Category Archives: UK Politics

Guilt of anti-semitism now needs no evidence

A deadly serious tweet at the weekend from Armando Iannucci, the comedy writer responsible for the hugely popular Westminster TV satire show The Thick of It, reveals something significant about the problem of resolving the so-called Labour anti-semitism “crisis”. In response to a tweet by a follower discussing my recent blog post entitled “The plot to keep Corbyn out of power”, Iannucci observed: “Fresh insight on the Labour antisemitism story. It’s all a lie stoked up by Jews.”

It is very unlikely that Iannucci had actually read my post beyond the headline. If he did, it would suggest he has significant problems with basic comprehension. More likely he was simply demonstrating his own misunderstanding of what those of us who challenge the narrative of a Labour anti-semitism “crisis” are actually saying.

There is much nonsense written about how we all now live in our own echo chambers. That may still be largely true if your opinions fit neatly inside the so-called Overton window, which in the UK spans the short leap from Blairism to Conservatism. Stick within this narrow manufactured consensus of supposedly rational policy – neoliberal orthodoxy at home, and neoconservative warmongering abroad – and you will rarely be exposed in depth to any other ideas unless you consciously seek them out.

Cocooned from real debate

But those of us whose politics are considered “radical” or “dissident” are confronted with the ideas of these consensus-enforcers almost every waking moment. There is no escape from the BBC, or the topical TV shows recycling the issues dominating the pages of the billionaire-owned press, or the policy agendas of a political class owned by the global corporations that now run our societies, or the conversations of friends and family shaped by these upholders of the status quo.

Unlike those in the political centre who are reassured each day by the consensus telling them that they are sensible, responsible, sane people, those on the supposedly “radical fringes” of politics must listen to a public discourse that characterises them as deluded and dangerous, as prey to wild conspiracy theories and populism, and now – after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has threatened to break one side of the Overton window’s frame by rejecting neoliberalism and endless foreign wars – as unconscionable anti-semites.

Those in the centre may have spent a lifetime cocooned from real political debate but in recent years they have faced two massive disruptions to their peace of mind: the entry of a “radical”, in the form of Corbyn, into mainstream politics; and the partial democratisation of public debate with the growth of social media. Both developments have proved most unwelcome to the centrists.

They are now horrified to hear other kinds or voices saying things that once would never have been allowed near a newspaper or micophone. When they are exposed to critical voices on new media platforms, they react by characterising them as “offensive”, “populism”, “fake news” or “demonisation”. Their instinct is to impugn their critics’ credibility and motives rather than engage with their arguments, and to shut down or limit the platforms where these alternative opinions can be aired.

Shouting into the wind

Although they have been brought superficially into contact with these ideas, like most people used to the comforts of privilege they can afford not to listen. They understand enough to know that we disagree with them, but they do not care to make sense of why. They hear our noise, they fear it even, but they do not stay quiet long enough to learn anything about what we have to say.

And for that reason we are shouting into the wind, our words carried far off where they can do no harm. When we fall silent, all we hear is a caricature of the arguments we have articulated clearly.

This could not be more evident than in the case of Chis Williamson, a political ally of Corbyn’s who like so many others has found himself consumed by the evidence-free consensus that, when Corbyn was elected party leader four years ago, Labour became “institutionally anti-semitic” overnight.

Corbyn’s commitment to tackling all kinds of racism, of course, risks smashing the consensus on Israel, a country that has been indulged by European and US leaders for decades. Israel has long been firmly in the west’s privileged fold – provided with diplomatic, financial and military assistance – even though, under Netanyahu, it no longer tries to conceal its ever more repressive policies towards the Palestinians.

Incredibly, Israel’s easily documented policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid are not only still unpunished but it has become ever harder to talk about them. Month by month, more western states move towards outlawing the world’s first major solidarity movement with the Palestinians – an entirely non-violent one – which calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it concedes the same rights to Palestinians as it does to Jews in the region.

Not daring to listen

The consensual public narrative about Williamson is that he made an anti-semitic remark to Labour party members. All wings of the UK media, including supposedly liberal outlets like the Guardian, have reported that Williamson was caught saying Labour had been “too apologetic” about anti-semitism. The fact that a video recording of his statement is all over social media, showing that he didn’t say anything of the sort, is of no significance to them. The centrists aren’t interested in the evidence. They are determined to keep the privilege of their echo chamber.

The problem for the so-called “radical” is that the unwillingness of the centrists to listen is compounded by a deeper problem – that like Iannucci, they dare not listen. The mischaracterisation of Williamson’s statement can help us understand why.

What Williamson said was not that Labour had been “too apologetic” about anti-semitism, but that Labour had been “too apologetic” in the face of smears that party members were anti-semitic. He wasn’t minimising anti-semitism, he was defending the membership from a campaign of demonisation that portrays them as anti-semites – something you might think delicate centrists, so ready to take offence, might have understood.

But the centrists aren’t listening to what Williamson actually said. They hear only what they need him to have said for their worldview to continue making sense.

Trapped in an echo chamber

Here is what Iannucci, Billy Bragg, Owen Jones, Tom Watson and Margaret Hodge apparently believe Williamson said:

We in Labour are not interested in the fact that Jews experience racism from our party. We are determined to ignore the problem of anti-semitism they have identified. Instead of taking responsibility for our racism, we are going to blame Jews for the problem. When we say anti-semitism has been weaponised, what we mean is that Jews are plotting against our party. We are writing a new Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Seen like this, Williamson and most of the Labour membership are anti-semites. But only someone trapped in their own echo chamber could really believe this is a view anyone in Labour has actually endorsed. Williamson and the members who support him aren’t saying Jews are behind the smearing of Labour. They are saying the dominant forces of our society are.

And this is where the real chasm between the centrists and the radicals opens up. The issue of anti-semitism has become a shadow play for centrists, offering them a supposed moral high ground, as they try to hold the fort against the ideological barbarians at the gate.

Two views of social conflict

There are two ways of understanding conflict in our societies.

The centrists have adopted as their own an understanding of the world cultivated for them by a lifetime of listening to, and trusting in, the state-corporate media. It presents conflict as a battle between personalities, individual and collective: between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt; between Republicans and Democrats; between Trump and Antifa; between Julian Assange and two Swedish women; between Apple Mac and Windows; between men from Mars and women from Venus; between social conservatives and the LGBT movement; between blacks and whites; between Brexiteers and Remainers; between Jews and anti-semites.

This understanding of the world – as a battle between personalities, and the ideas and values they embody – is the one we are encouraged to focus on by the political and media class. That is for three reasons. First, presenting politics as exclusively a battle between people and ideas keeps most of us divided and feuding rather in solidarity with each other. Second, it has been relatively easy to determine the winners of this kind of conflict when the narrative can be controlled through the state-corporate media. And third, the focus on personalities stops us thinking about a much more profound and meaningful way of viewing conflict – as a class-based, economic struggle.

This way of understanding conflict sees it as structural, as a battle between those with money and power and those without. On this view, society is structured by the powerful to maintain and expand their power. This theory of conflict regards the corporate media not as a neutral platform for debating ideas and values, but as a weapon, one designed to cultivate only those ideas and values that preserve the power of the existing elite. This is what Noam Chomsky and others have called “brainwashing under freedom” by the western media.

The brutal logic of power

The structural nature of power should be obvious, if we hadn’t been so brainwashed to think otherwise by our media. To gain some perspective, consider a different historical time such as the feudal period. It would sound preposterous to offer an analysis that society then was shaped chiefly by whether the king and his barons were nice people or bad. There weren’t dramatic, structural changes every time a new prince ascended to the throne. There was a great deal of continuity and consistency over many centuries because each king and his courtiers had the same economic motive to justify a system preserving their wealth and privilege. A king could tinker with the system in ways suited to his personality, but the ruthless, brutal core of the system had to be maintained. Any king who lacked these steely qualities would be toppled by someone who didn’t.

The same applies today to the heads of major corporations. So long as it proves profitable, Exxon is not going to stop despoiling the planet to extract hydrocarbons, whoever is appointed CEO. Exxon could never appoint a “nice” CEO in the sense of someone prepared to forgo profit and shareholder value – not so long as the current neoliberal economic model dominates. Even were a ruthless CEO to have a Damascene conversion in the job, suddenly becoming a serious  environmentalist, he or she would be removed before they could take any decisions that might jeopardise the corporation’s profits.

That is why genuine radical leftists are much less interested in who becomes the figurehead of a corrupt and corrupting political system than they are in finding ways to challenge the system and thereby highlight how power operates in our society. The goal is fundamental change, now of a kind that is needed to save us as a species, rather than continuing image management.

Corbyn’s rise is so important because he threatens to lift the veil on the power structure, either because he is forced into a clash with it as he tries to implement his policies or because he is crushed by it before he can pursue those policies. Corbyn offers a unique opportunity to hold up a mirror to British society, stripping away the beautified mask to see the ugly skeleton-face below. He risks making the carefully concealed structure of power visible. And this is precisely why he is so dangerous to the status-quo-supporting centrists.

No single Jewish view

But still, aren’t Williamson and Labour members suggesting that “Jews” are the ones behind this, as Iannucci infers? When we speak of plots by the powerful, global corporations, the banks and capitalists, aren’t we really using coded language for “Jews”? And if we aren’t, how do we explain the fact that Jews are so certain that Labour is mired in “institutional anti-semitism”?

“Jews”, however, are not of one mind on this issue, except in the imagination of centrists pursuing the “Labour is institutionally anti-semitic” narrative. Certainly, there are lots of different views among British Jews about Labour. It’s just that only one strand of opinion is being given a platform by the political and media class – the one against Corbyn. That should hardly surprise us if, as I explained, the corporate media are not there to reflect different constituencies of opinion, but to enforce a consensus that serves the powerful.

The problem with Iannucci’s implicit argument that Jews should be left to decide whether Labour is anti-semitic – and that denying them that right is itself anti-semitic – is not only that it assumes Jews are of a single view. It makes two further dubious assumptions: that those who have been given a voice on the subject have actually experienced anti-semitism in Labour, and that they have no other identifiable motives for making such a claim. Neither assumption withstands scrutiny.

When the largely conservative leadership of the Board of Deputies is given centre-stage as spokesperson for British Jews on the issue of Labour and Corbyn, it can speak with no meaningful authority. Its previous leader, Jonathan Arkush, was not only an unabashed supporter of the Conservative Party, but openly welcomed its governing alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, extreme Protestant loyalists, as “positive news” for Jews. His successor, Marie van der Zyl, argues that the Board exists “to promote a sympathetic understanding of Israel” – a position that necessarily drives her and the Board into a profound ideological clash with Corbyn and much of the Labour membership behind him.

Examples crumble on inspection

Those Jews inside Labour vociferously promoting claims of a supposed anti-semitism “crisis” in Labour, chiefly the Jewish Labour Movement and a handful of Labour MPs,  have been much less forthcoming with actual examples. There is no doubt, as we are often reminded, that former Labour MP Luciana Berger received death threats, but it is much less often noted that those threats did not come from Labour members, they came from the far right. Dossiers like the one submitted by MP Margaret Hodge have shown to be cluttered with cases of alleged anti-semitism that have nothing to do with the Labour party. And MP Ruth Smeeth’s infamous claims of an anti-semitic remark against her by black anti-racism activist Marc Wadsworth crumbled on closer inspection, as did her claim to have received 25,000 anti-semitic comments in a matter of days.

The motives of the leadership of the Jewish Labour Movement need questioning too, as an Al-Jazeera undercover investigation revealed two years ago. It exposed the fact that the JLM was working closely with Shai Masot, an agent inside the Israeli embassy whose job was to help mobilise opposition to Corbyn. Again unsurprisingly given that the media serves the interests of power, Al-Jazeera’s investigation received negligible coverage and made almost no impression outside pro-Palestinian circles despite its shocking findings.

As self-confessed Zionists, and hardline ones at that, the leaders of the JLM – representing only a few hundreds members, some of them not Jewish – regard Israel as a supremely important issue, and seem largely indifferent to what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. The JLM and its allies in Labour Friends of Israel have been central to efforts to force the Labour party to adopt a new definition of anti-semitism that conflates strong criticism of Israel with Jew hatred. Jewish supporters of Corbyn inside Labour, who have been highly critical the JLM and Labour Friends of Israel, such as Jewish Voice for Labour, have been mostly sidelined in media coverage or dismissed as the “wrong kind of Jews”.

In other words, when we hear from Jewish organisations, it is specifically the ones that have an agenda deeply at odds with Corbyn’s – either for his left wing politics or for his adamant opposition to Israeli oppression. Supposed “Jewish” opinion on Labour has simply become another echo chamber, one selected for amplification because its message is the one centrists want to hear: that Corbyn and his supporters are very bad people who must not be allowed near power.

Polls reveal ugly racism

But even if all that is true, polls suggest a significant number of ordinary Jews think there is a problem with anti-semitism in Labour. How can we dismiss or denigrate their views?

Well, if only one view of Labour and anti-semitism is being aired in the media, it is almost certain that a majority of Jews will end up believing the truth of a supposed “Corbyn threat”. Jews are no different from the rest of us. No smoke without fire, they’ll say. If the media keep telling them that Williamson said Labour was “too apologetic” about anti-semitism, even though it is documented that he didn’t, then most – those who listen to the BBC and read the papers rather than doing the hard work of their own research – will come to believe it must be true he said it. The evidence is irrelevant if a consensus has been manufactured in spite of the evidence.

Further, the fact that a majority believe something is true quite obviously doesn’t make it true – or right. And that applies to Jews just as much as any other group. If you doubt me, consider this. Polls of Israeli Jews consistently show them holding views that would appall most people in Britain, including British Jews. One survey published in December and conducted by Israeli Channel 10 TV showed that 52 per cent of Israeli Jews are prepared to admit that they think Jews are better than non-Jews, with only 20 per cent disagreeing with the statement. Some 88 per cent are disturbed at the idea of their son befriending a girl from the fifth of Israel’s population who are Arab. And three-quarters are worried by hearing a public conversation held in the mother tongue of this large, quiescent Arab minority.

So if Israeli Jews can be so obviously wrong in their beliefs and values, if the ugliest forms of racism are rife in their society after long exposure to simple-minded Arab hatred from their own political and media class, why should we expect more from British Jews – or from ourselves – after long exposure to a similar media-constructed consensus? To believe otherwise would be to assume that most of us are capable of building our own value systems from scratch, that we can develop a worldview in total isolation from the information and narratives we are bombarded with every day by the media and our politicians.

Whipping up fear

There is a plot against Corbyn to stop him getting anywhere near power. It is a very obvious one, as I documented in my last post. It has taken many forms over the past four years, but has settled on anti-semitism as the most effective smear because it is such a difficult accusation to deny if the actual evidence is not taken into account, as in Williamson’s case – and so many other examples – illustrate.

Is it not telling that the media, while going to such lengths to alert audiences to the Jewish identity of those offended by Labour anti-semitism, have so rarely mentioned that many of those supposedly doing the offending – including those suspended and expelled by Labour for anti-semitism – are Jewish themselves?The media and status-quo-enforcing politicians on both sides of the aisle have whipped up fear over anti-semitism among a portion of British Jews, just as their US equivalents did among a majority of Americans during the McCarthy witch hunts for Communists and during round-ups of Asians during World War Two.

They have done so because Corbyn poses a genuine threat, not to Jews but to a power structure the political and media establishment are deeply invested in – ideologically, financially and emotionally. This class is at war with ordinary people, Jews and non-Jews alike. And it will use any means necessary to prevent disrupting the continuing dominance of turbo-charged neoliberalism, an economic system that threatens all our futures on this planet.

One day, if we survive as a species, when neoliberalism looks as archaic and outmoded as feudalism does to us today, all of this will look much clearer. By then, we may finally understand that we were played for fools – all of us.

Mark Field and the Danger of Getting Sidetracked

I really do not wish to write about Mark Field, the British government minister who assaulted a climate change activist this week, grabbing her by the neck and violently marching her out of a City of London dinner while all the hundreds of other wealthy diners watched either impassively or approvingly. But whatever my wishes, it seems I must.

I don’t wish to write about Mark Field, because the media have constructed a debate that is limited to one matter only, even if there are apparently innumerable variations of that one issue to be raised.

Did Field behave like a gentleman or a knave? Is it reasonable that he believed the woman posed a danger? Is his apology enough? Were the climate change activists trespassing and, if they were, did that justify Field’s actions? Has he broken the ministerial code of conduct? Would we still be outraged if the activist were a man? Should he resign? Is his outburst evidence he is a wife beater? And so on.

When we engage in these debates, they seem important. As if we are fighting for the health of our societies; or upholding key values, or at the very least the rule of law. As if it shows we care. As if it can make things a little better.

Which is exactly why I don’t want to write about Mark Field. Because the reality is that things won’t get better while we allow ourselves to be manipulated into these kind of ring-fenced debates.

There is a reason why the corporate media quickly escalate simple stories like Mark Field’s into such apparently elaborate and polarising public discussions. And the reason is to stop other kinds of debates, much more vital ones, from taking place that these stories would naturally provoke if we had a truly free media. We are being offered the modern version of bread and circuses.

Strip away the narrow, sectarian party politics in play here, and there is nothing debatable about Mark Field’s actions. He is caught on camera – his face full of rage, not fear – violently grabbing an activist who clearly poses no threat to him and who is, in fact, simply walking behind his chair. Field pushes her up against a wall, then seizes her by the back of the neck and frogmarches her out of the dining hall. If you feel it necessary, you can also factor in that the activist is a woman and the government minister a man.

Either way, what is shown in the video is an entirely unjustified attack on a peaceful protester. Had the roles been reversed, the activist (whether a man or woman) would have been immediately arrested for assaulting a government minister. The activist would now be in jail with lawyers arguing over whether bail should be allowed. So why isn’t Mark Field now in the same predicament?

The point is that anyone who wishes to make the argument any more complex than the one I just outlined is doing so either in bad faith or because they have listened too credulously to others who have spoken in bad faith. Which includes the entire spectrum of the state-corporate media, including its supposedly liberal components like the BBC and Guardian.

What the story about Mark Field really illustrates is how effective the corporate media is in derailing meaningful debates about the state of our societies. The media offer us a placebo – a public arena for largely empty arguments that we are encouraged to become deeply invested in emotionally. We are offered two easy options and must choose to rally to the cause of one of those tribes – left or right. And through righteous anger, for or against, we feel temporarily cured of a deeper dissastisfaction or sense of foreboding.

The reality is that these public debates are simply gladiatorial contests offering instant – and hollow – gratification. They have as much concrete meaning in terms of changing the substance of our societies, of addressing the injustice and unsustainability of our political and economic systems, as does cheering a football team.

That is not to argue that denouncing an assault on a peaceful protester is wasted energy, or that rationalising it – as so many people on the right are currently doing – is not deeply ugly. The treatment of protesters by the state and its agents, or of women by men, are important matters for public discussion. But that is not why the media are so willingly fuelling the row about Mark Field’s actions.

The debate is not being used as an opportunity to clarify how our society should view acceptable behaviour; it is being actively promoted by a ruling class to deflect our attention from the deeper contextual issues the Mark Field episode highlights.

Allowing two sides in a debate about whether he behaved appropriately is already to have conceded the progressive argument. It is to accept that there is room for discussion, that the video evidence is not conclusive in itself.

This is a contest where the stakes are so immaterial to the corporate media that each outlet can afford to take either side of the debate and know it will make no meaningful difference. They can berate Mark Field or sympathise with him, and it will make no odds to anyone or anything but Field and possibly the victim of his assault.

And the very cynical fuelling of this debate by the state-corporate media, one that may last days or even weeks, can then be cited as seemingly persuasive evidence that the media truly is a pluralistic forum for public discussion, where all sides are represented, where everyone is given a voice. Contrived debates like this one will be used as ammunition to shunt media critics like myself further into sidings, showing how vigoruous, relevant and on the side of the underdog the “mainstream” media really is.

This is the primary purpose of the state-corporate media. To draw our energies away from real issues hiding in plain sight towards obvious ones of only specific or marginal significance, and then persuade us that we are, in fact, engaged with the most vital issues of the day.

This is precisely why the media are obsessed with individuals and personalities – celebs, sporting heroes, royal family members, actors, politicians, world leaders – not the actual power structures that dictate the patterns of our lives, that determine the chances of us gaining redress or justice, that offer the key to extricating ourselves from the economic and environmental ruin we are hurtling towards.

If necessary, Mark Field can be sacrificed by the power structures that dominate our lives (though usually only temporarily – think of other government ministers who have found themselves briefly ousted from power and then quickly rehabilitated, such as Boris Johnson or Liam Fox) because the mechanisms that protect these power structures are far more important than the punishment or humiliation or any lone individual.

Consider two much deeper issues desperately struggling to gain any traction as they are smothered by the media’s gleeful furore over the Mark Field story.

One concerns the event Mark Field attended. It was an annual dinner at Mansion House, the official residence of the mayor of the City of London. The City of London is not the Mary Poppins’ way of saying “London”. It is a tiny, secretive enclave within Britain, a state within a state located in the heart of London. Seen another way, it is a kind of British Vatican, though one that worships money alone.

It abides by its own rules, financial and criminal, creating effectively a tax-haven within the UK that cannot be policed by any of the usual watchdogs. The City of London has managed to continue unreformed from its medieval origins into the modern era for one reason alone: it is the perfect way for a wealthy elite to maintain their power and privilege by bypassing the imperfect democratic system operating outside its concrete shores, in the rest of the UK. The City of London is a deeply corrupt fiefdom inside a slightly less corrupt Britain. If the mafia were given the chance to make themselves look legit, they might create in Italy something very much like the City of London.

Those attending the dinner are drawn from either Britain’s wealth elite, or those who serve them and aspire to join them. Figures like Field, a minister in the Foreign Office, and Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, who addressed the dinner, oil some of the wheels of this exclusive club partially out in the open, through UK politics. But they oil other wheels in the shadows, through their activities in the City of London. What precisely they get up to in the City is difficult to know given the secrecy, and all the harder to now learn about after Field’s ruling party has worked so assiduously to hobble Julian Assange and the Wikileaks platform that was established to help whistleblowers expose the more shadowy activities of our rulers.

The City of London is the biggest weapon in the armoury of the ruling elite’s class war against the British – and global – public. It is a vacuum sucking up public finances to further enrich the wealthy and leave the masses reeling from austerity policies, while using the media to bolster the impression that it is a hub of wealth creation.

That’s why you almost never hear anything about the City of London. Our supposed representatives, politicians and corporate media alike, are happy to keep the veil mostly drawn across this pocket of power. It is not just that they do not want to take it on, they are already very much part of the power structures it has designed both to preserve itself and shield itself from meaningful criticism.

As long as we are talking about Mark Field’s attitude to women, we are not talking about his and his government’s active collusion with the most regressive, secretive, unaccountable rotten borough in the UK – a city-state located geographically inside Britain, but operating outside its strictures.

Mark Field’s attack could have provided an opportunity to examine this powerful relic of medieval Britain, to consider who the City of London really serves, and to wonder why the political class are cosying up to it rather than trying to eradicate it as a dangerous behemoth of Britain’s surviving feudal order. The City of London is integral to a system of ever-accelerating wealth hording by a global elite that is economically unsustainable. But in response, the media willingly amplify a loud culture war and simplistic identity politics precisely so no other kind of debate stands a chance of being audible.

The other, even more obvious issue the activists were trying to draw attention to was the threat posed to the environment, to other species and to our own future by the preposterous, self-serving premise – espoused by the City of London and its politician and media cronies – of endless economic growth based on the exploitation of the planet’s finite resources.

We are now facing a climate emergency – or rather some of us are finally and very belatedly waking up to a climate emergency that has been many decades in the making. We have come to it so late because the wealth elite represented at the City of London dinner have used the key power structures at their disposal – the political and media establishments – to deceive us, to keep us sleepwalking towards oblivion as they have carried on plundering the planet, destroying the biosphere, and stashing away their inordinate wealth.

The state-corporate media has not only downplayed climate change but is still doing so, as credibly as it can manage given the relentless scientific evidence that human society is hurtling towards an abyss.

In fact, many of the journalists responding to Mark Field’s attack have lost no time in using it as a way to further alienate the public from climate change activism. They have presented those prepared not simply to wait quietly for us all to be driven over the cliff-edge as a nasty, uncouth, potentially violent rabble. They have done this even as the video footage shows the women who protested at the Mansion House dinner were dressed in evening gowns and remained entirely peaceful as they sought to gain attention for the most urgent and catastrophic issue of our time.

There should be no debate that they are right, that we live in a rotten and rotting system of power that has blindly invested all its energies in perpetuating a feudal system of wealth creation for a ruling class, even as the futures of our chldren – all our children – hang in the balance.

Yes, Mark Field, his face red with indignation, looked like a man who had lost the plot, who was filled with an overwhelming sense of his own entitlement, and who was deeply threatened – not by violence from the protesters but by arguments he simply has no way of addressing rationally.

The real debate we need urgently to engage with is not whether Mark Field is a wife-beater or misogynist. It is how we deal with the power structure he represents, the system he is a loyal servant of. For that psychopathic system is ready to beat us all, men and women alike, into the dust, to keep extracting the last ounce of wealth from a dying corpse, to obliterate our futures.

Nigel Farage’s Grand Tour of Sabotage: The Paypal of the People Rides High

He is all about being the romantic saboteur.  He is destructive, hates the business of a steady vocation, and the idea of being desk bound.  Little details trouble him; an indignant bigger picture is enthralling.  Bomb throwers tend to be of such ilk, taking shots at the establishment, courting potential voters over a pint, and railing against non-representative elements in politics.  But Nigel Farage and his recently arrived Brexit Party can unimpeachably claim to be vote getters.

Along with others, some of whom have been resurrected in the stagnant pools of Brexit – take the near-dead and now very revived former conservative MP, Ann Widdecombe –  he has animated the corpse people and zombie faithful keen to attack the satanic heart of the EU.  Last month, in Peterborough, he told some 1,500 Brexiters about the broader mission at hand.  “This fight now is far more than just leaving the European Union.  This is a full-on battle against the establishment.”  This battle has also struck a Trumpist note, with Farage reserving special salvos for the BBC.

So far, the attack mounted by the collective that is the Brexit Party has worked; with a four-month old entity, Farage forged ahead in elections held by the very same entity he despises.  In doing so, he also convinced many from the UK Independence Party, the right wing anti-immigration party he used to lead, to join in. In the European elections last month, the Brexit Party won a stonking 29 seats against the Liberal Democrats with 16, Labour 10, the Greens seven, the Tories four, the SNP three, and Plaid Cymru and the DUP with one each.

Farage put the successes down to an elementary theme: “With a big, simple message – which is we’ve been badly let down by two parties who have broken their promises – we have topped the poll in a fairly dramatic style. The two-party system now serves nothing but itself.”  Despite doing well, Farage was careful to avoid drawing attention to another result: 40 percent of the UK European vote went to parties who are against Brexit, with 35 percent favouring it.

The reading from Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable was bound to be at odds with Brexiter enthusiasts.  For Cable the result showed that there was “a majority of people in the country who don’t want to leave the European now”.

As William Davis notes pointedly, “The Brexit Party is a mixture of business startup and social movement; it serves as a pressure valve, releasing pent-up frustration with traditional politics into the electoral system.”  In contrast to the more ramshackle, rough outfit of Ukip, which had a lower ceiling of appeal, the Brexit Party has been described by the Financial Times as “slick, with a mix of celebrities”.

It thrives in an environmental of pure factionalism, and simplifies, accordingly, the complex array of requirements and processes required to achieve their goals.  Farage cares little, nor is even aware of the actual issues concerning an effective divorce deal with the EU.  Any claim that a no-deal Brexit is bound to work with splendid effect is precarious, placing Britain at the bottom of the trade negotiating table.  There is no freedom to trade as a rule, and World Trade Organisation system must be navigated.  But these are technical sticking points that find no platform, let alone voice, in the Brexit Party’s world.

The business startup reference by Davis is apt.  Farage had been shadowed by events after 2016. The wrecker had done his job in seeking Brexit, only to retreat to the margins in sullen contemplation.  His UK Independence party disintegrated even as its former leader started to milk the lecture circuit and cosy up to US President Donald Trump.  But the continual delays and prevarications on leaving the EU stirred the saboteur into a return.

The Brexit Party has attempted to adopt the language of cool and chic marketing.  For one, it is winning the social media battle.  London-based online content and social media consultancy 89up revealed last month that Facebook posts linking to the Brexit Party website had been bountiful in the sharing department, exceeding those of every other party combined.  A survey of 1.5 million public Facebook pages by the consultancy found a staggering gulf between the portion of shares generated by the Brexit Party (125,035) and the Conservatives, with 26,400.  UKIP, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party came in with a limping figure of 6,000 shares.

As with anything to do with Farage, its best to look past the plumage and shine.  The Brexit Party image comes equipped with rumours on how it is receiving its funding.  This can hardly surprise: Farage has been known to be rather liberal with his finances, happy to attack the EU as he receives its funds, and shy about declaring how he has used them.  Budgets have never been his thing.

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is one sensing an Achilles heel in the Brexit Party, suggesting that the party has been the recipient of “undeclared, untraceable payments”.  At an event in Glasgow last month, Brown suggested that democracy was “ill served, and trust in democracy will continue to be undermined, if we have no answers as to where the money is coming from.”

The UK Electoral Commission feels there is enough to go on, demanding that the party “review all payments, including those of £500 or below, it has received to date.”  This comes after the Electoral Commission’s conclusion that the “fundraising structure adopted by the party leaves it open to a high and ongoing risk of receiving and accepting impermissible donations.”

The views of Brown have had little traction with Farage supporters and the broader Brexit milieu, a point evidenced by the good showing in the European elections.  Efforts by critics and opponents to refashion the Brexit Party as a financial surrogate for the corporate interests of one man rather than citizen values is not something that has worked.  Brown has tried, rather bravely claiming that Farage was “not going to be remembered as he wants, as the man of the people – he’s going to remembered as the man of the Paypal.”

Political realities are often different from financial ones.  As former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg admitted, “It was obvious there was a strong English, anti-European anti-immigrant movement waiting for someone to articulate it.”  Farage may well be the man of the Paypal, shoddy with party finances but he remains an identifiable voice, with anti-EU cadences that continue finding agreeable listeners across Europe, from Marine Le Pen in France to Matteo Salvini in Italy.

US Foreign Policy Exposed

Protest against US Foreign Policy in the Philippines (Source EPA)

In the last week, the realities of US foreign policy have been exposed by a leaked audio tape, a leak about a US attack on the Russian electrical grid, and US attempts to extradite Julian Assange. All the information points to a foreign policy that violates international law and standards, perpetrates wars and conflict and seeks to undermine press freedom in order to commit its crimes in secret.

This is not new information to those of us who closely follow US foreign policy, but these new exposures are broad and are in the mass media where many millions of people can view them and gain a greater understanding of the realities of US actions around the world. Join the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine this September.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses a closed-door meeting hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations on May 28, 2019 (Credit: Ron Przysucha/U.S. Department of State)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Exposes Himself To Jewish Leadership

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a foreign policy speech to the presidents of major Jewish organizations. The speech was remarkable because it shows the special attention this group receives. Very sensitive secrets of US foreign policy were provided to the audience. Thankfully, someone in the audience audio-taped the conversation, and as a result, millions of people in the US and around the world now know the truth about some critical US foreign policy issues. Here are some of the topics he discussed:

US Seeks To Stop Jeremy Corbyn Before He Is Elected:

The audio includesPompeo promising to do his “level best” to stop Corbyn from ever being elected as Prime Minister of the UK. Pompeo was responding to a question, “Would you be willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK?” This was about the false claim that Corbyn is anti-Semitic because he favors the rights of Palestinians and criticizes Israel. Pompeo responded:

It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.

The Secretary of State describing how the US would attempt to influence British elections comes despite all the claims of Russia allegedly influencing US elections. A Labour spokesman responded: “President Trump and his officials’ attempts to decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister are an entirely unacceptable interference in the UK’s democracy.”

US Coup in Venezuela not going well

In another US interference in democracy, Pompeo discussed the US coup in Venezuela. Pompeo described the opposition to Maduro as divided and acting in their own self-interest. He said: “Our conundrum, which is to keep the opposition united, has proven devilishly difficult.” Pompeo said in the meeting, the image of unity was really only useful as a “public” facade.

Pompeo also admitted that he has been working on the coup in Venezuela “since the day I became CIA director.” He explained creating unity among the opposition “was something that was at the center of what President Trump was trying to do.” Pompeo became CIA director on January 23, 2017.

Despite the US saying in public that Juan Guaido was president of Venezuela, he admitted in the audio tape that Maduro was still president and he could not predict the timing of when he would leave, but he assured the audience that the economic war and other actions against the government and against the Venezuelan population would result in his leaving.

The efforts of the Embassy Protection Collective continue in court. The US is seeking to convict four protectors of federal crimes that could result in one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The US has unlimited resources, we need enough resources to put on a strong defense. A jury verdict acquitting us of these charges will be another blow against the US coup in Venezuela. Donate here.

Kushner Peace Plan Unlikely, Iran Too Sensitive To Discuss

Pompeo told Jewish leaders that the Trump administration’s soon-to-be-released Middle East peace plan will be considered “unworkable,” and might not gain traction. Pompeo acknowledged the plan’s perceived favoritism to Israel and was not optimistic saying, “It may be rejected. Could be in the end, folks will say, ‘It’s not particularly original, it doesn’t particularly work for me.’”

Pompeo was about to get into other Middle East issues like Iran but expressed concern that someone might be taping the conversation and the information could be too sensitive.

An oil tanker burns after the attack on 13 June in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran (Photograph Reuters)

Iran Threats Heat Up Based On Unproven US Allegation

On June 13, two outbound tankers in the Gulf of Oman suffered from explosions on the side facing international waters. Iranian rescuers rushed to assist the two oil tankers, transferring all 44 crew members to Iran’s southern shores.

The US is claiming the attacks came from mines placed on the boats by Iran. The president of Kokuka Sangyo Marine, (shipowners), Yutaka Katada, said: “there is no possibility of mine attack as the attack is well above the waterline” and the crew described a flying object hitting the tanker.

The US blaming Iran gives us a “Remember the Maine!”/Gulf of Tonkin feeling, examples of false claims that led to war. The US provided a grainy, hard to understand video of a boat allegedly removing a mine from a tanker hours later. The US claims it was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard removing evidence of Iran’s involvement. There are many problems with this theory that raise more questions than answers.

The attack against the Japanese-owned tanker came at the moment that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The meeting was a historic one, the first Japanese leader to visit Iran since its revolution 40 years ago. Would Iran attack an oil tanker and sabotage its own meeting with the Japanese leader? This theory strains credulity. The US accusation against Iran seems designed to undermine Iran-Japanese diplomacy. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, said in a tweet, “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.”

These attacks seem to be against the interests of Iran as they provide an excuse for escalation against Iran by the US and its allies. Neocons and US armed regimes who oppose Iran, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, would all benefit from this attack.

Even though much of the media repeated the allegations, the suspicion that this was a false accusation against Iran was so strong that many media outlets noted the lack of evidence; e.g., the New York Times,  CNN, and NPR. The Saudi media immediately amplified the US accusation. US intelligence experts questioned the claim, raised doubts about the video and noted the US history in “ginning up” attacks for political purposes. Japan has asked for more proof, European governments questioned the claim. The lack of evidence for the US claim and the reality of how it makes little sense for Iran to make such an attack seem to be exposing the US more than undermining Iran.

A heating power plant in Moscow (Credit Maxim Shemetov for Reuters)

US Cyberattack on Russian Electrical Grid

On June 15, the New York Times reported on interviews with military officials over the last three months that showed the US stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid. The US has deployed computer code into the Russian electrical system for future cyber attacks. The actions are a warning to President Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, according to current and former government officials.

The Times reports the US “strategy has shifted more toward offense…with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before.”

Last year, new authorities were granted separately by the White House and Congress to United States Cyber Command, an arm of the Pentagon, to conduct offensive online operations without receiving presidential approval. The Times reports that Trump has not been briefed on the details of these actions for fear of his reaction. Trump denies the report and accused the Times of “a virtual act of treason.”

It is not clear how far the US has gone into the Russian electrical system. Could it cripple Russia’s electrical system or shut down its military? This may not be known until it is activated. Attacks on power grids by the US are not new, as shown in the attack on the Venezuelan electrical system in March, but boring into a system in preparation for war seems to be new.

US Behind Conviction Of Lula and others in Brazil

Glenn Greenwald obtained thousands of pages of communications between the people involved in the conviction of Lula da Silva, a popular politician in Brazil. It appears now that Lula was falsely convicted to prevent him from winning the presidency in 2018 and that the US was behind it. Brazilian judges are now calling for the conviction of Lula and many others who were targeted to be thrown out and an investigation into the massive corruption. Greenwald says there is more to come.

Assange extradition protested at Westminster Magistrates Court June 2019 (Photo by Gareth Corfield)

Officials in the US government and leaders of transnational corporations are well-aware that they are violating or skirting international and domestic laws. When an official is caught on tape in a private meeting, leaks of documents are provided to the media or an off-the-record interview reveals US strategies for war, the government gets upset.

We do not have to look any further to see this than the attempt to extradite Julian Assange to face prosecution in the United States. The US has issued a formal request for the extradition of Assange on 18 charges, 17 of which are violations of the Espionage Act, that could incarcerate him for the rest of his life. The Magistrate’s Court scheduled a five-day extradition hearing beginning on February 24, 2020.

The video in this tweet shows the hatred prominent people have for Julian Assange for merely publishing the truth about US war crimes, State Department operations, the Guantanamo Bay Prison and corporate corruption.

The facade is being lifted on US foreign policy. It is no longer possible for the US to get away with its crimes. And global power is shifting. Last week, Russia and China signed two major agreements, thus ending the US as the dominant superpower and creating a multipolar world. Alliances are changing – India may partner with Russia and China.

We are facing a historic crossroad. Will the US continue to try to dominate the world using economic, cyber and military weapons, further isolating itself and wasting resources that are needed to meet human needs and protect the planet, or will the US become a partner in good faith with other great powers? It is up to us to determine which path is taken. Join us this September during the United Nations General Assembly to call for the US to be held accountable in the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine. Click here for more information.

Snubs, Bumps and Donald Trump in Britain

He may not be popular in Britain, but he still has shavings of appeal.  For a country that has time for Nigel Farage, pro-Brexit enthusiast and full-time hypocrite (he is a member of the European Parliament, the very same institution he detests), President Donald Trump will garner a gaggle of fans.

One of them was not the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, trenchant in his belief that the US president should never have been granted a state visit.  “It’s quite clear that Theresa May was premature in making this invitation, and it’s backfired on her.” But Trump’s tendency to unhinge his critics is not so much levelling as lowering: Khan’s coarse remarks a day before Trump arrived were timed to create a Twitter scene.

Trump, he wrote spitefully in The Guardian, was leading a push from the right “threatening our hard-won rights and freedoms and the values that have defined our liberal, democratic societies for more than seventy years.”  The UK had to stop “appeasing” (that Munich analogy again) dictatorial tendencies.  (Oblivious, is Khan, to the illustrious record Britain has in providing receptions and banquets for the blood thirsty and authoritarian.)

This semi-literate historical overview had the desired result.  Just prior to landing in London, Trump tweeted that Khan “who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly ‘hasty’ to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom.”  For good measure, Trump insisted that the mayor was “a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me…”

The mood was set, and the presence of the president overseeing Britain’s increasingly feral political scene reminded The New York Times of boardroom takes of The Apprentice (reality television, again) though it came uncomfortably close to an evaluation of the “rear of the year” or a wet t-shirt competition of the fugglies.  This was aided by the absence of a one-to-one meeting between Trump and the soon to depart Theresa May, there being no preliminary meeting in Downing Street.

Trump felt at home, sizing up candidates to succeed May as British prime minister.  While he could muster choice words to describe Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove barely registered. “Would do a good job, Jeremy?  Tell me.”

A few candidates did their best to impress, a spectacle that did, at points, verge on the grotesque.

The Conservative Party is deliriously panicked: Farage’s Brexit Party is proving so threatening its pushing the old guard to acts of pure desperation.  This is riveting, if troubling stuff for political watchers such as Tim Bale of Queen Mary, University of London.  “A lot of the constraints have come off British politics.  Whether they’ve come off permanently, or whether it’s because the Conservative Party is at panic stations, is something only time can tell.”

Foreign secretary Hunt was particularly keen to show his wet shirt to the ogling Trump.  He no doubt felt he had to, given that Johnson had already been praised as a person who “would do a very good job” as British prime minister. To repay Trump for his acknowledgment, Hunt dismissed the views of the London mayor.  “I agree with [Trump] that it is totally inappropriate for the Labour party to be boycotting this incredibly important visit.  This is the president of the United States.”

The situation with Johnson cannot but give some amusement.  Trump, rather memorably, had been a subscriber to the theory that parts of London had become a dystopian nightmare replete with psychotic, murderous residents of the swarthy persuasion.  Johnson, for all his faults, was happy to give Trump a nice slice of demurral on his city when mayor.  He also opined that Trump was “clearly out of his mind” in making the now infamous suggestion on December 7, 2015 for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”   But politics is an odd stew, throwing together a strange mix of ingredients.  For his part, Johnson declined an invitation to see Trump in person, preferring the comforting distance of a 20-minute phone call.

Away from rear of the year proceedings were those who had consciously boycotted any event associated with Trump.  Prince William and Prince Harry preferred to avoid a photo opportunity with the president at Buckingham Palace.  Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party preferred to join protests against Trump over attending the state banquet.  The act will no doubt be seen as admirable in some quarters, but hardly qualifies as those of a potential future prime minister.  “Corbyn,” noted The Independent, “has again dodged the stately bullet and had instead taken the easy way out.”  To the echo chamber he went.

Beyond the visit, more substantive matters are going to be troubling for diplomats in the UK Foreign Office.  One of the things touted during the Tuesday press conference was the prospect of a trade agreement between a Britain unshackled from the EU, and the United States.  Trump even went so far as to press May to stay longer for the negotiations.  Not one for briefings, he ventured a suggestion: “I don’t know exactly what your timing is but, stick around, let’s do this deal.”

The issue is fascinatingly premature: Britain, having not yet left the EU, let alone on any clear basis, faces an orbit of sheer, jangling confusion for some time to come.  In terms of numbers, the issue is also stark: the UK has the EU to thank for half of its trade; the United States comes in at 14.7 percent.

The troubling feature of any free trade proposal coming out of the Trump administration will be its rapacity, or, as Trump likes to call it, “phenomenal” scope.  Nothing will be exempt.  Agriculture and health are two fields of contention.  Access for US exports will entail easing limitations on animal feed with antibiotics and genetically modified crops.  More headaches, and bumps, await the relationship between troubled Britannia and groping Uncle Sam.

Lies in Politics: Boris Johnson, the Law and the European Union

An enduring memory of the 2016 Brexit campaign, so marked by the foppish-haired blusterer, Boris Johnson, was the claim that the European Union was hungrily drawing out from British coffers £350 million a week.  It was insufferable, unqualified and dishonest.  It was a claim reared in the atmosphere of outrageous deception marking the effort on all sides of the debate regarding Britain’s relationship with the EU.  But some deceptions have the ballast to go further than others.

Rooted in the machinery of politics, such deceptions might have stayed there, deemed those natural outrages of a not so noble vocation. After all, political figures do make lying an art, if a very low one.  But Johnson has not been so fortunate.  A private prosecution has been launched against the aspiring Tory leader and possible replacement for Prime Minister Theresa May based on allegations he “repeatedly lied and misled the British public as to the cost of EU membership” with specific reference to the £350 million figure.  Marcus Ball, the initiator of the action and a Remain campaigner, had the heavy artillery £236,000 will bring, the very healthy result of crowdfunding.

Johnson’s legal team was quick to suggest that the whole matter was vexatious, an around about effort to question the legitimacy of the 2016 referendum result.  A source close to Johnson (and who might that be?) told the BBC that the case was a “politically motivated attempt to reverse Brexit.”  Adrian Darbishire QC, representing Johnson, was withering in describing the action as a political stunt intended to create mischief in an effort “to regulate the content and quality of political debate” using the criminal law.

Such debate might well feature figures and claims, and Johnson, at best, could only be accused of using the £350m sum for no other purpose than “in the course of a contested political campaign.”  Such campaigns are bound to contain a range of claims duly “challenged, contradicted and criticised.”

Ball’s legal representative, Lewis Power QC, took the broader view.  The proposed prosecution was not an attempt to “seek to prevent or delay Brexit”.  There was a larger principle at stake: “when politicians lie, democracy dies”.  Much to be said about that; but taken to its logical conclusion, no democracy can be said to be extant, let alone breathing, given how alive the lie industry is.

Ball’s case, nonetheless, has an ethical sting to it, and seems to be one of whether lies have a meaningful role in politics.  Ball’s legal representative was adamant: “Lying on a national and international platform undermines public confidence in politics… and brings both public offices held by the (proposed) defendant into disrepute”.  The law offered a solution: “misconduct to such a degree requires criminal sanction.  There is no justification or excuse for such misconduct.”

In its purest sense, the case has the trimmings of Michel de Montaigne, that wonderful man of letters who, four centuries ago, thought the lie reprehensible.  In “On Liars”, he is curt and unforgiving.  “Lying is indeed an accursed vice.  We are men, and we have relations with one other only by speech.  If we recognised the horror and gravity of an untruth, we should more justifiably punish it with fire than any other crime.”

In 1975, Adrienne Rich wrote with more poignancy than flames that, “The possibilities that exist between two people, or among a group of people are a kind of alchemy.  They are the most interesting thing in life.  The liar is someone who keeps losing sight of these possibilities.” Not quite as savage as Montaigne, but a similar point on value and relations bound by speech.  Certainly, when it comes to politics, Rich is clear that the loss of perspective the liar suffers is acute, being most “damaging to public life, human possibility, and our collective progress”.

Such instances may seem a bit high barred.  The politician is a creature of deception and dissimulation, and avoiding the compromising wet by keeping to high and dry moral ground may be a difficult thing.  Even Montaigne also offers a subtle exit, if not excuse, for one economic with the truth: he who has involuntary defects – a poor memory, for instance – should be treated kindly; those with intent to deceive – well, that’s something else entirely.  “Not without reason is it said that no one who is not conscious of having a sound memory should set up to be a liar.”

When Hannah Arendt turned her mind to the nature of lying in politics in 1971, seeking to understand the entire episode of the Pentagon Papers and their publication, a more complex view was advanced.  “Truthfulness,” she laments, “has never been counted among the political virtues, and lies have always been regarded as justifiable tools in political dealings.” But moral outrage alone, she insists, is insufficient when faced with deception.  When we confront what she describes as “factual truths”, we face the problem of compellability.  “Facts need testimony to be remembered and trustworthy witnesses to be established in order to find a secure dwelling place in the domain of human affairs.  From this, it follows that no factual statement can ever be beyond doubt.” Hence such generously distributed, and acceptable notions, as the £350m figure.

Whatever might have been busying the mind of District Judge Margot Coleman, she was sufficiently persuaded by Ball’s daring suggestion to take the matter further. In a written decision published on Wednesday, the judge ordered Johnson to attend Westminster Magistrate’s Court at a date not yet specified.  There, a decision will be made to assess whether the case has sufficiently nimble legs to get to the crown court.  “Having considered all the relevant factors, I am satisfied that this is a proper case to issue a summons as requested for the three offences [of misconduct in public office].”

Should the case against Johnson stick, it will ripple and trouble.  For private citizens to succeed in actions against politicians who lie would be astonishing, if not perplexing, for practitioners of the political art.  Time to add Montaigne et al to the House of Commons reading list.

It is the Indifference of Israelis that is Killing People

In the past, whenever I went to (or more precisely, ‘through’) Israel, it was for some antagonistic purpose: to write about the brutal suppression of the intifada in Gaza or Hebron, to comment on the insanity of the land grab around Bethlehem, or to report from the eerie and de-populated Golan Heights, which Israel occupies against all international rules and the UN resolutions. You name it and I worked there: Shifa Hospital or Rafah Camp in Gaza, ‘Golans’, border with Jordan, Bethlehem.

I used to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, sleep one night in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa, meet my contacts (my left-wing friends), hastily, and in the morning, dash towards the ‘front’, or towards one of the ‘fronts’ that the so-called ‘Jewish State’ sustains for decades at its ‘peripheries’.

But this time I decided to do exactly the opposite.

As it became evident that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lost all his restraint and shame, as it has got clear that the United States will take full advantage of his madness, and as I was convinced that Europe as well as most of the Arab countries will do absolutely nothing to defend Palestine, Syria or Iran, being ‘in the neighborhood’ (Egypt), I bought my tickets to Tel Aviv, for just a 48 hour ‘visit’ and for one simple purpose: to observe Israeli citizens, talk to them, and to try to figure out how and what they think and want; how they see the world, and particularly how they perceive the region where they live, fight and kill.

And so, I flew to Israel, from Cairo and via Amman. Once there, for two days I commuted between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in a brand new, fast and elegant double-decker train. I talked to many people, provoking them to describe the conditions in which they have been existing; to describe their political system, and the apartheid which most of them keep upholding through (as they constantly point out – ‘democratic’) elections.

*****

Of course, the more ‘democratic’ Israel really is, the more shameful the state into which it reduces the Palestinians, other Arabs and, in fact, the entire region. Israeli citizens are continuously voting in the governments that are locking millions inside the camps. They are electing those who are igniting wars and military conflicts in various countries of the Middle East.

Gaza Shifa Hospital — wounded by Israeli soldiers

Naturally, if you live in Beirut or Aleppo, it is easy to imagine that all this horror is happening because the Israeli citizens are simply ‘evil’; in fact, a bunch of blood-thirsty Rottweilers who have been let off the leash by their North American masters.

But when one interacts with Israelis, he or she quickly realizes that, bizarrely, this is not the case.

Many Israelis appear to be slightly confused, shy, and introverted.

They are ‘into themselves’. It appears that they ‘don’t give a damn about the world around them’.

The most shocking thing is not their brutality, but their detachment, indifference and selfishness.

But all of this is not ‘because most of them are Jews’, but because they are Europeans.

In fact, very little is known about the fact that most of the non-European Jews living in Israel (those originally from Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia and elsewhere) are treated like second-class citizens, or even worse.

Israel is a European ‘outpost’ in the Middle East. The mindset of most of its inhabitants is predominantly European. Talk to people in Tel Aviv, Haifa, even Beersheba as well as in the non-religious parts of the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and you will most likely come to the same conclusion.

The ‘political awareness’ of the white, European Israeli Jews, is precisely on the same level as that of the Europeans, meaning near zero.

The US and UK military are involved in several ‘projects’ – occupations and attempts to overthrow foreign governments, and these ‘projects’ are killing millions of innocent people, annually. But go to Tate Modern or the Covent Garden Opera House, or just to one of those countless funky nightclubs in London or New York, and try to engage people in conversations about their nation’s murderous legacy. They will laugh at you, or confront you, or simply would not understand what are you talking about, and why.

Do the same in France, and most likely, the results would be identical. France is involved in the neo-colonialist projects in Africa, and millions of ‘lower humans’ are being ruined in the process. But how many French people know, and if they do, how many of them care, let alone try to stop it. Look at the Yellow Vests: how many of them are demanding justice for the French neo-colonies?

The mindset of Israelis is very similar.

Classic music at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem

Take Tel Aviv – the biggest city in Israel: it is one of the richest places on earth, with infrastructure better than that in North America or the United Kingdom, with cultural institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, a masterpiece built by the architect Preston Scott Cohen. The green areas of Tel Aviv, public spaces, all this could rank it as one of the most livable cities on earth.

But for whom? At what price to the enslaved, exiled and exploited people of the region?

Does it sound familiar? Like all those museums, cathedrals, parks, public hospitals, universities that Europe constructed on the bones, on the corpses and misery of the Congolese, Indonesian, Indian and other people. All for the benefit of the Europeans, but paid for by the slave labor of “The Others”, as well as by the looted resources of “The Others”.

Talk about all of this in Madrid, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Lisbon or London. The chances are, you will not be understood. Chances are, you will get confronted: thrown out of cab or a pub, insulted, or even physically attacked (it happened to me in London, for instance).

Talk about it in Haifa or Tel Aviv, and the outcome would be similar; a bit milder (in Israel there is greater number of self-critical people than in Europe), but those who may disagree with you could be extremely unpleasant, and sometimes even violent.

And then, when all the other arguments are exhausted, the Holocaust would almost certainly be mentioned.

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And Holocaust is one word that is, when pronounced, simply supposed to end all arguments and criticism of Israel. It is like a password, to shut everyone up.

The Holocaust is then connected to the exodus of the Jews from Europe to the Middle East, after the end of the WWII. “Millions of Jews were killed, therefore they had full right to move, or to be moved, to the Middle East”, the argument goes.

It is bizarre, and powerful proof of how intellectually obedient and ‘shy’ the Western, as well as the Israeli public, has become.

Mentioning Holocaust should not be ‘the end’: this is precisely where the discussion should begin!

The Holocaust was committed by the Europeans (Germans, but also by several of its allies) against the Jews, the Roma and Communists. Millions of people died atrocious, unimaginably terrible deaths.

And then?

In a typically cynical and sinister British colonialist way, the perpetrators got rewarded, and then new victims created.

Germany got fully rebuilt, while Palestinians (un-people in the British minds), were singled out as those who were supposed to pay for the European crimes.

Why not award the Jews with the entire Bavaria? That’s where Hitler came from. That’s where his early supporters were living. This is where some terrible killings were perpetrated.

Bavaria, Germany, Central Europe, is where millions of Jews felt at home, before the Nazi madness began. For example, the greatest writer of the 20th Century – Franz Kafka: he often described himself as a Czech, of Jewish origin, who wrote in the German language.

Before they realized the gravity and monstrosity of the situation, most of the Jews in Germany simply felt ‘betrayed’. As far as they were concerned, they were Europeans, not any less than that perverted freak Adolf Hitler, or his beer-guzzling buddies.

So, why not Bavaria, as compensation? Why Palestine?

The unpronounced truth has been: because the UK and US wanted that mighty Middle Eastern outpost, and because they wanted a powerful, industrialized Germany again, precisely where it was before and during the war.

Because the Allies knew: in terrible pain, full of outrage, the European Jews would come to Palestine and almost in unison declare: “Never Again!” “We will fight for our survival right now and right here!”

The sad reality was, however, that it was not Arabs, not Palestinians, who burnt the Jewish people in the concentration camps. The Arabs were actually fellow victims, suffering from different horrors – the horrors of European colonialism.

Instead of uniting the two groups of people, two victims, against European racism, colonialism and imperialism, the Brits and others succeeded in ‘dividing and ruling’ them; a horrid imperialist tactic they have been using all over the world, for the long centuries.

*****

Of course, after the horrors of WWII, many Jews went to the Middle East as Communists, or anarchists. They wanted to build a new world. They wanted to turn deserts into gardens, and to live in harmony with the Palestinians and other Arabs, in a wonderful and tolerant state. This dream never came through. Communism in Israel was defeated, and so was internationalism.

Militarism, nationalism and religious extremism (conservative religious parties in Israel are always a political minority, but no government, it appears, can be formed, without taking them into a coalition).

Then came the tsunami of the anti-Communist Soviet Jews, (and those who claimed to be Jews, but often weren’t). Accepting them was clearly a political decision of the Israeli elites – they moved Israel towards the right, and ‘rejuvenated’ “the Israeli struggle for ‘exclusive Jewish rights’, and against the rights of the Arab population. Cynical; tremendously cynical, but it all worked perfectly well – for the nationalists and the conservatives.

For the Palestinians, it was yet another disaster; the end of all hopes.

Like in Europe and North America, the Israeli political landscape has become fully re-defined: extreme right, right, and center-right. The left – Communists, internationalists and real socialists – can only be found in a few avant-garde theatres and at the ‘margins of society’.

*****

So, back to the Israeli life. Its Human Development Index (HDI) is the 22nd highest in the world, above that of France, South Korea and Italy. Not bad, is it?

The question is again – for whom?

The interesting thing was that whenever I tried to discuss Palestine, Golan Heights, Syria, Iran, I encountered no anger. Do the white, European Israelis really hate Palestinians, Arabs, Iranians? My conclusion is: no, they don’t! They don’t, because these people do not exist. You cannot hate what doesn’t exist, can you?

Israeli tank being moved towards Occupied Golan Heights

The bombing of Syrians, shooting at Palestinians – it all has become like a video game. Nothing personal – something that ‘has to be done’ in order to preserve privileged status of European Jews. The same as building the settlements.

You know, when I was there, Tel Aviv was obsessed with new electric pushbikes. Bicycle lanes were full of them. Who gives a damn about the Palestinians?

Modern Art Museum in Tel Aviv

The museums were packed, people waiting in lines for hours for the latest exhibitions. Concerts everywhere. The best stuff. Syria? Screw Syria! Falafel fusion has reached new heights, in countless cafes. Classical musicians were practicing, in front of the public, on grand pianos, at the new train station in Jerusalem; a station so deep that one could have no doubt – it is a posh, high tech nuclear shelter.

Another, even newer station will soon be called “Donald Trump”, as a big thank you for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Pianist practicing in front of public at new train station in Jerusalem

In Israel, hardly anyone practices religion, yet on Shabbat, the entire country comes to a standstill. And that is just a few hours after those countless pubs, bars and clubs were regurgitating drunkards, until the wee hours.

Iran? Israeli politicians are professionals. They know what the West wants. And they go out of their way to please. Same as the Saudis, great allies of Washington, and secret cohorts of Israel.

After one day, everything began to feel extremely familiar. I couldn’t help it: I felt that I was in Europe. The same cynicism, opportunism, indifference.

“As long as we live well, we will do anything to keep it like that! If millions ‘elsewhere’ have to die for our wellbeing, who cares? Let them die!”

Opera performances, top notch public transportation (German), luxury cars (mostly German), and classical music (big chunk of it, German again). Top European brands at local luxury boutiques. Cute pet dogs in public parks.

Palestinians do not exist. Arabs exist mainly as a nuisance. Non-European Jews are good for cleaning latrines.

Seriously, have you heard about a Moroccan or Yemeni Jew commanding a battalion, giving orders to open fire on Palestinian women and children? Then ask a question: is it really about ‘Jewishness’ or about European colonialist legacy?

An Ethiopean Jewish reservist … whom is she ready to defend, really?

Actually… Really familiar, isn’t it? The only difference between the UK or France and Israel, is that the distance between London, Paris and the devastated neo-colonies can be counted by thousands of kilometers. From Tel Aviv to the ruined lives of the Palestinian people, it is often just a few minutes’ drive.

*****

Before the holocaust in Europe, Germans perpetrated their very first holocaust in their colony – in Southwest Africa, what is now called Namibia. They murdered over 85% of the native people there, including the Herero tribe. Almost no one knows about it. I went there to investigate, wrote and published reports.

German doctors like Mengele, those who tortured and experimented on Jews in the concentration camps during WWII, were trained by the doctors who previously murdered and beastly tortured African people.

‘Holocaust-deniers’ hate this information. It totally contradicts their ‘discoveries’ that ‘the Holocaust did not happen’, or that “humiliated Germany, after the unjust peace after WWI, just went ‘overboard’.” No, Germany had proven that it could easily exterminate almost an entire population. But African people do not matter to the Europeans, do they? Holocaust is only what occurred on the European continent (although Gypsies/Roma somehow do not qualify as victims, either. In Czech Republic, extermination camps for Roma have been converted to pig farms, with no monuments). They – non-European victims – do not matter to most of the Israelis, either.

When the Holocaust in Europe began, most of the Jews could not believe that their good neighbors – Germans – could commit such barbarity. They did not know their own history, obviously. Germany and other European countries have been committing holocausts all over the world; on all continents. For centuries. The victims, however, were not white, and so they did not qualify as fellow victims.

After WWII was over, and after (mainly) the Soviet Union defeated the German Nazis, many Jews who survived, went to Palestine. As we mentioned before, the murderers were never really punished. Those who had to pay for the German slaughterhouses, were the innocent Palestinians.

But who were those Jews who arrived first? Most of them were those who at the beginning of WWII ‘could not believe that Germans were “capable of committing such crimes”. Let’s face it; they were Europeans, maybe more European than the French, Italians, Dutch, Czechs or even the Germans.

Like Kissinger, who ended up in the United States, instead of Israel. His “Jewish blood” is totally irrelevant. What matters is his “culture”. And his culture is that of a European colonialist, imperialist bigot!

The suffering apart, European Jews were earlier, before WWII, educated in Europe. Their cultural references were those of the Europeans. Most of them saw Arabs with the same eyes as the Europeans observed Arabs in the late 1940’s. Should I say more?

*****

And now, 64 years after the fall of the Reichstag, Israel is an inseparable part of the “Western civilization”. Which means; it is obsessed with its complex of superiority. It is fully convinced, fanatically, that the only truth is the European and North American truth. It would not hesitate to sacrifice millions of non-Western/non-Jewish lives, for the advancement of their own cause. Justice exists only for the white Jews, as well as for the Europeans, and North Americans.

Israel is not a ‘fascist country’. But it is an apartheid state, the same as the West, which treats the entire planet in an apartheid-style manner. It is what it is. Apartheid is used in order to guarantee a great life for its own people, and to hell with the rest.

Israel is fully integrated into the horrible imperialist adventures of the West, all over the Middle East, in Africa and Kashmir, in the Philippines and many other parts of the world.

And, like in the West, its people know nothing, want to know nothing, care about nothing except themselves.

Vacation in Australia, Thailand or Mexico? It can be discussed for long hours. That matters. But not the lives of conquered and colonized people.

I did not like what I saw and heard in Israel. As I do not like what I see and hear in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Paris or Madrid.

The same self-righteousness, hypocrisy, arrogance and brutality:

“You do it our way, or we will break your legs. We can bomb your cities, steal your land, but you shoot back at us, and we will bomb you back to the Stone Age. Why? Because, we simple can, because, we are part of that omnipotent Western world. Because you know what we can do if you start defending yourself! Because you are scared, frightened into submission. And above all: because our people are only ones who matter.”

Yes, this is the way the colonies were controlled, first by the Europeans and then by the United States. Israel learned; it learned quickly. From the victims, people can swiftly convert themselves into victimizers.

The Laws of any country are clear on this: Just because many of your family members and relatives were brutally murdered, does not give you any right to start beating, robbing and killing totally different groups of people.

Just because you were victim of racism, does not justify your colonialist behavior towards others.

Yes, as always, I was impressed by Israel’s infrastructure, but not by whom it serves. South Africa, during apartheid, built some of the greatest highways in the world. For the whites. Others were forced to live in the gutter. Israel does the same.

To make it worse, Israel’s Prime Minister is behaving like a war criminal. And he has been re-elected by his own people as a reward.

I believe in collective guilt. The indifference of people, who tolerate theft and murder committed on their behalf, becomes a terrible crime itself.

For long awful centuries, Jews were tortured, humiliated and killed by the racist fanatic Europeans. Now, instead of joining internationalist, progressive forces, Israeli Jews of European origin, have changed their identity, and firmly joined the ranks of the imperialist oppressors. They joined their former torturers.

Now they are committing crimes against humanity not because they are Jews, but because they are Europeans.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

The End of Theresa May

The vultures of the British conservative party have gathered, and the individual who seemed to thrive in failure, to gain momentum in defeat, has finally yielded.  UK Prime Minister Theresa May will leave the way for change of leadership on June 7.  Never known for any grand gestures of emotion, the Maybot finally gave way to it.

It had begun rather optimistically in 2016.  May would preside over a Britain leaving the European Union in good order.  She even dared suggest that an agenda of domestic reform might be implemented.  Neither has transpired, and clues were already apparent with the blithely optimistic trio in charge of overseeing the Brexit process: David Davis, as a fabulously ill-equipped Brexit Secretary, Liam Fox holding the reins as international trade secretary and Boris Johnson keeping up appearances at the Foreign Office.  But for all that it was May who seemed to insist that all was possible: the UK could still leave the customs union and single market, repudiate free movement and wriggle out of the jurisdiction of the European Court.  Independent trade deals with non-EU countries would be arrived at but similar trading agreements could still continue in some form with the EU. And there would be no Irish border issue.

Problems, however, surfaced early.  May’s leadership style problematic.  Her cabinet reshuffles (read bloodletting) did much to create animosity.  Some eight ministers were sacked in the first round, with all but one under 50 at the time.  They were, as Stephen Bush puts it, “right in the middle of their political careers, a dangerous time to leave them with nothing to lose.”

Her decision to go to the polls in 2017 to crush the opposition was also another act of a folly-ridden leader.  From a position of strength from which she could instruct her party on the hard truths of Brexit instead of covering their ears, she gave Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn ample kicking room to revive his party while imposing upon herself a considerable handicap.  EU negotiators knew they were negotiating with a significantly weakened leader.

Then came the cold showers, initiated by such wake-up alarms as shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer’s suggestion in 2017 that a transitional phase would have to come into effect after the UK had thrown off the EU.  As Starmer observed at the time, “Constructive ambiguity – David Davis’s description of the government’s approach – can only take you so far.”

May duly suffered three horrendous defeats in Parliament, all to do with a failure to pass the Withdrawal Agreement, and fought off the daggers of usurpation within her own party. She had also had to convince the EU that two extensions to Brexit were warranted. The last throw of the dice featured bringing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to the negotiating table.  To a large extent, that had been encouraged by the third failure to pass the Withdrawal Agreement on March 29th.

On May 21, the prime minister outlined the latest incarnation of a plan that has never moved beyond the stage of life support.  It had that air of a captain heading for the iceberg of inevitability.  She remained committed “to deliver Brexit and help our country move beyond the division of the referendum and into a better future.”  It was spiced with the sweet nothings of forging that “country that works for everyone”, all with “the chance to get on in life and to go as far as their own talent and hard work can take them”.

She hoped for alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop. The new Brexit deal would “set out in law that the House of Commons will approve the UK’s objectives for the negotiations on our future relationship with the EU and they will approve the treaties governing that relationship before the Government signs them.”  A new Workers’ Rights Bill would be introduced to guarantee equivalent protections to UK workers afforded to those in the EU, perhaps even better.  No change to the level of environmental protection would take place, something to be policed by a new Office of Environmental Protection.  But May’s concessions on the subject of a customs union and a proposed second referendum as part of the package, both largely designed to placate Labour, were too much for her cabinet.  Her resignation was assured.

The resignation speech was a patchwork attempt to salvage a difficult legacy.  It was “right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high.”  But it would be for her “successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in parliament where I have not.”

She had led “a decent, moderate and patriotic Conservative government on the common ground of British politics”. She spoke of “a union of people”, standing together regardless of background, skin colour “or who we love”.  In an effort to move beyond a pure and exclusive focus on Brexit, she tried to single out such domestic achievements as gender pay reporting and the race disparity audit.  This led such conservative outlets as The Spectator to wonder whether such initiatives had “invented victimhood where none existed.”

There will be as many post-mortems on May’s tenure as Brexit proposals.  Steve Richards, writing for The New European, felt May never had a chance.  It was a period of uncertainty made permanent.  With each Brexit secretary resignation, with each parliamentary defeat of the exit plan, “nothing much happened, only an accumulative sense of doom.”  That was a ready-made outcome.

The list of contenders seeking to replace May is a who’s who of agents, less of assuring stability than guaranteed chaos shadowed by enormous question marks.  Furthermore, anyone willing to offer themselves up for replacement is likely to face similar treatment to that given May.

The current stable of contenders are of varying, uneven talents.  Environment secretary Michael Gove and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab were rather late to the fold.  They joined Matt Hancock, Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom and Rory Stewart.  Political watchers and the party faithful will be keeping an eye on wobbliness and wavering: foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt had campaigned in the 2016 referendum to remain in the UK; likewise the self-touted tech-savvy Hancock.

With an individual such as Boris Johnson, you are assured a spell of chaos.  Incapable of mastering a brief, his temperament is utterly hostile to stable ministerial appointments.  He tries to make up for that with a buffoonish, public school air that treats certain character flaws as gifts of eccentricity.  While he is liked amongst the conservative fan base, his parliamentary colleagues are not so sure.  The Bold as British formula is only going to carry you so far; the hard negotiators in the EU will attest to that.

As the Israel Lobby in the US Weakens, its UK Counterpart Grows More Fearsome

For decades it was all but taboo to suggest that pro-Israel lobbies in the United States like AIPAC used their money and influence to keep lawmakers firmly in check on Israel-related issues – even if one had to be blind not to notice that that was exactly what they were up to.

When back in February Ilhan Omar pointed out the obvious – that US Representatives like her were routinely expected to submit to the lobby’s dictates on Israel, a foreign country – her colleagues clamoured to distance themselves from her, just as one might have expected were the pro-Israel lobby to wield the very power Omar claimed.

But surprisingly Omar did not – at least immediately – suffer the crushing fate of those who previously tried to raise this issue. Although she was pressured into apologising, she was not battered into complete submission for her honesty.

She received support on social media, as well as a wavering, muted defence from a Democratic grandee like Nancy Pelosi, and even a relatively sympathetic hearing from a few prominent figures in the US Jewish community.

The Benjamins do matter

Omar’s comments have confronted – and started to expose – one of the most enduring absurdities in debates about US politics. Traditionally it has been treated as anti-semitic to argue that the pro-Israel lobby actually lobbies for its chosen cause – exactly as other major lobbies do, from the financial services industries to the health and gun lobbies – and that, as with other lobbies enjoying significant financial clout, it usually gets its way.

Omar found herself in the firing line in February when she noted that what mattered in US politics was “It’s all about the Benjamins” – an apparent reference to the 1997 Puff Daddy song of the same name – later clarifying that AIPAC leverages funds over Congressional and presidential candidates.

The claim that the pro-Israel lobby isn’t really in the persuasion business can only be sustained on the preposterous basis that Israeli and US interests are so in tune that AIPAC and other organisations serve as little more than cheerleaders for the two countries’ “unbreakable bond”. Presumably on this view, the enormous sums of money raised are needed only to fund the celebrations.

‘A one-issue guy’

Making the irrefutable observation that the pro-Israel lobby does actually lobby on Israel’s behalf, and very successfully, is typically denounced as anti-semitism. Omar’s comments were perceived as anti-semitic on the grounds that she pointed to the canard that Jews wield outsized influence using money to sway policymaking.

Allegations of anti-semitism against her deepened days later when she gave a talk in Washington DC and questioned why it was that she could talk about the influence of the National Rifle Association and Big Pharma but not the pro-Israel lobby – or “the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country”.

That pro-Israel lobbyists – as opposed to Jews generally – do have dual loyalty seems a peculiar thing to deny, given that the purpose of groups like AIPAC is to rally support for Israel in Congress.

Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a key backer of Republican candidates for the presidency, has never hidden his passion not only for Israel but specifically for the ultra-nationalist governments of Benjamin Netanyahu.

In fact, he is so committed to Netanyahu’s survival that he spent nearly $200 million propping up an Israeli newspaper over its first seven years – all so he could assist the prime minister of a foreign country.

Similarly, Haim Saban, one of the main donors to Democratic presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, has made no secret of his commitment to Israel. He has said: “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel.”

Might Saban and Adelson’s “Benjamins” have influenced the very pro-Israel – and very anti-Palestinian – positions of Democratic and Republican presidential candidates? You would have to be supremely naïve or dishonest to claim it has not.

‘No Bernie-like approach’

This point really should be beyond doubt by now. This month the New York Times published an unprecedented essay in which author Nathan Thrall quoted political insiders and lobbyists making plain that, as one would expect, the pro-Israel lobby uses its money to pressure Congressional candidates to toe the lobby’s line on Israel.

Some of the lobby’s power operates at the level of assumption about what Jewish donors expect in return for their money. According to the NYT, some three-quarters of all donations over $500,000 to the major political action committee supporting Democratic nominees for the US Senate race in 2018 were made by Jews.

Though many of those donors may not rate Israel as their main cause, a former Clinton campaign aide noted that the recipients of this largesse necessarily tailor their foreign policy positions so as not to antagonise such donors. As a result, candidates avoid even the mild criticism of Israel adopted by Bernie Sanders, the Democratic party’s challenger to Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.

“There’s no major donor that I can think of who is looking for someone to take a Bernie-like approach,” said the aide. Sanders raised his campaign funds from small donations rather these major funders, leaving him freer to speak openly about Israel.

Fight for donors, not voters

Other insiders are more explicit still. Ben Rhodes, a former confidant of Barack Obama, says the lobby effectively tied Obama’s hands domestically on efforts to promote peace. “The Washington view of Israel-Palestine is still shaped by the donor class,” he told Thrall, adding: “The donor class is profoundly to the right of where the activists are, and frankly, where the majority of the Jewish community is.”

Joel Rubin, a former political director at lobby group J Street and a founding board member of the centrist Jewish Democratic Council of America, concurred: “The fight over Israel used to be about voters. It’s more about donors now.”

All of these insiders are stating that the expectations of major donors shape candidates’ US foreign policy positions in line with Israel’s interests, not necessarily US interests. It is hard not to interpret that as reformulation of “dual loyalty”.

Out of the shadows

What’s so significant about the NYT article is that it signals, as did the muted furore over Omar’s comments, that the pro-Israel lobby is weakening. No powerful lobby, including the Israel one, wants to be forced out of the shadows. It wants to remain in the darkness, where it can most comfortably exercise its influence without scrutiny or criticism.

The pro-Israel lobby’s loyalty to Israel is no longer unmentionable. But it is also not unique.

As Mondoweiss recently noted, Hannah Arendt, the Jewish scholar and fugitive from Nazi Germany, pointed to the inevitability of the “double loyalty conflict” in her 1944 essay “Zionism Reconsidered”, where she foreshadowed the rise of a pro-Israel lobby and its potential negative impacts on American Jews. It was, she wrote, “an unavoidable problem of every national movement of a people living within the boundaries of other states and unwilling to resign their civil and political rights therein.”

For that reason, the US-Cuban lobby has an obvious dual loyalty problem too. It’s just that, given the Cuban lobby’s priority is overthrowing the Cuban government – a desire shared in Washington – the issue is largely moot.

In Israel’s case, however, there is a big and growing gap between image and reality. On the one hand, Washington professes a commitment to peace-making and a promise to act as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians. And on the other, the reality is it has offered full-throated support for a series of ultra-nationalist Israeli governments determined to destroy any hope of peace and swallow up the last vestiges of a potential Palestinian state.

Doing the Lord’s work

It’s important to point out, however, that advocates for Israel are not only Jews. While the pro-Israel lobby represents the views of a proportion of Jewish Americans, it is also significantly comprised of Christians, evangelicals in particular.

Millions of these Christians – including Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – can be accused of dual loyalty too. They regard Israel’s role in Biblical prophecy as far more important than the future of the US, or mankind for that matter.

For many of these evangelicals, bringing about the end of the world by ensuring Jews return to their Biblical homeland – triggering a final reckoning at the Battle of Armageddon – is the fulfillment of God’s will. And if it’s a choice between support for Washington’s largely secular elites and support for God, they know very definitely where they stand.

Again, the NYT has started to shine a light on the strange role of Israel in the US political constellation. Another recent article reminded readers that in 2015 Pompeo spoke of the end-times struggle prophesied to take place in Israel, or what is often termed by evangelicals as “The Rapture”. He said: “We will continue to fight these battles.”

During his visit last month to Israel, he announced that the Trump administration’s work was “to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state, remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here”.

Divorced from reality

If the debate about the pro-Israel lobby in the US is for the first time making a nod to truth, the conversation about the pro-Israel lobby in the UK is becoming more and more divorced from reality.

Part of the reason is the way the Israel lobby has recently emerged in the UK – hurriedly, and in a mix of panic and damage limitation mode.

Given that for decades European countries largely followed Washington’s lead on Israel, pro-Israel lobbies outside the US were much less organised and muscular. European leaders’ unquestioning compliance was assured as long as Washington appeared to act as a disinterested broker overseeing a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. As a result, Europe was in little need of vigorous pro-Israel lobbies.

But that illusion has now been shattered, first by the explicit Greater Israel ideology espoused by a series of Netanyahu governments, and latterly by Donald Trump’s occupancy of the White House and his vehement backing of Israeli demands, however much they violate international law.

That has left European policy towards Israel – and its enabling by default of Netanyahu and Trump’s efforts to crush Palestinian rights – dangerously exposed.

Conflating Jews and Israel

Popular backlashes have taken the form of a rapid growth in support for BDS, a grassroots, non-violent movement promoting a boycott of Israel. But more specifically in Britain’s case, it has resulted in the surprise election of Jeremy Corbyn, a well-known champion of Palestinian rights and anti-racism struggles generally, to lead the opposition Labour party.

For that reason, Jewish leadership groups in the UK have had to reinvent themselves quickly, from organisations to promote the community’s interests into vehicles to defend Israel. And to do that they have had to adopt a position that was once closely identified with anti-semitism: conflating Jews with Israel.

This, we should remember, was the view taken 100 years ago by arch anti-semites in the British government. They regarded Jews as inherently “un-British”, as incapable of assimilation and therefore as naturally suspect.

Lord Balfour, before he made his abiding legacy the 1917 Declaration of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, helped pass the Aliens Act to block entry to the UK of Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. Balfour believed Jewish immigration had resulted in “undoubted evils”.

A lobby cobbled together

Also significantly, unlike the US, where the pro-Israel lobby has maintained fervent support for Israel as a bipartisan matter over decades, the need for an equivalent pro-Israel lobby in the UK has emerged chiefly in relation to Corbyn’s unexpected ascent to power in the Labour party.

Rather than emerging slowly and organically, as was the case in the US, the British pro-Israel has had to be cobbled together hastily. Israel’s role in directing this immature lobby has been harder to hide.

Most of the UK’s Jewish leadership organisations have been poorly equipped for the task of tackling the new sympathy for Palestinian rights unleashed in the Labour party by Corbyn’s rise. The Board of Deputies, for example, has enjoyed visible ties to the ruling Conservative party. Any criticisms they make of the Labour leader are likely to be seen as having an air of partisanship and point-scoring.

So unusually in Britain’s case, the chief pro-Israel lobby group against Corbyn has emerged from within his own party – in the form of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

The JLM is trumpeted in the British media both as a venerable Jewish group, more than a century old, and as one that is widely representative of Jewish opinion. Neither claim is true.

Revived to deal with Corbyn

The JLM likes to date its origins to the Poale Zion organisation, which was founded in 1903. A socialist society, Poale Zion affiliated itself not only with the British Labour party but also with a wide range of anti-Palestinian Zionist organisations such as the World Zionist Organisation and the Israeli Labour party. The latter carried out the ethnic cleansing of the vast majority of Palestinians in 1948 and the party’s leaders to this today publicly support the illegal settlement “blocs” that are displacing Palestinians and stealing their land.

But as the investigative journalist Asa Winstanley has shown, before the unexpected ascent of Corbyn to the Labour leadership in 2015, the JLM had largely fallen into dormancy.

It was briefly revived in 2004, when Israel was facing widespread criticism in Britain over its brutal efforts to crush a Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories. But the JLM only really became active again in 2015.

According to a covert recording of a private JLM event in late 2016, its then chair Jeremy Newmark said he and other activists had agreed to reform the group in September 2015 in response to “the rise of Jeremy Corbyn” and “Bernie Sanders in the States”. Corbyn has been elected Labour leader only days previously.

According to the transcript, Newmark told the other activists that it would be the “start of a struggle and a battle we will all be engaged in for months and probably years ahead of us”. He added that the JLM would be a suitable vehicle for their work because of the “rights and privileges” it enjoyed as a Labour party affiliate organisation.

Front for Israeli embassy

The motive behind the JLM’s resuscitation was also revealed by an undercover documentary made by Al-Jazeera, aired in early 2017. It showed that the JLM was acting as little more than a front for the Israeli embassy, and that the mission it set itself was to weaken Corbyn in the hope of removing him from the leadership.

Early on, the JLM and other pro-Israel lobbyists within the party realised that the most effective way to damage Corbyn, and silence solidarity with the Palestinian cause, was to weaponise the charge of anti-semitism.

Support for Palestinian rights necessarily requires severe criticism of Israel, whose popular, right wing governments have shown no interest in making concessions to the Palestinians on self-determination. In fact, while westerners have debated the need for urgent peacemaking, Israel has simply got on with grabbing vast tracts of Palestinian land as a way to destroy any hope of statehood.

But pro-Israel lobbyists in the UK have found that they can very effectively turn this issue into a zero-sum game – one that, in the context of a British public conversation oblivious to Palestinian rights, inevitably favours Israel.

Identifying with Israel

The thrust of the lobby’s argument is that almost all Jews identify with Israel, which means that attacks on Israel are also attacks on Jewish identity. That, they claim, is a modern form of anti-semitism.

This argument, if it were true, has an obvious retort: if Jews really do identify with Israel to the extent that they are prepared to ignore its systematic abuse of Palestinians, then that would make most British Jews anti-Arab racists.

Further, if Jewish identity really is deeply enmeshed in the state of Israel, that would place a moral obligation on Jews to denounce any behaviour by Israel towards Palestinians that violates human rights and international law.

And yet the very Jewish leaders claiming that Israel is at the core of their identity are also the ones who demand that Jews not be expected to take responsibility for Israel’s actions – and that to demand as much is anti-semitic.

Could there be a clearer example of having your cake and eating it?

‘Institutionally anti-semitic’

Nonetheless, the JLM has very successfully hijacked the debate within Labour of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to silence criticism. It has worked hard to impose a highly controversial new definition of anti-semitism that conflates it with criticism of Israel. Seven on the 11 examples of anti-semitism used to illustrate the new definition relate to Israel.

Arguing, for example, that Israel is a “racist endeavour”, the view of many in the growing BDS movement and among Corbyn supporters, is now being treated as evidence of anti-semitism.

For this reason, the JLM has been able to file a complaint against Labour with the Equality and Human Rights Commission arguing that the party is “institutionally anti-semitic”.

Labour is only the second political party after the neo-Nazi British National Party to have been subjected to an investigation by the equality watchdog.

Counterweight to the JLM

Despite its claims, the JLM does not represent Jewish opinion in the Labour party. The JLM says it has 2,000 members, though that figure – if accurate – includes non-Jews. Attendance at its annual general meeting this month could be measured in the dozens.

As one Jewish critic observed: “There are some 300,000 Jews in Britain. The Jewish Labour Movement claims to represent us all. So why were there fewer people at their AGM [annual general meeting] than at my Labour Party branch AGM?”

Many Jews in the Labour party have chosen not to join the JLM, preferring instead to act as a counterweight by creating a new Jewish pressure group that backs Corbyn called Jewish Voice for Labour.

Even a new JLM membership drive publicised by former Labour leader Gordon Brown reportedly brought only a small influx of new members, suggesting that support for the JLM’s anti-Corbyn, pro-Israel agenda is very limited inside Labour.

Speaking for ‘the Jews’

The re-establishment of the JLM has one very transparent aim in mind: to push out Corbyn, using any means at its disposal. At its annual general meeting, the JLM unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in Corbyn, describing him as “unfit to to be Prime Minister”. The resolution declared that “a Labour Government led by [Corbyn] would not be in the interests of British Jews”.

One Jewish commentator derisively noted the JLM’s arrogance in speaking for all British Jews at a time of Conservative government-imposed austerity:

“I would not presume to proclaim what is in the interests of ‘the Jews’, but I really cannot imagine that the person who drafted this resolution had any real experience of meeting unemployed Jews, Jewish pensioners and single mothers just scraping by, or Jews who are struggling as they use under-resourced mental health services.”

Scoring Labour candidates

In other circumstances, a group of people operating inside a major political party using underhand methods to disrupt its democratic processes would be described as entryists. Some 2,000 pro-Israel fanatics within Labour are trying to overturn the overwhelming wishes, twice expressed at the ballot box, of the Labour membership, now numbering more than 500,000.

Nonetheless, last week the JLM started to show its hand more publicly. It has been noisily threatening to disaffiliate from the Labour party. In the circumstances that would at least be an honourable – if very unlikely – thing for it to do.

Instead it announced that it would begin scoring local and national Labour politicians based on their record on anti-semitism. After the JLM’s frantic lobbying for the adoption of the new anti-semitism definition, it seems clear that such scores will relate to the vehemence of a candidate’s criticism of Israel, or possibly their ideological sympathy with Corbyn, more than overt bigotry towards Jews.

That was underscored this week when a senior Labour politician, Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, came under fire from the JLM and Board of Deputies for comments he made in 2014, during Israel’s attack on Gaza, that only recently came to light. He was recorded saying: “The enemy of the Palestinian people is not the Jewish people, the enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists.” He had previously denied making any such comment.

Mike Katz, the JLM’s new chair, responded: “Insulting a core part of their [Jewish people’s] identity and then dissembling about it is shameful behaviour from a senior frontbencher in our party, let alone someone who aspires to administer our justice system.”

Marginal prejudice

According to the Labour party’s own figures, actual anti-Jewish prejudice – as opposed to criticism of Israel – is extremely marginal in its ranks, amounting to some 0.08 percent of members. It is presumably even less common among those selected to run as candidates in local and national elections.

The JLM has nonetheless prioritised this issue, threatening that the scores may be used to decide whether activists will campaign for a candidate. One might surmise that the scores could also serve as the basis for seeking to deselect candidates and replace them with politicians more to the JLM’s liking.

“We have got elections coming up but we are not going to put that effort in unless we know people are standing shoulder to shoulder with us,” said Katz.

Need for vigorous debate

Paradoxically, the JLM appears to be preparing to do openly what pro-Israel lobbyists in the US deny they do covertly: use their money and influence to harm candidates who are not seen as sympathetic enough to Israel.

Despite claims from both US and UK pro-Israel lobby groups that they speak for their own domestic Jewish populations, they clearly don’t. Individuals within Jewish communities are divided over whether they identify with Israel or not. And certainly, their identification with Israel should not be a reason to curtail vigorous debates about US and UK foreign policy and Israeli influence domestically.

Even if the vast majority of Jews in the US and UK do support Israel – not just in a symbolic or abstract way, but the actual far-right governments that now permanently rule Israel – that does not make them right about Israel or make it anti-semitic for others to be highly critical of Israel.

Chipping away at democracy

The overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews support a narrow spectrum of politicians, from the militaristic right to religious fundamentalists and fascists. They view Palestinians as less deserving, less human even, than Jews and as an obstacle to the realisation of Jewish rights in the whole of the “Land of Israel”, including the Palestinian territories. Does that make them right? Does their numerical dominance excuse their ugly bigotry towards Palestinians? Of course not.

And so it would be the same even were it true that most Jewish members of the Labour party supported a state that proudly upholds Jewish supremacism as its national ideology. Their sensitivities should count for nothing if they simply mask ugly racist attitudes towards Palestinians.

Lobbies of all kinds thrive in the dark, growing more powerful and less accountable when they are out of view and immune from scrutiny.

By refusing to talk frankly about the role of pro-Israel lobbies in the UK and the US, or by submitting to their intimidation, we simply invite Israel’s supporters and anti-Palestinian racists to flex their muscles more aggressively and chip away at the democratic fabric of our societies.

There are signs that insurgency politicians in the US are ready for the first time to shine a light into the recesses of a political system deeply corrupted by money. That will inevitably make life much harder for the pro-Israel lobby.

But paradoxically, it is happening just as the the UK’s Israel lobby is pushing in exactly the opposite direction. British politics is being plunged into a stifling, unhealthy silence on the longest example of mass human rights abuses, sanctioned by the west, in modern history.

• First published at Mondoweiss

The Price of Participating in Society is the Sacrifice of Privacy and Self

In what is arguably one of the most craven opportunistic moves by a business/media group to increase its circulation/profitability, on 10 April the New York Times (NYT) embarked on what it describes as its Privacy Project. A day later on 11 April, no doubt with the NYT’s foreknowledge of what was to come thanks to an unofficial US government tip, Ecuador revoked Julian Assange’s (Wikileaks founder) asylum in its UK Embassy and fed him to the British Police dogs eagerly awaiting to arrest him and dump him in jail.

In May 2017 I wrote that Assange was doomed from the get-go to be arrested and handed over to the US Government and that it would only be a matter of time before Edward Snowden befell a similar fate.

Chelsea Manning’s leaked information made WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, a household name. It also made them permanent enemies of the US State. In 2010, Assange released a video that he called Collateral Murder. The video shows an airstrike in which Iraqi journalists are killed. Other releases based on Manning’s leak were known as the Afghan Diary and Iraq War Logs. The diplomatic cables exposed some of the silly machinations of the US State Department and the over classification of documents.

Meanwhile, mainstream media (MSM) outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post feasted on the leaks and gave them prominent coverage daily, even as they excoriated Assange and his merry band of leakers. The MSM believes that WikiLeaks is not “real” journalism even as they used the classified material Assange provided to bolster their subscription numbers. Aren’t they accessories to Assange’s crime? Apparently they are not.

Assange has been living for the past five years under diplomatic protection in the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom. He has been accused of rape in Sweden and, if he leaves the embassy, would be arrested by UK authorities and, ultimately, end up in the USA. To make matters worse, now he is a target of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director.

Pompeo once praised WikiLeaks. Whatever data he has seen that made him go ballistic can’t be good for Assange, obviously. [Former] Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions over at the Justice Department has hinted that an arrest warrant is in the works.

He will never get a get out of jail card and is trapped in Ecuador’s Embassy in London. The trip from the UK to Sweden to the USA would be swift if he capitulates. ‘It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,’ [then] CIA director Mike Pompeo said at a May event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. ‘Assange is a narcissist who has created nothing of value and he relies on the dirty work of others to make himself famous: He’s a fraud.’

Assange continues to dig a hole for himself with the CIA Vault leaks even as he enlightens us all, apparently, about the machinations of governments around the world.

Hello Clipper

The New York Times Privacy Project’s mission statement is essentially a rehash of a privacy and encryption issue that began on 16 April 1993 over the National Security Agency’s proposal to embed a Clipper Chip in the nation’s communications networks and nascent Internet/World Wide Web (WWW). The chip would have allowed NSA and US Law Enforcement Agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation to easily access foreign and domestic public communications. The proposal was the brainchild of President Bill Clinton’s administration but a wide awake American public and anti-Clipper Chip groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) opposed the technology and by 1996 the US government gave up on the technology.

There is grave doubt whether the American public or pro-Assange interest groups have the voice and staying power of those like the EFF that a couple of decades ago opposed the Clipper Chip.

According to the New York Times project mission statement:

The boundaries of privacy are in dispute, and its future is in doubt. Citizens, politicians and business leaders are asking if societies are making the wisest tradeoffs. The Times is embarking on this months long project to explore the technology and where it’s taking us, and to convene debate about how it can best help realize human potential.

Privacy in Dispute? Convene a debate? You’re Kidding!

Only those in cryogenic freeze or in solitary confinement for the past couple of decades would not know that privacy is already dead, a quaint relic from a time long since past. In today’s world, the price of participating in society is the sacrifice of privacy and self. It is not so much that technology is the culprit, it’s that a networked world, whether through stories told around a campfire that are passed on in an oral tradition, or instantly via Facebook/Twitter, appears to be a necessary human craving. Wanting to belong to something or some group, to be able to identify with an ideology or fad is apparently irresistible.

What do you really have to trade with your fellow human beings other than your deepest secrets, knowledge and individuality?

Humans are merrily merging with machines or rather the software and interfaces that allow textual and vision immersion, and the light speed acquisition of knowledge that the networked world provides. The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution be damned. Who needs it? The government or marketplace will always find a workaround to that relic of a bygone era.

All of this seems preordained by some Universal Machine God. We bow our heads whilst on the mobile device. The Internet/WWW is a sort of public confessional where there is no mediating priest to talk to God for you. It is straight talk with the Public God who dispenses likes or dislikes like the number of prayers a priest tells you to recite to regain a clean soul. And the Internet/WWW is a vengeful God with a long memory. Past sins from youth, or once though well hidden, find their way onto the network with punishment meted out by a hash tag with a name linked to it.

Sickness of the Future

The NYT Privacy Project, or even my musings here, are not necessary to understand future diseases at work right now in 2019. For a better description of that we can turn to a short story written by Chinese Sci-Fi writer Chen Qiufan titled “A History of Future Illnesses.” The story is located in the book Broken Stars, Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation (Ken Liu translator).

Technology allows ritual to become an indivisible part of everyday life. Its implanted into you and becomes part of your genetic heritage to be passed on to your children and they children multiplying and mutating, more vigorous that its host. You cannot control the impulse to refresh the page. Information explosion brings anxiety but can fill your husk of a soul. Every fifteen seconds you move the mouse, open your social networking profile, browse the comments, retweet and reblog, close the page, and do it all over again fifteen seconds later. You cant stop.

You no longer talk to people in real life. Air has lost its role as the medium for transmitting voice. You sit in a ring, your eyes glued to the latest mobile device in your hand as though worshiping the talisman of some ancient god. Your thoughts now flow into virtual platforms at the tips of your fingers. You are auguring, laughing flustering joking. But reality around you is a silent desert.

You cannot free yourself from the control of artificial environments. Ritual is omnipresent. It is no longer restricted to sacrifice, sermon, mass, concert, or game performed on a central stage where the classical unities hold. Ritual itself is evolving, turning into distributed cloud computing, evenly spread out to every nook and cranny of your daily life. Sensors know everything and regulate the temperature, humidity, air currents and light around you; adjust your heart rate, hormonal balance, sexual arousal, mood. Artificial intelligence is a god: your think it is there for your welfare bringing you new opportunities, but you’ve become the egg in the incubator, the marionette attached to wires. Every second of every minute of every day, you are the sacrifice that completes the unending grand ritual. You are the ritual.

Radical thinkers obsess wove how to withdraw from all this. The power of ritual comes from repetition, not its content. Day after day, the repetition of poses and movements gradually seeps into the depth of consciousness like a hard drive’s read-write-head repeatedly tracing the patterns of an idea, until the idea becomes indistinguishable from free will itself…Romantic love is ritual’s most loyal consumer along with patriotism. The radicals try to imitate the Luddites of old [but]…the only thing that can be done is nothing.