author’s intent is irrelevant. In the words of one French postmodernist literary theorist, ‘all that exists is the text’. And one person’s interpretation of the text is as good as another’s.

Hence, those arguing that the above cartoons are anti-Semitic, could do so citing these ideas above.

Now there clearly is something to unconscious racism. If you look back at some of the discussions and depictions of racial issues in 1970s popular culture, they are often horrendously racist by today’s standards. But they weren’t seen as such then, and I dare say many of those responsible for some of them genuinely didn’t believe they were being racist, nor intended to do so. And unconscious racism is irrelevant in this case too. The accusers have not argued that these cartoons are unconsciously racist. They’ve simply declared that they are, without any kind of qualification. Which implies that their authors must be deliberately anti-Semitic, which is a gross slur.

As for postmodernist literary theory, the accusers haven’t cited that either. And if they did, it could also easily be turned against them. If there are no privileged readings of a particular text, then the view of someone, who thought Bell’s cartoon was anti-Semitic, is no more valid than the person, who didn’t. Which cuts the ground out from such accusations. That argument doesn’t stand up either, though here again, the people making the accusations of anti-Semitism haven’t used it.

Nevertheless, their arguments about the anti-Semitic content of these cartoons and the strained parallels they find with the Holocaust, or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, are very reminiscent of the postmodernist texts the American mathematician Sokal, and the Belgian philosopher Bricmont, used to demolish the intellectual pretensions of postmodernism in their 1990s book, Intellectual Impostures. One of the texts they cited was by a French feminist arguing that women were being prevented from taking up careers in science. It’s a fair point, albeit still controversial amongst some people on the right. However, part of her evidence for this didn’t come from studies showing that girls start off with a strong interest in science like boys, only to have it crushed out of them later in their schooling. No! This strange individual based part of her argument on the medieval coat of arms for Brussels, which shows frogs in a marsh. Which somehow represents the feminine. Or at least, it did to her. For most of us, the depiction of frogs in a marsh in the coat of arms for Brussels is a depiction of precisely that: frogs in a marsh. Because, I have no doubt, the land Brussels was founded on was marshy.

But Cook and Mike are right about these accusations, and the favouritism shown to Israel, playing into the hands of anti-Semites.

The storm troopers of the right are very fond of a quote from Voltaire: ‘If you want to know who rules over you, ask who it is you can’t criticise’. Or words to that effect. Depending on whether the person using the quote is an anti-Semite or an Islamophobe, the answer they’ll give will be ‘the Jews’ or ‘the Muslims’.

Of course, their choice of the French Enlightenment philosopher is more than somewhat hypocritical. Voltaire hated intolerance, and in the early stages before it became aggressively anti-religious, the French Revolution stood for religious toleration. A set of playing cards made to celebrate it showed on one card the Bible with the Talmud, the Jewish holy book containing extra-Biblical lore and guidance, and the Qu’ran.

But by ruling that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, the Israel lobby very much appears to show – entirely falsely – that the anti-Semites are right, and that the Jews really are in control of the rest of us. It gives an utterly false, specious confirmation of the very conspiracy theories they claim to have found in the works of the people they denounce. The same conspiracy theories they claim to oppose, and which have been responsible for the horrific suffering of millions of innocent Jews.

It’s high time this was stopped, and accusations of anti-Semitism treated with the same impartial judgement as other claims of bias or racism. And false accusations should be firmly rejected as a slur, and apologies and restitution demanded from the libellers.

RT Report on Steve Bell’s Cartoon Spiked because of ‘Anti-Semitism’

June 9, 2018

This is a very brief report by RT on Steve Bell’s strenuous denial that his cartoon of Netanyahu and Tweezer enjoying a cosy chat by the fire, in which the murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar is burning, is anti-Semitic. The report states that Netanyahu met Tweezer to discuss ‘Iran and Iran’. It was spiked by the Guardian’s editor, Kath Viner, Bell is quoted as saying

it should have been published as it stands, but if you are still obdurate that it should remain unpublished, then I feel a duty to my subject to try and salvage something from this fiasco.

The cartoon which replaced it shows Brexit secretary David Davis riding around parliament on a unicorn. It’s by Bell, but not signed.

This piece begins with an email from a Jonathan Cook, giving this as an example of the growing ‘mystification’ of anti-Semitism, and warning ‘What cartoonist is not going to reach the conclusion that it’s safer to avoid all cartoons critical of Israel.’

Cook’s right. This has absolutely nothing to do with real anti-Semitism. It’s just another smear to silence criticism of Israel, just like Mark Regev did to Gerald Scarfe in the I, and the German apparatchik Klein did last week to a German cartoonist for his caricature of Netanyahu. And which the CAA and its assorted allies, including the Jewish Labour Movement, have been doing to decent, anti-racist people for daring to criticise Israel and its brutal treatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

After the BDJ, It Should Be the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Who Need to Be Criticised and Investigated

May 19, 2018

If not broken up altogether, as the malign, libellous and morally corrupt organisation it really is. I’ve commented already on a post Mike put up on Thursday, reporting the barrage of criticism the Board of Deputies had called upon itself from outraged citizens up and down this country. They were enraged at the Board’s comments on the Gaza massacre, and the way they placed the blame, not on the Israeli squaddies, who murdered 60 people and wounded 200 more, but on the victims. Ah, it was all the fault of Hamas, who put all the 40,000 or so Palestinians massing at the fence, up to it. After all, 50 of those killed were members of Hamas.

It doesn’t matter if they were members of Hamas or not. They were unarmed. This makes their killings assassinations, which is the mark of a death squad. Which is Fascism.

Also, what about the 10 that weren’t members of Hamas? They didn’t deserve to die. Not least the baby that was killed when Israeli squaddies threw a tear gas grenade into a tent.

Liberal Judaism and Yachad wrote letters to the Board stating that the Board had grotesquely misrepresented their views. And ordinary, individual Jews were also incensed. One of them was the comic actor David Schneider, who said very plainly that the Board didn’t represent Jews like him.

Mike opened his article with the smug face of the Board’s president, Jonathan Arkush, who he said was soon to be ex-president of the Board.

Well, we live in hope.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/17/huge-backlash-against-supporters-of-israeli-government-over-gaza-massacre/

Arkush is a nasty piece of work, not least for the way he’s weaponised the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party, and tried to make Corbyn the sole person responsible for it. It’s a lie, as he must surely know, as anti-Semitism has gone down in the Labour party under Corbyn. It’s now lower than in ordinary British society. And as Mike’s repeatedly pointed out, if you want to see real, baying racists and anti-Semites, with the vilest of views, you have to look at the Tory and Tory affiliated web-pages.

But when Arkush and the Board attack the Labour party for being anti-Semitic, this is only a cover for their real concern: to stifle criticism of Israel. And the Israel lobby has been using that smear since the 1980s. So much so that the American Jewish critic of Israel, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, has described it as a machine for manufacturing anti-Semites.

It’s a tactic shared and employed wholesale by the odious Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. And it was explicitly set up to stifle criticism of Israel caused by their treatment of Gaza. It’s founder, Gideon Falter, was left unnerved by the popular opposition to Israel aroused by the bombardment of Gaza in 2007 or so. He did what the Israel lobby always do in such circumstances, and defined criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. Oh yes, in debates the pro-Israel pundits and speakers will allow that Israel should rightly be the subject of criticism where it’s justified. But in practice, any support for the Palestinians is met with outrage, and claims of anti-Semitism. Especially if you call it an apartheid state, or point out just how similar it is to Fascism or the Nazi policies towards the Jews before they embarked on the horrors of the ‘Final Solution’ in 1942.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism hasn’t said a peep about the Gaza massacre. They don’t represent British Jewry in the same way as the Board, and so there’s no call for them to. But you can bet they’ve been watching the wave of outrage against the Board for its vile comments, and been taking notes, if not names. The Israel lobby hates even the reporting of atrocities committed by Israel or its allies. They alleged that respected BBC foreign correspondents Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin were anti-Semites for their reports on the conflicts between Israel and its neighbours. They were particularly upset by Bowen’s report that the massacres of Muslim Palestinians by the Christian phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon were committed by Israel’s allies. Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, described in an interview with Peter Oborne in his Despatches programme on the Israel lobby how he was regularly placed under pressure by the Board demanding that he retract articles on Israeli crimes and human rights violations because they are anti-Semitic.

It isn’t just the Board that needs to be investigated and reformed because of their support for the shooting of unarmed civilians. It’s the entire Israel lobby, including the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Their patrons, as Mike and Tony Greenstein has pointed out, are largely Tories with a history of racism and Islamophobia. And they have been principally involved with the anti-Semitism smears against members of the Labour party, in conjunction with pro-Israel organs like the Labour Friends of Israel. There have been calls for the latter group to be expelled from the party, just as there has been an internet petition on Change.org to have the CAA deregistered with the Charity Commission for being a political organisation, not a charity.

It has been the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism that libelled Mike as an anti-Semite and holocaust denier just because he had the temerity to defend Ken Livingstone. Just like they’ve libelled and smeared so many other decent people, Jew and gentile, even those, who have spent their lives combating racism and anti-Semitism. Even those, who have suffered genuine anti-Semitic abuse and assault themselves.

And just as many British Jews were rightly angered by the Board’s comments about Gaza, so Jewish Brits have also been annoyed by the way the Campaign presumes to speak for them. Especially when its pronouncements are made by gentiles like Luke Akehurst or Stephen Pollard, who then go on to declare that all British Jews, as Jew, must support Israel. They are rightly incensed at being told what they must believe as Jews by those, who aren’t.

Criticism of the Israel lobby should not stop at the Board and its vile president. It has to go beyond, to organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, BICOM and others.

Arkush should be called on to resign for his comments. And so should Gideon Falter, and his wretched smear group be broken up for its similar tactics, libels and goals.

Nicholas ‘Fatty’ Soames Uses Homophobic Insult against Owen Jones. No Censure from Tories.

April 22, 2018

So much for the Tories and their vaunted ‘Respect’ policy. These are the people, who claim that Labour is riddled with anti-Semites and misogynists, all busily insulting nice young Blairites like Luciana Berger and Angela Eagle. Berger has received anti-Semitic abuse and threats, but they’re nowhere near as extensive on the left as she’s claimed. And one Blairite made up her tale of misogynist abuse completely. They exaggerate and lie because it’s convenient for them to say so, in order to cling to power in the Labour Party. And, of course, for their allies in the Tories to cling to power in government.

Allies? Really? Isn’t that going too far? No, not at all. As one terrified local Blairite Labour leader called for Tories and Lib Dems to join her party, in order to stop it being overrun by the ‘far left’, by which she means Momentun and mainstream social democrats, and the Blairites stand for exactly the same policies as the Tories – privatisation and welfare cuts – it’s fair to describe them as exactly that.

Jones had written an article criticising the mainstream media for living in the London bubble. It ignores everything outside the capital, and is dominated by groupthink. It is also full of mediocrities and incompetents, who got there not on personal merit, but because of who they knew.

Mike was a professional journalist, and brings his own considerable journalistic skills to his blogging. And he entirely concurred. And what Jones said is not remotely controversial, except to offended establishment journos. The Guardian and Independent have talked about how national journalism is dominated by London. Just as so many of the leading journos were also friends and neighbours of Dave Cameron in the Cotswolds. I noticed long ago that some of the stories that got into the national press about burglaries and murders were only in there, because they occurred in London. The same crimes are perpetrated all over the country, but these cases were only considered worthy of national news because they took place in the nation’s capital.

As for groupthink and classicism, you can see it. The mainstream media all follow the establishment line that unquestioningly accepts the need for austerity, and gets very shrill and upset when somebody else does. You look at the backgrounds of the main journos, and you’ll see that the majority of them are very comfortably upper-middle class with family connections to the press and media. Paul Dacre’s father was another hack with the Mail, when he was writing admiring stories about Hitler in the ’30s, for example. The editor of the Scum is an old Etonian.

And what makes this situation worse, though Jones didn’t mention it, is that the industry relies heavily on unpaid interns. The worst offender is the Groaniad, if Private Eye exposes can be believed. It’s very difficult for talented outsiders to break into, and they are being exploited by the hacks and mediocrities above them.

This was all too much for the establishment journos, who all dogpiled into Jones to revile him. And the odious Soames was in there as well, calling him by a homophobic epithet. Jones is gay, and Soames called him a ‘sh*tweasel’. According to the Urban Dictionary, this is someone who inserts his penis up another’s bottom by surprise without warning. So pretty much an anal rapist, then.

It’s an ugly term, and an ugly slur. Mike considers the possibility that Soames may not have known what it meant, and though it just meant he was someone who stabbed people in the back, in the conventional way.

Not an excuse.

Not that Soames is exactly a stranger to controversy. I can remember how he was all over the News Quiz on Radio 4 under Major for his monstrously bigoted comments.

But the silence about this from the Tories and the mainstream media is deafening. As Mike points out, you can imagine the howls of outrage from the Tories and the mainstream press if this had come from a Labour MP, and directed at a Tory or Blairite. Especially with the upcoming debate on anti-Semitism. But when it’s good, right-wing Tories making such comments, there’s nothing.

So much for the new Tory embrace of the gay community. Well, I can remember how, over a decade ago, backbench Tory after backbench Tory had to resign after making homophobic and racist comments. Cameron said he was going to clean it all out as part of his campaign to modernise the party. He clearly hasn’t, as Soames remark shows.

The Tories are an organised hypocrisy, and this shows once again how corrupt and partisan the mainstream press are. Get them out.

Viktor Orban Goes Conspiracy-Theorist Fascist about George Soros

April 13, 2018

Earlier this week, Mike put up a piece showing the Tories’ hypocrisy over the anti-Semitism smears. While happy to smear Corbyn’s Labour as full of Jew haters and Nazis and demanding the strongest possible action, the Tories are not so eager to do anything about the greater number of anti-Semites and racists in their own. And indeed, the party very frequently indulges in coded and overt racism, and has no problems congratulating some very nasty foreign heads of state, who are vehemently anti-Semitic.

Like Viktor Orban, the president of Hungary and head of the ruling Fidesz party. This is a far-right, Christian party with a very nasty line in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. A little while ago he spouting about how the invading Muslims hordes, or for the rest of us, brutalised refugees fleeing Syria would never be allowed into Hungary. He’s especially fixated with George Soros. Soros is, of course, an international financier, and the sponsor of several pro-democracy organisations and courses in Hungarian universities. He’s also of Hungarian Jewish descent, and because Soros is very definitely anti-Fascist, Orban naturally hates him with a passion. Mike’s article pointed out how Orban’s speech was very similar, and used all the tropes the Nazis and other Fascist groups since then have used about ‘Jewish bankers’.

This did not stop the Tories trying to cosy up to him. Boris Johnson sent him a message congratulating him on his election victory. Which shows you just how seriously the Tories really take anti-Semitism and real racism when it suits them. But I’m not surprised. The people making these accusations against Labour are massively hypocritical. The current Polish president is also the head of another anti-Semitic party. But this didn’t stop Stephen Pollard, of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, writing an article in the Groaniad claiming that he wasn’t, because he was ‘a good friend of Israel’. The Polish supremo had just signed a deal to buy a whole load of Israeli military jets. I’ve got a feeling that Orban’s Hungary has just done the same, or something similar. For the Israel Lobby, and its very Tory, establishment members, it’s only anti-Semitic if it criticises Israel. Otherwise, their perfectly happy with viciously anti-Semitic regimes.

Soros himself has a very good reason to despise Israel. He loathes Zionism because of the way Kasztner, the head of the Zionists in Hungary, allowed the Nazis to deport tens of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers, just so a few could be sent to Israel. But obviously, this isn’t an episode of Zionist history Pollard, Arkush, Goldstein and the rest of the Israel lobby want you to know about, or else they’ll throw another wobbly and accuse whoever tells them of being ‘anti-Semitic’.

But I digress. Now it seems, Orban has gone full Alex Jones, conspiracy-theory nutjob. One of the Hungarian magazines has apparently published an article, according to the I, in which he names 200 groups and individuals he brands as ‘mercenaries’ in the pay of George Soros. These include respected human rights organisations. We’re back to the Nazis and their claim that democracy is a ‘Jewish plot to enslave the Aryan man’. Okay, so in this case, it’s Hungarians, not Germans, but the reasoning is exactly the same.

Orban is repeating the lies and murderous conspiracy theories of the Nazis with his venomous fixation on Soros. Reading such stuff, you can almost go through it ticking off the similarities. It’s vile, terrifying stuff. But the Tory party and the Israel lobby will love him, defend and congratulate him, because, like the Polish premier, ‘he’s a good friend to Israel’. He might be, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a Jew hater. He’s a vile anti-Semite, and this shows their utter hypocrisy. And its high time the Tories and the Israel lobby were held to account for their own amoral attitudes supporting him and other Fascists.

Kitty S. Jones on Cambridge Analytica’s Datamining of Facebook

March 23, 2018

Aside from the Skripal poisoning, one of the major issues this week has been Cambridge Analytica and their datamining of Facebook to get the personal particulars of something like 50 million people, so that they could be targeted for political manipulation. Kitty’s article is a long one, but she makes some very good points. Not least is that GCHQ and the other western intelligence services discussed ways of using the internet to target particular individuals to manipulate them or disrupt groups that posed a threat to national security. She also connects this to ‘behavioural economics’ and the infamous Nudge Unit, which uses subtle psychological techniques to manipulate people into making decisions the government wants. With those two, we are well into the kind of dystopian future, where a totalitarian government manipulates the minds of its subjects portrayed in the Beeb’s classic SF series, Blake’s 7. Some of this datamining appears to have been done to benefit Russian oil interests. Michelle, one of the great commenters here, posted this to her piece, commenting on the immense value of personal information on the Net:

“The Wiley disclosure certainly had quite a media make over, he sits in a trendy bare room with a big photo shoot light for the Guardian and in a graffiti tunnel for ITV news, yet with all his intellectual prowess his deductive reasoning interestingly falls short on his employer making a link with Russian oil: “It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”

REF: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump

The spotlight on this company must be just the tip of the iceberg.

In 2010 I had blogged about the EU intending to make it clear how internet users would have their digital data exploited and the New York Times had a comment re the intended EU overhaul of privacy regulations. I had written that the publishers value was not based on content or brand but on the information that can be collected about each digital visitor, as we click away our preferences and online patterns are being delivered up to the advertising market because the ability to sell this information about us is the true value a publisher holds. Here is the comment in the New York Times (20 Nov 2010) about the E.U´s intention to overhaul the online privacy rules to protect personal data which would hamper the “development of services” – a great euphemism for snooping:

“Rules requiring Internet companies to secure users’ consent upfront could hamper the development of services that align online advertising with Web users’ personal interests, as reflected in the Web sites they visit or the preferences they express in social networks and other online forums. From a marketer’s perspective, this could dilute one of the big advantages of the Web over traditional media.”

REF: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/05/technology/05privacy.html?_r=2

Evidently the misuse of data has been understood for many years, (as you have pointed out Sue), I also noted in 2010 a New Scientist article: “EVERY move you make, every twitter feed you update, somebody is watching you. You may not think twice about it, but if you use a social networking site, a cellphone or the internet regularly, you are leaving behind a clear digital trail that describes your behaviour, travel patterns, likes and dislikes, divulges who your friends are and reveals your mood and your opinions. In short, it tells the world an awful lot about you.”

REF: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727701-100-social-networks-the-great-tipping-point-test/

So how did the ‘security services’ miss Cambridge Analytica’s flagrant misuse of data when it has been clearly understood even in the public realm for almost a decade? These supposed revelations at this juncture come at a time when the hype to cold war status is already far too high…”

Kitty’s article is at: https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2018/03/18/cambridge-analytica-the-commodification-and-marketisation-of-democracy/

And the Americans are not alone in using Cambridge Analytica, it seems. I found this report by RT about our government also using them and their parent company, SCL, to gather data on us. RT’s presenter, Polly Boiko, states that the two were hired by the Ministry of Defence, and paid for providing staff with training and for keeping government secrets on their computer, amongst other services. Yvette Cooper has demanded a wider investigation into their activities. They have also been hired by some very dodgy governments around the world. Like Kenya, where Cambridge Analytica was hired by the ruling party to gather data on its opponents, and create a psychological strategy that would allow them to hold on to power. The company has been accused of stirring up ethnic tensions as part of this. They were also hired by Ukraine to undermine the breakaway Donetsk Republic. This ended in failure, but the company’s report not only went to the Ukrainians who commissioned it, but was also shared with the British government. She concludes that the next stage of the scandal will probably be the company’s connections to the world’s governments.

This has been touched on today in the I newspaper, which reported that Israel had also hired the company to swing elections Nigeria and St. Kitts and Nevis.

This is a real threat to democracy, but I doubt that many people are paying attention, because of the way May and her team are ramping up tensions with Russia to distract everyone from just how terrible they are. And if the MOD have been using them to gather data on British citizens, then the immediate comparison that comes to my mind is with the Stasi and the other totalitarian secret police. It ain’t Corbyn who’s a threat to democracy, but Cambridge Analytica and their Tory government paymasters.

Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part One

March 11, 2018

Presented by the Conservative journo Peter Oborne, this is a very hard-hitting and extensive investigation into the malign influence and tactics of the Israel lobby. It covers not just the soft corruption of political lobbying – the various donations in money and paid trips to Israel given to Tory and Labour politicos, but also the co-ordinated smear campaign against anyone who dares to speak out in favour of the Israeli state’s victims. It’s a smear campaign that has seen very respected members of the Jewish community, including senior rabbis, and BBC journos like the late Orla Guerin, Jeremy Bowen and even Jonathan Dimbleby accused of anti-Semitism. The result has been that the Beeb was pressured not to put out an appeal for the victims of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and there was complaints about its coverage of those murdered by Israel’s allies in the Christian Fascists of the Lebanese Phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. And there has been constant pressure by these same bullying thugs on the Groaniad under its former editor, Alan Rusbridger. Who really does look like Harry Potter. Much of this pressure and screaming abuse seems to have come from America. The organisations are carefully structured, so that they keep the total number of donations secret, and their donors hide behind anonymity. When investigated they repeat the same, smooth words about just trying to keep the argument open by presenting Israel’s case, or mutter platitudes about supporting a two-state solution. All the while doing their level best to make sure that their voice is the only the British public hear, and rabidly pursuing business deals on stolen Palestinian land.

I’m afraid I may have misheard some of the names in the programme, and so misspelled them, but they should be roughly accurate.

The documentary begins with the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the Conservative Friends of Israel. Despite the horrendous carnage and destruction wrought, David Cameron in a speech made no mention of this, but instead praised the Israelis and his pledged his lasting support to them if he became Prime Minister. It was this that prompted Oborne to launch his own investigation into the Israel lobby. He makes the point that they have influence on both sides of Parliament, as shown by an exchange between a Conservative MP, who was a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, who asked a question about Israel’s continuing safety. This was answered by a Labour MP, who was a member of the Labour Friends of Israel. Oborne then interviews Michael Ancram, former Tory Shadow Foreign Secretary from 2003-5, about the Israel Lobby’s influence. as well as Sir Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Iran from 2003-6. Dalton states clearly that the Israel Lobby does exist, and is important in defining the debate about Israel and the Palestinians. The Conservative Friends of Israel is highly influential, and boasts that it includes 80 per cent of all Tory MPs. Its chair, Richard Huntingdon, received £20,000 last year (2008) in donations, and gave £34,000 to the Conservatives. And the director of the No. 10 club, that exclusive Tory fundraising outfit in which, for a mere £50,000, you can meet David Cameron or have lunch with William Hague, is also included. The Tory Friends of Israel also arrange paid trips to Israel for MPs. So far there have been more of these than equivalent trips to America and Europe combined. Oborne states that in fairness, he has to say that he went on one of these, and there was no pressure to report favourably about Israel. But two MPs, who went on one of these trips, then received afterwards £25,000 in donations. This prompts Oborne to ask Ancram if this explains the soft line taken by the Tories about Israeli influence, and why the Tories don’t like to talk about it.

The documentary then moves on to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, during which 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed, and $3.6 billion’s worth of damage inflicted. Michael Howard gave William Hague £25,000 in donations. Hague then made the mistake of making a speech criticising the Israeli response to Lebanese attacks as disproportionate. As a result, Lord Kalms, a CFI donor and head of the Dixons electronics chain, was outraged, and threatened to withhold further funding. Which he did, and Hague never received a penny more. The Israel lobby attacks even the mildest criticism of Israel. The director of the CFI, Stuart Pollak, had a meeting with David Cameron after the speech. Then, at his lunch with the CFI, Cameron didn’t mention the Lebanese invasion at all.

The programme then moves on to the organisation’s income, as revealed by the Parliamentary Accounts Register. For comparison, the pro-Arab lobby revealed that they had been given £43,000 in donations. How many had the CFI been given? No-one knows. They didn’t register any. They’re structured as a group of individuals, and are not incorporated, so they don’t have declare any under the rules. In 2008 the CFI gave the Tories £2 million, but this is not the whole story. One Tory MP said that after a chance meeting with Stuart Pollak, he received two donations from businessmen he had never met, and who did not live in his constituency. The CFI gave £30,000 to Cameron’s team. And in 2005 Cameron met Plocha Zabludowicz, who gave the future Tory PM £15,000 and a further £35,000 to Tory Central Office. The total figure for the donations given by the CFI is £10 million, more than the other lobbies.

Then there’s the incident of the UN vote over a motion censuring both Hamas and Israel for the carnage in Gaza. The CFI rang Hague up to condemn the resolution and demand that he criticise it. Which he duly did.

But the Israel Lobby only became really powerful in Britain under Maggie’s favourite Labour pet, Tony Blair. Jon Mandelsohn, a prominent pro-Israel lobbyist, stated that ‘Zionism is pervasive in New Labour’ and ‘It is axiomatic that Blair will come to Labour Friends of Israel meetings’. There are more Labour MPs in Labour Friends of Israel than their opponents across the benches in the Tory Friends of Israel. The documentary describes how Blair met the rock entrepreneur, Lord Levy, at the Israeli embassy, who then raised £15 million for the Labour party before the row over ‘cash for questions’. When Blair became PM in 1997, he gave Levy a life peerage. Levy, however, was unpaid and never a formal servant of the British state, so that the deals he made as Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East between Israel and the Arab nations could be kept secret. The programme interviews Prof. Avi Shlaim of Oxford University’s Middle East department, who states that he considers Levy has damaged Britain’s reputation in the Middle East.

The documentary then moves back to CFI lobbyists at the Tory party conference. Their purpose there is to make sure Cameron’s policies are in line with Israel’s This means that Michael Kaminski, the Polish leader, who heads a small, far right nationalist party, is lionised by the Tories, despite his record of making anti-Semitic remarks and his refusal to apologise for the suffering of Jewish Poles during the Second World War. Stuart Pollak was most keen not to have Cameron’s speech to the CFI at the Tory conference covered. He is shown waving the camera crew away. The CFI totally support Kaminski. They also plead that they’re totally transparent through the distinction between their donations as a group, and those of individual businesspeople.

Continued in Part Two.

Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part

March 11, 2018

The documentary then moves on to January, 2009 and the invasion of Gaza, and allegations of Human Rights abuses by Israeli forces were still circulating months later. But Oborne points out that you wouldn’t know it from the contents of the News of the World and the Mirror. Both these rags ran stories instead about the threat to Israel from the surrounding Arab nations. The hacks behind these pieces had been given free trips to Israel by BICOM, one of the wealthiest lobby groups in Britain. Oborne then goes on to interview David Newman in his office in Jerusalem. Newman worked alongside BICOM in disseminating Israeli propaganda in British universities. Newman states that there is indeed a debate within Israel about the status of the settlements in Palestinian territory. Groups like BICOM close down this debate abroad, and instead demand absolute for Israel.

Plocha Zabludowicz, the head of BICOM, is the 18th richest person in Britain. And he is very definitely not part of traditional British Anglo-Jewish society, but came up through the Jewish Leadership Council, who are described as the lords of the big Jewish donors. Oborne then interviews the head of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, Rabbi Emeritus David Goldberg, and asks if he knows him. Goldberg states that his name doesn’t ring a bell. Zabludowicz is actually of Polish ancestry. He is a Finnish citizen with a house in north London. His father made a fortune peddling Israeli arms, as did Zabludowicz himself before moving into property and casinos. His company is registered in Lichtenstein. He is, in short, ‘a rank outsider’. He was also one of the guests at Madonna’s birthday party in Italy.

Zabludowicz generously bankrolls BICOM, to whom he gave £800,000, who wrote a clause into their accounts recognising his generosity. He had given them £1.3 million in the previous three years, and has business interests in the Middle East. These cast doubt on the possibility of reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Oborne then goes on to discuss the case of one of the illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, whose supermarket is owned by Zabludowicz. Newman states this indicates the direction in which BICOM is moving. Rabbi Goldberg states that it shows that Zabludowicz calculates that the settlement won’t be returning to the Palestinians, even under the most generous peace deal. As for Zabludowicz himself, he declined to meet the Dispatches team, but instead released a statement claiming that he was a major supporter of the creation of a separate Palestinian state, and that he understood that concessions would need to be made. Oborne was, however, successful in talking to Lorna Fitzsimons, BICOM’s chief executive. She claimed that BICOM was very open, that their donors do not influence policy. When asked about Zabludowicz, she claimed he was different from anyone else and she didn’t know about his business connections. All the organisation was doing was to make journos and people aware of the different strands of the debate on Israel.

Oborne moves on to the other groups involved in the Israel lobby – the Jewish Leadership Council, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Zionist Federation, and states that some members of these groups are very aggressive towards the TV and press. He then interviews Alan Rusbridger about his experiences of dealing with them. Rusbridger states that some TV editors warned him to stay away from them and the whole subject of Israel and the Palestinians. The Guardian was attacked for criticising Israel in a way that no other country does. There was a special meeting at the Israeli embassy between the ambassador, Zabludowicz, Grunewald of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the property magnate Gerald Reuben. They were unhappy about a Groaniad article comparing the Israeli’s occupation of Palestine with apartheid South Africa. So Grunewald and his mate, Roman Leidel, decided to pay Rusbridger a visit. Grunewald is a lawyer, claimed that the article was fomenting anti-Semitism, and would encourage people to attack Jews on the street, a risible accusation which Rusbridger denied. This was followed by complaints to the Press Complaints Commission about the article by the pro-Israel American group, CAMERA, or Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, which specialising in attacking journos critical of Israel. The Press Complaints Commission duly investigated the article, and found that only one fact was wrong. When asked about this, Rabbi Goldberg states that Israel is indeed an apartheid state. There are two road systems, one for use by Israelis and one for the Palestinians. There are two legal systems in operation. The Israelis are governed by Israeli law, while the Palestinians are governed by military law. When asked what will happen to him when his comments are broadcast, the good rabbi simply laughs and says that he’ll be attacked once against as being an ant-Semitic, self-hating Jew.

Many other Jews are also critical of Israel. Oborne goes on to talk to Tony Lerman, formerly of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, and now a Groaniad journo. Lerman states that the Israel lobby don’t take into account the diversity of Jewish views on Israel. This is confirmed by Avi Shlaim, who says that there is a split in the Jewish community over Israel. The community’s leaders are largely pro-Israel with a narrow rightwing agenda that is not typical of Jewish Brits. And libelling Israel’s critics as ‘anti-Semitic’ is now common policy.

One example of this use of libel is a New York blogger, ‘Hawkeye’, who hunts through the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ column, claiming it is full of anti-Semitic bias. Rusbridger states that this is dangerous and disreputable. ‘Hawkeye’ attacked Lerman in particular as a nasty anti-Semite. Lerman states that this tactic has been adopted because it’s a useful defence of Israel. Rabbi Goldberg concedes that some people might be seriously anti-Semitic, others are just voicing genuine opinions, which should be respected. Michael Ancram, even, was accused of being anti-Semitic, which he said he takes with a pinch of salt.

But this leads into the whole question of whether the BBC has been corrupted by the influence of the Israel lobby. On record, BBC journos and spokespeople claim that the Corporation’s reporting of Israel is unbiased. Off-record, the stories different. News staff state that there is always pressure from top management for a pro-Israel slant. Oborne then interview Charlie Brebitt, an accountant at the LSE, who was formerly of Channel 4, who confirms that there is a very strong and active Israel lobby, and a sizable body of sympathy with Israel. The BBC has no choice but to respond. Honest Reporting, another pro-Israel media attack dog, and the other parts of the Israel lobby take advantage of this, alleging that there is an institutional bias at the Corporation against Israel.

In 2003 during the Iraq invasion the Beeb broadcast a hard-hitting documentary investigating Israel’s secret nuclear weapon’s programme, entitled ‘Israel’s Secret Weapon’ on the 16th March. The Israeli Press Office issued a statement comparing this to the worst of Nazi propaganda, and imposed restrictions on BBC staff in Israel. When Ariel Sharon, the Israeli leader, visited Downing Street, the only journos banned from covering the meeting were the Beeb. Honest Reporting UK complained that the programme was part of a campaign to vilify Israel. One member of the group, Nathan Sharansky, complained that the late Orla Guerin, here shown with two eyes, was anti-Semitic, and that she shared the goals of Palestinian terror groups.

Continued in Part 3.

Israel Lobbyists Smear Mike Again, Run Away When Refuted

March 7, 2018

Mike on Monday put up another piece, describing how he was smeared once again as an anti-Semite in an article, ‘Labour’s Anti-Semitism Problem’, by a couple of hacks called Kieron Monks and Gary Spedding. This was over what Mike had written about the belief that Blair had been unduly influenced by a group of Jewish advisers. Mike went on the attack to defend his reputation, and pointed out that he had not written what Monks’ claimed he had, and that he had in any case taken his words out of context. Monks tried arguing back, but when the force of Mike’s argument proved too much for him, retreated and went silent. He ran away, leaving his mate Spedding to try and defend his libel. Spedding didn’t fare any better either, and this resulted in Spedding not only abandoning the argument, but blocking Mike on Twitter.

You can read about the incident at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/03/05/another-article-alleges-anti-semitism-about-me-author-refuses-to-acknowledge-his-mistake/

Mike makes several very good points in his article about it, not least that all the relevant information about these claims and accusations is up on his blog, if the writers of such articles would actually care to read what he has to say.

But they don’t, because they’ve already decided that Mike’s an anti-Semite. And it’s not because of any genuine concern for anti-Semitism. Monks’ real motivation in writing the article is clearly shown in the title, and in one of the people he hashtags at the bottom of his tweet about it, Dave Rich.

The title of Monks’ piece is the same as a book written by Dave Rich, and published last year by Biteback. This claimed that there was a rising tide of anti-Semitism on the Left, ever since the Liberal party had got involved in an anti-Israeli politics in the 1970s. I can’t remember where I found it, but I read a review somewhere that pointed out that Rich was another prominent member of the Israel lobby, and that what really concerned him was that the Left were taking the side of the Palestinians against Israel. In short, he’s another Zionist upset that people are criticising and protesting about the Israeli state’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and trying to shut them down by libelling them as anti-Semites. Ditto for Monks and Spedding, who obviously share his views.

As for the accusation that Blair was unduly influenced by a group of Jewish advisers, it is true that Blair received much funding during the run-up to the Iraq invasion from businessmen connected to the Israel lobby, though a campaign run by Lord levy and Peter Mandelson. John Booth describes this in his ‘Labour, Corbyn and Anti-Semitism’ in Lobster 74. He writes

In contrast, this is Jon (now Lord) Mendelsohn speaking to Jewsweek.com on 8 September 2002: ‘[Tony] Blair has attacked the anti-Israelism that had existed in the Labour Party . . .Labour was cowboys-and-Indians politics, picking underdogs. The milieu has changed. Zionism is pervasive in New Labour. It is automatic that Blair will come to Friends of Israel meetings.’ Mendelsohn was speaking during the build-up to the Iraq war. At the time Corbyn was indulging in what the New Labour fundraiser would probably style ‘cowboy-and Indian politics’ by helping create the Stop the War Coalition. 7 Mendelsohn was a close associate of Michael (now Lord) Levy in drawing down funds from Israel supporters, a programme also well described in Robert Peston’s Who Runs Britain?. The ITN political editor in his informative 8 chapter ‘Democracy for Sale’ makes clear that a good deal of that funding was not from Labour supporters, but from those, including previous Conservative backers, who identified with Blair and his support for Israel and the Iraq war.

He also goes on to discuss the connections between the Israeli embassy and the various Friends of Israel organisations, which have been making the accusations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and his supporters.

Mendelsohn is a former chairman of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), membership of which, as he says, attracted many of the New Labour intake in 1997 and which resembled a passport to promotion for many of them. Not all have stayed in party politics since Labour’s 2010 defeat. Former Cabinet minister and chairman of LFI James Purnell is now a senior BBC executive and is talked of as a possible future director-general. LFI supporter Lorna 9 Fitzsimons, formerly Parliamentary Private Secretary to Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, became chief executive of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) after losing her parliamentary seat in 2005. Most of the LFI supporters still in Parliament or subsequently elected to it were opposed to Corbyn’s 2015 election as leader and tried to unseat him the following year. From their ranks – some of them here supporting LFI chair Joan Ryan – have come many of the well-publicised claims of anti-semitic 10 abuse that has attended Corbyn’s rise. 11 As the Al Jazeera documentary series, The Lobby, exposed earlier this year, there is a very close working relationship between the Israel embassy in London and the Friends of Israel groups in Parliament, including the one chaired by Enfield North MP Ryan. 12 There is also a strong link between the embassy and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) that has led criticism of Corbyn and was very active on the ‘anti-semitism’ issue at the Brighton conference. Two JLM officials, Jeremy 13 Newmark and Mike Katz, were backed by Yvette Cooper, a Corbyn rival for the leadership in 2015, when they unsuccessfully stood as Labour candidates in the general election.

And no, before anyone asks, Booth’s article is not remotely anti-Semitic. It begins by describing the warm welcome given to Jewish speakers at Labour’s Brighton Conference last year, including Naomi Klein, Naomi Wimbourne-Idrissi, who declared that the party did not have a problem with Jews, and, of course, Ed Miliband. Wimbourne-Idrissi later that day went on to launch Jewish Voice for Labour, along with a number of other, very prominent Jewish activists, including a former member of the Israeli Defence Force.

The article also discusses the close relationship between the Blairites and the Israel lobby, and how the rise of Corbyn and the leftward turn of the party threaten the Thatcherite entryists, and their backers in the media, such as the Groaniad. It challenges their views on the neoliberal consensus, as well as their political careers. Hence they have resorted to smearing their opponents as anti-Semites. And before Booth talks about Mandelson, he writes about how Marek Edelman, a hero of the Warsaw Ghetto, was persona non grata in Israel because he supported the Palestinians. He stated that to be a Jew means that you always side with the oppressed.

Edelman’s a true hero, and Rich, Monks and Spedding are definitely siding with the oppressors. Hence their participation in the smearing of Labour members and supporters, who criticise Israel’s maltreatment of the Palestinians, or who, like Mike, simply defend those, who do, on grounds of historical accuracy.

Lobster 74 is at https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/issue74.php

Go and read the whole article to find out what these mendacious accusations are really about, and the noxious politics behind them.