December 25, 2011

Where was I when Hitchens died?

Nope, I don't remember where I was or what I was doing when I heard that Christopher Hitchens died but I did remember him on the telly once, back in the 1990s, saying something like, "I shall never forget where I was standing and what I was doing on the day [Kennedy] nearly killed me." I was worried that, as with so much pre-internet stuff, I wouldn't be able to find the quote, but he obviously liked the point so much he dusted it off for his 2010 memoir, Hitch-22. The New York Post liked it too. And so did I.

I remember seeing him at a London Review of Books discussion with Tariq Ali et al after the former had nailed his flag to the mast of the neo-con "war of terror" and managed to show himself to be quite a nasty racist in response to one member of the audience.

Q[uestioner]. Tariq Ali was the only one I think who mentioned that the United States is the sole global power that we have now and what we are seeing is the dawn of a new imperialism. So why is it that we are so – we, meaning the global community – why are we so content at letting America have its say regardless of what the rest of the world thinks of it. It has committed a whole host of crimes on a vast scale in international law. It is suspending civil rights as far as the al-Qaida prisoners are concerned. It is actually riding roughshod over all norms of international law and why – where is Russia, where is Japan, where are all these countries?
C[hristopher] H[itchens]. ....I will not reject the challenge from the comrade, who I would say was from the Subcontinent. I would ask him this. He wanted to know why a country that – I think I have you right, sir – was indifferent to the norms of international law, was not more opposed by Russia and China, was that how you had it? Where was Russia, you said, where is China, why do they lie down under this lawlessness? I think your question answers itself: I think you had a real nerve asking it actually, or shall I say Chechnya or Cambodia or North Korea or Tibet or Kurdistan? It wouldn’t make any difference to you – would it? – any more than if I asked you how many people are currently flooding to the borders and ports of your country to immigrate to it – or to Russia or to China. Ask yourself that. One of the greatest problems that the United States has at the present moment is that everyone wants to come and live there: they’re wondering now how generous they can be. We should all have such problems; you will never have a problem like that, and nor will your ideology

Another time, I remember him saying that the war on Afghanistan should continue unabated through Ramadan and that "I always crank up my anti-zionism at Yom Kippur", though I don't remember hearing or reading his anti-zionism, cranked up or otherwise. I can't find that one on the net. Nor can find any evidence of his anti-zionism on the net now.

What else do I remember? Yes, I remember thinking he was quite a good egg when he was on the telly with Shere Hite but also I remember wincing when he referred to her as Mademoiselle Hite, as if the Mademoiselle bit might detract from her credibility. This too was pre-net, and he can't have been as proud of that one as he was of the Kennedy remark because I can't find the Hite stuff anywhere.

So, there's a lot on the net now about "Hitch", most of which is flipping ludicrous. I suppose that's quite fitting. He was obviously quite proud of his flipping but he didn't seem to be aware of his ludicrousness. The fact that there were at least three obituaries for Hitchens in the Daily Mail show both the extent to which he had flipped and how ludicrous he had become by the time he died, though, to be fair, one of the tributes was from his brother, Peter.  Many of the obits mention George Galloway's put down of Hitchens as a "a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay". Hitchens had turned up to support some House UnAmerican Activities Committee or other against Galloway.  The Mail didn't mention that Galloway dispatched Hitchens with even greater ease than he did the committee itself and I haven't seen any of the obits mentioning the "grapple in the Apple" debate between Hitchens and Galloway courtesy of Democracy Now. Woops, that's not true. There was one which I can't place right now. It said something about the debate generating more heat than light but I am fairly sure Galloway said that himself at the end of the debate.

But there have been some very entertaining posts on the passing of Hitchens my personal fave is from Flying Rodent of the Between the Hammer and the Anvil blog. See this:
Evasion, retrenchment, misdirection, ad hominem assaults.  These were his weapons in his Great Intellectual Struggle, a cause in which he clearly regarded himself as an intellectual Field Marshall, sending his fellow word-warriors into combat.  
Pick your Iraq-related controversy, and Hitchens had a highly-conditional, deeply duplicitous argument ready for deployment.  When a survey revealed a massive death toll resulting from the war, Hitchens invoked a nebulous "some percentage" of the bodycount who were maybe, probably murderous baddies.  
What percentage?  Hitchens neither knew nor cared.  All that mattered was reducing the damage to the war effort, to allow it to continue unimpeded in all it's righteous violence.
On the torture, rape and murder of prisoners at Abu Ghraib: Bad, but not Guernica and anyway, not as bad as Saddam.  
Cindy Sheehan, a woman with some wacky opinions who also happened to be the mother of a dead US soldier?  Not so much an exploited, grieving woman as a moral blackmailer, said his angry hatchet job.  
When he was embarrassingly suckered by the obvious fraudster Ahmad Chalabi - Other candidates would be worse.  
On Iraq's horrifying civil war, a situation resulting entirely from the decision to invade in the first place - your problem, you fucking deal with it if you want to end the war so much...  Or, in one of his favourite gambits - Al Qaeda ate my homework
Louis Proyect's immediate obituary was more about Alex Cockburn's obituary and more about Cockburn himself than about Hitchens but his subsequent pointer to Reading the maps was welcome, though I don't agree that it was "the best Hitchens obit". It does provide some useful links including Proyect's own obit and Finkestein's Hitchens obituary which appeared about 9 years before Hitchens actually died:
In the early years of the Iraq war Hitchens was regularly excoriated by left-wing commentators, but few of his old opponents have felt the need to renew their fury in the aftermath of his death. The blogger Louis Proyect was one of Hitchens' most ferocious and persistent critics, but his obituary for his old enemy is surprisingly measured. Alex Callinicos, whose Socialist Workers Party was often condemned as an ally of 'Islamofascism' by Hitchens, has also refrained from denunciations............
Hitchens' advertisements for Bush's war were written in haste, and without great regard for either facts or logic. Reviewing The Long Short War, a collection of twenty-two pro-war articles penned in late 2002 and early 2003, Norman Finkelstein noted how often Hitchens contradicted himself, even within the confines of a single article. Finkelstein found Hitchens claiming that the war had nothing to do with oil, then stating on his very next page that 'of course it's about oil'. He saw Hitchens arguing that Saddam's regime was on the brink of 'implosion', then asserting a page later than 'only the force of American arms' could bring regime change in Iraq. 
As it happens, all these years down the line, it is worth revisiting Finkelstein's piece:
an apostate is usually astute enough to understand that, in order to catch the public eye and reap the attendant benefits, merely registering this or that doubt about one's prior convictions, or nuanced disagreements with former comrades (which, after all, is how a reasoned change of heart would normally evolve), won't suffice.  For, incremental change, or fundamental change by accretion, doesn't get the buzz going: there must be a dramatic rupture with one's past.  Conversion and zealotry, just like revelation and apostasy, are flip sides of the same coin, the currency of a political culture having more in common with religion than rational discourse.  A rite of passage for apostates peculiar to U.S. political culture is bashing Noam Chomsky.  It's the political equivalent of a bar mitzvah, a ritual signaling that one has "grown up" - i.e., grown out of one's "childish" past.  It's hard to pick up an article or book by ex-radicals - Gitlin's Letters to a Young Activist, Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism… - that doesn't include a hysterical attack on him.  Behind this venom there's also a transparent psychological factor at play.  Chomsky mirrors their idealistic past as well as sordid present, an obstinate reminder that they once had principles but no longer do, that they sold out but he didn't.  Hating to be reminded, they keep trying to shatter the glass.  He's the demon from the past that, after recantation, no amount of incantation can exorcise.  
And as recently as May this year Hitchens was still attacking his former comrade, Chomsky, conveniently forgetting that his journey to the neo-con right didn't begin quite as immediately after 9/11 as he would have liked people to believe.

December 12, 2011

Zionist racism in Tel Aviv

Rally against Sudanese refugees in Tel Aviv, calling to "restrict their movement" and set up concentration camps.

December 11, 2011

Protest against Veolia in Camden, London, UK

Bin Bag Protest: Veolia out of north London

On Tuesday at 9am we will be gathering at Camden Town Hall in order to protest at the meeting of the NLWA board who will be voting on the Fuel Use contract for North London.  NLWA will also be making decisions about bidders for the main waste processing contract and it is a great opportunity for us to remind them about the campaign through a Bin Bag Protest. 

This will reinforce the vital work that has been done recently by members of No2VAG in terms of vital legal arguments and contacting councillors again to repeat the key messages as well as raising environmental, financial and corporate conduct concerns. 

A number of people have prepared materials, placards [see attached], Veolia Scream bin bag and clothing (white overalls) which will be brought and a member has prepared a Veolia Scream facepaint design so it will be visually impressive.  All you need to do it turn up for an hour on Tuesday morning.  If you are willing to be face-painted please arrive by 8.45am.  Wet wipes and water will be on hand to clean up afterwards!   If you have other materials you wish to bring along these will be welcome.

Bring along yourself, your ideas and enthusiasm!

Decision day nears for waste project worth billions
Published: 9 December, 2011
The latest Islington Tribune published letter includes details of our protest:

Tuesday 13 Dec 9-10am
Camden Town Hall,
Judd St [Opposite St Pancras Station; between King's Cross and Euston],
London WC1H 9JE

Will north London throw £4.7billions down the drain?

The evidence against Veolia:
1) Grave misconduct for aiding and abetting on-going Israeli war crimes
2) Financial crisis - nearly 60% loss of share value in the last 6 months [see latest - below]
3) Racist recruitment practice - advertising jobs for Jews only
4) Guilty of putting 
residents lives in danger in the 2007 explosion of waste [Preston, Lancashire, closing the M6]
5) Technical solutions bad for the environment [while competitors offer harnessing of CHP heat, Veolia offer no real Heat Recovery]
6) Poor recycling [Veolia business concentrates on incineration and is new to the separation of co-mingled waste needed for meaningful recycling]

The NLWA has ignored the evidence against Veolia and it insists:
"none of the matters raised so far have been found to affect Veolia’s ability to perform satisfactorily a contract for NLWA".

Would the NLWA councillors take it more seriously when they vote this Tuesday on whether to shortlist Veolia?

If you are on facebook - you may wish to invite your friends to:

Veolia Financial Crisis:

In the summer Veolia was forced to disclose its financial crisis, including fraud and since has been in free fall. This week Veolia announced to investors [6 December] that it's dumping its new partner, Transdev - they only got hitched a few months ago after courting for 2 years.  This divorce won't be cheap. Bloomberg's take was: "Veolia Exits Mass Transit With $6.7 Billion of Asset Sales to Reduce Debt". Such a change of heart should worry all north Londoners. The waste authority is keen to tie the knot with Veolia for 30 years to the tune of £4.7billions. The NLWA councillors will vote this Tuesday on whether to continue flirting with Veolia.  

Grave Misconduct

The Tribune edited out "grave misconduct": inadvertently altering the substance of the letter - a distortion the NLWA does all the time, except the NLWA should be aware of the difference, given the legal advice available to them:
"to Veolia's grave misconduct in aiding and abetting the Israeli violation of international law and human rights of the Palestinians"
was edited to:
"to the company’s operations in Israel".

The unaltered letter [the full letter sent to the Islington Tribune]:

The international media is analysing this week [again] the crisis surrounding Veolia. From the FT to Reuters they all agree it is serious. But the NLWA responses show it is still in denial. 

The problem is that Islington would have to live with the legacy of the NLWA aversion to facts and UK law. The waste contracts the NLWA appears so keen to grant Veolia are for 30 years! And it isn't small money – in fact it's the biggest UK waste project worth £4.7 billion.

While I'm writing this letter, Islington councillors would be contemplating which company would be dropped out of the three horse bid for billions of pounds waste related contract. The vote is next week.

It seems, the north London councillors at the NLWA are held by the scruff of the neck. It even rejected all 3 deputation applications to explain the Councillors why the legal advice they were given by the NLWA isn't sound.
Hundreds of residents have communicated their concerns, from Veolia's guilt in the 2007 explosions putting in danger residents and closing the M6 & M55, to Veolia's grave misconduct in aiding and abetting the Israeli violation of international law and human rights of the Palestinians. No one will be able to say that the NLWA awarded these contracts in ignorance of the complicity of one of the bidders in complicity with flagrant and ongoing war crimes.

Will the Islington councillors have the courage to stand up for Islington and vote against Veolia?

Islington residents will be protesting when the NLWA come to vote this Tuesday 13th from 9am outside the Camden Town Hall near King's Cross.


North London Waste Authority process the waste from the 7 boroughs:
Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest 

December 10, 2011

The Republican Freak Show on Israel

How to view this video in the UK

Mustafa Tamimi, 28, murdered by Israel during a peaceful protest against the ethnic cleansing of Nabi Saleh

Mustafa Tamimi (L) poses for a photo with his parents (front) and brothers in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, 10.9.2010. (Photo: Activestills)

For more articles about the popular Palestinian resistance in Nabi Saleh, see Electronic Intifadah.

Video shot after Tamimi was hit in the face by a gas canister, shot by an Israeli soldiers at close range.

December 06, 2011

The lobby lobbies Israel

Here's Akiva Eldar in Ha'aretz on how America's Jewish (yes, Jewish) lobby successfully lobbied Israel over a racist advertising campaign by the State of Israel in the USA.

An uproar in the "holy city" of New York. An Israeli Absorption Ministry campaign - using the slogan "Before Hanukkah turns into Christmas, it's time to return to Israel" - has convulsed the offices of Jewish professionals in the city. How dare those Israeli beggars patronize us? Who has ever heard of such chutzpah: delegitimizing Jews in America?
Heads of Jewish federations have sent urgent letters to Israel's prime minister, warning that the campaign is liable to harm relations between Israel and the U.S. Jewish community. Really! Ambassador Michael Oren apologized, and Benjamin Netanyahu canned the slogan. Apologies were made, now everyone can prepare for Hanukkah parties. And the main thing? "Jewish leaders" are now free to become involved in a renewed struggle against the "delegitimization of Israel." Or, in other words, they will defend Israel's government, whose forte is promoting the delegitimization of the "other."
Actually it's the State of Israel that delegitimises the "other", not this or that government. Zionism is zionism after all but the Eldar isn't averse to promoting the oxymoron of Israel being "a democratic, Jewish state". Tony Greenstein covers the whole issue of what prompted Israel's racist advertising campaign in the first place.

December 04, 2011

A word about the "A" word

Many people will have already read about the recent Question Time style debate at Birmingham University. I only just found out about the fact that a question about whether or not Israel can be described as an apartheid state was banned from even being asked.  Apparently this was at the request of the World Zionist Congress affiliated Jewish Society.

Anyway, here's Ben White, on the banning of the "A" word from the proceedings:
The whole debate can be watched on YouTube, but one of the talking points of the evening came when, barely half an hour in, an audience member asked the panel if Israel is an apartheid state. The chair’s unexpected reply was that this was not a subject that could be discussed: “I’ve been told I can’t have that as a question”, she stressed (watch here). Inevitably, all the panellists then proceeded to address the issue – Victor Kattan said he’d refer to “A”.
What the audience didn’t know is that in the run up to the event, members of the Jewish Society had pressured the Debating Society to prohibit my book ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ from being available for purchase. Despite the fact that J-Soc was free to make available any of their own literature without restriction, J-Soc students threatened to withdraw their official association with the event, if I brought along copies of my book to sell. Eventually, they backed down when the Debating Society refused to concede the point.
Ben smartly links the debate and the attempted suppression of one side of it to the Birmingham University students' union's adoption of the bogus EUMC working definition of antisemitism:

Further crucial context is the adoption by the Birmingham student union in 2010 of the notoriously politicised and discredited ‘EUMC working definition of antisemitism’. This 2005 document, left to gather dust by the EUMC’s successor body the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), has been ably critiqued by Richard Kuper herehere, and here, and also by Antony Lerman here.
In fact, earlier this year, the Universities and College Union (UCU) voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion that criticised the way in which the working definition “is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus”.
Thus after the J-Soc attempts to prevent the sale of my book, the debate organisers were understandably anxious about encouraging a question on apartheid that could see them accused of racism, according to an interpretation of the student union policy.
This was the first time that the Debating Society had held an Israel-Palestine debate since the EUMC motion passed; it was, in effect, a test case. What transpired on Thursday not only showed the extent to which groups will go to stifle discussion of Israel’s crimes, but also how such efforts  can so often spectacularly backfire.
I presume it was the students' union's adoption of the working definition which led to the attempted ban on the "A" word. The problem here is that zionists will claim that the working definition has not been used to stifle debate because the debate was had. Of course this will be a lie as the video attests. I wonder if the WZC's affiliates in Birmingham will use their humiliation as an excuse to ban future debate on Palestine altogether.