Europe is facing the most significant refugee crisis since World War II. All attempts at resolving the issue have failed, mostly because they have ignored the root causes of the problem.
On June 11, Italy’s new Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, blocked the Aquarius rescue ship, carrying 629 refugees and economic migrants, from docking at its ports.
A statement by Doctors without Borders (MSF) stated that the boat was carrying 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.
“From now on, Italy begins to say NO to the traffic of human beings, NO to the business of illegal immigration,” said Salvini, who also heads the far-right League Party.
The number of refugees was repeated in news broadcasts time and again, as a mere statistic. In reality, it is 629 precious lives at stake, each with a compelling reason why she/he has undertaken the deadly journey.
While the cruelty of refusing entry to a boat laden with desperate refugees is obvious, it has to be viewed within a larger narrative pertaining to the rapidly changing political landscape in Europe and the crises under way in the Middle East and North Africa.
Italy’s new government, a coalition of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement and the far-right League party, seems intent on stopping the flow of refugees into the country, as promised on the campaign trail.
However, if politicians continue to ignore the root causes of the problem, the refugee crisis will not go away on its own.
The disturbing truth is this: Europe is accountable for much of the mayhem under way in the Middle East. Right-wing pundits may wish to omit that part of the debate altogether, but facts will not simply disappear when ignored.
European politicians should honestly confront the question: what are the reasons that lead millions of people to leave their homes? And fashion equally honest and humane solutions.
In 2017, an uprising-turned-civil-war in Syria led to the exodus of millions of Syrian refugees.
Ahmed is a 55-year old Syrian refugee, who fled the country with his wife and two children. His reason for leaving was no other than the grinding, deadly war.
He told the UN Refugees Agency: “I was born in Homs and I wanted to live there until the end, but this vicious war left us no other choice but to leave all behind. For the sake of my children’s future we had to take the risk.”
“I had to pay the smuggler eight thousand US dollars for each member of my family. I’ve never done anything illegal in my whole life, but there was no other solution.”
Saving his family meant breaking the rules; millions would do the same thing if confronted with the same grim dilemma. In fact, millions have.
African immigrants are often blamed for ‘taking advantage’ of the porous Libyan coastline to ‘sneak’ into Europe. Yet, many of those refugees had lived peacefully in Libya and were forced to flee following the NATO-led war on that country in March 2011.
“I’m originally from Nigeria and I had been living in Libya for five years when the war broke out,” wrote Hakim Bello in the Guardian.
“I had a good life: I was working as a tailor and I earned enough to send money home to loved ones. But after the fighting started, people like us – black people – became very vulnerable. If you went out for something to eat, a gang would stop you and ask if you supported them. They might be rebels, they might be government, you didn’t know.”
The security mayhem in Libya led not only to the persecution of many Libyans, but also millions of African workers, like Bello, as well. Many of those workers could neither go home nor stay in Libya. They, too, joined the dangerous mass escapes to Europe.
War-torn Afghanistan has served as the tragic model of the same story.
Ajmal Sadiqi escaped Afghanistan, which has been in a constant state of war for many years, a war that took a much deadlier turn since the US invasion in 2001.
Sadiqi told CNN that the vast majority of those who joined him on his journey from Afghanistan, through other countries to Turkey, Greece and other EU countries, died along the way. But, like many in his situation, he had few alternatives.
“Afghanistan has been at war for 50 years and things are never going to change,” he said.
“Here, I have nothing, but I feel safe. I can walk on the street without being afraid.”
Alas, that sense of safety is, perhaps, temporary. Many in Europe are refusing to examine their own responsibility in creating or feeding conflicts around the world, while perceiving the refugees as a threat.
Despite the obvious correlation between western-sustained wars and the EU’s refugee crisis, no moral awakening is yet to be realized. Worse still, France and Italy are now involved in exploiting the current warring factions in Libya for their own interests.
Syria is not an entirely different story. There, too, the EU is hardly innocent.
The Syria war has resulted in a massive influx of refugees, most of whom are hosted by neighboring Middle Eastern countries, but many have sailed the sea to seek safety in Europe.
“All of Europe has a responsibility to stop people from drowning. It’s partly due to their actions in Africa that people have had to leave their homes,” said Bello.
“Countries such as Britain, France, Belgium and Germany think they are far away and not responsible, but they all took part in colonizing Africa. NATO took part in the war in Libya. They’re all part of the problem.”
Expectedly, Italy’s Salvini and other like-minded politicians refuse to frame the crisis that way.
They use whichever discourse needed to guarantee votes, while ignoring the obvious fact that, without military interventions, economic exploitation and political meddling, a refugee crisis – at least one of this magnitude – could exist in the first place.
Until this fact is recognized by EU governments, the flow of refugees will continue, raising political tension and contributing to the tragic loss of lives of innocent people, whose only hope is merely to survive.
• (Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer contributed to this article)
Disruption, disturbance, eruption, the words crowning the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who has effectively demonstrated an idea made famous by Nazi doodler of law and political theorist Carl Schmitt: politics is defined, not by identifying with friends in cosy harmony but with enemies in constant tension.
There are many ways that Trump might be seen as a creature of Schmittian reaction. Alliances may well be lauded as good (the diplomat’s clichés of “eternal friendship”, “special bonds” and the treacly covering that comes with it), but then again, potential adversaries can also be considered in accommodating fashion. In every enduring friendship between states is a potential enemy in wait, a dormant instinct that, given certain circumstances, might awake. In every alliance, a potential shift might undermine, if not threaten, the national interest.
In short, the current US president likes the bruising, the bullying and the cajoling in the abstract name of US self-interest. Forget the distinctions and the similarities. There are no values in any shared sense. There is only his road.
The press conference concluding the summit with Kim Jong-un on Sentosa Island provided the platform for Trump to round on his supposed allies even as he praised Little Rocket Man as his newly made friend, Chairman Kim, no less. The spectacle was terrifying for groupies of the US empire, those who have praised the virtues of alliances and bonds with Washington as necessary for the Pax Americana. Before them, the spectacle of US hegemony was being challenged with a brazen confidence. The Chairman seemed to be getting what he wanted, even if it all seemed a touch vague.
As the Kim-Trump show unfolded, the rubble at the G7 seemed to be growing, a sentiment captured by the satirical Borowitz Report in The New Yorker. The meeting preceding the gathering in Singapore had put many a nose out of joint. After leaving the Quebec summit, Trump got his fingers busy by tweeting that he had asked US representatives not to endorse the customary joint communiqué from the G7 leaders calling for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” over the devil of protectionism.
The cooling towards Canada’s Justin Trudeau was a case in point, mixed with the usual air of berating condescension and sulkiness. Much of it had arisen because of a disagreement on whether a sunset clause would find its way into any renegotiated trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the United States. Trump’s own version of reality was that negotiators were “pretty close on the sunset provision”. Trudeau differed on such a reading, wanting nothing of the sort. The bad blood was taking time to dry.
“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our US reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at tariffs on automobiles flooding the US market!”
In Singapore itself, Trump wished to add some flesh to the remarks, getting a few jocular asides in. “When I got onto the plane,” considered Trump, “I think that Justin probably didn’t know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions, and I see the television. And he’s giving a news conference about how he will not be pushed around by the United States. And I say, push him around? We just shook hands. It was very friendly.”
Then came that picture, poured over by aroused pundits and eager commentators, showing Trump sitting down like a bemused, bright coloured Buddha, seemingly defiant, with Germany’s Angela Merkel leaning across with grave school teacher disapproval. “In fact,” he explained, “the picture with Angela Merkel, who I get along with very well, where I’m sitting there like this, that picture was we’re waiting for the document because I wanted to see the final document as changed by the changes that I requested.”
For Trump, the visuals are nigh everything, and this titillates the pundits he lures like starving waifs to a banquet. Academics are also getting on board, being brought into Trumpland’s sordid undergrowth. “Critics of President Trump say this is President Trump isolated,” suggested Dan Nexon of Georgetown University on the G7 snap, “so it feeds into the pre-existing narrative.” But then came the other side, those supporters who considered the show “a sign of American strength, status and position in the dominance hierarchy.”
Others have also fallen for tissue-like substance and liberal readings, suggesting that Trump is seducing those who should know better. “The symbolic meaning of a 13-second handshake in the visual form is the establishment of a physical and therefore a personal bond between the two leaders,” came the distinctly unscientific observation of political science professor Bruce Miroff. The G7 meeting did the opposite of the Sentosa Island summit, suggesting a spectacle “of alienation, opposition and even international condemnation of Trump.”
Any amount of time might be spent on such performances, but Trump, for all the displays, remains heartily consistent in what superficially seems to be jolting anarchy. On the issue of mistrusting, badgering, even punishing allies economically, he has remained true to his word, carrying through attitudes nursed since the 1980s. “I’d throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country,” he claimed in his 1990 Playboy interview should he ever become President, “and on all Japanese products, and we’d have wonderful allies again.” And, prophetically, he promised a Schmitt-inspired attitude: don’t “trust our allies” and “perfect” that “huge military arsenal”.
In Gold Warriors, by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, the authors reveal one of the most shocking secrets of the 20th century. It is the story of the vast treasure Japan managed to loot across Asia, today worth billions or even trillions of dollars, the concealment of it in hundreds of sites, and the secret recovery of much of it by what would become America’s Central intelligence Agency. America helped Japan cover up this vast fortune, fooling the world into believing Japan was bankrupt after the war and was unable to pay reparations for their mass murder and material damage.
Most of Japan’s vast stolen fortune would remain in the hands of imperialist war criminals, and would for decades be used to prop up Japan’s corrupt one party democracy ruled by the Liberal Democratic Party, with the CIA and the Yakuza pulling the strings behind the scenes. It would be controlled by men like Allen Dulles and John J. McCloy through their Black Eagle Trust, which managed both Japanese and Nazi War loot. The Gold would be deposited in the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, Union Banque Suisse (UBS) in Switzerland, Citibank, HSBC and other major banks who often stole it for themselves. The gold was also used to manipulate the global economy, finance assassinations and covert ops, bribe politicians, and finance right wing political movements like the John Birch Society domestically.
Gold Warriors tells a compelling tale of secrecy, greed, treachery, murder and lies. The book offers a window into the vast and mysterious world of offshore banking and the Gold Cartel. The authors estimate that today, the ultra-rich are hoarding over 23 trillion dollars, mostly in offshore bank accounts. Meanwhile around the world, health and education are being cut, poverty and homelessness are on the rise, and the rest of us are constantly told to tighten our belts.
The Seagraves destroy the myth that America reformed Japan after the war, revealing the shocking story of the MacArthur occupation and its alliance with fascists along with Japan’s ruthless imperial family and their huge corporate backers like Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Kawasaki and Sumitomo. They used this loot to finance Japan’s postwar recovery and meteoric rise. Companies that have since become household names made their fortunes through looting Asia and employing slave labor, including that of American POWS. When the survivors tried to sue for reparations, State Department officials like Tom Foley with corrupt ties to these Japanese corporations compared these victims to terrorists.
The Seagraves begin their book with the brutal assassination of the Korean Queen Min on October 7 1895 by the imperialist Japanese. In Japan, like in America, big business, organized crime, and intelligence were strongly interrelated. The Japanese Empire, like all empires, were cynical liars and claimed that Queen Min had been murdered by Koreans. With the strong-willed Queen Min out of the way, her weak husband King Kojong quickly became a Japanese puppet and soon Korea was a Japanese colony, while China suffered a humiliating defeat at Japan’s hands when it tried to intervene.
Japan seized Taiwan and parts of Manchuria from China. Korea became Japanese property, and they began to loot the accumulated wealth of centuries, including gold silver and prized celadon porcelains. Japan employed an army of antiquarians to seize and catalog hundreds of ancient Korean manuscripts, sending them to Japan or burning them to destroy Korea’s cultural heritage. The Japanese even resorted to grave robbery on a massive scale, targeting Korean Imperial tombs.
Japan targeted Taiwan, colonizing the island and setting up massive heroin laboratories. Taiwan would for decades become a center of the global drug trade. Japan launched a sneak attack on the Russian Empire in 1904 and Russia was forced to sign a humiliating peace deal giving Japan control of its possessions in Manchuria like the South Manchurian Railway it had built. To turn a quick profit, Japan set up a massive opium growing operation. They bribed warlords and began buying up Chinese industries and land. Manchuria became what the authors call the center of “carpetbaggers, spies, secret policemen, financial conspirators, fanatical gangsters, drug dealers and eccentric army officers.” The Mitsui and Mitsubishi Corporations ran everything, making a fortune from their cut of the illegal drug trade. Through a series of provocations involving the patriotic societies and Japanese intelligence, Japan was whipped into a war frenzy and more Chinese land was stolen. Japan unleashed an army of experts to steal as much art and priceless manuscripts as they could.
Around the same time Japan had been conquering Korea, America had conquered the Philippines while claiming they wanted to liberate it from Spain. With its usual cynical hypocrisy, once Spain surrendered, America crushed the Filipino independence movement with the brutal tactics it would later employ in Greece, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and a long list of other countries. Of course, it had been America itself which had forced Japan to end its long isolation setting into motion the chain of events that had led to Japan’s rapid modernization and imperialist adventures in the first place. When the Second World War began to go very badly by 1943, Japan was no longer able to ship its loot back to Japan, and so began to hide it all over the Philippines and Indonesia. Prisoners of war and the local Filipinos were forced to dig massive tunnels. These slave laborers were often massacred or buried alive to keep the tunnels secret. The Japanese often buried their loot near historical landmarks and hospitals because they were less likely to be bombed. They smuggled gold into the Philippines on phony hospital ships, since they would be less likely to be sunk by American submarines. They hid some of the gold by loading ships full of treasure and sinking them for later recovery, and huge underground chambers were filled with thousands of tons of gold.
The Americans managed to discover gold was being hidden during the war, thanks to one of their spies. There were at least 176 treasure sites in the Philippines. By the time the war ended, the Americans had found so much gold that if it became publicly known it would have destroyed the Bretton woods system which relied on gold being valued at 35 dollars an ounce. The Bretton Woods system was itself backed with the huge sums in Nazi gold the US had managed to seize and hide, the authors of Gold Warriors suggest.
Back in Washington, there was already a group dedicated to stealing and hiding Nazi gold: the Black Eagle Trust. With their massive off-the-books money, they would bribe politicians and finance coups, covert operations and psychological warfare. Soon, the Golden Lily loot was being managed by the same people. It was being moved across the world, being used to prop up banks around the world. UBS in Switzerland, HSBC in Hong Kong, the Bank of England, Chase Manhattan. Hidden in 42 countries between 1945-47, the gold was used to make huge loans to Britain, Egypt, and the Kuomintang in China. Politicians around the world were bribed with gold certificates. The intersection between Wall Street and intelligence involved vast sums completely unknown to the public. The notion that the CIA could ever be held in check once it had control of this vast fortune was a joke, and it perhaps led to events like the Kennedy assassination. A nearly 60-year cover-up after that event would not be surprising when one remembers that the entire mainstream American media was controlled by former Office of Strategic Services men, as discussed in Science of Coercion by Christopher Simpson. The CIA and Office of Policy Coordination controlled much of the media worldwide as part of Frank Wisner’s infamous Operation Mockingbird, putting out nonstop Cold War propaganda.
In Japan, criminal Yoshio Kodama made a deal to turn over $100 million to the CIA for his immunity (worth 1 billion dollars today). During the war, Kodama had managed to save 13 billion in gold, platinum, diamonds and other loot. America had not bombed Japanese industries, instead targeting workers’ homes. This was likely because American corporations were heavily invested in Japan, just as they were in Nazi Germany, where American-owned factories supplying the German war machine were spared during the war. In occupied West Germany, Denazification was a scam, and so too was the removal of imperialism in Japan. Trials targeting Japanese war criminals were fixed to prevent the Emperor’s role being known. The US set up a special fund to bribe witnesses. Kodama was put on the CIA payroll, and behind the scenes he created the misnamed Liberal Democratic Party headed by corrupt politicians. The Yatsuya fund was used to control the Japanese underworld. The Keenan fund named after Joseph Keenan, the chief war crimes prosecutor, was used to bribe witnesses to protect the Emperor and his cronies.
The M-Fund was named after General William Frederic Marquat, who was in charge of restructuring the Japanese economy. Marquat was also entrusted to disband Japan’s infamous Unit 731 that ran bio-warfare research using prisoners as guinea pigs during the war, but instead of disbanding, they were recruited by the Pentagon and used to develop germ warfare against China and North Korea. The M-Fund was used to bribe politicians, and evolved into one of the most scandalous financial scams in history. Soon, it would corrupt American politicians as well. Nixon turned the M-Fund, which had been run by MacArthur’s cronies like General Marquat along with the CIA and the corrupt Liberal Democratic Party, over to the full control of Japan in exchange for illegal kickbacks funneled into the 1960 presidential Campaign he lost to Kennedy. Part of the deal was for Nixon to return Okinawa to Japan, which he later did once he finally got elected.
Golden Lily loot was funneled back to far right movements in the US, and would help finance Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts. Another source of such wealth was the global drug trade, as the CIA would manage it in cooperation with the Chinese Kuomintang and Japanese and Korean organized crime. Together, these sources of wealth would be used to fund the World Anti-Communist League or WACL the global network of fascist drug dealers and terrorists loved by Ronald Reagan. In the final chapter of their book, the authors provide a brilliant summary of the politics of heroin, relying heavily on Doug Valentine’s classic The Strength of the Wolf. In Japan, McCarthyism took a much bloodier course with a massive assassination program combined with a COINTELPRO-style war on anyone who dared to dissent. Even American and British officials could be targeted for assassination if they threatened to expose MacArthur’s alliance with war criminals and gangsters. For assassinations that were even more sensitive, KOTOH was employed – an acronym formed from the names of five Japanese army officers who performed assassinations.
Much of Gold Warriors describes the hunt for treasure in the Philippines. The Japanese were the masters of this, quietly returning for decades to recover their loot. Future Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos learned of the gold by befriending Santa Romana and making deals with the Japanese to recover gold, becoming one of the richest men in the world through his discoveries. It was Marcos gold that paved the way for Nixon’s visit to China, with Marcos agreeing to deposit 72 billion in Gold in China’s Bank accounts. Marcos had long been used by the CIA to bribe Asian governments into supporting American policy, and in return they allowed him to get rich by selling his gold to Saudi princes or trading it for drugs from Asian or Latin American cartels. The golden Lily loot that led to his rise also led to his downfall, when he bargained too forcefully with the Reagan White House and the CIA who wanted him to use his fortune to back Reagan’s scheme to create Rainbow dollars. Marcos then became one of the first victims of a CIA color revolution. As CIA-backed NGOs flooded the streets with angry protestors, his American sponsors kidnapped him and airlifted his fortune out of the country.
Gold Warriors reveals that from the underworld to the military and intelligence agencies, to the corrupt politicians to the titans of finance we are ruled at every level by gangsters. After reading it, one may even wonder how much of the CIA’s gold is involved today in financing charlatans like Alex Jones and the rest of the US “patriot” movement, since their radio stations are heavily involved in selling gold and silver. It is a fantastic book that anyone with an interest in the CIA, drugs, or fascism should read, because it offers a window into the shadowy world of offshore banking, where around a trillion dollars is transferred around the world every day. It names some of the most powerful families in the world: the Krupps, the Rothschilds, the Oppenheimers, the Warburgs and the Rockefellers. All are tied to banking and the gold cartel, where fortunes are incalculable. In fact, the gold and diamond cartels are still looting the world today with the same greed and brutality as imperial Japan. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone, ten million people have been killed in a brutal war to loot the country of gold, diamonds, uranium, and rare earth elements. Furthermore, most of the world’s gold is hoarded today in the Swiss Alps, in secret bunkers and underground tunnels designed to survive a nuclear war. The hunt for the gold stolen by imperial Japan even resumed as recently as 2001, when George W. Bush sent navy seals on a secret mission to recover it.
The war of words has intensified between the U-S and G-7 allies after President Donald Trump retracted his endorsement of the communiqué of the once-united group.
The German chancellor called Trump’s abrupt revocation of support for a joint communiqué sobering and depressing. Angela Merkel, however, said that’s not the end. France also accused Trump of destroying trust and acting inconsistently. Trump pulled the U-S out of the group’s summit statement after Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the imposition of retaliatory tariffs on the U-S. The White House said Canada risked making the U-S president look weak ahead of his summit with the North Korean leader. But, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland later reiterated that her country will retaliate against U-S tariffs in a measured and reciprocal way.
PressTV: What do you make of Mr. Trump’s decision to renege on the G7’s final statement?
Peter Koenig: Trump pulling out from the final G7 statement is just show; the usual Trump show. He signed it, then he pulled out. We have seen it with the Iran Nuclear Deal, with the North Korea meeting, on and off, with the tariffs first. About two months ago the tariffs were on for Europe, Mexico and Canada, as well as China. Then they were off for all of them, and now they are on again…
How serious can that be? Trump just wants to make sure that he calls the shots. And he does. As everybody gets nervous and talks about retaliation instead of practicing the “politics of silence” strategy.
In the case of Europe, the tariffs, or the equivalent of sanctions, as Mr. Putin recently so aptly put it, may well serve as a means of blackmailing Europe, for example, to disregard as Trump did, the Iran Nuclear Deal, “step out of it – and we will relieve you from the tariffs.”
In the case of Canada and Mexico, it’s to make sure Americans realize that he, Mr. Trump, wants to make America Great again and provide jobs for Americans. These tariffs alone will not create one single job. But they create an illusion and that, he thinks, will help Republicans in the up-coming Mid-term Elections.
In China tariffs are perhaps thought as punishment for President Xi’s advising President Kim Jong-Un ahead of the June 12 summit and probably and more likely to discredit the Yuan as a world reserve currency, since the Chinese currency is gradually replacing the dollar in the world’s reserve coffers. But Trump knows that these tariffs are meaningless for China, as China has a huge trade surplus with the US and an easy replacement market like all of Asia.
PressTV: How could the silence strategy by the 6 G7 partners have any impact on Trump’s decision on tariffs?
Peter Koenig: Well, the G6 – they are already now considered the G6+1, since Trump at the very onset of the summit announced that he was considering pulling out of the G7- so, the remaining 6 partners could get together alone and decide quietly what counter measures they want to take, then announce it in a joint communiqué to the media.
It does not have to be retaliation with reciprocal tariffs. It could, for example, be pulling out of NATO. Would they dare? That would get the world’s attention. That might be a much smarter chess move than copying the draw of one peon with the draw of another one. Because we are actually talking here about a mega-geopolitical chess game.
What we are actually witnessing is a slow but rapidly increasing disintegration of the West.
Let’s not forget, the G7 is a self-appointed Group of the “so-called” world’s greatest powers. How can that be when the only “eastern power”, Russia, and for that much more powerful than, for example, Canada or Italy, has been excluded in 2014 from the then G8?
And when the world’s largest economic power – measured by the real economic indicator, namely, purchasing power parity – China has never been considered being part of the G-Group of the greatest?
It is obvious that this Group is not sustainable.
We have to see whatever Trump does, as the result of some invisible forces behind the scene that direct him. Trump is a convenient patsy for them, and he plays his role quite well. He confuses, creates chaos, and on top of it, he, so far single-handedly wants to re-integrate Russia in the G-7; i.e., the remaking of the G-8.
So far the G6’s are all against it. Oddly, because it’s precisely the European Union that is now seeking closer ties with Russia. Maybe because they want to have Russia all for themselves?
If that is Trump’s strategy to pull Europe and Russia together, and thereby create a chasm between Russia and China, then he may succeed. Because the final prize of this Trump-directed mega political chess game is China.
Trump, or his handlers, know very well that they cannot conquer China as a close ally of Russia. So, the separation is one of the chess moves towards check-mate. But probably both Presidents Putin and Xi are well aware of it.
In fact, the SCO just finished their summit in China’s Qingdao on 9 June, about at the same time as the G7 in Canada’s Charlevoix, Quebec Province, and it was once more very clear that this alliance of the 8 SCO members is getting stronger, and Iran is going to be part of it. Therefore, a separation of Russia from the Association is virtually impossible. We are talking about half the world’s population and an economic strength of about one third of the world’s GDP, way exceeding the one of the G7 in terms of purchasing power.
This, I think is the Big Picture we have to see in these glorious G7 summits.
The EU on Wednesday said a raft of retaliatory tariffs, including on whiskey and motorcycles, against painful metals duties imposed by the US would be ready as early as July.
The European Commission, which handles trade matters for the 28-country bloc, “expects to conclude the relevant procedure in coordination with member states before the end of June,” said European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic at a news briefing.
This would allow “that the new duties start applying in July,” he added.
“It is a measured and proportionate response to the unilateral and illegal decision taken by the US to impose tariffs on the European steel and aluminum exports which we regret,” said the former Slovak prime minister.
From blue jeans to motorbikes and whiskey, the EU’s hit-list of products targeted for tariffs with the US reads like a catalogue of emblematic American exports.
The European Union originally drew up the list in March but pledged not to activate it unless US President Donald Trump followed through on his threat to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum.
The Trump tariffs came into effect on June 1 and the EU now joins Mexico and Canada and other close allies that have announced their own wave of counter-duties against Washington.
The EU commission must now take their proposal to be signed off by the bloc’s member states amid divisions over what path to take against Trump’s unpredictable policies.
France and the Netherlands back a tough line against the US, while export powerhouse Germany has urged caution towards Trump’s “America First” policies.
PressTV: How do you think this will affect the US? Wouldn’t it create more unemployment in America?
Peter Koenig: First, I think we have to distinguish between the various trade blocks and trade wars, like China, Russia, the NAFTA partner countries, Mexico and Canada – and the European Union – the EU. They are all different in as much as they have different motives.
Second, there is much more behind the so-called trade wars than trade. Much of this trade war is propaganda, big style, for public consumption and public debate, whereas in reality there are other negotiations going on behind closed doors.
And thirdly, there are mid-term elections coming up in the US this fall, and Trump must satisfy his home base, all the workers to whom he promised “Let’s Make America Great Again” – meaning bring back jobs, use US-made metals. So, Trump is also addressing those Americans who wait for jobs. As you know the unofficial but real figure of unemployment in the US is about 22% – and that does not even include the large segment of underemployed people, mostly youth.
I think we have to see the Big Picture here. And Trump, or rather those who give him orders, may not see all the risks that this complex multi-polar tariff war implies.
But for now, let’s stick to Europe.
It is very well possible that the EU will also impose import duties on US goods. But if it stays at that, it is very likely that this so-called trade war with the US is pushing Europe even faster than is already happening towards the East, the natural trading partners – Russia and China. As I said, it’s already happening.
But the Big Picture, in the case of Europe, I believe is IRAN. With tariffs on steel and aluminum – quite sizable tariffs, European producers of these metals, the second largest after China, would hurt. There may not be an immediate replacement market for America.
So, Trump may want to blackmail Europe into accepting his new sanctions on Iran. In other words, “either tariffs or you follow my dictate – abandon the Nuclear Deal and impose sanctions”.
Frankly, I doubt very much that this will work, since EU corporations have already signed billions worth of contracts with Iran. On the other hand, Germany in particular, is keen in renewing political as well as trade relations with Russia.
And the recent remark of the new US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, that he will support conservative right-wing movements in Germany and in Europe did certainly not go down well in Germany, with already a Parliamentary movement to expulse him, which certainly doesn’t help US-German relations.
As we speak, most likely this type of “blackmail” negotiations, “either tariffs or you go with us against Iran”, are going on with the EU behind closed doors. Of course, nobody knows the outcome. Trump is like a straw in the wind, bending to whatever seems to suit him best at the moment.
Remember, a couple of months ago he already imposed tariffs on Europe, along with everybody else, on steel and aluminum, then he lifted them again – and now we are on again. It’s like with most everything he does. It’s probably his business negotiation strategy.
But, this would just confirm that this trade war is much more than meets the eye, more than a trade war – it’s about geopolitics – like “show me your card – which camp are you in?”
Trump and those who manage him may still be under the illusion of the last 70 years, that the whole world, especially Europeans, have to bend over backwards to please the US of A, because they saved Europe – and the world – from the Nazi evil.
Not only is it time to stop the vassalage and become autonomous again, but also, many European start understanding that whom they really have to thank for liberating them from the Nazis – is Russia.
Thesis: the main achievement of the Trump administration to date has been to alienate European allies, in particular Germany, France and Britain, thus weakening the Atlantic Alliance. Originally concerned by candidate Trump’s questioning of NATO’s continuing relevance, they have been satisfied by Trump’s re-commitment to the alliance (even as he moans about the member countries’ general failure to shell out the 2% for “defense” the pact theoretically entails). But they’ve been dismayed by the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate, its pullout from the Iran nuclear deal (threatening sanctions on European companies that in accordance with the deal want to trade with Iran), its abandonment of coordinated policy on Israel, its imposition of tariffs on European steel and aluminum, and its general barking tone.
These days Angela Merkel is feeling more in common with Vladimir Putin than Donald Trump. Putin speaks to her in fluent German, treats her with respect, and is generally predictable, unlike the erratic Trump.
He tells her: let’s make more energy deals for mutual benefit, whatever the Americans think. And please don’t support the expansion of NATO; enough already. We are a formidable power, but our military budget is tiny compared to NATO’s and we are not about—and have no reason to—invade you. We just don’t want your military alliance to completely encircle us. We understand that, as a U.S. ally, you had to echo Washington’s condemnation of our annexation of Crimea and apply sanctions to us. But you know as well as I do that if Ukraine had been brought into NATO as the U.S. planned after the 2014 coup, our Crimea naval bases would have been transferred to NATO and we could never accept that. If you make the lifting of sanctions contingent on Russian withdrawal from Crimea, sorry, we will just have to accept them while applying counter-sanctions. Let us work together on the issues that unite us, like combating climate change and implementing the Iran agreement and protecting these agreements against U.S. obstruction.
This is potentially a key moment in which finally the unholy alliance based on a Faustian bargain between the U.S. and European anticommunists in the late 1940s fractures. What is the greater threat to Europe? The Russian state, which has gone through the agonizing process of full-scale capitalist restoration and a period of total chaos in the 1990s giving way to recovery under Putin, and which currently spends about 14% of what the U.S. devotes to military expenses every year? Or the U.S., which (still) wants to dictate European policy, even as its GDP dips relative to Europe’s? The EU GDP is now 90% of the U.S.’s.
Putin told Emmanuel Macron at the recent St. Petersburg economic conference: “Europe depends on U.S. in the realm of security. But you don’t need to worry about that; we’ll help. We’ll provide security.” I don’t think it was a joke.
Imagine a Europe not dominated by German banks deeply invested in support for U.S. imperialism using EU architecture to hold nations hostage to imposed austerity programs. Imagine a Europe of independent countries seeking rational equidistance between Washington and Moscow.
Putin has envisioned a free trade union including the EU extending from Vladivostok to Lisbon. It would be facilitated by China’s “new Silk Road” infrastructure projects, which may indeed unite Eurasia as never before, even as the U.S. recedes into the Grey Havens.
Russia will keep Crimea, as it has for most of the last three centuries; Ukraine will have to accord autonomy to the Russian-speaking Donbas region; Europe will lift its Russia sanctions gradually, because they are not in Europe’s interest (and punish Europe for the U.S.’s sake); contempt for the U.S. will mount so long as Trump is president, and could even deepen if he’s succeeded by Pence. The EU will continue to split on issues of immigration, austerity, Russian ties and other issues and the splits will deepen. The understaffed and clueless State Department will continue to urge trans-Atlantic unity. But having violated that unity repeatedly the U.S. has no moral authority to demand its continuation.
Meanwhile Putin plans a meeting with Japan’s Abe Shinzo to resolve the Northern Islands question. Probably a swap of islands, Russia returning two to Japanese sovereignty. This would end the formal state of war between the two countries and pave the way to huge Japanese investments in Russia. And given the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Japan will likely be drawn more into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization dominated by China and Russia.
India under Modi is basking in a period of U.S.-Indian friendship. Having (without clear explanation) forgiven India for its robust nuclear weapons program the U.S. seeks more cooperation with India versus China. But the U.S. alienates New Delhi over Iran sanctions. India buys Iranian oil and will continue to do so.
Xi Jinping in China enjoys a good relationship with Trump, having cleverly flattered him and Ivanka. But he is not pleased with Trump’s trade war threats and challenge to Chinese construction on the South China Sea atolls. The Chinese economy grows by leaps and bounds, and China’s military strengthens inevitably. China is the main rival to the U.S. geopolitically, and it is strategically aligned not only with Russia but with Central Asian countries, former Soviet republics, in general.
The U.S. could at least once boast of hegemony over Latin America, where military dictatorships once comfortably secured U.S. interests. Now these are gone. Latin America in general militates in different ways against U.S. imperialism. The spectacle of a U.S. president demanding the construction of a wall to keep out Mexican illegal immigrants and demanding that Mexico pay for it appears to hundreds of millions of people as a perverse, sadistic move. Reports of kids separated at the border from their parents and disappearing in their hundreds doesn’t help.
The U.S. is alienating Canada, for god’s sake, by steel tariffs. Good good good good good. Let’s break the whole thing, Donald!
The emergence of a multilateral world—in which the U.S. cannot oblige its allies (as it did in the case of the Iraq War) to embrace its own lies, and share in the ramifications of their acceptance—is on the horizon. The world sees a moron in the White House, handles him carefully, its leaders probably trading notes on his disturbing and unstable personality. Leaders assess the U.S. as a declining power with a horrifying arsenal and more horrifying willingness to invade countries for no good reason but diminishing geopolitical clout. The flurry of exchanges between European and Iranian leaders after the U.S. announcement on the Iran deal and stated determination of the Europeans to beat U.S. secondary sanctions, and strong EU statements of indignation at the US. decision, may signal a sea-change in relations.
European Council President Donald Tusk (a former Polish prime minister) last week criticized “the capricious assertiveness of the American administration” over issues including Iran, Gaza, trade tariffs and North Korea. adding: “Looking at the latest decisions of Donald Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies? But, frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful by President Trump. Because, thanks to him, we got rid of all the illusions. He has made us realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.”
You realize what this means?
These are significant words, under-reported by the U.S. media, that appears to simply assume the continuation of the existing U.S. hegemonic order in the world, is addicted to the cult of promoting military “service” as a good in itself, and—while wanting to bring down Trump for various reasons—cannot challenge capitalism and imperialism or make astute analyses of present conditions because they are paid by corporations that have vested interests in promoting the CNN and NYT concept of reality. The fact is, the post-war U.S.-dominated world is collapsing, as it should. As empires do.
The fact that this collapse is aided by a colorful idiot in the White House merely adds dramatic appeal to the historical narrative. He will grandiloquently preside over some sort of Korean agreement to satisfy his ego, then perhaps attack Iran with zero European backing but frenzied Israeli and Saudi support, inaugurating a major if not world war. This would not further endear this country to the planet in general.
On December 21, 2017 the United Nations General Assembly rejected the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by a 128-9 vote. The only countries to side with Israel and the U.S. were Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and for good balance, Togo. (The West African country’s President Gnassingbe benefiting from Israeli aid gushes about “Israel coming back to Africa, and Africa coming back to Israel.”)
Recall that the UNGA resolution that was passed in 1947, proposing the partition of Palestine, which (with a lot of terror) led to the establishment of the state of Israel, posited Jerusalem as a corpus separatum. Not just the status of East Jerusalem but that of the whole city remains in dispute. The city is the third holiest in the Islamic worldview, behind Mecca and Medina. The Prophet supposedly in a miraculous night visit on a sacred horse, alighted the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in what is now the occupied Old City. (I don’t believe that, any more than I believe the Old Testament myth about God causing the sun to remain stationary in the sky to give Joshua more time to conquer Jerusalem from the evil Canaanites–as depicted in Joshua 10:12. But myths are powerful.)
In any case, from the second century to the twentieth the city was overwhelming Christian or Muslim, a large percentage of its inhabitants probably descendants of pre-diaspora Judeans who over time converted to these religions. The proposition that Jerusalem is the “eternal Jewish capital” is a religious, literary and romantic one unjustified by actual history. It was emphatically not the Jewish capital between 70 CE, when Titus destroyed the city (reconstructing it as a pagan one with amphitheaters and baths); or after the Roman emperor Hadrian expelled Judeans from the city in 115; not until 1948 when west Jerusalem was taken by force. It was the headquarters of a Jewish monarch of some sort, often under foreign (Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic) influence, for at best a thousand years before it became a pagan city, then a Christian city, then a mixed Muslim-Christian city with a small Jewish minority as of the early twentieth century.
Virtually all European allies of the U.S. voted for the resolution condemning Washington for its decision. The stance of major NATO allies UK, France, and Germany was particularly painful.
An injured UN ambassador Nikki Haley declaimed in front of the assembly: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”
What a total disconnect. She’s saying: We pay you to support us, no matter what we do, even if it’s something as inflammatory as moving our embassy to territory the UN considers disputed. (That goes for both the western part occupied in 1948 and the eastern part occupied since 1967.) We have the right to place our embassy wherever we want even if no other country agrees with us, except maybe a few small ones we’ve bought. And if you don’t like it we’ll remember your dislike the next time you need us for something.
She’s saying this not to the Third World so much as to Europe. Those ungrateful allies.
This ignorant, haughty, undiplomatic woman is the perfect Trump representative in the UN. She blames Hamas for the deaths of 92 people in Gaza, and depicts their deaths as an expression of Israel’s right to “defend itself” against peaceful demonstrators and some guys with sling-shots, like David used (see 1 Samuel 17:40).
“I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council,” Haley declaimed on May 15, “Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.” (What? When did Danish border guards last kill 92 unarmed people?) This is like saying that the Trump inaugural was the largest in history Or that he’s the healthiest man who’s ever been president, or has the finest genes. It’s more than a lie; it’s a laughable, ridiculous lie in the face of the world, delivered by a political lightweight with no knowledge of history or experience in foreign affairs.
Europe in general doesn’t buy these lies. Nor does it accept the demand from Secretary of State (Minister of War?) Mike Pompeo that it abandon its growing Iran ties at U.S. diktat in order to facilitate the next cataclysmic war—in a zone 3000 km from Italy but 10,000 km from Washington. The Italians have accepted tens of thousands of Syrian and Libyan refugees and are probably not anxious to greet Iranian ones too. They’ve seen the results of U.S.-sponsored regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and attempted regime changes in Syria and Yemen.
An alliance of the Five Star Movement and Northern League in Italy may be taking power. Beppe Grillo, head of the former, is married to a Muslim Iranian woman. The Northern League calls U.S. accusations of Syrian use of WMD “fake news.” Both parties want closer Russian ties. Last year only 57% of Italians polled had a favorable view of NATO (higher than Spain’s 45% or Greece’s 33% but historically low).
Last January Italy and Iran signed a credit agreement worth 5.0 billion euros whereby Rome will help Italian companies invest in Iran. It was signed by Invitalia Global Investment and two Iranian banks. Is Pompeo going to stop that? In order to better “crush” Iran? Can the U.S. still so cow its traditionally closest allies?
The appointments of John Bolton and Pompeo to key positions around the unhinged, impulsive commander-in-chief mean that the policy gap between Washington and Brussels grows, as a matter of sheer idiocy (John Kelly) versus pragmatic capitalism. As appropriate disdain swells in Europe, may the U.S. recede, or hit its imperial peak then shrivel like the Spanish empire did two centuries ago. And may new silk roads link Persia and Europe as they once did, untroubled by banditry or bombs
When you listen to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s 12-Point wish list, what he calls Plan B to confront Iran – one can but wonder, has this man, or for that matter the entire Trump Administration, truly departed from the realm of common sense? This is, of course, a question many of us have been asking for quite a while. But this latest affront of aggression towards Iran is so out of context, out of whack, so ludicrous, that the question is more like is the empire reaching the end of the rope and using Iran as one of a last-ditch propaganda effort to prove to the world its economic and military might, like in “we are the greatest and exceptional nation. Don’t you dare start messing with us”?
Trump’s reneging on the Nuclear Deal was the first step. It was, of course, pushed by Israel, but based on lie after lie and more lies, that Iran did not comply with the conditions and ‘spirit’ of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). And this despite the fact that the Atomic Energy Commission in Vienna has already at least 8 times since the signing of the deal in July 2015 confirmed that Iran is in absolute compliance.
What exactly is Washington and its Israeli handlers trying to achieve with Pompeo’s most clumsy approach? “Regime Change”, perhaps? By activating and mobilizing the Fifth Column in Iran to create an internal revolt, with the objective of putting a new Shah-type puppet in place? The desperation of creating a strong and oppressive “ally” in the Middle East – as Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf States are ‘failing’ US trustworthiness – is hidden only by a thin veil.
Abandoning US loyalty in the Middle east is becoming epidemic. Iraq has just elected a new Parliament, where Muqtada al-Sadr’s nationalistic, anti-American Shia Sairoon Alliance emerged as the winner with 54 seats in the 329-seat Iraqi Parliament. Though, it is said that al-Sadr’s coalition was largely elected because of his anti-corruption stance, his parliamentary victory also means a resurgence of an Iraqi nationalism with a strong position against foreign influence, meaning especially the US, but possibly also Iran. The latter remains to be seen when the new Government is in place. Within the coming 90 days, al-Sadr, the new ‘kingmaker’, will have to form a new governing body and choose a President. But already now it is clear that Iraq, if left alone by the west as a sovereign country, will turn away from Washington and may eventually also move towards an eastern alliance.
However, what might possibly be a key reason behind Trump’s and Pompeo’s outrageously preposterous and utterly awkward anti-Iran tirade, other than submitting to Israel’s dictate, is the fact that the EU seems to want to stick to the deal, and to make things worse, is planning to switch from US dollars to euros in payments for oil supplies from Iran. This emerged from a recent meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, the UK, and the EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, where ways were discussed on how to protect the JCPOA for the remaining signatories after Washington backed out of deal.
Using the euro, rather than the traditional US dollar as an instrument for payment, would also protect the new trade agreements between Iran and Europe from US interference and sanctions. Unless, of course, the US would decide to ‘sanction’ the entire EU. But would they want to ‘punish’ their principal trading partner, who is already weary of Washington’s ever mounting unreasonable demands, thus, pushing them more and more to the east?
On the other hand, dropping the dollar as a means of payment for hydrocarbons would set a further precedent for future hydrocarbon trading elsewhere which would weaken the US dollar – ergo, the US economy – even more. Remember, Russia and China are not using the dollar for years to trade hydrocarbons. By putting Iran under the “strongest ever” sanction regime, the financial rulers behind Washington may hope to deter Europe from trading in euros instead of dollars. Should this not work, Trump may have other ammunition in store against Europe, like re-imposing the recently waived tariffs on steel and aluminum.
What becomes ever clearer is that the empire approaches the end of the rope. By such actions of tariffs and sanctions, the Trump Administration is just driving its main trading partner, Europe, into the ‘eastern camp’; i.e., Russia, China and Iran. This is already happening. Recent talks between Germany’s Chancellor Merkel and President Putin, the contents of which were non-aggression and trade, are a clear indication that Europe is getting tired of being commandeered by Washington. This is, by the way, the opinion of more than 90% of the people in Europe.
By re-establishing closer and peaceful relations with Russia, European leaders would actually move closer to their ever so revered democratic principles. Though, this too, is a process hindered by many contradictory political activities within Europe. For example, the neoliberal/neo-nazi move towards militarization, with rising peoples’ oppression, is so far rather increasing than easing, especially in France, but also in Germany, where Bavaria has already or is about to pass a law prohibiting any normal citizen (other than MSM journalists) to take pictures of demonstrations in which authorities’ atrocities could be witnessed and recorded. At this point, the only major EU country that is about to form a euro-sceptic government, a return to sovereign democracy, and which is discussing the possibility of a parallel currency is Italy.
Back to Pompeo and especially Trump’s bombastic, “the strongest sanctions ever imposed on a country…”- Really? But, so what? – At this point and with a well-structured “Economy of Resistance”, Iran is almost immune to US sanctions. And as President Rouhani said a few days ago, we might hurt for a short while, but will soon recover and be much stronger than living under the scepter of a western economic dictatorship. In this sense, it doesn’t matter whether the EU will resist Washington’s pressure to bend to Washington’s “rule of law” or whether they finally go their own way. Europe is politically still very much part of the West, even if they become more detached from Washington, they are still under NATO’s yoke. Depending on the power of European autonomy, dealing with Europe may yet expose Iran to the vulnerability of dollar-based US sanctions.
Economy of Resistance is essentially food, health, education and industrial production self-sufficiency (local production for local markets with local money through public banking), and trading with neighboring and/or friendly and politically aligned countries. In the case of Iran, this is well under way. Iran is about to become a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, spearheaded by Russia and China, and is already enjoying special status within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), slated to become a full member either later this year or in 2019. The EEU and SCO, also headed by China and Russia, with members of the EEU and lately also India and Pakistan, comprise about half of the world’s population and control one third of the world’s GDP. They, and by association Iran, do not need the West for survival at all.
Besides, Iran is a crucial link in President Xi’s New Silk Road initiative, also called the Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI is a gigantic multi-multi-trillion-dollar (equivalent, but NOT dollar-based) project, spanning at least the next hundred years or more and aiming at developing transport, rural and urban, agricultural and industrial infrastructure; and connecting people through research, education, culture – all envisioning linking Eastern China and Russia with the most Western European trading places, as well as the Middle East through Iran, Africa through Kenya, and even Latin America through the southern tip of South America.
There are at this point at least six “land corridors” and a maritime route foreseen. Building them involves economic development of the still backward areas in western China, eastern Russia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Sub-Sahelian Africa, connecting them with infrastructure, knowledge, science and bringing about economic inclusion with the rest of the world. This is a huge scheme following egalitarian principles not known in the west. Iran is already part and parcel of this extraordinary development plan.
Regarding Washington’s ‘backstabbing’ of Iran’s Nuclear Deal, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, also warned North Korea in view of their forthcoming negotiations with Trump on nuclear disarmament. Mr. Qassemi cautioned DPRK may think twice before believing in any deal made by the US.
Vigilance is also in order for Iran. As part of the empire’s last-ditch effort for survival, there may be multiple attempts to infiltrating destabilizing elements into Iran. Together with the well-established Iranian Fifth Column and unlimited foreign designed propaganda, they may attempt internal upheavals, terror acts, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the legitimate Iranian Government. Trump and Pompeo with their terror speeches – which will continue for sure – are preparing the terrain for the world to believe in Iran’s internal conflicts the same way they have done it with Venezuela, and the same way they will do it with impunity anywhere they want to achieve regime change. At this stage, I don’t believe Washington and Israel would be bold enough to launch a direct or proxy military attack on Iran. They are well aware of Iran’s might and power of retaliation.
• This article was first published by the New Eastern Outlook
My previous post was about the firing of a cartoonist, Dieter Hanitzsch, by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung after its editor became concerned – though, it seems, far from sure – that a cartoon he had published of Benjamin Netanyahu might be anti-semitic. Here is the image again.
As I argued then, the meaning seems pretty clear and uncoloured by any traditional notion of anti-semitism. It shows the danger that Israel, a highly militarised state, will use its win at the Eurovision song contest, and its hosting of next year’s competition in occupied Jerusalem, to whitewash the sort of war crimes it just committed in Gaza, where it has massacred large numbers of unarmed Palestinians.
In fact, the cartoonist is far from alone in highlighting such concerns. The New York Times has reported delight among Israelis at the prospect of what they regard as a “diplomatic victory” as much as musical one. And, according to the Haaretz newspaper, the Eurovision contest organisers have already expressed concern to Israeli broadcasters about likely attempts by Israel to “politicise” the competition.
Among those responding on Twitter to my post was Naomi Wolf, a US Jewish intellectual and feminist scholar whose body of work I admire. She disagreed with my blog post, arguing that the cartoon was, in her words, “kind of anti-semitic”.
In our subsequent exchange she also noted that she was uncomfortable with the fact that the cartoonist was German. (For those interested, the complete exchange can be found here.)
In the end, and admittedly under some pressure from me for clarification, she offered an illustration of why she thought the cartoon was “kind of anti-semitic”. She sent a link to the image below, stating that she thought Hanitzsch’s cartoon of Netanyahu had echoes of this Nazi image of “the Jew” alongside an Aryan German woman.
Frankly, I was astounded by the comparison.
Cartoons in Nazi propaganda sheets like Der Sturmer were anti-semitic because they emphasised specific themes to “otherise” Jews, presenting them as a collective menace to Germany or the world. Those themes included the threat of plague and disease, with Jews often represented as rats; or secret Jewish control over key institutions, illustrated, for example, by the tentacles of an octopus spanning the globe; or the disloyalty of Jews, selling out their country, as they hungered for money.
As Wolf notes, anti-semitic cartoonists would give the portrayed “Jew” grotesque or sinister facial features to alienate readers from him and convey the threat he posed. These features famously included a large or hooked nose, voracious lips, and a bulbous or disfigured head.
So how did the cartoon of Netanyahu qualify on any of these grounds? There is no implication that Netanyahu represents “Jews”, or even Israelis. He is illustrated straightforwardly as the leader of a country, Israel. There is no sense of disease, world control or money associated with Netanyahu’s depiction. Just his well-known hawkishness and Israel’s well-documented status as a highly militarised state.
And there is nothing “grotesque” or “other” about Netanyahu. This is a typical caricature, certainly by European standards, of a world leader. It’s no more offensive than common depictions of Barack Obama, George Bush, Tony Blair, or Donald Trump.
Limiting political debate
What follows is not meant as an attack on Wolf. In fact, I greatly appreciate the fact that she was prepared to engage sincerely and openly with me on Twitter. And I acknowledge her point that judgments about what is anti-semitic are subjective.
But at the same time ideas about anti-semitism have become far vaguer, more all-encompassing, than ever before. In fact, I would go so far as to say the idea of anti-semitism has been metamorphosing before our eyes in ways extremely damaging to the health of our political conversations. It is the current mystification of anti-semitism – or what we might term its transformation into a “kind of antisemitism” – that has allowed it to be weaponised, limiting all sorts of vital debates we need to be having.
It is precisely the promotion of a “kind of anti-semitism”, as opposed to real anti-semitism, that has just forced Ken Livingstone to resign from the Labour party; that empowered Labour’s Blairite bureaucracy to publicly lynch a well-known black anti-racism activist, Marc Wadsworth; that persuaded a dissident comedian and supporter of the Palestinian cause, Frankie Boyle, to use his TV show to prioritise an attack on a supposedly “anti-semitic” Labour party over support for Gaza; that is being used to vilify grassroots movements campaigning against “global elites” and the “1 per cent”; and that may yet finish off Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, currently the only credible political force for progressive change in the UK.
None of this is, of course, to suggest that Wolf would herself want any of these outcomes or that she is trying to misuse anti-semitism. I fully acccept that she has been a strong Jewish critic of Israel and doubtless paid a price for it with friends and colleagues.
But unlike Wolf, those who do consciously and cynically weaponise anti-semitism gain their power from our inability to stand back and think critically about what they are doing, and why it matters. There is an intellectual and cultural blind spot that has been created and is being readily exploited by those who want to prevent discussions not only about Israel’s actions but about the wider political culture we desperately need to change.
Israel and Jews
In fact, the mystification of anti-semitism is not new, though it is rapidly intensifying. It began the moment Israel was created. That was why a Nazi cartoon – drawn before Israel’s establishment in 1948 – could never have been described as “kind of anti-semitic”. It simply was anti-semitic. It attributed menacing or subversive qualities to Jews because they were Jews.
To understand how the current mystification works we need briefly to consider Israel’s character as a state – something very few people are prepared to do in the “mainstream”, because it is likely to result in allegations of … anti-semitism! As I observed in my previous post, this has provided the perfect get-out-jail-free card for Israel and its supporters.
Israel was created as the national homeland of all Jewish people – not of those who became citizens (which included a significant number of Palestinians), or even of those Jews who ended up living there. Israel declared that it represented all Jewish people around the world, including Wolf.
This idea is central to Zionism, and is embodied in its Declaration of Independence; its constitutional-like Basic Laws; its immigration legislation, the Law of Return; its land laws; and the integration into Israel’s state structures of extra-territorial Zionist organisations like the Jewish National Fund, the World Zionist Organisation and the Jewish Agency.
A dangerous confusion
It is also why the rationale for Israel is premised on anti-semitism: Israel was created as a sanctuary for all Jews because, according to Zionists, Jews can never be truly safe anywhere outside Israel. Without anti-semitism, Israel would be superfluous. It is also why Israel has a reason to inflate the threat of anti-semitism – or, if we are cynical about the lengths states will go to promote their interests, to help generate anti-semitism to justify the existence of a Jewish state and encourage Jews to immigrate.
So from the moment of its birth, the ideas of “Israel” and “anti-semitism” became disturbingly enmeshed – and in ways almost impossible to disentangle.
For most of Israel’s history, that fact could be obscured in the west because western governments and media were little more than cheerleaders for Israel. Criticism of Israel was rarely allowed into the mainstream, and when it did appear it was invariably limited to condemnations of the occupation. Even then, there was rarely any implication of systematic wrongdoing on Israel’s part.
That changed only when the exclusive grip of the western corporate media over information dissemination weakened, first with the emergence of the internet and satellite channels like Al Jazeera, and more recently and decisively with social media. Criticism of Israel’s occupation has increasingly broadened into suspicions about its enduring bad faith. Among more knowledgeable sections of the progressive left, there is a mounting sense that Israel’s unwillingness to end the occupation is rooted in its character as a Jewish state, and maybe its intimate ideological relationship with anti-semitism.
These are vital conversations to be having about Israel, and they are all the more pressing now that Israel has shown that it is fully prepared to gun down in public unarmed Palestinians engaging in civil disobedience. Many, many more Palestinians are going to have their lives taken from them unless we aggressively pursue and resolve these conversations in ways that Israel is determined to prevent.
And this is why the “kind of anti-semitic” confusion – a confusion that Israel precisely needs and encourages – is so dangerous. Because it justifies – without evidence – shutting down those conversations before they can achieve anything.
The Livingstone problem
In 2016 Ken Livingstone tried to initiate a conversation about Zionism and its symbiotic relationship with anti-semites, in this case with the early Nazi leadership. We can’t understand what Israel is, why the vast majority of Jews once abhorred Zionism, why Israel is so beloved of modern anti-semites like the alt-right and hardcore Christian evangelicals, why Israel cannot concede a Palestinian state, and why it won’t abandon the occupation without overwhelming penalties from the international community, unless we finish the conversation Livingstone started.
Which is why that conversation was shut down instantly with the accusation that it was “anti-semitic”. But Livingstone’s crime is one no mainstream commentator wants to address or explain. If pressed to do so, they will tell you it is because his comments were perceived to be “offensive” or “hurtful”, or because they were “unnecessary” and “foolish”, or because they brought the Labour party “into disrepute” (Labour’s version of “kind of anti-semitic”). No one will tell you what was substantively anti-semitic about his remark.
Similarly, when pressed to explain how Hanitzsch’s cartoon of Netanyahu was anti-semitic, Wolf digressed to the entirely irrelevant issue of his nationality.
This is the power and the danger of this “kind of anti-semitic” logic, and why it needs to be confronted and exposed for the hollow shell it is.
A mural becomes anti-semitic
The next stage in the evolution of the “kind of anti-semitic” argument is already discernible, as I have warned before. It is so powerful that it has forced Corbyn to concede, against all evidence, that Labour has an anti-semitism problem and to castigate himself, again against all evidence, for indulging in anti-semitic thinking.
Corbyn has been on the defensive since a “controversy” erupted in March over his expression of support back in 2012 for street art and opposition to censorship amid a row over a London mural that was about to be painted over.
After he was elected Labour leader in 2015, the first efforts were made to weaponise the mural issue to damage him. The deeply anti-Corbyn Jewish Chronicle newspaper was – like Hanitzsch’s boss at the Süddeutsche Zeitung – initially unsure whether the mural was actually anti-semitic. Then the newspaper simply highlighted concerns that it might have “anti-semitic undertones”. By spring 2018, when the row resurfaced, the status of the mural had been transformed. Every mainstream British commentator was convinced it was “clearly” and “obviously” anti-semitic – and by implication, Corbyn had been unmasked as an anti-semite for supporting it.
Again, no one wanted to debate how it was anti-semitic. The artist has said it was an image of historical bankers, most of whom were not Jewish, closely associated with the capitalist class’s war on the rest of us. There is nothing in the mural to suggest he is lying about his intention or the mural’s meaning. And yet everyone in the “mainstream” is now confident that the mural is anti-semitic, even though none of them wants to specify what exactly is anti-semitic about it.
The 1 per cent off-limits
Much else is rapidly becoming “anti-semitic”. It is an indication of how quickly this slippage is occuring that repeating now a slogan of the Occupy Movement from only seven years ago – that we are ruled by a “global elite” and the “1 per cent” – is cited as proof of anti-semitism. The liberal New Statesman recently ran an article dedicated to proving that the articulation of basic socialist principles – including ideas of class war and the 1 per cent – was evidence of anti-semitism.
On Frankie Boyle’s popular TV show last week, comedian David Baddiel was allowed to misrepresent – unchallenged – an opinion poll that found 28 per cent of Corbyn supporters agreed with the statement “the world is controlled by a secretive elite”. Baddiel asserted, without any evidence, that when they spoke of a global elite the respondents were referring to Jews. What was this assumption based on? A hunch? A sense that such a statement must be “kind of anti-semitic”?
Lots of young people who support Corbyn have never heard of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and have little idea about Der Sturmer or Nazi propaganda. More likely when they think of a secretive global elite, they imagine not a cabal of Jews but faceless global corporations they feel powerless to influence and a military industrial complex raking in endless profits by engineering endless wars.
The mystification of anti-semitism is so dangerous because it can be exploited for any end those who dominate the public square care to put it to – whether it be sacking a cartoonist, justifying Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians, destroying a progressive party leader, or preventing any criticism of a turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism destroying our planet.