middle east

Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).

AL-AKHBAR: Long interview with Léa El Azzi on capitalism after the pandemic, Europe, Greece, Lebanon & the IMF

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/06/2020 - 4:03pm in

The pandemic is not the first crisis (if we can say so) that hit capitalism all over the world. what is the difference between this one and the previous crisis? 

The obvious one is that Covid-19 dealt capitalism an external shock, like an earthquake or a meteor that strikes at both production lines and consumption at once. In contrast, the 2008 financial collapse, for example, was an internal, an endogenous, shock that was created, within, by the system itself. Having said that, the reason why the pandemic will prove so damaging is that capitalism had never recovered from the 2008 crash. Back then, it was the financial sector that crashed and burned. Central banks and governments refloated the financial sector by means of trillions of dollars of new money. However, this liquidity did not turn into actual investment in the real economy. So, while the banks recovered, and the oligarchy found themselves with appreciating assets, the majority our there had to face harsh austerity. This boosted the disconnect between available liquidity and investment in good jobs and its associated disconnect between the world of money (that was doing well) and the world of the real economy (which was not). Company shared were high but profitability was low. So, when Covid-19 arrived on the scene, it acted like a pin that bursts a gigantic bubble. Reflating this bubble, in the absence of serious public investment, will not be possible however much money Central Banks pump into the financial markets.

Why does capitalism face so many problems and challenges, despite the absence of ideological competitors?

Because that’s what capitalism is wonderful at doing: Producing technologies that undermine itself. The process at work is fascinating: In the real economy, new machines come into play that cut down the content of labour per unit of output. New jobs are created lower down the hierarchy of work. This means that machines play an increasing role in producing great new products which the machines will never want and which humans are decreasingly able to afford. Meanwhile, in the world of money, financiers constantly create new forms of debt that disguise themselves as a form of private money. Its accumulation eventually leads to a crash due to a string of bankruptcies. The combination of these dynamics, in the real and in the money worlds, inexorably produce one crisis after the other.

Why throughout the years, the economic success was not accompanied by improvements in peoples’s lives? Is it one of capitalism problems now? 

Defenders of capitalism dispute this. They roll out statistics that show a steady increase in average living standards over the past one hundred and fifty years, presenting it as evidence that capitalism has been good for humanity. While it is true that average real incomes have increased, especially in China and other developing countries, it is not at all clear that this has been a victory either for capitalism or for humanity. Take China, for example. While it has relied on the market and on private enterprise, it would never have grown the way it did if it was not for the capacity of its government to direct investment and determine the income distribution in ways that capitalism would have made impossible – in other words, without the Communist Party and its structures. Additionally, defenders of capitalism ignore the simple fact that a rise in incomes does not necessarily mean a rise in the quality of life. To give an extreme, but not misleading, example, take Australia’s Aborigines. Before the Europeans arrived in Australia, they had no income. But they had a rich and fulfilling life. Today, their majority receive government benefits but lead broken lives. Is this progress?

Will Covid- 19 bring down capitalism? Or do you think it is just a battle inside the same capitalist camp, and capitalism will win again?

The death of capitalism has been pronounced so many times that it is unwise to do so once again. What I can say is, first, that Covid-19 has struck at a time when capitalism was particularly fragile (and, therefore, all the talk of a quick recovery is inane) and, secondly, how this crisis affects humanity will depend on what we do, on how we react. Nothing is written in stone.

If we will set another regime, what will be? and do you think China and Cuba could have an advantage after their role in fighting the virus and helping other countries? — Miatta Fahnbullah wrote in “Foreign Affairs” that “A new economic model is needed, one that adapts traditional socialist ideals to contemporary realities”, you agree?

Yes, of course. Strong public health systems have proven themselves immeasurably better, and more resilient, than private ones. Capitalism’s reliance on just-on-time supply chains that no collective agency can plan or direct is proving its Achilles Heal. How could we have organised production and distribution differently? What might Postcapitalism look like? I have been struggling with these questions for a long time. Alas, this coming September I am bringing out a new book that offers my answer, for whatever it is worth. It is entitled: ANOTHER NOW: Dispatches from an alternative present.

You said that “either we unite with progressives around the planet in a shared struggle for justice, or we surrender to the forces of nationalism and free-market fundamentalism”, how could reuniting progressives help in any way?and what is your plan beside the website?  

Let me give you a simple example: During every recent crisis, bankers banded together and forced governments to apply socialism – for them! The price was austerity and hardship for almost everyone else. This led to discontent. Discontent then breeds fascism, xenophobia, nativism, ultra-nationalism. The representatives of this misanthropic type of politics unite across borders (look at the love in between Trump, Bolsonaro, Modi, Le Pen, Salvini etc.). Is it not the time for progressives to band together in the interests of the majority in every country, on every continent?

This is what our Progressive International is about. How are we organising this, besides a website? In two ways. First, by putting together a global plan for shared, green prosperity. (We must be able to answer questions such as “How much should we spend on fighting climate change? Where will the money come from? How will we redistribute wealth from the few to the many and from the Global North to the Global South?”) Secondly, by organising global actions in support of local causes (e.g. a global campaign in support of a few striking women workers in, say, India). To accomplish these hugely hard, but essential, tasks the Progressive International has put together a Council, comprising leading activists from around the world, and a Cabinet, consisting of a few dedicated organisers working on our campaigns on a day-to-day basis. Our next meeting will take place on 18th September in Iceland, under the aegis of Katrin Jacobsdottir, the country’s Prime Minister.

What should be the role of the state in all of this, specially after the Covid 19 and critics to capitalism and private sectors which was not able to cope with the crisis?

The state’s role is crucial. Even politicians inspired by small-government libertarianism have had to call for governments to step in and, effectively, save everyone. The question is not whether the state has a role. The question is: On whose behalf is the state acting?

Part 2: Europe after the pandemic

How will Covid – 19 change Europe? 

It will make it even more fragmented, insular and wrought by nationalism. Europe’s historic failure came in 2010, when a financial sector crisis was dealt with as if it were a great opportunity to cement the policy of socialism for the bankers and austerity for everyone else. As a result, our democracies were poisoned and powerful centrifugal forces began to tear apart any sense of a union. Covid-19 simply reinforced these forces.

This is not a “traditional economic crisis”, and it’s been very long time since the world faced something alike, but we notice that governments and nations are making “traditional moves”, specially with  releasing new bonds. Yanis Varoufakis doesn’t agree with these procedures, but why should European institutions continue in supporting a failed financial system by saving creditors? And what should be done instead?

Because our political system belongs to the failed financiers. It is they who, for years, financed political campaigns. It is they that wrote the rules of our monetary union, both during the good and the bad times. And it is they who have the power to impose upon the rest of society that the rest of society bails them out from the mess of their own doing. It is oligarchy par excellence.

Why you said that the last thing businesses in Germany, in Italy, in France, in Greece need now is loans? and how loans could affect them?

It is crucial that we never mistake a bankruptcy for a case of illiquidity. If the estimated value of your future income is greater than your debt, you are solvent. But, you may be ‘illiquid’, i.e. lacking cash. In these cases, a loan is both sensible and useful. However, if your debt is lower than your future expected income, no loan can help – all it will do is magnify your debt and push you deeper in bankruptcy. It is in this sense that I said that businesses do not need loans so much now. They need cash injections or, better, a debt restructure – under conditions that society places upon them (e.g. how they treat their workers, the environment, their customers etc.)

Could European institutions finance governments directly?

The European Central Bank cannot, due to a severe restriction in its charter. But, there are a myriad ways in which member-state deficits and debts could be mutualised – the first step toward a proper union.

All we talk about is saving European economies and markets, what about citizens, and the social impact of the pandemic?

I never talk about anything other than our main task, which is to minimise human misery and to maximise shared, real, green prosperity. If I indulge in any discussion about banks, bonds and fiscal policy is because these are the tools by which so few people destroy the lives of so many.

Part 3: Greece and IMF

Did Greece recover after the program with IMF? – if no, why?

Of course not. The reason is simple: The joint IMF-EU program was never about helping the Greek people recover. It was all about, primarily, saving four or five French and German banks by cynically transferring their gargantuan losses onto Europe’s taxpayers, using the Greek Treasury as an intermediate stop for the bailout funds. A secondary role of this IMF-EU program was to force the people of Greece into permanent debt bondage so as to ‘teach’ others (e.g. the Spanish, Italians, French) an important lesson: You do as you are told or else…

Economically speaking, what were the benefits of the program and negatives?

Precisely zero benefits, unless you were an oligarch. As for the negatives, it suffices to mention two: First, permanent debt bondage. Second, desertification, as your young (especially the better educated) are migrating in droves.

If not asking for IMF “help”, what else could have Greece do?

Declare bankruptcy. And then take it from there. Yes, it would have been costly. But, with hard work it would have been possible, either inside or outside the euro, to climb out of the hole. Under the IMF-EU program, this was – and remains – impossible, the result being that all the sacrifices are wasted.

Part 4: Lebanon economic / financial crisis and its IMF Program 

The Lebanese government put recently a “Financial Recovery Plan”, claiming that the “lebanese economy is in free fall” and that an “international rescue package to backstop the recession and create the conditions for a rebound. In parallel a quick delivery on long-awaited reform measures is critical to help restore confidence”. The minister of finance started the negotiations with IMF, and government say that it is the only way out. Why? Is the IMF a solution for the problem or a problem itself? Can we really negotiate to get a better deal, or it’s a package “take it or leave it”, specially for a small country that every day one American responsable give a statement telling us what we should and should not do?

Just like Greece in 2010, Lebanon is facing a moment of truth, a great dilemma. Become a vassal of the IMF and hope for a miracle that becomes less and less likely in the era of the post-pandemic depression. Or, take the pain but also take matters in the hands of its people. There are no easy solutions. But there is a clear choice.

The IMF program can never work for the majority. It may end up a complete disaster, with even the richer Lebanese suffering hugely. Or it may end up as a partial disaster, leading to some benefits for the better off while the majority languish in deeper debt and misery than ever. In either case, the majority of young Lebanese, especially the better educated, will leave the country, thus draining it of its most precious capital. The reason the majority are condemned under the IMF program is that this is what it is meant to do: A mild restructure of banking, personal and public debt in exchange for a massive redistribution of income, and in particular wealth, from the poor to the oligarchy-without-frontiers. While the IMF can, potentially, restore in Lebanon a semblance of normality, this will be bought at the price of the permanent expropriation of whatever little prospects and wealth the ‘little’ people have.

The alternative takes courage and political organisation. Throwing out the IMF, unilaterally haircutting your dollar or euro denominated debt, nationalising the banks, launching a new currency under a reconstituted central bank… these would be the first steps. Undoubtedly, it is a thorny and treacherous path as the world’s powerful will treat your people as a rebel army. But, if they see that you are pulling together and are using this crisis as an opportunity to eradicate corruption and cronyism, they will eventually relent. Iceland was in the same situation at the beginning of the 2008 crisis. They followed this hard road. And they won. There is no reason why a small country cannot assert its right to sovereignty from the global oligarchy that the IMF represents.


Get Ready for Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign 2.0 as Labour Condemns Israeli Invasion of Palestine

This is going to be a real test of Starmer’s leadership. It was not lost on left-wing Labour supporters, bloggers and activists that RLB’s sacking from the Labour shadow cabinet for alleged ‘anti-Semitism’ came just before Israel’s planned annexation of a third of the West Bank this Wednesday. For many of these true Labour people, the message was clear: Starmer had signed up to the Board of Deputies wretched 10 Pledges on Anti-Semitism, which meant that he was committed to suppressing any criticism of Israel and its barbarous and malign treatment of the Palestinians. Because when the British Jewish establishment – the Board of Deputies, Chief Rabbinate, Jewish Leadership Council and their satellites in the Labour Party – Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement -say anti-Semitism, they really mean anti-Zionism.

The falsely named Campaign Against Anti-Semitism had precious little to say about real anti-Semitism, the vicious anti-Jewish hatred of the right and far right, which accounts for most the real anti-Semitic abuse and attacks in the UK. It was set up after the bombardment of Gaza to combat popular hostility to Israel, and most of its rantings were directed against Corbyn and its socialist critics. Ditto the equally wrongly named Jewish Labour Movement, whose members don’t have to be Jews or members of the Labour Party. This was founded from the moribund ashes of Paole Zion, again to defend Israel following a conversation its founder had with his friends in a cafe in Golders Green in 2012. And all of these organisations could be equally accused of anti-Semitism. They reserve their most bilious spleen for Jewish critics of Israel, whom they vilify as ‘Kapos’, ‘traitors’, ‘self-hating’ and worse. They are quite happy to see Jewish demonstrators against Israeli imperialism punched and beaten by the thugs of the Community Security Trust. And their supporters have a streak of racism a mile wide. After they attacked Jackie Walker for her stance on Israel, among the threatening and abusive messages she received were claims that she couldn’t be Jewish, because she was Black. This should be a new one to the Black Jewish communities in Ethiopia, and the Afro-Jewish peeps in America. An anti-racist friend of mine told me when I was studying Religious Education in college that one of Moses’ wives was a Cushite. Cush was a country in what is now Ethiopia, and Cushitic is a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, which includes the Semitic languages as well as Ancient Egyptian and the Berber tongues.

Now apparently the Board and Jewish press are preparing to kick off again. Lisa Nandy, one of the plotters against Corbyn, has dared to condemn the coming Israeli invasion of Palestine. According to a post just put up this morning by Zelo Street, Nandy has said:

“The proposal to unilaterally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is an illegal act which will undermine the prospect of a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and has serious implications for the stability of the Middle East”.

“It is a shameful proposition to which the UK cannot be a silent witness. Across the world concern is growing … So far the UK government has been conspicuously absent from this global response … This is now urgent. The government must be clear with the Israeli coalition government that concrete action will follow, including a ban on goods entering Britain from the illegal settlements in the West Bank”.

“This is a major step, but such a blatant breach of international law must have consequences. It will take a level of courage that so far ministers have not been willing to show”.

Morally and legally, Nandy is quite correct. Zelo Street has made it plain that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is against international law under a series of United Nations resolutions passed after the 1967 Six Day War. But morality and international law counts for nothing where Israel is concerned. The Jewish Chronicle has published a piece by smear merchant Lee Harpin reporting that Marie van der Zyl has demanded that Starmer reject this proposal. She ranted “The tactic of BDS is divisive and seeks to strike at the very legitimacy of the State of Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish State”. Apologists for Israeli imperialism recite these tropes that its the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish state like its a mantra. As an argument against criticism, they have no validity. Israel’s an apartheid state where the indigenous Arabs are second-class residents, slowly being squeezed out by official Israeli expansionism. Israel cannot be considered genuinely democratic when institutionalized racism is enshrined in its law. Nor is it the Middle East’s only democracy. Lebanon is also democratic, though in a peculiar form which allocates certain roles in government to specific religions and ethnic groups in a system termed ‘consociality’. As for Israel being the world’s only Jewish state, that’s irrelevant. Israel’s actions would still be wrong and illegal regardless of the religion and ethnicity of its perpetrators.

As Zelo Street has pointed out, van der Zyl is really concerned about ‘BDS’ – the campaign to boycott goods produced in the Occupied Territories. The American government, both federal and state, has passed a series of legislation trying to outlaw the BDS movement as anti-Semitic. But a cursory glance should show that it is no such thing. It includes and has the staunch support of many self-respecting Jews, both observant and secular. It does not campaign against goods and services by Jews or even by Israel, just against goods produced in the Occupied Territories. It is against Israeli imperialism, not against Israel or Jews.

Nevertheless, the odious van der Zyl’s statement is a warning. If Starmer doesn’t do as she commands, they’ll start a fresh set of anti-Semitism allegations and smears. But the Street believes that Starmer is strong enough to defy them.

‘The problem that Ms van der Zyl faces, though, is that Keir Starmer does not bend to anyone else’s will. He did not hesitate to act last week, whatever the rights and wrongs of Rebecca Long Bailey’s actions, and he has already made up his mind on Palestine.

This is one game of Call My Bluff where Keir Starmer is not going to yield. End of story.’

I really wish that this is the case. Starmer has signed up to the Board’s wretched 10 Pledges, as they demanded, and got their patronising approval in return. But his sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey was an example of his weakness and willingness to comply with their demands, as Long Bailey was quite correct in her statement that it was the IDF who had trained the American police in the use of the knee-on-neck hold that killed George Floyd. But the truth, if it doesn’t make Israel look good, is always anti-Semitic to these horrors, and so they denounced her.

I hope Starmer stands firm and does not reprimand Nandy nor retract her demands. The organization in the weak position here is van der Zyl and the Board. But I fear he will, as he is also a member of the British establishment, and the British establishment as a whole backs Israel because of its role as a major agent of western influence and foreign policy in the Middle East.

I hope I’m wrong, but I can see this becoming very nasty very quickly. Starmer may well get the same treatment that was meted out to Corbyn. It’ll be very interesting to see if he stands up to them. And how his supporters will react when the weapon they used against Corbyn is now turned on them.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/palestine-labour-and-call-my-bluff.html

Pentagon Porks Up as Covid-19 Bleeds Economy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/06/2020 - 4:26pm in

Quelle surprise! Pentagon grifting continues apace, even in the face of a full-bore domestic crisis.

Book Review: Iran, Revolution and Proxy Wars by Ofira Seliktar and Farhad Rezaei

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/06/2020 - 11:00pm in

In Iran, Revolution and Proxy Wars, Ofira Seliktar and Farhad Rezaei shed light on Iran’s proxy war tactics since 1979 to reflect on its regional aims and policies. This book should be on the shelf of anyone who studies Iran’s foreign policy and Middle Eastern politics, writes Cangul Altundas-Akcay.

Iran, Revolution and Proxy Wars. Ofira Seliktar and Farhad Rezaei. Palgrave. 2020.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran, with a predominantly Shi’a population, has been one of the influential regional powers in the Middle East, with an aim to export its revolution and enhance its dominance. With the outbreak of the Arab Uprisings, it has further maintained its regional goals, endorsing some of the warring factions in the conflicts by supporting the Bashar Assad regime in Syria while backing the Houthis in Yemen. In their book Iran, Revolution, and Proxy Wars, Ofira Seliktar and Farhad Rezaei shed light on Iran’s asymmetrical war strategies and its proxy war tactics since the beginning of the revolution to reflect on its regional aims and policies.

The book is structured as seven main chapters and a very short conclusion. In the first chapter, the authors examine how Iran started the pursuit of exporting its revolution, giving a broad background to its theological regime and the foundation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In particular, they examine how Iran became both a national state and a revolution exporter from the outset of the revolution, and the effects of its anti-US and anti-Israel policies on its proxy wars. Giving information regarding the proxy system and the role of the IRGC, the authors provide ‘a detailed analysis of the way in which the goals of revolution export are melded with the imperative of regime defence and national interests’ (17) in the following chapters, unpacking different cases.

The second and third chapters touch on how and why Hezbollah and Hamas emerged as significant proxies of Iran in Lebanon and Palestine respectively, defining the asymmetrical warfare strategy of Iran in detail. Since anti-Zionism is one of the main motivations of Iran, it has pursued military collaboration with these groups in fighting with Israel. The fourth chapter mainly explains how the IRGC arguably engaged in opportunistic cooperation with Al-Qaeda in the mutual pursuit of destabilising the US in the Middle East and beyond from the 1990s to the beginning of the 2000s. In this chapter, the important point is that Iran’s alleged ties with Al-Qaeda were temporary and interest-based in contrast to its close alliance with Hezbollah. The chapter further points to the US perception of Al-Qaeda, and the failure of Iran’s aim in enhancing the revolution in Africa.

In the fifth chapter, the authors examine the US plans to topple the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and the role of Iran during that term. They point out that Iran viewed the toppling of the Saddam regime as ‘a gift from God’ even though it did not wish a US presence in the region (131).  As such, the IRGC sought to increase its influence in tandem with the decrease of US influence in Iraq following the overthrow of the Saddam regime, using the Badr Brigade, which is an Iraqi Shi’ite Islamist political party and military organisation. The sixth chapter broadly describes the historical ties between Iran and Syria in order to figure out Iran’s proxy war in the recent Syrian conflict. Syria is crucial for the ‘axis of resistance architecture’, notably due to its close proximity to Hezbollah (167). This is because the presence of the Shi’ite population along strategic routes was vital to provide solidarity at the sectarian level (192-93).  The chapter further points out the role and policies of the IRGC in Syria’s political system and the Iranian effort to keep Assad in power.

In the seventh chapter, the authors explain the conflict between the Iran-backed Houthis and the Saudi Arabia-supported Yemeni government in the post-Arab Uprisings era, giving an extensive background to their conflict. In particular, Iran’s naval strategy Anti-Access/Anti-Denial (A2/AD), described as a ‘family of military capabilities used to prevent or constrain the deployment of opposing forces into a given theatre of operations and reduce their freedom of manoeuvre once in a theater’ (221), is explained to understand Iran’s deterrence tactics in the Yemen War.  The conclusion unpacks the pros and cons of Iran’s proxy strategy: for instance, ‘turning non-enemy civilians into a human shield to embed military assets’. The authors conclude that ‘there is no single explanation for the remarkable success of the proxy projects. Rather it is a combination of several IRGC winning strategies’ (235). The authors also analyse the impact of US sanctions against Iran on Iran’s proxy wars, assuming that ‘only an extremely high cost of doing business in the form of economically devastating sanctions may persuade the regime to adopt a more conventional state-oriented foreign policy’ (239).

Iran, Revolution and Proxy Wars is timely and covers many recent topics in the Middle East. In this regard, one of the book’s greatest achievements is that it introduces readers to several contemporary regional issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Syria, the US invasion of Iraq and the Yemen War. As well as Iran’s proxy wars and tactics, the book notably elucidates the organisational structure, war strategies and the hierarchical framework of many political parties and militant organisations including Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaeda. As a result, the reader can better understand which unit is responsible for the ties between the IRGC and these groups. Moreover, the authors touch upon the internal competition between moderates and hardliners in Iran’s domestic politics regarding the proxy wars. For instance, the authors emphasise that ‘Rafsanjani [President of Iran between 1989-97] was ready to sell out the revolution for better relations with the United States […] The negotiated political order gave elements in the IRGC-QF, who opposed Rafsanjani policies, considerable leeway’ (35). This indicates that there is often disunity in Iranian domestic politics regarding the proxy war strategies.

At the same time, the reactions of the regional Sunni states towards Iran’s proxy wars remain unexplored in the book. To better illustrate this, the work would benefit from being a little longer, adding the Turkish-Iranian competition in both Syria and Iraq and the perception of other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, along with Saudi Arabia, of Iran’s regional proxy war tactics. Moreover, despite valuable interpretations of Iran’s relations with non-state actors, the book’s knowledge-intensive approach could be extended through further theorising in this regard.

Nonetheless, Iran, Revolution, and Proxy Wars is a must-read and should be on the shelf of anyone who studies Iran. The book will also become a seminal source for future studies of Iran’s foreign policy and Middle Eastern politics.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

Image Credit: (Farzaaaad2000 CC BY SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons).


How Covid-19 is Creating a Social-Distancing Version of War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/05/2020 - 2:55pm in

Covid-19 meets the US military and the Pentagon yields.

The War Nerd: How Many Dead Yemeni Nobodies Does It Take to Equal 1 Wapo Contributor?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/05/2020 - 8:45pm in

It’s not easy to get a real-life scientific-type test of the relative weight of a WaPo writer’s death and the deaths of “enemy” civilians. Well, we’ve got such a test now. I just found it at the BBC News site.

Racist and Biased Equalities and Human Rights Commission Drops Tory Islamophobia Investigation

Here’s another revolting development, as it would be described by Marvel Comics’ ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing, the idol o’ millions and butt of the Yancey Street gangs’ pranks. On Tuesday Mike reported that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission had decided not to go ahead with an investigation into islamophobia in the Tory party. It considered that this would not be ‘proportionate’ after seeing the Tories’ own plans and terms of reference for its own investigation, which included specific reference to islamophobia.

The Muslim Council of Britain declared that these terms were a ‘facade’ and that the investigation was too narrow compared to Labour’s Chakrabarti investigation into anti-Semitism. They went on to say that the investigation would hide the hundreds of incidents of bigotry in the Tory party, which they had uncovered.

Mike in his article makes the very valid point that it doesn’t matter what the EHRC says about ant-Semitism in the Labour party. It has shown it cannot treat the two parties equally. Indeed, BoJob’s own behaviour provides a prima facie case for investigation. Mike concludes

If the EHRC can’t see that, then no decision it makes about the Labour Party can have any weight at all.

I recommend that it be disbanded and replaced by an organisation staffed by people who can do the job properly.

Equalities watchdog undermines itself by refusing to examine Tory Islamophobia

Of course, Mike’s right. There’s Johnson’s wretched book 72 Virgins, a wish-fulfillment fantasy if ever there was one, about a bike-riding Prime Minister foiling an evil Islamist plot to bomb parliament. This also included racist comments about other ethnic groups as well, including a Black character, who is described as a stupid coon, and a shady Jewish businessman who makes his money by exploiting migrant workers. This nasty anti-Semitic stereotype was accompanied by the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about the Jews controlling the media. And then, of course, there’s Johnson’s vile newspaper column in which he compared women in burqas to bin bags and letter boxes. Despite all the bluster about how he was merely being un-PC and it was an act of free speech, nothing more, Johnson’s rhetoric did lead to a spike in islamophobic assaults, especially against women clad in that way.

Zelo Street and other left-wing bloggers have also put up articles about the numerous supporters of BoJob and Rees-Mogg revealed by the internet activist Jacobsmates, who posted viciously islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments on Twitter. Like the various Conservative politicos Mike and Zelo Street also reported were suspended by the Tories for their islamophobic conduct. In their posts they had declared that Sadiq Khan and other Muslim and ethnic minority politicos, like Diane Abbott, should be killed, ranted about how Muslims were plotting to destroy the country and were responsible for rape and terrorism and supported the old anti-Semitic conspiracy libel that Muslims and non-White immigrants were being imported into Europe and the West by the Jews with the intention of destroying the White race.

And the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is grossly disproportionate itself in the importance it gives to the allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour on the one hand and islamophobia in the Tories in another.

The reality is that there was far less anti-Semitism in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn than in wider British society, and that the vast majority of it comes from the right, and especially the far right. What those screaming about Labour anti-Semitism really objected to was anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians. This is why Corbyn was viciously denounced as an anti-Semite for attending a speech by a Holocaust survivor, who compared Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ persecution of himself and other Jews, while the same witch-hunters had nothing to say about Tweezer and Rachel Reeve singing the praises of Nancy Astor, a real anti-Semite and supporter of Hitler. Part of the motivation for the anti-Semitism smears against Labour was pure partisanship. It was a convenient stick for the Tory establishment, including the Thatcherites within the Labour party, to beat Corbyn and try to oust him or prevent the party from ever coming to power. It didn’t matter whether they were true or not. And western geopolitical interests were involved. Israel is one of the pillars of British Middle Eastern policy, along with Saudi Arabia. Tony Greenstein among other bloggers and activists has put up a number of quotes from British officials showing that it always was regarded as a centre of western influence in the region from the days of the British Mandate in Palestine, comparable to Ulster in Ireland.

The anti-Semitism smears had nothing to do with real anti-Jewish hatred. It was purely about defending Israel and preventing a genuine the formation of a socialist, genuinely Labour government.

The EHRC’s decision not to investigate Tory islamophobia may also be connected to the anti-Muslim prejudices of its leader, Trevor Philips. He is, or was, a member of the Labour party, but was suspended a little while ago by General Secretary Jennie Formby for islamophobia. He had accused Muslims of forming a ‘nation within a nation’ and stated that the members of the Asian grooming gangs, who abused White girls, committed their horrendous crimes because ‘Muslims see the world differently’. He seems to regard Muslims as fundamentally different and Other to the rest of British society, stating that they ‘are not like us’. He also chaired a Tory conference on ‘Challenging Islamophobia’, in which he and several of the others attending even blamed Muslims themselves for the terrorist attacks on the mosques in New Zealand and Finsbury Park. They were, Phillips and the others declared, a natural response to Muslim terrorism. In 2006 Ken Livingstone, then mayor of the London Assembly, accused Phillips, who was chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, as the EHRC then was, of pandering to the right and turning it into a huge press department while at the same time winding down its legal work. Six of the EHRC’s commissioners also resigned in protest at Phillips’ leadership. Phillips has also presented programmes for Channel 4 which accused Blacks of being far more inclined towards criminality than Whites, and that a significant number of British Muslims had terrorist sympathies among other accusations. Both of these were misleading. In fact, the number of British Muslims, who had terrorist sympathies was s1-3 per cent, rather than the nearly quarter that has been claimed.

Tony Greenstein has put up a long piece including several other articles, which extensively discusses Phillips’ islamophobia  and shabby career and critiques and demolishes the two programmes he presented. Greenstein states that when he was active in student politics in the 1970s, he came across Phillips politically. It struck him then that Phillips really had nothing to say about racism, and was only using the fact of his colour for political advancement.

See: https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/03/even-tommy-robinson-supports-trevor.html

And its very noticeable that, as Greenstein describes in the above article, Phillips has received glowing support from a series of notorious racists and islamophobes like Tommy Robinson. Phillips is also another Labour rightist, who has weaponised the anti-Semitism smears for his own benefit. When he was suspended for islamophobia, he claimed that it was really because he had spoken out about Labour anti-Semitism. Which is purest twaddle.

With someone creditably accused of islamophobia himself in charge of the EHRC, it’s not surprising that it has decided not to pursue anti-Muslim prejudice in the Tories.

And this sorry episode also illustrates another point Quentin Letts has made about race relations in this country. In his book, Bog-Standard Britain, the Tory journo argued that there was a racial hierarchy of power and influence amongst ethnic and other minorities. Jews were at, or near the top. Blacks and Muslims were much lower down. I think Muslims may well have been at the bottom.

There’s much truth in this, as Sayeeda Warsi herself has complained that people are able to say things about Muslims with impunity, for which they would be immediately attacked if they said them about Jews.

Tony’s article also reports that Richard Littlejohn, another scummy right-wing hack, has even claimed that Phillips only agreed to chair the EHRC in order to close it down.

Perhaps this would now be the right action to take. Mike’s right in that at present it seems utterly unfit for purpose.

Anti-Semitism Witch-Hunters Targeting Prospective Labour Politico for Something She Hasn’t Yet Done

As Asa Winstanley, another anti-racism activist falsely expelled from the Labour Party for anti-Semitism remarks, this is beyond thoughtcrime. It’s pre-crime. Mike in his article about Keir Starmer reprimanding the respected Black women MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy also mentions that the witch-hunters are demanding he censure their next target, Salma Yaqoob. Yaqoob is a prospective Labour candidate for mayor of the West Midlands, and a patron of the Stop the War Coalition. She is also due to appear in an online discussion from the Coalition about the new Labour leadership’s position on anti-war issues and Palestine on the 8th of this month, May 2020, alongside Paul Kelemen, the author of The British Left and Zionism: A History of a Divorce, and Tony Greenstein, ‘Jewish socialist and anti-war campaigner’. And it is his appearance on the panel that has sent the witch-hunters into a fearful bate, as Molesworth would sa. 

Greenstein is very definitely a Jewish socialist and anti-war campaigner. He a fierce, bitter opponent of Fascism and racism. This means that he also criticises Zionism for Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and the movement’s own crimes against Jews. He has pointed out again and again that throughout their history Zionists and the Israeli state have supported Fascists against Jews and other ethnic minorities when it has served their purpose. Israel sought out an alliance with another White Supremacist state, apartheid South Africa. In the 1970s and ’80 they also allied with Fascist regimes in South and Central America, including Guatemala during its dictatorship’s genocidal civil war with the Mayan Indians, and the neo-Nazi regime in Argentina, which targeted Jews for torture, massacre and murder. At the same time, the Board of Deputies of British Jews attacked the Anti-Nazi League in this country, forbidding Jews from joining it or allowing it to hold meetings in synagogues, because the founder was an anti-Zionist. Some left-wing Jews, who defied the ban and joined it nonetheless, like David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, say that there were rumours that the Board opposed it for different, racist reasons: they didn’t want Jews joining the Black and Asian fight against racism.

Yaqoob’s appearance was picked up by Ian Austin, the former Labour MP complaining of anti-Semitism while the real reason was that Jeremy Corbyn had returned it to its socialist ideals. He has complained to Starmer and demanded Yaqoob’s suspension. Hence Asa Winstanley tweeted

This racist fanatic wants a prominent Muslim woman expelled from Labour for a future event with the “wrong” kind of Jewish person.

This is beyond Thought Crime, it’s Pre-Crime.

Jackie Walker, another Jewish anti-racism activist smeared as an anti-Semite and expelled from the Party, also commented: It’s open season on black women.

Kerry-Ann Mendoza, the mighty head of The Canary said

Corbyn’s Labour:

For the many, not the few.

Starmer’s Labour:

For us, not you.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/02/keir-starmer-has-turned-labour-into-the-party-of-hypocrisy-and-racism/

During the smear campaign a few years ago, the Board, Campaign for Anti-Semitism, Jewish Leadership Council and the other pro-Israel groups and their supporters waved placards at their protests bearing the slogan ‘Labour Party – For the many, not the Jew’. It was a play on Corbyn’s slogan ‘Labour – for the many, not the few’. According to Tony Greenstein, it was made up by British literary author, Howard Jacobson, when he was living in New York. It was supposed to show how anti-Semitic the Labour Party is. But the witch-hunters themselves have particularly targeted Jewish critics of Israel and pro-Palestinian activists. These entirely decent, self-respecting men and women have been viciously smeared as ‘self-hating’. The Board and the other pro-Israel organisations have also misrepresented themselves as standing for Britain’s Jewish community as a whole. They don’t. Board doesn’t represent Orthodox, Haredi nor secular Jews. It really only represents the United Synagogue. I find it very significant that when the I ran an article from a Jewish journalist denouncing Labour as anti-Semitic apart from their own columnist, Simon Kelner, that journo was always described as a member of the United Synagogue. As a Zionist organisation, the Board also doesn’t represent anti-Zionist Jews. The Board and the other organisations attacking Labour and Corbyn were also incensed when the Labour leader attended a Passover Seder with Jewdas, a left-wing Jewish group. This was another anti-Semitic affront to the Jewish community. They were the wrong kind of Jew! Which is itself a noxious, anti-Semitic gesture.

In fact the Board and the other witch-hunters targeting of Jews means that you could reasonably invert their slogan so it reads ‘Board of Deputies – For Israel, not the Jew’. 

It was Tony Blair’s administration that launched the invasion of Iraq, against which the Stop the War Coalition protested, and the Blairites shared the same goals as the Neocons. After George Dubya left office, and was replaced as President by Barack Obama, it was Blair and Sarkozy in France who really wanted an attack on Libya and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy. The result has been the destruction of one of Africa’s most prosperous states, which had a strong welfare system and was relatively secular. It has now been replaced in some areas by a hard-line Islamist theocracy, which has returned to slavery with Black migrants now being openly sold in markets. Before the appearance of Coronavirus plunged the world into lockdown, the American right seemed also to be preparing and agitating for a war with Iran. The Neocons also want that country’s regime overthrown because of its militant opposition to Israel, accompanied by frankly genocidal rhetoric, and its defiance of American hegemony in the Middle East. They and their Saudi allies also covet its oil reserves, which they also wish to seize, just like they did Iraq’s.

And there’s also a streak of islamophobia in the witch-hunters a mile wide. People have turned up at pro-Israel and anti-Palestine protests wearing Kach T-shirts. This is a far-right organisation banned in Israel for terrorism. They also wear T-shirts and wave placards for its successor, the Jewish Defence League, which is also banned. One of the witch-hunters turned up next to one anti-Palestinian demo two years or so ago next to Paul Besser, the intelligence officer of the infamous islamophobic group, Britain First. These pro-Israel demonstrators also include open supporters of Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League and Pegida UK. One of the Board’s members even appeared with him in a video for Rebel Media, a far-right Canadian internet broadcaster.

It therefore very much seems to me that Austin and the other witch-hunters, by making this complaint against Yaqoob, are desperately trying to keep debate and criticism in the Labour party of Israel and its genocide of the Palestinians very firmly closed. They are also seeking to keep Blair’s Neocon agenda alive in Labour. And they are terrified of Muslims and Muslim influence in the Labour Party. There have been polls showing that 85 per cent of British Muslims support Labour. Muslims are one of the largest ethnic minorities in contemporary Britain. The Radio Times a few years ago covered a radio programme about Jewish comedy and literary festivals that were being held up and down the country. These festivals were open to the wider British population. According to the Radio Times, they were partly being held in order to encourage the broader population to support the Jewish community at a time when that community felt its respect was slipping away and being replaced by concern for other ethnic groups.

Now I’ve got absolutely no objection to such festivals, whether by Jews or any other religious or ethnic group. And with the Far Right on the rise in Europe, Jews do need the support and solidarity of non-Jewish anti-racism activists. But Austin’s complaint about Yaqoob, a Muslim patron of the Stop the War Coalition, suggests that the general insecurity felt by part of the Jewish population is shared by the Israel lobby. And they’re scared of competition from Britain’s Muslims for our sympathies.

The witch-hunter’s targeting of Salma Yaqoob is therefore about preserving the Neocon project and protecting Israel from criticism by silencing genuine anti-racism activists, particularly Jews and Muslims. It’s yet another example of the racism of the Blairite Right.

Tony Greenstein on the Leaked Anti-Semitism Report, the Political Motivation behind the Smears, and Corbyn’s Capitulation

Tony Greenstein has just put up the second part of his critique of the leaked report on anti-Semitism in the Labour party. This is the report that has caused so much anger and outrage amongst ordinary, rank and file members, through its revelations that the party bureaucracy were doing everything they could to unseat Corbyn, including purging his supporters and actively campaigning against the Labour party in the 2017 election. The first part of Greenstein’s article examines this aspect of the report. The second part now explains how it shows that Corbyn and his office did not understand the political nature of the anti-Semitism allegations. Led by Jon Lansman, Corbyn and his team absolutely accepted that the accusations were made in good faith. They caved in utterly to the accusers, who were motivated purely by a desire to topple Corbyn and protect Israel from justifiable criticism of its brutal programme of slow-motion genocide against the Palestinians. Thus Corbyn, Lansman, Milne et al threw their supporters to the wolves in a massively mistaken policy of appeasement. The Israel lobby and its accomplices inside and outside the party, including the Conservative Jewish establishment, were not only not appeased, by emboldened by this capitulation. They continued with increasing fervour until Corbyn himself, a passionate lifelong anti-racist and opponent of anti-Semitism, was smeared.

Greenstein’s piece tackles a number of episodes in this sorry tale of retreat and capitulation. This includes how Corbyn should have responded to Andrew Neil’s demand that he apologise to the Jewish community by pointing out how Neil, as head of the board of the Spectator, was responsible for the continuing employment of real anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers by the magazine. Scumbags like David Irving and Taki. He describes how Corbyn’s office itself put on pressure for the expulsion of himself, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and Ken Livingstone.

His piece discusses real anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, such as the historical cases of the Webbs, Herbert Morrison, and the perversion of the definition of anti-Semitism to mean anti-Zionism. He also argues that some of the hostile rhetoric against the Rothschilds really isn’t anti-Semitic, as many of those using it don’t understand that the Rothschilds were Jewish. It just reflects a poor political understanding of Zionism, when used solely in this context. He makes the point that the British and American elites support Israel for its military and political significance in the Middle East.

He also shows how the far-right ultra-Zionist activist David Collier infiltrated the Labour Party, leading the party’s Governance and Legal Unit to suspend Glyn Secker of Jewish Voice for Labour. He also discusses Jackie Walker’s and other cases, where the claims of anti-Semitic were false or at best, extremely flimsy. He also describes how anti-Semites have supported Zionism ever since the days of Alfred Dreyfus, and shows how the Jewish Labour Movement always supported Netanyahu and never criticised Israel, despite their denials. He refutes the claim that Sir Stephen Sedley and Geoffrey Robertson, one a former appeal court judge, the other a QC, both supported the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. In fact, they were both ardent critics. The report also boasts of how Jennie Formby increased the suspensions for anti-Semitism due to pressure from the Jewish establishment. He quotes Len McCluskey, who said of the Jewish establishment’s refusal to be satisfied that Labour was effectively tackling anti-Semitism, as them refusing to take ‘yes’ for an answer.

He also shows how the accusations that Labour was in denial about the extent of anti-Semitism in the party was simply a convenient slur to mask their real targets – Corbyn’s support for improved conditions for working people and proper funding of the NHS. He states that Corbyn was unable to formulate a competing worldview to counter that of the Tories, which is why he ultimately lost. He simply wanted an improvement in conditions, whereas the whole structure of society needs to be changed. And he states that this accusation shows absolute contempt for the 70 per cent of Labour members, who don’t believe anti-Semitism is a problem and understand that the vast majority of accusations are politically motivated.

He then moves on demolish other cases of bogus accusations of anti-Semitism against Margaret Tyson, Asa Winstanley, Chris Williamson, Brian Lovett-White – smeared because he said that Zionism was anti-Semitism, which was actually historically the attitude of most Jews; and Alan Bull, suspended for connecting Israel to ISIS, when there is evidence to support this as factually correct. He also describes cases where the witch-hunters dragged their feet or failed to act against genuine cases of anti-Semitism, such as Nasreen Khan, Christopher Crookes, and Fleur Dunbar. He contrasts their case with that Anne Mitchell of Hove, who was expelled simply for talking about the Israel lobby, despite the fact that Israel does have lobbying groups like AIPAC campaigning on its behalf.

His piece concludes

The expulsion of socialists who have dedicated their life to the labour movement and the Labour Party is having a serious detrimental effect on their health. Pauline Hammerton died of a brain haemorrhage a week after receiving her expulsion letter. Clearly the Labour Party’s treatment of her contributed to her death. However such matters are of no concern to the author(s) of this Report. Their only concern is factional, rebutting the suggestion that they were not equally as active in expelling socialists and anti-racists as McNicol and Matthews.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/04/pt-2-labours-leaked-report-sad-sorry.html

This is a thorough demolition of the witch-hunt, showing just how spurious and hypocritical the allegations and those behind them were. But it also shows that their false assumption were shared by the compilers of the report. Both Mike at Vox Political and Martin Odoni have also written extensively attacking the report’s blithe acceptance of these smears.

Unfortunately, while there is immense pressure to bring the political intriguers to justice, there is absolutely no commitment to refute assumptions by Starmer and the current leadership. This is probably because they, like Corbyn, uncritically accept them.

And so decent people remain grotesquely smeared, and the potential for fresh witch-hunt, whenever the Israel lobby find it convenient, remains.