Neo-conservatism: a lament

July 11, 2016 at 11:27 pm (democracy, Harry's Place, Human rights, humanism, internationalism, iraq war, Middle East, posted by JD, Syria, tragedy)

This post, by Michael Ezra, first appeared at Harry’s Place:

In 2003 I did not just support the Iraq War, I supported an ideology associated with many of the most vocal proponents of that war: neoconservatism. The purpose of this post is not to criticise Tony Blair for his decision to go to war, although one has to admit that Iraq in 2016 is not the liberal democratic paradise of which many had dreamed, but to note that neoconservatism as an ideology is a soiled good.

There is no simple definition of neoconservatism and neoconservative writers have not all sung the exact same tune with the exact same words. In my opinion neoconservatism is about promoting democracy abroad, opposing regimes hostile to American interests, championing American military strength, and not shirking from using that military strength to further these ideals. The dream was a world reshaped in the American image. Neoconservative thinkers believed, as Francis Fukuyama put it, “history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will.” While neoconservatives are interested in more than foreign policy, it is the foreign policy aspect that has dominated discourse. It is that upon which I focus.

The neoconservatives are ideologues. Like other ideologues they believe that their ideology is right in the moral sense. They had, in their own minds, “moral clarity.” George Bush admitted that the book that influenced his view on foreign policy was Natan Sharansky’s The Case for DemocracyBush also recommended his aides read the book.  Sharansky divided the world into two types of countries: free societies and fear societies. He applied a simple test: “Can a person walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm? If he can, then that person is living in a free society. If not, it’s a fear society.” (pp.40-41). Sharansky formulated his argument based on his own experiences as a dissident in the Soviet Union. If one lives in a fear society, dissidents are arrested and thrown in prison. Fear societies become repressive and tyrannical. He argued, “There is a universal desire among all peoples not to live in fear.” (p.38) His book is a blue print for overturning every single middle eastern dictatorship, and to do so, if necessary, by force: “The free world should not wait for dictatorial regimes to consent to reform….if we condition reform on the agreement of nondemocratic leaders, it will never come. We must be prepared to move forward over their objections.” (p.278). It is a seductive argument. I was seduced.

With such an ideology, in order to morally justify using force for regime change one does not need a fear society to have Weapons of Mass Destruction that could threaten American interests. Regime change is carried out for the good of the citizens of the living in the regime of fear. Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya informed President Bush that the Iraqi population would welcome American soldiers “with sweets and flowers.”  Yet, one could argue, if intervention for the good of the citizens is sufficient, why pick on Iraq rather than any other country? The Weapons of Mass Destruction becomes a way of selling the military action to the population at home. (I am interested in the ideology, not the legality of the war, so there is no need to get into discussions as to United Nations votes and whether Bush and Blair did or did not believe Iraq had WMDs.)

At the time of the so-called Arab Spring the cracks began to appear. When there were huge demonstrations in Egypt against President Mubarak, the neoconservatives cheered on regime change and democracy. The hawks in the Israeli government, thought by many to be in line with the neoconservative ideal, were of a contrary opinion. They had a more realist view. If democracy led to the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of Egypt, they would prefer Mubarak. The Israelis thought the American neoconservatives hopelessly naïve.

Syria has been no better. While President Assad was busy killing his countrymen by the hundreds of thousands, the neoconservatives clamoured for his removal. They wanted America to provide massive military assistance to the so-called moderates opposed to his rule. However, these “moderates” were not necessarily moderate. Besides, it hardly helps either democracy promotion or American interests if weapons that America provided to these so-called “moderates” end up in the hands of the head-choppers of Al Qaeda and ISIS.

The problem with neoconservatism is therefore stark. Despite the view of the neoconservatives that the vast majority of people would far prefer a free democratic society than a dictatorship, when given a chance for the type of democracy that the neoconservatives have in mind, citizens of countries do not necessarily take it. Moreover, while the ideological position of believing you are right might be fine in theory, the empirical reality might be vastly different. One should not ignore what is patently obvious: neoconservatism is the God that failed. The neoconservatives need to be mugged by reality.

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The Half Decents: Syria Benefit Gig for Médecins Sans Frontières

November 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm (anti-fascism, gigs, Harry's Place, Human rights, internationalism, London, Middle East, music, posted by JD, solidarity, Syria, The blues)

Congratulations to Dave ‘Blind Lemon’ Osler for initiaing this. At one point Dave was looking for a drummer and I considered offering my services, but the thought of getting a drum kit to a gig in central London was just too terrifying – JD

Some causes transcend political barriers. The plight of those trapped between the murderers of the Islamic State and the slaughter at the hands of Assad’s forces is one of those issues.

The Facebook Event page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/594797527292791/

On Saturday, 6 December, a band composed of bloggers, journalists and political activists from across the political spectrum will be playing a gig to support Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) and their vital work in the region.

Dubbed “The Half Decents”, our ad-hoc band will perform a familiar blend of rock classics and blues standards, with a sprinkling of indie pop. The evening will be hosted by 89Up, the public affairs agency (http://www.89up.org/), and will include guest speakers and a support act.

We’re asking anybody who wants to attend to donate at least £10 to Medecins Sans Frontiers, via this special JustGiving Fundraising Page.

https://www.justgiving.com/Half-Decents

Leave your name and we will email before the gig with all the details you will need.

The Half Decents is made up of Davis Lewin (Henry Jackson Society), Paul Evans (Slugger O’Toole), David Osler (ex Tribune), David Toube (Harry’s Place), Brett Lock (ex OutRage!) and Adam Barnett (East London Advertiser).

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Yarmouk Camp, Damascus, 2014 [see update]

February 28, 2014 at 12:16 am (crime, Harry's Place, Human rights, palestine, posted by JD)

Hour of need: Residents of Syria’s besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, crowding a destroyed street during a food distribution led by the UN


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2568251/UN-calls-Syrian-warring-sides-allow-aid-flow.html#ixzz2ufA3hxBO Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

When I first saw this photo, I couldn’t believe it was genuine. I thought perhaps it was a CGI from some post-apocalyptic movie.

But apparently it’s for real. Click to enlarge and get the full impact.

The World Post reports:

A sea of hungry, haunted faces looks out from a massive queue that snakes through the bombed out Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Syria. In the photo, taken on Jan. 31 of this year in Damascus’ Palestinian refugee camp, men, women, and children are on line for aid that includes desperately needed food and medical supplies. There are more than 18,000 people in the Yarmouk camp, and many are starving to death.

The camp was originally built in 1948 to house Palestinian refugees fleeing the Arab-Israeli war. Since the start of the Syrian conflict the area has become a humanitarian disaster zone as fighting between government and rebel forces hinders attempts to deliver food and medical treatment to those within.

Dozens have died in the camp from malnutrition, with reports of those trapped in Yarmouk sometimes resorting to eating grass and cats in order to survive. Aid from the United Nations has trickled in slowly since January 2014, sometimes only 60 parcels a day, and when it does arrive it results in the harrowing scenes such as the one you see in this photo.

The United Nations has set up a special site to donate to the people of Yarmouk, which you can visit here.

At the risk of possibly helping to feed some people who don’t like Israel, I’ve kicked in some cash.

As DaveM made clear last month, the death and suffering in Yarmouk are a result of the Assad regime’s months-long brutal siege of the neighborhood.

Any organization or blog which claims to be “pro-Palestinian” and does not feature this photo on its website isn’t pro-Palestinian at all. It’s simply anti-Israel.

Update: OK, my first instinct was correct. It appears the photo was enhanced after all.

Here are some genuine photos of UNRWA’s food distribution in Yarmouk– which are heart-rending enough.

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Answering Roger Waters’ questions

February 5, 2014 at 12:49 am (anti-semitism, Harry's Place, Human rights, israel, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", reblogged)

This piece by  J.S. Rasfaeli is so good that we’ve lifted it from That Place: not everything they publish is rubbish, and this article is a brilliant reply to the idiotic anti-Israel-fanatic rock “star” Waters. It also deals with a number of widely-held misconceptions about Palestinians (who are indeed, oppressed) in Israel:

Above: anti-Israel fanatic Waters’ pig drone (note Star of David)

Dear Roger Waters,

The other day you posted an open letter to Neil Young and Scarlett Johansson on your Facebook page. This letter was primarily made up of a series of questions regarding the Palestinian employees of SodaStream’s factory in Ma’ale Adumim, addressed to Ms Johansson.

I see that neither Neil Young or Scarlett Johansson has offered you any answers to these questions, so I thought I might have a go.

There are several hundred Palestinians employed at this particular factory, I don’t know each of their particular circumstances, so I have taken my lead from the people interviewed in this recent article, and this video.

Enjoy the answers Roger, I hope they shed some light:

Do they have the right to vote?

Since 1994 Palestinians have voted in Palestinian elections – presidential, parliamentary and municipal. Following disputed elections and violent power struggles in 2005/6 the Palestinian polity has been split: Gaza ruled by Hamas, and the West Bank dominated by Fatah. All the Palestinian workers at SodaStream are from the West Bank.

The last local elections in the West Bank were held in October 2012. The internecine Hamas/Fatah rivalry prevented both local elections in Gaza, as well as new presidential or parliamentary elections for Palestine as a whole, but this has nothing to do with SodaStream.

Do they have access to the roads?

In the article above several Palestinian SodaStream workers are interviewed. Four of them identify where they live: Achmed Nasser and Nabeel Besharat, from Ramallah, Ptiha Abu-Selat from Jericho, and Mohammed Yousef  from Jaba.

Ramallah and Jericho are both in Area A of the West Bank, as defined by the Oslo Accords. This area is under full control of the Palestinian Authority, thus they should access to the roads there. There are several towns called Jaba in the West Bank; it is impossible to know which one Mohammed Youssef is referring to, and thus what his road access is like.

In Area C of the West Bank some Israeli-built roads are reserved for the use of Israelis (Arabs as well as Jews) travelling between communities beyond the Green Line, often known as ‘settlements’. This leads to frequent chatter in the West about ‘Jewish only’ roads. This is nonsense. How would this be enforced? Would traffic cops stop drivers and ask them to recite the Torah from memory?

Can they travel to their work place without waiting for hours to pass through the occupying forces control barriers?

SodaStream provides a bus service to take workers to and from the factory – as seen in this video. They pass through one checkpoint. It doesn’t appear too onerous, nor have any complaints been registered around this issue.

Do they have clean drinking water?

Access to water and other resources is of course a contested issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will be a factor in any peace deal. But, to actually answer your question, the latest figures (from 2011) indicate that 89.4% of homes in the West Bank were connected to the water network, and 70.9% of respondents in a poll rated the water quality as ‘good’.

The West Bank’s agricultural sector, though under pressure from Israeli occupation and mismanagement, is functioning. People are not dying of thirst or water-born diseases in Palestine as they are in so many other places in the MENA.

Do they have sanitation?

The figures above apply to water for sanitation as well as drinking.  One suspects that the employees of SodaStream, earning between three and five times the local average are able to afford a better standard of sanitation than their neighbours.

Do they have citizenship?

Interesting question. Until 1988 residents of the West Bank were citizens of Jordan. Jordan then stripped Palestinians of citizenship based on ethnocentric lines. Israel has not done this to its own Arab citizens.

The Palestinian Authority has been issuing its own passports since 1995. The United States recognises these as travel documents, but not as conferring citizenship, as they are not issued by a state the US recognises. However, in 2007 the Japanese government stated, “Given that the Palestinian Authority has improved itself to almost a full-fledged state and issues its own passports, we have decided to accept the Palestinian nationality”.

So the answer is yes and no. The West Bankers who work at SodaStream do however have something considerably closer to citizenship than Palestinians in Lebanon, who are denied both citizenship and residency, despite many families having been there for several generations.

Do they have the right not to have the standard issue kicking in their door in the middle of the night and taking their children away?

According B’tselem, as of the ‘end of December 2013, 4,768 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners were held in Israeli prisons’. This number includes petty criminals, those who have maimed and murdered Israeli civilians, and very likely some poor souls who got scooped up by a crude judicial machine.

Law enforcement in the Occupied Territories is rough. Israel and the Palestinians are in a state of conflict; this does not engender light touch policing. But even its critics say that Israel does maintain the separation of its Legislative and Judicial branches. One hopes that the innocent will be set free – but this has little to do with SodaStream. One would expect the company to support any of its employees who were wrongly incarcerated.

Do they have the right to appeal against arbitrary and indefinite imprisonment?

As far as I am aware there are no categories of prisoner in Israel without the right to appeal.

In cases of Administrative Detention the prisoner may be held for six months without charge. This can be appealed in the Military Court, the District Court and the Supreme Court.

I am not aware of any SodaStream employees having been put into Administrative Detention.

Do they have the right to re-occupy the property and homes they owned before 1948?

Do you actually know whether the workers at SodaStream vacated homes or properties during the 1948 war?

If they did, then the answer is no, at this point they do not have the right to return to those homes (assuming said homes are still standing). However the so-called ‘Right of Return’ is a questionable ‘right’ at best.  At the end of the Second World War millions of Germans were forcibly displaced from homes their families had occupied for centuries in Eastern Europe. The same happened to two million Greeks and Turks in the early 1920s, millions of Indians and Pakistanis during the Partition in 1948, and roughly 750,000 Jews from the Arab and Muslim world at roughly the same time as the Palestinian Nakba. Most of these Jewish-Arab refugees ended up in Israel, where they became citizens. None of these groups is said to possess a ‘Right of Return’, none of them have ‘the right to re-occupy the property and homes they owned before’.

The Palestinians are uniquely cursed with this notional ‘Right of Return’, not least because even three of four generations after the fact, the Arab states where the Palestinian refugees ended up have declined to grant them citizenship or equal rights.

Do they have the right to an ordinary, decent human family life?

This is too nebulous a question. I’m not sure anyone can answer it, least of all Scarlett Johansson. From the article and video above, one might draw the conclusion that, inasmuch as the workers at SodaStream have this right, their positions at SodaStream help them to more fully exercise it.

Do they have the right to self-determination?

The workers at SodaStream are all free to leave the factory and find other employment. Thus far it seems none have chosen to do so. Perhaps you should ask yourself why?

Do they have the right to continue to develop a cultural life that is ancient and profound?

Again, a nebulous question – there is a room set aside for use as a mosque in the Sodastream factory (it’s in the video link). Prayer times are not deducted from break times. One of the more touching sections of that video is the part about the workers seeing each other pray, and families starting to celebrate each other’s holidays. In the Middle Eat this is new, and it is very profound.

*****

So Roger, I hope that answers some of the questions you posed to Scarlett Johansson.

Part of me does suspect that you weren’t actually looking for answers to these questions– that you posed them rhetorically. What I would say to you, Roger, is that this part of the world doesn’t need any more rhetoric. Shrill, canting rhetoric is what got the Israelis and the Palestinians into the parlous state in which they find themselves. What is needed is calm, sober analysis, hard-headed realism, a sense of perspective and some good old-fashioned deal making by the politicians. You do no one any favors by adding to the noise, least of all the Palestinians who have chosen to work at SodaStream.

One last thing, Roger. At the end of your open letter, you tell Scarlett Johansson she is ‘cute’ but hasn’t been paying attention. This sails pretty close to what might be called ‘patronizing sexist bullshit’. Johansson is a grown woman who considered the facts and made her choices. You would do well to consider that. If you want to talk politics leave out the 1970s stand-up comic routine.

Cheerio Roger – think on it.

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The word of 2013: “intersectionality”

December 31, 2013 at 5:08 pm (academe, Feminism, Guardian, Harry's Place, intellectuals, language, middle class, multiculturalism, post modernism, posted by JD, reblogged, relativism, statement of the bleedin' obvious)

As a keen follower of structuralism, post-structuralism and other post-modern banality and pretentiousness, I’ve noted the increasing use of the word “intersectionality” (often accompanied by the exhortation “check your privilege”) throughout 2013. ‘Sarka’, a BTL commenter at That Place, wrote the following (which I found very useful, and reproduce below without permission). As usual, when we reblog a piece, it should go without saying that we don’t necessarily agree with all of it:

“Intersectionism” is one of those tiresome constructs that are either just cumbersome names for the obvious (even if we confine ourselves to viewing the social order just in terms of positive/negative relative privilege, it is clear that in any complex society more than one criteria is at work, and these “ïntersect” or at least interact…see my old hands of cards dealt to individuals simile) or else if explicitly or implicitly assigned more explanatory content, they are very dubious….

E.g. in the Graun article on “intersectionalism” much was made of the “huge explanatory power”of the thing….WTF? Surely only to people so mentally challenged that it has never struck them before that being e.g. female and gay, or disabled and black and poor, may multiply relative disadvantage Duh – as you Americans so irritatingly say, Go figure! No shit Sherlock! And wouldn’t that be characterisation rather than…er…explanatory power?

But obviously when apparently reasonably intelligent people make totems out of truisms something more is going on than the belated growth of two brain cells to rub together.

Here – to be very crude – the elevation of the truism is cover for a) the activity (well described by you, elsewhere) of establishing and adjusting competition in victimhood hierarchies, or indeed the apparently zero-sum victimhood market, and b) despite the apparently differentiating dynamic of intersectionality (it seems to admit the existence of different forms of oppression), it enables some supposed – usually very very thin – unity of all the variously oppressed against their oppressing oppressors, conceived (by their aggregate privilege!) to be responsible for the whole bang caboodle of oppression..Or alternatively – blacks used to blame whites, feminists used to blame men, the poor used to blame the rich, gays the straights etc etc… but rather than pulling these strands of oppression apart, “ïntersectionality” tangles them all together again….Suggesting that the fault is in the aggregate: it is white, western, straight, male, rich people who are ultimately responsible for every form of oppression, and every form of oppression is – though separate – ultimately traceable to the same source.
Hence it is a faux pas, e.g. to criticise brown people, especially poor ones, for oppressive behaviour to women or gays, for they are not the real source of the trouble…which can only lie with any with a greater aggregate of trump cards in their hands.

This is what [Laurie] Penny laughably thinks of as “structural explanation” – which in another guise presents itself as the (essentially wilfiully paralysed) position that no kind of injustice or oppression can be addressed unless ALL injustice or oppression is addressed…

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Tatchell: oppose ALL fascism

June 1, 2013 at 12:59 am (anti-fascism, Harry's Place, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, Peter Tatchell, Racism, solidarity, terror, thuggery, Uncategorized)

This statement from Peter Tatchell  first appeared at Harry’s Place, a site we don’t usually have much in common with. But in this case, it’s impossible to disagree:

The BNP & EDL claim to oppose Islamist extremist bigotry but in reality they generalise and abuse all Muslims. Many of their protests are menacing, even violent.

Islam is not the main problem. Islamist fundamentalism and violent jihad are what we should focus on opposing. It is important to make a clear distinction between Muslims and Islamist extremists. Don’t confuse the two. Unite to isolate the main threats: the Islamist far right and its BNP and EDL equivalents.

I support today’s Unite Against Fascism (UAF) counter-protest against the BNP. But UAF is not consistent. UAF commendably opposes the BNP and EDL but it is silent about Islamist fascists who promote anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and sectarian attacks on non-extremist Muslims.

This silence and inaction by the UAF is a shocking betrayal of Muslim people – abandoning them to the Islamist far right.

Islamist fascists want to overthrow democracy, establish a clerical dictatorship, suppress human rights and kill Muslims who don’t conform to their hard-line interpretation of Islam.

It is time the UAF campaigned against the Islamist far right, as well as against the EDL and BNP far right.

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Boycotts of Israel: a good idea?

May 9, 2012 at 9:15 pm (anti-semitism, blogging, Cross-post, Guardian, Harry's Place, israel, palestine, TUC, unions, zionism)

Re-blogged from Representing the Mambo (a good article, though I don’t agree with all of it, OK? – Jim D)

The passions generated on both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate have always been ever so slightly lost on yours truly. I can’t stand the way that Israel treats the Palestinians but I still find the British left’s utter preoccupation with the issue mystifying. Go over to Shiraz Socialist for instance and probably half the debates over there either start or end up being discussions of the question. Harry’s Place, a site that as every day passes I get less and less enthusiastic about, is positively obsessed.

So I normally try and keep out of it. My position starts with instinctive support for the Palestinians as they are the ones being oppressed, but finishes with the acknowledgement that Israel has the right to exist and to try and imagine it away is insanity.

However, I thought I would type a few remarks on the subject of boycotts this evening as an article I read in the Guardian piqued my interest.

It’s penned by Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, so you can guess what he is going to argue. Normally I would just dismiss it out of hand, but it raises a few points of interest. Have a read.

There’s no question that Israel is being targeted for special treatment. Figures in the arts, academia and the Israeli labour movement are subject to actual or threatened boycott, sometimes purely on the basis of their Israeli citizenship.

I have no particular objection to boycotts in and of themselves. Maybe this one will bring the Israelis to the negotiating table or make them reverse their oppressive policies. I see little evidence to suggest it will however. Clearly some in the Israeli establishment are rattled by it, which is why it is generating so much discussion and condemnation. But as I say, I see little evidence of its impact on the ground. Trade between the two countries is in fact continuing to increase significantly, surely one of the best measures of the success of any boycott.

My real issue with this boycott is: why Israel? Why just them? Why are Unison and the TUC not organising similar campaigns against other countries with appalling human rights records? Why not China? Russia? Iran? America? Great Britain?

One of the comments below the line in the Guardian makes an argument worth examining (and refuting)

“Ordinary Israelis go about their daily business without a thought for the consequences of their passive acceptance of the states brutal oppressive occupation of other people’s lands in the OT and Golan.

It’s time that like South Africa ordinary Israelis understand that the failure of their govt to find a peaceful solution is their failure too.”

Would we be happy if we in the UK faced similar treatment? What if academics in another part of the world organised a boycott of British academics and artists because of ‘our’ role in the Iraq War or continuing involvement in Afghanistan? Surely by voting in successive administrations that supported and continue to support the ‘War on Terror’, we are all as complicit in oppression as ordinary Israelis are? It is unacceptable that we allow our governments to behave like this, I agree, but why the special treatment for one country?

I agree entirely that the record of successive Israeli governments and this administration’s quite appalling behaviour should be condemned in the strongest possible terms but they aren’t unique in that regard. In fact, quite the opposite. So why is Israel being singled out?

I don’t think it is actually a question of anti-semitism, like many of my fellow anti-boycotters might argue, but rather a wilful blindness to all of the other awful things going on in the world right now, allied to the perception, a hopelessly flawed one I might add, that a resolution to the Israel/Palestine question in favour of the Palestinians is somehow the key to defeating ‘imperialism’ worldwide. According to this view Israel is ‘imperialism’ made flesh like no other state.

Obviously it isn’t really, it is a class-ridden society like any other in 2012, but the argument has a superficial appeal and allows you to justify all sorts of actions, however feeble, against Netanyahu, Barak et al.

I do think however that international questions like Israel/Palestine give trade unions, and especially leftish trade union bureaucrats, the opportunity to display some radicalism that they would never dare show domestically. They act as a sop to the organised left in the labour movement and can be used as a valve to let off pressure when their less than glorious record of domestic success is subject to scrutiny or when it comes to the possibility of a confrontation with the government. For instance, Unison would have been far better off supporting tomorrow’s strike rather than passing resolutions on questions that it can have little hope of having any impact on. That would have been a far more significant act of political courage.

I have no problem with discussion of international questions inside the trade unions, and of course internationalism is a basic principle of the labour movement, but we in Britain need to get our own house in order first. We are unlikely to reverse the years of membership decline with these sorts of stands. People will wonder what a union has to offer them and their lives and when they see that the focus of many union conferences is impotent grandstanding, then they are hardly likely to join are they……..

(Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of impotent grandstanding, I do it all the time on this blog, but in terms of priorities it should be a distant second behind actual organising in one’s immediate community and workplace)

Surely a more productive form of solidarity would be to provide practical assistance to the struggles of ordinary working class Israelis, whether Jewish or Arab, who are both victims of their appalling neoliberal government, and who attack the Palestinians as a means to distract attention away from their cuts and anti-worker policies.

I’ve no doubt that the people advocating a boycott are motivated by a well-founded horror at the actions of the Israeli government, but the boycott approach is counterproductive, morally dubious, driven by an exceptionalism that I am deeply uncomfortable with and is in fact an inadvertent but nonetheless wholly unnecessary distraction from the frequently savage behaviour of the Israeli government. The focus is on the efficacy of a set of tactics and not on Israeli government brutality and human rights abuses, which is a tragedy.

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Giffords shooting: at the very least Palin and the Tea Party have questions to answer

January 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm (Congress, Harry's Place, Jim D, Palin, Republican Party, United States)

Nobody knows the motivation of Jared Loughner, the man arrested for the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. It may well turn out that he is simply mentally ill, with no coherent political motivation of any kind. That’s certainly the view of Edmund Standing over at That Place. I can agree with Standing that knee-jerk political conclusions are best avoided “until all the evidence is in.” But not with his argument that Palin, the Tea Party and the ‘mainstream’ Republicans who tolerate these nutty bigots, have no case to answer. Their incendiary rhetoric against Giffords and other moderate Democrats over healthcare reform, and their use of images like this…

sarahpac_0.jpg

…have surely created a political climate in which the physical intimidation of moderates is encouraged.  Whether or not the rantings of Palin, her Tea Party followers and various ultra-right shock-jocks, directly contributed to the Giffords shooting is debateable: what is not is the fact that in March, Giffords was one of ten Democrats to be physically harassed over their support for Obama’s health reform bill, and her Tucson office was vandalised.
.
Make no mistake: Palin and the Tea Party bigots still have plenty of questions to answer before we should join Mr Standing in giving them a free pass.

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Okayokayokay… Defend David T

March 21, 2010 at 10:50 am (blogging, blogosphere, Free Speech, Galloway, Harry's Place, voltairespriest)

Thought I’d add my two-penneth following on from Rosie’s excellent post. Long-term readers of this blog will know that I’m not politically a fan of Harry’s Place. I find much of the coverage boorish and anti-left, and frankly I find many of their posters’ and commenters’ obsession with organised Islamist groups in the UK to be disturbing. That having been said, they do sometimes carry material that is of interest, and do have some posters whose material can be both valuable and informative. However, in general I am a long, long way from that site’s political wavelength.

My opinions of that site cease to matter, though, when it comes to the legal demand that HP supremo David T has received from George Galloway and Kevin Ovenden. Although I obviously have not had sight of it, apparently it demands financial settlement to the tune of £50,000. Presumably if that demand is not me then a libel action will follow. This furore has arisen because of a comment made by David T… on Respect member Andy Newman’s blog, Socialist Unity.

This raises a number of issues for me.

Firstly, if Galloway and Ovenden feel so slighted, then why not simply have Newman delete the comment?

Secondly, given that it is Newman’s site, and last I heard the comment was still up, why are they not threatening Newman with similar action if he does not remove the comment?

Thirdly, what’s the real motive here? It’s risible to think that David T’s comment would have caused material damage to either Galloway’s or Ovenden’s reputation. Not only do relatively few people read hard-left blogs such as Socialist Unity (or this one), the percentage of those who do, that would look at a comment like David T’s and have their views swung by it, is surely microscopic.

It has been said by people from many different political backgrounds in recent months that the growing culture of libel litigation in this country is a danger to people’s right to express a controversial opinion – unless, of course, they have a large bank balance. It is also pathetic in the extreme for people on the “left” to make use of laws like the UK’s current libel legislation, which enshrine nothing more or less than the right of the privileged and the obsessed to shut up those who speak out against them.

So yes, defend David T, whether you like him and his site or not.

And sign up for the Libel Reform Campaign here.

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