October 30, 2007

Incarceration libel?

Except of course, like its propensity for killing children, Israel incarcerating children is no libel. This is from the International Middle East Media Center:
The Wa’ed Society for political prisoners and ex-prisoners on Monday reported that 360 children remain illegally detained in Israeli prison centers across the region.

The Society slammed the illegal Israeli military practices against the Palestinian people, adding that Palestinian children are repeatedly targeted by the army in the occupied territories.

The Society also stated that the army kidnapped nearly 7000 Palestinians since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada in September 28, 2000.

Of those children still held, all are facing harsh conditions, mistreatment and repeated attacks. Half of the number have been sentenced by military courts, while the other half is still awaiting trial or under interrogation.

The Society stated that the Israeli prison authorities are barring child detainees from their visitations rights, in addition to not providing them with decent meals and are placing them with adult Israeli prisoners who have been detained for criminal conduct.

The children are also barred from meeting with their lawyers on a regular basis, and are repeatedly held in solitary confinement.
Call that Engage lawyer chappie, Julius or that Harvard lawyer, Dershowitz. Oh no, don't. "The children are also barred from meeting with their lawyers on a regular basis." Disgusting

October 29, 2007

Nonsense and hypersensitivity

Here's a classic post to the Engage site. It's a whinge about the Financial Times running a review of the book, the Israel Lobby, by Messrs Hitler and Himmler. Woops, not Hitler and Himmler, I mean Mearsheimer and Walt. The FT review is titled Cents and sensitivity. First up, check out what the reviewer of the review, Kathryn Benjamin, said:
Saturday’s Financial Times carried a lukewarm review of Mearsheimer and Walt’s “The Israel Lobby” by Harvey Morris, the paper’s UN correspondent, here.

What really stood out was the headline appended to the review. In a clumsy allusion to Jane Austen, the FT’s sub-editors managed to combine two antisemitic canards – Jewish financial power and Jewish self-righteousness – into the headline, “Cents and Sensitivity.”
As it happens the review is indeed lukewarm and it makes some points that I'm sure Engage would approve of among some that they clearly don't approve of. Take this:
Mearsheimer and Walt concede the lobby is not a homogenous institution ' noting Jewish groups critical of Israeli policy ' and accept that its activities are legal. They contend, however, that the powerful American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), which identifies itself as 'America's pro-Israel Lobby', has used its $40-60m annual budget to push policies it perceives benefit Israel, to the detriment of US national interests.
That's some serious money. That's a relevant point. I mean if the Lobby doesn't influence American foreign policy, why spend between $40 million and $60 million every year? But money is an "antisemitic canard" so it shouldn't be mentioned in any discussion of the influence (or not) of the Israel lobby. And as for sensitivity, this bit could have been written for Engage:
The histrionics with which the lobby responded to the original article appeared to reinforce the authors' argument that America's pro-Israel activists were intent on stifling a rational discourse about Israel's intimate relationship with the US.

They were accused of anti-Semitism, a catch-all condemnation that elements of the lobby all too readily throw at everyone from declared racists to those mildly critical of Israeli policies. Where appropriate, critics are dismissed as self-hating Jews.
Everyone recognises these "histrionics." Should they be denied? Are they being denied?

Anyway, here's the rest of the review of the review:
In some ways, this demonstrates how easy it is to interpret the Mearsheimer and Walt thesis in an antisemitic manner. And the casual reader – one who might have skimmed the review, missing some of Morris’s trenchant criticisms of the book – could easily come away with the impression that the lobbying for Israel in the United States involves rich Jews doling out cash rewards (“Cents”) while simultaneously raking over Jewish history so as to smear their opponents as antisemites (“Sensitivity”). Indeed, some people, like David Duke, think exactly that.

More immediately, one has to ask how a headline like this can filter through the elaborate editing process of a respected global newspaper. Would a profile of Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, make it to the printers with the word “inscrutable” in the headline? Would Mike Tyson, who beats people up outside the ring as well as inside, be called a “savage”? One hopes and assumes not. These obvious and objectionable ethnic stereotypes have been purged from the lexicon of journalism. They are easy to spot.

By the same principle, centuries-old caricatures about Jewish power should also be easy to spot. But in this case, it was either not spotted or was regarded as a perfectly legitimate way to introduce a discussion of a book which focuses on Jewish political activity in the United States. Whichever, the FT has got some explaining to do.
Now on balance I didn't really like the FT review but there really wasn't anything to offend Jews as Jews. But one paragraph that should have had zionists cringing with shame is this:
The lobby, the authors note, is not purely Jewish. In one of the more bizarre alliances in politics, Israeli politicians have accepted support from a powerful US 'Christian-Zionist' fundamentalist Christian lobby despite many of its adherents' belief that Jews must accept Christ on the day of judgment or be eternally damned.
Now you would have to do some hasty skim to miss the fact that M & W are saying that the Israel Lobby is not a Jewish lobby. You might skimmed it so quickly as to notice only the title. If you read the title only, remember, Cents and sensitivity, and thought "hello? this is about Jews" then you must be antisemitic yourself. Hmm, zionism and antisemitism, I wonder if they are by any chance related?

The real Ghada Karmi?

The Guardian seems to have made one of those little errors that have aficionados calling it the Grauniad. There are two letters arising out of the Oxford Union Finkelstein saga today. Here they are.
Taking sides in the debate over the Middle East
Monday October 29, 2007
The Guardian

The decision to withdraw from the Oxford Union's October 23 debate was not lightly taken (Letters, October 27). The union was due to debate the one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue that I, as one of the three who withdrew, and the only Palestinian, believe passionately to be the only way to solve a conflict that has ravaged my homeland and its people. I was keen to see this debated publicly. But the issue was hijacked by pro-Israel groups which pressured the Oxford Union's president into uninviting Norman Finkelstein, also due to speak on the motion, fearing a panel dominated by critics of Israel.

We rejected this attempt to stifle the debate, so typical of Israel's supporters, and the resulting controversy over detail has aimed to distract attention from the main issue. Such tactics are transparent. Israel cannot hope to maintain itself indefinitely in this way. Sooner or later, it must accept its future lies with the Palestinians, not through dominance, but in equal partnership.
Ghada Karmi
Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter

Colin Green claims lawyers threatened to bankrupt anyone who criticises Israeli policy. In fact Alan Dershowitz threatened to sue anyone who initiated an exclusion of scholars who work in Israel from British campuses. Anthony Lester confirmed that such an exclusion would violate British anti-discrimination law.

Criticising policy is not the same as setting up a racist exclusion. The Guardian should not print self-evident falsehoods. The Guardian should be extra careful when the falsehoods it prints constitute part of an antisemitic narrative of global Jewish conspiracy. The incurables will read this letter as a threat from the "Israel lobby" against a paper which "courageously" allows criticism of Israel. Others will read it as a warning, from someone who is, himself, a critic of Israeli policy, against the accelerating contemporary danger of anti-Jewish racism. If the left can't recognise the threat, then we are in trouble, because nobody else can be relied upon to oppose racism. The Guardian needs to stop hosting a debate between antisemitic and antiracist points of view. It is time to take sides.
Ghada Karmi
Goldsmiths, University of London

Very different but do you see the similarity. They both appear to be written by the same person, Ghada Karmi. But one is at Exeter and the other is at Goldsmiths. Now the Ghada Karmi I know of is at Exeter. The other Ghada Karmi, the one that accuses Professor Colin Green of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions of antisemitism, purports to be at Goldsmiths. Now I seem to remember someone else at Goldsmiths who goes round falsely accusing all and sundry of antisemitism and has used at least one false name, Alf Green, to do so. But surely, Dr David Hirsh, wouldn't stoop so low as to use the name of so prominent a victim of the ethnic cleansing that he supports, would he?

Check the Guardian later for a correction. Who knows? They might even run a "correction and clarification."

October 28, 2007

To conclude, was it the ex-Orangeman or the Jaffa Orangeman?

There is some weirdness on the Harry's Place blog now. Just to recap. You know the Finkelstein not at Oxford Union saga? Yes? Of course you do. You know that Harry's Place, in a post and on Gharda Karmi's Comment is free piece, are "arguing" that it was Lord (David) Trimble who had Finkelstein cancelled. David t even offered that non-explanation as a no-brainer. You know how Finkelstein's detractors were saying that a mistake had been made in that Finkelstein, they said, supported a one-state solution in Palestine and that "Fred" helpfully provided a quote that then passed on to the Guardian in the letter they published yesterday. David t still hasn't come back to the thread on all this but the thread is none the less continuing.

Well now Jerry Haber of the Magnes Zionist has joined the fray with posts to his own blog and to the Harry's Place comments. Here's the letter from the President of the Oxford Union to Norman Finkelstein explaining his decision to uninvite Finkelstein:

Dear Dr Finkelstein,

...Many people expressed concern that the debate as it stood was imbalanced and people felt that as someone who had apparently expressed anti-zionist sentiments that you might not be appropriate for this debate. I tried to convince them otherwise but was accused of putting forward an imbalanced debate and various groups put pressure on me. I received numerous emails attacking the debate and Alan Dershowitz threatened to write an Oped attacking the Union. What is more he apparently attacked me personally in a televised lecture to Yale.

I hope that you understand my position, this is not ideal and I would be happy to welcome you as an individual speaker to the Union in a forthcoming term. I know that the President-Elect Emily Partington would be keen to host you in Hilary. I just did not want to see the debate compromised and given the Irving Griffin Controversy I couldn't fight a battle on all fronts.

Best wishes


So according to the President of the Oxford Union, whilst he, as the Magnes Zionist says, is responsible for his own decision, is saying that Dershowitz's intervention was decisive. Now here's where it gets really weird.

Jerry Haber (the Magnes Zionist) also posted this to the Harry's Place comments and this is how an Engage founder, Jonathan Hoffman, responds to it:
Thanks. It's what I've been saying. Luke Tryl said that someone had made a mistake in inviting Finkelstein. He also came under pressure to drop him, yes - but so what - since when is writing an op-ed reprehensible? What he does NOT say is that the catalyst for dropping Finkelstein was an ultimatum from Lord Trimble who refused to be on the same 2-state team as Finkelstein. Luke feels more comfortable in blaming Dershowitz than Trimble.
This Jonathan Hoffman had been saying that it was Trimble not Dershowitz who had Finkelstein cancelled. Tryl was saying it was Dershowitz and didn't even mention Trimble and this amounts to "what I've (Hoffman has) been saying." It's actually the opposite of what he was saying. But here's Fred:
Shame on Tryl, trying to blame the Jews when it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it's all Trimble's doing. That's always the easy way out, isn't it. It's not like Dershowitz threatens to "bankrupt and devastate" anyone, or campaigns against the tenure of critics, or threatens to sue to keep books from being published. Why would Tryl fear such a shrinking violet? In fact, by not blaming the true agent provocateur, Trimble, and instead trying to blame Dersh, Tryl is feeding into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Meanwhile, I'm yet to see a quote from David Trimble on this. Of all the withdrawals from this debate, Trimble is the only one to cite "diary pressure" rather than any political consideration.

UPDATE: Well it's not an update really, just an addition. I'm thinking that Trimble might be got at by zionists to say that he had raised strenuous objections to Finkelstein's presence and that therefore he did act as some kind of catalyst. I think the HP brigade are now falling back on the idea that Trimble tipped off Dershowitz who then acted, as it were, on his behalf. This still doesn't amount to a Protestant lobby job but they will have their jolly japes. I've already, via Fred, alluded to the Jewish Chronicle piece on it but here it is in full:
Speakers snub Oxford debate in panel row
By Nathan Jeffay
A debate on Israel at the Oxford Union took place on Tuesday without any of the scheduled speakers, after a row over the make-up of the panel.

Three of the academic community’s most vocal critics of Israel — Israelis Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe, and Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi — were due to propose the motion: “This House believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

But members of the Jewish community, including Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and Peace Now UK co-chair Paul Usiskin, complained to the Union that it had given the anti-Israel side a “fourth voice” by having US political scientist Norman Finkelstein in the pro-Israel team, which also comprised Peter Tatchell and Northern Irish politician Lord Trimble.

Dr Finkelstein, who recently lost tenure at Chicago’s De Paul University in a row over his views on the Holocaust, is “an extreme left-wing opponent of Israel” and provided a “covert ally” for the anti-Israel side, claimed Mr Usiskin.

Union president Luke Tryll withdrew the invitation to Dr Finkelstein, conceding that, with his presence “the debate would not be fair”. He asked Mr Usiskin to stand in.

Dr Finkelstein said that the union had “shamefully capitulated” to the “bullying tactics” of Prof Dershowitz who, he claimed, is “determined to hound me out of public life”. Mr Tatchell then pulled out over the Finkelstein issue, saying: “I don’t agree with Norman on some things but I know of nothing he has said to justify his invitation being withdrawn.

“The attempt to ban him goes against the principles of free speech that the Oxford Union claims to defend.”

Lord Trimble also withdrew, due to “diary pressure”.

Dr Shlaim, who was due to speak against Dr Finkelstein, wrote to Mr Tryll saying: “Disinviting a speaker raises questions about the Oxford Union’s commitment to free speech. Unless the invitation to Norman Finkelstein is renewed, I will not take part.”

He and the others then pulled out, leaving just Mr Usiskin to debate with five union members. Mr Usiskin, who won the debate 191 votes to 60, said he believed they acted because their chances of winning were weakened.
The JC quotes Trimble as citing "diary pressure." Was he lying? Are they lying? If Trimble comes to the rescue of this miserable bunch with their thinly veiled allegations of antisemitism and their gleeful harassment of Finkelstein then either he was lying to the JC or the JC was lying, yet again, to its readers. I said "To conclude, " maybe I was lying too. There's more to come.

October 27, 2007

Holocaust survivor versus holocaust industry

Here's an email I got from an angry person I know to be a Jewish holocaust survivor and a supporter of the Palestinian cause. It came after I posted something on the Finkelstein at Oxford (or not) business. I'm posting it as I found it except for personal bits which I've deleted.
This hysteria about Finkelstein's "anti Zionism" ist totally misplaced and a con, because what originally infuriated the powers that be was Finkelstein's taking on the Zionists' updated raison d'etre, it's biggest political asset, the Holocaust, by attacking the huge industry that their existence has created, but from which other benefit.

Even as recently as a few weeks ago, Gideon Taylor of the Claims Conference admonished Holocaust survivors testifying before a US committee on poverty among survivors for "washing dirty linen in public". And I heard that when that didn't deter them, he got really nasty. So one can imagine the rage - and panic - when the son of Holocaust survivors wrote a book accusing them of misappropriation of funds that were meant for the very people whom they use as a moral shield.

He not only wrote the book with support from respected Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, but he dared, had the chutzpah, the audacity, the Un- Americanism, to have the book translated into German, where it flew off the shelves and opened many an eye.

Not that it stopped them from continuing to milk that cash cow, and recent events - in Israel - would have totally vindicated Norman Finkelstein in public, were it not for the hysteria of media starved Martha's Vineyard Zionist zealots like Dershowitz and Foxman.

Even ignoring Israel Singer`s forced resignation from both World Jewish Congress and the Claims Conference under a cloud of money in a Swiss bank account, there has been news of major mismanagement of Holocaust survivors's funds - or of outright theft. Such news is mostly buried or treaded on softly by the Jewish media, ignored by blogs, and taboo for those, who, like Pavlovian dogs, know by now what to expect if they touch this topic with anything but kid gloves.

Just a few weeks - when, and only because, Holocaust survivors were protesting against their poverty in the streets of Jerusalem wearing yellow stars, Israeli Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik made this statement: "The State of Israel demanded the reparation money that was transferred from Germany , but wasn't wise enough to channel the funds correctly for the benefit of those who needed and deserved it," Itzik said at the discussion. The subject of refunding this money never came up. Gone is gone. The Israeli government promised to rectify the situation, and.... it went right back to the source. On Sept. 19th, HaAretz published an article entitled "Israel asks Germany to fund Holocaust survivors' stipends"

In April, Abraham Hirchson, Israel's finance minister, who created the March of the Living, which had received many millions of dollars from the Claims Conference, was caught up in a scandal when a friend of his and Singer's was discovered to have earned $700,000 from this project, and he couldn't remember what it was for. Hirschson was in deeper trouble in Israel, he" resigned in disgrace after a series of scandals that included allegations that he took funds from the Claims Conference and March of the Living. Some of this money was allegedly used to fund the Likud Party." Last week the Jerusalem Post reported that Hirchson and 10 others are being indicted for embezzling millions.

And this was one of the headlines on the front page of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's web news today, October 25, 2007: " An Israeli lawyer was convicted of bilking Holocaust survivors out of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of reparations."

All this is just the tip of the iceberg, which we now know can melt very rapidly. Those persons who launched and continue the witch hunt of Norman Finkelsein - which began in the year 2000 and continues - use lies, fear and intimidation, in order to suppress the truth, some out of a totally perverted sense of loyalty. To whom? To what? To the Holocaust survivors who live under the poverty line everywhere in the world? Hardly. To the Israeli right wing that is on a campaign to free Yitzchak Rabin's murderer? To those who oppress the Palestinians and steal the land and their dignity?

Not in MY name.
Not in your name? But you're a holocaust survivor and a Jew. Everything zionists do is in our name and for our benefit.

Leon Rosselson live and direct from Walthamstow

Leon Rosselson is appearing at the Walthamstow Folk Club tomorrow night, 28th October 2007 at the Plough Inn, Wood St., Walthamstow E17 3NU. Leon Rosselson's a wonderful songwriter and entertaining performer. A long time supporter of the Palestinian cause, he has been recording since the early 1960s and the proceeds from his 4 track CD, the Last Chance, go to Medical Aid for Palestinians.

An old-new blog

I've been recommended this blog, Harmonicminor.com. Apparently the site itself has been through a few twists and turns before settling on its current format and subject matter, hence the title of this post.

The home page today shows articles on Blair, Jennifer Loewenstein and Noam Chomsky together with a few on Gaza where the main man at Harmonicminor is based.

Peace Now? Well not now, wait till I finish my reserve duty

I got this story from a comment to an earlier post on the Oxford Union debate debacle. Because after zionist pressure the Oxford Union dropped Finkelstein and invited Paul Ussiskin of Peace Now, Hulkagaard posted this link to the Alternative Information Centre.
The general secretary of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, did his reserve military duty at a checkpoint in the Jordan Valley, deep in the occupied Palestinian territories, acting just like any other good Israeli soldier.

In an article published today in the Israeli news-portal NRG, Two Machsom Watch activists report seeing Oppenheimer doing his military reserve duty at a checkpoint inside the occupied territories, in an area that is slowly being ethnically cleansed of its indigenous population, mainly through the use of checkpoints, which forbid almost any type of transportation or access between the main Palestinian cities of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley (see also Amira Hass article, “Clearing The Jordan Valley Of Palestinians.”

Oppenheimer, together with the other soldiers at the checkpoint, also refused a Palestinian family with seven children who were traveling to see their relatives in a nearby village to go through the checkpoint. The fact that this was the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fiter that ends the month of Ramadan, didn’t seem to soften the Peace Now soldier.

The Machsom Watch activist attempted to speak with the soldiers to let the family go through, arguing that an exception should be made because of the holiday and the young age of the children. The soldiers kept refusing the taxi in which the family was driving in, to go through, claiming it doesn’t have the right permits and stating that they are following orders given to them from above.

Oppenheimer didn’t deny the story and told the journalist that “When I am being called to do my reserve duty in the territories, I am doing my best to make my task successful also if it is against my point of view and to act in a humanitarian way.”

Israeli peace activists who are fighting these last years against the Occupation can’t be very surprised from this story. Peace Now and their male oriented leadership have always attacked the refuseniks movement and kept on proudly committing war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories in the name of national unity and obedience to the law. One can just hope that they will stop being seen by the world as a part of the peace movement in Israel.
Now go check Paul Ussiskin's letter in today's Guardian.
The union did not cave in to pressure on Norman Finkelstein's appearance in the debate from Dershowitz. What is true, however, is that a debate's balance is undermined if on the opposing side is a speaker who supports the proposing side.
Finkelstein supports the two states solution. He was to oppose three people who support the one state solution. Together with two other supporters of the two states solution that would have made for a valid debate. Paul Ussiskin is the leader (or some such) of Peace Now UK. The General Secretary of Peace Now in Israel helps the Israeli army ethnically cleanse the Jordan Valley, thereby making the two states solution impossible. Who is more credible, Ussiskin or Finkelstein?

Believe this!

I have a letter in today's Guardian. This is it as it appears in the paper:
I am an avid reader of Norman Finkelstein's work and nowhere have I seen him support a one-state solution. On the contrary, in a debate on Democracy Now with Alan Dershowitz in September 2003, he said: "My entire adult life I've been involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict. I'd like you to show me a statement where I say I don't support the two-state settlement." If it is true that, having invited Finkelstein to speak for the two-state side of the debate, the union president announced that a mistake had been made because Finkelstein supports a one-state solution then the Oxford Union has both succumbed to Israel lobby pressure and fallen for one of its lies.
Mark Elf
Dagenham, Essex
They didn't cut much but this is what I wrote in full:
Dear Sir

I am an avid reader of Norman Finkelstein's work and nowhere have I seen him arguing for a one-state solution. On the contrary, in a debate on Democracy Now with Alan Dershowitz on 3rd September 2003, Norman Finkelstein says the following:

Mr. Dershowitz then throws in another lie. He says oh, Finklestein, he's an extremist, he doesnt support the two-state settlement.

My entire adult life i've been involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict. I started publishing on the topic in 1984. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the topic in 1988. I lecture about 2-3 times a week on the topic. I'd like you to show me a statement where I say I don't support the two-state settlement. You said I don't support a two-state settlement, can you provide the evidence to that?

Dr Mendoza's assertion as to Finkelstein's position on the solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict does not conflict with the idea that the Oxford Union succumbed to Israel lobby pressure. Indeed, if it is true that, having invited Finkelstein to speak for the two-state side of the debate, the union president announced that a mistake has been made in that Finkelstein supports a one-state solution, then the Oxford Union has both succumbed to Israel lobby pressure and fallen for one of its lies.

That of course doesn't excuse the Guardian, whose letters editor could and should have checked with Norman Finkelstein before rushing to print.

Yours faithfully

Mark Elf
Of course it wasn't just a letter for publication. It was a complaint that the letters editor shouldn't allow lies through like they had. It would have shown character if they had have published that last line. Still, little acorns...

October 26, 2007

Stop being so silly, it was the lobby wot dunnit

This is getting so bizarre now. The Guardian has published the most ludicrous letter saying that Norman Finkelstein was univited to the Oxford Union debate, not because of Israel lobby pressure but because he doesn't support the two-state solution. See this:
Norman Finkelstein was not uninvited by the union on account of any pressure from "American pro-Israeli academics", but because, as the union president explained to the audience, an error had been made and he had been invited to speak on the two-state solution side of the debate. As Finkelstein supports a one-state solution, this would have rendered the debate a farce. Hence the decision to keep a balanced debate and withdraw his invitation.

Needless to say, one of the Israel lobby's on line components, Harry's Place, is running the lie that Finkelstein's uninvite had nothing to do with the lobby. I think, without going back and checking, that they are saying that one of the would-be participants, Lord Trimble, threatened to pull out if Finkelstein was on the side of the two-state solution because Trimble said that Finkelstein supports a one state solution.

David t wrote the piece and he is fending off queries as to where his evidence of Trimble's intervention has come from. I also haven't seen him responding to "Fred" from, it seems, the States, quoting Finkelstein on Democracy Now saying that he has never spoken up for the one-state solution. Here:
"As Finkelstein supports a one-state solution, this would have rendered the debate a farce."

That may be news to Finklestein. The following is a rough trancript of his Sept. 4, 2003 debate with Dershowitz on Democracy Now:

Norman Finklestein: Mr. Dershowitz then throws in another lie. He says oh, finklestein, he's an extremist, he doesnt support the two-state settlement.

My entire adult life i've been involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict. I started publishing on the topic in 1984. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the topic in 1988. I lecture about 2-3 times a week on the topic. I'd like you to show me a statement where I say I don't support the two-state settlement. You said I don't support a two-state settlement, can you provide the evidence to that?

You can see this at 2:00 in the first video at this link:
So said Fred. No response from Mr t.

But what we have here is an Israel lobbyist, David t, denying that the lobby had anything to do with this and insisting that it was Lord Trimble asserting that Norman Finkelstein holds a position on Palestine that he does not hold.

So who else is arguing the "it was Trimble wot dunnit" line? Not the Jewish Chronicle according to Fred, in the same fred, I mean, thread:
Note what the Jewish Chronicle says:

The Jewish Chronicle is also saying "But members of the Jewish community, including Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and Peace Now UK co-chair Paul Usiskin, complained to the Union that it had given the anti-Israel side a 'fourth voice' by having US political scientist Norman Finkelstein in the pro-Israel team, which also comprised Peter Tatchell and Northern Irish politician Lord Trimble."

All it says about Trimble is this:

"Lord Trimble also withdrew, due to 'diary pressure'."

Is "diary pressure" what you say on your side of the pond instead of "scheduling conflict?"

Now why would Lord Trimble agree to debate w/Finklestein on his side, then suddenly insist Finklestein be removed -- and not say publicly he objected to Finklestein's presence? Seems rather odd. Is he known to be given to such enigmatic behaviour?
Now, from my own experience, Harry's Place has a lot of form when it comes to downright dishonesty. They seem to see the truth as at best irrelevant. But what makes David t feel that he has this "in" to the heart and mind of Lord Trimble? David t is a mysterious soul. I'm not sure but apparently his true identity is known only to his special people like Mikey and Gilad Atzmon. Lord Trimble's name before becoming ennobled as compensation for his lack of popularity in Ireland is David. And of course t is for Trimble. That's it! David t is Lord Trimble. Oh no, he can't be. He'd know just how ludicrous the "it was Trimble wot dunnit" line really is.

So let's be clear. Finkelstein was uninvited by the Oxford Union because of pressure from the Israel lobby. If they believe that Finkelstein argues for a one state solution, then, surprise surprise, the lobby lied and so did HP, which is redundant really. The lobby lied and HP is a part of the lobby.

October 25, 2007

More on Finkelstein as Tatchell queers the pitch

I love him, I love him. Peter Tatchell my hero. I never said a word against him (not). He's lovely, wonderful! He's just blown Harry's Place and Engage out of the water on the Gharda Karmi article in Comment is free today (well, yesterday) . Actually, I've been quite horrid to Comrade Tatchell. I probably still could be but we are where we are. Peter Tatchell has just blown the whistle on what actually happened to get Finkelstein barred from the Oxford Union. It was Dershowitz wot dunnit. Not on his own of course but this was an Israel lobby job and Tatchell isn't exactly an uncritical or even unconditional anti-zionist. Hell, I'm not even sure if he is any kind of anti-zionist. Oh get on with it. What happened? Well Gharda Karmi has a Comment is free piece. Gharda Karmi is one of the Guardian's resident anti-zionists. That means she gets to write an article in the Guardian about once every five years. Anyway here's a piece from the piece:
The newest and least attractive import from America, following on behind Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Friends, is the pro-Israel lobby. The latest target of this US-style campaign is the august Oxford Union. This week, two Israeli colleagues and I were due to appear at the union to participate in an important debate on the one-state solution in Israel-Palestine. Also invited was the American Jewish scholar and outspoken critic of Israel, Norman Finkelstein. At the last minute, however, the union withdrew its invitation to him, apparently intimidated by threats from various pro-Israel groups. The Harvard Jewish lawyer and indefatigable defender of Israel, Alan Dershowitz, attacked the topic of the debate as well as the Oxford Union itself. In an article headlined "Oxford Union is dead", he accused it of having become "a propaganda platform for extremist views", and castigated its choice of what he termed anti-Israel and anti-semitic speakers. Yet Dershowitz could have restored the balance as he saw it; he was the first person invited by the Oxford Union to oppose the motion but he declined due, as he put it, to "the terms of the debate and my proposed teammates".
Ok, the gruesome spectre of the lobby appears. So look at the comments. The zionists are all over Cif so skipping tens, if not hundreds, we come to David t of Harry's Place:
Except that, unfortunately, Karmi is wrong.

What seems to have happened is this:

"Trimble demanded that Finkelstein be dropped from the panel as a precondition for his participation; when the Union accepted Trimble's argument, Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi decided to withdraw in protest. Clearly, they felt that without Finkelstein on the other side of the floor, there was now a chance the debate might be fair."

So it was Trimble who caused the cancellation.

Quite fairly, he refused to participate in a debate alongside a nut; particularly one who is not much of a supporter of a "two state" settlement!

If you've got a problem with that, take it up with Lord Trimble.


Follow the link by all means but the idea that someone, anyone, would be dropped by the Oxford Union (you know, the same Oxford Union that is to host holocaust denier, David Irving and the fascist BNP leader, Nick Griffin, for someone who most people who visit here have never even heard of is ludicrous even by Harry's Place standards. I haven't followed the link and I probably won't but I see the name Ottolenghi on there and I'm thinking, oh never mind what I'm thinking. Trimble couldn't get a flight cancelled if there was a Drumcree Brethren bomb on board. But not according to David t. For David t the Drumcree Brother was the man who made the Good Friday Agreement (the peace agreement between the Irish republican movement and the UK) work. Honestly, he said that look. The very next comment on the Cif thread is David t again:
What is more plausible?

That the Oxford Union caved following an article published in a foreign newspaper published by a US academic?

Or that the Oxford Union invited Finkelstein, having misunderstood his views on the subject, only to disinvite him at the instigation of Lord Trimble.

Hmm. Let's see. Who would be a more prestigious and relevant speaker for the "two states" side.

(A) A hysteric ex-academic, beloved by nutsy "anti-Zionists", but known by almost nobody else; or

(B) The man who made the Good Friday Agreement work, bringing to an end decades of sectarian bloodshed.

It is a difficult one, isn't it!
"beloved by nutsy "anti-Zionists", but known by almost nobody else." Finklelstein is known only by anti-zionists? David t knows who he is. Dershowitz knows who he is too. The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland has lied about him. I can't be bothered to dig up my post on that. Name a high profile zionist and then google their name by "Norman Finkelstein". See what happens. Lots of sites appear because every high profile zionist is terrified of Finkelstein and has misrepresented his work in writing to exorcise their fears. David Trimble was a here today gone tomorrow politician who just happened to be around for the Good Friday Agreement which couldn't have worked without the assent of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Either of them could have been invited in place of Trimble. They would have been invited in place of Trimble But there are more (and more and more and more) comments. The zionists have this megaphone system to alert their people to criticism of Israel. You download it to your pc and while you email your auntie Sadie, the megaphone flashes up an action alert. That's why you see so much zionist comment in any thread where Israel is an issue.

Ok so let's see what Peter Tatchell has to say.
I was also due to speak in the Oxford Union debate on Israel-Palestine but withdrew because of the dis-invitation of my fellow guest speaker, the US Jewish academic, Norman Finkelstein.

I was astonished that the Oxford Union is prepared to host Nick Griffin and David Irving in an up-coming debate - in the name of free speech - but not Norman Finkelstein.

I was not the only one to feel this way. All three main speakers in support of the motion had already withdrawn from the debate in protest at Norman's exclusion. Without Norman and the three distinguished proponents of the motion, the debate could not proceed with any credibility or legitimacy.

Norman Finkelstein is critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. I concur with some of his criticisms. I don't agree with Norman on certain things. But I know of nothing that he has said to justify his invitation being withdrawn by the Oxford Union. The ban on Norman Finkelstein goes against the principles of free speech that the Oxford Union claims to defend.

We were due to debate the following motion last Tuesday, 23 October 2007:

"This House believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict."

While I agree that one state based on peace, justice, equality and security for all Jews and Arabs would be the ideal solution, I do not agree that it is the only solution - nor do most Palestinians, who now support a two-state solution.

The priority is to establish some form of independent Palestinian state - however imperfect - as soon as possible. A two-state solution is more likely than a one-state solution.

On a positive note: The Oxford Union has sought to make amends by agreeing to host a further debate on Israel-Palestine early next year, where Norman Finkelstein and pro-Israel advocate, Alan Dershowitz, will be invited to speak.

Regarding the Oxford Union's up-coming free speech debate:

The decision to invite Nick Griffin and David Irving is a big mistake. Those who peddle hatred and historical distortions should not be rewarded by being feted by acclaimed institutions. I don't believe the defence of free speech requires the Oxford Union to proactively offer these hate-mongers a prestigious platform to secure respectability for their odious views.

I say this as a human rights campaigner, and as the Green Party's candidate for Oxford East.

That ought to have been the last word but no, there are more, many many more. Go on, go read them all but pay particular attention to David t and David, woops, Shachtman, and weigh up who you think was responsible for having Norman Finkelstein pulled from the agenda of the Oxford Union, one of the most prestigious debating societies in the world today, but possibly not tomorrow.

Anyone but Finkelstein at Oxford

Oxford Town, Oxford Town

Here's a story that shines a light on zionist priorities. I couldn't quite get my head around the significance of this story when I was first sent it but it appears that zionists, maybe even just one zionist, have managed to get Norman Finkelstein barred from a UK university now. Norman Finkelstein was booked to oppose a motion
'This House believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel Palestine Conflict'
at the Oxford Union debating society at Oxford University. Avi Shlaim, Gharda Karmi and Ilan Pappe were going to support the motion and Norman Finkelstein, Peter Tatchell and David Trimble (former Northern Ireland First Minister for the Ulster Unionist Party) were going to speak up for the two-state solution. Well according to the Jerusalem Post the "Peace" Now movement in the UK are boasting that it was their man in London - Paul Ussiskin - who had Norman Finkelstein pulled from the list of opponents.
When Peace Now-UK co-chair Paul Usiskin saw Finkelstein's name on the team opposing the motion, he expressed concern that "a far-left detractor of Israel" had been chosen to defend the existence of the Jewish state.

He told the Student Union they were "seeking sensation over substance" and were denying a proper and balanced debate.

Following talks with Oxford Union President Luke Tryll, the union decided to drop Finkelstein and invited Usiskin to participate along with Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow of the Middle East program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, who is also Israeli.

Usiskin told The Jerusalem Post that a Jewish student informed him Sunday that the proposers of the one-state solution were disgruntled at his inclusion in the debate and demanding Finkelstein's re-invitation. When this was refused, Shlaim, Pappe and Karmi withdrew from the debate.
So Finkelstein's criticism of Israel and of zionism is too repugnant for "Peace" Now. Perhaps the hallowed surrounds of Oxford University are just too genteel for one so outspoken as Finkelstein. Perhaps Paul Ussisikin was saving the delicate ears of Oxford University students from some unpleasant ideas.

Peace Now have been emailing their members and their ex-members to boast of Paul Ussiskin's success in having Finkelstein barred from yet another university. The zionists can be very influential in the matters it seems. And yet David Irving, the holocaust denier, and Nick Griffin, leader of the UK's fascist British National Party, can argue their poisoned doctrines unimpeded by the undoubted influence of the zionist movement. I did say this matter shone a light on zionist priorities.

I'm guessing the debate between credible seekers after peace, justice and truth will eventually take place somewhere because that is a debate we need. We need a discussion between opponents of Jewish supremacy as to which of one or two states is the way forward for occupied Palestine. The best zionists are offering is one state of Jewish supremacy with dog kennels flying Palestinian flags on either side.

It's to the credit of the proposers of the one state motion that they withdrew. We don't know if they would have won or lost the debate. Finkelstein is a formidable debater, and unlike the zionist "left" he has credibility as a supporter of the Palestinian cause.

October 21, 2007

....but don't call him a nazi whatever you do

Who him? Who do you think? The Socialist Workers Party's favourite antisemite of course. The man whose playing is so lucrative for the SWP he can doctor the writings of the their friends to "prove" that they are zionists. I'm referring of course to the litigious saxophonist, Gilad Atzmon. Read this article here and then consider whether it's appropriate to juxtapose Atzmon with other, ahem, "non-bourgeois nationalists." Roland Rance and Tony Greenstein came close to calling Atzmon a holocaust denier once upon a time. How wrong they were, as they acknowledge, how horribly wrong.
the Jewish state and the sons of Israel are at least as unpopular in the Middle East as their grandparents were in Europe just six decades ago. Seemingly, it is the personification of WW2 and the Holocaust that blinded the Israelis and their supporters from internalising the real meaning of the conditions and the events that led towards their destruction in the first place.
This isn't holocaust denial, it's holocaust justification. And from the SWP's saxophonist of choice.

If I was Sue Blackwell I'd be asking for a refund of whatever she had to pay Atzmon's "favourite charity" to have him let her get on with her work against zionism in relative freedom from harassment by way of the UK's ludicrously plaintiff friendly libel laws. But read the indy piece in full and look out for any explanation of what he really meant to say.

October 20, 2007

War at Stop the War

I suggested that I shouldn't have got into the argument at all and I still don't know where I stand on it but two of my regular commentors here have got very lively over the Stop the War Coalition's decision to deny an affiliation to a group called Hands off the People of Iran. I've done two posts on this already here and here. I should probably be doing a post on Ben White's Comment is free piece on that stupid OneVoice business but I'm learning so much from the debate over this StWC/HOPI spat, I can't let go. I keep changing my mind about it for a start.

Ok, a little detour to Ben White. You'll see his biographical details at the bottom of his Cif piece. I'll just say he writes a lot for Electronic Intifada and he's no friend of OneVoice unlike the chap who Cif got to write the first Cif piece on it, a Seth Freedman. I think he's one of the Linda Grant interns at the Guardian. He's a big fan of the movement that wants the Palestinians refugees to stay refugees or at least stay away from where they come from so that he, an English stockbroker, can stay in the place he doesn't come from. I think he also fails to mention that OneVoice wants Israel to retain "settlement blocks." He denounces those who denounce OneVoice for being a smokescreen for a colonial settler state, as "extremists." But I've done the link so see for yourself.

Anyway, where was I? The debate around StWC and the comments here on it. Johng did this comment. No he didn't. I need to plan better. He was addressing Tony Greenstein who posted this comment:
John G doesn't get it. Of course we argued that the Iraqi regime didn't have weapons of mass destruction and more importantly, even if they did, they were hardly a 45 minute threat to Britain and that in any case we'd supplied these very same weapons. And it's also true that we didn't say Saddam had a programme to invade his neighbours. The same is true of the Iranian regime. Noone I know in the CPGB or HOPIA is arguing that the Iranian state is intent on invading its neighbours nor that it is in the process of developing nuclear weapons (and if it was well the US has helped Israel and Pakistan to do just the same anyway so an invasion would only be a pretext).

But we also didn't deny the horrific nature of the Iraqi regime and that is also what we are arguing about the Iranian regime. That it is a viciously anti-working class regime which is also engaging in severe repression of its minorities, gays and women.

Nor is anyone supporting an invasion of Iran. The question is whether or not one buries one's criticism of that regime. There was a time when the SWP argued that defending a neo-colonial state against attack by imperialism didn't mean that one downplayed the reactionary nature of that regime. We argued for independent working class opposition to that regime AT THE SAME TIME AS OPPOSING AN ATTACK ON IT.

The problem with the SWP is that they are now unable to argue both at the same time, i.e. they have collapsed into a form of uncritical third worldist politics. And that is why we have these ludicrous bans on the CPGB and Hopia.

These proscriptions are political, in that the groups concerned, as John G admits, don't accept that they should downplay or keep quiet on their opposition to the Iranian regime. As such the bans are sectarian and call into question the broad nature of the StWC. The Green Party, Lib-Dems etc. are welcome but not groups to the left of the SWP. To my mind that is undemocratic and all the arguments I have heard are merely an exercise in semantics.

The CPGB may be tiny in comparison with the SWP, but ironically their paper, Weekly Worker, because it is open has a much higher readership than Socialist Worker. Over 30,000 people each week download it, whereas SW is boring, dishonest and, as with its coverage of the Respect debacle, leaves its readership in the dark about what is going on. Which of course is par for the course for a group whose methodology is Stalinist.
Now johng does his comment:

Did you attack the StW coalition for 'downplaying' the nature of the Iraqi regime- yes or no? There is no difference whatsoever in the approach, and as stated, the Iraqi regime, objectively, was much more repressive.

There wouldn't have even been a strike to be repressed in that country. Everyone understood very early on in the run up to the Iraq war that the key duty of the anti-war movement was to demystify the nature of even that horrible regime. It was a considerably tougher job to be honest.

Its obviously difficult for those whose entire political practice had been linked to arguing that the regime was worst then any other, partly a consequence of a political shift from class or nationalist politics towards 'international civil society' type politics, to make such a shift.

To their credit large sections of the Iraqi exile left did in the end make this shift. For various reasons the exile Iranian left has been much slower, and spent most of their time denouncing those opposed to war for not denouncing the Iranian regime. That is of course their right, but broad coalitions are dependent on basic clarity about ends.

Early on a political concensus was won on the basis that the British state and the United States were conniving in aggressive wars of choice across the whole region in an attempt to dominate that region. In such a situation, a position of equi-distance simply makes no sense.

We have to stop our government from joining in the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of people, the destruction of all possibility for development and progress across the region for generations, and an era of hatred and despair which will persist as long.

To spend our time in this situation having debates about what is or is not the precise position to be taken to the Iranian regime and calling each other 'opportunist' this or 'third worldist' that (wha?) would be nutty.
And while I was doing a hand-wringing "I still don't know what to think" sort of a comment, Stephen Marks was posting this:
Johng’s apologia for the StWC leadership’s stalinist ban is a disgrace. He is using the same smear and ‘guilt by association’ tactics that Mikey at HP used against Avi Shlaim to suggest that he was a holocaust denier. John implies that ‘Iranian dissidents’ [conveniently unnamed] are conniving with the CIA in the same way as emigre political circles in Iraq were in talks with the US before the Iraq war. The implication is that these are the Iranians associated with HOPI.

John writes that;

‘one source of tension that has existed with the Iranian 'exile left' (and I'd stress Lenin's point that we are dealing with other sects which have existed here in the west over several decades) is that most of their propaganda over these decades have been to stress over and over again that Iran is the worse regime in the world, that there ought to be sanctions against it, and that alliances with anyone, from Saddam Hussain's Ba'ath Party, right through to US imperialism is justified against it’.

No evidence whatever is produced to ‘prove’ that the Iranian groups associated with HOPI do in fact hold these reactionary positions. In fact Yasmine Mather, one of the leading Iranians in HOPI, wrote in January in a article linked to on the HOPI site;

‘After months of discussion and hesitation, the United Nations security council finally imposed sanctions against Iran on Saturday December 23. Inside Iran no-one is in any doubt that it is workers and the poor who will pay the price of these sanctions, as the islamic regime uses the excuse of ‘new economic conditions’ to sack tens of thousands of workers, stop paying the wages of thousands of public sector employees and increase repression, while pressing ahead with its nuclear programme...

‘They could have added that the supporters of ‘regime change in Iran’ (including forces deluding themselves that calls for such change, imposed from outside, will improve the plight of workers, women and national minorities) and the apologists of the islamic regime in the anti-war movement also need each other and that “the rhetoric of one is modelled on the rhetoric of the other”.

‘Events of the last few weeks of 2006 showed once more the perilous nature of both positions. The recommendations of the Iraq Study Group have not altered the threat of military aggression and, now sanctions against Iran are a reality, the US-UK governments have not given up plans for regime change from above.

‘At the same time a rainbow of rightwing and reformist groups inside and outside Iran, some even claiming to support workers’ rights, are playing up to this gallery, at times unaware of the disastrous consequences of simply calling for trade union, women’s and democratic rights, while failing to mention the role of imperialism and its barbarous wars in the region. They cannot see that singling out islamic regimes such as Iran’s shia republic as the only forces of ‘evil’ plays into the hands of world capital. Such campaigns, whatever the intention of their supporters, add up to no more than direct or indirect support for imperialist scenarios of ‘velvet revolution’.

So much for John’s attempt to smear them by association with other un-named groups that allegedly claim that ‘Iran is the worse regime in the world, that there ought to be sanctions against it, and that alliances with anyone, from Saddam Hussain's Ba'ath Party, right through to US imperialism is justified against it’.

Nor do I see anywhere on the HOPI site, any evidence of ‘arguing that the regime was worst then any other, partly a consequence of a political shift from class or nationalist politics towards 'international civil society' type politics’. If the groups he is referring to really have spent 'decades’ doing this he should be able at least to name them and give us some links to where and when they have said it.

Otherwise we will hve to dismiss his contribution as nothing more than a vulgar smear. At least those who practice ‘guilt by association’ at Harry’s Place are usually specific about who they are dishonestly accusing their opponents of ‘associating’ with.

The one group I can recognise John as actually referring to here is the so-called ‘Peoples Mujahideen’ group who were the ones collecting signatures on our streets by showing people awful photographs of atrocities, who did indeed fight with and take finance from Saddam Hussein, and who, despite being officially listed as terrorists by the USA, are now being armed and supported by US forces in Iraq and used again against Iran.

For John to imply that the groups associated with HOPI have any conection with the Peoples Mujahideen is in effect to finger them to the Iranian regime and its police and agents, and is a disgrace for which he should apologise.

The reality is that StWC has on principle barred from its platforms people who would not undertake to refrain from criticisms of the Islamic Republic. This actually weakens the antiwar movement, as there is no more effective answer to those who try to use the repressive nature of the regime as an excuse for not opposing an attack on Iran, than to point out that Iranian oppositionists themselves are opposed themselves to a US attack and, for obvious reasons, have no wish for an Iraqi-style ‘liberation’.

And who better to make that point than Iranian exiles?

The question is not whether or not one should endorse the precise analysis of these groups, but whether they should be excluded from the StWC. And if you think, as I do, that they could do better than get mixed up with the sectarians of the ‘cpgb’, maybe the attitude of some other parts of the left could explain why.
Hasn't helped me any in terms of where I stand vis á vis StWC v HOPI but the discussions taking place on the previous two posts and hopefully on this one are very useful, I think, when it comes to establishing where people and groups stand on the issues around the wars on and in the Middle East and how they should be opposed.

October 18, 2007

Stop the War replies to Hands off the People of Iran

Something nagged me that I shouldn't have got into this. I don't even know what brought the matter to my attention. I now know it's on Harry's Place but I didn't get it from there. I'm referring to my earlier post about Stop the War coalition not allowing Hands off the people of Iran affiliating. It led to a handful of comments from not very regulars and from one person I've never had before, I think. Anyway, one commentor, David Landy, posted Andrew Murray's letter responding to the open letter posted up in the post below this one.
Dear Brother/Sister

Thank you for your communication re the decision of the officers of StWC to decline the applications for affiliation from Communist Students and Hands off the People of Iran. I think that three things should be made clear concerning this:

First, the Stop the War Coalition is a voluntary body set up by individuals and organisations to pursue particular political aims. As such no individual or group has a "right" to membership of it. Like any voluntary organisation (as opposed to a public body) we have the right to determine who may join us. We have an elected leadership answerable under a democratic constitution empowered to take these decisions in what we believe to be the best interests of the movement we serve. Such decisions may, of course, be proved mistaken by the course of subsequent events. But it is in no sense "censorship" to take those decisions, since nobody is thereby denied their right to publish or circulate material. Since our formation there have always been anti-war people or organisations which have chosen to stay outside StWC, just as there have been organisations to which we have denied affiliation in the past.

Second, the issue is not StWC's view of the Iranian regime. This is merely a stick used to beat us by those wanting to divide the movement. The Iranian regime is dictatorial and often brutal and is based on the denial of many basic rights. We are no more "friends" of the Iranian regime than we were friends of the Taliban in Afghanistan or Saddam in
Iraq, to recall a couple of the slanderous attacks made on us by warmongers down the years. The main focus of StWC is, however, on challenging the policies of the British government in respect of the war, which includes respecting the rights of all peoples to
self-determination. There are a number of organisations working in solidarity with the
Iranian people, and a number of StWC affiliates participate in such activity as well. We have never believed it is correct to cloud the movement's objectives by placing issues of "regime change" (which are ultimately the business of the peoples of the country concerned) on an equal footing with stopping the war, or at least British involvement in
it. The latter is the reason for our existence. We have no fear of debate on this issue - the sort of views advanced by Hands off the People of Iran have been debated at almost every one of our conferences, and have never received more than miniscule support.

Third, our decision in respect of these two organisations is, however, political. Both are effectively controlled by the Weekly Worker group ("CPGB") - indeed their spokesman in the current controversy is the Weekly Worker's national organiser. This body has been hostile to StWC from its inception. It declined to support the objectives of the Coalition, which they now pray freely in aid, when they were first adopted in October 2001.
Its coverage of StWC activities is not merely critical, but usually abusive, and reflects the attacks made by our pro-war opponents. It supported the witch-hunting of George Galloway in 2003 and urged voters not to support Jeremy Corbyn in the general election of 2005. When I was myself subject to extensive attack in the pro-war media in 2003, the main lines of such attack were echoed faithfully, with if anything added vitriol, in the pages of the Weekly Worker. It seldom supports our activities - for example, the successful march held on October 8 in defiance of a police ban was neither promoted by the Weekly Worker in advance, nor attended on the day by its supporters nor reported afterwards, for reasons one can only guess at.

Indeed, Workers Weekly established Hands off the People of Iran at the start of 2007 explicitly as an alternative to StWC and because it no longer wished to support the Coalition - moves they had every right to take and which follow logically from their hostility to us. But to seek to affiliate many months later when they could have done at the time of their formation if their solidarity with us was sincere, and on the eve of a conference is, as I originally wrote, neither sympathetic nor supportive.

Even a cursory perusal of the material produced by Weekly Worker is testimony to its antipathy to StWC. This is consistent with the disruptive role it has played in a series of organisations in our movement over the last 25 years, which is why it has been praised by pro-war journalists like David Aaronovich and pro-war websites like Harry's Place.

Naturally, Weekly Worker has every right to pursue its own political agenda as it sees fit, but StWC has no obligation to provide it with a platform. If activists in the anti-war movement wish to debate the views of such groups - and I have seen very little evidence that any do - then there are no doubt opportunities available in their own publications and meetings.

From its inception, StWC has been a broad and tolerant organisation. Had it been otherwise we could not have sustained the movement at the level which has been done. Occasionally, however, we have to take prophylactic measures to protect our integrity, and this is one of those cases.

The decisions taken by the Officers Group in this respect will be reported to the next meeting of the national Steering Committee for ratification. If either Communist Students of Hands off the People of Iran wish to make written representations to that meeting, they will of course be afforded the right to do so.

Andrew Murray
Ah yes, it's in the post below. I got it from the Just Peace UK list. So, what's going on? I don't know. And that's why I shouldn't have got into this.

October 17, 2007

Hands off Hands Off the People of Iran

What's all this about then? Regulars may have noticed that I keep wondering what all this or that is about. This time it's an issue between the Stop the War Coalition and these Hands Off the People of Iran people that I only found out about yesterday night from the Just Peace list. Andrew Murray of the Stop the War Coalition has written to Hands off the People of Iran to the effect that:
A study of statements and articles issued by your organisation show that you are entirely hostile to the Coalition, its policies and its work. Nor is there any record of your supporting our activity and initiatives. Under these circumstances, it is impossible to regard your application as in any way supportive or sympathetic.
Here's the response he and many others got:
Comrade Murray

I was amazed to receive your email in response to the affiliation of Hands Off People of Iran as a national organisation to Stop the War Coalition (Friday, October 12).

You write that, “The officers of StWC have received your application to affiliate to the coalition and have decided to decline it.” This is despite the fact that Hopi supporters had been in contact with your centre as late as yesterday, October 11, to confirm Hopi’s status as an affiliate. Of course, we recognise that the officers have now taken a political decision to disbar our campaign, not an administrative one.

It is the politics of this exclusion that I wish to take up with you, even though your letter contains simple assertions and unfounded accusations against Hopi rather than solid argument. However, there is an agenda being heavily implied here.

For example, you write that, "A study of statements and articles issued by your organisation show that you are entirely hostile to the Coalition, its policies and its work. Nor is there any record of your supporting our activity and initiatives. Under these circumstances, it is impossible to regard your application as in any way supportive or sympathetic.”

You have obviously failed to consult our website or our articles, let alone made a careful “study” of them. Let us just draw you attention to the most recent front page contributions on the Hopi site:

Now these are from a range of political opinions within the broad front of opposition to the war on Iran, but I am sure all Hopi activists as well as the specific authors of these articles will be very interested to hear from you which ones can be judged “entirely hostile to the Coalition, its policies and its work”.

You also refer to the objectionable “statements” of our campaign. Rather than bald assertions, perhaps you and the other StWC officers could draw out what you find so “hostile to the Coalition” in our founding statement, also featured on the front page of the Hopi website?

This founding statement has two core elements to its political platform:

a) Unconditional opposition to any imperialist military attack/sanctions against Iran and the demand for the immediate withdrawal of all imperialist troops from the Gulf region. Surely there can be no objection to this, comrade? We assume this is a position we share with all the officers of the StWC, the steering committee and the vast bulk of its membership.

b) Opposition to the theocratic regime and solidarity with and practical aid to grassroots movements - of women, workers and students - fighting for democracy and freedom in Iran.

Now, none of us are political naives and we have already had some experience of how leading members of the StWC have characterised this second strand of the Hopi platform. But does that mean, as far as you are concerned, that it is a decided fact that the StWC’s ‘policy’ is that the theocracy must not be opposed by people who are simultaneously against the imperialist war?! And on pain of excommunication?!

Are you seriously saying that there is no place in this broad movement against imperialist war for comrades who say we should support grassroots movements for democracy and socialism in Iran? And what about the brave activists of these movements - the women beaten and arrested on International Women’s Day; the 100s of Tehran busworkers arrested for going on strike; the 1000s of workers in the car industry or the Hafte sugar cane plant; the students who protested against the presence of the barbarian Ahmadinejad on their campuses? Are they to be left to stand alone against this regime; is the anti-war movement in this country telling them that they have to abandon their struggles and get behind ‘their’ government?

This would be a betrayal not only of these people, but of the cause of peace and anti-imperialism itself.

However, if this is what is being implied, I am puzzled - where and when was this approach debated and democratically agreed by the StWC as a whole? I am aware that there certainly are political trends within the leadership of the Coalition that adhere to this shameful position, but that is not the stated position of the StWC as a national body.

So where, comrade, has this been debated and voted on?

Indeed, our exclusion is all the more frustrating (and suspicious, quite frankly), given that - according to the Coalition’s email bulletin of September 19 - the steering committee “agreed to make opposing any attack on Iran the central theme of the Stop the War annual conference … [and] an opportunity to deepen and extend our discussions on building the movement at this critical moment” (my emphasis).

If this is so, comrade, how on earth can you and your fellow officers justify the exclusion of the voice of Hopi, an organisation with significant support from the exile Iranian left across Europe and a very wide range of comrades in the left, workers, progressive and arts movements? (For a full list of Hopi supporters so far, see www.hopoi.org/supporters.html and for a small selection see the end of this letter.)

As for your laughable suggestion, “nor is there any record of your supporting our activity and initiatives”, I am not sure if you or anyone else in the StWC had taken the time to actually look at the impressive list of those who have joined our campaign and signed our founding statement, you would have seen that many are also active members and supporters of the Coalition and will find this justification for rejecting Hopi’s affiliation very insulting, put frankly.

For my part, I have been invited to and spoken on a number of occasions in StWC meetings in Glasgow (both in the city branch and at the two University StWC meetings), receiving a very warm welcome from StWC activists. In the eight months since Hopi was founded, our activists (Iranian and British) have organised over 40 meetings against the imperialist sabre-rattling against Iran, in cities such as Sheffield, London, Leeds, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Manchester and Dublin. I suggest that - quite apart from the direct practical links and material aid Hopi comrades have organised for activists in Iran itself - this is a proud and impressive record of activity that is fully in the spirit of the StWC’s opposition to this looming new tragedy in the Middle East.

(Indeed, we are the only solidarity campaign in direct, daily contact with anti-war and anti-imperialist activists in Iran. As Hopi supporter Ben Lewis has put it in his supporting statement for the elections to the StWC steering committee, our campaign is uniquely placed “to give these comrades a voice at the very centre of the anti-war movement in this country - against any imperialist attack on their country; but, at the same time, against the theocratic regime”).

In all these meetings, our speakers have spoken primarily about imperialism and the threat it presents in our region. I suspect you would have had no arguments had you attended any.

But, of course, they have also targeted Iran’s Islamic regime as a neo-liberal capitalist theocracy, a regime that supported the military invasion of Iraq and successive Shia governments imposed by US-UK occupying military forces. We make no apology for telling the truth that Iran is a country where workers protest against privatisation, job insecurity, non-payment of wages and that they deserve solidarity. A country where women, youth and gays are foully oppressed. A regime that deserves to be overthrown - but only by its own people, only by the masses imposing democracy from below!

Andrew, you really should be explicit about this. Are you and your fellow officers saying that any criticism of the Islamic regime in Iran at present is “entirely hostile to the Coalition, its policies and its work”? Is this what is being suggested, comrade? If so, I suspect that this will come as news to many the vast bulk of StWC members and supporters.

Again, I refer you to a few of our supporters listed below that I have picked from a much longer list. Let me assure you that they - and all Hopi supporters, StWC branches and sponsors, tens of thousands of activists across Europe and the Middle East - will be getting a copy of this open letter and the rest of the protest material Hopi will be producing in the very near future.

And they also may be rather bemused by your attitude, to say the least.

Yours against imperialist war and in solidarity with the people of Iran,

Yassamine Mather
Hands Off the People of Iran
See that? "Let me assure you that they - and all Hopi supporters, StWC branches and sponsors, tens of thousands of activists across Europe and the Middle East - will be getting a copy of this open letter." Well that's very strange because I just checked the Stop the War Coalition website and they don't seem to have received the open letter or surely they would have published it. They need to say what the problem is with this Hands off the people of Iran group. Apart from having Peter Tatchell on their supporters list I can't see anything. And I'm so used to ignoring Tatchell now I can't remember what I find suspect about him. Probably not enough to write off a whole group just because he's a "supporter".

I'm half, maybe more than half, serious here. Maybe Murray saw Tatchell's name and thought it was a good indication that HOPI was "entirely hostile to the Coalition, its policies and its work." But they really need to explain their position.

October 16, 2007

Shooting and crying? Not just an Israeli pastime

If you google "shooting and crying" 2,280 sites are found and the first ten are in the context of Israelis doing the shooting and crying. Actually, out of the first ten a handful direct you to an article by Meron Benvenisti which is well worth a read. But I'm digressing before I've begun. This shooting and crying story is about the officer in charge of the team that shot and killed Jean Charles de Menezes. See this from Yahoo news:
The officer in charge of the police firearms unit which gunned down innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes broke down in tears as he defended his team in court.

The officer, codenamed Ralph, told the Old Bailey that despite what happened he was "very proud" of his men.

Ralph said police had been prepared to risk their lives pursuing the man they believed was a suicide bomber into the Underground.

He was giving evidence at the trial of the Metropolitan Police, which is accused of a "catastrophic" series of errors leading up to the death of Mr de Menezes. The force denies a single charge under health and safety laws.

Mr de Menezes, who was 27, was followed to Stockwell Tube station from flats linked to attempted bomber Hussain Osman, on July 22, 2005. He was shot seven times in the head.

Ralph was the leader of the team of elite CO19 firearms officers who pursued him into the station after giving a "state red" alert to stop him.

He told the court: "The only people running down stairs to confront the man that they believed to be Hussain Osman, a known suicide bomber, were police officers from CO19 and surveillance officers as well, while everyone else was running out.

"We were going forward to deal with this in order to protect the public, even though this man could have had a device on him."

Ronald Thwaites QC, defending, read from a statement made by Ralph, in which he pointed out that police officers at the time believed they were risking their lives to protect the public.

The statement ended: "I hope that's not forgotten."

When Mr Thwaites asked him how he felt about being a prosecution witness, the officer, who was giving evidence behind a screen, choked with emotion and was passed a box of tissues by the court usher.

Trial judge Mr Justice Henriques said: "I think the response speaks for itself."

Ralph said: "Despite the outcome, I was very proud of them."
Very proud of them? What's all that about?

But stay with the article. That Menezes geezer got what was coming. Why? See this:
The court later heard that traces of cocaine were found in Mr de Menezes after he was shot dead.

Pathologist Dr Kenneth Shorrock told the Old Bailey that tests showed he must have taken the drug.

The court heard that a toxicology test following his death showed a blood test for cocaine was "below detectable levels" but his urine tested positive.

Ronald Thwaites QC, defending, asked Dr Shorrock: "Does that indicate that he had relatively recently consumer cocaine?"

Dr Shorrock replied: "I can't speak with any expertise about when he would have consumed it, but that plus the presence of benzoylecognine, a breakdown product of cocaine, indicates that he had used cocaine at some time."
A consumer of class A drugs, huh? And all they did was shoot him seven times in the head. No wonder the country's in a state.

October 14, 2007

Zionist project shocks zionist Blair

Tony Blair, honorary patron of the Jewish National Fund, has been shocked by the discrimination he has now witnessed in the West Bank. Here's the Independent on Sunday:
He was shocked by what he was told about conditions in Hebron and diplomats say he was genuinely taken aback by his trip to the West Bank sector of the Jordan Valley – where Palestinians are allowed to dig wells only a third as deep as Israelis – at the exploitation of resources by the rich Jewish agricultural settlements at the expense of closed in Palestinian farmers. And he has been privately dismissive – rather more so perhaps than he was as Prime Minister – of the argument by some Israelis that security comes first, with economics and a political deal well behind it.
Now if Blair can't spin why Jews have more right to water than Arabs, no-one can. Perhaps he should visit Gaza where they can't dig wells at all.

October 13, 2007

Enough already! Linda Grant does not work for or with the Israeli government

A bit of clarity at the outset. Linda Grant does not work for the Israeli government. She doesn't work with the Israeli government. She doesn't work on behalf of the Israeli government. The Israeli government does not facilitate her work, nor does it tell her what to say. There is nothing that can be said about Linda Grant that would link her to the Israeli government in any way. Indeed her work amounts to "legitimate journalism." Got that? I hope so.

Now what's all this about? I haven't a clue myself but I'm sufficiently anxious to be running a whole post on something that appeared in the comments box to a post a couple of days ago headed "Israel deliberately targets children." I am copying and pasting everything here so apologies for the typos. They're not mine this time. I will, however, include links where appropriate.

Here's the comment:
Grant's article featuring the bereaved Israeli father* was an exercise in emotional manipulation for hasbara; the father was quoted as endorsing the policy of demolishing houses of suicide bombers and complaining - without any proof - that the IDF had not done so in his son's case. The and the entire series of which the article formed one part, was later revealed to have been organised and written by Grant in co-operation with the Israeli government.
That was by a James O. Not wanting to leave any hostages to fortune I asked "revealed where, how and by whom?" Well back comes James O, and here's where the trouble starts, with this:
Mark - the article she refers to was not false,and the father's grief was entirely genuine but the series of articles in the Guardain, including one featuring an IDF soldier, were organised in conjunction with the Israeli government to present a favourable, westernised image of Israel in the press. Daphne Baram's 'Disenchatment:the Guardian and Israel' gives the full story
And there it might have ended but for this email I received from Daphna Baram:
Dear Mark,

I was referred to a comment on your website which implies that my book Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel describes an unethically, or acted on behalf of the Israeli government when writing from Israel and the West Bank for the Guardian. I have never written or implied such a thing. I specifically wrote that her feature was "legitimate journalism", though I have indeed professed political criticism regarding her point of view which, in my opinion, serves the Israeli ethos of "Shoot and weep". The fact that Grant got permission from the Israeli army to be present at the spot in Nablus in neither here nor there. It is common journalistic practice and had she not obtained that permission she would not have been able to gain access. in that, her position was as that of any other embedded journalist. I may not want to be embedded in that particular bed myself, but I do not think it is an illegitimate type of journalism in any shape of form. Furthermore, I wouldn't have dared try to spend tie with, say, Fatah fighters in Jennin, without getting some permission which would guarantee my access and safety. I disagree with many of Linda Grant's opinions on Israel and have criticised some of her writing in my book from a political point of view, but I do not for a minute doubt her ethics. I regret that my book has been used to knee-jerk her in that way.

Here is the relevant quotation from my book:

Grant obtained permission from the IDF to spend five days with soldiers who took over the roof and top floor of a Palestinian family house in occupied Nablus. Grant's heart went out to the humanity of the soldiers - one of them even goes to Peace Now demonstrations on his free weekends - and she undertook to represent their closest hopes and predicaments in a long feature story. She reported that those soldiers who expressed racist or hostile views to Arabs belonged to "the military police and border guards who accepted those who fail the IQ tests - the illiterate, the damaged, the angry". They come from the ranks of "working class immigrants from Muslim countries...among their numbers are found some of the most rightwing and racist of all Israelis".

Grant was concerned that the soldiers on the roof might be misunderstood in Europe, where some of them intended to travel after their service. At the end of the five days she left. "We shook hands on the windy street. He looked so young, years younger than I'd seen him in uniform, and I wished I could make myself a huan shield against all the hate and demonisation he would encounter from those for whom life is a collection of symbols and slogans which stamp themselves on the faces of others, obscuring their features, like a helmet".
All this is perfectly legitimate journalism; an yet if reflects knowingly or not a controversial category in the Israeli ethos, known in Hebrew as "shoot and weep"...

On her return to London Grand admitted that Israeli officials "urged me to publicise the Geneva accords, the reservist's protest, to keep the Israeli left alive in the eyes of the Europeans". She saw it as subversiveness on their part, but a heartbroken soldier who completes his mission despite an anguished conscience is likely to be regarded by officialdom as of far more value to Israel's international image than Sharon's professional spokesmen.
King regards,
Daphna Baram
Ok, the first line is a bit garbled but she is saying that she had not intended that her words be construed as saying that Linda Grant is somehow unethical as a journalist or that she was simply writing under the direction of the Israeli government. At least I think that's what she's saying. I should point out here that she copied Linda Grant into the email.

I duly copied and pasted the section of the book that Baram quoted. If you clicked the link to the James O comment then scroll down. If not, go here. So James O has posted his interpretation of what Baram actually wrote, Baram has said that it's a misinterpretation and I have posted what she actually wrote in her book. Surely that could have been an end to it. I wrote back to her, and only her (I left Linda Grant out of the loop), to say that I had posted the section of the book that James O was most likely referring to in his comment. This is my email:
Hi Daphna

Thanks very much for this. I can't speak for the chap who left the comment but I am sure he didn't intend to misrepresent your writing. I have posted the passage from the book that you provided under the comment that you have complained of.

I found your reference to the Geneva business quite fascinating. Linda Grant actually wrote an article on Comment is free where she seems to suggest that even a Likudnik (a mayor perhaps) she spoke to suggested a Geneva type settlement.

Anyway, thanks again for your email.

Mark Elf:
Well, back she comes in another email, again copied into Linda Grant. She also published my email to Baram to Linda Grant without my permission, which I thought was a bit of a rum-do:
Mark, thank you for that, but as this James chap obviously read the paragraph and interpreted it the way he did, some readers may feel that the paragraph is now there to reinforce what he says. I will be grateful if it could be explained that I say that what is said in the book is in no way casting doubt on Grant's ethics or on the legitimacy of what she wrote in the IDF feature or any other feature in that series, though I do have political problems with the image of the Israeli army which comes across from her writing. Never have I argued that she was acting on behalf of the Israeli government. Her feelings and her way of seeing the Israeli society are shared by many liberal-Zionists, a group of people whom I spend a good part of my life arguing with. That said, I should stress again that there's nothing wrong in my opinion in her professional conduct as a journalist. I would put all that as a comment on my name, but due to being a bit of a techno-retard I am not managing to do so. I think it might be a good idea if you could put the bolded part of this email in as a comment by me.
Many thanks,
Ok, so I posted the bits in bold under her name. Again scroll down the comments if you have them open or click here. Now that too could and should have been an end to it. This time, if you haven't already done so please see those comments because Daphna is still unhappy so she wrote to me again and again she copied in Linda Grant:
Mark, you are forcing me to go into bloody semantics. What I said in my email to you was (cut&paste): "Mark, thank you for that, but as this James chap obviously read the paragraph and interpreted it the way he did, some readers may feel that the paragraph is now there to reinforce what he says". This does not mean that James0's reading it was legitimate, but that readers might think that it has been put there to reinforce what he said, which was not the case, as is clear from my email and my comment. Now could I have some peace and quiet already? Please post all this email on my behalf.
Goodness gracious, she's exhausted from reading my blog? I'm forcing her to go into semantics? I didn't do anything to her. Anyway, somebody, anybody, tell me what this is all about. I have to go to bed.

* The same article appeared the day before but an error led to it being run again.