Category Archives: United Kingdom

Using the Burka: Boris Johnson’s Bid for Popularity

Comedy, Boris Johnson, and the Tories – these three share a certain comforting, if chaotic, affinity, lobbed together in some nightmarish union that risks consuming itself.  But times are serious – profoundly so, we are told: Brexit exercises the nerves as if Britannia were a patient about to expire, and there is the cultural irritation posed by those naughty elements who refuse to do the good thing and integrate themselves into the land of her Britannic majesty.

Thus far, Britain has resisted the moves of other states in Europe to impose public bans on such religious coverings as the burka and some of its more expansive cognates.  But there is a prevailing appetite for such measures in a climate suffused with notions of civilisation, irate outsiders and insecure insiders.  France was a pioneer in that regard, initiating a ban in 2004.  In Denmark, rough measures have been implemented punishing those who don such headdress in public spaces.

A perfect chance for Johnson, who remains a smouldering menace to Prime Minister Theresa May, to strike form, even if only to rile critics and keep the blogosphere busy.  “In Britain today there is only a tiny, tiny minority of women who wear these odd bits of headgear,” he noted in his regular Daily Telegraph column last week.  Confidently, he claimed that, “One day, I am sure, they will go.”

His has little time for assuming that women have any choice in the matter.  “If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree – and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran.”

Nothing is spared. The whole show is given, and any social or academic nicety is given over to a populist punchiness.  “I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.” But Johnson returns to a traditional stance taken to such articles of wear: they should not be banned. The only resort, then, is to mock.

It becomes clear what this exercise was about.  The burka, and Islamic dress, might well have found themselves objects of pure, unalloyed opportunism for yet another push for recognition from fellow Tories that Johnson remains a relevant contender for high office.  He might have resigned from the front bench in an act of calculated sabotage, but he glows.

The Conservative Party has found itself in a bind.  Something needed to be done, as the current wisdom goes, but what?  An investigation is currently being taken, a fairly pointless exercise that serves to supply valuable oxygen to Johnson’s flame of embellished martyrdom.  Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire told BBC Breakfast that an investigation into complaints made about Johnson’s comments was taking place and “that’s the right approach”.

If the investigation – being conducted by an individual officer – finds justification for the complaints, an independent panel will be convened (independence being in the eye of the beholders), which might decide to refer Johnson to the party’s board.  From there, the power of expulsion can come into play.

At this stage, these are meaningless hypothetical points, and expelling Johnson will add a few streaks of popularity to him.  If that ever unreliable metric called polling can be drawn upon, Johnson has allies on the score of whether he should receive some form of disciplinary action.  The Sunday Express, noting the findings of its ComRes poll, found 53 percent of respondents did not feel any such action should be taken.

The Muslim Council of Britain has also added to the exercise of giving Johnson form and profile, sending a letter to Prime Minister May that “no-one should be allowed to victimise minorities with impunity.”  The Council was “hopeful” that the Tories “will not allow any whitewashing of this specific inquiry currently in process”.

A few murmurings of support have aired.  That ever reliable period-piece Tory prop and member for North East Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg is certain that the whole exercise against Johnson – a “show trial” no less – is tactical, a measure to protect May and see off a rival.  There is envy in the leadership at his “many successes, popularity with voters and charisma”.  He speculates: “Could it be that there is a nervousness that a once and probably future leadership contender is becoming too popular and needs to be stopped?”

Another element is the comedy line, suggesting the view that Johnson remains the permanent, immutable joke of British reaction.  To censure Johnson would be to censure a certain type of eccentric, if indecent, Britain.  Rowan Atkinson, the genius behind Mr Bean and a range of comic adaptations, took the freedom-to-joke line in a letter to The Times.  “As a lifelong beneficiary of the freedom to make jokes about religion, I do think that Boris Johnson’s joke about wearers of the burka resembling letterboxes is a pretty good one.”  Pity that it has been a standard one for some time – was Atkinson perhaps referring to Johnson himself, the joke in harness?

It is all well and good to accept the necessary function of comedy to puncture, deflate and generally mock the role of faith, credulous attitudes and the devout. “All jokes about religion cause offence,” says Atkinson accurately, “so it’s pointless apologising for them.”

But Johnson has never been the font of sincerity in that regard, and his effusion was hardly intended as one of pure humour. He wishes to remain politically relevant, and persists sniping through his columns and from the back bench in the hope that he won’t be forgotten.  As Britain leaves its awkward EU marriage, Johnson may well find himself presiding over the ruins of his own handiwork.

Israel Is The Real Problem

Elite power cannot abide a serious challenge to its established position. And that is what Labour under Jeremy Corbyn represents to the Tory government, the corporate, financial and banking sectors, and the ‘mainstream’ media. The manufactured ‘antisemitism crisis’ is the last throw of the dice for those desperate to prevent a progressive politician taking power in the UK: someone who supports Palestinians and genuine peace in the Middle East, a strong National Health Service and a secure Welfare State, a properly-funded education system, and an economy in which people matter; someone who rejects endless war and complicity with oppressive, war criminal ‘allies’, such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

In a thoroughly-researched article, writer and academic Gavin Lewis has mapped a deliberate pro-Israel campaign to create a ‘moral panic’ around the issue of antisemitism. The strategy can be traced all the way back to the horrendous Israeli bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014. A UN report estimated that 2,252 Palestinians were killed, around 65 per cent of them civilians. The death toll included 551 children. There was global public revulsion at Israel’s war crimes and empathy with their Palestinian victims. Support rose for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) which campaigns ‘to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law’.

As Lewis observes, BDS came to be regarded more and more as a ‘strategic threat’ by Israel, and a campaign was initiated in which Israel and its supporters would be presented as the world’s real victims. In the UK, the Campaign Against Antisemitism was established during the final month of Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza. Pro-Israel pressure groups began to bombard media organisations with supposed statistics about an ‘antisemitism crisis’, with few news organisations scrutinising the claims.

In particular, as we noted in a media alert in April, antisemitism has been ‘weaponised’ to attack Corbyn and any prospect of a progressive UK government critical of Israel. Around this time in Gaza, there were weekly ‘Great March of Return’ protests, with people demanding the right to reclaim ancestral homes in Israel. Many were mown down by Israeli snipers on the border firing into Gaza, with several victims shot in the back as they tried to flee. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a total of 155 Palestinians were killed in the protests, including 23 children and 3 women. This is part of the brutal ongoing reality for Palestinians.

Recently, much media attention has focused laser-like on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including 11 associated examples. Labour adopted 7 of these examples, but dropped 4 because of their implication that criticism of Israel was antisemitic. As George Wilmers noted in a piece for Jewish Voice for Labour, Kenneth Stern, the US Attorney who drafted the IHRA wording, has spoken out about the misuse of the definition. It had:

originally been designed as a “working definition” for the purpose of trying to standardise data collection about the incidence of antisemitic hate crime in different countries. It had never been intended that it be used as legal or regulatory device to curb academic or political free speech. Yet that is how it has now come to be used.

Examples of the curbing of free speech cited by Stern in written testimony to the US Congress include Manchester and Bristol universities.

In an interview on Sky News last weekend, one pro-Israeli commentator stated openly that the aim is to push Corbyn out of public life. As The Canary observed, Jonathan Sacerdoti, a former spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (mentioned above) was:

clear that his motivation for wanting Corbyn gone is, in part, opposition to his position on Israel.

Lindsey German, national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, reminds us of something crucial that the corporate media has been happy to downplay or bury:

We should not forget either that the Israeli embassy was implicated in interfering in British politics last year when one of its diplomats was recorded as saying that he wanted to “bring down” a pro-Palestine Tory MP, Alan Duncan. While he was sent back to Israel in disgrace, the matter went no further – disgracefully given that this was blatant interference in the British political system.

In 2017, an Al Jazeera undercover sting operation on key members of the Israel lobby in Britain had revealed a £1,000,000 plot by the Israeli government to undermine Corbyn.

German continued:

Are we seriously supposed to imagine that this was a maverick operation, or that there is no other attempt to influence British politics, especially when both Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel organisations have strong links with the embassy? The present ambassador is Mark Regev, the man who was press spokesman in 2009 when he defended the killing of Palestinians through Operation Cast Lead, and who has defended the recent killings of Gazan Palestinians by Israeli forces.

For shared elite interests in Israel and the UK, there is much at stake. Historian and foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis highlights ‘the raw truth’ rarely touched by the corporate news media:

The UK’s relationship with Israel is special in at least nine areas, including arms sales, air force, nuclear deployment, navy, intelligence and trade, to name but a few.

Indeed, arms exports and trade are increasingly profitable to British corporations doing business with Israel. Moreover, senior government ministers have emphasised that the UK-Israel relationship is the ‘cornerstone of so much of what we do in the Middle East’ and that ‘Israel is an important strategic partner for the UK’. As Curtis notes:

The Palestinians are the expendable unpeople in this deepening special relationship.

A Shameful Outburst

Unsurprisingly, then, the Israeli lobby have been trawling through Corbyn’s life, trying to find past incidents they can highlight as ‘support’ for the ludicrous and cynical claim that he is ‘soft’ on antisemitism or even himself antisemitic. Hence the manufactured controversy of Corbyn hosting an event in 2010 during which Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer compared Israel’s behaviour to that of Nazi Germany.

An Independent editorial, titled ‘Corbyn has been found wanting on antisemitism – now he must act’, asserted that he was ‘a fool to lend his name to this stunt’. It was:
such an egregious error of judgement that Jeremy Corbyn, an extraordinarily stubborn man, has had to apologise for it.’

Under a photograph of Corbyn sitting at the 2010 meeting with Meyer, Times political correspondent Henry Zeffman said that:

Corbyn has led Labour into a nightmare of his own making. The veteran left-winger will never recant the views on Israel that he formed over decades in the political wilderness.

In the Daily Mail, the caption to the same 2010 photograph of Corbyn sitting with Meyer led with the word, ‘Offensive’.

And on and on it went in the ‘mainstream’ media.

Adri Nieuwhof, a Netherlands-based human rights advocate and former anti-apartheid activist, was a friend of Meyer, who died in 2014. In an article for Electronic Intifada, she wrote:

The 2010 Holocaust Memorial Day event took place the year after an Israeli assault on Gaza [Operation Cast Lead] that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and injured thousands more.

Meyer was very upset by the assault because Palestinians were trapped in Gaza due to the blockade on the territory that Israel imposed starting in 2007.

He could not help but compare the situation of Palestinians trapped under Israeli occupation and bombardment with Jews caged by the Nazis in ghettos like the Warsaw Ghetto.’

She added:

Those attacking Corbyn today have no restraint and no shame. They will even call a man who survived Auschwitz and lost his parents in the Holocaust an anti-Semite if they believe that is what it takes to shield Israel from consequences for its crimes.

Nasty abuse flung at the Labour leader has even come from supposed colleagues. Last month, right wing Labour MP Margaret Hodge called Jeremy Corbyn ‘a fucking anti-Semite and a racist’. The corporate media gleefully lapped up her outburst – the Guardian moved swiftly to grant her space to declare Labour ‘a hostile environment for Jews’ – and stoked the ‘Labour antisemitism row‘  for weeks afterwards, with over 500 articles to date according to our ProQuest newspaper database search.

Two days ago, Jewish Voice for Labour delivered a letter of complaint to the BBC, condemning a ‘lack of impartiality and inaccuracies’ in its reporting of Hodge’s allegations against Corbyn. Her accusations were ‘repeated numerous times without denial or opposing views’ by BBC News. Moreover, Hodge’s assertion that she represents the entire ‘Jewish community’ has been allowed to pass unchallenged.

Trashing a Dedicated Anti-Racist

Last month, the UK’s leading Jewish papers – Jewish News, Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Telegraph – all carried the same front page on ‘the community’s anger over Labour’s anti-Semitism row’. They had taken this unprecedented step because of:

the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government. We do so because the party that was, until recently, the natural home for our community has seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel.

These outrageous claims were rejected by Stephen Oryszczuk, foreign editor of Jewish News. He told The Canary:

It’s repulsive. This is a dedicated anti-racist we’re trashing. I just don’t buy into it at all.

He made three vital points:

1) Jeremy Corbyn is not an antisemite, and the Labour Party does not represent an ‘existential threat’ to Jewish people
2) The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism threatens free speech, and Labour was right to make amendments
3) The ‘mainstream’ Jewish media is failing to represent the diversity of Jewish opinion

The corporate news media itself is undoubtedly ‘failing to represent the diversity of Jewish opinion’. Worse, it has, in fact, been a willing accomplice in promoting and amplifying the pro-Israel narrative of a ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’. Consider a recent powerful piece by Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine, published in Mondoweiss:

As Jewish people in Manchester, England, we resent the despicable racism shown towards the Palestinians by Guardian stalwarts such as Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee, Jessica Elgott, Eddie Izzard, Nick Cohen, Marina Hyde and Gaby Hinsliff among others, all saturating comment sections on mainstream news websites with attacks designed to bring down the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and to protect Israel from accountability.

They added:

UK commentators take the morally defunct option of backing right wing mainstream Zionist organisations’ outrageous cries of “anti-Semitism” the moment Corbyn’s Labour get ahead in the polls, or the moment there is a risk of serious public condemnation of Israel’s horrific crimes against the Palestinians.

The article continued:

Why were Palestinians not consulted on the whole debate about Israel and anti-Semitism, when they are the people being slowly squeezed out of existence by Israel? Where are the Palestinian voices in the Guardian?

Where indeed?

We, as Jews, will not mindlessly pretend that protecting the Jewish people and protecting Israel are the same thing, on the hopeless say-so of a crew of establishment hacks at the Guardian.

The Manchester-based Jewish group singled out one prominent Guardian columnist, and former comment editor, for particularly heavy criticism:

‘Jonathan Freedland, one of the UK’s most effective propagandists for Israel, while giving Palestinians occasional lip service so he and the other liberal elitists can make doubtful claims to “impartiality”, has been the most relentless in his attacks on Corbyn. Freedland routinely uses his opinion editorial position in the Guardian to do more than most to “strong-arm” the Labour Party into backing the whole IHRA definition, flawed examples and all. It is unsurprising that he would push for the guideline, “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” to be included as anti-Semitic trope, given he is on record excusing the crime against humanity that was Israel’s foundational act – the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population in 1947/1948.

One of Freedland’s Guardian articles that the group must have had in mind was published last month under the title, ‘Yes, Jews are angry – because Labour hasn’t listened or shown any empathy’. Leon Rosselson, a children’s author and singer-songwriter whose Jewish parents were refugees from Tsarist Russia, argued that the article:

is a devious, dissembling, dishonest piece of special pleading that shames both Freedland and the Guardian.

Earlier this month, Corbyn himself had a piece in the Guardian in which he wrote:

I do acknowledge there is a real problem [of antisemitism] that Labour is working to overcome. […] We were too slow in processing disciplinary cases of antisemitic abuse, mostly online, by party members. And we haven’t done enough to foster deeper understanding of antisemitism among members.

A Telegraph editorial typified the corporate media’s reaction to Corbyn’s article:

he respond[ed] with Soviet-esque institutional lethargy… just the latest in a long line of obfuscations that betray a central fact: Labour’s leader is unhealthily obsessed with Israel, and tainted by association with fanatics.

Corbyn cannot do anything right in the eyes of the corporate media. As Rosselson said:

Corbyn concedes and Corbyn apologises and the more he concedes and the more he apologises the weaker his position becomes and still the pressure grows and the attacks continue because this is not really about antisemitism and definitions but about getting rid of Corbyn or undermining him to the point where he is powerless.

Sadly, the Labour leader has failed to properly address this relentless and vicious campaign, focusing instead on trying to fend off accusations of antisemitism. By sticking within this narrative framework set up by the powerful Israeli lobby, a twisted framework that can only be maintained with corporate media connivance, he and his colleagues have made a serious mistake. Asa Winstanley put it bluntly back in March:

Jeremy Corbyn must stop pandering to Labour’s Israel lobby.

Winstanley pointed out that the campaign has been going on for years, and he expanded:

Too many on the left seem to think: if we throw them a bone by sacrificing a few token “extremists,” the anti-Semitism story will die down and we can move on to the real business of electing a Labour government.

But years later, Labour is still being beaten with the same stick.

Any close observer of Israel and its lobby groups knows this: they cannot be appeased.

Other commentators have made the same point. An OffGuardian article in April, titled ‘Corbyn should learn his lesson: compromise with the devil is not an option’, observed:

Corbyn seems to think a few little compromises will get him accepted in the mainstream media. It pains me to say it, but this is fundamentally untrue. You can’t compromise with someone who wants nothing but your total destruction. Hopefully Corbyn has learned this lesson by now.

Sadly not, it appears. A Morning Star editorial correctly observes that Corbyn and his advisers:

fail to appreciate the ruthlessness of his opponents or the unrelenting nature of their goals.

Earlier this week, Winstanley published an article revealing yet another element of Israel’s intense campaign against Corbyn: the use of an app to promote propaganda messages via social media accusing Corbyn of antisemitism. The app is a product of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry which ‘directs Israel’s covert efforts to sabotage the Palestine solidarity movement around the world.’

As Jonathan Cook cogently explains on his website:

Labour is not suffering from an “anti-semitism crisis”; it is mired in an “Israel crisis”.

To those who bemoan that Corbyn and his team are not sufficiently ‘media-savvy’, that he has not done enough to present himself as ‘PM material’ via the press and television, David Traynier has written a strong rebuttal. Two essential facts need to be understood, he says: first, the corporate media ‘filter’ and distort the news as described by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their ‘propaganda model‘ of the media, introduced in Manufacturing Consent. Second, journalists and editors are themselves subjected to a ‘filtering’ process as they rise up the career ladder. They are selected for positions of ever-increasing responsibility only if they have demonstrated to corporate media owners, managers and senior editors that they can be trusted to say and do the ‘right’ things; even think the ‘right thoughts’. As Chomsky famously said to Andrew Marr, then the young political editor of the Independent and now with the BBC:

I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.

In short, says Traynier:

the idea that a socialist party simply needs to manage the press better is a nonsense. The corporate media is not there to be won over, it can’t be “managed” into giving Corbyn a fair hearing. In fact, once one understands how the media works, the burden of proof would rest with anyone those who claimed that it wouldn’t be biased against Corbyn.

Despite the intense campaign against Corbyn – and perhaps, in part, because of its obviously cynical and manipulative nature – many people are perceptive enough to see what is going on. Israel is the real problem.

Labour’s Crisis is Over Israel, Not Anti-semitism

If there is indeed an anti-semitism problem in the UK’s Labour party, it is not in the places where the British corporate media have been directing our attention. What can be said with even more certainty is that there is rampant hatred expressed towards Jews in the same British media that is currently decrying the supposed anti-semitism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Here is a piece of what I hope is wisdom, earned the hard way as a reporter in Israel over nearly two decades. I offer it in case it helps to resolve the confusion felt by some still pondering the endless reports of Labour’s supposed anti-semitism “crisis”.

Racism towards Palestinians

In the first year after my arrival in Israel in late 2001, during the most violent phase of Israel’s suppression of the Palestinians’ second intifada, I desperately tried to make sense of the events raging around me. Like most new reporters, I searched for experts – at that time, mostly left wing Israeli analysts and academics. But the more I listened, the less I understood. I felt like a ball in a pinball machine, bounced from one hair-trigger to the next.

My problem was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike my colleagues, I had chosen to locate myself in Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city in Israel, rather than in a Jewish area or in the occupied territories. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians seemed much more complex when viewed through the prism of Palestinian “citizens” living inside a self-declared Jewish state.

The Israeli experts I contacted deplored the brutality of the occupation unequivocally and in ways it was difficult not to admire, given the morass of anti-Palestinian sentiment and self-righteousness into which the rest of Israeli society was rapidly sinking. But each time I latched on to such an Israeli in the hope of deepening my own understanding, something they said would knock me sideways.

As readily as they condemned the occupation, they would laud the self-evidently bogus liberal democratic credentials of a Jewish state, one that I could see from my location in Nazareth was structurally organised to deny equal rights to its Palestinian citizens. Or the experts would echo the Israeli government’s inciteful claims that this largely quiescent Palestinian minority in Israel – a fifth of the population – was at best a demographic threat to the Jewish majority, and at worst a Trojan horse secretly working to destroy the Jewish state from within.

The very racism towards Palestinians in the occupied territories these experts eschewed, they readily flaunted when discussing Palestinians inside Israel. Were they really leftists or covert ethnic chauvinists?

Appearances can be deceptive

It was many months before I could make sense of this puzzle. An answer was only possible when I factored in the Israeli state’s official ideology: Zionism.

Israeli leftists who were also avowed Zionists – the vast majority of them – saw the conflict exclusively through the colonial prism of their own ethnic privilege. They didn’t much care for Palestinians or their rights. Their opposition to the occupation was barely related to the tangible harm it did to the Palestinian population.

Rather, they wanted an end to the occupation because they believed it brutalised and corrupted Israeli Jewish society, seeping into its pores like a toxin. Or they wanted the occupation to end because the combined populations of Palestinians in “Greater Israel” – in the occupied territories and inside Israel – would soon outnumber Jews, leading, they feared, to comparisons with apartheid South Africa. They wanted Israel out of all or most of the occupied territories, cutting off these areas like a gangrenous limb threatening the rest of the body’s health.

Only later, when I started to meet anti-Zionist Jews, did I find an opposition to the occupation rooted in a respect for the rights and dignity of the Palestinians in the territories. And because their position was an ethical, rights-based one, rather than motivated by opportunism and self-interest, these anti-Zionist Jews also cared about ending discrimination against the one in five Israeli citizens who were Palestinian. Unlike my experts, they were morally consistent.

I raise this, because the lesson I eventually learnt was this: you should never assume that, because someone has adopted a moral position you share, their view is based on the moral principles that led you to adopt that position. The motives of those you stand alongside can be very different from your own. People can express a morally sound view for morally dubious, or even outright immoral, reasons. If you ally yourself with such people, you will invariably be disappointed or betrayed.

There was another, more particular lesson. Ostensible support for Palestinians may in fact be cover for other ways of oppressing them.

And so it has been with most of those warning of an anti-semitism “crisis” in Labour. Anti-semitism, like all racisms, is to be denounced. But not all denunciations of it are what they seem. And not all professions of support for Palestinians should be taken at face value.

The vilification of Corbyn

Most reasonable observers, especially if they are not Jewish, instinctively recoil from criticising a Jew who is highlighting anti-semitism. It is that insulation from criticism, that protective shield, that encouraged Labour MP Margaret Hodge recently to launch in public a verbal assault on Corbyn, vilifying him, against all evidence, as an “anti-semite and racist”.

It was that same protective shield that led to Labour officials dropping an investigation of Hodge, even though it is surely beyond doubt that her actions brought the party “into disrepute” – in this case, in a flagrant manner hard to imagine being equalled. This is the same party, remember, that recently expelled Marc Wadsworth, a prominent black anti-racism activist, on precisely those grounds after he accused Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth of colluding with right wing newspapers to undermine Corbyn.

The Labour party is so hamstrung by fears about anti-semitism, it seems, that it decided that an activist (Wadsworth) denigrating a Labour MP (Smeeth) is more damaging to the party’s reputation than a Labour MP (Hodge) vilifying the party’s leader (Corbyn). In this twisted set of priorities, a suspicion of possible racism towards a Jewish MP served to justify actual racism against a black party activist.

But the perversion of Labour party values goes much further. Recent events have proven that party officials have decisively prioritised the rights of diehard supporters of Israel among British Jewry to defend Israel at all costs over the right of others, including Jews, to speak out about the continuing brutalisation of Palestinians by Israel’s occupation regime.

Hodge and the other Labour MPs trumpeting anti-semitism might be entitled to the benefit of the doubt – that they truly fear anti-semitism is on the rise in the Labour party – had they not repeatedly indulged in the kind of anti-semitism they themselves have deplored.

What do I mean?

When they speak of an anti-semitism “crisis” in the party, these Labour MPs – and the fervently pro-Israel lobby groups behind them like the Jewish Labour Movement – intentionally gloss over the fact that many of the prominent activists who have been investigated, suspended or expelled for anti-semitism in recent months – fuelling the claim of a “crisis” – are in fact Jewish.

Why are the “Jewish” sensitivities of Margaret Hodge, Ruth Smeeth or Louise Ellman more important than those of Moshe Machover, Tony Greenstein, Cyril Chilson, Jackie Walker or Glyn Secker – all Labour activists who have found their sensitivities, as Jews opposing the abuse of Palestinians, count for little or nothing among Labour officials? Why must we tiptoe around Hodge because she is Jewish, ignoring her bullygirl tactics to promote her political agenda in defence of Israel, but crack down on Greenstein and Chilson, even though they are Jewish, to silence their voices in defence of the rights of Palestinians?

‘Wrong kind of Jews’

The problem runs deeper still. Labour MPs like Hodge, Smeeth, Ellman and John Mann have stoked the anti-semitic predilections of the British media, which has been only too ready to indict “bad Jews” while extolling “good Jews”.

That was only too evident earlier this year when Corbyn tried to put out the fire that such Labour MPs had intentionally fuelled. He joined Jewdas, a satirical left wing Jewish group that is critical of Israel, for a Passover meal. He was roundly condemned for the move.

Jewdas were declared by right wing Jewish establishment organisations like the Board of Deputies and by the British corporate media as the “wrong kind of Jews”, or even as not “real” Jews. In the view of the Board and the media, Corbyn was tainted by his association with them.

How are Jewdas the “wrong kind of Jews”? Because they do not reflexively kneel before Israel. Ignore Corbyn for a moment. Did Labour MPs Hodge, Ellman or Smeeth speak out in the defence of fellow Jews under attack over their Jewishness? No, they did not.

If Greenstein and Chilson are being excommunicated as (Jewish) “anti-semites” for their full-throated condemnations of Israel’s institutional racism, why are Hodge and Ellman not equally anti-semites for their collusion in the vilification of supposedly “bad” or “phoney” Jews like Jewdas, Greenstein and Chilson.

It should be clear that this anti-semitism “crisis” is not chiefly about respecting Jewish sensitivities or even about Jewish identity. It is about protecting the sensitivities of some Jews on Israel, a state oppressing and dispossessing the Palestinian people.

Policing debates on Israel

When the Guardian’s senior columnist Jonathan Freedland insists that his Jewish identity is intimately tied to Israel, and that to attack Israel is to attack him personally, he is demanding the exclusive right to police the parameters of discussions about Israel. He is asserting his right, over the rights of other Jews – and, of course, Palestinians – to determine what the boundaries of political discourse on Israel are, and where the red lines denoting anti-semitism are drawn.

This is why Labour MPs like Hodge and journalists like Freedland are at the centre of another confected anti-semitism row in the Labour party: over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-semitism and an associated set of examples. They want all the IHRA’s examples adopted by Labour, not just most of them.

There are very clear, existing definitions of anti-semitism. They are variations of the simple formulation: “Anti-semitism is the hatred of Jews for being Jews.” But the IHRA takes this clear definition and muddies it to the point that all sorts of political debates can be viewed as potentially anti-semitic, as leading jurists have warned (see here and here).

That is only undercored by the fact that a majority of the IHRA’s examples of anti-semitism relate to Israel – a nuclear-armed state now constitutionally designed to privilege Jews over non-Jews inside its recognised borders and engaged in a half-century of brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people outside its borders.

To be fair to the drafters of the IHRA guidelines, these examples were supposed only to be treated as potentially anti-semitic, depending on the context. That is the express view of the definition’s drafter, Kenneth Stern, a Jewish lawyer, who has warned that the guidelines are being perverted to silence criticism of Israel and stifle free speech.

And who are leading precisely the moves that Stern has warned against? People like Jonathan Freedland and Margaret Hodge, cheered on by large swaths of Labour MPs, who have strongly implied that Corbyn and his allies in the party are anti-semitic for sharing Stern’s concerns.

Hodge and Freedland are desperate to strong-arm the Labour party into setting the IHRA guidelines in stone, as the unchallengeable, definitive new definition of anti-semitism. That will relieve them of the arduous task of policing those discourse boundaries on the basis of evidence and of context. They will have a ready-made, one-size-fits-all definition to foreclose almost all serious debate about Israel.

Want to suggest that Israel’s new Nation-State Law, giving Jewish citizens constitutionally guaranteed rights denied to non-Jewish citizens, is proof of the institutional racism on which political Zionism is premised and that was enshrined in the founding principles of the state of Israel? Well, you just violated one of the IHRA guidelines by arguing that Israel is a “racist endeavour”. If Freedland and Hodge get their way, you would be certain to be declared an anti-semite and expelled from the Labour party.

Grovelling apology

Revealing how cynical this manoeuvring by Hodge, Freedland and others is, one only has to inspect the faux-outrage over the latest “anti-semitism crisis” involving Corbyn. He has been forced to make a grovelling apology – one that deeply discredits him – for hosting an anti-racism conference in 2010 at which a speaker made a comparison between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the Nazis’ treatment of Jews. That violated another of the IHRA examples.

But again, what none of these anti-semitism warriors has wanted to highlight is that the speaker given a platform at the conference was the late Hajo Meyer, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who dedicated his later years to supporting Palestinian rights. Who, if not Meyer, deserved the right to make such a comparison? And to imply that he was an anti-semite because he prioritised Palestinian rights over the preservation of Israel’s privileges for Jews is truly contemptible.

In fact, it is more than that. It is far closer to anti-semitism than the behaviour of Jewish critics of Israel like Greenstein and Chilson, who have been expelled from the Labour party. To intentionally exploit and vilify a Holocaust survivor for cheap, short-term political advantage – in an attempt to damage Corbyn – is malevolence of the worst kind.

Having stoked fears of an anti-semitism crisis, Hodge, Freedland and others have actively sought to obscure the wider context in which it must be judged – as, in large part, a painful debate raging inside the Jewish community. It is a debate between fervently pro-Israel Jewish establishment groups and a growing body of marginalised anti-Zionist Jewish activists who wish to show solidarity with the Palestinians. Labour is not suffering from an “anti-semitism crisis”; it is mired in an “Israel crisis”.

‘Repulsive’ campaign

In their silence about the abuses of Meyer, Jewdas, Greenstein, Chilson and many others, Freedland and Hodge have shown that they do not really care about the safety or sensitivities of Jews. What they chiefly care about is protecting their chosen cause of Israel, and crippling the chances of a committed supporter of Palestinian rights from ever reaching power. They are prepared to sacrifice other Jews, even victims of the Holocaust, as well as the Labour party itself, for that kind of political gain.

Hodge and Freedland are behaving as though they are decent Jews, the only ones who have the right to a voice and to sensitivities. They are wrong.

They are like the experts I first met in Israel who concealed their racism towards Palestinians by flaunting their self-serving anti-occupation credentials. Under the cover of concerns about anti-semitism, Freedland and Hodge have helped stoke hatred – either explicitly or through their silence – towards the “wrong kind of Jews”, towards Jews whose critical views of Israel they fear.

It does not have to be this way. Rather than foreclose it, they could allow a debate to flourish within Britain’s Jewish community and within the Labour party. They could admit that not only is there no evidence that Corbyn is racist, but that he has clearly been committed to fighting racism all his life.

Don’t want to take my word for it? You don’t have to. Listen instead to Stephen Oryszczuk, foreign editor of the Corbyn-hating Jewish News. His newspaper was one of three Jewish weeklies that recently published the same front-page editorial claiming that Corbyn was an “existential threat” to British Jews.

Oryszczuk, even if no friend to the Labour leader, deplored the behaviour of his own newspaper. In an interview, he observed of this campaign to vilify Corbyn: “It’s repulsive. This is a dedicated anti-racist we’re trashing. I just don’t buy into it at all.” He added of Corbyn: “I don’t believe he’s antisemitic, nor do most reasonable people. He’s anti-Israel and that’s not the same.”

Oryszczuk conceded that some people were weaponising anti-semitism and that these individuals were “certainly out to get him [Corbyn]”. Unlike Freedland and Hodge, he was also prepared to admit that some voices in the Jewish community were being actively silenced: “It’s partly our fault, in the mainstream Jewish media. We could – and arguably should – have done a better job at giving a voice to Jews who think differently, for which I personally feel a little ashamed. … On Israel today, what you hear publicly tends to be very uniform.”

Marching for Peace: From Helmand to Hiroshima

I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese “Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers” who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism.  While we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe.  The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.

The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: “Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don’t die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy.”

The Japanese peace walkers marched to specifically halt the construction of a U.S. airfield and port with an ammunition depot in Henoko, Okinawa, which will be accomplished by landfilling Oura Bay, a habitat for the dugong and unique coral hundreds of years old, but many more lives are endangered. Kamoshita Shonin, a peace walk organizer who lives in Okinawa, says:

People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.

Sadly, the two unconnected marches shared one tragic cause as motivation.

Recent U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan include the deliberate targeting of civilian wedding parties and funerals, incarceration without trial and torture in Bagram prison camp, the bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz, the dropping of the ‘Mother of all bombs’ in Nangarhar, illegal transportation of Afghans to secret black site prisons, Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the extensive use of armed drones. Elsewhere the U.S. has completely destabilised the Middle East and Central Asia, according to The Physicians for Social Responsibility, in a report released in 2015, stated that the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone killed close to 2 million, and that the figure was closer to 4 million when tallying up the deaths of civilians caused by the U.S. in other countries, such as Syria and Yemen.

The Japanese group intend to offer prayers of peace this Monday at Hiroshima ground zero, 73 years to the day after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city, instantly evaporating 140,000 lives, arguably one of the worst ‘single event’ war crimes committed in human history. Three days later the U.S. hit Nagasaki instantly killing 70,000. Four months after the bombing the total death toll had reached 280,000 as injuries and the impact of radiation doubled the number of fatalities.

Today Okinawa, long a target for discrimination by Japanese authorities, accommodates 33 U.S. military bases, occupying 20% of the land, housing some 30,000 plus U.S. Marines who carry out dangerous training exercises ranging from rope hangs suspended out of Osprey helicopters (often over built-up residential areas), to jungle trainings which run straight through villages, arrogantly using people’s gardens and farms as mock conflict zones. Of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, many to most would have trained on Okinawa, and even flown out directly from the Japanese Island to U.S. bases such as Bagram.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan the walkers, who call themselves the ‘People’s Peace Movement’, are following up their heroic ordeal with protests outside various foreign embassies in Kabul.  This week they are outside the Iranian Embassy demanding an end to Iranian interference in Afghan matters and their equipping armed militant groups in the country. It is lost on no-one in the region that the U.S., which cites such Iranian interference as its pretext for building up towards a U.S.-Iran war, is an incomparably more serious supplier of deadly arms and destabilizing force to the region. They have staged sit-in protests outside the U.S., Russian, Pakistani and U.K. embassies, as well as the U.N. offices in Kabul.

The head of their impromptu movement, Mohammad Iqbal Khyber, says the group have formed a committee comprised of elders and religious scholars. The assignment of the committee is to travel from Kabul to Taliban-controlled areas to negotiate peace.

The U.S. have yet to describe its long term or exit strategy for Afghanistan. Last December Vice President Mike Pence addressed U.S. troops in Bagram: “I say with confidence, because of all of you and all those that have gone before and our allies and partners, I believe victory is closer than ever before.”

But time spent walking doesn’t bring your destination closer when you don’t have a map.  More recently U.K. ambassador for Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay, while speaking on how to resolve conflict in Afghanistan said: “I don’t have the answer.”  There never was a military answer for Afghanistan.  Seventeen years of ‘coming closer to victory’ in eliminating a developing nation’s domestic resistance is what is called “defeat,” but the longer the war goes on, the greater the defeat for Afghanistan’s people.

Historically the U.K. has been closely wedded to the U.S. in their ‘special relationship’, sinking British lives and money into every conflict the U.S. has initiated. This means the U.K. was complicit in dropping 2,911 weapons on Afghanistan in the first 6 months of 2018, and in President Trump’s greater-than-fourfold average increase on the number of bombs dropped daily by his warlike predecessors. Last month Prime Minister Theresa May increased the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan to more than 1,000, the biggest U.K. military commitment to Afghanistan since David Cameron withdrew all combat troops four years ago.

Unbelievably, current headlines read that after 17 years of fighting, the U.S. and Afghan Government are considering collaboration with the extremist Taliban in order to defeat ISKP, the local ‘franchise’ of Daesh.

Meanwhile UNAMA has released its mid-year assessment of the harm done to civilians. It found that more civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when UNAMA started systematic monitoring. This was despite the Eid ul-Fitr ceasefire, which all parties to the conflict, apart from ISKP, honoured.

Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict. An average of nineteen civilians, including five children, were injured every day.

This October Afghanistan will enter its 18th year of war with the U.S. and supporting NATO countries. Those young people now signing up to fight on all sides were in nappies when 9/11 took place. As the ‘war on terror’ generation comes of age, their status quo is perpetual war, a complete brainwashing that war is inevitable, which was the exact intention of warring decision makers who have become exceedingly rich of the spoils of war.

Optimistically there is also a generation who are saying “no more war, we want our lives back”, perhaps the silver lining of the Trump cloud is that people are finally starting to wake up and see the complete lack of wisdom behind the U.S. and its hostile foreign and domestic policies, while the people follow in the steps of non-violent peace makers such as Abdul Ghafoor Khan, the change is marching from the bottom up.

Okinawa to Hiroshima Peace Walk (Photo by Maya Evans)

Israel Wreaks Terror on Another Harmless Mercy Ship

How revealing! How ironic!

It is Jeremy Corbyn’s misfortune to be surrounded by witless blabbermouths whose unbridled remarks are a gift to Israel lobby propagandists. And while mainstream media in the UK were, as usual, whipping up an anti-Semitism ruckus orchestrated against the Labour Party leader, Israel was busy committing yet another outrage on the high seas against a humanitarian aid vessel peacefully carrying urgently-needed medical supplies for the desperate citizens of blockaded Gaza.

SOSjustfuture4Palestine issued a statement saying:

The Israeli Occupation Forces violently attacked our Norwegian flagged boat Al Awda (‘The Return’) as she was in international waters…. Armed, masked soldiers boarded Al Awda without permission. They assaulted several unarmed participants by hitting them and using tasers.

Reuters (Oslo) reported that the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry demanded the Israeli authorities clarify the circumstances around the seizure of the vessel and the legal basis for the intervention. Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Zaher Birawi, has said he’s holding Israel fully responsible for the safety of the activists, and stressed that Israel will be prosecuted for the “crime of kidnapping” the Freedom Flotilla ship and its activists, who did not impose a threat to Israel’s security.

British media and Government are deaf, blind and dumb to the enormity of the situation despite the fact that aboard the Al Awda were unarmed activists from 16 nations including 69 year-old British surgeon Dr Swee Ang who has helped medical teams in Gaza on many occasions. And it’s the duty of governments to protect their citizens wherever they may be, especially when they are attacked in international waters.

Early reports said there was blood on the decks and Dr Swee was hit and tasered by Israel’s military thugs. She is now back in the UK after 2 days in Girvon prison but many others are still locked up. Dr Swee has just sent this message:

I was deported from Israeli prison this morning and arrived back at London.

The Israeli Army have stolen my two mobile phones, my camera and most of my clothes and belonging so it is not possible to communicate by phone until I get a new one. But email is still working and I have just arrived home. I have made an audio of the events of 29 July onwards and how our unarmed boat with US$ 15,000 of gauze, wound dressings and antibiotics was abducted from International Waters while on our way to Gaza and taken by force to Ashdod in Israel by the Israeli Army where all 22 participants were subjected to multiple strip searches and then put in Givon prison. There are still participants in prison as I send this to you.

Meanwhile the British Government doesn’t seem in the least bothered by Israel’s breach of  the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Of course, both Israel and the UK have ‘form’ and we’ve been here many times before. Nine years ago (July 2009) I found myself writing this:

Britain’s foreign secretary David Miliband – or rather, someone on his behalf – has written to me about the government’s response to Israel’s hijacking of the mercy ship Spirit of Humanity on the high seas and the outrageous treatment of six peace-loving British citizens (including the skipper), en route to Gaza not Israel, who had their gear stolen or damaged and were thrown into Israeli jails. The letter contains the usual meaningless expressions like ‘deplore’ and ‘press’ and ‘raise the issue’, which are the familiar hallmark of Foreign Office mentality.

Miliband’s spokesman says: “The Israeli Navy took control of the Spirit of Humanity on 30 June, diverting it to Ashdod port in Israel. All those on board, including six British nationals, were handed over to Israeli immigration officials. British consular officials had good access to the British detainees and established that they were treated well. The Israeli authorities deported the detainees on 6 July.”

Treated well? That’s not what the peaceful seafarers say. They were assaulted, put in fear of their lives and deprived of their liberty for fully a week – a long time in a stinking Israeli jail.

Miliband’s spokesman: “The Foreign Secretary said in the House of Commons on 30 June that it was ‘vital that all states respect international law, including the law of the sea. It is also important to say that we deplore the interference by the Israeli navy in the activities of Gazan fishermen.”

Such fine words. Where is the action to back them up?

Miliband’s spokesman: “When the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on 1 July he raised the issue with him and asked for clarification about whether or not the Spirit of Humanity had been intercepted in international waters. We will continue to press the Israeli authorities for clarification.”

It’s well over a week and Lieberman hasn’t clarified anything. Was the Israeli ambassador in London summoned and given a dressing down? Has London demanded compensation for the Britishers’ losses and damage? Has the boat and its cargo been returned? Have arrangements been made for the aid to be delivered? Our Zionist-leaning government apparently takes pleasure in Britain’s repeated humiliation. Not long ago the British consul-general in Tel Aviv (a woman) was strip-searched by Israeli security perverts.

Miliband’s spokesman: “We regularly remind the Israeli government of its obligations under international law on a variety of issues, including with respect to humanitarian access to Gaza as well as Israel’s control of Gazan waters and the effect this has on Gaza’s fishing industry.”

Ever get the feeling they’ve switched off their collective hearing aid? What is the point of obligations if they never have to be met?

Miliband’s spokesman: “As I said on the phone, our Travel Advice makes clear that we advise against all travel to Gaza, including its offshore waters; that it is reckless to travel to Gaza at this time…. The UK has been unequivocal in its calls for Israel to lessen restrictions at the Gaza crossings, allowing the legitimate flow of humanitarian aid, trade and reconstruction goods and the movement of people. This is essential not only for the people of Gaza, but also for the wider stability of the region.”

“Unequivocal”? “Essential”? More splendid but empty words. The needs of the crushed and devastated and half-starved people of Gaza have been urgent for 3 years, ever since Britain ganged up with the Zionist axis to bring Gaza to its knees.

Miliband’s spokesman: “Recent events in Gaza are a tragic reminder of the importance of progress on the peace process.”

No kidding……. They are also a tragic reminder of the West’s perverse failure in its duty to enforce compliance with international law, human rights and UN resolutions.

Miliband’s spokesman: “The UK, with the support of our international allies, will continue to pursue vigorously a comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution, involving a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state.”

But never vigorously enough. The world is still waiting….

That was 9 years ago. Why does London perpetuate the blockade of Gaza by colluding in Israel’s unlawful conduct? Where are the consequences and penalties for breaching international law and all codes of human decency?

Part of the problem is the Interim Agreement signed in 1995 that allowed the Israelis to weave a tangled web of security zoning in Gaza’s coastal waters leaving Israel in charge and dictating what happens off-shore and who comes and goes. It’s the sort of agreement no Palestinian would have signed unless under extreme duress.

Being ‘interim’ these restrictions were not expected to last beyond 1999. But they were still in force in 2009 and they are still in force in 2018. Why?

Gaza blockade illegal, illegal, illegal

Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law…  the flotilla acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade.

That was the conclusion of the UN’s Palmer inquiry under its then Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

It is completely at odds with what other experts have said. The UN itself had already accepted that Israel’s blockade is illegal. One of its own fact-finding missions declared that it constituted collective punishment of the people living in the Gaza Strip and thus was illegal and contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The action by Israel’s military in intercepting the aid ship Mavi Marmara on the high seas in 2010, an assault in which 10 crew and activists were killed, was “clearly unlawful” and couldn’t be justified even under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations [the right of self-defence].

No case can be made for the legality of the interception and the Mission therefore finds that the interception was illegal.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights also concluded that the Israeli blockade is illegal.

Due both to the legal nature of Israel’s relationship to Gaza – that of occupier – and the impact of the blockade on the civilian population, amounting to ‘collective punishment’, the blockade cannot be reconciled with the principles of international law, including international humanitarian law… The flotilla did not seek to travel to Israel, let alone ‘attack’ Israel… Israel could have diplomatically engaged Turkey, arranged for a third party to verify there were no weapons onboard and then peacefully guided the vessel to Gaza.

Craig Murray also knows a thing or two about such matters, having headed the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was responsible for giving political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, to enforce the UN authorised blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments. He commented:

Right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas… Israel has declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.

But, he explains, San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict.

Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict… San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.

Furthermore, Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) emphasizes “the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings” and calls for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment”. Israel has imposed a land blockade for decades and still has a hand in keeping Gaza’s land crossing with Egypt closed. The 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel is also ignored. So the only sensible channel for “unimpeded provision and distribution” is by sea.

The Palmer inquiry was about as warped as it could get. The Terms of Reference said it was “required to obtain its information from the two nations primarily involved in its inquiry, Turkey and Israel, and other affected States…. The information for the Panel’s work came primarily through its interactions with the Points of Contact designated by Israel and Turkey.”

The 4-man panel included a representative each from the governments of Turkey and Israel, and was headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer (Chair) and Alvaro Uribe, 58th president of Colombia. Palmer was the 33rd prime minister of New Zealand if that’s any consolation. Note the absence of anyone to represent the views of the party targeted by the blockade. Ban Ki-Moon didn’t think it necessary to invite someone from (horror of horrors) the government of Gaza.

Consequently the inquiry’s findings included this gem:

It would be illegal if its imposition [i.e. the blockade] was intended to starve or to collectively punish the civilian population. However, there is no material before the Panel that would permit a finding confirming the allegations that Israel had either of those intentions or that the naval blockade was imposed in retaliation for the take-over of Hamas in Gaza or otherwise. On the contrary, it is evident that Israel had a military objective. The stated primary objective of the naval blockade was for security. It was to prevent weapons, ammunition, military supplies and people from entering Gaza and to stop Hamas operatives sailing away from Gaza with vessels filled with explosives… The earliest maritime interception operations to prevent weapons smuggling to Gaza predated the 2007 take-over of Hamas in Gaza. The actual naval blockade was imposed more than one year after that event. These factors alone indicate it was not imposed to punish its citizens for the election of Hamas.

Palmer’s report oozes bias and makes sickening reading. For example, it refers to “the takeover of Gaza” by Hamas when Hamas, as everyone else knows, was democratically elected in 2006. And Israeli gunboats were already shelling Gaza and shooting up Gazan fishing boats when I was there in 2007.

Then this warning from Palmer…

Once a blockade has been lawfully established, it needs to be understood that the blockading power can attack any vessel breaching the blockade if after prior warning the vessel intentionally and clearly refuses to stop or intentionally and clearly resists visit, search or capture. There is no right within those rules to breach a lawful blockade as a right of protest. Breaching a blockade is therefore a serious step involving the risk of death or injury.

Given that risk, it is in the interests of the international community to actively discourage attempts to breach a lawfully imposed blockade.

So a green light to the rogue state to violently assault any humanitarian vessel approaching Gaza’s waters. What does this whitewash mean for the Palestinians’ bid for statehood? Must the newly fledged state begin its young life with a land and sea blockade in place because Palmer and Uribe say it’s all legal and above-board and Israel’s security comes first? Let us not forget that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are under blockade too.

As for Israel’s constant claim that the primary purpose of the blockade is security, a Wikileaks cable from 2008 reads:

As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to [U.S. embassy economic officers] on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” Israel wanted it “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis”.

And according to documents released under a Freedom of Information petition by Gisha, an Israeli law centre, Israel operated “a policy of deliberate reduction” of basic goods in the Gaza Strip. Gisha’s director accused Israel of “paralyzing normal life in Gaza”. The documents confirmed that the siege was not for security reasons but aimed at keeping Gazans at near-starvation level. Since around half the population are growing children this act of collective punishment has meant that hundreds of thousands are undernourished.

And the civilised world stands idly by.

Can Afghans convince us that the method of war isn’t effective?

Can Afghans convince us that the method of war doesn’t work?

Consider their thirst to end the war.

If we’re still quietly hoping that wars would end and people all over the world would get along peacefully, the dreams and demands of the Helmand Peace Convoy would give us courage and evidence.

When Amanullah Khateb joined the Convoy, now called the People’s Peace Movement ( PPM ), he didn’t know that he would not see his wife again. With poor access to healthcare services, she recently died of appendicitis, leaving behind Khateb and three children.

But Khateb wants peace so intensely that he rejoined the PPM after his wife’s funeral. This desire is shared by each of the members of the PPM. They want all groups involved in the Afghan war to stop fighting, including the Taliban and the U.S./NATO/Afghan forces.

Muhammad Ahmadi from Nuristan Province, told Radio Liberty’s Pashto service that “Afghan peace is needed for Afghans like water for a thirsty man.”

Women in Helmand at a sit-in protest on the 26th March 2018 (Photo taken off Tolo News Video)

 

The young want peace (Photo by Dr Hakim)

 

The old want peace (Photo by Dr Hakim)

Think about why Afghans say that war isn’t effective

These Afghans aren’t political or peace activists. They are farmers, labourers, students, teachers, fathers, mothers and siblings who have tasted the failure of war. For them, war not only doesn’t work, it results in more war, verifying a report that in the ongoing ‘global war against terrorism’ from 2001 to 2015, terrorism increased nine fold.

This increase in terrorism is despite huge war investments in Helmand over the past 17 years, recorded under different names such as Operation Enduring Freedom, Mountain Thrust, Volcano, Kryptonite, Silver as part of Operation Achilles, Silicon, Pickaxe-Handle, Hammer, Eagles’ Eye, Red Dagger, Blue Sword, Panther’s Claw, Khanjar, Moshtarak…..

British troops had fired 46 million rounds of ammunition at the Taliban during eight years of combat in Helmand.

Britain’s Afghan envoy between 2007 and 2010, Sherard Cowper-Coles reviewed Investment in Blood: the True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War by Frank Ledwidge and wrote of the utter, unanswerable folly of Britain’s military intervention in Halmand.

Empathize with how war causes us to lose our minds, our loved ones, and our everything

In 2013, while on his tour of duty in Helmand, Prince Harry had said that shooting Hellfire Missiles at insurgents was like ‘playing video games’. In response, the Taliban said that Prince Harry had probably developed a mental problem. The Taliban themselves have mental illnesses. Afghan psychiatrist Dr Nader Alemi treated the Taliban as human beings though he disagreed with their ideology. He described his Taliban patients as ‘depressed because they never knew what would happen from one minute to the next.’  They were so depressed ‘many wanted to die‘. The Taliban would weep and Dr Nader would comfort them.

The psychological trauma and physical deprivations that war imposes on Afghan children like 15-year-old Kahar should also alert us. With his family, Kahar was displaced from Helmand to Kabul where he attended the Borderfree Street Kids School run by the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Kahar had said:  “I fled from war in Helmand.  I want to live in Kabil or anywhere that is good.”

Kahar says: “Jang bas ast! Enough War!”

But, Kabul’s security deteriorated. Kahar and his family returned from the frying pan into fiery Helmand, where it was reported in 2017 that ‘over the past 15 years Helmand had lost 18,000 policemen’ and where, in July 2018, 600.000 children were reported to be deprived of an education.

What’s more, the older members of the PPM have tasted another crisis that was ignored amidst the frenzy and fray of war: by 2001, the Hamoun Oasis of the Sistan in Helmand was turning from a wetland to a dry wasteland. The desert was getting more desert-y,

A similar water and war crisis is gripping Afghanistan today, with many people in Ghor, Baghdis, Faryab and Jowzjan fleeing drought, hunger and war to take refuge elsewhere.

People just cannot survive.

Like the ordinary folk of the People’s Peace Movement, help one another to make war a method of the past

Therefore, the PPM had every good reason to erect a tent outside the British Embassy in Kabul and to demand that the UK help to end the war. To them, ending the war is a matter of life and death.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) met the PPM members in their blue tent last Sunday.

Iqbal Khyber, one of the representatives of the PPM, told the APVs, “We’ve been inspired by your story, and have worn the Borderfree Blue Scarves, telling people that peace is the wish of Peace Volunteers from Bamiyan.” Bamiyan was where the work of the APVs began, but the Volunteers responded, “The scarves really represent everyone’s desire to have peace, so please tell others the scarves represent the wish of the people.”

The Afghan Peace Volunteers with members of the People’s Peace Movement, outside the UK Embassy in Kabul (Photo by Dr Hakim)

One of the APVs, Ghulam Hussein, asked, “Are you eventually going to form an organization?”

Iqbal replied, “No, we want this to be a people’s movement. We won’t accept monetary support from any government or political group, and we don’t want power. When we’ve achieved peace, we will go back to what we were doing, farming, livestock keeping, teaching….”

That hot summer morning, in the tent, there was clear and beautiful evidence that “We are many.”

Both members of the People’s Peace Movement and the Afghan Peace Volunteers are calling on the people of the world to join them in solidarity.

Awake, arise, smile, walk!

For the Few, Not the Many

The relationship between Zionism and the Jews has been the source of confusion for many years. Both Zionists and the so called ‘anti’ have preached to us that ‘not all Jews are Zionists’ and ‘Judaism is not Zionism.’

But we are confused no more. Two weeks ago,  the chief rabbi of Britain together with 68 other rabbis mounted  pressure on the Labour party to change its ‘anti-semitsm code.’ The British rabbis were upset because, although Labour generally adopted  the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism, left out of Labour’s definition were four examples from the IHRA that restrict criticism of Israel1  The Labour party seems to believe that it is kosher to criticise an ethnic cleansing state that deploys snipers against unarmed protestors. Chief Rabbi Mirvis couldn’t agree less. He told the BBC that it is “astonishing that the Labour Party presumes it is more qualified to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.” The clear message is that, at least from a rabbinical perspective, the distinction between Zionism and Judaism is nebulous to nonexistent.

Last Friday the so-called British Jewish ‘establishment’ went a dangerous step further.  Britain’s three main Jewish newspapers were emblazoned with identical front pages. Under the headline “United We Stand”, they all claimed that a Jeremy Corbyn-led government would be an “existential threat to Jewish life” in the UK. The British Jewish leadership insists that Britain’s No.1 anti-racist is a Hitler type. I would like to believe that this is just the latest phase in Jewish humour. But the Jewish papers appeared damn serious.  Stephen Pollard, Editor of the JC, said in a Sky interview, that while a teeny tiny minority of British Jews  are fine with what is going on with the Labour party, “we are saying to the Jewish community, we’re united, the media is united behind you, the community is united.” It seems that the Jewish media establishment also sees the alleged ‘dichotomy’ between Jews and Zionists as a false dichotomy.

Since the British Jewish leadership seems to be united more than ever, we are left with no other option but to dig into the belly of the beast in order to grasp what seems an unprecedented outburst of collective Jewish Corbyn phobia.

I admit that, like the British Jewish leadership, I am upset by Corbyn and Labour’s attitude to the IHRA definition. My reasons though are very different. I would expect the Labour party to adhere to its universal values and reject the IHRA definition altogether. This is an anti universalist definition. It prefers one people over all the rest.

Racism and bigotry, I hope we all agree, are bad. But racism and bigotry are not that difficult to define. We are dealing with an expression of hatred or discrimination against X for being X  (X might be Black, a Woman, a Jew, a Gay person, or a member of any other such group). This definition is universal and sufficient to tackle any form of racism including anti Jewish bigotry. In contrast, the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism suggests that Jews are actually not people like all other people. We have yet to see an international working definition of racism against Blacks or a working definition that addresses anti Muslim bigotry. The IHRA’s working definition confirms that Jews, at least in their eyes, are somehow chosen. The fact that British institutions have adopted such an exclusivist definition may suggest that Britain is drifting away from its universal heritage. This is, obviously,  an alarming news for everyone including Jews.

That the IHRA’s working definition is treated as an ‘international’ definition and is pushed globally by different pro-Israeli pressure groups also suggests that, at least in the eyes of leading Jewish bodies, Jews are once again hated globally. I do not believe that this is the case, but the Jews who buy into this tormenting line of thought should ask themselves how this is happening again just 70 years after the Holocaust. After all, this is exactly what Zionism and Israel vowed to prevent.

Zionism promised to make Jews people like all other people. Early Zionists thinkers diagnosed some very problematic traits in Jewish diaspora culture. The Labour Zionists were upset by what they saw as the ‘non-proletarian’ nature of Jewish diaspora society. They were disturbed by the proximity between Jews and capital. They were also troubled by a lack of proletarian spirit amongst their brethren. Some early Zionists including Herzl were worried about the concept of the ‘court Jew,’ the Jew who bought political influence through financial support of monarchs and royals. In that regard, early Zionism promised to take the Jews away – to relieve the Goyim of Jewish political lobbying and pressure groups.

If we examine the IHRA’s working definition within a Zionist ideological framework we find that the definition may provide the most anti-Zionist statement in Zionist history. The definition highlights the notion that Jews aren’t people like all other people but are in need of special and particular treatment. The definition treats the Zionist’s promise to make the Jews respected and loved as a complete failure, and it contemplates that anti-semitsm is back. The IHRA’s definition also confirms that the Jewish State is not a state like all other states; no other state bothers to restrict criticism of its politics by others.

As things stand, the only genuine principled Zionist left in the world of politics is Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy, like the early Zionists, insists that Jews are indeed people like all other people. Jeremy believes that Israel is a state like all other states and is, accordingly, subject to criticism.

Jeremy’s blunt anti racism is at the core of the Jewish leadership’s feud with him. Jeremy preaches to the Brits a simple unifying message namely, ‘For the Many Not the Few.’ The Jewish leadership and their embarrassing IHRA definition seem to push the opposite – For the few, not the many.

  1. Examples of anti-semitsm’ rejected by the Labour Party:

    1. Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
    2. Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
    3. Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
    4. Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis

“World On Fire”: Climate Breakdown

What will it take for society to make the deep-rooted changes required to prevent the terrifying and awesome threat of climate breakdown? This summer’s extreme weather events are simply a prelude to a rising tide of chaos that will be punctuated by cataclysmic individual events – floods, heatwaves, superstorms – of increasing severity and frequency. How long before people demand radical action from governments? Or, and this is what is really needed, how long until citizens remove corporate-captured governments from power and introduce genuine democracy?

Consider just some examples of this summer’s extreme weather. In Japan, ferocious heat killed more than 80 people and flooding killed more than 200. In Greece, 80 people died in terrible wildfires. In Canada, a heatwave killed more than 70. In many places around the world, including northern Europe, central America, Russia and parts of the US, extreme drought has put harvests at risk. Across the globe, 118 all-time records were broken or tied. In the United Arab Emirates, a record temperature in excess of 51C was recorded, Montreal broke 36C, the Baltic Sea reached 25C and the Swedish polar circle saw temperatures in excess of 32C. The Russian Arctic experienced ‘anomalously high temperatures’ more than 20C warmer than usual. And on and on.

To his credit, BBC News North America correspondent James Cook gave a sense of the scale of the climate disasters that were unfolding, with the reported death toll in Greece still rising:

‘Climate change. It’s here. It’s catastrophic.

This month alone:

— “50 dead” in Greece wildfires

— Arctic Circle ablaze

— Japan heatwave, flooding and landslides kill hundreds

— Record temperatures in Algeria, Morocco, Oman

— Drought squeezes US lemons’

Under the heading, ‘The world on fire’, Assaad Razzouk, a commentator on climate and clean energy, also tweeted a disturbing set of numbers:

‘New July 2018 temperature records

UAE: 51.4°C

Africa + Algeria: 51.3°C

Tunisia: 49.2°C

LA: 48.9°C

Baku: 42.7°C

Yerevan : 42.4°C

Japan: 41.1°C

Kabul: 40.5°C

Tbilisi: 40.5°C

Montreal: 36.6°C

Lapland: 33.4°C

Swedish polar circle: 32.5°C

Baltic Sea: 25°C’

Scientists report that the ‘signal of climate change is unambiguous’ in these extreme phenomena. In Europe, climate change driven by humans has made such events more than twice as likely to occur, and possibly as much as five times more likely.

By the 2040s, heatwaves even worse than this summer’s will likely occur every other year, if not more often. This will lead to a tripling of annual heat-related deaths in the UK to 7,000. MPs say that the country is ‘woefully unprepared’ for such deadly heatwaves, with ‘the government ignoring warnings from its official climate change adviser.’

Andrew King and Ben Henley noted in an article on The Conversation website:

The world has so far had around 1℃ of global warming above pre-industrial levels, but at the global warming limits proposed in the Paris climate agreement, hot summers like that of 2003 in central Europe would be a common occurrence.

At 2℃ of global warming, the higher of the two Paris targets, 2003-like hot summers would very likely happen in most years.

Similarly, we know that heat exposure and heat-induced deaths in Europe will increase with global warming, even if we can limit this warming to the levels agreed in Paris.

Climate scientists have ample evidence that human-driven global warming is already ‘making heat waves longer, hotter and more frequent’. Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, describes the evidence as ‘really compelling’.

Michael Mann, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, says that:

The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out in real time and what is happening this summer is a perfect example of that.

He added:

We are seeing our predictions come true. As a scientist that is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action.

‘The Climate Change Monkeys are in Full Voice’
How have the media been responding to the ‘very distressing’ reality that humanity has not taken the ‘necessary action’ to avoid climate breakdown? Some of the usual fringe voices lurking beyond the realms of rationality, yet still enjoying high-profile media platforms, issued standard denunciations of reality.

For instance, in a Mail piece about ‘hysterical doom merchants’, Quentin Letts gave the UK Met Office a piece of his mind:

The Met Office, once a level-headed analyst of barographs and incoming weather fronts, issued bubonic plague-style warnings that we should not step outside in this heat and should not open our windows.

The commentator sighed:

Whatever happened to Keep Calm and Carry On?

In the Sun, Rod Liddle scoffed that ‘the authorities’ have declared that ‘nice summers are a crisis’, adding:

those tiresome drongos at the Met Office put out an amber alert when the temperature rose this week.

“Don’t go out! Stay in your homes! Or you will die — DIE, I tell you.”

Oh, with the greatest respect — f*** off!

Liddle bemoaned that:

the climate change monkeys are in full voice.

In short:

The Met Office can stick advice where sun doesn’t shine — let us enjoy the heat while it lasts.

In slightly less intemperate language, but still rejecting the huge weight of scientific evidence, longtime climate ‘sceptic’ Christopher Booker declared:

Yes it’s scorching, but claims that the heatwave is down to climate change are just hot air: June was even hotter when Victoria was on the throne.

He went on:

‘this kind of summer heat is far from unprecedented. In fact, as people have begun to observe, the nearest parallel to what has been happening this year was the celebrated “drought summer” of 1976.’

In fact, the comparison to 1976 is deeply misleading, as a viral tweet from Simon Lee, a meteorology PhD student at the University of Reading, brilliantly made clear:

The big difference between the heatwaves of 1976 and 2018. June 1976: the UK was one of the warmest places relative to normal across the globe, with most areas cooler than average. June 2018: the UK was just another warm blob in a mostly warmer than normal world. #GlobalHeatwave.

So much for Booker’s science-denying diatribe and the other media extremists still trying to dodge climate reality and promote climate fiction. As Carbon Brief editor Leo Rickman pointed out:

As temperatures in the UK near record levels, MPs warn today that heatwave deaths could triple by 2050. So what do the editors of the Daily Mail and the Sun do? Order their writers to aggressively attack climate scientists…

Staring in “Open Mouthed Disbelief” at the News

But what was the media response in more ‘respectable’ quarters, particularly the BBC? Media Lens does not have the huge resources required to monitor all BBC News coverage across television, radio and the internet. But observations suggested strongly that, although the link with climate wasn’t entirely ignored, the bulk of the broadcaster’s coverage of global weather extremes gave it short shrift.

Citing Simon Lee’s comparison of the 1976 and 2018 heatwaves, Emma Pinchbeck, an executive in the renewable energy industry, tweeted the BBC:

More reasons that climate change should be getting a mention in your drought coverage .@BBCr4today @BBCBreakfast (sorry if this repeated exasperation is getting… exasperating… but honestly I start every day in open-mouthed disbelief at the news)

For some time during the day on July 24, BBC News website actually had three of its top six stories about weather extremes, but with no substantive discussion of the link to human-driven climate instability.

Even mild exceptions to the rule stood out, such as when BBC science correspondent David Shukman spoke briefly about the role of global warming:

We can never say that a particular weather event like this heatwave is just because of global warming. What you can say, that the science allows you to say, is that the world is warming, that makes certain things more likely.

While welcome, this was the most conservative expression of scientific caution – typical of the BBC. Compare with the kind of urgent and impassioned comment seen above from Michael Mann: that ‘it is very distressing to see’ this summer’s weather extremes ‘as it means we have not taken the necessary action’.

Also in a low-key, cautious vein there was a pre-filmed Newsnight segment, ‘Heatwave 2018 explained’, on July 24 featuring climate scientist Joanna Haigh of Imperial College, London. She told BBC reporter David Grossman:

The sort of temperatures that are occurring now would’ve been a 1 in 1,000 occurrence in the 1950s & now they’re about a 1 in 10 occurrence.

This was a rather dry statistic; but perhaps it served as a preamble to the requisite urgency that was still to be addressed? The opportunity came in a follow-up, live studio interview conducted by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis with two more climate experts: Stephen Belcher, the chief scientist at the Met Office, and Chris Hope, a climate change policy researcher at Cambridge University. But, once again, they made rather careful statements that did not stray far into territory in which urgent and radical action would be made crystal-clear.

Scientific rigour is, of course, necessary. But, given the stakes of what is involved, academics now need to speak out forcibly and repeatedly against ‘business-as-usual’ and for sane alternatives. Kevin Anderson, a Manchester-based professor of energy and climate change, is a much-needed outspoken example. He tweeted recently:

How far will we go to justify our lies – Heathrow expansion, shale gas & more roads are all good for the climate. Fortunately the uproar from our vibrant & ethically robust academic community will soon draw attention to such aberrant nonsense – or will it be a compliant whimper?

All too often it is indeed just a compliant whimper. Consider, by contrast, the warning from leading climate scientist James Hansen:

There’s a misconception that we’ve begun to address the climate problem. The misapprehension is based on the Paris climate summit where all the government leaders clapped each other on the back as if some great progress has been made, but you look at the science and it doesn’t compute. We are not doing what is needed.’

In an interview, Hansen was even more blunt, describing the Paris climate summit as ‘a fraud’:

It’s just bullshit for them [government leaders] to say: “We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.” It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.

More climate scientists need to speak out in this way. The time for remote detachment from the urgent need for societal and political action, out of a misplaced fear of being perceived as a biased activist academic, is long gone. Being fully human, and expressing valid criticism of government policy and priorities, does not negate one’s capacity to be a rigorous researcher.

At least this particular edition of Newsnight showed that one thing had improved in BBC climate discussion, however. Ten years ago, as Leo Hickman observed, one of the two interviewees would likely have been an extremist climate ‘sceptic’ like Nigel Lawson to maintain the BBC’s notion of ‘balance’.

However, Newsnight shot itself in the foot when it later gave a misleading account via Twitter of what the Met Office’s Stephen Belcher had actually said in the discussion. Newsnight tweeted the first part of his essential message:

The heatwave that we’ve got is probably part of natural cycles in the weather.

This made it sound as though human-driven global warming probably plays no part in current weather extremes. But his full remark was actually:

The heatwave that we’ve got is probably part of natural cycles in the weather but it’s superimposed on this background of global warming, and that’s what’s elevating our temperatures.

In other words, anthropogenic climate change is behind the heatwave. Newsnight later corrected its ludicrous error.

What about press coverage? Using the ProQuest newspaper database, we found the following search results on July 31 for UK newspaper articles since June 22 (i.e. around the date the heatwave began):

‘heatwave’: a total of 3101 results
‘heatwave’ + ‘climate change’: 255 results. 8% of the total
‘heatwave’ + ‘global warming’: 95 results. 3%
‘heatwave’ + ’emissions’: 89 results. <3%

While this set of results is not intended to be an exhaustive study of UK media coverage, it strongly suggests that the link between summer extremes and global warming has been hugely underplayed.

James Murray, editor of the BusinessGreen website, summed it up well:

Maybe it’s the shirt-soaking, mind-melting, temper-fraying heat, but I’ve had it. I’ve had it with articles and radio discussions about heat waves and hosepipe bans that don’t mention climate change. I’ve had it with features explaining record-breaking heat across the hemisphere, which mention climate change but then major on how ‘it’s not just down to climate change’. And I’ve had it with the near complete silence from our political leaders and mainstream media opinion formers on links between extreme heat and climate that a six year old could understand.

There were hints that, after a month-long heatwave, parts of the corporate media were grappling towards some semblance of climate truth. A Mirror editorial proclaimed:

We must prepare for the consequences of climate change. Or, better still, tackle it.

The question of how to tackle it was left unexplored.

A Financial Times editorial said:

Unprecedented heat cannot be ignored. […] the need for action by policymakers, businesses and private individuals becomes more urgent.

What kind of action?

[Action] must combine “adaptation” to make society more resilient to the inevitable future impact of climate change with “mitigation” measures that cut carbon emissions…One of the most important issues is how and where we build homes…

That was about as far as it went. As you would expect from the house journal of capitalism, there was no demand for a radical restructuring of the economy; no call for an equitable redistribution of power and wealth.

Along similar lines, a Guardian editorial called for ‘decarbonisation of the electricity supply, heating and transport’. Such a move has cross-party support ‘but commitment by politicians is inconsistent’. The assertion that political ‘commitment’ has been ‘inconsistent’ flies in the face of reality: the massive state subsidies and structural support for fossil fuel industries, the endless drive for economic ‘growth’, and a ‘democracy’ run for the benefit of corporate and financial elites.

For the Murdoch-owned Times, the emphasis of any concern on climate was highlighted by its laughable assertion that:

corporate America […] has embraced environmentalism because it is, after all, simply a call to use resources more efficiently. The best hope for green growth in the emerging world is therefore more globalisation rather than less.

Yet more globalisation which has, in fact, led to systemic and worsening global inequality, social injustice and environmental collapse?

The editorial continued:

Technological ingenuity rather than arbitrarily reduced consumption or changes in behaviour are [sic] the best hope.

Arguing against reduced consumption or changes in behaviour, even as wildfires rage, ice sheets melt, and rising seas threaten to engulf coastal cities? Could anything be more insane? Simply put, the masters must remain in charge of the world, while the rest of us bear the costs.

A ‘Doubly Terrifying Phenomenon’

In a recent talk, Noam Chomsky emphasised that the worst case projections of global warming seem increasingly likely. Last December, a scientific paper published in Nature, found that global temperatures could rise by nearly 5C by 2100. To put this in stark perspective, Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, observes that ‘the difference between two degrees and four degrees’ of warming ‘is human civilisation.’ In other words, we are talking about the end of human life as we know it; perhaps even human extinction.

As Chomsky said:

The prospects [of climate breakdown] are extremely serious. In fact, they’re really awesome…

He pointed to the sheer madness of the US government, ‘the most powerful institution in human history’, relentlessly pursuing a fossil-fuel economy:

our federal government, for which we [i.e. US citizens] are responsible, is dramatically leading a race to destruction while we sit and watch. That’s pretty astounding. That ought to be the screaming headline in every day’s newspaper. It ought to be the main topic you study in every class. [There’s] never been anything like it.

Chomsky added:

And it is astounding, as is the lack of attention: another doubly terrifying phenomenon. We should be asking, among other things, what this tells us about our society and about our culture, what we are immersed in. And remember, all of this is imminent. We’re approaching this rapidly – this century.

An urgent debate about the fundamental steps that need to be taken to stand a chance of averting climate breakdown, as well as promoting justice and equality, is almost entirely missing from corporate media coverage. Typically, you will search in vain for in-depth, critical and sustained ‘mainstream’ news coverage of:

• The massive corporate lobbying of governments and the huge fossil-fuel subsidies made to climate-breaking industry
• The role played by the fossil-fuel economy in driving expansionist, imperialistic Western foreign policy in the Middle East and around the globe
• The huge efforts of corporate advertisers to promote unsustainable levels of consumption on a finite planet
• The resultant vast destruction of ecosystems and species, leading to the sixth mass extinction in geological history

BBC News, in particular, has failed to hold to account the governments, corporations and institutions that are burning the planet. Like the rest of the corporate media, the BBC, paid for by the public and supposedly run in the public interest, is complicit in bringing human civilisation to the brink of disaster. As we note in our forthcoming new book, ‘Propaganda Blitz‘, published next month:

In not giving climate change the very prominent coverage it deserves, the BBC is obstructing the public debate that is vital to prevent climate catastrophe. In effect, the BBC is firmly on the side of the state and corporate forces that have been fighting a decades-long, heavily-funded campaign to prevent the radical measures needed to avoid climate chaos.

However, climate scientist Michael Mann says it is not too late to make the carbon cuts required:

It is not going off a cliff, it is like walking out into a minefield. So the argument it is too late to do something would be like saying: “I’m just going to keep walking”. That would be absurd – you reverse course and get off that minefield as quick as you can. It is really a question of how bad it is going to get.

Zionist Inquisition in full cry

The row over anti-Semitism has erupted yet again in the UK Labour Party, as predicted a few months ago by Miko Peled, the Israeli general’s son, who warned that:

… they are going to pull all the stops, they are going to smear, they are going to try anything they can to stop Corbyn…. the reason anti-Semitism is used is because they [the Israelis] have no argument….

So Israel’s pimps at Westminster, never happy unless they’re telling everyone what to think and say, are frantically insisting that the Labour Party adopts the discredited International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in its unedited entirety and incorporates it into the party’s code of conduct.  Many party members believe they have blown up the matter out of all proportion simply to settle their long-standing score – as Peled says – with the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a genuine anti-racist, champion of Palestinian rights and critic of Israel.

This is what the IHRA definiition says:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

It includes these eleven “contemporary examples of anti-semitism”:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Jewish community leaders are furious that Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, disagrees with 4 of these examples and refuses to include them in the party’s new code of conduct. The NEC, of course, is mindful that the code must be enforceable across half-a-million members with differing opinions, many of whom are tired of the constant whining. An emergency motion orchestrated by the Jewish lobby, forcing the NEC to take on board the whole IHRA package with all its examples and humiliating Corbyn in the process, was supposed to be considered yesterday but is now postponed till September.

The NEC explains its omissions by saying accusations of dual nationality are wrong rather than anti-semitic. It strikes out altogether the idea that calling the state of Israel “a racist endeavour” is anti-semitic, no doubt for the simple reason that it is racist. Israelis have for decades practised apartheid, casting their non-Jew population as second-class citizens, and now it’s enshrined in their new nationality laws, in black and white.  What’s more, Israel’s illegal occupation has denied Palestinians their right to self-determination for the last 70 years. The NEC also chooses not to forbid the use of symbols and images associated with classic anti-semitism and comparing Israeli policy to that of the Nazis unless there’s evidence of anti-semitic intent.

Sounds reasonable, you might think. But 68 rabbis have accused the Labour leadership of acting “in the most insulting and arrogant way” by leaving out or modifying those controversial bits. In a letter to The Guardian they say it’s not the Labour Party’s place to re-write it.

The arrogance is theirs, I think. Here’s why. The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recommended adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism subject to the inclusion of two caveats:

(1) It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

(2) It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

The Government agreed but dropped the caveats saying they weren’t necessary. Subsequently the IHRA definition has run into big trouble, being condemned by leading law experts as “too vague to be useful” and because conduct contrary to the IHRA definition is not necessarily illegal. They warn that public bodies are under no obligation to adopt or use it and, if they do, they must interpret it in a way that’s consistent with their statutory obligations and with the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is deeply flawed

Crucially, freedom of expression applies not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population” – unless they encourage violence, hatred or intolerance. Calling Israel an apartheid state or advocating BDS against Israel cannot properly be characterized as anti-Semitic. Furthermore, any public authority seeking to apply the IHRA definition to prohibit or punish such activities “would be acting unlawfully”.

The right of free expression, as Labour’s Zio- Inquisitors ought to know, is now part of UK domestic law by virtue of the Human Rights Act. Furthermore the 1986 Education Act established an individual right of free expression in all higher education institutions. Then there’s Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which bestows on everyone “the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. As always, such rights are subject to limitations required by law and respect for the rights of others.

So the IHRA definition is a minefield. It’s not something a sane organisation would incorporate into its Code of Conduct – certainly not as it stands. It contravenes human rights and freedom of expression. But when did the Israel lobby ever care about other people’s rights?

The whole fuss borders on the farcical when you ask what anti-Semitism means. Who are the Semites anyway? Everyone avoids this question like the plague. Why? It’s embarrassing. DNA research shows that most of those living today who claim to be Jews are not descended from the ancient Israelites at all and the Palestinians have more Israelite blood. So they are the real Semites. Research by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, published by the Oxford University Press in 2012 on behalf of the Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution, found that the Khazarian Hypothesis is scientifically correct, meaning that most Jews are Khazars. The Khazarians converted to Talmudic Judaism in the 8th Century and were never in ancient Israel.

Probably no more than 2% of Jews in Israel are actually Israelites. So even if you believe the propaganda myth that God gave the land to the Israelites, He certainly didn’t give it to Netanyahu, Lieberman and the other East European thugs who rule the apartheid state.

As former Israeli Director of Military Intelligence, Yehoshafat Harkabi wrote: “It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.”

Well, that tragic irony has come to pass. As has been suggested before, so-called anti-Semitism is a matter best resolved by the Jewish ‘family’ itself. There’s no reason to bother Corbyn or the Labour Party with it.

Trump: The De-Globalizer?

Looks like Trump is running amok with his “trading policies”. Not only has he upset the European Union, which doesn’t deserve any better, frankly, for having been and still being submissive vassals against the will of by now 90% of Europeans; but he has also managed to get China into a fury. Well, for China it is really not that important, because China has plenty of other markets, including basically all of Asia and probably increasingly also Europe, as Europe increasingly feels the need for detaching from the US.

What is striking, though, is that even at the outset of the G20 Summit now ongoing in Buenos Aires, Argentina,Trump’s Ministers have made it clear that unless Europe cancels all subsidies – referring primarily to agricultural subsidies – and eliminates the newly imposed retaliatory import duties, new trade deals are not going to be discussed. Never mind that the US has the world’s highest farm subsidies.

From afar this looks like the most wicked and non-sensical trade war the US via Trump is waging against the rest of the world – à la “Make America Great Again”. Will it work? Maybe. One can never predict dynamics, especially not in a neoliberal western world that is used to live on linearism, which by definition is always wrong. Knowingly and deliberately the west and its financial key institutions, IMF, World Bank, FED, European Central Bank – trick the public at large into believing their statistics and predictions – which, if one goes back in history, have always been off, way off.

All life is dynamic. But to understand this it takes independent thinking which the west has long given up, unfortunately. So, in response to the latest Trump-promoted trade fiasco at the G20 in Argentina, the IMF is up in arms, saying this might lower world GDP by at least 0.5%. Even if true, so what?

In reality, there is a totally different scenario that nobody dares talk about. Namely, what renewed local production and monetary sovereignty can bring to the world economy; precisely what Mr. Trump says he wants to propagate for the US of A – local production for local markets and for trade with countries that respect mutual benefits. The latter is, of course, a question not easily achieved by any trade deal with the US. But the former is an enormous economic power keg. The stimulation of local economies through internal credit is the most commanding means to boost local employment and GDP.

Then there is the sanctions game. It’s getting ever more aggressive. New sanctions on Russia, new sanctions on Venezuela, and new heavy-heavy sanctions on Iran. And the European puppets still follow suit, although they are the ones that most suffer from US sanctions imposed on others, especially because out of ‘stupidity’ or fear, they cannot let go of the destructive empire, hobbling away on its last breath. Or is it perhaps, that those fake leaders of the Brussels construct are bought?  Yes, I mean bought with money or with favors? It’s not out of this world, since those of the European Commission who call the shots are not elected, thus, responsible to no one.

Take the case of Iran.  Trump and his peons, Bolton and Pompeo, have threatened every oil company around the globe with heavy sanctions if they keep buying hydrocarbons from Iran beyond November 2018. Particularly concerned are the European Petrol giants, like Total, ENI, Repsol and others. As a consequence, they have canceled their literally of billions of euros worth of contracts with Iran to protect themselves, and, of course, their shareholders. Just recently I talked to a high executive from Total. He said, we have no choice, as we cannot trust our people in Brussels to shield us from Washington’s sanctions. So, we have to look elsewhere to fulfill our contractual obligations vis-à-vis our clients. But, he added, we did not buy the American fracking stuff; we are negotiating with Russia. There you go.

The European market for Iran’s hydrocarbon is estimated at about 20% of Iran’s total production. An amount easily taken over by China and others which are too big (and too bold) to be sanctioned by the empire. Some may actually resell Iranian hydrocarbons through their backdoor to the otherwise sanctioned European oil corporations.

Iran has another strong weapon which they already made clear they will use, if the US attempts seriously to block anyone from buying Iranian oil and gas. Iran can block the Gulf of Hormuz, where daily about 30% of all hydrocarbon used by the world is being shipped, including about half to the United states. This might increase the price of petrol exponentially and ruining many countries’ economies. However, higher prices would also benefit Russia, China and Venezuela, precisely the countries that Washington wants to punish.

Would such a move by Iran provoke a direct US aggression?  One never knows with the war profiteers of the US. What’s for sure, such an intervention would not pass without a commensurate response from China and Russia.

On the other side of the scenario – imagine – countries mired in this global mess, made in the US of A, start looking for their own internal interests again, seeking their own sovereignty, independence from the globalist dependency. They are embarking on economic policies furthering self-sufficiency, self-reliance; first foodwise, then focusing on their scientific research to build their own cutting-edge technology industrial parks. A vivid example is Russia. Since sanctions were imposed, Russia has moved from a totally import-dependent country since the collapse of the Soviet Union, to a food and industry self-sufficient nation. According to Mr. Putin, the sanctions were the best thing that happened to Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia has been the world’s largest wheat exporter for the last two years.

Europeans have started quietly to reorient their business activities towards the east. Europeans may finally have noticed – not the elitist puppets from Brussels, but Big Business and the public at large – that the transatlantic partner cannot be trusted, nor their self-imposed EU central administration of Brussels. They are seeking their own ways, each one of these nations are seeking gradually to detach from the fangs of Washington, eventually detaching from the dollar dominion, because they notice businesswise the dollar-based economy is a losing proposition.

There is BREXIT, the most open move away from the ‘freedom limiting’ European dictate which is nothing else but a carbon copy of the economic dictate of the dollar. As practiced in the United States and everywhere the dollar is still the main international contract and reserve currency.

The Five Star Movement in Italy was created on similar premises – breaking out from Brussels, from the Euro-policy handcuffs. In a first attempt towards sidelining the Euro, they received a spanking from the euro-friendly Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, when he refused to accept the 5-Stars coalition partner’s, Lega Norte, proposed Eurosceptic Minister of Finance, Paolo Savona, who called Italy’s entry into the eurozone a “historic mistake”. This thrive by Italy to regain monetary sovereignty has by no means ended. To the contrary, it has taken strength and more determination. Germany moves in the same direction – quietly opening doors to Moscow and Beijing.

Unfortunately, these moves have little to do with a new more human and peace-loving consciousness, but rather with business interests. But perhaps conscious awareness – the reconnecting with the original spark of a humanity solidified in solidarity is a step-by-step process.

What if, considering the motion towards peoples’ new self-determination, Trump’s amok run, his jumping from chaos to more chaos, to the sanction game no end – punishing, or threatening friends and foes alike, will lead to a genuine de-globalization of the world?

If this were to happen then, we the 90% of the globe’s population, should be very grateful to Mr. Trump who has shown and created the path to enlightening – the enlightening of de-globalization.