The orange-tinted freak show that is Donald Trump should be removed from the White House and sent to some filthy, rat-infested dungeon with a sentence of Life Without Twitter. The same goes for the rest of his racist, eco-cidal, arch-plutocratic, and shockingly Christian Fascist administration. They should be forced to work sunup to sundown in a solar panel-making work camp in the Arizona desert.
But Trump and his team should be defenestrated for what offenses and with what higher purpose? To put another dismal dollar Democrat like Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama in power? God no. The neoliberal “free market” ideology that Democrats have been advancing every bit as much as (and more effectively than) Republicans over the last generation and more is how we got to this horrific Trumpian moment. Corporate power long ago turned the Democratic Party into a democratically useless lap-dog of the leading financial institutions, top multinational corporations, and the vast U.S. military empire. This depresses and demobilizes much of the nation’s poor and working class citizenry (or ex-citizenry), turning millions into non-voters and millions more into supporters of the ever more rightward, white-nationalist Republican Party.
At the same time, the reigning neoliberal doctrine shared by top Democrats and Republicans – “two wings of the same bird of pretty” (Upton Sinclair, 1904) – has stripped American government of its capacity and willpower to carry out positive social and democratic functions. Neoliberalism starves what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “the left hand of the state” – the parts of the public sector that serve the social and democratic needs of the non-affluent majority. At the same time, it feeds the regressive and repressive “right hand of the state,” the parts of government that distribute wealth and power upward while punishing the working and lower classes and all who resist the unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire.
It’s a deadly process on numerous levels. The less the ruling class relies on the velvet welfare-statist glove of cooptation to maintain hierarchy, the more it relies on the iron police-state fist of brute-force repression. With government famished when it comes to meeting the needs of any but the wealthy few, moreover, the way is open for a demagogue to seize upon popular resentments and come in claiming that he and he alone can fix the nation’s problems and make it “great again.” When the “normal” bourgeois institutions and liberal elites are perceived (all too accurately in many cases) as pathetic and nefarious, a charismatic, populism-manipulating bully steps into the vacuum to promise a restoration of lost national greatness.
That was Hitler’s gambit in Germany in the 1930s. It is one of the big Trump cards Herr Donald played last year.
Now Trump and the nation’s 34 Republican governors get to wield the ever-expanding powers of the police state in a nation whose populace has lost faith in nearly every major U.S. institution but two: the military and the police. It’s a militarized police-state the Democrats helped create.
Here’s where a “progressive Democrat” often steps in in to argue that it doesn’t have to be like this because the Democratic Party can be turned in a winning left and social-democratic direction.. I’ve been hearing this from them all my politically cognizant life. It is a naive and unduly trusting fantasy.
Left-leaning progressives have long been held in disdainful contempt by Democratic Party elites (I’ve been writing about this for years) who understand very well that their first job above all others is to prevent the emergence of any serious left opposition to ruling class power in the United States. The foremost duty of the “Inauthentic Opposition Party” [IOP] (as the late left political scientist Sheldon Wolin called the Democrats) is to keep real popular resistance at bay.
The contempt continues to this very day, undaunted by the electoral collapse of the neoliberal Democrats. The mildly social-democratic progressivism of war “socialist” Bernie Sanders must be marginalized at all costs as far as top Democrats are concerned. So what if Sanders’ brand of progressivism might be a road to revival and victory for a party that became even less popular than the widely loathed Republicans and Trump? As The Guardian’s Trevor Trimm recently reported:
If you look at the numbers, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America – and it’s not even close. Yet bizarrely, the Democratic party – out of power across the country and increasingly irrelevant – still refuses to embrace him and his message…instead ,… the establishment wing of the party continues to resist him at almost every turn, and they seem insistent that they don’t have to change their ways to gain back the support of huge swaths of the country….Politico ran a story just this week featuring Democratic officials fretting over the fact that Sanders supporters may upend their efforts to retake governorships in southern states by insisting those candidates adopt Sanders’ populist policies – seemingly oblivious to the fact that Sanders plays well in some of those states too…The establishment wing of the party aggressively ran another opponent against Keith Ellison, Sanders’ choice to run the Democratic National Committee, seemingly with the primary motivation to keep the party away from Sanders’ influence…They’ve steadfastly refused to take giant corporations head on in the public sphere and wouldn’t even return to an Obama-era rule that banned lobbyist money from funding the DNC that was rescinded last year. And despite the broad popularity of the government guaranteeing health care for everyone, they still have not made any push for a Medicare-for-all plan that Sanders has long called for as a rebuttal to Republicans’ attempt to dismantle Obamacare” (emphasis added).
But how “bizarre” is this really? The Democrats’ refusal to take the Sanders path is crazy and stupid only if you think the Democratic Party’s main jobs are to win elections and/or advance social justice and democracy. But that’s a silly thing to believe. The IOP’s most urgent imperative is to serve corporate and financial power, and that means keeping even milquetoast social democrats like the F35 Fighter Jet champion Sanders at bay. Make no mistake: the leadership of the Democratic Party preferred the “lying neoliberal warmonger” Hillary Clinton defeating Sanders (in some very nasty ways) and then losing to Trump over a scenario in which Sanders would have defeated Hillary and then bested (as all the relevant match-up polls suggested he would have) Trump.
To be sure, the reigning Democrats know that they and the system they represent have an interest in their party retaining some electoral relevance and moving beyond their current pathetic status. Unwilling to embrace the excessively (for them and their big money backers) left Sanders “revolution,” they think they can unseat the orange-haired beast by tying him to the Kremlin with trumped-up charges based on vague reports from hazy intelligence sources. They dream that dubious anti-Trump intelligence missives and liberal corporate media allies can “fuel…a Russia frenzy…that will,” in Masha Gessen’s words, “create a dark enough cloud of suspicion around Trump that Congress will find the will and the grounds to impeach him.”
But it’s likely that the real Russia card trick will be played not on Trump but on progressives and liberals. The Russia charges are unlikely to dethrone Trumpenstein. As Gessen recently noted in the New York Review of Books, “He may sacrifice more of his people, as he sacrificed Flynn, as further leaks discredit them. Various investigations may drag on for months, drowning out other, far more urgent issues. In the end, Congressional Republicans will likely conclude that their constituents don’t care enough about Trump’s Russian ties to warrant trying to impeach the Republican president.”
Even if Democrats were to succeed in unseating Trump with the Russia ploy, they would do so at no small democratic cost. They would set a dangerous new precedent of intelligence community (CIA) interference in domestic U.S. politics. They would double down on the dangerous games of fake news and “alternative facts.”
But the biggest democratic price of Russiagate is already being paid. The Russia Madness focuses public attention on something Trump isn’t, a Kremlin tool, rather than what he really is: an arch-plutocratic pre-fascist racist and sexist and super-militarist enemy of the poor and working-class majority. As Gessen reflects on what she calls “the Russia conspiracy trap”:
“…the Russia allegations will [probably] not bring down Trump. Meanwhile, while Russia continues to dominate the front pages, Trump will continue waging war on immigrants, cutting funding for everything that’s not the military, assembling his cabinet of deplorables… to carry out what Steve Bannon calls the ‘deconstruction of the administrative state.’…in his first speech as attorney general[, Jeff Sessions] promised to cut back civil rights enforcement and he has already abandoned a Justice Department case against a discriminatory Texas voter ID law. But it was his Russia lie that grabbed the big headlines….Imagine if the same kind of attention could be trained and sustained on other issues—like it has been on the Muslim travel ban…Trump is doing nothing less than destroying American democratic institutions and principles by turning the presidency into a profit-making machine for his family, by poisoning political culture with hateful, mendacious, and subliterate rhetoric, by undermining the public sphere with attacks on the press and protesters, and by beginning the real work of dismantling every part of the federal government that exists for any purpose other than waging war. Russiagate is helping him – both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office” (emphasis added).
Gessen gives Trump too much detrimental credit. The “destr[uction of] American democratic institutions and principles” is a richly bipartisan ruling class project that has been underway since at least the 1970s. (At the same time, Gessen must know that the Trump White House doesn’t wish to dismantle other right-handed state functions beside the military. Just for one example among many, it will support the Department of Homeland Security’s capacity to monitor, infiltrate, harass, and otherwise repress environmental and social justice activists.)
Still, Masha Gessen’s main point is well-taken. The Russian conspiracy scheme is a nasty snare for left-leaning politicos. It won’t take Trump down but it distracts people from the real and more substantive crimes and outrages of the Trump administration.
So, it’s a crazy Democratic strategy, right? Not so fast. Remember that the issues “Russiagate” pushes to the margins, including racism, classism, ecocide, and the undermining of the public sphere, are all problem areas for the corporate and imperial Democrats too. The dreary, dollar-drenched Dems have been deeply complicit with the Republicans in creating the rightward neoliberal drift of U.S. policy over the last four-plus decades. It is (never forget) their first and foremost function (in service to the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire) to keep left forces and sentiments marginalized. Russiagate makes perfect sense for establishment Democrats on numerous levels, including how it absolves them from guilt for blowing the 2016 elections (because “Russia and Comey did it”) by running a horrible campaign with a terrible, highly unpopular and two-faced neoliberal presidential candidate atop their miserable ticket.
But there’s another and dark question to mull over here. What if the Democrats were to take a “winning” progressive and social-democratic path into the 2018 and 2020 elections? It is at the very least questionable that the Trump-era Republicans would consent to removal through election. What was the Bannon-TrumPence administration’s preposterous claim to have won the 2016 popular vote (by as many as 5 million tallies!) but an advance impeachment of voter repudiations they might face in coming elections? The steep state-level electoral barriers posed by rampant Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression (legal and illegal) are bad enough. They will be supplemented if necessary by false charges of voter fraud and the very real prospect of violence (legal and extra-legal). White nationalist fascists don’t consent to being removed from office by mere voters. It might seem like a shocking thing to say, but I don’t see the current batch of in-power Republicans accepting election results they don’t like. It’s not how they roll. It’s not what they’re about. They can only be brought down through a major popular uprising beneath and beyond the quadrennial electoral extravaganzas that have long functioned as a potent method for the marginalization of the citizenry qua electorate.
Russiagate and the Democrats are for liberal and progressive chumps. So, perhaps, are elections now.
March 20, 2017: Listening today to the broadcast of testimony by FBI Director Comey and National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers before the House Intelligence Committee (an oxymoron) made it clear that the Democrats, Comey, and Rogers intend conflict with Russia.
The Republicans, for the most part, were interested to know how security leaks targeted at Trump Republicans came from meetings at which only the CIA Director, NSA Director, and FBI director were present. Of course, they did not get an answer, which shows how powerless congressional oversight committees are. Comey repeatedly said that he could not tell the committee anything, because it would confirm that a press leak was true. But, he said, speaking generally and of no specific leak, most leaks come from “someone who heard something” and passes it on to the media, which also explains the inaccuracy of some leaks. In other words, don’t blame us.
The Democrats were out in force to demonize Russia, Putin, and everyone, especially Trump Republicans, who speaks to a Russian even if the person is still a private citizen, as was Gen. Flynn when he recommended to the Russian ambassador that Russia not respond in kind to President Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats over Christmas. The Democrats bestowed yet another demonic title on Putin. In addition to being “the new Hitler,” a “thug,” and a “Mafia don,” today Putin became a “tarantula in the center of the spy web.”
The Democrats’ position was that Flynn, by discouraging a Russian tit for tat, had interfered with the Obama regime’s policy of worsening relations between the US and Russia. Some Democrats saw this as treason. Others saw it as proof that Flynn and Trump are in Putin’s pocket, and still others see it as even worse.
The Democrats were also very concerned about lobbyists, if they be Republican, working for Russian interests, including Tillerson, the Secretary of State. The fact that every country employs lobbyists and that the lobbyists don’t always register as foreign agents, such as Israel’s lobbyists, or if news reports at the time were correct, neocon Richard Perle who represented Turkey in Washington.
Democrats were also after Gen. Flynn for saying that he had not received money from the Russian government. Flynn received a fee for attending the 10th Anniversary celebration of RT in Moscow. Is RT, a news organization, the Russian government? Its budget is supported by the Russian government, but how does this differ from the US government’s support of the budgets of National Public Radio, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America? Does this mean that everyone who gives an interview to NPR, Radio Liberty, and VOA is an American agent in the pocket of the US president? If you attend a function of one of these organizations, does it make you an “American agent/dupe”? Will there be a list of these people?
What the Democrats tried to do today was to criminalize everyone who works for better relations between the US and Russia. To be for peace between the nuclear powers is to be a Russian agent and to be put on a list. The Democrats insisted that Russia was an enemy out to get us, and the Democrats had no difficulty getting Comey and Rogers, both Obama appointees, to agree.
Comey and Rogers said that Russia was the main threat to the US, was working against our interests, and intends to harm us. Harming us includes opposing US hegemony and unilateralism. In other words, if the Russian government acts in the interests of Russia, the Russian government is harming the US. From the testimony it clearly emerged that any kind of opposition to anything Washington does is against American interests.
Both Comey and Rogers declared, falsely, that Russia had invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea by force. If Comey and Rogers are so poorly informed that they believe this, they are unfit for office. Crimea has been a part of Russia for 300 years. The population is almost entirely Russian. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Washington broke it apart, the Ukraine became independent for the first time in history. Crimea, which had been transferred by Khrushchev in 1954 from the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, was included in the transfer on the condition that Russia had a long term lease on the naval base in Crimea.
When Washington’s coup overthrew the democratically elected government in Ukraine, the Russian populations in Crimea, and in the new republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, were attacked and threatened by the neo-nazi elements in eastern Ukraine that had fought for Hitler against the Soviet Union. The populations of these areas voted overwhelmingly to reunite with Russia, from whence they had come. The votes were fair and open. As Crimea is the Russian Navy’s Black Sea base, Crimea was already occupied by Russian forces. For Comey and Rogers to call this an “invasion” displays either ignorance or a lack of integrity.
Indeed, the lack of integrity of the FBI, NSA, CIA, and Obama regime is evidenced by the sustained campaign of lies, distortions, and targeted “news leaks,” that is, stories planted on the presstitutes by the intelligence services about Russian interference in the presidential election. It is all about protecting the massive military/security budget and powers. Trump threatened both the budget and the power when he declared that his policy would be to normalize relations with Russia. If relations are normalized, the carefully orchestrated “Russian threat” disappears. The intelligence services are not willing for this to happen. The US intelligence services prefer the risk of nuclear Armageddon to a budget cut.
The Democrats are probably not sufficiently intelligent to understand that they are fanning the flames of war between nuclear powers. The Democrats are desperate to find someone on whom to pin their loss of the election. Moreover, by pinning it on a conspiracy between Trump and Putin, they hope to remove Trump from office. Although Pence, who is a Russophobe, is acceptable to the military/security complex, the Democrats have hopes of clearing out Pence as well, as his election resulted from the alleged conspiracy, and reinstalling themselves in the White House.
Americans need to understand that the political competition between the Democrats and Republicans is over which party gets to collect the money for being the whore for the One Percent. Traditionally, the party in the White House gets most of the money, so that is where both parties want to be.
Michael Morell, a supporter of Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s last CIA director in an acting capacity, who was slated to become CIA director under Hillary, said, “On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all. There’s no little campfire, there’s no little candle, there’s no spark. And there’s a lot of people looking for it.”
Morell does believe that it was the Russians who hacked Hillary’s incriminating emails but not in collusion with Trump, although the evidence is that they were a leak from inside the Democratic National Committee by disaffected supporters of Bernie Sanders.
Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Meet the Press on March 5 that he had seen no evidence of a Putin-Trump conspiracy when he left office on January 20.
Listening to Comey and Rogers today, if they are not working against President Trump, what would classify as working against Trump? Trump supporters ask why Trump doesn’t fire these two men who are working to block a reduction in the dangerous tensions between Washington and Russia. Are the Democrats, Comey, Rogers, the CIA and their media whores so stupid that they don’t understand what it means when the President of Russia says, “the Americans have destroyed our trust in them?”
Trump doesn’t fire Comey and Rogers, because he cannot fire them. If he fires them, the Democrats and presstitutes will explain the firings as proof that Trump is a Russian agent and is covering up his treason by removing those investigating it.
Trump is trying to use Twitter to respond to the orchestrated media assault against him and to achieve some organization among his supporters, the working class that elected him. However, Trump cannot even count on the Republican Party. Most Republicans are also dependent on political contributions from the military/security complex, and Republicans know that the intelligence agencies have all the dirt on them. To fight for Trump is to expose themselves.
It is undeniable that the CIA controls the media, both in Europe and in the US. Udo Ulfkotte’s book, Gekauftge Journalisten, exposed the CIA’s hold on European journalists when it was published in Germany in 2014. An English language edition, Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News, is due out in May. In the meantime Joel Whitney’s book, Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers, suffices to establish that America’s most respected journalists drank the CIA’s Kool-Aid “and thought they were saving freedom” by serving as propagandists.
People in the West need to understand that if the news they receive bears on the interests of the US military/security complex, the news is scripted by the CIA. The CIA serves its interests, not the interests of the American people or the interests of peace.
Democrats have 201 members in the House of Representatives.
Of those, 71 are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus has endorsed HR 676, the single payer bill in the House.
As of this writing, HR 676 has 70 sponsors and co-sponsors.
But fully 25 House members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are not signed onto the bill.
(They are — Ruben Gallego (Arizona), Maxine Waters (California), Nanette Barragan (California), Jared Polis (Colorado), Rosa DeLauro (Connecticut), Lisa Blunt Rochester (Delaware), Val Demings (Florida), Lois Frankel (Florida), Frederica Wilson (Florida), Andre Carson (Indiana), Dave Loebsack (Iowa), Anthony Brown (Maryland), Joseph Kennedy (Massachusetts), Debbie Dingell (Michigan), Ruben Kihuen (Nevada), Carol Shea Porter (New Hampshire), Frank Pallone (New Jersey), Nydia Velazquez (New York), Carolyn Maloney (New York), Adriana Espaillat (New York), Peter DeFazio (Oregon), David Cicilline (Rhode Island), Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), Lloyd Doggett (Texas) and Don Beyer (Virginia).)
And the only Senate member of the Progressive Caucus — Bernie Sanders — is dragging his feet on introducing a companion single payer bill in the Senate.
Recalcitrant Democrats say they are too busy defending Obamneycare to get behind single payer.
Typical is Progressive Caucus member Don Beyer who said that while he has voiced support for single payer in the past, his immediate priority is “protecting the health care achievements of President Obama.”
There is a history here, of course.
Back in 2009, a young single payer activist, Nick Skala, ran into the same kind of stonewall from the Progressive Caucus, when he presented the case for single payer.
He was told that his presentation in favor of single payer and against the public option was seen as an attack on the Progressive Caucus.
Democrats are in danger of being sucked into the Obamneycare death spiral.
What could emerge is a new political movement that will sweep away the Democratic Party and sweep single payer into law.
Some Bernie Sanders supporters, like Nick Brana (draftbernie.org) see this coming and are urging Sanders to bolt the Democratic Party and start a new people’s party.
But Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President and is now beholden to Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democratic leadership.
Texas billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been signaling recently that if he runs for President in 2020, it might be outside the Democratic Party and single payer might be his issue.
Cuban told reporters recently that the U.S. Constitution should be amended to make healthcare a right.
A reporter from PJ Media asked Cuban last week why he supports single payer.
“Everybody who has that uncertainty of not knowing if something goes really wrong in their family – what they are going to do – that goes away so, I think that makes people a lot more productive and a lot more self-sufficient,” Cuban said.
Some in the press are calling it “The Cuban Revolution.”
Tim Miller, Jeb Bush’s former spokesman, who is now a partner at a Washington, D.C., public affairs firm, told the Texas Monthly recently that if Trump does not crash and burn over the next four years, there is little chance that a traditional status-quo Democrat, such as a senator or governor, will be able to beat him in 2020.
“The only people who I think could go toe-to-toe with Trump are Michelle Obama or Mark Cuban,” Miller said.
And Mark McKinnon, the former political adviser who co-created and co-hosts Showtime’s The Circus, told the Texas Monthly that if the Democrats don’t want Cuban because of his more-conservative positions on economic policy, he would have a shot at winning as a third-party candidate.
“You need thirty million dollars to get on the ballot in every state, which wouldn’t be a problem for him,” McKinnon said. “And then he would be wide open to go mano a mano against Trump, making the case that he’s essentially a far better version of Trump, someone who’s a better businessman and who’s also got a much better, more thoughtful grasp on the issues. If the question for 2020 becomes who can out-Trump Trump, the clear and perhaps only answer is Cuban.”
Over the last few years, and as the corporate neoliberal project has started to unravel, the Guardian/Observer news stable has devoted a considerable amount of space to smears on re-emerging alternate sites of power, located in grassroots activism. An early example was former Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s McCarthyite ‘reds-under-the-beds’ attack on trade unionists in Falkirk, propped up by yet another New-Labour-type ‘dodgy dossier’ – the assertions of which were rejected by the police who “concluded there are insufficient grounds to support a criminal investigation at this time”. This was followed by attacks against the Labour grassroots, including the Corbyn campaign group Momentum, associated Party societies, residents groups, co-operative supporters, trade unionists, and other affiliates getting subsidised membership rates – with the implication that Labour voting privileges should now be the exclusive preserve of the affluent Guardian-reading middle classes.
Similarly, in the Guardian/Observer universe, peace activism of the ‘Stop the War’ movement type has been pejoratively labeled as ‘disreputable.’ Its editorial policy apparently presumes that Labour supporters should embrace a pro-imperialist, pro-war position or, as Labour’s social base frequently joke, a ‘Start-the-War’ movement – which is in stark contrast to the reality of the Party’s actual history and grassroots membership. For example historically, Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s Labour government kept the UK out of the Vietnam War, and some trade unions have continued to affiliate their members both to the official Party and to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Student activism of all types has also repeatedly been smeared in articles across both papers. Obviously if, for example, Black students are as successful as their grandparents in critiquing the Cecil Rhodes model of racist-imperialism, then the status of those elitist neoliberal politicians responsible for criminal debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, becomes questionable, even untenable.
Like many grassroots groups, students have increasingly turned their backs on the orthodoxy of neoliberal corporate media hegemony, which defines politics as a cozy deal between corporate lobbyists, bought professional politicians, their spin doctors and the journalists who regurgitate the resulting pre-packaged copy. Students in particular have been unwilling to accommodate, in their social spaces, speakers who have a hostile corporate-media-supported profile. The response by the Guardian/Observer has been to generate significant moral panics about free speech being under attack, in alleged student No-Platforming’ incidents. This is clearly an attempt to force the influence of an oppressive corporate media narrative into the social spaces that are rejecting it. It is a measure of how heavy-handed this campaign has been that feminists and fairly innocuous transgender activists have been amongst the victims caught in its crosshairs. A letter of complaint about this moral panic and its attacks on student political protest signed by hundreds of feminist supporters was published in the Observer. After being smeared for allegedly ‘no platforming’ celebrity campaigner Peter Tatchell, transgender activists supported by more than a hundred signatories felt the need to sidestep Guardian/Observer hegemony by taking this specific aspect of their complaint to the pages of Pink News. Perhaps this was because hypocritically, the Guardian/Observer’s own willingness to reciprocate by allowing fair equal representation on its pages is strictly limited?
Despite its ‘free-speech-under-attack’ smears, the Guardian/Observer practices its own racist form of ‘No-Platforming’ where – even in its ‘hard news’ sections – criticism of Israel particularly by Black and/or Muslim Britons is labeled as a form of bigotry often accompanied by demands that the ‘perpetrator’ be driven from public life. The most recent victims have been women of colour. Naz Shah, a Labour MP of Pakistani origin, has been headlined as anti-semitic after a two-year-old Facebook post of hers was found, which fancifully expressed a desire for Israel to be relocated to the US. That members of Black diasporas might yearn for a Middle East prior to white western imperialist intrusion, is hardly surprising. Israel is a society only recently invented by the genocidal colonial conquest of Europeans, Russians, White Americans and White South-Africans who were non-indigenous to the region, and some of whom who were obviously on their second attempt at segregationist white settler society exploitation.
Previously and inside the first week of her tenure, the National Union of Students first Black and Muslim woman president Malia Bouattia and critic of Zionism was similarly smeared. She has had the label anti-semitism put next to her name in a number of Guardian headlines and this process seems to be ongoing. So far neither she nor Naz Shah has been found to have expressed any pejorative views about Jews. Neither woman has expressed sympathies that even exceed that of the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela who stated “If one has to refer to any of the parties as a terrorist state, one might refer to the Israeli government, because they are the people who are slaughtering defenseless and innocent Arabs in the occupied territories, and we don’t regard that as acceptable” and “We identify with the PLO because, just like ourselves, they are fighting for the right of self determination.… Arafat is a comrade in arms.” But both women have been smeared anyway.
These smears and contextual omissions are part of a broader conservative revisionist rebooting of the news-outlets’ worldview. Absent from the Guardian/Observer’s editorial practice of equating criticism of Israel with anti-semitism is any sense of the country’s dubious standing within the global human rights community. Israel is a society that another Noble Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has repeatedly compared to Apartheid South Africa. UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard described it as “an apartheid regime … worse than the one that existed in South Africa.” Kgalema Motlanthe, the Deputy President of South Africa and of the African National Congress described the Israeli occupation as creating conditions worse than “for Blacks under the Apartheid regime.” In October 2012, Baleka Mbete Chairman of the ANC also used the words “far worse than apartheid South Africa” Moshé Machover of Matzpen, the Israeli Socialist Organization has gone further, saying, “Apartheid can be reversed. Ethnic cleansing is immeasurably harder to reverse; at least not in the short or medium term.” These findings have been supported by Jewish activists, academic intellectual Noam Chomsky, and investigative journalist Max Blumenthal. In the current climate of corporate media McCarthyism, all these prominent voices could now expect to be smeared as anti-semites.
In the case of the two most recent female victims smeared, the fact that the neoliberal end of the corporate media expects that Black women should be somehow ‘compelled’ to identify with Israel – a country in whose non-tourist areas they’d be justifiably fearful of walking – raises a number of issues of racist editorial policy. First, there is obviously a practice of privileging a specific ethnic-religious ‘point-of-view’ within Guardian/Observer hard news coverage. Second, there is also a news management policy which deliberately either censors or dismantles reports of Israel’s ongoing racist policy offences into isolated single-incident examples with no relationship to previous historical and repeated ongoing transgressions. However, once you start to reintegrate the data available even from within the corporate media, then the exceptionalist nature of Guardian/Observer smears – even in the context of broader media’s pro-Israel ‘anti-semitism’ moral panics – and the racist enormity of what women-of-colour in particular, are expected to tolerate, becomes all too apparent. Israel is a society built upon genocidal white western expansionism. Even leaving aside the ‘ethnic cleansing’ horrors of the Palestinian experience, Israel’s victims are largely Black and Indigenous and – contrary to corporate media anti-semitism narratives – these involve processes whereby Jews also racially oppress other Jews.
Violence against Ethiopian Jews in Israel – including that committed by the police – is a fact of life. Even after a 2015 incident in which a white police officer shown on film assaulting an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier became international news, the culprit as usual escaped prosecution. The Guardian highlighted the race riots provoked by the incident but referred to the attack as a “scuffle” – even Murdoch/Fox-owned Sky News permitted the word ‘assaulted’ in their coverage – and the Guardian further failed to cover the subsequent scandal caused by the lack of judicial prosecution. By contrast, the resulting particularly newsworthy protests were carried by the Jerusalem Post, ynetnews.com, the Times of Israel, and other news outlets. Unsurprisingly, the report on racism in Israel presented to the UN by the researcher David Sheen and the resulting numerous postings of video footage of mob intimidation and violence against Africans in the country, was never allowed into the news-outlets’ coverage either.
For many years donations of so-called ‘black blood’ by Ethiopian Jews have been dumped by Israel’s hospitals and Red Cross. In 1996 this provoked the race riots covered by the Independent newspaper, the New York Times and other news outlets. In 2013 a protest by the country’s main Ethiopian-Jewish politician highlighted this practice and kept it in international public scrutiny – subsequently featuring in the Daily Beast, the Times of Israel, Haaretz, ynetnews.com and elsewhere. Despite many years of controversy, the Guardian only finally touched the story – after international embarrassment forced Israeli President Shimon Peres into condemning the practice – when it then could be conveniently spun as rapprochement. A comparison between western white settler society Israel and the multi-cultural UK demonstrates both the oddity of the Guardian’s years of absented coverage of this scandal, and the obvious scientific medical invalidity of ‘racial’ blood segregation. The British National Health Service, as a matter of policy, rejects such segregation.
Further illustrating the plight of Africans in Israel, both The Jerusalem Post and Ynew.com conceded that Ethiopian Jews – who are disproportionately constrained to menial support jobs – were faced with neighbourhoods operating ‘whites only’ housing policies. Again this was not integrated into Guardian/Observer’s overall ongoing coverage of Israel. Far more disturbingly, and echoing Nazi eugenics policies, Forbes, Haaretz and even the Guardian have all had to acknowledge that Ethiopians in Israel were subjected to regular forced injections of the long-acting contraceptive drug Depo-Provera – a policy of temporary sterilization – that deliberately plummeted Ethiopian-Israeli reproductive rates by at least 20%. There is no evidence of any other western country which accepted Ethiopian refugees pursuing such a policy. One might hope that a story with such Nazi-like implications would feature on the front page of a so-called progressive newspaper, but in the Guardian it was largely buried on its inner pages. Imagine the front-page media storm if the ethnic identities of victim/perpetrator had been inverted.
To the brutal racism experienced by Ethiopians and Bedouins and obviously the Apartheid horrors of Palestinian life, we can also add the ugly discrimination experienced by indigenous Jews such as the Sephardi/Mizrahi. The complaints of these groups now feature on their own ethnic-themed websites and have even been explored on certain peripheral corporate media outlets such as Haaretz. The Huffington Post’s David Shasha also returns to this issue periodically. On different occasions he has complained of “the evisceration of the traditional Sephardic Jewish heritage,” and written “most Israelis saw them as culturally and intellectually ‘backward,’ like the Arabs in whose countries they once lived. The Israeli political system forced many Sephardim to live at the margins of society, where they often found themselves caught between the warring forces of religious extremism and imposed secularization.” However, for all the performed outrage about anti-semtitism, you’ll struggle to hear about oppression of Indigenous Jews within the Guardian/Observer stable.
African-American and British-Caribbean Jews have also fallen foul of white-ethnic settler sensibilities. Israel offers citizenship to Jews from across the western world but for years has resisted allowing black converts to Judaism anything other than temporary visitors’ visas. In some cases, even these won’t be honoured. African-American Idit Malka intended to visit the country for a family event but instead found herself and her family detained at an Israeli airport for two days, and – she claims – racially insulted as a cushim (a racist Hebrew word for black people) before being deported. The issue of black entry to Israel has had to be repeatedly contested on an individual case-by-case basis. In 2010 the Jewish Chronicle noted that the Caribbean Levy family from South London were denied ‘Aliyah,’ (immigration to Israel) “despite testimonials from British rabbis and intervention by Israeli lawyers on their behalf.” Regardless of a recent successful campaign by the African-American Mosley family, which took very many years – and against the context of a long nurtured historic Israeli paranoia about the legitimacy of the so-called ‘Black Hebrew Community’ – it is yet unclear whether any precedent has been set, which will spare other Black families the same humiliation.
Variants of this ethno-religious exclusive ideology permeate the highest levels of Israeli society. Recently Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef – who thankfully has no official government policy status – stated that “non-Jews should not be allowed to live in Israel”. Given that prior to the recent invention of Israel, Indigenous Jews, Christians, Muslims and other groups lived with varying degrees of success alongside each other for hundreds of years in the Middle East, you can only wonder what frightening strategy he has in mind for achieving this demographic realignment. However, equally concerning is his prescriptive requirement of ethno-demographic ‘exceptions’, constrained within the boundaries of Israel but compelled to live by Jewish religious law, without whom he asks “who, otherwise, will be the servants?” It’s hard to read this other than as desire to create a society where there is a class of masters and then a pre-selected subordinate ethno-religious caste doomed to do nought else but serve them. Certainly a Muslim religious leader making this statement would be rigorously condemned as an extremist, which may explain why coverage of this story was to be found – albeit without any form of critical interrogation – in the Independent, but was apparently absented from the Guardian/Observer. Significantly, even Israel Defence Force Deputy Chief Major-General Yair Golan felt compelled when commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day to state “If there is something that frightens me about the remembrance of the Holocaust it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular…and finding signs of them here among us, today, in 2016” (note: “revolting” could be “nauseating” depending on translation). This story was covered by Haaretz, the international broadcasters Aljazeera, Deutsche Welle and many other news outlets but once again the Guardian only finally covered the story when the General was forced to backtrack after heavy criticism from Prime Minister Netanyahu – and then instead of being indicative of colonial racist intolerance, the controversy could again be spun benignly.
At the level of inequality alone, and of the potential racist existential ethnic threat to those who could be mistaken for any member of the ethnic groups Israel oppresses – Ethiopian Jews, Indigenous Jews, or Palestinians – it is inexcusable that Naz Shah and Malia Bouattia should face efforts to somehow compel them to identify with Israel. As females, who could conceivably be mistaken for Palestinian women, they have other escalating issues of potential violence with which to contend. Racism in Israel also opens the door for repellent forms of gender violence. In 2014, Bar-Ilan University lecturer Mordechai Kedar publicly discussed the idea that the mothers and sisters of Palestinians who take up arms against Israel ‘could’ be raped. “The only thing that could deter a suicide bomber is knowing that if caught, his sister or his mother would be raped… the knowledge that if he pulls the trigger or blows himself up, his sister will be raped. That’s all. That’s the only thing that will bring him back home, in order to preserve his sister’s honor.” Kedar is not some peripheral figure to governmental authority but served for twenty-five years in IDF Military Intelligence. Subsequent press releases have attempted to downplay his comments, but the fact that rape is intimidating is so self-evident, that it is difficult to imagine that floating the idea was anything other than the most blatant incitement to sexual violence.
Despite Mordechai Kedar’s high profile, his rape comments are omitted from the Guardian/Observer coverage. But his comments are far from an isolated form of articulation from within the dominant settler culture, having been supported by the frequently expressed public sentiment “go pound their mothers and come back to your own mother” which according to Haaretz has also featured as a large banner in the town of Or Yehuda. In global debate Palestinian critics and Israeli state apologists dispute whether this refers to sexual violence or gender violence but the latter explanation is no more excusable – though sadly it is an ongoing feature of the settler culture. In recent years members of the Israel Defence Force and its veterans have been caught wearing t-shirts featuring the image of pregnant Palestinian women in Israeli sniper gun-sights, logoed ‘one shot two kills’ (to glimpse this reality, enter ‘Palestinian Women Killed Checkpoints’ into your internet search-engine). 
Despite all this material being available in the public domain, none of the Guardian/Observer’s coverage smearing Naz Shah and Malia Bouattia for their critical relationship to Israel points out that proximity to the country’s social spaces could pose a very real racist and misogynistic threat to their existence. It also says something about broader issues of racism, hypocrisy and Israel’s status as a site-of-power, that currently the British government, while issuing cautions to Britain’s LGBT community about the difficulties of travelling to North Carolina, broadcasts no such equivalent warning to Black Britons about the very real dangers of visiting Israel’s non-tourist areas.
A significant factor in the generation of the Guardian’s ideological agenda is the lack of demarcation between its Hard News coverage, its favoured sites of power, and its own reporters who also frequently make up its public relations driven commentariat. For instance the notion of peace activism being ‘disreputable’ originates with the right-wing Blairite MP Tristam Hunt who gets to situate his smear in the Guardian with the ease of placing a gratis classified ad, which of course in a way it is. But then sometimes a smear doesn’t have to be placed because reporters are either already ideologically onboard and/or adhering to a predetermined editorial agenda. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the context of the current ‘anti-semitism’ moral panics. Here, when reporting the smears against the NUS’s Malia Bouattia, Guardian contributor Hannah Weisfeld blatantly goes to bat for the Israel lobby. “Bouattia says she has a problem with ‘Zionist politics. Zionism, at its core, is the belief in the right of the state of Israel to exist. Whether Bouattia likes it or not, connection to Israel is a key part of Jewish identity for an overwhelming majority of Jews in 21st-century Britain. In nearly every synagogue around the world, on Shabbat and major festivals, Jews pray for the safety of the state of Israel.”
What is really telling about this passage is not simply that this argumentative polemical construction is infecting a Hard News story, nor is it simply that religious fundamentalism is being used to justify white settler conquest in a manner that would be regarded as intolerable in the case of violent ‘gay men should be stoned to death’ homophobia. But by comparison, if any Black and/or Muslim Briton similarly tried to excuse violent conquest and ethnic cleansing by what went on in their place of worship, the police would arrest and prosecute, and it would be demanded that a government ‘Prevent’ team be quickly in attendance. Not for the first time, you simply you have to invert a Guardian narrative, for the racism and white privilege to stand revealed. Also absent from the Guardian’s coverage, as part of its pro-Israel historical revisionist rebooting, is the fact that the very western colonialist ideology that Weisfeld is being allowed to champion here was condemned by UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 which in 1975 “determine(d) that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination” (this Resolution from the era of black liberationist global culture, lasted until in 1991 US President George H.W. Bush strong-armed a new UN vote).
This editorial positioning even infects the material selected for the Letters sections. Reference to the actual practices of ‘Apartheid’ and ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ in Israel – unless supported by mass signatories or a contributor with a very high media profile – is becoming less and less permissible, as is the citing of pre-conquest indigenous population levels of Palestine that therefore might indicate extermination or mass displacement. Words like ‘white settler’ and ‘conquest’ are starting to become taboo in favour of ‘Jewish’ and ‘Israel being formed’ designed to invert the obvious indigenous victim vs foreign aggressor representational dynamic. In the aftermath of Muhammad Ali’s death Guardian letters permitted a couple of critical tributes. No reference to Ali’s historic outspoken criticism of Zionist white settler conquest was allowed, which might have risked normalising the positions of Naz Shah or Malia Bouattia. By contrast, when supporting a pro-Israel position it’s amazing just who and what gets published on the Guardian Letters page. In August 2015 the paper printed a letter from the recently released jailed expenses thief and disgraced former MP Denis McShane who, given that he was articulating a pro-Israel position accusing Iranians of “pervasive Jew-hate” and practicing an “anti-Jewish ideology,” was now apparently to be treated as a respectable commentator. The blatant flaw in McShane’s smears is that there are Iranian Jews too. As news outlets as diverse as the BBC, The Independent, and Electronic Intifada point out, Iran has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel, numbering up to 20,000 and served by some 60 synagogues. The irony is that once again, it is those invoking the smear of anti-semitism in defence of a settler culture who find it convenient to refuse to recognise the identity of indigenous Jews.
Black feminist academic bell hooks, in her books Talking Back (1988) and Black Looks (1992), refers to the practice, dating back to slavery, of creating a social taboo which prevents Black and Indigenous people from ‘talking back’ to challenge the authority of the dominant white group. Obviously this notion is relevant to the case of the two women caught in the Guardian’s oppressive anti-semitism moral panic. But it also appears to be a persistent tactic. After anti-semitism attacks on the historically anti-racist politician Ken Livingstone, the Black Labour MP Diane Abbott appeared on Sunday television condemning the pervasive smearing of ‘decent working-class Labour supporters’ as anti-semites. Unusually, almost every news outlet headlined the story neutrally by using her comments. The Guardian initially did the same running ‘Diane Abbott says claims of antisemitism within Labour are smear’ but within a matter of hours relabeled the link from its homepage to exactly the same story as ‘Calls for Corbyn to take tougher action after Abbott dismisses crisis as smears.’ This relabeling is editorialising, which manages to simultaneously imply that Abbott’s ‘talking back’ behaviour is questionable and elevate claims about anti-semitism into being a ‘crisis’ without offering any evidence of either.
This manipulative binary process of privileging a certain ethno-religious identity while suppressing legitimate black voices and grievances, becomes all the more apparent when applying any form of comparative sociological or statistical demographic analysis. Reports on racism and ethnic demographics presented by the academic, Dub poet and musician Benjamin Zephaniah on behalf of the Newham Monitor Group show that Black Britons are nearly 6 in every 100 people. By comparison we know that British Jews are 250,000 out of a population nudging 65 million – or only 1 in every 260 people, which means they are outnumbered by black Britons by a ratio of nearly 15 to 1. If we add in the number of people of Arab origin, the number of Black Britons is even higher. For convenience sake we could underestimate these numbers and call the ratio 16-1. Despite the demographic spread, the Guardian/Observer’s moral panic – as increasingly stimulated by its commentariat – exclusively focuses on the smaller, privileged middle-class, and quite obviously less oppressed white ethnic group, and constructs any criticism of white settler oppression as an offence against them.
Yet the Black experience of racism is far more significant. The Zephaniah/Newham Monitoring Group material cites multiple instances where police officers were caught on recording equipment racially abusing suspects to quote, “the problem with you is that you will always be a nigger,” telling a suspect they’ll “smash his Arab face in” and many more such incidents without any serious disciplinary action taken. It’s also noted that “African-Caribbean and Asian people together make up 5.6% of the population but 16% of the prison population.” Similarly in further contrast to white middle-class Jewish life experiences, not only are Black Britons marginalised from continuing education, the better forms of employment, and housing, but they also experience very serious state and societal racist violence. In December 2015, during the period when the Guardian/Observer was concerned with the ‘alleged anti-semitism’ of the ‘talking back’ taboo-type, Black Briton Jermaine Baker was shot dead by police – his family claim – while sleeping in his car. Previously, the dubious circumstances of Black mixed-race Mark Duggan’s death at the hands of the police and subsequent media misrepresentation provoked race riots. While doing his supermarket shopping, Sikh dentist Dr Sarandev Bhambra suffered horrific injuries in an attempted beheading incident perpetrated by a racist shouting ‘white power,’ who had mistaken Dr Bhambra for a Muslim. An 82-year-old Muslim, Muhammad Saleem Chaudhry was stabbed to death on his way home from Mosque in a racist attack. His murderer also “planted three bombs near three mosques in the West Midlands.” Locals complained “If these had been placed by bearded Muslim men, Cobra [the government’s emergency committee] would have been enacted and the country’s media would have descended on us. Instead the media almost had to be pushed into coming along.” There also has been an epidemic of attacks and abuse aimed at Muslim women, particularly those wearing the Niqab – even to the extent that a man boasted on twitter of abusing a Muslim woman after the Paris attacks. Plus, two successful further arson attacks on Finsbury Park, Bishopbriggs mosques.
What is especially amazing is that if you wade through the last few years of the Guardian/Observer’s anti-semitism moral panics while asking where are the equivalent victims, you’ll find it’s extremely difficult to find one. This omission is particularly obvious when you examine the listed articles of the three journalists prominently foregrounding the theme of anti-semitism in their work on a repeated basis – the Observer’ Nick Cohen, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, followed by the paper’s tamed house Labour Party supporter Owen Jones. Jones, despite significantly lesser output, has written articles at such strict regular intervals that rather than a reaction to genuine events, the impression given is of a topic that is a type of statutory contractual requirement or of regular commissioned work. By comparison to the prioritisation given to the largely unsubstantiated theme of anti-semitism, if you search the back catalogue of articles of all three men, you’ll struggle to find mention of the killed Jermaine Baker, Mark Duggan, or Muhammad Saleem Chaudhry, maimed Dr Sarandev Bhambra or equivalent output on issues of Black equality. But you will find the words ‘Anti-semitism, the Left’ and ‘Labour Party’ and on occasion ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ hurled together in largely evidence- and incident-free narratives or in reference to criticism of Israel (obviously the real issue is, that the potential restoration of its traditional socialist anti-racist/anti-imperialist identity to the Labour Party, after the short period of entryist neoliberal service-to-power, is perceived as a threat to the powerful pro-colonialist Israel lobby). Cohen’s writing in particular has become so free of evidence and cited incident that he appears to have resorted to self-plagiarising melodramaticism, with critics observing that his sudden angry conversion noted in his Observer March 2016 article “Why I’m becoming a Jew and why you should, too” is strikingly similar in theme to his 2009 Jewish Chronicle article “Hatred is turning me into a Jew.”
The absent equivalent commentary on black and Muslim experiences of racism does not appear to be an accident. The Middle-Eastern commentator Jonathan Cook observed that Jonathan Freedland and other white panelists addressed the issue of anti-semitism while appearing on the BBC political discussion show ‘Question Time’. When the issue of the effaced representation of Muslim victimisation was raised by pro-Palestinian MP George Galloway, Freedland and panelists had a pre-prepared sound-bite position about not wanting to get into an ‘arms race’ on oppression. After the show Freedland was apparently still trying to obscure the inequality in the representational dynamic, writing “Jews and Muslims are not in competition over who is hated most: that’s not a competition anyone would want to win.” However it’s not just that black and Muslim experiences of racism are being effaced from representation. Guardian contributor David Cronin has claimed “the Guardian has told me to steer clear of Palestine.” Nafeez Ahmed has similarly claimed he was ‘censored’ and ultimately had his blog ‘discontinued’ for referring to Palestine. Significantly, whenever anecdotes of this type are made public, the name of editorial writer Jonathan Freedland often features prominently – accused of being linked to this repression either as a direct participant or as the originator of managerial policy.
In total the Guardian/Observer’s anti-semitism moral panic coverage has almost entirely been an application of the racist ‘talking back’ taboo, mobilised against those critical of Israel. A search of the Guardian/Observer’s website suggests that this coverage is now greater than that afforded terrorist Brixton bomber David Copeland, whose explosive devices targeted Caribbeans of South London, Gay men of Soho, and Asians of East London.
Breaking the pattern of the Guardian’s recent attacks on politicised students, has been the uncritical prominence given to the claims of Oxford University pro-Israel student-activist Alex Chambers and his colleagues that “Labour have some sort of problem with Jews” – this because of criticism of Israel. Similarly it’s unquestioningly taken at face value that an Oxford University pro-Israel student-activist campaign, threatening to leave the NUS after the election of Black Muslim woman President Malia Bouattia, has no racist dimension. By comparison, in the case of Oxford’s Black students campaigning to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes, the Guardian has permitted rigorous repeated criticism, even to the point of suggesting that notions of “racist…structural violence” were in fact questionable, and designed to shut down debate. The Guardian has similarly given prominence to the complaints of New Labour Blairite pro-Israel peer Michael Levy “Lord Levy warns he could quit Labour over anti-Semitism.” All of which is not evidence of equivalent oppression but of exceptional White Privilege. In these examples, you have a peer of the realm, white ethnic Jewish students who have been able to enter one of Britain’s most expensive and elitist institutions in such numbers as to be able to threaten to change its policies, plus white middle-class Israel-supporting journalists with lead columnist and editorial power such as Cohen and Freedland claiming they are victims. This is particularly interesting in Freedland’s case because in apparent violation of the norms of equal opportunity employment policies, his father Michael also gets occasional columnist work at the Guardian that could alternately be open to Black or working-class applicants. To these numbers we can also add writers such as Hadley Freeman and Hannah Weisfeld also indiscriminately invoking anti-semitism in support of Israel. Now ask, that for every student Israel supporter at Oxford University, every powerful pro-Israel Levy figure in the house Lords, Cohen at the Observer, and Freedland et al on the Guardian editorial writing desk and across the paper, where are the representative 16 Black Britons enjoying similar status? This is how disproportionate the privilege being mobilised is and how different it is from the black experience. Scandalously, rather than provoking embarrassment, simply identifying in this way the unrepresentative presence of the Israel lobby will routinely incur, in the British media, accusations of Jewish-conspiracy-type anti-semitism.
Given that anti-semitism does exist, this form of partisan and often misleading victim narrative coverage does grave ‘boy-who-cried-wolf’ disservice to genuine future victims. In March 2015 the Guardian reported an attack on a Stamford Hill synagogue stating “A group of men tried to break into a synagogue overnight in north London in an anti-semitic incident, police have said.” Missing from this article is the statement of Rabbi Maurice Davis who, much to his great credit, told the Jewish Chronicle, “There was a party happening across the road. We think a Jewish boy at the party ran out and got into a fight with other party-goers on the street. He came into the shul and it got out of hand, that’s when the other people smashed the windows. We want people to know it wasn’t an anti-semitic incident. Tottenham is such a wonderful place to live we have tremendous social cohesion here, and everybody gets on and we haven’t had any experience of antisemitism. We have had support from our local mosque, our local churches.” Rabbi Davis was similarly quoted by the BBC, the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard but his statements never made it into the Guardian, nor were used to update the existing story.
The fact that this McCarthyite moral panic came to a peak just before British local elections has caused a number of commentators to argue that this was a coup d’état attempt designed to wrest control of the Labour Party from its social base and their democratically elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. This is certainly consistent with the Guardian’s ongoing attacks on grassroots social movements. The Huffington Post and even the Telegraph have reports of this being an attempt to bring down Corbyn, but adversarial critics could argue that these originate from within the Corbyn camp. However the Financial Times previously predicted a summer coup attempt, without similar tame reliance on any of Corbyn’s inner circle but calling on largely rightwing neoliberal sources. Jewish academic and Holocaust scholar Norman Finkelstein agreed, citing the natural relationship between neoliberals who pursue racist-imperialist ‘wars-for-oil’ and advocates of racist-colonialist white settler conquest: “You can see this overlap between the Labour Right and pro-Israel groups personified in individuals like Jonathan Freedland, a Blairite hack who also regularly plays the antisemitism card. He’s combined these two hobbies to attack Corbyn.”
Like a lot of the corporate media, the Guardian’s pro-Israel agenda and overt prioritising of an anti-semitism moral panic hit a peak around the time of world condemnation of Israel’s 2014 bombing of Gaza’s children and was clearly designed to overwrite this critical reaction. However once again, the Guardian went further than many other news-outlets, publishing the notorious ‘Blood Libel’ advert alleging Palestinians were using children as human shields – an advert that even Rupert Murdoch’s Times refused to run. The Blairite neoliberal capture of the paper goes back considerably further. So jarring was the sudden wrenching move to the right and the consequential dumbing-down, that in the late 90s staffers dubbing themselves the ‘Farringdon Therapy Group’ (after the paper’s London publishing site) advertised in the London Review of Books for submissions of critical commentaries on the process, intended to be published in a book called Reading the Guardian – which subsequently failed to materialise on its 2000 Verso publication date, prompting accusations of suppression.
Over the years the Guardian/Observer has provided unfailing and manipulative support for this neoliberal capture of the Labour Party, frequently marketing the ending of free education, welfare cuts and workplace casualisation as ‘achievements.’ Whatever isolated incidents of progressive coverage the paper featured were largely an institutional hangover from the Guardian’s establishment-questioning past and – as exampled in the Snowden revelations – were prioritised at historical moments which did not inconvenience the paper’s favoured New Labour ruling elite. A similar strategic application of editorial policy ensures that scoops/coverage arising from its previous progressive value system and which reflect negatively on Israel’s offences – such as Israel providing the armament technology that Apartheid South Africa used to oppress its indigenous people – are now never referred to.
Both the Guardian and Observer were also pro-war. There are reports of the Observer inverting its 3-2 anti-Iraq-war postbag to make support for imperialist western conquest seem more normal. Even now, the papers present Tony Blair and other ‘senior’ (?) politicians, who have shared cabinet responsibility and complicity for torture – not to mention the killing of civilians – as credible and acceptable voices in political debate.
When it’s not saying ‘the left has a problem with Jews,’ the news stable is similarly asserting that ‘the left has a problem with women.’ This despite the fact, that the most recent sexist incidents involved neoliberals. New Labour neoliberal knight Richard Leese spent 20 hours in cell after assaulting his 16-year-old stepdaughter. MP Simon Danczuk was found to have sent sex-texts to a teenage job applicant and was recently “put in a Spanish jail cell after an alleged holiday row with his estranged wife led to her being taken to hospital.” In a historical context these claims make even less sense. On the left there has always been a revolving door between feminists, anti-racists and worker-activists. And the left has no ideology without the contribution of Jewish Marxists and sociologists.
These smears are really indicative of the incestuous relationship between the minority entryist neoliberal right of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Guardian/Observer. In the New Labour era there was a marketing practice of constructing a centralised narrative at central office, then asking party officials or activists – who don’t declare their institutional status – to front this regurgitated material to news outlets, their letter pages and public opinion events. This is a process that the Guardian/Observer has been happy to accommodate. By comparison, previous coordinated efforts by New Labour officials marketing Tony Blair as a popular ‘political celebrity’ in BBC’s Radio4’s 1996 ‘Personality of the Year’ contest were caught by the corporation and resulted in 4000 ballots being disqualified – for ‘multiple voting’.
This practice was more recently evident in the 2015 local and general election campaigns. For example, in February 2015 the Observer’s letters page featured a correspondent named Peter Atkinson stridently complaining about declining public services under his local Green Party council. The giveaway, suggestive of an institutional narrative or press release, is that Mr Atkinson was regurgitating a description of the ‘Winter of Discontent’ – a historical media critique successfully aimed at the 1974-79 Labour government. This contribution exhibits the signs of being written by someone who is aware that the Guardian/Observer policy is to often replicate the ‘Loony-Left’ attack on grassroots movements that brought Margaret Thatcher to power and that kept her there. A casual search reveals that a Peter Atkinson was the Labour Party’s candidate in the local council elections. This accommodating institutional interaction seems like a comparatively minor example, but what happens when this process is used to over-write genuine calls for grassroots democratic accountability?
Objections to the neoliberal capture of the Labour Party crystallised around iconic issues of class and representation – occasionally known as the ‘Toff-Labour’ phenomenon or the problem of nepotism. Former head of the Labour Party Ed Miliband was the son of one Britain’s most prestigious academics. He served in cabinet with his brother David, and husband and wife team Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. Prominent positions in the Party were also eventually found for Stephen Kinnock son of former leader Neil Kinnock, Will Straw son of former cabinet minister Jack Straw, and the children of former ministers John Prescott, Harriet Harman and Jack Dromney. Stephen Kinnock had been parachuted into a constituency as its candidate for MP, despite the fact he been embroiled in a tax avoidance scandal in Denmark – where he and his wife, the Danish Prime Minister, had given the national tax office conflicting information on his residency status, thereby avoiding tax while simultaneously allowing him to be eligible to buy property in the country. Will Straw was forced into the Rossendale and Darwen constituency as its candidate. He subsequently lost amidst rumours that local activists wouldn’t campaign for an outsider. Ed Miliband’s problems of downplaying his social advantages were compounded by issues raised by his public appearances. He seemed unable to function in a working-class café situation, unable to talk credibly to a homeless man, and Miliband’s house – with its two kitchens – invoked notions of Upstairs, Downstairs/Downton Abbey-like privilege.
Labour officials trying to combat this understandably negative impression were allowed to present their press releases once again incognito on the Guardian letters page. In February 2015, apparent ordinary citizen contributor Tim Daniel attacked Green Party Leader Nathalie Bennet and congratulated Miliband on his housing policy. However a cursory search revealed that a Tim Daniel was listed as Labour candidate for Wincanton & Bruton and Vice-chair of his local Party. Similarly Ian Flintoff wrote, “Ed Miliband is the best possible leader for the Labour party and will also be the best prime minister…I have never met him and have no incentive to write this other than my deep and honest care for the people of Britain.” Ian Flintoff states that he has ‘no incentive to write’ but a casual internet search reveals he was Labour Party parliamentary candidate in Plymouth Devonport, a Councillor in Kensington & Chelsea, and is active in the Oxford Labour Party. Again institutional allegiance is allowed to be undeclared. Michael Hudson’s letter contribution is the most worrying and the most familiar. “I’m disappointed you used the picture of Ed Miliband eating a bacon roll…It seems to me the reason is the antisemitic subliminal message: Ed Miliband is a Jew; he chokes on bacon.” However, if you google contributor “Michael Hudson Chairman of Sleaford and North Hykeham Labour Party” you’ll get at least 7 references to Mr Hudson’s local Labour Party chairmanship dating from at least 2009 onwards.
Clearly this anti-semitism narrative placed by Mr Hudson – if in fact he is the originator of it – attempts to manage the bad publicity that Miliband’s awkward café appearance generated. To work effectively, it demands acceptance of the assumption that the entire British public are aware of Miliband’s ethno-religious background. In fact such is the distaste for elitist political corruption in Britain and the resulting voter disengagement, that three years after Ed Miliband became Labour Leader a Yougov poll demonstrated that nearly a quarter of the electorate still couldn’t recognise him. If the reading of the data made by the right-wing Daily Mail was to be believed, some people were actually confusing him with a character from Sesame Street. It seems unlikely therefore that large numbers of people were seeking out information on his religious heritage. Particularly, as juxtaposed against Black Britons, Miliband passes as simply white, privileged and middle-class. Also attempts aimed at the more politically aware voter, to establish a victim narrative for Miliband, can only succeed by separating him from the rest of the Toff-Labour phenomenon of class privilege Sadly on the Guardian letters pages it is now not unusual for the Miliband anti-semitism narrative to be conveniently repeated as a form of orthodoxy. Obviously this constructed placement comfortably supports the ongoing elitist anti-semitism moral panic. The only McCarthyite-type smear that did feature the then Labour Leader was aimed at his late father Ralph Miliband who due to his background as a prominent Marxist academic the Daily Mail headlined as ‘The Man Who Hated Britain.’ Ironically, were it not for the fact that son Ed Miliband was a neoliberal, it’s entirely likely that the Guardian/Observer stable would have joined in with its own ‘why do the left have a problem with patriotism?’ narrative.
Overall this campaign has not been without economic territorial cost. Just as previous undemocratic neoliberal entryism cost the Labour Party millions of votes and two thirds of its peak membership, it appears the Guardian/Observer’s ideological war on its own natural readership base has been similarly damaging. Currently the Guardian is soliciting donations from its readers to prop up its ailing sales coffers. In 2015 the paper admitted to readership purchasing falling by 9.5%. Its web-traffic readership has also declined. The Observer has had comparable losses. In 2016 the Guardian Media Group announced losses of £173 million. If these figures are representative of a long-term decline – or of readers’ unconscious or even deliberate boycott – who could argue with the socio-economic logic or justice of it? Apparently, rather than perform a rudimentary representative function to their base demographics, neoliberals both within the Labour Party and at the Guardian/Observer, are prepared to risk killing off the institutions upon which they feed, in the pursuit of their own elitist ideology.
This has resulted in day-to-day practices that are politically and ideologically brutal. The Guardian/Observer stable as represented by Cohen, Freedland, Jones, Wiesfeld, Freeman and many others, is practicing a particularly pernicious multi-layered form of racism. White settler Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing is being championed. Black and Indigenous voices are being smeared for ‘talking back’ to power on the issue. Black grievances and experiences of racism are being both effaced from representation and stolen by a white middle-class elite who invoke the genuine suffering and marginalisation of others in order to defend the undefendable. These offences are being committed by those who are content to risk the viability of future complainants of anti-semitism being reduced to the status of simple partisan political ploys, by their ‘boy-who-cried-wolf’ practices. These abusive practices are being indiscriminately fielded because they also tie into larger strategic Blairite drives for power. Not for the first time and particularly in the neoliberal media, the worst racism is practiced by those careerists who hide in plain sight, masked in respectable office apparel, and polite middle-class mannerisms.
Like other historical victims of McCarthyism before her, Naz Shah MP subsequently found it necessary and in her self-interest to ‘recant’ – in her case specifically on her previous posting about Israel. This allowed her to keep her career position on the powerful Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee. However, some months after the events reported in this article and just when it appeared that the high point of the anti-semitism moral panic was over, yet another woman of colour was smeared for her leftism and questioning of Zionism. This happened across the broader media but with the Guardian prominently involved.
In the tradition of ‘Black Lives Matter’ activism, Jewish-Jamaican Jackie Walker, Vice-Chair of the pressure group Momentum, pointed out that Jewish entrepreneurs had been “financiers of the sugar and slave trade” and “the African holocaust”. She then followed this up by asking that black victims of genocide be also included in Holocaust Day as she put it “In terms of Holocaust day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust?” Sadly, given that Nazi crimes against humanity are frequently used to justify the Zionist conquest of Palestine – this despite the fact that territorialist efforts on behalf of the Zionist project precede the Nazi period – attempts at raising the previous historical horrors of the western colonialist tradition and any challenge to the claimed right of exclusivity of victimhood, are routinely and intensely contested by the pro-Israel lobby. As consequence, as in previous cases, Ms Walker faced calls for her sacking, and was resoundingly condemned by a powerful vocal minority that the Guardian once again privileged in its reporting (see notes 88 and 89). In order to do this there were significant omissions in the news stable’s coverage. The issue of Jews and their participation in the slave trade is mentioned in Jewish histories prominently enough to often make it onto news-sites but excluded from Guardian reportage. For example, to publicise his book The Jewish Slave, Rabbi Lody van de Kamp gave an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, describing Jewish owned slave plantations in Dutch Guyana, “At one point, Jews controlled about 17 percent of the Caribbean trade in Dutch colonies”. Similarly, Rabbi Dr Marc Lee Raphael’s 1983 book Jews and Judaism in the United States: A Documentary History is frequently cited on this topic and features on numerous websites. It confirms Jewish participation in the Dutch slave trade, and observes that “in all the American colonies, whether French (Martinique), British, or Dutch, Jewish merchants frequently dominated.” None of these very prominent sources featured as a balance in the Guardian’s condemnatory reporting of Jackie Walker’s comments.
But what was far more worrying, was that in the Guardian’s service-to-power it was actually willing to let the issue of comparable colonial genocide be viewed as again questionable, despite the weight of historical evidence available. Adam Hothschild (King Leopold’s Ghost, 1998) describes the death toll from European colonialism in just a single African country – the Belgian Congo – as 10 million, while Caroline Elkins (Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya, 2005) describes Britain’s use of mass torture in colonial Kenya. The British suppression of India’s uprisings of the 1850s is described by historian Amaresh Misra (War of Civilizations: India AD 1857, 2007) as “an untold holocaust” which caused the deaths of almost 10 million people over 10 years. And this is not even the entire history of the British Raj. David Stannard (American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, 1994) calculates 100 million indigenous deaths in the conquest of the Americas. While figures of ‘60 million and more’ have long been culturally accepted as the numbers of victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade – featuring in Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel ‘Beloved’ (1987) and cited by Paul Robeson in his 1956 testimony to HUAC.
What is significant is that a number of these sources had originally featured in hangover coverage from the Guardian’s previous progressive incarnation, either in its columns or on its literary review pages. So this almost ‘black holocaust denial’ practiced in the reporting of Jackie Walker’s case cannot be written off as simply base incompetence. Clearly the ‘new’ Guardian embraces a ‘black lives DO NOT matter’ policy. As a consequence of the media frenzy, Jackie Walker subsequently lost her position.
Gavin Lewis is a Black–British writer and academic who has published internationally in the UK, Australia and America on Film, Media, Culture & Politics.
 http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jul/05/ed-miliband-unite-falkirk-selection; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/10201643/Labour-vote-rigging-scandal-police-rule-out-Falkirk-inquiry.html; http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jul/25/falkirk-ballot-insufficient-grounds-inquiry-police
 http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/08/labour-concerns-leadership-election-rules; http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/07/labour-leadership-election-260-former-candidates-and-members-rival-parties-apply-vote; http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/19/labour-seeks-legal-advice-over-leadership-election-infiltration-fears
 http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Desmond-Tutu-Israel-guilty-of-apartheid-in-treatment-of-Palestinians-344874; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/desmond-tutu/divesting-from-injustice_b_534994.html
 Delegation of Arab Political Leaders and Adalah Representatives in South Africa Meet with Lawyers from the Legal Resources Center, Ministers and Government Officials to Discuss Constitution Building and Human Rights, Adalah, 9 June 2008
 Mbete’s support for boycott of Israel noted (The Citizen, 29 October 2012)
 http://www.mintpressnews.com/noam-chomsky-israeli-apartheid-much-worse-than-south-africa/208936/; http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/02/inside-israels-apartheid-state/
 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/04/ethiopian-israelis-clash-with-police-as-anti-racism-rally-turns-violent; http://news.sky.com/story/1477169/violent-clashes-at-protest-by-ethiopian-jews
 http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Ethiopian–Israelis-continue-protests-week-after-A-G-closes-case-on-police-who-attacked-soldier-406802; http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4671495,00.html; http://www.timesofisrael.com/cop-who-beat-ethiopian-israeli-soldier-wont-be-tried
 http://www.davidsheen.com/racism/ Sheen’s video clips not only demonstrate intimidation and violence against black people, but a repeated trend of sexual threats directed against any white feminist woman who has the nerve to be anti-racist. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7dkF5UVx7Y, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOomBSTTzrU, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKIiDeKRGQU. This recurring threat to black Israelis, Palestinian women, and white feminists is frequently referred to – even by right-wing deniers – as ‘Israel’s rape culture’. http://www.jpost.com/Blogs/The-Warped-Mirror/David-Sheen-knows-what-it-takes-to-demonize-Israel-379522
 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/black-israelis-riot-over-insult-to-their-blood-1326412.html; http://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/29/world/ethiopian-in-israeli-riot-over-dumping-of-donated-blood.html
 http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/13/why-is-israel-s-red-cross-rejecting-ethiopian-blood.html; http://www.timesofisrael.com/uproar-as-ethiopian-mk-denied-chance-to-give-blood/; http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.563273; http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4464560,00.html
 http://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseknutsen/2013/01/28/israel-foribly-injected-african-immigrant-women-with-birth-control/; http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel/israel-admits-ethiopian-women-were-given-birth-control-shots.premium-1.496519; http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/30/forced-contraception-jewish-ethopian-women
 http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.649892; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-shasha/israels-sephardic-ashkena_b_627445.html; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-shasha/sephardim-ashkenazim-and_b_615692.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_Israel#Sephardim_and_Mizrahim_.28Middle_Eastern_and_North_African_Jews.29
 http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/detains-american-because/ Israel detains and deports American Jews because they are black
 http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/news/.premium-1.658593 African-American family converts finally recognised as Jews in Israel; http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/israel-threatens-to-deport-african-american-convert-to-judaism.premium-1.502204
 http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.717948; http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/05/israeli-soldiers-compared-nazis-160509060134244.html; http://www.dw.com/en/idf-general-triggers-outrage-comparing-israel-to-europe-processes-of-90-years-ago/a-19244831
 http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/israeli-professor-rape-hamas-militiants-mothers-sisters-deter-terrorist-attacks-1457836; https://www.timeshighereducation.com/comment/opinion/bar-ilans-disturbing-defence-of-one-of-its-own/2014936.article; http://www.salon.com/2016/02/17/event_at_nyc_college_with_israeli_scholar_who_said_only_rape_can_deter_palestinian_militants_postponed_after_protests/
 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/16/peace-not-promoted-israel-boycott Here in Guardian letters Stephen Malnik boasts about permitting injured Palestinians into his medical centre in the town of Ashkelon which as Mr Malnik admits now contains “lots of Jews” and is subject to occasional rocket attack. No one is permitted to point out, in rebuttal, that prior to al-Naqbar, 11,000 Arabs lived in this town before being dispossessed by the violence of western colonists. http://www.alternativeinsight.com/Ashkelon_Speaks.htm See also ‘1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians’. Benny Morris (1990/1994)
 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/irans-jews-on-life-inside-israels-enemy-state-we-feel-secure-and-happy-a6934931.html; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5367892.stm; https://electronicintifada.net/content/israels-jewish-problem-tehran/7089
 Jones’s previous media work had included mention of the plight of the Palestinians. Then, after sustained pressure and harsh criticism from the Israel lobby, this suddenly changed. Instead, in the month following the bombing of Gaza, Jones’s column gave a priority to unspecified accusations of anti-semitism. This obviously functioned to overwrite the outrage caused by the Gaza civilian death-toll. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/11/anti-jewish-hatred-rising-antisemitism-meaning A year later, when there was a risk of commemoration of the Palestinian victims, Jones again instead wrote about alleged anti-semitism. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/26/antisemitism-left-racism-israel
 Jonathan Cook argues that Freedland’s anti-semitism statistics “were compiled by the Community Security Trust, a Zionist organisation that has a record of dubious political activity…the great majority were classified as ‘harassment’, a broad category that could include remarks against Israel.” http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2015-02-09/guardian-editors-hypocrisy-on-anti-semitism/
 http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/18/oxford-student-left-antisemitic-university-antisemitism-jewish-progressive-politics; http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/feb/17/labour-condemns-antisemitism-oxford-university-labour-club-claims
 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/24/safe-spaces-universities-no-platform-free-speech-rhodes; http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/13/cecil-rhodes-statue-row-chris-patten-tells-students-to-embrace-freedom-of-thought
 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-32007767; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11488480/Watch-Mob-launches-anti-Semitic-attack-on-Stamford-Hill-synagogue.html; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3006382/Drunken-mob-20-thugs-shouted-kill-Jews-stormed-synagogue-north-London-smashing-windows-attacking-worshippers-inside.html
 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/labour-anti-semitism-row-attempt-to-challenge-jeremy-corbyn-leadership-len-mccluskey_uk_57266218e4b0d6f7bed60632; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/01/it-is-a-smear-to-say-labour-has-an-antisemitism-problem-claims-j/
 https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jamie-stern-weiner-norman-finkelstein/american-jewish-scholar-behind-labour-s-antisemitism-scanda Finkelstein goes on to cite his own experience of being smeared by Freedland “Incidentally, when my book, The Holocaust Industry, came out in 2000, Freedland wrote that I was ‘closer to the people who created the Holocaust than to those who suffered in it’. Although he appears to be, oh, so politically correct now, he didn’t find it inappropriate to suggest that I resembled the Nazis who gassed my family. We appeared on a television program together. Before the program, he approached me to shake my hand. When I refused, he reacted in stunned silence. Why wouldn’t I shake his hand? He couldn’t comprehend it. It tells you something about these dull-witted creeps. The smears, the slanders – for them, it’s all in a day’s work.”
 Former Ambassador for Israel Alon Liel stated “We created the South African arms industry… When we were developing things together we usually gave the know-how and they gave the money… there was a love affair between the security establishments of the two countries and their armies.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/feb/07/southafrica.israel
 http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/mp-simon-danczuk-arrested-after-estranged-wife-karen-taken-to-hospital-in-spain-a3321301.html; http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/dec/31/labour-mp-simon-danczuk-suspended-over-explicit-text-message-allegations
 See for example the work of ‘old Guardian’ columnist George Monbiot (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jan/11/mawkish-maybe-avatar-profound-important; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/apr/23/british-empire-crimes-ignore-atrocities) and the review of Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ referring to the ‘sixty million and more’ victims of slavery, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/jul/08/fiction.tonimorrison
This week at the Voices for Creative Nonviolence office in Chicago, my colleague Sabia Rigby prepared a presentation for a local high school. She’ll team up with a young friend of ours, himself a refugee from Iraq, to talk about refugee crises driven by war. Sabia recently returned from Kabul where she helped document the young Afghan Peace Volunteers’ efforts to help bring warmth, food and education to internally displaced families living in makeshift camps, having fled the Afghan War when it raged near their former homes.
Last year Sabia had been visiting with refugees in “the Calais Jungle,” who were fleeing the Middle East and several African countries for Britain. Thwarted from crossing the English Channel, a large mass of people were stopped in this refugee camp in Calais, France, from which French authorities eventually evacuated them, defying their careful solidarity and burning their camp to the ground.
As part of her high school talk, Sabia prepared a handout to show where refugees are the most welcomed. One detail astonished her.
In FY 2016, the U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees, but Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world took in 117,000 new refugees and migrants in 2016, and hosts more than 255,000 refugees from Somalia. Yemen is now beginning to host the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. What’s more, the country is regularly targeted by Saudi and U.S. airstrikes.
Since we are also planning a week of fast and action related to the tragic circumstances Yemen faces, we were astounded when we realized Yemen is a path of escape for Somalis fleeing the Horn of Africa, refugees of one conflict, stranded in their flight, and trapped in a country where deadly conflict is precipitating into deadlier famine.
After years of U.S. support for dictator Ali Adullah Saleh, civil war has wracked Yemen since 2014. Its neighbor Saudi Arabia, itself among the region’s cruelest dictatorships and a staunch U.S. ally, became nervous in 2015 about the outcome and, with support from nine regional allies, began subjecting the country to a punishing barrage of airstrikes, and also imposed a blockade that ended the inflow of food and supplies to Yemen through a major port. This was accomplished with massive, ongoing weapons shipments from the U.S., which has also waged independent airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians, including women and children.
Pummeled by airstrikes and fighting, facing economic collapse and on the brink of famine, how could this tiny, impoverished country absorb thousands upon thousands of desperate migrants?
Yemen imports 90% of its food. Because of the blockade, food and fuel prices are rising and scarcity is at crisis levels.
UNICEF estimates that more than 460,000 children in Yemen face severe malnutrition, and 3.3 million children and pregnant or lactating women suffer acute malnutrition. More than 10,000 people have been killed, including 1,564 children, and millions have been displaced from their homes, but worse is the groundwork laid for the far greater devastation of famine. Iona Craig, in the IRIN publication, recently wrote:
In the middle of a vast expanse of grey scrubland, a rapidly growing population of more than 120 families huddle under parched trees. Escaping the latest wave of conflict on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, they walked two days to get to this camp southwest of Taiz city.
But on arrival, the scores of women and children found nothing. No support from aid agencies. No food. No water. No shelter. The elderly talk of eating the trees to survive, while children beg for water from local farmers. A mother cradles her clearly malnourished baby in her arms.
Now comes word that on March 16th, forty-two Somali people were killed in sustained gunfire from the air as they set forth in a boat attempting to flee Yemen.
“I took cover in the belly of the ship,” said Ibrahim Ali Zeyad, a Somali who survived the attack. “People were falling left and right. Everyone kept screaming, ‘We are Somali! We are Somali!’”
But the shooting continued for what felt like half an hour.
The attack on Yemen traps both Yemenis and fleeing Somalis in the worst of four developing crises which collectively amount, one U.N. official warns, to the worst humanitarian crisis in the history of the U.N. As of this writing, no one has taken responsibility for the strike, but survivors say they were attacked by a helicopter gunship. The boat was carrying 140 people as it headed north off the coast of Yemen.
Meanwhile, US weapons makers, including General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, profit massively from weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. In December, 2017, Medea Benjamin wrote: “Despite the repressive nature of the Saudi regime, U.S. governments have not only supported the Saudis on the diplomatic front, but militarily. Under the Obama administration, this has translated into massive weapons sales of $115 billion.”
At this critical juncture, all member states of the UN must call for an end to the blockade and airstrikes, a silencing of all guns, and a negotiated settlement to the war in Yemen. The worst malefactors, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, must abandon cynical maneuvering against rivals like Iran, in the face of such an unspeakable human cost as Yemen is being made to pay.
U.S. people bear responsibility to demand a radical departure from U.S. policy which exacerbates the deadly tragedy faced by people living in Yemen.
Choosing a path of clear opposition to U.S. policies toward Yemen, U.S. citizens should demand elected representatives stop all drone attacks and military “special operations” within Yemen, end all U.S. weapon sales and military aid to Saudi Arabia, and provide compensation to those who suffered losses caused by U.S. attacks.
Our group of activists long functioned under the name “Voices in the Wilderness,” a campaign to defy U.S. economic warfare against Iraq, a form of war through imposition of economic sanctions which directly contributed to the deaths of over 500,000 children. Lost in a culture of hostile unreality and unbearable silence concerning economic warfare, we were evoking, perhaps unconsciously, the plight of refugees seeking survival. We didn’t succeed in lifting the brutal economic sanctions against Iraq, but we surely learned harsh realities about how callous and reckless U.S. policy makers could be.
We must ground ourselves in reality and in solidarity with the greater part of the world’s people. As our neighbors around the world flee in desperation across borders or within the confines of their own countries, we must continually educate ourselves about the reality of what our nation’s actions mean to the world’s poor. Building toward a time when our voices may unite and be heard, we must raise them now in crying out for the people of Yemen.
In its most extreme form, our constitutional rights are reducible to the right not to have to love our neighbor. The irony is that the more energetically we pursue our individual, socially isolated right to “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the deader the social and natural worlds become.
Curtis White, The Spirit of Disobedience: An Invitation to Resistance (2006)
So much of what we muster excitement about in American politics, about which we feel passionate, is based in feeling injured, slighted, left out, wronged. The historic struggle for rights is premised on having been denied them, or experiencing threats to them, or wishing to ally with those whose rights have been violated. Now, perhaps because so much of what shapes our context is far out of our control, perhaps for other reasons, politics on the left has been reduced to precisely that, to identity politics. One danger in fighting solely from the sense of injury to a group, is that it rests on an assumption that the humanity underneath is intact but for this injustice. One can be opposing social wrongs and injuries and never look “underneath” to see if the human being is intact, if there even exists the community and life-sustaining culture that needs to be or is worthy of being defended.
Liberals, in particular, defend the rights of women for equal pay, of single mothers, of transgender and questioning people – all worthy and valid causes – without ever asking if the passionate defense of these “rights” comes at the expense of anything else perhaps more precious and threatened? What are the constituent elements of community? Surely not only acceptance for difference, but also for critique of that acceptance. For real community, both must be allowed. Trust must be allowed. Like rightwing fundamentalists in this respect, secular humanists cannot tolerate genuine moral questioning, not because it risks condemning single mothers or homosexuals or divorce – though this is always possible – but because it asks people to think more deeply about the consequences to the community of our choices. It poses the perspective of an adult against the perspective of the “siblings.”
For this reason I have long held back from that liberal tendency to engage in identity politics. During college and graduate school in the 1970’s, I was greatly influenced by feminism which gave me for the first time a sense of purpose, of being an actor in history. Not until one day, having brought my pathologically depressed self to a therapist’s office, realizing I was unable to answer a question about myself, but only about women as a group, did I begin to tear myself away from this identification with oppression and victimization that had been so positive for me.
Right on schedule, I was one of the “me-centered” in the famous “me-decade” of the 80’s, participating in 12-step groups, gaining a connection to spiritual reality, and then finding myself on an intense ride that could not be stopped at some point convenient to myself. The ‘process’ turned out to be way more powerful than me, terrifying, and in the end, and at points along the way, incredibly rewarding. Call it “individuation” or “the soul’s journey” or what have you, I was brought into the “fire” of transformation which dominated my life in the 1990’s. A point came when I had no choice but to see it through; otherwise I’d end up institutionalized. In so wrestling with a power ‘greater than myself,’ I was immersed in a health-bringing process; it made sense to me it was that which people have called God, or Nature, but the experience meant far more than the name. I make no claims for my “sanity” now, but after this experience I could no longer identify myself as victim. Although it felt – and still feels to me – completely audacious, I had to speak from the intact part of myself; only the writer, the creative part of me, was capable of this.
I have no choice as to what I will write about. I envy the poets and the novelists their forms; I have just this one ‘song’ that may sound like something quite other than a song to others; it comes out of a deeper disturbance and a deeper alienation than secular left liberal American politics allows. Indeed, it is akin to the valid experience brought to one through Buddhist practice, according to David Lopez, quoted in Curtis White’s We, Robots: “The goal of meditation is stress induction. This stress is a product of extreme dissatisfaction with the world. Rather than seeking a sense of peaceful satisfaction with the unfolding of experience, the goal of this practice is to produce a state of mind that is highly judgmental, indeed judging this world to be like a prison.”
I use this quote from a book (Lopez’s) I have not read for two reasons: first, it says of Buddhism what I have found to be true through my own “practice,” the writing I have kept at devotedly for close to 20 years. Writing provides me access to “know what I know”and so is for me the way to be a free human being in this world; as a free human being, my art imposes upon me a duty that I address ‘the prison’ and critique it. A moral perspective is built into the practice.
Second, the quotation points to one reason I speak of “religion” (and religiophobia) in my writing, rather than the more congenial “spirituality.” To the extent that “spirituality” and spiritual practice are put to work for the world we have (i.e., to reduce stress, increase fitness, bring tranquility, etc,) rather than for the world we dream of and sacrifice for (i.e., thus inducing stress and knowing one’s profound alienation from this world), I tend toward the less acceptable, more divisively connoted word. It is more than possible when people say “I’m spiritual but not religious” that they are fully in the countercultural critique, but I cannot help being suspicious. I sense a holdout, a bit of bargaining on behalf of the ego.
If one goes deep enough into the wilderness of the self, and many poets and artists can confirm, one reaches an experience – or a series of experiences – that is initiatory in the tribal sense. Even for people who have that experience, a choice remains as to how to make use of it in the world. Perhaps due to my seminary training, of which I am no shining exemplar, I understood I was called to address the world in which the soul’s reality – the non-optional basis for our humanity – is consistently denied and violated. One source of damage to the soul is the loss of will to resist the colonization of communities and families by corporate reality so that they no longer consistently provide safety and protection for innocence, that is for the spiritual inner beings of children. Liberal, “uninitiated” society is so polarized on its side of the battle lines defending group rights, it leaves the social structures that are supportive of humanity to fend for themselves. In effect, it ensures an endless supply of victims.
This is why I am ambivalent toward politics which have passion exclusively for identity issues. Even now, when the winds of fascism are unnervingly blowing in America, or perhaps especially now, when we see the consequences of our reduced politics in a possible fascism, I appeal to a different perspective.
Martin Luther King, Jr., quoted in the film I’m Not Your Negro, said (paraphrase) “We have a right to sit wherever we want to sit [i.e., on the bus or at the lunch counter], and we have a duty to do so. “ With the juxtaposition of those two words, he suggests this initiated perspective. In speaking of rights, he addressed the injured and violated, in speaking of duty he addressed a community of adults prepared to assume a moral purpose, their purpose as human beings in the face of an immoral society.
More than ever, as Americans facing the nightmarish current reality, we need to include with our passion for defending rights the knowledge of our duty to be human beings, to serve a reality larger than the one that comforts the ego, the deeper reality worthy of human beings and human becoming. Rights is a popular word; duty, except among Marines and Boy Scouts, is not. But it is time, aside from defending victims, we rallied around something more inclusive, more meaningful and more visionary than rights exclusively, that comes from and speaks to the nobility, dignity, and strength inherent in whole human beings.
Islamophobia in America is the fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims prevailing among Christian and Jewish Americans. (Atheists who question the very notion of religion are perhaps less likely to select Islam as a special target of disparagement.) A majority of American Christians and Jews do not fear or hate Islam or Muslims. In fact, many Christian and Jewish interfaith organizations are actively engaged in repelling Islamophobia. American Jews understand that they too will be a prime target, as recent cemetery vandalism and bomb threats demonstrate, if Islamophobia gains intensity and momentum. Likewise, Mormons, Hindus, Sikhs, and other minority religious groups living in America fear for their safety as the hatred of Islam sweeps the nation.
The ugliest American Islamophobes that occupy prominent social, political, and intellectual fields are well known to the world if not to the people of the United States: They are Steve Bannon (Irish Catholic), Robert Spencer (Greek Catholic), David Horowitz (Jewish), Pamela Geller (Jewish), David Yerushalmi (Jewish), Frank Gaffney (Irish Catholic), Steven Emerson (unknown heritage), Daniel Pipes (Jewish), Sean Hannity (Irish Catholic), and Bill O’Reilly (Irish Catholic). There are scores of other Islamophobes, less highflying but no less vicious, firmly occupying posts in the media, legislatures, television, and academia.
These garrulous Islamophobes write books, sponsor seminars, and write op-eds; some prompt states to enact anti-Sharia legislation, some finance anti-Islamic political movements in Europe and the United States, some provide radio and television commentaries sensationalizing the perils of Islam, and some outright advocate the persecution and expulsion of American Muslims.
A quick overview of the ugliest Islamophobes listed above demonstrates that they are mostly white males, and mostly Irish Catholic or Jewish. It is ironic how these ugliest Islamophobes conveniently forget that Jews, Catholics, and the Irish — their own communities — have experienced sorrowful histories of discrimination, prejudice, hatred, and refusal to enter the United States. Anti-Semitism is the fear and hatred of the Jews. Hibernophobia is the fear and hatred of the Irish. It is a question of psychiatry, if not psychosis, why the descendants of the victims of Anti-Semitism and Hibernophobia have turned into malicious Islamophobes.
Profiling is inherently obnoxious and a questionable generalization from both moral and empirical viewpoints. Profiling is stereotyping, maybe carrying a trace of truth but almost always over-inclusive – a fishing net catching the blameless and the blameworthy. Stereotypes such as African-Americans are violent, Native-Americans are alcoholics, and Muslims are terrorists – all are odious and wrong. To this questionable list of stereotypes, I am in no hurry to add Irish Catholics and Jews as Islamophobes.
But I wonder. When Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly fume against Islam or Muslims with the intent to poison hearts and minds of the FOX viewers, do they ever simultaneously think about the Irish, the Catholic, or the Irish Catholic communities? When Daniel Pipes and David Horowitz intellectualize hatred against Islam and Muslims, do they ever simultaneously think about similar intellectualization of hatred against the European Jews who faced expulsion and extermination? At this point, in a free flowing stream of consciousness, I am thinking of Ben Carson, an African-American, speaking in vivid delirium against Syrian refugees and discounting African slavery as a form of illegal immigration.
Producers of Islamophobia may be distinguished from consumers of Islamophobia. The producers are highly educated or highly power individuals, such as Steve Bannon. The individuals identified in this commentary are the producers of Islamophobia. For example, David Yerushalmi markets his Islamophobia to state legislatures, Sean Hannity to his television viewers. The consumers of Islamophobia are frequently less educated or less powerful, who can be easily swayed into hating Islam or Muslims. A person pulling the hijab off a Muslim woman walking in the street is a consumer of Islamophobia as is the person shooting “Iranians” (who were indeed Indians) in a Kansas bar. By every standard, the producers of hatred are worse foes of humanity than the consumers of hatred.
Over the centuries, Islamophobes have trashed Islam, persecuted and even killed Muslims. But there is a great irony in Islamic history. The Mongols destroyed Baghdad but their children embraced Islam. Even the Prophet’s own uncle (Abu Lahb) was a vicious Islamophobe, and Mecca, now the citadel of Islam, was once an Islamophobic city. American Islamophobes, the ugliest and the less ugly, need to know that American Muslims and their progeny, even if persecuted, will continue to contribute to the economic, social, moral, and intellectual good of America as they have in Malaysia and Indonesia, nations as far away from the Middle East as are the United States.