Category Archives: Tony Blair

Naomi Wolf and Anti-semitism’s Mystification

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.

Nazi propaganda

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.

So how exactly is this Netanyahu cartoon “kind of anti-semitic”?

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.

Douma: Deception In Plain Sight

UK corporate media are under a curious kind of military occupation. Almost all print and broadcast media now employ a number of reporters and commentators who are relentless and determined warmongers. Despite the long, unarguable history of US-UK lying on war, and the catastrophic results, these journalists instantly confirm the veracity of atrocity claims made against Official Enemies, while having little or nothing to say about the proven crimes of the US, UK, Israel and their allies. They shriek with a level of moral outrage from which their own government is forever spared. They laud even the most obviously biased, tinpot sources blaming the ‘Enemy’, while dismissing out of hand the best scientific researchers, investigative journalists and academic sceptics who disagree.

Anyone who challenges this strange bias is branded a ‘denier’, ‘pro-Saddam’, ‘pro-Gaddafi, ‘pro-Assad’. Above all, one robotically repeated word is generated again and again: ‘Apologist… Apologist… Apologist’.

Claims of a chemical weapons attack on Douma, Syria on April 7, offered yet another textbook example of this reflexive warmongering. Remarkably, the alleged attack came just days after US president Donald Trump had declared of Syria:

I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.

The ‘mainstream’ responded as one, with instant certainty, exactly as they had in response to atrocity and other casus belli claims in Houla, Ghouta, Khan Sheikhoun and many other cases in Iraq (1990), Iraq (1998), Iraq (2002-2003), Libya and Kosovo.

Once again, the Guardian editors were sure: there was no question of a repetition of the fake justifications for war to secure non-existent Iraqi WMDs, or to prevent a fictional Libyan massacre in Benghazi. Instead, this was ‘a chemical gas attack, orchestrated by Bashar al-Assad, that left dead children foaming at the mouth’.

Simon Tisdall, the Guardian’s assistant editor, had clearly decided that enough was enough:

It’s time for Britain and its allies to take concerted, sustained military action to curb Bashar al-Assad’s ability to murder Syria’s citizens at will.

This sounded like more than another cruise missile strike. But presumably Tisdall meant something cautious and restrained to avoid the terrifying risk of nuclear confrontation with Russia:

It means destroying Assad’s combat planes, bombers, helicopters and ground facilities from the air. It means challenging Assad’s and Russia’s control of Syrian airspace. It means taking out Iranian military bases and batteries in Syria if they are used to prosecute the war.

But surely after Iraq – when UN weapons inspectors under Hans Blix were prevented from completing the work that would have shown that Saddam Hussein possessed no WMD – ‘we’ should wait for the intergovernmental Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inspectors to investigate. After all, as journalist Peter Oborne noted of Trump’s air raids:

When the bombing started the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was actually in Damascus and preparing to travel to the area where the alleged chemical attacks took place.

Oborne added:

Had we wanted independent verification on this occasion in Syria surely we ourselves would have demanded the OPCW send a mission to Douma. Yet we conspicuously omitted to ask for it.

Tisdall was having none of it:

Calls to wait for yet another UN investigation amount to irresponsible obfuscation. Only the Syrian regime and its Russian backers have the assets and the motivation to launch such merciless attacks on civilian targets. Or did all those writhing children imagine the gas?

The idea that only Assad and the Russians had ‘the motivation’ to launch a gas attack simply defied all common sense. And, as we will see, it was not certain that children had been filmed ‘writhing’ under gas attack. Tisdall’s pro-war position was supported by just 22% of British people.

Equally gung-ho, the oligarch-owned Evening Standard, edited by veteran newspaperman and politically impartial former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, headlined this plea on the front page:

HIT SYRIA WITHOUT A VOTE, MAY URGED

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, formerly the paper’s comment editor, also poured scorn on the need for further evidence:

Besides, how much evidence do we need?… To all but the most committed denialists and conspiracists, Assad’s guilt is clear.

Freedland could argue that the case for blaming Assad was clear, if he liked, but he absolutely could not argue that disagreeing was a sign of denialist delusion.

Time and again, we encounter these jaw-dropping efforts to browbeat the reader with fake certainty and selective moral outrage. In his piece, Freedland linked to the widely broadcast social media video footage from a hospital in Douma, which showed that Assad was guilty of ‘inflicting a death so painful the footage is unbearable to watch’. But when we actually click Freedland’s link and watch the video, we do not see anyone dying, let alone in agony, and the video is not, in fact, unbearable to watch. Like Tisdall’s claim on motivation, Freedland was simply declaring that black is white.

But many people are so intimidated by this cocktail of certainty and indignation – by the fear that they will be shamed as ‘denialists’ and ‘apologists’ – that they doubt the evidence of their own eyes. In ‘mainstream’ journalism, expressions of moral outrage are offered as evidence of a fiery conviction burning within. In reality, the shrieks are mostly hot air.

In the Observer, Andrew Rawnsley also deceived in plain sight by blaming the Syrian catastrophe on Western inaction:

Syria has paid a terrible price for the west’s disastrous policy of doing nothing.

However terrible media reporting on the 2003 Iraq war, commentators did at least recognise that the US and Britain were involved. We wrote to Rawnsley, asking how he could possibly not know about the CIA’s billion dollar per annum campaign to train and arm fighters, or about the 15,000 high-tech, US anti-tank missiles sent to Syrian ‘rebels’ via Saudi Arabia.

Rawnsley ignored us, as ever.

Just three days after the alleged attack, the Guardian’s George Monbiot was asked about Douma:

Don’t you smell a set up here though? Craig Murray doesn’t think Assad did it.

Monbiot replied:

Then he’s a fool.

Craig Murray responded rather more graciously:

I continue to attract attacks from the “respectable” corporate and state media. I shared a platform with Monbiot once, and liked him. They plainly find the spirit of intellectual inquiry to be a personal affront.

Monbiot tweeted back:

I’m sorry Craig but, while you have done excellent work on some issues, your efforts to exonerate Russia and Syria of a long list of crimes, despite the weight of evidence, are foolish in the extreme.

The idea that Murray’s effort has been ‘to exonerate Russia and Syria of a long list of crimes’ is again so completely false, so obviously not what Murray has been doing. But it fits perfectly with the corporate media theme of Cold War-style browbeating: anyone challenging the case for US-UK policy on Syria is an ‘apologist’ for ‘the enemy’.

If Britain was facing imminent invasion across the channel from some malignant superpower, or was on the brink of nuclear annihilation, the term ‘apologist’ might have some merit as an emotive term attacking free speech – understandable in the circumstances. But Syria is not at war with Britain; it offers no threat whatsoever. If challenging evidence of Assad’s responsibility is ‘apologism’, then why can we not describe people accepting that evidence as ‘Trump apologists’, or ‘May apologists’, or ‘Jaysh al-Islam apologists’? The term really means little more than, ‘I disagree with you’ – a much more reasonable formulation.

As Jonathan Cook has previously commented:

Monbiot has repeatedly denied that he wants a military attack on Syria. But if he then weakly accepts whatever narratives are crafted by those who do – and refuses to subject them to any meaningful scrutiny – he is decisively helping to promote such an attack.

Why Are These Academics Allowed?

The cynical, apologetic absurdity of questioning the official narrative has been a theme across the corporate media. In a Sky News discussion, Piers Robinson of Sheffield University urged caution in blaming the Syrian government in the absence of verifiable evidence. In a remarkable response, Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society, screeched at him:

Who do you think did it? Was it your mother who did it?

Again, exact truth reversal – given the lack of credible, verified evidence, it was absurd to declare Robinson’s scepticism absurd.
Mendoza later linked to an article attacking Robinson, and asked:

Why are UK universities allowing such “academics” – and I use the term advisedly because they are not adhering to any recognised standard when promoting material with no credible sourcing, and often with no citation at all – to work in their institutions?

In 2011, Mendoza wrote in The Times of Nato’s ‘intervention’ in Libya:

The action in Libya is a sign that the world has overcome the false lessons [sic] of Iraq or of “realism” in foreign policy.

The UN had ‘endorsed military action to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding’.

In fact, the unfolding ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ was fake news; Mendoza’s mother needed no alibi. A September 9, 2016 report on the war from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons commented:

Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence….

The Times launched a shameful, front-page attack on Robinson and other academics who are not willing to accept US-UK government claims on trust. The Times cited Professor Scott Lucas of Birmingham University:

Clearly we can all disagree about the war in Syria, but to deny an event like a chemical attack even occurred, by claiming they were “staged”, is to fall into an Orwellian world.

In similar vein, in a second Guardian comment piece on Douma, Jonathan Freedland lamented: ‘we are now in an era when the argument is no longer over our response to events, but the very existence of those events’. Echoing Soviet propaganda under Stalin, Freedland warned that this was indicative of an intellectual and moral sickness:

These are symptoms of a post-truth disease that’s come to be known as “tribal epistemology”, in which the truth or falsity of a statement depends on whether the person making it is deemed one of us or one of them.

And this was, once again, truth reversal – given recent history in Iraq and Libya, it was Lucas and Freedland who were falling into an Orwellian fantasy world. Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens made the obvious point:

Given the folly of the British government over Iraq and Libya, and its undoubted misleading of the public over Iraq, it is perfectly reasonable to suspect it of doing the same thing again. Some of us also do not forget the blatant lying over Suez, and indeed the Gulf of Tonkin.

Hitchens clearly shares our concern at media performance, particularly that of the Guardian, commenting:

Has Invasion of the Bodysnatchers been re-enacted at Guardian HQ? Whatever the dear old thing’s faults it was never a Pentagon patsy until recently. Rumours of relaunch as The Warmonger’s Gazette, free toy soldier with every issue.

Hitchens questioned Guardian certainty on Douma:

But if facts are sacred, how can the Guardian be so sure, given that it is relying on a report from one correspondent 70 miles away, and another one 900 miles away.. and some anonymous quotes from people whose stories it has no way of checking?

He added:

The behaviour of The Guardian is very strange & illustrates just what a deep, poorly-understood change in our politics took place during the Blair years. We now have the curious spectacle of the liberal warmonger, banging his or her jingo fist on the table, demanding airstrikes.

Indeed, in discussing the prospects for ‘intervention’ in the Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff, former political editor of the Observer, described the 2013 vote that prevented Britain from bombing Syria in August 2013 as ‘that shameful night in 2013’. Shameful? After previous ‘interventions’ had completely wrecked Iraq and Libya on false pretexts, and after the US regime had been told the evidence was no ‘slam dunk’ by military advisers?

In the New Statesman, Paul Mason offered a typically nonsensical argument, linking to the anti-Assad website, Bellingcat:

Despite the availability of public sources showing it is likely that a regime Mi-8 helicopter dropped a gas container onto a specific building, there are well-meaning people prepared to share the opinion that this was a “false flag”, staged by jihadis, to pull the West into the war. The fact that so many people are prepared to clutch at false flag theories is, for Western democracies, a sign of how effective Vladimir Putin’s global strategy has been.

Thus, echoing Freedland’s reference to ‘denialists and conspiracists’, sceptics can only be idiot victims of Putin’s propaganda. US media analyst Adam Johnson of FAIR accurately described Mason’s piece as a ‘mess’, adding:

I love this thing where nominal leftists run the propaganda ball for bombing a country 99 yards then stop at the one yard and insist they don’t support scoring goals, that they in fact oppose war.

Surprisingly, the Bellingcat website, which publishes the findings of ‘citizen journalist’ investigations, appears to be taken seriously by some very high-profile progressives.

In the Independent, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas also mentioned the Syrian army ‘Mi-8’ helicopters. Why? Because she had read the same Bellingcat blog as Mason, to which she linked:

From the evidence we’ve seen so far it appears that the latest chemical attack was likely by Mi-8 helicopters, probably from the forces of Syria’s murderous President Assad.

On Democracy Now!, journalist Glenn Greenwald said of Douma:

I think that it’s—the evidence is quite overwhelming that the perpetrators of this chemical weapons attack, as well as previous ones, is the Assad government…

This was an astonishing comment. After receiving fierce challenges (not from us), Greenwald partially retracted, tweeting:

It’s live TV. Something [sic – sometimes] you say things less than ideally. I think the most likely perpetrator of this attack is Syrian Govt.

We wrote to Greenwald asking what had persuaded him of Assad’s ‘likely’ responsibility for Douma. (Twitter, April 10, direct message)

The first piece of evidence he sent us (April 12) was the Bellingcat blog mentioning Syrian government helicopters cited by Mason and Lucas. Greenwald also sent us a report from Reuters, as well as a piece from 2017, obviously prior to the alleged Douma event.

This was thin evidence indeed for the claim made. In our discussion with him, Greenwald then completely retracted his claim (Twitter, April 12, direct message) that there was evidence of Syrian government involvement in the alleged attack. Yes, it’s true that people ‘say things less than ideally’ on TV, but to move from ‘quite overwhelming’ to ‘likely’, to declaring mistaken the claim that there is evidence of Assad involvement, was bizarre.

Political analyst Ben Norton noted on Twitter:

Reminder that Bellingcat is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is funded by the US government and is a notorious vehicle for US soft power.

Norton added:

It acts like an unofficial NATO propagandist, obsessively focusing on Western enemies.

And:

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins is a fellow at the Atlantic Council, which is funded by NATO, US, Saudi, UAE, etc.

And:

According to Meedan, which helps fund Bellingcat — along with the US government-funded NED — Bellingcat also works with the group Syrian Archive, which is funded by the German government, to jointly produce pro-opposition “research”.

And:

The board of the directors for Meedan, which funds Bellingcat, includes Muna AbuSulayman—who led the Saudi oligarch’s Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation—and Wael Fakharany—who was the regional director of Google in Egypt & North Africa (US gov. contractor Google also funds Bellingcat)

And:

Bellingcat—which gets money from the US gov-funded NED and fixates obsessively on Western enemies—claims to be nonpartisan and impartial, committed to exposing all sides, but a website search shows it hasn’t published anything on Yemen since February 2017.

Although Bellingcat is widely referenced by corporate journalists, we are unaware of any ‘mainstream’ outlet that has seriously investigated the significance of these issues for the organisation’s credibility as a source of impartial information. As we will see in Part 2, corporate journalism is very much more interested in challenging the credibility of journalists and academics holding power to account.

• Part 2 will be published soon!

Fisk Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria

It seems that many who supported the weekend’s air strikes on Syria are missing the significance of Robert Fisk’s report this morning from Douma, the site of a supposed chemical weapons attack last week.

Fisk is the first western journalist to reach the area and speak to people there. One is a senior doctor at the clinic that treated victims of what a video purported to show were chemical weapons used by the Syrian government.

That doctor says the video was real, but did not show the effects of a chemical weapons attack. It showed something else. This is what the doctor is reported saying:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night — but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet’, shouted ‘Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

On my social media pages there are plenty of armchair warriors furiously denying the importance of this report, by claiming either that the doctor made up the story or that Fisk is a mouthpiece for the Assad regime, or maybe both.

That will not wash for reasons that ought to be obvious – and it still won’t wash even if the testimony later turns out to be wrong.

The air strikes on Syria at the weekend were patently illegal according to international law. That would have been the case even had there been a chemical weapons attack in Douma, in part because it would have been necessary for independent inspectors to determine first whether the Syrian government, and not the jihadists there, was responsible.

The air strikes would have been illegal too, even if it could have been shown that a chemical weapons attack had taken place and that Assad personally ordered it. That is because air strikes would have first required authorisation from the UN Security Council. That is why international law exists: to regulate affairs between states, to prevent militarism of the “might is right” variety that nearly destroyed Europe 80 years ago, and to avoid unnecessary state confrontations that in a nuclear age could have dire repercussions.

Had Assad been shown to be responsible, Russia would have come under enormous international pressure to authorise action of some kind against Syria – pressure it would have been extremely hard for it to resist.

But had it resisted that pressure, we would have had to live with its veto at the Security Council. And again, for very good reason. Israel, the US and the UK have used depleted uranium munitions in the Middle East, and Israel and the US white phosphorous. But who among us would think it reasonable for Russia or China to unilaterally carry out punishment air strikes on Maryland (US), Porton Down (UK) or Nes Ziona (Israel), and justify the move on the grounds that the US and UK could veto any moves against themselves or their allies at the Security Council? Who would want to champion belligerent attacks on these sovereign states as “humanitarian intervention”?

But all of this is irrelevant because whatever incontrovertible information the US, UK and France claimed to have that Syria carried out a chemical weapons attack last week is clearly no more reliable than their claims about an Iraqi WMD programme back in 2002.

Fisk does not need to prove that his account is definitively true – just like a defendant in the dock does not need to prove their innocence. He has to show only that he reported accurately and honestly, and that the testimony he recounted was plausible and consistent with what he saw. Everything about Fisk’s record and about this particular report suggests there should be no doubt on that score.

Fisk’s report shows that there is a highly credible alternative explanation for what happened in Douma – one that needs to be investigated. Which means that an attack on Syria should never have taken place before inspectors were able to investigate and report their findings.

Instead, the US-UK-France launched air strikes hours before the UN inspectors were due to begin their work in Syria, thereby pre-empting it. At the time those air strikes took place, the aggressor states had neither legal nor evidential justification for their actions. They were were simply relying on the reports of parties, like the White Helmets, that have a vested interest in engineering the Syrian government’s downfall.

As is now known beyond doubt, our leaders lied to us about Iraq and about Libya. Some of us have been warning for some time that we should be highly sceptical of everything we are being told by our governments about Syria, until it is verified by independent evidence.

All of us have a moral responsibility to stop simply believing what our governments and their propagandists in the corporate media tell us, whether we do it out of a kneejerk authoritarian impulse or because we have some romantic notion that, despite the evidence, our leaders are always the good guys and their leaders are always the bad guys.

Just consider for a moment the UK’s support for, and involvement in, the horrifying Saudi war against Yemen, or US politicians’ blanket silence on Israel’s massacre of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza. Our leaders have no moral high ground to stand on. Their foreign policy decisions are about oil, defence contracts and geo-strategic interests, not about protecting civilians or fighting just wars.

However bad Assad is, and he is a dictator, he is responsible for far fewer deaths and much less suffering in the Middle East than either George W Bush or Tony Blair.

Former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer sets out a very plausible reason why the US, UK and France keep intervening in Syria. It is not about children or chemical weapons. It is to prevent the Syrian government and Russia triumphing over the jihadists, as they have been close to doing for some time.

These western states are adamantly opposed to allowing a peaceful resolution in Syria, Kinzer observes, because it:

might allow stability to spread to nearby countries. Today, for the first time in modern history, the governments of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon are on good terms. A partnership among them could lay the foundation for a new Middle East.

That new Middle East, however, would not be submissive to the United States-Israel-Saudi Arabia coalition. For that reason, we are determined to prevent it from emerging. Better to keep these countries in misery and conflict, some reason, than to allow them to thrive while they defy the United States. …

From Washington’s perspective, peace in Syria is the horror scenario. Peace would mean what the United States sees as a ‘win’ for our enemies: Russia, Iran, and the Assad government. We are determined to prevent that, regardless of the human cost.

UPDATE:

Fisk’s account is corroborated by another reporter there, Pearson Sharp of the conservative news network One America. Unlike Fisk, who I know has a long track record as a highly credible reporter of events in the Middle East, Sharp is an unknown quantity to me. But it may be significant that he echoes Fisk in saying that no one he spoke to, even in the neighbourhood where the attack supposedly occurred, seemed aware that chemical weapons had been used.

Five Thoughts on Air Strikes Against Syria

1. The United States, the UK and France launched air strikes on Syria this morning just as inspectors from the UN chemical weapons agency, the OPCW, had arrived to investigate whether a chemical weapons attack – the official justfication for the strikes – had taken place in Douma last week and, if so, who was responsible.

It looks suspiciously like the strikes were timed to pre-empt, and foil, the UN investigation. That has to raise concerns that we are being hoodwinked by our leaders, as we were in Iraq and Libya, as they seek to actively stoke yet another “humanitarian war” whose only beneficiaries will be the west’s military-industrial-security-media elites.

2. Let us not forget, a military attack on a sovereign country without authorisation from the UN Security Council amounts to a war of aggression. That is a crime against humanity – the supreme international crime, in fact – as jurists have repeatedly pointed out.

We have now so inverted the global order that western powers can claim – with a straight face – to attack a country in the name of decency and humanitarianism by breaking the most fundamental tenets of international law, tenets that were developed precisely to prevent last century’s two world wars that laid waste to Europe and beyond.

3. Trump has said: “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” Given that he doesn’t know whether Bashar Assad used chemical weapons, or whether Assad’s jihadist opponents in Douma have access to such agents, his statements can only give Islamic extremists of the headchopping variety a huge incentive to carry out (more?) false-flag attacks – or simply mock up phoney attacks – to intensify western violence that will work in their favour.

4. There is precisely nothing humanitarian about western military attacks. They encourage and strengthen the losing side, Islamic extremists, and further drag out an already protracted proxy war in which Syrian civilians have been paying the main price.

They also risk triggering an escalation and a widening of the fighting that could lead to massive death and destruction in the region and beyond (and that without contemplating the dangers of a nuclear confrontation). We are now dependent not on the good sense of our leaders (they have shown they have none), but on the restraint of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. We must hope he refuses to be baited by our own irresponsible governments.

5. This is not Trump’s fault, bad as he is. There is bipartisan support for this madness. Hilary Clinton and the Democratic leadership in the US, and much of the parliamentary Labour party in the UK, are fully on board with these actions. In fact, they have been goading Trump into launching attacks.

It is hard not to notice a political context in both the US and the UK in which those opposed to escalating tensions with Russia – including Trump when he was a presidential candidate – have been vilified as Kremlin agents and Putin-bots.

Doubtless Trump’s shady global business dealings are worthy of investigation, as they were before he became president. But it is the relentless focus on his ties to Russia alone, on Russia’s supposed interference in the last US elections, on Russia’s supposed role in generating so-called “fake news” on social media, on the assumption of Russian involvement in the poisoning of the Skripals in the UK, and much else, that provides Trump with little choice but to go along with the US security and intelligence elites.

That is the reason why he is instantly feted by the policy establishment every time he attacks Syria. It will take a brave Trump to resist these pressures in the future – and little so far suggests that he possesses that kind of courage.

As We Teeter on the Brink of War in Syria…

It is disturbing to hear on the news this morning that the Cabinet have agreed in principle to join the US-led coalition for a military attack on Syria and decided Cabinet approval is all that’s necessary.

In other words, parliamentary democracy will be by-passed in a matter with potentially fatal consequences for millions. Blair in 2003 at least was bright enough to get gullible MPs from across the House to give him political cover for his illegal game.

I have just come across the following remarks by an eminent US law expert, Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, that show Trump to be on very shaky ground and at risk of impeachment.

Boyle writes:

When Obama was in a similar position in 2013, his advisor Ben Rhodes has since commented that they turned back largely because they were afraid of impeachment. That fear is well founded. While the prospect of impeaching Trump is thrown around frequently for partisan purposes, on this issue, the constitution is clear: Initiating a war or any such attack without authorization is clearly impeachable.

Last year, at the National Press Club, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., claimed the authority to target the Syrian government stemmed from the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Gen. Dunford was totally incorrect. The AUMF passed after 9/11 has indeed been used to justify the bombing campaign purporting to target ISIS, but it cannot possibly be used to justify targeting the Syrian government.

Excuses of ‘humanitarian intervention’ have no basis in international law and in these circumstances are transparently hollow. Israel apparently just attacked Syria (illegal) from Lebanese airspace (also illegal). Israel itself just openly admitted that it is killing Palestinian civilian protesters — part of a decades-long brazenly illegal policy. The U.S. representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, prevented even an inquiry by the UN into the matter. There’s no evidence of any humanitarian concern here, simply a search for pretexts to pursue geopolitical goals which may well include carving up Syria.

As upholders (one supposes) of the rule of law, including international law, Theresa May and her Cabinet colleagues surely won’t wish to implicate themselves – or the nation – in any such criminal conduct. You might criticise Boyle for his anti-US/Israel stance just as many people are sickened by the Conservative Party’s undying devotion to the Israel project, but none of that extinguishes the legal point. Exactly what advice has our Conservative Government received, please, to say that joining this action against Syria is lawful or even sensible?

Also what rock-solid evidence is there that the Douma gas attack actually took place and, if so, that the Syrian government was responsible?

I imagine most Government MPs have already asked these questions and received answers, but the British public are still waiting, unconsulted, while we teeter on the brink…..

Kind regards etc,

Stuart Littlewood

A Word to my Westminster MP on Syria

A reminder to my MP that his party boss Theresa May and her out-of-control foreign secretary Boris Johnson impatiently jumped the gun on Iraq and look like making the same mistake on Syria in an apparent attempt to provoke a wider war.

In a crazy-dangerous situation like this, when our country is run by fools who never learn, what can one legitimately do short of taking to the streets in a mob? Write to one’s MP, of course…. though much good it will do. Most MPs are not there to express the wishes of their constituents but to obey the diktats of their tribal leaders (or the shadowy powers that pull their strings).

I well remember being on high alert during the last cold war, and I’m not going through that again just to satisfy the pathological hatred some government ministers have for Russia, Iran and Syria while cosying up to the world’s truly vile regimes like Saudi Arabia and Israel and even rolling out the red carpet for them.

So I for one have written to my MP along these lines:

Let’s remember that Theresa and Boris enthusiastically supported the loons who took us to war in Iraq and both voted against saying that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established (see theyworkforyou.com). Both were impatient to commit the gravest crime in the book, namely, taking a nation to war, without being sure of the facts and without even bothering to run basic checks that would have told them the info fed to Parliament by Labour was bollox. Millions of ordinary citizens had managed to work that out for themselves, so why not MPs who are entrusted with getting it right?

Boris, as we’ve seen, still hasn’t learned the lesson and is none too careful about the way he seeks, interprets and broadcasts intelligence. Or the way he recklessly hurls accusations when he’s actually paid to make friends and do trade….

We now hear that Theresa May is under pressure from ministers and allies to join a US-led military strike against the Assad regime in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack. She says that President Assad and Russia will be “held to account…. if they are found to be responsible”. Funny she isn’t so keen to hold the Israeli regime to account for its barbarism in recent days. Or the Saudi regime for its genocide in Yemen….

She’s been warned that Britain risks losing influence in Washington and Paris if she refuses Trump’s request to join his murderous military adventure. Crude and despicable stuff from our nice allies.

Trump, like Boris, might not last long. Let us pray for that. Meanwhile the whole insane caper has a high chance of going badly, and I do mean badly, wrong and this time there’ll be no hiding place for the warmongers who were part of it.

Kind regards etc…

There are insistent counter-reports that the Douma chemical attack never happened. And we all know that America-Israel axis have long had their own criminal agendas in this energy-rich region and are masters of disinformation, false flags and other dirty tricks. So the news this morning that Mrs May contemplates joining a mad-ass freak like Trump in an act of war without recalling Parliament fills me with even more rage and disgust than Blair ever managed to do.

Trump and Syria: “The worst case scenario is now our reality”

As all becomes ever more rapidly surreal it seems that, barring a miracle, Draft Dodger in Chief, Donald Trump might trigger a world war, over an incident in Syria which is entirely evidence free.

The discredited White Helmets – a “rescue” group only operating in areas held by “rebels” who routinely decapitate, including children, set fire to people and commit numerous unspeakable acts – have produced a video of an apparent chemical attack on 7th April.

The “White Helmets” are funded in millions by the UK Foreign Office, the US, Canada and various other Western governments. Coupled with this is: A UK government £5.3 million media activists’ programme included training Syrian independent journalists and activists, including for reporting of “White Helmets” activities across Twitter and Facebook.1

No wonder every seemingly staged “rescue” always has a few convenient camera people handy, recording the “victims.” The duty of first responders, of course, is to also protect the victim at all cost, in their vulnerable state, from public view.

The latest camera friendly crisis is yet another “chemical weapons attack” which the US, UK and usual suspects are blaming on the Syrian government. However, this is such a worn and discredited theme, were it not for trigger-happy Trump and his band of war obsessed mongers, it would simply be dismissed out of hand. For the US both supplying chemical weapons to the “moderate head choppers” and the discrediting of the endless attempts to pin chemical attacks on the government, see Professor Michel Chossudovsky’s meticulous documentations. See also Robert Stuart’s impressive, minute unraveling of the propaganda which was “Saving Syria’s Children.”

It also seems to have escaped the Trumposphere that in 2013, Syria surrendered all stocks of chemical weapons, under the auspices of the UN Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons and international observers and participants.

I wrote at the time:

On 12th September 2013 Syria’s President al-Assad committed to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons, with the caveats that the United States must stop threatening his country and supplying weapons to the terrorists.” (Weapons disposal detail.)

“Why do you need the attribution mechanism, if you’ve already named the perpetrators before any investigation?” asked Russia’s Ambassador to the UN this week, referring to blatant accusations against Damascus coming from the US and its allies.

It is worth noting that those dealing with patients suffering the effects of a chemical weapons attack need specific protective clothing. Pictures have been shown of an allegedly affected toddler being sprayed with water, held and sprayed by people in jeans, t-shirts and without even plastic gloves.

Strangely at the site of an alleged chemical attack at Khan Sheikhun on 5th April 2017, just two days over a year before the latest allegations, pictures not only emerged of first responders with no protective clothing, gloves, but of the White Helmets in flip flops and casual clothing “gathering soil samples” from areas allegedly hit by the weapons.

In Douma the Russian military have been rather more professional, with the Russian Embassy in South Africa Tweeting:

Russia in RSA

@EmbassyofRussia

April 10

Russian MoD investigates #DoumaProvocation, sheds light on the situation: All soil test results from Douma, #Syria have shown NO trace of neither sarin nor chlorine nor any other chemical agent. Local hospitals have NOT received ANY patients with chemical poisoning symptoms pic.twitter.com/cwIY8zXOIC

An accompanying correspondent wrote:

War Correspondent Alexander Bilibov from #Syria: “We checked the place of the alleged CW attack together with #Russian mil., asked the civilians. Nobody heard about #CW attack”. Alexander’s group asked at hospitals, spoke to the docs. Nothing. #SyrianCWHoax pic.twitter.com/He9NS7yx8F

At the UN, on Monday, 9th April – ironically the fifteenth anniversary of the toppling of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad’s Firdos Square, marking the destruction of Iraq on a pack of lies – Steffan de Mistura, Special Envoy for Syria, stated regarding the attack that: “… the United Nations was not in a position to verify those reports” (of a chemical weapons attack.)

The UK and France were predictably hawkish with the Russian Ambassador responding factually:

… that Washington, D.C., and those blindly following it – namely London and Paris – were deliberately stoking international tensions and engaging in a confrontational policy against the Russian Federation and Syria without any justification.

The United States and its partners did not understand the potential consequences of their reckless geopolitical experiment in the Middle East, he said, emphasizing that Western capitals were taking up rumours spread by non-governmental organizations, the White Helmets and the media. The use of sarin or chlorine gas in Douma had not been confirmed, he stressed, calling for a prompt investigation and for Western politicians to scale down their rhetoric.

Syria’s representative agreed that the lies of some permanent Council Members had fuelled conflicts, including in Viet Nam, the Korean Peninsula and Iraq.  Now they sought to defeat Syria.

Emphasizing that the United States, United Kingdom and France were eager to hold Council meetings on the basis of fabricated information, he recalled that the Syrian Government had warned the Council, OPCW and the Joint Investigative Mechanism on many occasions about terrorist groups possessing chlorine and sarin.  The White Helmets would fabricate evidence and Hollywood-like scenes intended to stir incitement against Syria and its allies.  The Syrian military had no chemical weapons, having destroyed them under United States auspices, he stressed. [Emphasis mine.]

Of course, in this new equivalent of the “forty five minute to destruction” lie (Tony Blair’s government’s infamous September 2002 dossier of fairy tales which massively contributed to Iraq’s destruction) who should pop up but Tony Blair, urging Prime Minister May to join strikes on Syria without even putting it to a Parliamentary vote.

He said that there was no need for her to ask her MPs as reprisals were likely to be “air action, rather than ground force action.” Work that one out. And Blair, who if justice existed, should be answering for his part in Nuremberg’s “supreme international crime” at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, was “Middle East Peace Envoy.”

The British and Americans, of course, on Syrian land, in sea or air space are in the country entirely illegally.

President al-Assad has immediately invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to Syria to investigate, as did the Russians, the US are fighting their visit. Doesn’t take much thinking about. According to the OPCW website, they are leaving “shortly.”

However, in this truly terrifying scenario the world is facing not the ruthless horrors of the Bush family, or of the Clintons, Jimmy Carter’s threats to the Middle East, Nixon’s criminality. No, we have Donald Trump.

In The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, twenty seven eminent psychiatrists and mental health experts put their careers on the line, flagging up their clinical assessments, arguing that in Mr. Trump’s case they had a moral and civil “duty to warn.”

Each chapter is more concerning than the last. But perhaps in the present circumstances it is apt to quote John D. Gartner, Ph.D, clinical psychologist, who taught at the Department of Psychiatry at John Hopkins University Medical School for twenty eight years. In a chapter entitled: “Donald Trump is A) Mad B) Bad C)All of the Above”, he cites a colleague’s assessment of Trump’s grasp on reality:

He cannot be contained because he is psychologically off the chain. With each passing week he displays the classic symptoms of medium grade mania in more disturbing forms …

Trump’s first hypomanic crash resulted in only a few bankruptcies, but while he is President the consequences could be on a scale so vast it’s difficult to even contemplate:

… exhibiting malignant narcissism … His worsening hypomania is making him increasingly more irrational, grandiose, paranoid, aggressive, irritable, impulsive … He evinces the most destructive and dangerous collection of psychiatric symptoms possible for a leader. The worst case scenario is now our reality.

He warns of the consequences being “most likely catastrophic”.

Professor Gartner ends the chapter defending the authors of the book for breaking the rules by going public:

History will not be kind to a profession that aided the rise of an American Hitler through its silence.

It would be hard to dispute this chilling assessment having read how lightly Trump takes a possible world war in a Tweet today:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

2h

Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!

Now Trump’s right hand man is John Bolton, arch hawk, advocate of regime change in Iran, North Korea, Syria, supporter of the horrors of Libya and Iraq.

But, of course, for someone possibly in a parallel universe, incinerating a nation or the planet would be a great diversion from Trump’s troubles at home and the raid on his lawyer’s office and seizure of countless possibly incriminating documents.

  1. See Foreign and Commonwealth Office: “Providing non-humanitarian assistance in Syria”, Updated 1 December 2015.

Easter Question: Is this what Christ died for?

The ‘usual suspects’ have again tried to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the UK Labour party and damage his prospects of becoming prime minister by firing another anti-Semitism broadside.

They are the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, members of various Friends of Israel and assorted Israel lobby dogsbodies and flag wavers including Tony Blair.

The opening shot was a letter from the Board of Deputies to the chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, saying: “Today, leaders of British Jewry tell Jeremy Corbyn that enough is enough.  We have had enough of hearing that Jeremy Corbyn ‘opposes antisemitism’, whilst the mainstream majority of British Jews, and their concerns, are ignored by him and those he leads.”

It went on to complain that there was “repeated institutional failure to properly address Jewish concerns and to tackle antisemitism” and concluded that Corbyn issues empty statements about opposing anti-Semitism and cannot seriously deal with it because “he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities”.

The insults continued with this gem: “Hizbollah commits terrorist atrocities against Jews, but Corbyn calls them his friends and attends pro-Hizbollah rallies in London. Exactly the same goes for Hamas.”

Has the BoD forgotten why Hezbollah and Hamas were founded in the first place?  The idea that it’s OK to support Israeli terror and occupation but not OK to talk with those who resist it, is preposterous and Corbyn needs to rub their noses in it. Moreover Israel’s values are not necessarily ours, and their sworn enemies are certainly not ours.

Corbyn is also accused of being “repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly antisemitic views, but claims never to hear or read them”. The letter ends with the suggestion that Corbyn is part of “a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy”.

Corbyn sent an apology in which he was sincerely sorry for the pain caused by “pockets of anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party. But, he reasoned, “criticism of Israel, particularly in relation to the continuing dispossession of the Palestinian people, cannot be avoided”. Nevertheless, comparing Israel or the actions of Israeli governments to the Nazis, or attributing criticisms of Israel to Jewish characteristics or to Jewish people in general, or calling supporters of Israel ‘Zio’, all count as contemporary anti-Semitism, he said. And Jewish people must not be held responsible or accountable for the actions of the Israeli government.

Back came BoD president Jonathan Arkush and JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein with a statement saying that after almost three years of Corbyn’s leadership “words are no longer enough  – now we need action. The Labour Party must finally demonstrate that it has the genuine will and determination to act effectively against the hate in its membership. We will not be silent and we will continue to hold it to account.”

Who are the Israel lobby? And should we listen?

This attack on Corbyn and the Labour Left in the run-up to Easter is a reminder of the deep racism and the religious war being waged in the Holy Land.

The place where Christianity was born is defiled by a brutal and illegal military occupation that has gone unpunished for 70 years and turned a beautiful and very special historic region, precious to three religions, into a swamp of racial hatred resulting in unspeakable crimes against the native Arab population, hundreds of thousands of whom have been cruelly dispossessed of their homes and lands and forced to flee.

The Israel Project was a Zionist political initiative of the late 1800s given a huge boost by the murky scheming behind the Balfour Declaration of 1917, actually drafted by Zionist Leopold Amery. It caused Lord Sydenham to remark: “What we have done is, by concessions, not to the Jewish people but to a Zionist extreme section, to start a running sore in the East, and no one can tell how far that sore will extend.”

Well, now we know. And it suits the Israel lobby to confuse the issue by conflating anti-Zionist views with anti-Semitism.

The Israel lobby insists Israel is not an “apartheid state”. But this puts it at odds with a recent UN report and the facts on the ground. The lobby is also furious about the success of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), the non-violent movement by civil society as a result of the international community’s failure to act. It aims to persuade Israel to comply with international law and UN resolutions, recognise the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and end its occupation and colonisation of their lands.

Theresa May warns she’ll “have no truck” with people who support BDS. But 200 legal scholars and practising lawyers have pointed out that it is a lawful exercise of freedom of expression and outlawing it undermines a basic human right protected by international convention.

Who are the Israel lobby anyway? Essentially the Friends of Israel groups that are allowed to flourish within our political parties (except the SNP which has resisted pressure to let them in), backed by the BoD and the JLC who claim to speak for the Jewish community. This is a noisy coalition that certainly isn’t supported by all Jews. A growing number of Jewish organisations are highly critical of the Israeli state and its policies. Not all Jews are Zionists – and not all Zionists are Jews; indeed a very large number are Christians, especially in the US.

Discontent about the conduct of the Jewish State and its military is spreading even among Israelis. At the Labour Party conference last year Miko Peled told activists that Israel is “terrified” of Jeremy Corbyn becoming British prime minister. “They are going to pull all the stops, they are going to smear, they are going to try anything they can to stop Corbyn from being prime minister….

“The reason anti-Semitism is used is because they [the Israelis] have no argument, there is nothing to say. How can a call for justice and tolerance be conflated with anti-Semitism? I don’t know if they realise this but they are pitting Judaism against everything good and just.”

Peled is an Israeli Jew, the son of an Israeli general, and a former soldier in the Israeli army.

I’d be more impressed with Corbyn if he turned on his tormentors and told them straight: “You yourselves need to condemn the horrendous crimes committed by the Israeli regime against the Palestinians, and urge the Jewish State to end its occupation, recognise Palestinian independence, restore the refugees to their homes (or provide compensation), and issue a fulsome apology for past wrongs. That’s when I will begin to listen to you.”

I’m also waiting for him to demand an explanation for the Israelis’ anti-Semitism.  It turns out, or so we’re told, that the true Semites are the Arabs, and most Israelis are Ashkenazi coverts with no ancestral links to the Holy Land at all.

That’s not all. The Israel lobby might like to reflect on the desperate cry for help from over 30 Christian organisations in occupied Palestine to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement recently.  They had issued a similar heart-wrenching plea 10 years earlier. Their message now is stark:

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The current status-quo is unsustainable. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land…. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy….

But shallow diplomacy is all they get still. Response from the WCC, which represents 500 million Christians in more than 110 countries, has been heavily muted or non-existent. Feeble leadership means that Western Christendom could soon say goodbye forever to the wellspring of their faith, Jerusalem, which is being stolen from under their noses. Do they care? Apparently not.

The Israel lobby is no doubt celebrating.

The illegal occupier also restricts access to Islam’s third most holy place, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Do Muslim rulers care? They are so divided they cannot mobilise effectively to deal with it.

As someone who has witnessed the racial abuse of Palestinian Arabs (Christian and Muslim) and seen how their homeland – the Holy Land – has been made a living hell, I’d love to know what the 500 million Christians and 1.8 billion Muslims in this world are going to do about it.

The Sharks Circling Around Corbyn Scent Blood

After a short reprieve following Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected success in Britain’s general election last year, when he only narrowly lost the popular vote, most of the Labour parliamentary party are back, determined to bring him down. And once again, they are being joined by the corporate media in full battle cry.

Last week, Corbyn was a Soviet spy. This week we’re in more familiar territory, even if it has a new twist: Corbyn is not only a friend to anti-semites, it seems, but now he has been outed as a closet one himself.

In short, the Blairites in the parliamentary party are stepping up their game. Corbyn’s social justice agenda, his repudiation of neoconservative wars of aggression masquerading as “humanitarianism” – lining the coffers of the west’s military-industrial elites – is a genuine threat to those who run our societies from the shadows.

The knife of choice for the Labour backstabbers this time is a wall mural removed from East London in 2012. At that time, before he became Labour leader, Corbyn expressed support on Facebook for the artist, Kalen Ockerman, known as Mear One. Corbyn observed that a famous anti-capitalist mural by the left-wing Mexican artist Diego Rivera was similarly removed from Manhattan’s Rockefeller Centre in 1934.

Interestingly, the issue of Corbyn’s support for the mural – or at least the artist – originally flared in late 2015, when the Jewish Chronicle unearthed his Facebook post. Two things were noticeably different about the coverage then.

First, on that occasion, no one apart from the Jewish Chronicle appeared to show much interest in the issue. Its “scoop” was not followed up by the rest of the media. What is now supposedly a major scandal, one that raises questions about Corbyn’s fitness to be Labour leader, was a non-issue two years ago, when it first became known.

Second, the Jewish Chronicle, usually so ready to get exercised at the smallest possible sign of anti-semitism, wasn’t entirely convinced back in 2015 that the mural was anti-semitic. In fact, it suggested only that the mural might have “antisemitic undertones” – and attributed even that claim to Corbyn’s critics.

And rather than claiming, as the entire corporate media is now, that the mural depicted a cabal of Jewish bankers, the Chronicle then described the scene as “a group of businessmen and bankers sitting around a Monopoly-style board and counting money”. By contrast, the Guardian abandoned normal reporting conventions yesterday to state in its news – rather than comment – pages unequivocally that the mural was “obviously antisemitic”.

Not that anyone is listening now, but the artist himself, Kalen Ockerman, has said that the group in his mural comprised historical figures closely associated with banking. His mural, he says, was about “class and privilege”, and the figures depicted included both “Jewish and white Anglos”. The fact that he included famous bankers like the Rothschilds (Jewish) and the Rockefellers (not Jewish) does not, on the face of it, seem to confirm anti-semitism. They are simply the most prominent of the banking dynasties most people, myself included, could name. These families are about as closely identified with capitalism as it is possible to be.

There is an argument to be had about the responsibilities of artists – even street artists – to be careful in their visual representations. But Ockerman’s message was not a subtle or nuanced one. He was depicting class war, the war the capitalist class wages every day on the weak and poor. If Ockerman’s message is inflammatory, it is much less so than the reality of how our societies have been built on the backs and the suffering of the majority.

Corbyn has bowed to his critics – a mix of the Blairites within his party and Israel’s cheerleaders – and apologised for offering support to Ockerman, just as he has caved in to pressure each time the anti-semitism card has been played against him.

This may look like wise, or safe, politics to his advisers. But these critics have only two possible outcomes that will satisfy them. Either Corbyn is harried from the party leadership, or he is intimidated into diluting his platform into irrelevance – he becomes just another compromised politician catering to the interests of the 1 per cent.

The sharks circling around him will not ignore the scent of his bloodied wounds; rather, it will send them into a feeding frenzy. As hard as it is to do when the elites so clearly want him destroyed, Corbyn must find his backbone and start to stand his ground.

UPDATE:

This piece in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz by their senior columnnist Anshel Pfeffer sums up a lot of the sophistry (intentional or otherwise) underscoring the conflation of left wing critiques of neoliberalism and globalism with right wing ultra-nationalism and anti-semitism.

Pfeffer writes:

The conspiracy theories of globalist bankers utilizing mainstream media and corrupt neoliberal politicians to serve their selfish sinister purposes, rather than those of ordinary people, are identical whether from left or right.

And on either side, most of the theorists will never admit to being anti-Semitic. They are just “anti-racist” or “anti-imperialist” if on the left, or “pro-Israel” on the right. And most of them really believe they have nothing against Jews, even while parroting themes straight out of the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion].

Notice the problem here. If you are a radical leftist who believes, as generations of leftists before you have done, that military, political, media, and financial elites operate in the shadows to promote their interests, to wage class war, then not only are you a conspiracy theorist, according to Pfeffer, but you are by definition anti-semitic as well. If you believe that an Establishment or a Deep State exists to advance its interests against the great majority, you must hate Jews.

The logic of Corbyn’s critics has rarely been articulated so forthrightly and so preposterously as it is here by Pfeffer. But make no mistake, this is the logic of his critics.

Death and Impunity: Iraq Fifteen Years After

It might have made a bit more than a whimper had the US political scene not found itself in yet another paroxysm of the drama known as the Trump White House.  Fifteen years before, governments aligning with the dogs of war decided, in defiance of millions of protestors globally, to invade a sovereign state.  Papers cheered with blood lust; propagandists and public relations firms were hired to push the politics of regime change in a country that was already hemmed in by sanctions and surveillance.

The invasion of Iraq must, over time, be given its own specific criminal gravity.  It sundered the Middle East, it tore at the artificially imposed borders contrived by former colonial masters.  It emboldened new foes and generated further disagreements.  For generations, chaos will be guaranteed on the heaped folly of the 2003 decision.

“The results are in,” went a sombre Charles P. Pierce for Esquire. “Iraq never recovered.  Syria devolved into civil war. We got closer than ever to the inhumane regime in Saudi Arabia, now engaged in mass slaughter in Yemen with weapons we supplied, because there’s never been a problem with that before.”

As Matt Taibbi reflected, the invasion had the element of “awesome drama, made more thrilling by the seemingly obvious craziness of it all.” The subtext was a lack of sensible reason, distorted by the mania that Iraq had somehow become a global threat with a trigger happy maniac. In place was ample hysteric delight, characterised by the opening phase of the campaign: “Shock and Awe”.

As with the Indochina War, the invasion mirrored an emerging malaise back home.  Invading Iraq was “one of the great crimes of this or any age and destined to be a crossroads event in the history of America’s decline”.  It was “a cold, calculated, opportunistic power grab, aimed as much at future targets, and even our own population, as at the Iraqi ‘enemy’.”

The US allies who, with unfazed enthusiasm went in with similar destructive intent, were also showing mixed degrees of reflection.  In Australia, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saw a chance to chastise his predecessor, John Howard, for having joined the US-led enterprise.  “John Howard’s decision to commit thousands of Australian troops to the invasion of Iraq 15 years ago,” began his opening salvo, “ranks as one of the two great failures of Australian foreign policy since the Second World War.”

Rudd can show periods of sensible reflection.  The decision to invade Iraq had to also rank alongside another US-led mission that was doomed: the Vietnam War.  Again, the leadership in Canberra felt it logical and automatic that the soldiers of the South Cross should shed blood alongside those of the Stars and Stripes.

In Rudd’s reflection, analysis of legitimacy and interest was lacking. There was no specific Australian take on it, not a consideration of “the credibility of American military strategy to both win the war and secure the peace, as well as the long-term consequences for Australian national interests.”

Being a former diplomat, Rudd’s survey of the grotesque consequences is even deeper than Pierce. Sectarian violence between the Shia majority and Sunni minority was unleashed; Christians, having co-habited with Muslims for some 1,300 years were brutally expelled; Iraq was pushed into Iran’s orbit while Iraq duly imploded, becoming the base for regional terrorist influences.

The apologist’s tactic in these instances is one tried in history.  We were sincere in inflicting our butcheries; we were solemn in making our errors of judgment.  We only did what was appropriate at the time.  Even if those weapons of mass destruction had never turned up, Saddam Hussein was vicious, a sadist, murderer and torturer. Never mind those who knew better.

For John Howard, it was a case of making a decision on “available evidence” from Australian intelligence agencies at the time tying the Saddam regime with those ultimately elusive weapons of mass destruction. Howard duly “concluded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction” and insisted that Rudd place himself in “the shoes of the government at the time”.

In the case of the evangelised Tony Blair of Britain, such ham sincerity is pure theatre, even convincing the likes of Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the public inquiry examining the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.  While he was not “straight with the nation” about the reasons for invading Iraq, he was “emotionally truthful”.

As Chilcot explained to the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg last July, “Tony Blair is always and ever an advocate.  He makes the most persuasive case he can.  Not departing from the truth but persuasion is everything.”

As for President George W. Bush, he remains, along with Howard and Blair, elusive from the judicial bench of any tribunal, foreign or domestic.  War criminals have received weighty sentences for less but this triumvirate are at little risk of being apprehended.  In the autumn of their lives, they are witnessing a conflagration they happily initiated when in office.