Thursday, 29 November 2012

Palestinian UN bid - under Britain's preconditioned wing

Whatever the outcome of the Palestinian UN bid today, we can take great comfort from the benevolent concerns of UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Britain's long-standing efforts to help achieve a just resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

The selfless manner in which our country countenances restraint from awkward Palestinian preconditions - like seeking to join the International Criminal Court - that would jeopardise Israel's sincere commitment to the peace process is nothing short of inspiring.
And when that liberating day of a two-state, free bantustanised West Bank/Gaza/East Jerusalem does finally arrive, with none of those messy removal of settlements or international war crime worries burdening Israel, we can look back and give thanks to Mr Hague and the UK for mediating heartfelt Israeli-US anxieties and keeping those pushy Palestinians on the straight and narrow.  
Sometimes I just feel so proud to be British.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Gaza: essential street reading

Informing the street: key truths on Gaza from
Jonathan Cook, Media Lens and Seumas Milne

Media Lens alert and email to Jonathan Freedland

Another defining piece on Gaza from Media Lens, noting the double standards of 'weary' liberals, 'armchair warriors' and other evasive journalists.

A short letter, by way of response, to the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland:

Dear Jonathan Freedland

On the case for 'humanitarian intervention' in Libya in 2011, you wrote: ‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.’

In considering the ruthless assault on Gaza, resulting in 158 dead - mostly civilians, including 30 children - and over a thousand injured, you state: ‘I feel it myself, a deep fatigue with this struggle, with the actions of both sides’.

Leaving aside the spurious claims made by Nato over Libya and the indecent haste with which so many liberal writers endorsed them, I wonder if you can find the intellectual depth to recognise the gross double standards at play here? Moreover, does it not dishonour the dead, injured and traumatised of Gaza to read of your 'deep fatigue' over 'the actions of both sides'?

In addition to the latest worthy indictment from Media Lens, perhaps you might also reflect on Seumas Milne's fine piece It's Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves, which, in stark contrast to your own 'weary' feelings and 'two sides' narrative, takes readers to the essential heart of this painful and prolonged issue: Israel's oppression of an occupied and besieged people?

In many ways, output like yours is much worse than standard reactionary support for Israel. For its 'middle-moderated' take and liberal gravitas helps authenticate the 'equal castigation' and 'two-sides-to-blame' line, thus offering that more vital cover for Israel's primary guilt and fabrications.

As Desmond Tutu succinctly puts it:

"If you are neutral in situations of justice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

It would be good to read your responses to Media Lens.

Kind regards
John Hilley

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Israel's last day killing spree

As an uneasy truce holds over Gaza today, evidence unfolds of the particularly wilful carnage inflicted yesterday by Israel.

The object, we may assume: kill as many Palestinian civilians as possble before the ceasefire comes into effect.

As detailed by Chris McGreal from Gaza City:
The doctors, the ambulance drivers, the human rights monitors all said it was one of the worst days. But no one could be sure just how bad until the reports from the morgues, or of funerals held without fanfare, or of the recovery of another body from under the rubble, dribbled in.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) was reporting 31 Palestinians killed in the Israeli assault over the previous 24 hours – 21 of them civilians – in perhaps the worst bloodletting yet of the military campaign against Gaza.

And even as a ceasefire was announced on Wednesday evening, the bombs and missiles were still falling and the death toll rising with a strike in the south of the enclave that killed two men on motorcycles, and bodies were still being pulled from a bombed Gaza City government complex.

The latest victims included Ibrahim Mahmoud Nasser Abu Nasser, 80, and his 14-year-old grandson, Ameera, who were cropping olive trees in Abassan village to the east of Khan Yunis refugee camp when a missile shot from the sky killed them both.

There were the two 16-year-olds – Mahmoud Khalil al-Arja and Ibrahim Ahmed Hamad – who died in an air strike near the southern Gaza border. Ambulance men could not reach their bodies for hours because of the continuing air assault.

Adding to the tally was 14-year-old Ahmed Awadh Abu Olayan, who died of wounds sustained on the first day of the Israeli attack on Gaza.

The Palestinian health ministry puts the total death toll at more than 150, although officials concede they may not know about all of those killed. The PCHR says at least 90 of those are civilians, including about 30 children.
Why the need, any reasonable person will ask, for so much concentrated killing, knowing that a truce was ready to come into force?

As McGreal goes on, even the 'humanitarian warnings' had been cynically calculated:
But as the reports of the killings emerged, there was something more.

The places people died told that the assault by land, sea and air – delivered from tanks, huge naval guns, attack helicopters and fighter jets – had shifted more firmly towards the tightly packed neighbourhoods of Gaza City and small towns and refugee camps.

Those were the very places thousands of Palestinians had fled to after the Israeli military dropped leaflets warning people to get out of border areas to the north and east. In Khan Yunis refugee camp in the south, residents received phone calls with a similar warning to leave or risk harm from the missiles.

The UN Palestinian refugee agency said it was sheltering thousands of people in 13 schools it runs. They arrived by donkey carts and pick-up trucks piled with mattresses.

Dozens of strikes on Gaza City killed nine civilians, including two children. A plane hit two cars with a missile each. Five people died. The PCHR said they were all civilians.

Another missile struck a garden, killing a man and wounding his eight-year-old grandchild. About 15 minutes later, a plane fired a missile into a busy road, Baghdad Street. Four died, including an 18-year-old woman. Again, all were believed to be civilians.

Then there were the targets. The Israeli army said: "The sites that were targeted were positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of several months." But many seemed to have little military value. A football stadium blown to bits. The house of a bank director flattened. Media offices wrecked.
Such is the true psychopathic nature of 'the world's most moral army'. How cynically they snuff-out innocent lives simply to terrify and demonstrate Israel's 'superiority'.

As with the above article, much of the murder, destruction and trauma have been compassionately covered by on-the-ground correspondents, such as Channel 4's Alex Thomson. In one touching report, he revisits a little boy, Awadh, after filming him and other kids taking refuge from the bombing of a UN school:
 Now he’s home. He smiles, his flitting unfocused gaze transformed since yesterday when he sat, alone, banging his head on a school desk. He suffers a serious mental disability, but now on the doorstep of home his brother Mahmoud has an arm round him. Cousin Ihab is gently shelling peanuts and offering them. He is at home again, and at peace.
There was also some humanitarian words from BBC reporters Jon Donnison and Wyre Davies. Indeed, Davies may have strayed a little too uncomfortably from 'objective' text in saying:
What has shocked me most over the last eight days - during which I have reported exclusively from Gaza, with BBC colleagues complementing in Israel - is the appallingly high number of children killed and injured. I saw four children under the age of 10 buried amid the rubble of a house when it was hit by a huge Israeli missile. Israel initially acknowledged making a mistake, but later clarified its position, saying it meant to hit the house, but that its intended target - a senior Hamas commander - was not there. The four children and several other civilians were there and were killed.
Yet, even though the over 150 dead of Gaza have been charted, some Israeli claims questioned and heart-rending accounts of human suffering dispatched, BBC and other media 'interest' will now end, another 'upsurge' duly 'covered'. Gaza, overnight, the 'truce now holding', is no longer 'newsworthy'.

Despite examples of caring journalism, the BBC, in particular, leave behind their own 'collateral damage' of imbalanced headlines and other flagrant bias by language, omission and general deference to power.

As the excellent News Unspun site note:
Last night a ceasefire came into effect after a week of attacks on Gaza which left over 150 Palestinians dead (at least 40 of them children) and rocket fire into Israel which left 5 Israelis dead. Before the news of the ceasefire became the front-page headline on the BBC News website, the headline story for the entire day concerned the bus bombing in Tel Aviv, which injured 21 civilians. Luckily this attack did not result in civilian deaths, however it was still deemed more newsworthy than the 13 Palestinians in Gaza who were killed by air strikes that same day. The news coverage was another glaring example of the different value assigned to life by our media, depending on which side of the Gaza border it resides
Likewise, Davies's call for 'breaking the cycle of violence' steers well clear of identifying the West, and America in particular, as central players in facilitating Israel and perpetuating that cycle. That's where the real questioning of big power counts.

And while the murder of Gaza has been going on, let's not forget the brutal repression continuing across the West Bank through the shooting of protestors and mass arrests. As with its usual negation of daily brutality there, little of this has been reported by the BBC.

As the guns fall silent, one can claim a political and moral 'victory', of sorts, for the Palestinians in managing to resist Israel's massive firepower and realise strategic gains.  But, of course, there can be no real resolution of the overall situation for Gaza and the West Bank until the fundamental issue of the occupation is addressed. And that includes being critically addressed by the media.

Meanwhile, as Gazans bury their dead and try to repair their shattered buildings, they know that the current truce is only a likely interlude to further Israeli massacres.

As Alex Thomson concludes, it's still not a real peace, only a ceasefire:
"everything that was in place to begin the fighting remains there. And Gaza, its government and people remain in the open mass prison of the blockade."

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Gaza: twisted language and the right to resist

Eight more Palestinians have been killed today, Wednesday, as the death toll rises relentlessly in Gaza.

Two brothers have been killed as fearful Gazans endured another night of Israeli bombardment. Three Palestinian journalists are also dead after their car was blown up.

Last night on BBC News at Ten (20 Nov), amid scenes of devastation, Jeremy Bowen said of the killings:
"Now, I can't find much anger or sadness or even surprise about what's happened. That's partly because around here they've seen a lot of violent death. But also because in Gaza there is a strong culture of martyrdom."
But does, as Bowen crassly intimates, the 'glory of death' for Palestinians outweigh any other human emotion?

Similar insidious claims can be seen in dispatches from New York Times correspondent Judi Roderon:
"I've been surprised that when I talk to people who just lost a relative, or who are gathering belongings from a bombed-out house, they seem a bit ho-hum."
Are Palestinians predisposed to being 'less caring of life' or 'martyrs'?  Or are they just ordinary people who, subject to brutal occupation, want to live peaceful lives like anyone else?

Similar crude media presumptions and qualifications apply in portraying Israeli and Palestinian attacks. While the former is the prerogative of a 'state defending itself', the latter is 'militant provocation'.

The truth can be more prosaically stated: according to the United Nations and its legally-defined documents, Gaza is still an occupied territory.

All of which means that Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza, have a legitimate right to defend themselves.

Seumas Milne puts it clearly in a fine defence of Palestinian rights:
"Despite Israel's withdrawal of settlements and bases in 2005, the Gaza Strip remains occupied, both effectively and legally – and is recognised as such by the UN. Israel is in control of Gaza's land and sea borders, territorial waters and natural resources, airspace, power supply and telecommunications. It has blockaded the strip since Hamas took over in 2006-7, preventing the movement of people, materials, and food supplies in and out of the territory – even calculating the 2,279 calories per person that would keep Gazans on an exemplary "diet". And it continues to invade the strip at will. So Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force (though not to target civilians), while Israel is an occupying power that has an obligation to withdraw – not a right to defend territories it controls or is colonising by dint of military power."
Among the Guardian's usual whitewash on this issue, Milne's article is a courageous reclaiming of the 'right to defence'.  Moreover, like him, one can see the core, rightful reasons for such Palestinian responses without necessarily accepting their practical or moral usefulness.  

The use of other generic language provides a vital means of disguising the issues.  For example, the word 'violence' itself here permits the impression of a 'generalised mayhem' which, from afar (notably, the west), denotes little more than an incomprehensible warring of two sides.

Another is the imbalanced use of the word 'fear'.

Take this typical line from a BBC story on a UK footballer feeling "scary" about playing in Israel while rockets are being fired from Gaza:
"More than 100 people have died in the Gaza Strip in six days of violence, Hamas officials say, with talks over a ceasefire ongoing to prevent more bloodshed."
At first glance, this seems fine. But why not say, more accurately: 'More than 100 people have been killed (if not murdered) in the Gaza Strip during six days of Israeli attacks'?

Again, what chance here of acknowledging the comparative fear, the much more scary anticipation in Gaza of death, injury, trauma and homelessness?

Might not the BBC have used the above story to mention the 13-year-old Palestinian boy killed by an Israeli shell while playing football in the street, a key part of the timeline events largely omitted by the BBC, which led to this latest upsurge?

An attack today on a Tel Aviv bus produced more examples of power-serving language. Unlike the Israeli 'strikes' visited on Gaza, this was a 'terror attack'.

Even in its seemingly 'straight-reporting', the words are loaded with assumptions of Israeli superiority.

Thus, the BBC's John Donnison tweets:
"If bus explosion confirmed as attack in Tel Aviv could be a game changer. #Gaza #Israel"
How revealing that journalists fall immediately into responsive line in seeing any attack on Israel as 'game changing'. This isn't, one suspects, just about reporting the possible 'reality' of Israel's 'heavy response' - as though their actions weren't already heavy - but something much deeper about being conditioned to regard any assault on Israel as 'more significant', 'more dangerous', more 'far-reaching' than the killing of Palestinians.

Why wasn't the atrocious murder of the entire Dalou family reported as a 'game changer' - or any self-examining discussion offered as to why it wasn't depicted as a 'game changer'?

Honest media reflection on those kind of questions would, of course, be career 'game over' for many journalists.

Ilan Pappe has talked of the resourcefulness of the Israeli PR machine in twisting and reconstituting the language for public consumption. Media language seems to follow in default mode.  One of the words Pappe would like to see banished from the narrative here, however difficult, is 'conflict'.

There is, he asserts, no truth in the standard notion of 'conflict' between Palestinians and Israel, a term which denotes equivalence and parity, disguising the line between occupied and occupier, between those transgressed against and outright aggressor.

Likewise, Hillary Clinton can fly into the region in 'support of a peace deal', declare her unequivocal support for Israel, denounce the bus bombing, ignore the ruthless killing of families in Gaza and still be treated by the media as an 'impartial' player seeking to 'stem the violence' and 'end the conflict'.

Thus, from the Guardian:
"The bombing comes as Hillary Clinton held meetings with Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, in an effort to bring an end to the bloody conflict, after arriving in the region on Tuesday."
Where is the suggestion from the BBC, Guardian and others that Clinton is not an unblemished person of peace, trying to 'end a bloody conflict', but a central player in the continuing occupation and killing?

Whatever greater global awareness of Israel's brutal conduct, the propaganda narrative of Israel's 'right to self-defence' remains a powerful one.

And so, driven by a media in automated service to power - with some welcome exceptions - a spectrum of popular messages prevails, from 'the Palestinians are to blame and must pay the price of their own violence', to 'they're all just as bad as each other'; a promotion of myths, confusions and hand-wringing liberal evasions on the 'terrible violence' and 'intractable conflict' all serving to blame, castigate and deny justice to the real victims.

The distortion would be laughable if it weren't so tragic.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Israel's 'mercy' and blaming the victims

Another two children are among the 15 murdered in Gaza (so far) today.

As traumatised Gazans pick through the rubble of more flattened homes, ITN's John Irvine has 'reassuring' words for them. 

Israel's Iron Dome interceptor system is, apparently, "helping to save Palestinian  lives", as, without it, and particularly if a Hamas rocket had hit Tel Aviv, ground forces would already have entered Gaza.  Irvine's emphatic conclusion: Iron Dome is "more peacemaker than weapon" (ITN Early Evening News, 19 Nov).

Not a word, of course, from Irvine about the perpetual war on Gaza or the inhuman blockade that forces Palestinians to respond with their paltry ordnance, thus providing the 'need' for Iron Dome - much to the multi-million dollar approval of the US arms companies delivering it.

Such is the quality of what passes for 'journalistic analysis'. Never let a lack of basic context get in the way of hasbara-friendly news.    

The loaded images of Israel's 'defensive' arsenal are as important as the loaded words of media
correspondents. Thus, reporting from Ashkelon, the BBC's Ben Brown stands, foreground, clad in blue flak-jacket, the Dome missile batteries prominently behind. The picture's intended message needs little further intimation.

The range of journalistic enquiry into the main aggressor and massive imbalance of forces is as feeble as the rockets supposedly threatening Tel Aviv.

Amid all the fear-inducing talk of rockets raining down on Tel Aviv, most media have failed to mention that many of these projectiles are, in fact, barely more than metal tubes, stripped of their warheads in order to gain some extra mileage.

Rockets from Gaza do, of course, pose a certain threat, but why the stark media imbalance in reporting the gross military imbalance? 

As noted by former UN Rapporteur Richard Falk:
"There is such a gross disproportion in the capacity of the two sides to inflict damage and suffering due to Israeli total military dominance as to make perverse this reversal of concerns to what might befall Israeli society if the attack on Gaza further intensifies."
Alex Thomson at Channel 4 News at least seems willing to shed some true perspective on military capabilities, levels of attack and, of course, victims.

Thomson cites the critical statement from Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, who have teams across Gaza recording incoming blasts, and their findings:
“Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights is calling on the UN Commissioner and EU countries to take a clear stand against the ongoing Israeli breaches of the international law in Gaza, and to take urgent steps to end the continuing bloodbath among civilians.”
  • There have been an estimated 1,643 Israeli missile strikes in six days: 364 missiles were fired by the Israeli navy, there were 1,114 air strikes and 165 artillery shells.
  • One hundred and ten Palestinians have been killed including 25 children, 14 senior citizens and 12 women. Seventy-two per cent were civilians.
  • Eight hundred and ninety one Palestinians, including 277 children, 164 women and 62 seniors have been wounded.
  • There have been 664 rockets fired from Gaza which have hit southern Israel.
  • Three Israeli civilians have been killed and 10 civilians and four soldiers injured.
  • Israel has bombarded 822 government and civilian buildings in Gaza, completely destroying 71, and severely damaging 187 and partially damaging 559. 

  • In a further piece, Thomson relates in chilling detail how over forty members of the Khouli family were woken at 3am with a phone call from the Israelis giving them five minutes to flee their home before it was blown up:
    “This is the Israeli Defence Force – you have five minutes to leave your house.”
    “Why?” He answered, “why do you want to attack our house? What for?”
    The voice came back: “Do not start asking why. Get out of the house. You have five minutes, starting now.”And the line went dead.
    This account offers a small, rare insight not just into Israel's barbaric attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, but their shameful efforts to mitigate such war crimes through token 'warnings'.

    Yet, where is the wider media effort to expose such unspeakable cruelty? Gaza is already a prison, a concentration camp, a desperate affront to humanity. What further level of calculated suffering is needed before 'impartial' journalists are willing to say: 'Israel, alone, is the principal aggressor and responsible for this historic crime'?    

    With the death toll in Gaza now standing at 110, and a reported ceasefire in the offing, there's no apparent truce in the wider media message that Hamas has brought all this terror through Gaza's own school windows and family doorways. 

    As devastated Palestinians pray for nominal respite, the hasbara-media bombardment continues unabated, blaming the victims for their 'own deliverance'.


    Monday, 19 November 2012

    Messaging the blame over Gaza

    As the death toll in Gaza continues to mount, it's clear that, as in 2008/9, much of the public is being subjected to a highly-distorted set of messages over who is primarily to blame for the conflict.

    At the most generalised level, political and media 'presentation' of the issue serves to instill four basic points of 'understanding':

    1. The Palestinians are to blame for initiating rocket attacks on Gaza.
    2. Hamas brought the killing on itself and Palestinian civilians by starting the conflict.
    3. Israeli bombing is a legitimate response to Hamas provocation.
    4. Israel is merely defending itself from attack.

    A second, more 'liberal', set of interpretations, no less false or hand-wringing, can also be discerned:

    1. Israel and Hamas are both guilty of creating the conflict.
    2. Both sides are to blame for prolonging it.
    3. Both sides are engaged in an intractable war.
    4. Neither side has any interest in a truce.

    Even where some of these commonly-pitched messages, or elements thereof, are questioned, the cumulative effect is, at the very least, to cast the Palestinians as 'largely responsible' and to remove the taint of Israel as principal aggressor.

    Crucial in the distortion is the selective omission of key detail and core context. Thus, most of the public will be unaware that, as in the attacks of 2008/9, Israel deliberately broke an agreed ceasefire, allowing the killing to escalate, while the actual, central cause of the conflict - Israel's illegal occupation and brutal siege - will not remotely figure in mainstream reporting or discussion.

    Nor are we encouraged to consider the possibility that Israel actually welcomes Palestinian resistance.  If Hamas, or any faction, hadn't been engaged in rocket fire, Israel would have found a way of pressing them towards violence. That's because Netanyahu needs the political cover of 'threat-and-fear' to keep him protected, while the Israeli military need the same pretext in order to wield their pre-emptive stick and keep Gaza/Hamas in check.

    These and many more incisive facets of the deceit are contained in the brilliant analysis from Jonathan Cook:

    Why Gaza Must Suffer Again

    If only the BBC and other establishment media permitted a fraction of such honest, informed reporting.


    Some further reading from 2009 on the same themes:
    The Four Big Lies of Palestine-Israel Media Coverage
    Six facets of bias: letter to the BBC

    Israeli public approve Gaza suffering

    Israel has murdered the entire Dalou family, including five women and four children. All nine, along with two people passing the house, were killed when their home in the Sheikh Radwan district was shelled on Sunday. Amid the devastation, chaos and bewilderment:
    "Diggers at the scene of the explosion were scooping rubble from flattened buildings as rescuers tried to locate survivors. Witnesses said there were chaotic scenes as the dead and injured were brought to the Shifa hospital, which has been on emergency footing since the start of Operation Pillar of Defence. The bodies of four young children lay on two metal trays in the morgue, covered in dust and blood. A crowd of onlookers outside became increasingly distressed as the body of the children's mother was wheeled in, covered in blankets."
    Another family of two adults and two children have also been wiped out after a shell levelled two houses.

    Early Monday, the death toll stood at 84.

    Israel claims that it 'mistakenly' bombed the Dalou home due to a 'technical error'. It would seem beyond belief that anyone could even conceive of such a wicked conceit:
    "With the cynicism typical of Israeli government spokesmen, Moshe Yaalon, minister for strategic affairs, blamed the Palestinians themselves for the deaths of women and children. “When they use civilians as human shields, what is our choice?” he said at a press conference in Jerusalem. He was referring to Hamas officials, living at home with their families, who are targeted by Israeli missiles and bombs.Yaalon’s remarks underscored the ruthlessness of the Israeli aggression. “We operate slowly, identify the target and clean the area around it,” he said, as though he was referring to the extermination of vermin, not human beings. “If they position rockets in densely-populated areas, such as mosques and schoolyards, we should not be blamed for the outcome,” he continued. In fact, there were no rockets near the high-profile targets hit this weekend, which included the offices of the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, and the building used as a media center by many journalists in Gaza."
    The Israeli hasbara (propaganda) machine is nothing if not brazen in projecting the message that such acts are all in 'necessary defence'. Hence, the Orwellian title given to its latest 'Operation'.  As with the mass killing of 2008/9, should we even dignify Israel's inhumanity by acknowledging the titles given to such slaughter?

    The related, dismal truth is that an overwhelming part of the Israeli public endorse their state's brutal treatment of the Palestinians. As Jonathan Cook comments (at his Facebook page):
    Netanyahu will be scanning this morning's papers for the results of a survey of Israeli public opinion about his attack on Gaza. There is not too much for him to worry about. An astonishing 84 per cent of ALL Israelis back Operation Pillar of Defence. That means just about every Israeli Jew is behind him, given that Palestinians inside Israel are nearly a fifth of the population. (Haaretz cautiously states only that "more than 90 per cent" of Israeli Jews back the operation. But unless significant numbers of Palestinians in Israel do too, the figure must be much nearer 100 per cent.) The only good news is that a minority of Israelis – 30 per cent – want a ground invasion. In other words, they are happy for Palestinians in Gaza to carry on dying from the rain of bombs and missiles as long as no Israeli soldiers are put in danger's way.
    Such is the depressing Israeli view of mass suffering in Gaza.  And little wonder given the venomous language of Israeli media, like this from Gilad Sharon in the Jerusalem Post:
    "A strong opening isn’t enough, you also have to know how to finish – and finish decisively. If it isn’t clear whether the ball crossed the goal-line or not, the goal isn’t decisive. The ball needs to hit the net, visible to all. What does a decisive victory sound like? A Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated. To accomplish this, you need to achieve what the other side can’t bear, can’t live with, and our initial bombing campaign isn’t it."
    His bloodthirsty 'solution':
    "We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire. Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant – but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared."
    How, we may ask, can people speak in such a zero-sum way about murdered and oppressed others? It's a salutary reminder of how a relentless hasbara message of fear and hatred has been foisted by a permanent-war-driven state and endorsed by its ideologically-bombarded populace.


    Sunday, 18 November 2012

    Gaza: the horror goes on


    The death toll is in Gaza is mounting, as Israel bombs another home, killing 11 civilians.

    As of Sunday 18 November, 65 Palestinians have been killed, 19 today alone, including 9 children.

    Among the victims lie the babies, murdered not with indiscriminate disregard, but with conscious intent to inflict the greatest terror and the most painful possible suffering.

    Little Omar died when a shell hit the family home.  Omar's father, Jihad Misharawi (shown here holding his son) is an Arabic picture editor for the BBC. His sister-in-law was also killed in the attack and his brother badly injured.

    Another of the victims, so far, includes Marwan al-Qumsan, a teacher at a UN school in Jabalia.

    Key evidence now reveals that Israel deliberately lured Hamas figure Ahmed al-Jabari  into the open in order to kill him, his murder and violation of the truce intended to escalate the crisis:
    "Gershon Baskin, founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, told Channel 4 News that negotiations were in progress and Ahmed al-Jaabari might have been persuaded to suspend rocket attacks on the Jewish state had he not been targeted for assassination."
    Baskin also insists that Hamas have consistently asked for intemediary help in getting ceasefires put in place:
    "He told Channel 4 News: "I know that Jaabari was interested in a ceasefire. He has enforced ceasefires in the past months and he was prepared, we hoped, to engage in activities that would prevent attacks against Israel, thereby preventing a pre-emptive Israeli strike that kills people and causes people on the Gaza side of the border to throw rockets at Israel. "Every time there was a round of rocket fire I would get phone calls from Hamas: 'Please tell the Israelis we don't want to escalate. We want a ceasefire.' As it would escalate, I would get more and more phone calls with greater intensity.""
    Today, as Netanyahu again promises to "widen" the offensive, Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News reports from Gaza on Israel's attack on a building housing journalists:
    "Israel admits it knew journalists were in the two buildings they hit. A cameraman Khader al Zahhar lost his leg."
    Thomson describes more of the fear and pain on the ground:
    ""Drones overhead. Kids playing street football outside TV building that got hit," Channel 4's Alex Thomson tweeted. He was visiting the main hospital in Gaza City on Sunday where he said relatives were trying to collect the bodies of family members including a 13-year-old girl." 
    As in 2008/9, it appears that Israel's defining motive is to terrorise and kill any civilian.

    Meanwhile, as the slaughter continues, so too does the relentless BBC bias, as collated here by Amena Saleem.

    For another fine piece denoting stark BBC distortion and the "sequence of recent events, so lacking in 'mainstream' reports, that led to Israel's massive attacks on Gaza", see the latest Media Lens alert, Gaza Blitz - Turmoil And Tragicomedy At The BBC.


    Saturday, 17 November 2012

    Gaza and the thoughts of Rabbi Sacks

    The UK's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has inadvertently revealed something of his inner thoughts on what he believes lies behind the current violence in Gaza.

    As noted at the Guardian:
    "The BBC has apologised to the chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, after Radio 4's Today presenter Evan Davis asked him a question about the violence in Gaza without telling him he was live on air.
    When Sacks finished his Thought for the Day on Friday morning, Davis asked him to comment on the Gaza situation before he left the studio. Sacks, seemingly unaware that he was live, said "I think it's got to do with Iran, actually", before Davis' co-presenter Sarah Montague whispered: "We, we're live." His tone then changed markedly and he called for "a continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but for the whole region, no one gains from violence". According to a number of BBC sources, Sacks was said to be "angry" about the incident and made his feelings known to Today's production team."
    Besides such anger, the incident says much about what gets to be aired, accidentally or otherwise, from within establishment organisations like the BBC.

    Yet, now that his comment is in the public domain, perhaps we will see rabbi Sacks elaborate more concisely on what he means by it.

    Is he suggesting that Israel is deceptively using Iran as an excuse to attack Hamas and Gaza, or, more likely, that it is justified in doing so?

    Whatever the fuller explanation to come, it would seem that his principal concerns lie with the 'threat' to Israel. As reported at the Telegraph:
    "In an official statement on the escalating crisis between Gaza and Israel yesterday, he offered support for the Israelis’ right to defend themselves. “In the past week alone over 275 rockets have been fired into southern Israel from Gaza,” he said. “No nation on earth can be expected to live under this constant threat to innocent life. “The people of Israel are entitled, as is any other nation, to live in peace and safety. We mourn with all the bereaved families, and pray for an end to the hostilities from which both sides suffer.”"  
    Yet what, one wonders, of the Palestinians' right to self-defence? Are they "expected to live under [such] constant threat to innocent life"?  Are they also "entitled, as is any other nation, to live in peace and safety"?

    Of course, Palestine is not, in any official capacity, a nation. But does that invalidate their human rights? Indeed, given their denial of statehood through occupation and siege, shouldn't that merit even more concern over their entitlement to peace and safety?

    Moreover, in what usefully moral sense can we say that Israel itself has this 'right' to defend itself?

    It's analogous to a crazed killer going into a house, wiping out a large family and a last terrified member of that family hitting out in a defensive effort to stay alive. Can the killer, the person who has invaded that house and already unleashed such violence, claim the same right to defend himself? How do we derive such a moral 'right' from such a gross wrong?

    In addition to what rabbi Sacks has already stated and intimated on the issues, it's useful to reflect a little further on what he concluded in his actual Thought for the Day piece - dedicated, in all irony, to Children in Need day - before his off-guarded comment:
    "What Judaism and Christianity are saying in their respective stories is that children are holy. Each one is a kind of miracle and needs our special care. Never let us be deaf to the cry of a child."
    It's a thought that would be almost universally shared by any humanitarian thinking person, whether of a particular religious persuasion or none.

    Yet, one is ineluctably drawn again to the suffering children of Gaza. Surely they, like all other children, need our special care? How can we be deaf to the cries of Palestinian children as they cower, terrified under the onslaught of Israeli shells?

    The additional comment of rabbi Sacks (after alerted to being live on air) is also worth recording:
    "No-one gains from violence. Not the Palestinians, not the Israelis. This is an issue here where we must all pray for peace and work for it.
    Here, rabbi Sacks is surely right when we consider the ultimate uselessness of violence, though one suspects he might again have differentiated views on which party here has an equivalent 'right' to violence.

    What possible gain for besieged and occupied Palestinians in being the daily target of sustained state violence? What arguable gain for those same Palestinians who feel no choice but to resort to violence in desperate resistance only to see ever greater violence inflicted upon them? And what gain to find themselves unjustly castigated as the main instigator of such violence?

    For Israel, what long-term gain in being the principal perpetrators of that violence, and having to continually use violence in order to maintain its oppression? And what gain for Israelis who now find themselves at the relative receiving end of the violence which their state has locked them into?  

    It may be important, for rabbi Sacks and others, to pray for peace and non-violence. But how do we actually work for it? Do we allow ourselves the moral pretence that blanket condemnation of violence can deliver any sort of just peace? And do we qualify that in saying that Israel has the right to defence and protection of its people but the Palestinians don't?

    If rabbi Sacks wants to work, as well as pray, for true peace, he might reflect more deeply on what the violence being inflicted on Gaza really has to do with Iran.

    In doing so, he might come to the reasoned conclusion that it's another smokescreen 'issue' being used to control and punish an imprisoned and brutalised population.

    And, in pursuing this line of thought, he might bring himself to acknowledge that, as courageously and consistently stated by many other Jews, 'Israel does not act or speak in our name' when it bombs and murders Palestinians under the mendacious pretext of 'rightful response' or 'self-defence'. 


    Thursday, 15 November 2012

    The murdering of Gaza, part.....

    Déjà vu.

    Here we are again. Though, in the greater scheme of Israel's murderous invasion, siege and containment, what ever really changes?

    Was it just four years ago that Israel launched it merciless attack on Gaza's civilian population?

    Didn't we hear the same spurious claims about 'targeting militants' and 'responding' to rocket fire?

    Wasn't there a pending general election in Israel, with each zealous contestant competing to see who could visit the most killing and devastation on Gaza?

    Wasn't a certain US president in that same victorious post-election moment, awaiting inauguration and unwilling to condemn Israeli murder?

    Didn't we witness the same wider Western support for Israel and hand-wringing at the UN?

    And wasn't the media who covered it all not awash with the same, familiar language of 'Israel protecting itself from militants'?

    Of course, the latest assault is reported as if little has happened to the people in Gaza in the meantime. The BBC, like other international media, report the 'upsurge' as though the regular attacks, killing and suffering of the past four years, as before that, were some bland, daily routine undeserving of serious media attention.

    Nor, in the midst of this 'upgraded' coverage, is there much highlighting of the recent key UN report stating that the situation in Gaza is now so bad, life so intolerable, that Gaza will, effectively, no longer be "a liveable place" by 2020 without emergency action to improve water supplies, electricity, education and other urgent health issues.

    Neither before or after the collective punishment of Gaza in 2008/9 and taking of over 1300 lives - an atrocity which Israel and a dutiful media still sanitise as 'Operation Cast Lead' - have the 'international community' paid any serious attention to the plight of the Palestinian people or challenged the wilful planning of ongoing Israeli aggressions.

    Denouncing the media language being used to describe the latest attacks, a group of international academic linguists have, as in 2008/9, pointed to the particular targeting of civilians, while noting the extent of deaths and injuries:
    "According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) report on Sunday November 11, five Palestinian civilians including three children had been killed in the Gaza strip in the previous 72 hours, in addition to two Palestinian security personnel. Four of the deaths occurred as a result of Israeli military firing artillery shells on youngsters playing soccer. Moreover, 52 civilians had been wounded, of which six were women and 12 were children. (Since we began composing this text, the Palestinian death toll has risen, and continues to rise.)"
    Contrary to most media misrepresentations, Israel has not been 'responding' to rockets or acting in 'self-defence'. As before, it's engaged in another calculated operation to display its mastery over Gaza and divert attention from Netanyahu's own political weaknesses.

    As Ali Abunimah makes clear, the timeline of this latest offensive began with Israeli shelling of the Khan Younis district on November 8, killing a 13-year-old boy playing football. Palestinian resistance fighters responded two days later by attacking an Israeli patrol besieging Gaza. Israel then launched a further attack killing four more civilians, including two more boys playing football. And, as Abunimah reminds us, even after a relative lull, as reported by Reuters, "an effective truce brokered by Egypt", Israel then violated this with the "extrajudicial execution" of leading Hamas figure Ahmed al-Jabari.

    For the media, of course, such people are only ever 'killed', never "murdered" or "assassinated".

    Amongst all the predictable media labelling of Ahmed al-Jabari as a 'Hamas strongman', there's been little mention of his key role in promoting truce terms with Israel. As Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin reports, he was killed just after receiving the draft of a permanent truce deal. Baskin believes that "Israel made a mistake that will cost the lives of 'innocent people on both sides.'" Besides the large Palestinian losses and injuries, the deaths of three Israelis from subsequent rocket fire seem to have proved him right.

    Again, in deliberately breaking a truce, we see how people who might actually play a constructive part in stemming violence serve no useful purpose for a state built on violent control and zero-sum domination.

    But, as Abunimah insists, it's not just this latest murder and provocation that makes a mockery of Israeli claims of 'self-defence'. Is the wanton shelling of civilian neighbourhoods, he asks, 'self-defence'?:
    "who, in their right mind, would call that self-defence? Who would call a siege, a six-year long siege, where they count the calories of children in Gaza and only allow a drip-feed of food in to meet the minimum calories to avoid starvation, who would call that self-defence? Who would call it self-defence that Israel shells fishermen on a daily basis?" 
    And so the relentless cycle of Israeli villainy, desperate Palestinian resistance, international indifference and media apologetics goes on.

    People, civilians, children, die every day in Gaza, in bloody, agonising pain, their suffering still largely unrecognised. Gaza remains under a state of brutal Israeli siege, not a single relief boat with basic aid permitted to reach its shores. Six decades of wilful oppression and occupation - which Israel's control of Gaza still amounts to - and still there are those who ask why Hamas or splinter groups feel the need to send retaliatory rockets into Sderot.

    For Israel, its allies and a media who, in default manner, continually repeat the standard line, the issue must always be headlined, bylined, imaged, discussed and in all other ways contextualised as being ABOUT Palestinian rockets. The possibility of defining any such attacks, violence or conflict in an original context - as being ABOUT ethnic displacement, stolen land, illegal occupation and criminal siege - can never be countenanced.

    Thus, without seeming to have accepted any criticisms of the BBC's past distortions, reporters like the BBC's Jeremy Bowen could speculate (BBC News 15 Nov) on whether this will be as 'ambitious' an offensive for Israel as 'Cast Lead' in terms of that last, 'more comprehensive' effort 'to remove Hamas weapons in their entirety'.

    And so we see how in that small central statement, that standard repetition of 'what it's all about', an unqualified acceptance of the falsely-pitched motives behind both Israel's last onslaught and this one.

    So much leeway is given to Israel for 'defending' and 'responding', but never to those who are actually being oppressed, those resisting. The central question is never about why the actual conflict arose or why Palestinians feel enraged enough to resist.

    We could, in similar logic, ask why people felt compelled to resist the brutalities of Nazi Germany?Was the defining motive here not about legitimate resistance to occupation and invasion? A whole post-war narrative seems secure on the principal reasons for, and rights to, that resistance. Yet, when it comes to occupied and besieged Palestine, its never about the formative violation or Palestinian right to resist.

    Bowen also urges us to consider what has changed since Israel's last major assault, namely the Arab Spring which has brought a new, 'more Palestinian-supporting' government to Egypt. Yet, beyond the token return of Egyptian diplomats from Israel and Cairo's stated condemnations of the Israeli attacks, are we likely to see any significant challenge from president Morsi and his Islamic Brotherhood-based administration?

    Not according to Ali Abunimah who correctly notes that there's little difference in practice between Morsi's 'revolutionary' government and Mubarak's client state in their diplomatic overtures and security-supporting roles to Israel.

    The politics of the Arab Spring and civil war in Syria do however, signal one key shift. Hamas has now decanted from its exile base in Damascus, taking principal residence in Cairo, while also seeking to build new alliances with Qatar, as evidenced by the Emir's recent visit to Gaza.

    Even allowing for Israel's confidence in playing Morsi, it seems increasingly concerned about Hamas's more strategically-improving position. 

    Contrary to the convenient portrayal of Hamas as a monolithic entity vowing to annihilate Israel, the truth is of a disparate, complex movement, its main elements manoeuvring pragmatically to build alliances, advance a two-state arrangement and, importantly, maintain its own political authority.

    Indeed, besides Israel's provocative aggressions, the fringe Hamas element involved in the rocket fire are also reacting to what they see as safe political entrenchment within Hamas.

    Hamas's new alignments also suggests a relative distancing from Tehran, a turn which Israel are seeking to address as it continues to ratchet-up claims of an Iranian 'nuclear threat'. The estrangement has made it more difficult for Israel to use the prior relationship to demonise Hamas.

    In the wake of unwelcome disclosures for Netanyahu over the impracticality of any strike on Iran - revealing internal Israeli military opposition and US reticence - this latest assault on Gaza is intended to redress such deficits and provide domestic 'political cover' in the run-up to Israel's January polls.

    With Netanyahu threatening to expand the action against Gaza to a possible ground offensive, how readily a Palestinian's life, even a child kicking a ball, can be snuffed-out just to enhance a political image.

    But the latest attack is also, just as wickedly, another punishment reminder to imprisoned Gazans that Israel can and will maintain their suffering.


    Corporate tax evasion: who is really responsible?

    The parliamentary Public Account's Committee have been questioning top executives this week over the paltry sums of tax being paid by giant corporations like Starbucks, Google and Amazon.

    Last year Starbucks paid no tax at all on a £398 million turnover, while Amazon, with £3.3 billion in sales, paid just £1.8 million to the UK Treasury.

    The evasion is perpetrated by companies registering their operations in more tax-favourable locations like Luxembourg. Starbucks have also been caught out talking down their profits in order to escape paying even their minimal due.

    At the hearing, Amazon's director of public policy, Andrew Cecil, was denounced by the committee's chair Margaret Hodge for "pretending ignorance" and by Labour MP Nick Smith for being "ridiculous" and "pathetic" in failing to disclose his company's earnings and tax payments.

    In a faltering voice, Cecil fudged and prevaricated, seeking to evade any disclosure of Amazon's overall figures.

    In grilling Google's UK head, Matt Brittin, Hodge said "we're not accusing you of being illegal, we're accusing you of being immoral."

    But Hodge's strident criticism masked this more vital point:  it's immoral that it's not illegal.

    It's all very commendable, one might think, to hear such denunciations. But where is the actual political will to do anything serious about it?

    What's the use of Hodge's finger-wagging and this 'dressing-down' exercise when politicians and governments show no actual intention of enacting legislation to curb the power of corporations?

    Isn't the political complicity which allows such levels of corporate abuse and rampant greed not in itself immoral? And why, in media discussions of these hearings, have journalists not been making this same, elementary point?

    The truth we're never likely to hear in parliamentary buildings or media studios is the more prosaic one that corporations simply don't work on a moral basis. So, trying to shame their executives into giving more tax and sacrificing profits is not only rather pointless, it's a political diversion, indeed, one might say, an immoral evasion in itself.

    As the grim effects of neoliberal austerity deepen, the public will, no doubt, approve of this 'corporate roasting'. But the actual means for purging corporations can only be initiated from within the same place that they're being denounced.

    With continuous neoliberal governments advancing the sovereign privileges of big business, the chances of any serious parliamentary checks on Amazon and others is as likely as their chief executives showing contrition for their own shameless evasions.

    Meanwhile, the action group UK Uncut are stepping up their street protests against the corporate giants.  All welcome exposure. But let's not forget who are primarily responsible for letting them get away with it all. 


    Friday, 9 November 2012

    Review: David Cromwell, Why Are We the Good Guys?

    Before reaching the actual text, the title of David Cromwell's latest book denotes an effective piece of radical art in posing the simple, probing question: Why Are We the Good Guys?

    As co-editor of Media Lens, the book's subtitle is no less appropriate and invitational: Reclaiming Your Mind From the Delusions of Propaganda.

    In lieu of some highly perceptive analysis of corporate control, establishment closure and the liberal media which helps sustain it all, Cromwell's text is commendable throughout in detailing some of the social and personal influences underlying his radicalism.

    It's a refreshingly welcome inclusion, helping to humanise his messages and observations - a quality of content and texture, alas, rather lacking in much well-intentioned, yet mechanical, leftist writing.

    An introductory chapter has, in this regard, a particularly familiar appeal.  Close to my own experiences, Cromwell was brought up in a (near) Glasgow, Catholic and left-politicised household, his dad, like mine, a member of the Communist Party.  Like Cromwell's early exposure to the Morning Star, I too have strong memories of such output - my late dad always having great leftist people around our busy house.

    And, like Cromwell's recounting of comments made to him by a seemingly politicised science teacher about British oppression in Ireland, I also recall a much-revered teacher relating similar home truths on this very subject.

    As the author suggests, such impressions can take mindful residence, helping to shape our onward 'radical consciousness'. As is clearly evident across the book, these life markers have imbued Cromwell with a deeply human capacity for viewing power institutions and getting behind the liberal facades which help protect them.

    Cromwell excels in unpicking the multiple deceits driving Western foreign policies, the ideological veil that keep us from ever seriously questioning the 'benign intentions' of 'our' leaders' or a media which regards itself as an associate 'good guy'.

    How readily we will see on TV a shocking murder or brutalised victim and ask 'what kind of depraved mind could do such a thing?' Yet, when 'our' politicians order mass bombing and unbearable suffering on anonymous foreigners we seem somehow incapable of even comprehending these as acts of depravity, certainly not as psychopathic. 

    In detailing the staggering scale of Western killing, such as the over one million dead of invaded Iraq and, before that, the half million sacrificed through inhuman sanctions, Cromwell is asking us to think deeply about those committing such genocides and the inuring role a pro and rationalising war media play in maintaining the West's 'good guy' status.

    Much of Cromwell's tenacious, yet always courteous, letters to senior journalists will be readily familiar to Media Lens regulars. Yet, even this reader was surprised by the extensive range of those enquiries - most often eliciting the kind of indignant, hostile response that says so much about the spotlighted liberal.

    In one notable exchange, Cromwell pushes the BBC's James Reynolds to explain the brazen lack of balance in reporting the supposed 'nuclear threat' from Iran.  Cromwell cites a key WikiLeaks cable revealing that, in Washington's eyes, the IAEA's new head Yukiya Amano is "solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program." All too typically, there's no engagement of this crucial evidence. The response from Reynolds:

    "I shall reflect on the points you raise. It is always important for me to hear from licence-fee payers - the lifeblood of the BBC."

    Such is the cursory tone of BBC dismissals. Note also the "important for me" retort, intimating that, for Reynolds and other status-driven journalists, such token 'consultation' is always a valuable prop for their own 'professional development'.

    In another such letter, Cromwell asks Guardian journalist James Randerson to follow-up on an opinion offered by Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, in the run up to the bombing of Iraq. King had expressed the belated view that the reason for prosecuting war on Iraq was not to remove WMD, but to secure scarce energy supplies, a view which, he asserts, was shared by others around him at the time.

    So, why didn't he express this view to Blair, Cromwell asks? And why doesn't Randerson, even now, pursue the matter, asking King why he didn't state his feelings and whether, given the immense scale of the killing that followed, he has any regrets about not doing so.

    No further response arrived from Randerson and King was never pursued over his 'undeclared' views on Blair's war agenda, a collective reticence which Cromwell aptly calls "the triple failure of journalism, academia and politics."

    Besides the collective complicity to warmongering, there's no more pressing example of that interconnecting failure than that noted in the chapter title: 'Global Climate Crime'. With helpful elucidation of the stark scientific evidence on climate change, Cromwell again points to the elephantine issue effectively ignored by those in the rooms of power and influence: the "inherently biocidal, indeed psychopathic, logic of corporate capitalism". The charge is part of a listed indictment, the 'eight great unmentionables', that should be "at the heart of any debate on the climate crisis in a truly free media." 

    As on the climate issue, Cromwell's forensic questioning of spurious academic texts is, perhaps, most evident in his 'Endless Echoes' chapter, revealing how President Truman and Western interests sought both geopolitical and moral cover for the atomic bombing of Japan.

    In challenging both orthodox and (later) anti-revisionist schools, Cromwell offers-up some fascinating details of how US officials rigged the Potsdam terms and played-down the significance of Soviet entry into the Pacific conflict in mendacious promotion of the claim that the bombing was necessary in order to save greater allied numbers. 

    Here we see how academics have assisted policymakers not only in legitimising an historical war crime, but in framing and perpetuating the exclusive 'right' to Western offensive war.

    As Cromwell asserts, we should take sharp notice of such historical manoeuvrings and dark narratives as a similar unholy trinity of political, media and academic forces seek excuses to demonise and bomb Iran.

    Cromwell also permits a very frank and instructive account of his own career, notably his tenure at corporate giant Shell. How, some readers might wonder, could this radical-minded writer have made the ethical 'compromise' to work there, particularly given the environmental issue he most earnestly champions? What comes across well here is Cromwell's growing political awareness and nonconformist urges, as described in the stern reaction from Shell when he and some colleagues raised objections to being party to the company's dealings in South Africa.

    His journey through and out of corporate employment also helps illuminate the truth of how we're all deeply pressurised to accept, join and live by the economic demands and grasping culture of corporate life. In this case - as with principled journalists like Jonathan Cook - Cromwell has experienced the insidious inside reality of corporate existence and walked the other way, as opposed to many other 'early radicals' who 'wise up' and embrace the establishment system.

    There's a neat reminder of this pressure to career conformism in the chapter 'The Madness of the Global Economy' where Cromwell is upbraided by Sunday Times economics editor David Smith. Having asked Smith why he omits any discussion of capitalism's systemic faults and crises, Cromwell is dismissed with the now familiar rebuke: "Most of us get these things out of our system when we are students."

    As Cromwell intimates through many other examples, it's this institutionalised understanding of how to 'fit in', to be a non-awkward player, to self-police one's output, which negates any actual need for totalitarian-type control of journalists, editors or, indeed, anyone else working under such corporate expectancy.

    In another finely-focused email, Cromwell asks the Guardian's Polly Toynbee whether, in her praise for David Cameron's (then in opposition) 'new realisation' that ignoring relative poverty was "a real breakthrough", she might somewhere have discussed the fundamental reason for poverty: rampant capitalism.

    Like a similar letter to the paper's Deborah Orr, his message was ignored, all part of "the lexicon of liberal evasions" Cromwell has charted over the years.

    The 'c' words - corporate/capitalism - seem too 'crude', too 'rhetorically charged', too 'abstract' for such writers' attention. Mainstream reportage, rather, is all about comparing party 'positions' on such issues.

    In denial of such servile shadowing, the BBC also wish to demonstrate 'equality' of space. Yet, as Cromwell notes in his close reading of the Power Report and its media coverage, there's no counterpoint, no public counter-voice, to the combined messages of all these identikit party policies.

    Plaintively, Cromwell is asking, where is the real, alternative critique of capitalism and corporate power in all this discussion?

    In his tracing of the "neoliberal nightmare" that has stalked states and societies since Thatcher/Reagan, Cromwell cites a range of radical economic commentators such as Harry Shutt, posing searching questions about the standard narrative of 'boom and bust' and the ideological quest for economic growth. Cutting through the mythology of economic 'icons' like India and China, we see, through meticulous presentation of contrary statistics, just how false are the 'success stories of capitalism'.

    Another central point, contained in Cromwell's account of the great banking heist, is the media tendency to highlight selective rogues and fall-guys like Sir Fred Goodwin, conveniently circumventing serious discussion of turbo-capitalism itself, a system predicated on ultra-privatisation, profit maximisation and ruthless inequality. Preservation of the 'good guy' structure often requires sacrificial exposure of a 'good-guy-turned-bad-guy' scapegoat.

    The book concludes with a remarkable last section on philosophical possibilities for rejecting all this barbarism, greed and unhappiness, both as a process of collective activism and in a spirit of personal transcendence.

    Noting the intellectual resistance of prominent 'outsiders', those who refuse to conform to the dominant order or standard ideology, Cromwell sees a certain value in Nietzschean ideas of strong individual assertion, a craving for meaningful values, yet finds ultimate fault both here and in existentialist aspirations to a mindful freedom. What use, in the end, of an Übermensch strength of will that doesn't translate into compassionate action towards others?

    Here, Cromwell considers our daily afflictions and worries, whether over love or other fears, anxieties, insecurities and personal suffering, asking: "why should any of this matter in a book that has devoted so much attention to politics, war and the state of the world? One answer arises from the basic principle that we surely do not wish to live in a world where nobody is concerned about anyone else." Again, rather than cold economics and harsh invective, we find the welcome politics of personal feeling and compassion.

    Taking a happy recollective journey through the cloisters of Glasgow University (conjuring multiple thoughts of my own good times there), Cromwell also provides a fine 'outsider's' critique of academic compliance in the great crimes noted throughout the book.

    Relating personal examples of how universities deter radical activity through politicised censure and selective research funding, we see how academia shapes the "disciplined professional", or, in other guises, provides cover for that more typical 'leftist academic', the "ideologically disciplined thinker".

    Risk avoidance of real critical thinking comes with an absorbed understanding that it's best not to raise one's head above the parapet or deviate too far from the 'accepted norms' of how academia should serve the 'realities' of market life. As Cromwell asks: "How can academic 'collaboration' with large corporations which are, after all, centralised systems of illegitimate power, not lead to compromise, distortion or worse?"

    Again, the basic acceptance of a 'good guy' system by liberal academics generates its own complicity: "This is because their research and teaching fit into a grand narrative where the essentially benign motives of government tend to be take for granted."  For Cromwell, the "silence and acquiescence of academics is a significant obstacle to peace and justice."

    Upholding an optimistic humanity, Cromwell also counters the oft-accepted view that we are little more than the accumulated sum of selfish desires and predatory urges. Embracing, amongst others, the psychologist Erich Fromm, he agrees that humans do have the capacity for both cooperative and destructive actions, but we are not in any way hardwired for outright greed, competition or violence. 

    Citing Mark Kurlansky's Nonviolence, Cromwell continues fascinatingly here not just on the amorality of warfare, but the actual, productive case for seriously peaceful approaches to conflict. It's a final, salutary reminder of just what level and manner of killing the 'good guys' have committed in the name of 'liberal intervention' and how many millions of lives could have been spared through true processes of human diplomacy and conflict resolution.

    At the end of this intriguing book, readers should be more alert to the staggering villainy still being executed by 'our' benign leaders and the myriad institutions of power supporting such misery.

    Yet, in the closing pages, and with unexpected irony, I found myself meditating on another possible variation of the book's title: why are we - those proclaiming progressive motives - the good guys? Perhaps unintentionally, Cromwell's discussion of motives here throws up related questions for anyone presupposing their own 'good' intentions: namely, where does sincere altruism, the capacity for radical activism, the desire to show real compassion, even the ability to love another or others unselfishly, really spring from?

    Whatever our latent motives for excavating elite crimes or supporting just causes, any enquiring mind will find an abundance of humanitarian argument, voluminous detail and food for onward personal reflection in reading this provocative and absorbing work.

    Why Are We the Good Guys? is a hopeful encouragement to a kind of higher intellectual freedom and mindful release from the conformity of market life, the constraints of establishment places like academia and all those cages of corporate existence that negate the possibility of human liberation and active compassion.

    John Hilley