Friday, August 21, 2015
“Those in authority should have stopped the obscenity of past-war fascism. They didn’t. So, we did.” Morris Beckman (The 43 Group)
Most people just want a life lived without unnecessary distraction, pain, or inconvenience. A few go out of their way to cause suffering, to coerce and to spoil the simple world we live in. Miseducation is crucial in any attempt to control society. They create fear, but most important, they attempt to fashion us in their image, or at least, in the image they believe we need to fit.
I use the word “image” because they are akin to idolaters – their god is fashioned from an ideal they passionately believe we must follow – whether it is for their profit, our benefit or someone else's benefit is of no consequence because their self-belief is immutable and therefore any debate is also irrelevant. They demand obedience from us and subservience to them. Oppose them and you are damned. If this sounds like fascism it is because it is just that. I accuse the radical left (of which Mr Jeremy Corbyn is an honored member) of fascism for good reason.
Fascism can be defined in almost any way but its primary contemporary usage seems to have deteriorated so that it is now understood to be little more than an epithet to be used against those with whom we passionately disagree. But in his book “Liberal Fascism” Jonah Goldberg says “the liberal fascist project can be characterized as the effort to delegitimize good dogma by claiming all dogma is bad.” I would modify that by stating that fascism is the replacement of one set of beliefs with another, using propaganda in place of fact; sophistry and mendacity as tools of trade. Jeremy Corbyn and his kind provide good examples of this.
In an interview with Britain’s premier broadcasting network, BBC Television managed to educate a new generation of people about a Jewish blood libel while giving Britain’s leading Labour Party contender for leader of the opposition an easy ride that forgave him his iniquity in consistently siding with holocaust deniers, racists and antisemites.
The tools of fascism are simple – lie consistently and the people will replace the truth with your updated narrative. A few days ago Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed by the BBC about his past – he denied knowing that a friend was a holocaust denier and referred to meeting up with him some fifteen years earlier. Since that interview, a photograph has surfaced on the official internet site of holocaust denier Paul Eisen. It shows Corbyn at a formal reception for Eisens’ organization (Deir Yassin Remembered), held in 2013.
Corbyn was also given the opportunity to explain to the BBC and its millions of viewers that Eisen’s organization was all about keeping in the public memory an atrocity allegedly carried out by “the Zionists” (failing to mention his organization being the vehicle for a holocaust denying Jew hater). The BBC then showed bodies piled neatly up but unlike any other news program I have ever encountered failed to provide any warning that it was going to show the photo. Jeremy Corbyn deliberately misled the public on British national television when he stated that the massacre was the work of “Zionists”. In 1948 there were Arabs and there were Palestinians – all organizations of administration and governance in Palestine with the name “Palestine” in the title were Jewish.
The radical left has followed the Arab/Muslim lead in dividing Jews into two groups, those who are anti-Israel and the rest. Jeremy Corbyn deliberately misrepresented a conflict that was never that simple because central to the Arab-Israeli conflict is Arab conquest inextricably mixed with Islamic theological prejudice. Corbyn demonized all Jews living in Palestine at that time and if we follow through with his unspoken logic, accused all Jews of supporting terror simply by identifying with the Jewish right to self-determination.
The Arabs do not and did not (in 1948) kill Zionists – they kill(ed) Jews. But massacres carried out by people are rarely, if ever referred to as massacres carried out by Muslims. They are carried out by ISIL (an acronym few people can break down by its constituent letters). They are carried out by organizations. In Palestine the militias were identified as socialists, as right wingers or as Arabs dedicated to a pan-Arab unity against the rest. The massacre was carried out by Palestinian fighters against local Arabs. Specifically it was carried out by Irgun and Lehi fighters. But Corbyn was scoring points, aided and abetted by the BBC.
Here is my problem with the fascist, Jeremy Corbyn. He lies, he is indifferent to the consequences of his actions, and he is morally selective in his support of those who justify religious genocide. He calls an antisemite who propagates blood libels against Jews his friend. He dishonestly applies general principles to particular cases of moral conduct (in this case, his anti-Zionism is antisemitism because he deliberately chooses to ignore the prejudice and religious hatred that is fundamental to the beliefs of Israel’s enemies).
It is truly simple. If he is not anti-Jewish he has no problem sharing a platform with those people who are anti-Jewish, or, calling them his friends and proclaiming the validity of their causes. What does that make of the morality of the man who would be Prime Minister of Great Britain?
The man who would be prime minister has also worked for Iranian State TV – so he has received money from an organisation that is the international mouthpiece for a regime that again, denies the holocaust as well as hanging gays, persecuting its Baha’i minority, murdering members of the radical left (such as he), crushing free speech and killing protesters.
I started this blog with a quote from a founder of the 43 Group. The 43 Group were an anti-fascist organisation set up after World War 2 by Jewish ex-servicemen (and women) as a consequence of the support given to British fascist and antisemitic organizations by the Labour government of Clement Atlee (not known for his love of Jews)! I call it support because the fascists used the Public Order Act of 1936 and the Public Meetings Act of 1908 to prevent Jews from defending themselves against fascist incitement and violence. In the years that followed the end of World War 2 news of Hitler’s death camps was often the subject of headlines and graphic newsreels. And yet Labour governments were conspicuous by their inactivity against fascism. In the timeliness of their non-support for Britain’s returning Jewish servicemen and women (as well as ordinary citizens) Britain's Labour government encouraged and was therefore complicit in fascism’s antisemitic incitement.
The Left and not just the radical left have always had a problem with Jewish rights; we have the right to assume that this prejudice extends to Jews as a group and as individuals. There will always be people who will point out the large number of Jews who have been ideologically and intellectually at the forefront of radical and left wing politics. But almost always this has been at the expense of any positive Jewish identity. It is easy to understand why. If acceptance means renunciation of part of ones own identity, Jewish Uncle Toms have been consistent in using a wholly specious anti-Judaism to gain that acceptance and speak with an essentially spurious Jewish authority when attacking Jews and Judaism.
The crux of the matter is that Jeremy Corbyn comes across as a true social democrat, a person who cares about people and supports minorities irrespective of their race, religion, sex or sexuality. At the same time he is politically in bed with people and organizations that are misogynistic, fascistic, murderous, classically anti-democratic and antisemitic.
Can we then trust him to be a leader for all the people of Britain? Only a fool would believe that.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
“Postmodernism has taught us that we live in an age of irony…where an undiscriminating skepticism brushes matters such as morality and political ethics aside as so much anachronistic detritus.” (Humanity, an emotional history. Stuart Walton)
My children attended a school that had a significant Muslim population. My children’s friends were of many faiths and ethnically diverse backgrounds. So I was concerned that there were times they felt under threat because of what they were not, as opposed to what they were. The good Muslims would tell my children and their friends that they would protect them (from the bad Muslims). Of course I was outraged. We live in the UK and at least in theory, we are all equal, which means we are also educated towards equality. This means we should all receive equal treatment from the moment of our birth and throughout our lives. I do not mean that we should all receive a private education, private health care and a free luxury car but there are certain inalienable rights which are consistent across all sections of society. Those rights should only be constrained when our actions prevent others from enjoying those same equal rights.
But I could rant and rave as much as I wanted to about how no-one is equal if they feel the need for protection, and it makes no difference whatsoever to the end result, which is that their generation, growing up in an environment of selective tolerance, has little if any faith in the established order, in authority, in government. This is perhaps the greatest crime for which our politicians should be condemned.
So physical bullying and threats occurred and were ignored. Teachers’ mouthed hollow phrases like “zero tolerance” while looking away. It is easier to act against cyber-bullying than it is, to impose a sanction on the right kind of bigot.
If truth is subjective, it follows that it is also subject to partisan policies. Therefore, the application of justice can be conditioned on circumstance and is consequently often, no more than an act of self-congratulatory illusion.
Resenting anything is a passive emotional response. Hate is not a passive emotion. It cannot surprise us that the activist hates any feeling of powerlessness and strikes out against whatever is responsible for that feeling even when the emotion is the product of a manufactured, systemic prejudice.
There has always existed a selective freedom of speech which allowed for discrimination to be applied. This is one of the human species most unattractive character traits. We are a herd that cleaves to the collective as if our lives depended on it. In past eras it did. But in the late 20th and early 21st century our education system was supposed to have delivered a population able to think and act for itself and not as an unthinking mass in the thrall of the latest singer, actor, sportsman (or woman), aristocrat or orator. But this is the era of celebrity and perhaps because so much is asked of us and the choices are so diverse we are unwilling to commit to a position that is outside of a consensus that has been decided for us and with little credible discussion.
It follows on from the previous paragraph that demagogues have played an essential role in human history. They have manipulated emotions, prejudices and passions and rarely if ever for altruistic reasons. Power, domination and exclusion of anything or anyone that is contrary to ones own position is a primitive response to any challenge. But it is also a very effective means of establishing dominance and control. That elemental behavior is the reason that Israel is having such a hard time internationally. People who are committed to a cause will usually, aggressively push that cause. Jews are neither used to reacting to aggression by returning it nor are they accustomed to behaving badly in response, but it is often the only way to react to aggression because it is the normal way that we establish reasonable rules of conduct. Only an enemy that respects its opponent behaves with care.
But here’s the thing. In British universities, where Jews and their supporters are frequently assaulted under the assumption that they are “Zionists” (and if they are not, oh well!) the most senior court in the land, the High Court of Justice ruled that a perception of fear or a perception of intimidation was not a legally admissible behavior that could be used to define prejudice against the entire Jewish student community. If members of the radical Left or Islamic faith experienced an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, a way would have been found to criminalize the perpetrators and rid the universities of the perpetrators influence. It does say much about inequality within the British ‘justice’ system.
Selective equality infuses much of British and Western society today. One more example will suffice to demonstrate the art of that selective equality and the parallel incitement that accompanies it. Within the last few days it was revealed that Britain’s main teachers union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) had cooperated with an educational charity for children (‘Edukid’) to produce an antisemitic educational resource which was to be rolled out across the country and whose purpose it was to profile Palestinian suffering. Apart from its omission of any historical context, the reason I refer to this document as antisemitic is that it does not refer to Israelis as Israelis but as Jews. Of course Muslims – Arabs are referred to as Palestinian. So Britain’s main teachers union adopts a Nazi tactic of propagating a prejudiced narrative against Israel which leads all British children taught by the NUT to erase any differentiation between Israeli's and Jews anywhere else in the world.
This resource was to be rolled out to all children, from three years of age.
This is only possible if the process is racist from its inception. As obscene was NUT's pernicious defense that it works with the Holocaust Educational Trust to produce materials for schools. So learning about dead Jews is OK (as long as some Muslim teachers do not have to present the material to their classes).
Maliciously, the NUT provides an illegitimately analogous equivalence between the Shoah and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
A conspiracy by a national British trade union (the NUT) and a British educational charity (Edukid) to role out an Arab (Palestinian) libel against Judaism and the Jewish state should result in both organizations losing their charitable status and both being heavily fined. Extinction is what both organizations deserve. Individual initiators of this antisemitic conspiracy should be given a life time ban from receiving public funding. In fact the only likely consequence will be enhanced credibility amongst Fascism's proudest supporters.
Of greater evil, the Israel-Arab conflict has its roots in Muslim attempts to deny its minorities, self-determination. Fundamentalist Islam believes that any area once conquered or achieving Muslim majority becomes part of a holy Arab (Muslim) endowment which must never be relinquished to the infidel. It explains the intransigence of Iran and it explains the outpourings of HAMAS. It is a war that is religiously dictated by Islamic injunction which will see Islam’s glorious fighters joyfully murder, down to the last baby, every Jew in the Holy land; another injunction from what we are so often told is the “Religion of Peace.”
The difference between the Hard Left, many sharing the Islamic faith and the extreme right is that the latter admit their prejudice while neither the Hard Left nor Islam have ever had to come to terms with the hatred and the bigotry that is the original sin of their birth and which crucially, continues to drive so many of them.
This is the war being increasingly fought throughout the Western world against Israel and against its supporters. If there is any question of why so many Jews feel that conditions today are increasingly similar to what they were in 1923 (when Hitler and his ilk began their ascent to power) we have the NUT and Edukit to inadvertently remind us.
Monday, July 20, 2015
The deal signed on July 14, 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 (The USA, Russia, China, France, Britain plus Germany) is not dissimilar to the deal recently signed by Greece to “save it” from default and bankruptcy. In both cases it is the people who have suffered at the hands of their leaders. In both cases it is the people that elected their leaders and have continued to do so even as their own personal situation deteriorated. In both cases there were no responsible leaders in power to share the consequences of their chosen path with their people, no one willing to compromise, no one capable of sharing responsibility for the future.
Any voices that were raised against the leadership were not encouraged by the international community who prefer the devil they know to the devil they do not, no matter how evil they may be and how much it means their own people continue to suffer. But for now let us concentrate on Iran because while what has happened to Greece seriously affects the rest of Europe and therefore, the world community, it is Iran that continues to represent the true threat to global peace.
Regime change has its dangers – for instance the continuing break up of Syria and the failed status of Libya, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia hardly inspire confidence for long term security. And the contagion of violence in failed states does encourage a certain sick kind of individual to identify with that violence. Both Islamic State and al Qaeda are products of a prejudiced theocracy that encourages its followers to equate a better life with hating the other; and to view violence and terror as legitimate means of achieving global domination for the Islamic faith only.
The systemic failure in the Iran deal is that it does not address the philosophy of violence that feeds the soul of Islamic fundamentalism. The difference between IS in Syria, Iraq and Libya - and The Islamic Republic of Iran is that one is a “non-State” collective of brutal murderers motivated by their Muslim faith to conquer the globe for their faith, to establish a global Islamic empire while the other, (Iran), is a State run by brutal murderers who are motivated by their Muslim faith to establish a global empire ruled by them. To the massacred, where-ever they may reside, the minutiae of their theological differences are simply irrelevant.
Both are worthy successors to the Crusaders of yesteryear, neither is qualitatively different in the means they employ to achieve their pernicious aims.
In 1095 Pope Urban II set upon a path of bloody mayhem a Christian hoard led by aristocrats and followed by knights and peasants in a bloody onslaught that would not abate for almost 500 years. It was called the Crusades and millions of people died with the name of their god on their lips, martyrs and their murderers both. In the mid 18th Century Britain exercised increasingly greater control over India. The Mughal Empire was already in terminal decline by the time the British arrived in the sub-continent. Nevertheless ‘Muslim India’ associated Western expansion with the downfall of a Muslim governed nation. The Napoleonic invasion of Egypt and greater Syria contributed to that feeling of bewilderment.
At its core, Islam’s understanding of world history is flawed in the centrality it provides to the Islamic angle in everything. It demanded and to this day demands an explanation for how a Muslim polity could be simply swept away and what can be done to once more regain that control. Introspection and flawed logic calls for separation, militancy and war against the infidel.
That militant, murderous fanaticism has neither abated nor developed towards any understanding of a shared humanity. The same poisoned narrative of revenge and conquest informs and feeds every debate about the Caliphate and its return to the global stage, from contemporary times down to the 18th Century and beyond.
Today it is al-Qaeda and Islamic State that are the new Crusaders. And what we are experiencing is what many people refer to as the Third World War.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is an expressly racist, malevolent political entity. It is to be given a $100 - $150 billion lifeline without any expectation that it rein in its military adventurism and its encouragement of a genocidal Jew hatred. This is rewarding terrorism and encouraging an evil regime to ever greater heights of barbarism against its own citizens and outside its own borders.
It should not surprise us.
During the 1990’s France and Russia profited by at least $100Billion by exploiting the Oil for Food Program – thus ignoring the embargo on trade with Iraq. By undermining the trade embargo Saddam Hussein’s government was empowered to continue to oppress his own people and to internationally export terror. By creating an unequal sanctions regime France and Russia may well have facilitated 911 and all that followed from that terrible day’s events.
In the 1990’s both George Bush the First and Bill Clinton attempted to make peace between the US and Syria by negotiating with the tyrant dynasty of the Assad family. The US surreptitiously negotiated with the Syrian regime for over a decade while it ignored Syria’s crimes against Lebanon and its international support for terrorism. Israel was never the issue. Senior American negotiators were visiting Damascus as a massive car-bomb tore apart 23 bodies in Lebanon on 14th February 2005. Rafiq al-Hariri was the primary target, assassinated by the Syrian regime. Only then, in response, did the USA withdraw its ambassador from Damascus. Bashar al-Assad to this day stands accused of murdering the former Lebanese Prime Minister, as well as the twenty-two other people who died that day.
No-one pointed out the direct correlation between negotiation with terrorists and the crimes they are encouraged to commit. Nor that it made the negotiators complicit in the war-crimes committed during that period of negotiation. According to Lee Smith (“The Strong Horse”) the problem was that the Arab – greater Muslim world now had over a decade of American appeasement of terror and appeasing the sponsors of terror. The message that the State Department sent out, by its actions, was that if a regime sought to gain the attention of global leaders, terrorism and mass killing worked and had no negative consequences. Failed policy is nevertheless a kind of policy that is highly effective for non-state and aspiring, state players.
President George Bush the Second kept open his options on Syria even as he withdrew his ambassador in the wake of the Hariri assassination. And President Obama made it a cornerstone of his foreign policy to re-engage with regimes that are hostile to America and Western democracy even as he supported his VP in his outrage over the announcement of further construction in Jerusalem of 1,600 apartments on the day that VP Biden arrived for talks (in 2010). So Israel is globally condemned while the world continues to keep largely silent as hostile Muslim regimes routinely murder their own people as well as the people of nations, distant from their own borders.
While silence is always viewed as acquiescence, even as approval for terrorism, the debate over one person’s terrorism being another’s freedom fighter is a mere distraction. If our enemy has a vision of his or her society that is diametrically opposed to everything good that we stand behind then we are either for ourselves or for our enemy. There is no middle ground.
The difference between liberty and licence is the contempt with which the latter reacts to the former.
So I do not see that embracing the evil Iranian empire empowers Near-Eastern moderates or that it tames the Iranian beast. The public murder of gays and other minorities in Iran will not dissipate, if anything it will escalate. The current US Administration and other appeasers have told us that we should not look at rhetoric but at the actions of the regime. The hate that spews from the lips of The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his cohorts in government is not meant to mollify us; it is the abuser acclimating us to our abuse.
In a conference that President Obama gave on 15th July 2015 he admitted that “this deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior.” This is the day the President of the United States of America disclosed that an unrepentant tyranny has received international validation and legitimacy.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
The reflexive reaction to Muslim terror from the highest echelons of government is always publicly expressed abhorrence at the latest act of brutality and murder. We are all of us reassured that ‘this’ is the madness of an aberrant and wholly unislamic individual or movement.
According to statements Prime Minister David Cameron made to Parliament on the 29th of June 2015, the mass murder carried out at Soussa in Tunisia two days earlier was the action of “a barbaric regime of terrorism and oppression.” The PM had been talking to the BBC “that very morning” about how to stop people associating this ideology with Islam. He said “I personally think that using the term ISIL or ‘so called’ would be better than what they currently do. I don’t think we’ll move them all the way to Da’esh, so I think saying ISIL is probably better than Islamic State because it is neither, in my view, Islamic or a state.” (Guardian Live Blog Transcripts)
And here is the nexus of the problem. Ambiguity serves only to conceal an inconvenient or uncomfortable truth. Its lord and master is the bad faith it serves. The opposing argument is simple enough to explain: we have learnt through history that plain speaking is too often just another word for the prejudice used by demagogues to incite the passions of the crowd. To label an entire community is prescriptive and too often it leads us to discriminate against the targeted community. The dilemma these two sides to the debate create is that from the wholly laudable desire to not offend our friends and neighbours we voluntarily engage in an exercise of self-deception.
So what are the issues and how can we confront them?
Many of the global conflicts in the world today are between Muslim nations and non-Muslim nations. Whether they are non state players acting as stand alone Islamic movements (Somalia’s Al-Shabaab or Nigeria’s Boko Haram) or groups that are protected, trained and financed by Muslim states (Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) the conflict between Islamic players and the rest of us is a war that we can expect to remain painfully active for many years, perhaps decades to come.
There have been voluminous analyses of Al Qaeda and Islamic State, a few simple facts will suffice to demonstrate the growing global threat.
Al-Qaeda in the 1990’s had an annual budget of perhaps $30 million. Daesh (IS) has a budget of $100 million per month. In a single generation the number of foreign Islamist fighters increased from a few thousand to a conservative figure between 25,000 and 30,000. Those fighters originated in over 100 countries. The trans-national dimension of this ideological migration is highlighted by the ease with which people are able to travel and the sympathetic response that many Muslim nations have towards the cause espoused by IS. For instance, Turkey initially refused to allow Kurdish fighters to enter the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani as IS fighters systematically murdered Kurds and destroyed the town. Impending terrorist outrages in Kenya, the Sudan and Nigeria were identified but not acted on by the military.
Tracking militants, many of them radicalized online, is a hugely challenging, complicated task. A person may have grown up in one country, been radicalized in a second, received their military training in a third and ‘settled’ in a fourth while receiving his (or her) orders from a fifth. The social networks which include tens of thousands of Internet sites as well as facebook, twitter (46,000 IS sites were identified as requiring closure) and the mobile phone network are a core communication strategy for both retaining commitment to the cause and spreading the poison. According to one expert, one in seven to one in nine fighters have carried out terrorist attacks in their own country or in a 3rd country.
The British right wing fascist National Front had 17,000 members at its peak - supporters of Islamic State are the Muslim equivalent. But they are more than that. These are people who, for whatever reason, have made an intellectual choice to embrace a philosophy that celebrates beheading, crucifixion, slavery (both sexual and for want of a better word, ‘traditional’ slavery) as a ‘positive’ affirmation of their identity. It may be no more than a grotesque, "life enhancing," lifestyle choice for them but it is this choice that we are reluctant to publicly and without reservation, condemn.
When three young British women take their nine children to Syria, to live in an IS controlled ‘paradise’ all we seem capable of expressing is a doe like, wide-eyed, caught in the headlights puzzlement. Instead, we should be examining, from the sources, how Western educated women could embrace a narrative of pure venom. The Islamists that support Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and so on believe that broader moral questions have invalidated our right to self-defense. They believe that their cause, because it is based on shared religious values, is virtuous. That one word justifies every horrific act committed in the name of their god and their prophet.
In late medieval Europe public disputation between Christian authorities and Jewish communities was used as a means to humiliate Jewish communities. We do not need public debate to deteriorate into a medieval public disputation but anything less than public repudiation of these people and their specific Islamic beliefs amounts to soft support for an ideology of conquest, torture and terrorism.
To allow these people to reside anywhere in the non-Muslim world is the most frightening aspect of this whole sorry saga.
A counter narrative that undermines the radicalizers both at home and abroad must clearly define right and wrong, our idea of right and wrong, not theirs. Australia has recently discussed the introduction of legislation that would ensure anyone with dual citizenship loses their Australian citizenship if they are engaged in terrorism, and they would be deported from Australia or not permitted to return. I would take that one step further. Engage in terror, preach it or provide material support for it, irrespective of status, then that person will be deported to the nearest sympathetic country that will take them in, with no chance of ever being permitted to return.
A recent survey showed that Germans who grew up between the 1920’s and 1945 were mostly unaffected by de-Nazification or other de-radicalization programs. Prejudiced belief can only rarely be eliminated and it takes action over successive generations to succeed. Identities, once set are rarely modified. They simply go underground until the conditions for their re-emergence prevail. Because of this we need to take a stand in favor of our universal western values. Democracy and human rights is the core of our modern society to which I would add education towards tolerance. However, if protecting that society means that we deny those same rights to our enemies then as controversial as it may sound, this course of action is the minimum that we need to debate.
The rules that govern our society (and by this I mean the Western system currently dominated by the USA) constrain us to the benefit of everyone within the unitary system that we inhabit. They are set but subject to ongoing redefinition through continuous modification in order to unify disparate cultural groups. Our thinking and our behavior is molded by the pressures that these changes create and our reactions to those pressures. What limits the damage we inflict on others is that we have a social system that is defined by boundaries. Closed societies, the Islamic world in particular, have little if any possibility for change because they are always defined by looking backwards towards an idealized past. The creation of a single cultural entity means the extinction of any competitors past. This is the toxic essence of Islamism.
If we are unwilling to fight for what we believe in there are plenty of pseudo-academic institutions populated by thousands of radicals in our universities and elsewhere who are always happy to tell us how to behave, what to think and who to hurt. If we are not permitted to even identify those people or groups we believe to be our enemy and then to explain why we believe them to be so, then we are already a partially closed (undemocratic) society on the road to ruin.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Douglas Hurd was Foreign Secretary in the Governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major from 1989-1995.
He wrote that: “a principle does not cease to be a principle simply because it coincides with legitimate interest.” He was referring to allegations that the West was only interested in Kuwait and the Iraqi invasion because of Kuwaiti oil reserves. He then responded to the allegation that Israel and Iraq were similar cases. He refuted this by pointing out that Israel had “occupied the Territories as the result of a war in which her neighbors were clamoring for an end to Israel’s existence.” He continued, he did not believe that ‘occupation’ provided “a basis for Israeli security.”
An unintended consequence of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was that it complicated any possible solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict and highlighted the distance Palestinians needed to travel in order to become credible partners for peace. In response to Saddam Hussein’s insatiable colonialist belligerence towards his neighbors the Palestinian leadership whole-heatedly embraced Iraqi territorial aggression against sovereign Kuwait. And then, on 18th January 1991 Israel became a target for 39 modified Scud ballistic missiles fired at Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Israel reluctantly refrained from responding to this aggression. However a possible consequence of this military inaction was that 1991 became the year the Arab world understood that if it could not win a conventional hot war against the Jewish state then in its place, diplomatic pressure from the USA and Europe could be brought to bare in order to fatally undermine the resolve of the State to defend itself, even as its own interests were being progressively undermined. And this occurred through international organizations and the force of public demands for appeasing a partial or even a false anti-Zionist narrative.
The Palestinian leadership believes that it has no reason to make any meaningful concessions towards peaceful co-existence because it believes Israel cannot win a diplomatic war. For this reason alone, Israel cannot without end continue to negotiate a solution to its conflict with the Arab world while its enemy persists in the belief that through the force of international public opinion, it has time on its side.
The art of diplomacy is best served when the sides to a conflict prepare their populations for peace as vigorously as they prepare them for war. The problem faced by Israel is that in the period since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 (Oslo I) and 1995 (Oslo II) there has never been a period of de-escalation or mutual recognition.
The Palestinians and their supporters in the West have always blamed Israel for refusing to freeze all building work in disputed territories. Oslo never stipulated any kind of ban on construction and even when Israel acquiesced to these conditions the Palestinian leadership remained indifferent to any Israeli overtures towards negotiation. Incitement, both religious and nationalist, became a means by which the Palestinians united their people against Israel while the kleptocracy within Palestinian society bled its own citizens without mercy. This was the reason that Hamas won elections in Gaza against Arafat’s Fatah party. With conditions of Palestinian corruption almost unchanged it is the reason that in Judea and Samaria the Palestinian Authority (PA) has failed to stage elections for a new President. The PA, like all corrupt institutions, is good at presenting cosmetic changes. Since January 2013 it has been renamed the State of Palestine. Mahmoud Abbas is six years and almost 6 months overdue in stepping down from office. But he and his family, like Yasser Arafat before him, have made sure to financially enrich both family and friends. With no other viable alternative, Hamas would easily win power from its apparently irredeemably corrupt Fatah rival.
And the Palestinian people, whether leaning towards Fatah or supporting Hamas, have learned since the Oslo process was formalized, that their Israeli enemy were apes pre-destined by the Arab god and his prophet Mohammed for extermination. If all the Palestinian leadership has imparted to its followers is that violent resistance is sanctioned by their faith against every Jewish man, woman and child, then it follows that Oslo was a waste of time, worse, it was a delusion that fruitlessly raised the hopes of both peoples. Alan Johnson wrote: “the veil of euphemism that hangs over the entire debate about Islam and its bigots must be lifted.” To that I would add: the veil of euphemism that hangs over the non-debate about the Arab world must also be lifted if ever there is to be a chance for peace.
The issue was best summarized by Left wing Israeli novelist and peace activist Amos Oz when he famously declared that Israel and Palestine were in need of divorce and not just separation.
After Israel transferred control over Palestinian cities to Yasser Arafat’s PA under the Oslo Accords, the PA used every tool at its disposal to incite hatred and to encourage an atmosphere of perpetual warfare. From children’s TV to school texts, radio programming to television, official government websites to religious instruction, from Mosque to theater the PA has utilized every possible method to disseminate a message renouncing co-existence.
Instead of a paradigm shift towards demythologising its opponents a reflexive focus on grievance that treats any Palestinian concessions as illegitimate has emboldened a Palestinian world view that aims to create a new balance of power through delegitimizing any indigenous Jewish-Israeli rights.
De-escalation means words now and not just in a theoretical future. It signifies a time in the present of acceptance and tolerance. Mutual recognition is an absolute. It can never be a negotiating tactic to deny the culture and history of the other – but where contradictory narratives are intrinsic to the identity of the disputing rivals, mutual recognition demands an explanation of the discrepancies between the disparate narratives within the framework of creating understanding that facilitates an end to the conflict. This is where politicians and diplomats can and must prepare their people for peace. If they want it, that is.
There is nothing in the Muslim power base that is exercised so effectively against Israel at the United Nations or the Muslim agitation against Israel in Western countries to demonstrate any inclination towards de-escalation or towards mutual recognition. If anything, it is moving backwards towards a fascist, revisionist agenda and revanchism. Escalating Muslim immigration into the Western World and its concomitant growth in regional political power through influencing local voting patterns will only lead to greater antipathy being openly expressed towards Israel. The need for politicians to appease their local Muslim populations at the expense of the rest of the population has already happened throughout Scandinavia and France.
It should not be a question we even have to ask but why is this important when our enemies often use a sophist argument to brush aside our concerns? Too often we are told that when we give them what they want they will stop oppressing us. So what they claim is that racism and incitement to murder can be turned on and off like a tap. The fallacy in this specious argument was highlighted in a survey (see web link below) that demonstrated the long term negative effect that propaganda has on those educated towards hate.
Study: Nazi propaganda left life-long mark on German kids:
Natan Sharansky pointed out that “the power of a democratic government is ultimately dependent on the popular will.” He also said: “a critical difference between the world of fear and the world of freedom (is that) in the former, the primary challenge is finding the inner strength to confront evil. In the latter, the primary challenge is finding the moral clarity to see evil.” (The Case for Democracy. The Power of Freedom to overcome Tyranny and Terror.)
To paraphrase Omar Barghouti (the leading Arab anti-Israel activist): racist Arab colonialism has to be defeated by re-establishing ethical co-existence with all marginalized non-Arab nations (and therefore, not just Jews).
There are no anodyne solutions to the Muslim-Jewish and Israel-Arab conflict. If suspicion and mistrust are by-products of bad faith initiatives then undoing past wrongs has to begin with de-escalation and re-education in the present.
Machiavelli believed that diplomacy was no substitute for arms and money. His cynical world in which almost 500 years ago, to retain power the leader must kill or be killed is sometimes not that different to what happens today in different parts of the world. His belief that promises need not outlast the conditions that produce them was an escape clause that undermines international security.
But Machiavelli believed that good faith negotiations were generally desirable while the Palestinians view it as no more than a tactical expedient. Good faith negotiations are the greatest challenge facing Israel because besides the constant incitement there is no possibility of strategic depth being established between Israel and Palestine. Something else is needed to guarantee that the peace will not fall hostage to extremism.
And so, to return to British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd: ‘Occupation’ cannot ever provide a basis for security if a nation regards ethics as having any relevance to its national dialogue and to its identity. If the narrative around ‘occupation’ is incorrect then Israel has to do something about that narrative because almost the whole world believes the Palestinian side of the story, not ours. The longer this conflict continues the greater the despair will be felt by both sides. This can only increase polarization and make the possibility for peaceful co-existence recede into the distance. Israel is threatened by that despair as much as the Palestinians and it manifests itself in the violence of language in the Knesset, in the growing alienation and disquiet simmering under the surface of Israeli society. It manifests in the suspicion and fear felt by Israeli and Palestinian alike. And these terms are now toxic to both sides. Whether we accept the identity of our enemy as legitimate or not is fatuous. Its only value is served as propaganda and counter propaganda in denying each other an identity.
Israel needs peace as much as the PA and Gaza need peace. How we can reset the conditions for negotiation is the most important question Israel’s policy makers and diplomats should be asking.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
I have just completed reading a book by Lee Smith titled “The Strong Horse. Power, Politics, & the Clash of Arab Civilizations.” I recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the Near East and the greater issue of Arab politics. I have quoted extensively from the book. Anything in quotation marks is either sourced from Lee Smith's book or a quotation from him. However, I have also added my own thoughts on this subject below:
“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” (Osama Bin Laden) What stands out from this quote is the lack of any hint of compassion or mercy and if it encapsulates Arab thinking then everything that comes after, is merely an excuse for Arab and Muslim history.
Arab Nationalism is defined as “A political and cultural doctrine holding that the Arabs by virtue of a shared language constitute a separate and single people.” Arab nationalism is an “elevated tribal covenant” with Islam as its engine and because of its theology of pristine 7th Century religious perfection it is unable to confront its ethical failures. An allegedly homogeneous Arab identity is a relatively modern concept but behind this super-tribal branding is the idea of a superior racial uniqueness and it drives an Arab need to exercise power over its rivals, all of whom are identifiable by their inferior faith, sex or race.
It is a Sunni Arab world view the glue of which is Islam, created in Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia, spread by an aggressively assertive and colonialist ideology and justified by religious authority. Of the 300 million Arabs, 70% are Sunni. The Sunni reliance on violence is the central motif in a pattern that existed before Islam and it informs the regions social and political relations. “bin Ladenism is not drawn from the extremist fringe but represents the political and social norm.”
The “Pact of Omar” established the laws and regulations by which Jews and Christians were awarded both protection and inferior status (the pact defined the relationship with all infidels). It defines the racial aspect of Arab superiority over all others at the same time as codifying the hierarchical position of Islam against all others.
For the Arab, God “is not the agent of history but a narrative detail, the protagonist of one story that manages to motivate groups of men to kill and die.” If the pact of Omar was intended to regulate the relationship with conquered nations and their people, it also created an apartheid faith that is religiously unable to accept the basic humanity of the other. It condemns the Muslim faithful to eternal jihad.
Arab nationalism has sought to erase Arab crimes against humanity by portraying a heroic legendary vision of a homogeneous Arab identity and by blaming every non-Arab for its failures. Nazism used a motto that Germany had been “stabbed in the back.” It did so, to soothe inflated German egos and to focus the energies of the people against a mythical enemy. It exploited the prejudices of the people to unite them behind a common enemy. Similarly, Arab nationalism uses betrayal (‘foreign’ interference) to explain Arab weakness. It exploits the failure to encourage internal debate to paper over massive inequality and to explain the disjuncture between a self-image of global power and the reality of Arab fragmentation and discord.
Arab politics is defined by a passion that is irrational, “maximalist and millenarian.” It means that there is room only for short term, tactical back-room compromises and therefore there is little reason for public debate. Ideas like legitimacy and authenticity have significance only between those that rule because “Arab politics is an affair between armed elites, the regimes and their insurgent rivals, who will kill and die for their cause.”
If strong tactics are not used to discourage violence then violence wins (the strong horse). It is a testosterone charged contest that the women of society are committed to upholding even as it disadvantages them. If fear of violence is the only proven guarantee of fidelity and protection from rivals then the structure of society is determined by the hierarchical dominance of the strongest.
The perceived logic in the West is that if an organization or a person has a wide enough base of support they can not possibly be on the extremist fringe. It supplies the superficial reasoning behind the support that so many people on the parliamentary Left, those who at least in theory support democracy, use to back Hamas in Gaza. This is the unreasoned argument made by Western supporters of Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the worst case scenario, the thinking holds that a choice between fascism and democracy is unimportant because all ideological paths eventually moderate by convergence. The specious logic (not borne out by historical precedent) is that by its nature, power is a leveler, a force for moderation. The narrative dished out to the doubters is that the business of governance leaves little time for extremism; that funding a revolution forces the radical to focus on administration; and that greed seeks out popular approval in order to maintain its hegemony. The sophistry in the theory is in the paucity and the pain of historical precedent. The case of Egypt and the election of the Muslim Brotherhood disproved that theory in less than a year as Egypt tottered on the brink of bankruptcy. The Muslim Brotherhood motto in response to Western calls for democracy has always been that “the Quran is our constitution.”
It does not automatically follow that support for the electoral process equates with support for democracy or allegiance to concepts of either human rights or equality. A propensity towards the use of violence or risk taking is not the behavior of those who believe in the intrinsic nature of democracy.
“Democracy is not an application, but the manifestation of a worldview that holds certain values dear, values that, since they were fought and sacrificed for, cannot be easily transferred from one culture to another.”
The goals of Arab Society should be the same as the idealised benchmark we all share in the Western World: energy stability, food security, employment, stable health care and crucially, the social contract that theoretically undertakes to keep us safe. Given the current state of Arab society few Arab nations can deliver that promise to their people. Democratisation of the Middle East and beyond must be an overarching security strategy for both the USA and Europe because without it, the instability that afflicts the Arab world will inevitably spread past its borders, infecting any society with which it comes into contact.
Perhaps the only lever we in the West can effectively utilise is to offer the Arab world a path forward based on self-interest rather than despair. But if that is to happen we will need to re-awaken in our own societies a robust assertiveness about what defines us and what makes us worth emulating, and we will need to exclude those people who actively work against our vision.
Monday, June 1, 2015
I am bewildered by the fuss created around Pope Francis’s recognition of the State of Palestine. Vatican City is a sovereign, territorial entity. It is an independent city-state and its head of government is the Bishop of Rome, also known as the Pope. What makes the Vatican different from other states is both its size (44 acres in area) and its designation as the current physical location for the supreme religious authority of the world’s 1,200 million Catholics. The Holy See is separate from but also central to the Vatican city-state. It is both administration and government – its political and diplomatic infrastructure is based in Vatican City and headed by the Pope. Crucially, what makes the Holy See different from other sovereign entities is that it is the locus for ecclesiastic authority and therefore, for worldwide followers of the Catholic Church.
Once this is understood it is possible to appreciate that the Vatican directs policy but also it is responsible for the way that the worldwide Church is viewed by outsiders. The other side is that it also shapes the way that 1.2 billion Catholics view the rest of humanity.
I can summarize that recent history at least through the following Papal profiles:
Pope Pius XII may or may not have intervened on behalf of Jews and other groups that were persecuted to their deaths by the Nazis during WW2 but what condemns him is his failure to make a loud and consistent vocal objection to the policies of the Nazis. It is futile to now speculate about what may have been; we can only understand the power of that central authority and crucially, that it was not publicly exercised. That failure is a shameful, loathsome, wholly unforgivable ethical silence.
There could never be an excuse for shutting out the cries of the tortured and the murdered, no matter who they were.
Pope Paul VI pushed through Nostra Aetate in late 1965. It passed by a vote of 2,221 bishops in favor of the declaration and was opposed by 88 bishops. It repudiated the charge of Jewish deicide; rejected an attitude of the Church that all Jews were eternally damned and condemned antisemitism in all its guises. It highlighted the bond that Catholic and Jew shared and it rejected Supersessionism, the idea that one faith is made obsolescent by the creation of another. It was this theological justification that fueled millennia of prejudice and persecution. There has been nothing similar in any of the other churches (Eastern Orthodox or Protestant) that make up another billion adherents of Christian faith and many of which, to this day believe in a toxic and genocidal replacement theology. Nostra Aetate was followed in 1974 and 1985 by further guidance. After almost 1,900 years of Church persecution all this was nothing short of a revolution.
Still, it was only in 1994 that Pope John Paul II established diplomatic relations with Israel. Diplomatic relations was acknowledgment of the legitimacy of Zionism as a right of Jewish expression. In 1903 Theodore Herzl attempted to gain Papal support for the Jewish homeland from Pope Pius X and was refused. In 2014 Pope Francis visited Herzl’s grave.
The Islamic world understands the Vatican because it represents political interests projected through theological power. Most of the Catholic Churches adherents live in countries with shaky democratic traditions where superstition and prejudice are barely distinguishable from their understanding of the obligations required by their faith. The power of the leader of the church to change attitudes is limited to small, incremental changes adopted over long periods of time.
The papacy took a century to recognize the legitimacy of Zionism. The prejudice of almost two millennia of officially sanctioned church persecution won’t disappear overnight or even over decades. It will take much longer. It seems the State of Israel received nothing aside from Papal recognition while the Catholic Church, with its vast Israeli real estate holdings apparently, now pays no taxes on any of them. Expressing gratitude for an end to being hounded, persecuted and murdered, it would be difficult to eloquently understate just how perverse this idea of being grateful for small mercies really is.
The State of Israel talked up the benefits – it said that a tourism bonanza would follow on from the exchange of treaties. After all, if, as a result of that treaty, Israel were to witness an increase in Catholic tourism to “the Holy Land” of even a half of one-per cent of all Catholics, that would represent a trebling of the record year for inbound tourism to Israel. In fact, for Israel at least, there have been no discernible benefits.
Politically, there is no benefit to be had for the Catholic Church to improve its ties with Israel. The only benefit was the (enormous) financial benefit which Israel, it seems, gave away for nothing tangible in exchange. Vatican policies in this region can have no effect on the lives or safety of Christians in the area but they can damage Christian interests by giving Muslims any excuse to escalate their policy of ethnic cleansing against Christians.
Fear of a backlash against Christian communities in lands with significant Muslim populations has created an atmosphere of appeasement throughout the world. There are numerous examples of Christian communities that have suffered significant persecution because of real or imagined slights against the Muslim faith.
The whole purpose of diplomacy is to represent, protect and where possible, to further, the interests of the state in the conduct of their foreign relationships. Israel has been consistently out-maneuvered throughout its diplomatic history because it has failed to view foreign policy as worthy of investment in either people or funding, or, to view the practice of statecraft as worthy of its long-term attention.
We could argue that befriending Israel would tangibly benefit the Vatican by increasing its influence over Israeli policy but the record of nations in international diplomacy is one of short-sighted (not always lucrative) self-interest and policies pursued in the interest of venal national prejudice and historical chauvinism.
Two events that caused controversy in Israel should not have done. Canonizing two nineteenth century nuns who lived in the Holy Land is a reminder that Christianity may be physically erased from the Muslim world but will be spiritually, eternally remembered, for as long as there are Church followers. It was tokenism. It was concerned with Arab persecution of Christians in the Near East. Second, whether the Pope called President Abbas a “Man of Peace” or not is irrelevant. All the newspapers carried the initial reports that he did and those reports are all that are important. Any subsequent denials serve only to fill space. Pope Francis helped President Abbas to score points against his Hamas rivals in Gaza, and diplomatically, in the media war against Israel.
We may appreciate the pontiffs comments that “anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel and their right to exist is guilty of anti-Semitism” as reportedly made in conversation with Portuguese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman. But what counts is the public profile of comments – what is prominently reported and what is ignored by the mainstream press (because it does not help to support an antisemitic agenda).
Israel has been consistently misrepresented and slandered over decades in the global press using precisely this method of information dissemination. Pope Francis did not publicly protest vicious persecution, torture and murder of Christians in Muslim lands; he is unlikely to highlight Islamic antisemitism. Nor is he going to represent our side against our enemies in his treatment of this international conflict.
It seems that it is not in his interest to do so.