‘The Moral Maze’ on Gaza

July 24, 2014 at 7:12 pm (BBC, israel, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, reblogged, wireless)

BBC Radio 4′s The Moral Maze is a superb programme that deals with serious issues in an intelligent, usually balanced, and often passionate, manner. Recent editions have included debates on the future of the NHS, assisted dying and the limits (if any) of freedom of expression.

Last night’s debate on Gaza was outstanding, even by the usual high standards of the show. If you didn’t hear it, click here.

Sarah AB, over at That Place gives a pretty good account of the discussion, but I’m reproducing, below, the assessment posted by one ‘Craig’, shortly after the broadcast, at a blog (new to me) called simply Is The BBC Biased? Quite clearly, whatever other reservations ‘Craig’ may have about the BBC, he was impressed by what he heard last night:

Tonight’s The Moral Maze was quite something.

To do justice to the thoughts it provoked would demand a post that took longer to read than it actually took to listen to the programme (and no one wants that), so I will simply sketch my initial impressions of it.

The panel contained two strongly pro-Israeli speakers, namely Melanie Phillips and Jill Kirby (making her debut), and one strongly pro-Palestinian speaker, Giles Fraser. The final speaker, Matthew Taylor, was happier to sit on the fence but dangled his feet on the Palestinian side.

The ‘witnesses’ were Colonel Richard Kemp and Dr Hugo Slim on the Israeli side, and Mehdi Hasan and Ted Honderich on the Palestinian side.
Michael Buerk gave a characteristically fine introduction (firm but fair).

Then came the first witness, Mehdi Hasan.

Mehdi (characteristically) was very canny in making repeated denunciations of Hamas, saying that they too had committed war crimes. Of course, that concession allowed him to repeatedly make his main point – that Israel is committing war crimes and that Israel is worse than Hamas because of its superior military strength and because it is ‘the occupier’.

His argument didn’t convince me but I can well imagine, unfortunately, that his fluency might have struck home with many a Radio 4 listener.

Melanie’s repeated attempts to talk him down, and both her and Jill’s attempts to get him to condone Hamas rather misfired. He was perfectly happy to condemn Hamas (#Taqiyya?) in order to make his condemnation of Israel tell, thus (in the process) somewhat taking the wind out of their sails.

Next came Colonel Richard Kemp.

He was very persuasive, making Israel’s case with considerable reasonableness (as opposed to Mehdi’s excitability). I suspect (and hope) that Radio 4 listeners will have responded well to his arguments.

Both Matthew Taylor and Giles Fraser gave him space to make his arguments and seemed rather hard-placed to argue with them. Giles, characteristically, was passionate but also seemed somewhat disarmed by Col. Kemp’s quietly-made points. It was a clear win for Col. Kemp.

Then came Ted Honderich.

Prof. Honderich is a philosopher. [I own an encyclopedia of philosophy edited by him]. He sought to make a philosophical case in defence of Hamas. Yes, really.

I suspect (like me) that most Radio 4 listeners will have failed to make much sense of his arguments. All I took from his contribution is that he thinks Hamas is good and that Israel is bad, and that he thinks that Hamas is justified in deliberately seeking to kill Israeli civilians. Philosophically-speaking.

I almost wish that Michael Buerk hadn’t cut him off so curtly from making his initial argument as I suspect that Radio 4 listeners would have been even more put off by the result. (Michael clearly didn’t like Ted Honderich). Partly as a result, Prof. Honderich made very little headway here.

His remarkable (and reprehensible) appearance was dominated by his spiteful encounter with Melanie Phillips. Insults flew in both directions.

Finally came Dr Hugo Slim, who put the case for Israel well, but who was also willing to give his hands a good wringing in the process. Giles Fraser tried to wax passionate against him but seemed to find him too likable (too liberal) to get into a proper fistfight with, and Matthew Taylor appeared to reach a meeting of minds with him

The final panel discussion was lively. Giles Fraser came out (extraordinarily) as being sympathetic to Ted Honderich’s pro-Hamas points (well, he is a Guardian editorial writer these days). Melanie Phillips tried to talk him down (and everyone else – until Jill Kirby made a good, pro-Israel point). Jill Kirby floundered somewhat, though she made some good points (first day nerves?). Michael Buerk had a dig at Giles for seeming to back up Prof. Honderich, and Matthew Taylor sat on the fence.

All in all, a fiercely balanced programme.

I did note that some people on Twitter denounced it as biased, though I couldn’t work out in what direction they meant (and was deeply unwilling to check their Twitter feeds).

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International Trade Union Confederation calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

July 22, 2014 at 5:36 pm (Eric Lee, internationalism, israel, LabourStart, Middle East, posted by JD, unions)

From Eric Lee of LabourStart:

On 14 July 2014, the International Trade Union Confederation, representing 176 million workers around the globe, issued a call for an immediate ceasefire in the fighting between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza. The ITUC expressed its full support for the UN Security Council resolution calling for “de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire and respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.”

Please show your support for the ITUC call:
http://labourstart.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=f3995b46c18cb039818f29a32&id=ac08115904&e=2f14d1750b

And please share this with your fellow trade union members.

Thank you!
 

Eric Lee

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Boycott Israeli academics – but ask for their support on Gaza?

July 19, 2014 at 2:45 pm (academe, Chomsky, israel, Jim D, Middle East, palestine, SWP, tragedy, war)

A wounded Palestinian baby receives treatment at a hospital in the Gaza Strip on July 18, 2014.

Above: wounded Palestinian baby, July 2014; a coherent response is needed

This response to the present horror in Gaza is a little confusing:

BDS (total boycott of all things – and people – Israeli) activist Haim Bresheeth appears to be heavily involved in an appeal, also involving Noam Chomsky, which quite rightly, calls on Israeli academics to speak out against the bombardment and siege of Gaza:

http://haimbresheeth.com/gaza/an-open-letter-to-israel-academics-july-13th-2014/

How does this fit with his and others’ desire for a boycott? The appeal is signed by at least one SWP’er (Mick Cushman, assuming he’s still a member) and also by leading boycotter and Hamas apologist Ilan Pappé.

An account of the difficulties of getting Israeli signatures (written by a supporter of Pappé) is linked to, but criticised for being “too dismissive of the Israeli reaction.”

The actual statement has so far been signed by about 40 Israeli academics and is a clear call for a negotiated settlement and peace agreement that will end the occupation and settlements. Unless anyone tries to interpret this as a voluntary liquidation of Israel it can only be a call for a two state solution.

It says:

The signatories to this statement, all academics at Israeli universities, wish it to be known that they utterly deplore the aggressive military strategy being deployed by the Israeli government. The slaughter of large numbers of wholly innocent people, is placing yet more barriers of blood in the way of the negotiated agreement which is the only alternative to the occupation and endless oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire, and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement.

So the BDS movement (SWP included) is calling for action, from people they say should not be engaged with in any way, advocating support for two states and laying into Pappé’s supporters for being unduly cynical about it.

Can anyone explain the logic behind this?

H/t: Comrade Pete

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A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab hatred within Israel

July 13, 2014 at 11:18 pm (Human rights, israel, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, thuggery, tragedy)

From the +972 website:

Attacks by Jewish hooligans on Arabs, unprecedented incitement by right-wing politicians and clashes between Israeli Police and Arab youth. We’ve been here before, but never like this.

By Ron Gerlitz

This article is written at the height of an extensive, violent escalation in the Jewish-Arab conflict, both within Israel and between Israel and the Palestinians in the territories and the Gaza Strip.

Regarding the events inside Israel, it is important to note the dramatic difference between the events of October 2000 and those of the past week. In October 2000, it was Arab citizens of Israel confronting the police. In contrast, during the past week, Jewish and Arab civilians have faced off and attacked each other. The majority of these incidents involved assault and manifestations of racism by Jewish Israelis against Arab Israelis.

Palestinian youth throw rocks at Israeli security forces during clashes in Shuafat. The clashes erupted during the funeral for Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian who was suspected of being murdered by Jewish nationalists in Jerusalem. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Unfortunately, such attacks are not a new phenomenon, but their scope over the last week is unprecedented. This is not just an escalation – it is an entirely new reality. We have never been in a situation in which attacks against Arab civilians occurred daily and all over Israel. The following is a collection of statements I heard from a firsthand source in the last few days: “Death to Arabs” marches in the streets of Nazareth Illit night after night, gangs of Jewish hooligans roaming the Jerusalem streets and beating Arabs, violent attacks against Arabs on buses, and, in Pardes Hanna, dozens of young people entered a mall screaming “Death to Arabs.” Furthermore, there have been innumerable incidents of profanity against Arabs.

No one comes out unscathed

I didn’t comprehend the scope of this phenomenon from the media, but rather from the fact that every single Arab citizen I have met recently (and I meet many) has told me about an incident that happened to him or to his family. One tells me that someone cursed at his daughter on the bus: “Filthy Arab, get out of here, all of you.” Another one tells me that she went to a clothing store and heard from an Arab worker that all the Arab employees had been fired that day. A friend tells me that his daughter went to the mall where some people (who didn’t realize she was Arab) told her, “All Arabs are dogs.” A colleague who lives near a main thoroughfare in a Jewish town says that a bag of sand was thrown at her house; since then, she has not let her children go out to the yard. Everyone has a story from the last week, and I haven’t yet mentioned the shock waves created by the brutal murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

The result is that Israel’s Arab citizens sense a tremendous fear on a daily basis. Many of them avoid public areas; some have stopped showing up for work at shopping malls or riding public transportation, or they have prohibited their children from doing so. For many Arab citizens, the past week represents a turning point. Fear for their lives and their children’s lives have become a tangible, daily experience. This fear, in turn, gets linked to the insult and anger at the horrendous conditions in which they find themselves. The combination of increasing fear, anger, and sense of indignity is bad news for all residents of this country.

Policemen detain a young, right-wing protester during Tuesday night's clashes in Jerusalem. (photo: Activestills)

At the same time—and this is also important to point out—there have been attacks by Arabs on Jews: stones thrown at buses on the roads, Molotov cocktails thrown at passing cars, and, in the case that could well become symbolic—checking “who is a Jew” at the entrance to Qalanswa, taking Jewish drivers out of their cars, beating them, and setting their cars on fire. Even though these incidents are much smaller in scope than the attacks against Arabs, they are still a form of violence that is dangerous and morally repugnant. It is only by chance that these events have not yet resulted in casualties, and they have certainly increased the sense of fear and hatred among Jews.

On a personal note: I have worked on the issue of Jewish-Arab relations for a long time. I deal with issues of discrimination and racism, which evoke all kinds of feelings in me, such as anger, exasperation, frustration and a motivation to take action. We now find ourselves in a situation in which Arab citizens are genuinely afraid to walk in the streets, and rightfully so: when they do go out, they may well be verbally abused, or, in the worst case, be physically attacked. This causes me great shame.

And now for the bad news  

I usually refrain from drawing pessimistic pictures of the future, but even according to the most cautious approach, it seems that the Jewish-Arab conflict in Israel might have entered a new and dangerous stage. Systematic discrimination by the establishment and popular racism have been some of the fundamental elements of the conflict to date. It seems that another element will now be added: violent conflicts between Jewish and Arab citizens. This is a nightmarish scenario that, unfortunately, no longer seems so imaginary. This is how civil wars in other regions of the world began. All those who value life must do everything in their power to stop this.

Where is the police?

As things stand now, the police have failed utterly to protect Israel’s Arab citizens. It is true that the police have prevented the lynching of Arabs wherever they have been on the scene, but the police do not work systematically to protect Arab lives. Many of the Arabs have been abandoned to the screaming, cursing and beating, and they are lucky that non-racist Jewish Israelis have saved them from the racists.

But it is also worth examining the protests in the Arab towns that included violent attacks on the police and sometimes on Jews as well. The difference between these events and those of October 2000 is clear. The police should now be roundly criticized: for the profusion of arrests, for the consistent and systematically discriminatory treatment of Arab protesters, and the suppression of demonstrations.

Israeli police arrest a protester during the second day of protests that followed the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager, East Jerusalem, July 3, 2014. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

At the same time, it should be noted that the violent demonstrations transpired without any shots fired by the police or any casualties. Someone must have given the order to do everything to avoid shooting at the Arab protesters—and the order was carried out. Even though the police endured stones being thrown at them and the roads were closed, they managed to get through all the events without any casualties. In this sense, the police internalized and implemented the lessons of the October 2000 events. This is a positive development in the relationship between the state and its Arab citizens, and an example of how some of the recommendations made by the Or Commission were actually put in place. The police do not deserve a prize, but Noam Sheizaf was apparently right when he said they deserve a good word [Hebrew]. I would add: if only the Border Police and IDF acted this way toward the Palestinians in the occupied territories, many deaths could have been prevented.

There is leadership, and then there is leadership

The local Arab municipal leadership also deserves a good word. In almost all the localities where demonstrations took place, the heads of the local authorities intervened to prevent deterioration into even greater violence. Many of them went into the streets at night to try and prevent an escalation, and there is no doubt that they helped restore calm. At the time of writing, criticism of the heads of these local authorities is being voiced in Arab society. I do not share this criticism. Without their involvement, protestors or police officers may have been killed, and the situation would quickly have escalated from there.

Such an escalation would harm the Arab struggle to attain equality and break Jewish hegemony. At best, it would, strengthen, preserve and reinforce existing patterns of discrimination; at worst, it would contribute significantly to an additional infringement upon the rights of Arab citizens. All this is, of course, in the best-case scenario, in which the escalation does not lead to a civil war or an ongoing bloodbath.

Over the next few days, demonstrations are expected to take place in Arab localities. Both sides—the protesters and the police—will come with much more hatred and anger. One side sees its people subjected to nonstop bombings in Gaza, with more than 100 casualties and counting. The other side has to cope with protesters who, they believe, support the enemy even as their own families take cover in bomb shelters. This is a very dangerous scenario. The next few nights will be a litmus test for both the police and the Arab leadership.

In contrast to the local Arab leadership and the police – who have managed to cool down the flames – is the Israeli government. Not only is the government taking no action to reduce the escalation inside Israel, the past week has seen ministers fomenting provocation against Arab citizens. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett have let fly harsh, racist statements directed at Arab citizens. Liberman, as usual, suggested that Arabs should be denied their citizenship.

After a weekend of violence between Arab citizens and the police and between Jews and Arabs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself chose to address Arab citizens. He reminded them that they receive payments from the National Insurance Institute and made all kinds of demands of them in return. It is hard to conceive of a more wretched, divisive, and dangerous response by a prime minister in these times.

But it is easy to think of a much better response. No need to think hard, just read the words of President-elect Reuven Rivlin:

We must understand that we have no option other than living together. The bloodshed will only come to an end when we all realize that we are not doomed to live together, but destined to live together. Any vacillation or compromise on this issue will result in deteriorated relations that could result in tragedy, not only for shared life, but for life itself.

So what now?

I have not given up hope. I still believe that there can be a better future for the relationship between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. At times like these, I once again hold fast to the awareness (which I have also written about here) that ethnic conflicts far more intransigent and violent than this one have been resolved, while conflicts that seemed mild have declined into bloodshed. All options are on the table.

This is not the first time that I am ending an article with the words of the Arab citizen of Israel, Raef Zreik, which now seem more important than ever:

My optimism does not stem from the belief that one can decipher history’s hidden plan or hasten its evolution. My optimism is more modest: it is the result not of clear analytical thinking but of historical experience. Experience teaches us that sometimes—but only sometimes—there are also historical tales with a happy end. History also teaches us that this end is not happenstance; rather, there were those who toiled to bring it about. And it is worth remembering: Just as we have no assurance of success, neither is there any certainty of failure.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Ron Gerlitz is Co-Executive Director of Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel. 

Related:
Why this isn’t a ‘new’ intifada
There is no war of images, only occupation
Kidnappings leave a wake of ‘revenge,’ racist violence

 

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Keller of Gush Shalom: a voice of sanity from Israel

July 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm (crime, Human rights, israel, Middle East, murder, palestine, posted by JD, protest)

Adam Keller, of the left wing Israeli peace bloc Gush Shalom, wrote this on Friday 4 July on his blog Crazy Country. Since then, the Israeli authorities have arrested six Jewish suspects in the case of Abu Khdeir’s murder.

Above: “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”

It is becoming clear that the government, army and security services assumed from the start that the three (Israeli) boys were no longer alive.  Probably, it was no surprise for them that there did not come any claim of responsibility, and no proposal of negotiating their release. The soldiers who conducted the searches on the ground were instructed to turn every stone, quite literally, and also to empty water holes and search their bottoms. The soldiers were sent to look for dead bodies, not for hostages. But on the media were imposed gag orders, preventing them from publishing information pointing to the death of the boys. The Israeli public was called to take part in mass prayers and rallies on city squares with the call “Bring back our boys” and one gets the impression that also the three families going from hope to despair were not informed to the full.

To whom was it worthwhile and why? It is not difficult to guess. Long before Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel took their fateful ride, Binyamin Netanyahu already marked as a primary target the Palestinian Reconciliation Agreement. He was determined to drive a wedge and break up at any price the “Technocrat Government” created jointly by Fatah and Hamas. From the first day the government of Israel declared Hamas to be responsible for the kidnapping – a clear proof, if it exists, has not been published until this moment.

Under cover of the great outcry “Bring Back Our Sons” the army started a widespread detention campaign, which had no direct connection with the kidnapping. Operation Brother’s Keeper was mainly directed against “the civilian infrastructure” of Hamas – starting with the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislature down to grassroots activists of Hamas-linked educational institutions and charity associations. It was clear that the people detained knew nothing about the kidnapping, and nobody expected them to know. But, as was noted with satisfaction by knowledgeable commentators such as Alex Fishman of Yediot Achronot, the kidnapping created “a rare window of opportunity” in which the world kept silent about a massive detention campaign which under different circumstances would have caused a wave of international protest. Nor was there much ado about the killing of several Palestinians, among them boys of the same age as the Israelis which the army supposedly was searching for. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chomsky in ‘The Nation’ on BDS

July 3, 2014 at 1:18 pm (Chomsky, Human rights, intellectuals, israel, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, reblogged, United States, zionism)

.

The Nation: July 7-14, 2014

Noam Chomsky’s new article in The Nation on the BDS campaign against Israel has caused a stir. He makes quite a few highly controversial points, not all of which Shiraz would necessarily agree with. We republish this important piece, exacty as it appears in The Nation (starting with the Editor’s note)  in the interests of information and debate:

Editor’s Note: BDS has been a topic of vigorous debate in the Nation community. For more on that debate, and for a range of responses to this article in the coming days, go to TheNation.com/BDS.

On Israel-Palestine and BDS
Those dedicated to the Palestinian cause should think carefully about the tactics they choose.
By Noam Chomsky

The misery caused by Israel’s actions in the occupied territories has elicited serious concern among at least some Israelis. One of the most outspoken, for many years, has been Gideon Levy, a columnist for Haaretz, who writes that “Israel should be condemned and punished for creating insufferable life under occupation, [and] for the fact that a country that claims to be among the enlightened nations continues abusing an entire people, day and night.”

He is surely correct, and we should add something more: the United States should also be condemned and punished for providing the decisive military, economic, diplomatic and even ideological support for these crimes. So long as it continues to do so, there is little reason to expect Israel to relent in its brutal policies.

The distinguished Israeli scholar Zeev Sternhell, reviewing the reactionary nationalist tide in his country, writes that “the occupation will continue, land will be confiscated from its owners to expand the settlements, the Jordan Valley will be cleansed of Arabs, Arab Jerusalem will be strangled by Jewish neighborhoods, and any act of robbery and foolishness that serves Jewish expansion in the city will be welcomed by the High Court of Justice. The road to South Africa has been paved and will not be blocked until the Western world presents Israel with an unequivocal choice: Stop the annexation and dismantle most of the colonies and the settler state, or be an outcast.”

One crucial question is whether the United States will stop undermining the international consensus, which favors a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized border (the Green Line established in the 1949 ceasefire agreements), with guarantees for “the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all states in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.” That was the wording of a resolution brought to the UN Security Council in January 1976 by Egypt, Syria and Jordan, supported by the Arab states—and vetoed by the United States.

This was not the first time Washington had barred a peaceful diplomatic settlement. The prize for that goes to Henry Kissinger, who supported Israel’s 1971 decision to reject a settlement offered by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, choosing expansion over security—a course that Israel has followed with US support ever since. Sometimes Washington’s position becomes almost comical, as in February 2011, when the Obama administration vetoed a UN resolution that supported official US policy: opposition to Israel’s settlement expansion, which continues (also with US support) despite some whispers of disapproval.

It is not expansion of the huge settlement and infrastructure program (including the separation wall) that is the issue, but rather its very existence—all of it illegal, as determined by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice, and recognized as such by virtually the entire world apart from Israel and the United States since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who downgraded “illegal” to “an obstacle to peace.”

One way to punish Israel for its egregious crimes was initiated by the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom in 1997: a boycott of settlement products. Such initiatives have been considerably expanded since then. In June, the Presbyterian Church resolved to divest from three US-based multinationals involved in the occupation. The most far-reaching success is the policy directive of the European Union that forbids funding, cooperation, research awards or any similar relationship with any Israeli entity that has “direct or indirect links” to the occupied territories, where all settlements are illegal, as the EU declaration reiterates. Britain had already directed retailers to “distinguish between goods originating from Palestinian producers and goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements.”

Four years ago, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to abide by “its international legal obligation” to remove the settlements and to end its “blatantly discriminatory practices” in the occupied territories. HRW also called on the United States to suspend financing to Israel “in an amount equivalent to the costs of Israel’s spending in support of settlements,” and to verify that tax exemptions for organizations contributing to Israel “are consistent with U.S. obligations to ensure respect for international law, including prohibitions against discrimination.”

There have been a great many other boycott and divestment initiatives in the past decade, occasionally—but not sufficiently—reaching to the crucial matter of US support for Israeli crimes. Meanwhile, a BDS movement (calling for “boycott, divestment and sanctions”) has been formed, often citing South African models; more accurately, the abbreviation should be “BD,” since sanctions, or state actions, are not on the horizon—one of the many significant differences from South Africa.

Read the rest here

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“Reyaad, I’m dying for you”

June 25, 2014 at 8:33 am (Champagne Charlie, iraq, islamism, Middle East, religion, terror, tragedy)

This is so desperately sad that I thought twice about publishing it. But it’s important to be aware of the immediate human consequences of young men being seduced by a fascist ideology – especially as some idiots seem to wilfully misunderstand what’s going on.

From the Daily Telegraph:

By Tom Whitehead

Young British jihadist Reyaad Khan was told he was “killing his parents” and had turned them against Islam, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

His uncle texted the fanatic pleading with him to come home because he was tearing his family apart.

The stark message also warned Khan that his father would “pray he went to hell” if he did not come home.

The desperate attempts to get Khan back emerged as his mother Rukia made an emotional plea to her son to come home.

She also pleaded directly to terror group Isis to send her son back to her before she “died”.

Khan’s family said they were in shock when they discovered he had gone to Syria and believe he has been “brainwashed” by extremists, either over the internet or in Cardiff

He disappeared in November after telling his family he was going to Birmingham for talks.

He phoned his uncle, who asked not to be named, to reveal he was actually in Syria and asked him to “tell his mother”.

The uncle then embarked on a series of text message exchanges trying to persuade his nephew to return.

In one, he wrote: “I must let you know that you are killing your parents with worry and stress to the level that they hate Islam.

“Blame Islam for their son.”

He told him that his father had said “If you do not come back he prays for you to go to hell.

“Your dad curses you in a way you would not believe and hates the mosques.”

But Khan simply replied: “I’m fine. No reception, I cannot speak.”

The uncle told the Telegraph: “I was shocked and told him he should be here. I said to come back home now. I said ‘come home, you will kill your mother’.”

The uncle said he could not tell Khan’s mother at first “because she would have collapsed”.

She was devastated by the news and was “acting mad and screaming”, he said. “She was blaming everyone.”

In her own tearful appeal, Mrs Khan said: “Reyaad, please come back home. I’m dying for you. You’re my only son. Please come back Reyaad.”

She also begged Isis: “Please send my son back home. He is my one and only son. I and my family need him back. Please just send my son back to me before I die and it is going to be too late for Reyaad, he’s going to regret it for the rest of his life.

“Please send my son back to me and his family. We all need him.”

She told Sky News: “He is honest, always caring for his family, he always wanted to be there for them. He was one of the best boys a mother could ever have or want.

“I think they are brainwashed into thinking they are going to help people. I don’t know who it is but there is someone behind them keeping these young, innocent boys, brainwashing them into thinking they are going to help people. There is someone behind them, I don’t know who.”

The mother said the actions of her 20-year-old son had hugely impacted on her family.

“It is absolutely devastating. It has turned our lives upside down. I can’t sleep or eat, I am very ill,” she said.

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Workers Liberty on the collapse in Iraq

June 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm (AWL, Cross-post, iraq, iraq war, islamism, kdp, kurdistan, Middle East, posted by JD, secularism, terror, war)

Picture appearing to show ISIS militants loading captives into a truck. Picture appearing to show ISIS militants loading captives into a truck.

The following article, by Martin Thomas of Workers Liberty, carries weight because it is largely based upon interviews with representatives of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq and the Worker-communist Party of Kurdistan. It first appeared in the AWL’s paper Solidarity:

On Wednesday 11 June, the Al-Qaeda-oriented Sunni Islamist group ISIS seized control of Iraq’s second-biggest city, Mosul.

It has taken several other cities in the Sunni-majority north and west. Before 11 June it already had control of Fallujah and much of Ramadi, and of significant areas in Syria.

Nadia Mahmood of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq told Solidarity:

“What’s going on now with ISIS is a new phase of the sectarian violence which reached its peak in 2006-7 with the bombings in Samarra”.

That simmering sectarian civil war died down in 2007-8 and after. But, said Nadia: “After the Arab Spring [in 2011], the Sunni [minority in Arab Iraq] became more assertive.

“In 2013, [Iraq's Shia-Islamist prime minister] Maliki ended the [peaceful, and not sharply Islamist] protest camps outside the roads to Fallujah and ignored their demands.

“Now in 2014, after the election two months ago, Maliki wants to stay in power and has marginalised even the other Shia parties.

“Because of the sectarian nature of the government, this sort of violence will happen again and again. Socialists need to call for a secular state.

“The left and the labour movement in Iraq are not powerful right now, so first of all we need a secular state without religious identity which will give us ground to build. The target now is to end the sectarian nature of the state”.

Some of the roots of this collapse of the Iraqi state lie in what the USA did after invading in 2003. It disbanded much of the Iraqi state machine, including low-ranking people, and promoted “de-Baathification”.

At first the USA hoped that pro-US and relatively secular people like Ahmed Chalabi and Iyad Allawi would create a pro-US Iraqi government. But those neo-liberals turned out to be good at schmoozing US officials while in exile, hopeless at winning support from Iraqis in Iraq.

Amid the chaos and rancour which followed the invasion and the destruction of everyday governance, the mosques and the Islamist factions won hegemony.

The US adapted and worked with people like Maliki. As Aso Kamal of the Worker-communist Party of Kurdistan told Solidarity: “The Americans made a political system that depended on balancing three ethnic and sectarian identities.

“Iraq had been a modern society, with sectarian divisions not so deep. These events are the product of the new system America brought to Iraq. Especially with other powers like Turkey and Iran intervening, seeking their allies within the Iraqi system, it has been a disaster”. Now Saudi Arabia has seized on the current crisis to call for the fall of Maliki and his replacement by “a government of national consensus”.

Nadia Mahmood explained: “I think some of the Ba’thists saw the de-Ba’thification policy as targeting Sunnis more than Ba’thists. In fact there were Shia Ba’thists who held powerful positions in the state, and they were protected because they were Shia.

“So the Sunni Ba’athists went to the Sunni side and the Islamist side, not the Ba’thist side. They held to their religious identity”.

According to Aso Kamal, Maliki’s government is seen as a Shia government, and that rallies groups like ISIS and ex-Ba’thists against it.

For us in Workers’ Liberty, the horrible events confirm the arguments we made during the previous simmering sectarian civil war in Iraq (especially 2006-7) for slogans of support for the Iraqi labour movement and democracy against both the US forces and the sectarian militias, not the negative slogan “troops out”. The two-word recipe “troops out” then certainly entailed a sectarian collapse like this one, only worse. Now it is happening, even those who previously most ardently insisted that anti-Americanism must be the first step, and everything else could be be sorted out later, dare not hail the ISIS advance and the Shia counter-mobilisation as “liberation” or “anti-imperialism”.

Of course, rejecting the slogan “troops out” did not mean supporting the US, any more than being dismayed at the ISIS advance means endorsing Maliki.

The sudden collapse of the Iraqi army as the relatively small ISIS force advanced shows how corrupt and discredited the state has become.

Nadia Mahmood explained: “Soldiers from Mosul were saying that even when ISIS were still far away from the city, the leaders of the army took off their military clothes and left the soldiers. The Mayor of Mosul told the soldiers to leave. Some of the soldiers are saying that there was a deal”.

The knock-on effect of the ISIS victories is a sharpening on the other side of Shia sectarianism. As Nadia Mahmood says: “Now the Shia political parties are becoming closer to each other and calling for resistance. There is a sectarian agenda against the Sunni”. Aso Kamal adds: “Sistani and Maliki are also calling for a holy war. This is taking Iraq back centuries. It could become like Somalia. That will destroy the working class. It is a very dark scenario”.

Workers’ Liberty believes that defence of the labour movement in Iraq, which will be crushed wherever ISIS rules and in grave danger where the Shia Islamists are mobilising, should be a main slogan now, alongside the call for a secular state.

“ISIS”, says Aso Kamal, “have announced what they are going to do. Women must stay at home. Nothing must be taught in schools outside the Quran. There will be no freedom of speech. They are like the Taliban”.

“I’m not sure how ISIS came to Iraq”, says Nadia Mahmood, “and whether they are popular even amongst Sunnis. Maybe they are allied with the Ba’thists. But are there more Sunnis supporting them? Many Sunnis seem very scared and oppose ISIS.

“It is horrible what is going on”. But, now they have power and access to big arsenals, “ISIS may keep hold of the Sunni cities, such as Mosul and Tikrit, for some time. It’s obviously not the same for Baghdad.

“Bringing in Iranian groups to fight ISIS will only encourage sectarian discourse and maybe accelerate Shia-Sunni polarisation. Already Maliki is accused by ISIS, and by the Ba’thists, of being an Iranian agent. Whether Iranian intervention calms the situation or it worsens it is unclear.

“Many people in Iraq would prefer the United States to attack ISIS. They have come all the way from Mosul to 60km outside Baghdad, killing in their wake. I don’t know if they stay longer how many crimes they will commit, how many tragedies are going to happen. People in Baghdad feel very scared now”.

That doesn’t mean endorsing US bombing. The US’s 12 years of bombing in Afghanistan have not installed a secular state, but rebuilt a base for the once-discredited Taliban.

As Aso Kamal explains: “The Americans have a common front against ISIS now. But the Americans are playing with both sides. They do whatever they think will stabilise the region and the markets, and ignore the future of the people. In reality, they are supporting reactionary forces in Iraq.

“The effect of the developing sectarian war will be to inflame nationalism in Kurdistan. Already the KDP and the PUK [the main parties] are asking people to support them in order to keep the territory which Kurdish forces have conquered”.

For the Worker-communist Party of Kurdistan, “the main issue is to keep Kurdistan separate from this war. We say there should be a referendum and independence for [Iraqi] Kurdistan”.

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Sami Ramadani’s claim that Zionists bombed Baghdad synagogues in 1950-51

June 17, 2014 at 4:54 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, Guardian, history, iraq, iraq war, israel, Jim D, Middle East, Stop The War, terror, zionism)

 
Registering for Aliya, Baghdad, 1950                                                                       Landing in Israel

Sami Ramadani is a periodic contributor to the Guardian, always billed as “a political refugee from Sadam Hussain’s regime.” In fact, that billing doesn’t really do him justice: during the Iraq war he was a supporter of the murderous, anti-working class Iraqi “resistance” and is a demagogue, much loved by the so-called ‘Stop The War Coalition’, who routinely blames the “West” and “Zionists” for all the ills of Iraq in particular, and the Middle East in general.

Shiraz has commented on his politics in the past.

In his latest Guardian piece, arguing that prior to the 2003 occupation, there was no “significant communal fighting between Iraq’s religions, sects, ethnicities or nationalities”, Ramadani mentions two incidents that would seem to contradict his thesis:

“[T]he only incident was the 1941 violent looting of Jewish neighbourhoods – still shrouded in mystery as to who planned it. The bombing of synagogues in Baghdad in 1950-51 turned out to be the work of Zionists to frighten Iraq’s Jews – one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world – into emigrating to Israel.”

I’ll leave aside the 1941 looting for now (though, whether by accident or design, it’s worth noting that Ramadani’s choice of words would lead the uniformed reader to assume that it, too, was probably the work of “Zionists”).

What I want to discuss here, is Ramadani’s bald statement that the 1950-51 bombings “turned out to be the work of Zionists”, as though that is an established, incontrovertible fact. Far from it: the matter is hotly disputed to this day, as a visit to Wikipedia will confirm. I want to make it clear that I am not ruling out the possibility that the bombings (or, perhaps, just some of them) were the work of Zionists, either operating on a free-lance basis or under orders from the Israeli leadership. But that thesis is far from being the established fact that Ramadani makes it out to be, as a glance at Wikipedia will confirm.

It is generally acknowledged that the two best accounts of the bombings, arguing diametrically opposed positions, are by Abbas Shiblack, in his 1989 book The Lure of Zion: The Case of the Iraqi Jews (later slightly revised and republished as The Iraq Jews: A History of Mss Exodus), who argues that Zionists were responsible, and Moshe Gat’s The Jewish Exodus from Iraq, 1948-1951 which presents the case for Arab nationalist responsibility. They also disagree on the question of how important the bombings were in causing the exodus of Jews from Iraq.

The two accounts were analysed and weighed up against each other in a review of Shiblack’s book by Rayyan Al-Shawat, writing in the Winter 2006 edition of Democratiya magazine:

The other significant study of this subject is Moshe Gat’s The Jewish Exodus  from Iraq, 1948-1951, which was published in 1997. A shorter encapsulation
of Gat’s argument can be found in his 2000 Israel Affairs article ‘Between Terror and Emigration: The Case of Iraqi Jewry.
’ Because of the diametrically opposed conclusions arrived at by the authors, it is useful to compare and contrast their  accounts. In fact, Gat explicitly refuted many of Shiblak’s assertions as early as 1987, in his Immigrants and Minorities review of Shiblak’s The Lure of Zion. It is unclear why Shiblak has very conspicuously chosen to ignore Gat’s criticisms and his pointing out of errors in the initial version of the book. The republication of Shiblak’s book 19 years after its first printing afforded him the opportunity to enact revisions, but where modifications were made they are minor, and almost no corrections are to be found. This article will highlight the major differences…

Al-Shawat’s admirably objective and even-handed article concludes as follows:

It is likely that we will never know for sure who the perpetrators of the attacks were.
As for the final word on the effect of the bombs, it is distressing to note that neither
Shiblak nor Gat saw fit to conduct a survey among surviving Iraqi Jewish emigrants
in order to ascertain, in the emigrants’ own words, their reasons for leaving Iraq.
This would have been of inestimable value in determining whether or not the
bombings were in fact the main reason for the exodus. Without evidence, Iraqi
Jews are not necessarily more qualified than anyone else to opine as to the identity
of the terrorists responsible for the bombs. Yet who could be more qualified than Iraqi Jews to explain which factors impelled them to leave Iraq for Israel?!

There is much anecdotal evidence to support the contention that the bombings – whoever
perpetrated them – were the decisive factor behind Iraqi Jews’ emigration. Personal
testimonies to this effect abound. Yet, inexcusably, there has apparently been no
organised effort to collate such testimonies within the framework of a scientific
survey. Though Shiblak cannot prove that Zionist emissaries from Israel were responsible for the bombings, he succeeds in demonstrating that these bombings were a major factor in the flight of Iraqi Jewry. Had Shiblak included a scientifically conducted survey of explanations provided by Iraqi Jews as to why they left, results might have proved that the bombings were the overriding reason – and not simply a major factor behind the exodus.

That seems to me to be a fair and balanced conclusion – ie: we simply don’t know who was responsible. But for the likes of Ramdani that’s not good enough: the Zionists must be to blame for bombing the synagogues – just as they’re to blame for so much else…

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The horror of Iraq

June 13, 2014 at 7:17 pm (iraq, iraq war, islamism, Jim D, Middle East, Syria, terror, tragedy)

 ISIS murdering Iiraq Security Forces after breaking open a prison in Mosul

Above: ISIS murdering Iraq Security Forces after breaking open a prison in Mosul

 Like most people, I’m watching in horror as Iraq disintegrates and the Islamist barbarians of ISIS continue to gain ground. I have no particularly profound insights to offer at the moment, so would recommend readers to check out the ever-reliable Juan Cole at the aptly-titled Informed Comment blog, and one Kyle Orton at this interesting blog, previously unknown to me.

B/t:  Bob From Brockley (for Syrian Intifada tip-off) 

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