Friday, 31 July 2015

Norman Finkelstein denounces Amnesty's whitewash on Gaza

Norman Finkelstein has produced a forensic and scathing indictment of Amnesty International's reports into Israel's Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Finkelstein writes:
In its introduction to Families under the Rubble, Amnesty exhorts Israel to “learn the lessons of this and previous conflicts and change its military doctrine and tactics for fighting in densely populated areas such as Gaza so as to ensure strict compliance with international humanitarian law.” But Israel has already learnt the lessons of fighting in Gaza, its military doctrine has incorporated these lessons, and the IDF brilliantly executed them. It requires exceptional mental discipline not to notice that ensuring “strict compliance with international law” has not been an Israeli concern, let alone a priority. Indeed, the whole point of OPE was to leave “families under the rubble.”
Please read the whole of Finkelstein's critique of Amnesty's investigations.

     Part 1

     Part 2

     Part 3

     Part 4

     Part 5

     Part 6

Part 6 includes the damning testimonies of IDF soldiers, given to Breaking the Silence, revealing the orders they received to wipe-out Palestinian civilians, homes and other infrastructure with indiscriminate disregard.

It's reproduced here, with Finkelstein's preliminary comment:
The ghastly truth of what unfolded in Gaza is captured, not in Amnesty’s effective whitewash but, instead, in the Breaking the Silence collection of testimonies of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers who served in Gaza during OPE (see Table 4).[1]
TABLE 4 Property/Home Destruction in Gaza during OPE: A Selection of IDF Testimonies
1*[Did you see any “before and after” aerial photos?]**
Sure. Neighborhoods erased. You know what joke was being told in the army at the time? The joke says that Palestinians only sing the chorus because they have no verses [houses] left. [in Hebrew, the word for verses is the same as the word for house]
During the talk [while in training] he [high ranking armored battalion commander] showed us the urban combat facility and said, “Everything you see here—picture it as though someone came through now and destroyed everything. There are almost no buildings left standing.” The inclination is to avoid risks—rather to destroy everything we come across.
I got the impression that every house we passed on our way got hit by a shell—and houses farther away too. It was methodical. There was no threat.
While we were stationed there, the armored forces would fire at the surrounding houses all the time. I don’t know what exactly their order was, but it seemed like every house was considered a threat, and so every house needed to be hit by at least one shell….
[After you left, were there still any houses left standing?]
Nearly none.
[What were you shooting at?]
At houses.
[Randomly chosen houses?]
[How much fire were you using?]
There was constant talk about how much we fired, how much we hit, who missed. There were people who fired 20 shells per day. It’s simple: Whoever feels like shooting more—shoots more. Most guys shot more. Dozens of shells [per day], throughout the operation. Multiply that by 11 tanks in the company.
I don’t know how they pulled it off, the D9*** operators didn’t rest for a second. Nonstop, as if they were playing in a sandbox. Driving back and forth, back and forth, razing another house, another street. And at some point there was no trace left of that street…. Day and night, 24/7, they went back and forth, gathering up mounds, making embankments, flattening house after house.
There was no threat and it was quiet, and then suddenly there’s this command on the two-way radio: “Guys, everyone form a row, facing the neighborhood of al-Bureij”…. I remember it, all the tanks were standing in a row, and I personally asked my commander: “Where are we firing at?” He told me: “Pick wherever you feel like it.” And later, during talks with the other guys—each one basically chose his own target, and the commander called it on the two-way radio, “Good morning al-Bureij.” “We are carrying out, a ‘Good morning al-Bureij,’ guys” that was the quote…. And everyone fired shells wherever they wanted to, obviously. Nobody had opened fire at us—not before, not after, not during.
Everything “wet” [using live fire]. From the moment we went in, we were firing MATADOR and LAW [portable anti-tank] rockets on every house we entered before “opening” them up, everything “wet,” grenades, the whole thing. War.
[Every room you go into you open “wet”?]
Everything. When I got to a house, it was already half destroyed. Lots and lots of bullet holes inside it, everything inside a total mess.
[The two hours of artillery fire before—what were they shooting at?]
At scattered areas near the houses. All those agricultural areas near the houses. Before a tank makes any movement it fires, every time. Those guys were trigger happy, totally crazy. Those were their orders, I’m certain of it, there’s no chance anybody would just go around shooting like that. [The brigade’s] conception was, “We’ll fire without worrying about it, and then we’ll see what happens.”
[The fire was directed at places deemed suspicious?]
No, not necessarily. The tank fires at places that you know you will need to enter, it fires at those houses.
[Only at the houses you’re going to enter?]
No, at the surrounding houses too. There are also agricultural fields there, the D9 rips them all up. And tin sheds. It takes down whatever’s in its way, it topples greenhouses. Lots of houses were flattened in “Bar’s Bar” [the nickname given to a housing compound in which the forces were positioned]. Empty houses that bothered us. Bothered us even just to look at.
The very day we left Gaza, all the houses we had stayed in were blown up by combat engineers.
We [armored corps] were given a number of targets…. It’s not like any normal city, where you’ll see a building next to another building and there’s a space between them. It looks like one fused layer.
[And at that point were you being fired at?]
No fire was directed toward us, but these were deemed “suspicious spots”—which means a very lax policy of opening fire [was being employed]. That can mean anything that looks threatening to us…. Every tank commander knew, and even the simple soldiers knew, that if something turns out to be not OK, they can say they saw something suspicious.
One of the high ranking commanders, he really liked the D9s. He was a real proponent of flattening things. He put them to good use. Let’s just say that after every time he was somewhere, all the infrastructure around the buildings was totally destroyed, almost every house had gotten a shell through it. He was very much in favor of that.
The forces…destroyed everything still left there. Literally not a single house was left standing.… “We are entering the area in order to destroy the entire tunneling infrastructure that still remains there.” If you think about it, that really means every house in the area.
[You said that according to the intelligence the IDF had, no tunnels were left there.]
Right. What they mean is, this is the area in which the brigade moves around, if it’s still standing, it needs to be taken down…. This incursion happened the night before there was a ceasefire.… [T]hey went in just to destroy stuff. Just to purposelessly destroy stuff, to finish the job, until they were told to stop.
There was one afternoon that the company commander gathered us all together, and we were told that we were about to go on an offensive operation, to “provoke” the neighborhood that dominated us, which was al-Bureij…. Because up until then, we hadn’t really had any real engagement with them…. [W]hen it started getting dark my tank led the way, we were in a sort of convoy, and there was this little house. And then suddenly we see an entire neighborhood opening up before us, lots of houses, it’s all crowded and the moment we got to that little house, the order came to attack. Each [tank] aimed at whichever direction it chose.... And that’s how it was, really—every tank just firing wherever it wanted to. And during the offensive, no one shot at us—not before it, not during it, and not after it. I remember that when we started withdrawing with the tanks, I looked toward the neighborhood, and I could simply see an entire neighborhood up in flames, like in the movies. Columns of smoke everywhere, the neighborhood in pieces, houses on the ground, and like, people were living there, but nobody had fired at us yet. We were firing purposelessly.
A week or two after we entered the Gaza Strip and we were all firing a lot when there wasn’t any need for it—just for the sake of firing—a member of our company was killed.… The company commander came over to us and told us that one guy was killed due to such-and-such, and he said, “Guys, get ready, get in your tanks, and we’ll fire a barrage in memory of our comrade.”… [T]here was a sort of building far away near the coastline, around 4.5 kilometers from us…. It wasn’t a threat to us, it had nothing to do with anybody, it wasn’t part of the operation, it was out by the sea, far away from anything and from any potential threat—but that building was painted orange, and that orange drove my eyes crazy the entire time.… So I told my platoon commander: “I want to fire at that orange house,” and he told me: “Cool, whatever you feel like,” and we fired….
[Did your guys discuss it later?]
The bit about shelling purposelessly? No, because when you look at the bigger picture, that’s something we were doing all the time. We were firing purposelessly all day long. Hamas was nowhere to be seen.
[Is the tank’s M16 being used the whole time?]
The more the merrier. What weapons? The tank, endless ammunition, and a crazy amount of firepower. Constantly. If not via the cannon, then via the tank’s heavy machine gun.
[Where is it shooting at?]
At everything, basically. At suspicious houses. What’s a “suspicious spot?” Everything is a suspicious spot. This is Gaza, you’re firing at everything.
Any house that infantry guys enter—a tank precedes them. That was really the formulation: any force that enters a house—first, at least one tank shell is fired at it before the force even goes in. Immediately after the engagement we set up in this orchard, we blasted shells at the surrounding houses. Even my commander, because he was hyped up to fire his personal weapon, took the entire team out just to shoot at the house, which was already obviously empty. So many shells were fired at it, and it was clearly empty. “Well, fire,” he told us. It was meaningless. It was just for kicks—the sort of fun you have at a shooting range.
[The commander] tells you, “Listen, this is the first line—I can’t take any risks on the first line of houses, use artillery on those.”
[Did he have any intelligence on those houses?]
No, no, he has no intelligence.
[Combat engineering forces] blew up a lot of houses…. There are all kinds of considerations about why to blow up a house. One of them, for example, is when you want to defend some other house. If there’s a house blocking your field of vision, [and you want to] expose the area so that it’s easier to defend…. Sometimes we blew up a house when we suspected there was an explosive device in it, but I think ultimately we blew up pretty much the entire neighborhood.
On the day the fellow from our company was killed, the commanders came up to us and told us what happened. Then they decided to fire an “honor barrage” and fire three shells.…
[A barrage of what?]
A barrage of shells. They fired the way it’s done in funerals, but with shellfire and at houses. Not into the air. They just chose [a house]—the tank commander said, “Just pick the farthest one, so it does the most damage.” Revenge of sorts. So we fired at one of the houses.
I remember one time that explosives were detonated in order to clear passage routes. They told us, “Take cover, it’s about to be used 100-150 meters away.” Then an explosion—I’ve never heard anything like it. Lamps crashing, it was insane—a crazy mushroom of fire, really crazy. Then we went down into the street and the houses we were supposed to take over no longer existed. Gone.
There was a humanitarian ceasefire that went into effect at 6:00 AM. I remember they told us at 5:15 AM, “Look, we’re going to put on a show.”… It was amazing. Fire, nonstop shelling of the “Sevivon” neighborhood [east of Beit Hanoun]…. Nonstop. Just nonstop. The entire Beit Hanoun compound—in ruins…. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing.
[A] very senior officer from the army strike coordination center comes in running and says, “Listen up, the brigade commander was killed and a soldier was kidnapped, it’s a mess, we need to help them.”… One of the most senior officials in the IDF, he just marked off houses on an aerial photo of Shuja’iyya, to be taken down. He simply looked at the map and saw commanding points and commanding houses and [picked targets] in a way that was in some sense sort of random—so that there would be no way that if you’re a Hamas militant…there wasn’t some house that just got taken down near you right now. It’s not like in every building that was struck in Shuja’iyya there was some Hamas militant or somebody firing at our forces.
[So why was it attacked?]
In order to keep their heads down and allow our forces to get out of there, to use firepower—that’s how the military works.
[I’m trying to understand: it was random, or as part of a target list prepared in advance?]
It wasn’t prepared in advance at all. In the inquiry later on it was described as a mistake.

* Testimonies are numbered in the collection.
** Bracketed, italicized interpolations by Breaking the Silence.
*** Armored bulldozers.

[1]Breaking the Silence, This Is How We Fought In Gaza: Soldiers’ testimonies and photographs from Operation “Protective Edge” (2014).

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Revelation media - a guiding hand behind Scottish Friends of Israel

While reluctant to give overdue notice to Israeli propaganda, a Scottish Friends of Israel (SFoI)decision to form street stalls as a means of countering pro-Palestine campaigns suggests a relative need to highlight some of their Zionist network, religious backers and hasbara output.

In an edition of televangelist channel Revelation TV (24 July 2015), presenter Simon Barrett has been talking to Nigel Goodrich, Co-ordinator of SFoI, about their campaign.

Goodrich has been instrumental recently in setting up pro-Israel street groups in Dumfries and Galloway, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and elsewhere.

As well as producing the Middle East Report and other output at Revelation TVBarrett is Communications Director at BICOM, the British-Israel Communications and Research Centre.

The video's content, Barrett's presentation and Goodrich's commentary are all part of a Christian Zionist collaboration. Allowing useful insight to the Zionist support network, the programme peddles the most blatant pro-Israel propaganda, all couched in a language of 'saving grace', as opposed to the 'hateful' motivations of those campaigning for the Palestinian cause.

It's a remarkable kind of 'human loving' that can, with such sanctimony, castigate the 'aggressive' actions of pro-Palestine campaigners while denying and shielding Israel's illegal occupation and mass murder. There's nothing, of course, in this cringing show about Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (The Nakba), its relentless flouting of international law, its multiple violations of human rights, the apartheid treatment of its Arab 'citizens' or even the most basic humanitarian concern for Gaza and other suffering Palestinians.

I won't say much more about the overall content of this squeamish production. It's an uncomfortable piece to watch - including the last, sickly musical section. Viewers can make their own assessments.

But, with SFoI trying to mobilise its street message, it's important to highlight a disturbing (and possibly litigious) message running through it: that pro-Palestine campaigners and sympathisers are motivated by a particular hatred of Jews.

For example, presenter Barrett asks Goodrich:

"Can you share with us who are not Scottish, who don't live in Scotland, the hostility pretty much towards Israel and the Jewish people up there...?"

Note how neatly here Barrett connotes 'Israel' and the 'Jewish people'. Goodrich, citing the 'principal motivations' of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (carefully allowing that there may be 'some exceptions'), replies:

"The leadership seems to simply just hate Israel and hate Jewish people."

Note that, while focusing on the SPSC, little differentiation is offered here or throughout the video between them and any wider pro-Palestinian feeling in Scotland. As in Barrett's question, the alleged feelings of the SPSC are implied as being part of a 'deep problem' of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment in Scotland at large.

Goodrich also openly relates and supports a very serious claim:

"I was speaking to a Jewish American student only last week at a meeting of Edinburgh Friends of Israel, who said - she's a Master's student - that her professor said to her that he had failed two of her essays because she is Jewish and supports the state of Israel. That's how bad the situation is."

Barrett: "That's truly shocking."

And, indeed, it would be if proven to be true. However, if no corroborating evidence can be offered, it stands as a deeply-contentious allegation.

Selections of SPSC-led pro-Palestine demonstrations against Barclays Bank are then shown, after which Barrett asks:

"What if you were Jewish or you were an Israeli walking past that demonstration, how as a Jewish person or an Israeli, how would they feel knowing that their nation is being attacked like that in such a way?"

Again, note how Barrett has made the apparent assumption that all Jews support what Israel is doing, and that all Jews see Israel as "their nation".

Goodrich replies:

"I think you'd be scared. You'd think to yourself, well, do we have a future here? Scotland historically has been very supportive of Jewish people. Somebody said to me that it's one of the few countries in Europe where no Jew has ever been murdered for being Jewish. I don't know if that's true or not. But that seems to be changing."

The strong implication here is that serious violence against Jews in Scotland is happening, with worse looming. No evidence of such is offered.

Goodrich also stresses that his SFoI groups are all "pro-PalestINIAN" (he emphatically spells out the latter letters), making the important distinction between 'pro-Palestine', something that such groups cannot, of course, countenance as it would involve the actual support of Palestinian rights. In truth, SFoI are neither pro-Palestine or pro-Palestinian.

Barrett further asks Goodrich why he thinks there's such a particularly prevalent pro-Palestine feeling in Scotland - noting, in passing, that Alex Salmond has also been "incredibly hostile" towards Israel, and that "anything that he could possibly do to hurt Israel, he was willing to do."

Goodrich alludes to the relative socialist political culture in Scotland as one possible explanation, but, conveniently circumventing this, goes on to specify:

"The problem is anti-Semitism, masquerading as being pro-human rights. The move to de-legitimize the state of Israel is the new anti-Semitism. We have to make that case. We are making that case...thereby upholding the truth."

This is entirely typical of the pro-Israel lobby in seeking to equate being anti-Israel with being anti-Semitic. It's a desperate but deeply pernicious tactic. Indeed, such claims are not only deceitful but, arguably, a provocative incitement to hatred against people campaigning for and supporting Palestinian human rights.

I can't speak specifically for SPSC, not being part of that group. But I've seen no evidence that theirs or any substantive part of the widespread public support in Scotland for Palestine and Palestinians is motivated by a core hatred of Jews. It's informed, much more rationally, and commendably, by a basic human objection to Israel's conduct as a state, and it's wilful oppression of Palestinians.

Being more closely connected with Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign, I can say categorically that this group, also comprising people of varying religious faiths - including Jews - and none, are motivated purely by humanitarian impulses, a conscientious concern to highlight and help challenge an historic injustice, and to offer support to Palestinians most badly affected. The message that this is fundamentally a human rights issue is constantly reaffirmed by GPHRC.

Very importantly, admirable bodies like Scottish Jews for a Just Peace (as with Jews For Justice for Palestinians) are also a vital part of that progressive, humanitarian network in Scotland. In stark contrast to the complicit Friends of Israel message, their unequivocal refrain to Israel is: Not In My Name.

Do people have the civil, peaceful right to demonstrate against Israel and organisations defending, promoting and concealing its aggressions? Yes, without question. Is there a similar moral case for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, helping to highlight businesses, such as banks and arms companies, deeply involved in the barbaric killing of Palestinians? Again, assuredly yes. It's the same question of conscience and legitimate action that's informed every civil rights movement, from the US to South Africa.

The wider issue of anti-Semitism should not be denied. But it's always much more productive to try and see where such hatred and resentment comes from. The reality is that much of it stems from a reaction to Israel's brutal treatment of Palestinians and its key part in colonialist control of the region.

It's the same kind of reaction to Western aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. You can't invade and steal lands, murder people en masse, occupy, terrorise and lay siege to entire populations without there being some kind of fallout hostility towards those perceived to be part of that occupation and control.

Friends of Israel-type organisations have no serious interest in exploring the root causes of hatred as a way of moving forward, mendaciously fixated, as they are, on repeating selective symptoms.

As previously noted, it's a sign of growing public awareness over Israel's brutal conduct that such groups now feel compelled to come on to the streets, trying to defend the indefensible. Their literature is riddled with pro-Israel distortion, comprising not the slightest real "pro-Palestinian" sentiment or genuine concern for a justice-based peace.

Encouragingly, understanding of the actual underlying causes is growing. Hopefully, real justice for Palestine and Palestinians will prevail. But no illumination of such truths, or compassionate regard for suffering others, is likely to be aired on Revelation TV.

Is it any more likely to be shared on BBC TV? I think not. Such is the lamentable absence of real context and critical enquiry across the media 'spectrum'. While people like Barrett indulge in Israel-serving rapture, fervent disciples of 'BBC impartiality' like Lyse Doucet can deliver unto viewers the 'two-sides-to-blame' message of Gaza's destruction - a 'gospel' of mitigation and deceit with much more intense and far-reaching effect.
Still, it's useful to shine a critical light on all such forms of propaganda and its 'higher guidance'. From evangelical presenters to establishment journalists an instruction to dutiful, complicit silence is being followed 'from above'. That's no small revelation.      

Friday, 24 July 2015

Blair, Welfare and the 'Corbyn problem' - keeping politics in safe hands

Just how do they get away with it, these 'hands-on' political villains responsible for so much death, destruction and social misery?

We slaughtered Iraq.
Just like that!
As a litany of Labour luvvies convulse over their nightmare vision of a real people-caring politician winning the party leadership, Tony Blair has handed-down a desperate appeal to 'deluded' Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

Addressing Progress (a right-wing, New Labour 'think-tank', part-funded by Lord David Sainsbury), Blair quipped that if people are voting for Corbyn "in their heart", they need to think about getting "a heart transplant". What wit. His select audience and attendant media tittered approvingly.

Much lofty 'debate' has ensued over Blair's 'intervention'. What will the 'Tony effect' be? Should he be 'hands-on' or 'hands-off'? Such is the vacuity of political discussion.

The issue isn't just Blair, it's the media's lavish indulgence of him, the free and helpful hand it gives him to stage his gesture politics.

Blair is ducking and diving, fronting himself up, saving his skin, fending-off justice, and, in the process, getting filthy rich with a grubby hand in every despot's business. But the BBC, Guardian and other service media have handed him acres of respectable space to carry on the great evasion.

This includes a line of shallow apologetics from the Guardian's Michael White and Owen Jones in defence of Blair's New Labourite 'legacy'.

White grudgingly concedes that, yes, there's Iraq and all that 'old issue', but asks whether Blair has a legitimate right to intervene in the leadership contest:
...the answer in a sane world must surely be: “Of course a triple election winner should offer advice. Whyever not?”
While White extols Blair as an election-winning machine, rather than questioning the sanity of a media that won't pursue him as a warmonger, Jones wants to focus on Blair's and "New Labour’s grand achievements: the war against child poverty", its creation of tax credits and other 'progressive legacies'.

It's a remarkable interpretation for Jones, a Corbyn supporter. Does he forget that these crumbs of economic 'comfort' under Blair and Brown (the 'Lennon and McCartney' of politics) occurred against a record of widening inequality, privatisation/PFI, neoliberalism and City-friendly policies so extreme they would have made Thatcher blush?

White commends Jones for "mak[ing] an honest stab at a balanced verdict here." The 'sage hack' handing-down plaudits to the paper's 'new left crusader'.

The Guardian's Polly Toynbee concurs on the Blair legacy, as she gushes over his reappearance:
The flash of the real Blair yesterday was a shadowy reminder of the deftness, flair and intelligence that made him a winner back in the day: his policies were often very good and sometimes very bad, but his political acuity was key.
Warning of the "disaster" and 'folly' of endorsing Corbyn, Toynbee reminds us that though a:
free spirit, the outsider not playing by the usual political rules [...and]unfettered by what a majority of voters beyond Islington might support in a real election, he’s a romantic.  
And while:
saying what no doubt many Labour members believe [...he's] a 1983 man, a relic of the election that brought him to parliament when Labour was destroyed by its out-of-Nato, anti-EU, renationalise-everything suicide note.
Toynbee does acknowledge Corbyn's core humanism. But that's not, apparently, important enough against what's politically 'realisable':
He’s a good man, sincere, ascetic, beloved by constituents – but voting for him is ignoring the electorate.
So says Toynbee, ignoring the fact that all those Corbyn supporters are also part of the electorate. This is classic liberal arms-around-the-poor politics, handing down the dire warning that only 'sensible Labourism' can seriously arm-wrestle that Tory muscle.

'Stand in front of you, take the force of the blow', goes the line from Massive Attack, words that could be used to signify the need for real protection against the latest Tory onslaught.

But how many Labour politicians will stand in front of Cameron and Osborne? Will this party ever check the relentless blows of neoliberalism? And which media is offering any real defence against these forces, including complicit Labour? The Guardian? White, Jones and Toynbee?

The Quiet Man shows his caring compassion
as Osborne announces savage welfare cuts
Iain Duncan Smith has shown a voracious capacity for hammering the weak and vulnerable. His fists clenched with zealous delight on hearing that his campaign to starve-out the poorest through benefit cuts, sanctions, and other siege policies had just been deepened with Osborne's budget.

This is Duncan Smith's 'helping-hand' to those at the bottom. Hands-up anyone who truly believes in that kind of 'assistance'.

In Glasgow's Easterhouse - for Duncan Smith a strange and distant locale he once visited in a kind of anthropological journey to shake hands with the alien poor - there's 'reportedly' many who might 'cordially' like to lay hands on him again.

While they and millions more face foodbank existence, Osborne's latest welfare handout to the rich should come as little surprise. The Bullingdon Club delivers precisely the kind of giveaways one expects of elites serving their own class.

That Labour have again been found working hand-in-glove with them confirms just what a venal entity it is.

Yet Harman's helping-hand to Osborne, ensuring safe passage of the Tories' Welfare Bill, ended up a ham-fisted failure to wield the whip over Labour rebels.

She duly pointed the finger at the 'irresponsible 48' who have only now, apparently, brought the official 'opposition' to a point of 'party crisis'.

As Corbyn forges ahead, his contenders, likewise, look on in bewildered panic.

Burnham, the initial favourite, now trailing Corbyn, has turned on Harman, accusing her not of collaboration, but of weakness in failing to wield the heaviest of hands over the Welfare vote. Like Cooper and Kendall, Burnham also abstained, saying he didn't want to split the party. It's "crying out for leadership", he pleaded.

Such shameless compliance and bland-speak reactions at being overtaken by Corbyn suggests that such figures are losing their once-assumed grip, trailing a shifting political mood.

Galvanised by the SNP, an ongoing referendum movement and the kind of real compassionate politics expressed by Mhairi Black, people are stirring for a serious alternative to clone politicians. It's a vote for authenticity, an appreciation of plain-speaking, shared experience and human empathy.

But any serious reflection of that mood cannot be countenanced by an 'even-handed' BBC and other alarmed media.

Corbyn is being tainted, smeared, trivialised and, above all, castigated as making Labour unelectable.

The warnings and appeals to 'show sense' couldn't be more front-page, headline and finger-waving.

Yet on a range of vital issues, from re-nationalising the railways and other public utilities to opposing Iraq and other aggressive wars, from approving a 75 per cent rate of tax to banning nuclear weapons - a substantial majority of the public are on Corbyn's side.

Beyond token acknowledgement of these feelings, the relentless media message is one of choosing between 'ideological wish-lists' and 'reality politics'.  From BBC News to Newsnight, the Guardian to the Independent, the consistent frame is how to deal with the 'Corbyn Problem'.

For Toynbee, we've now entered "summer madness", as it:
begins to feel like the poisonous place it was in the early 80s. That’s when it split over toxic Militant entryism unchallenged by Michael Foot, its unelectable leader with a raft of impossibilist policies.
Can the party step back from "the brink" of adopting this political 'amateur', the paper's Martin Kettle anguishes:
He is not, as his three opponents are, a reformist who aspires to govern and get re-elected. He is not interested in making detailed policy choices or pragmatic compromises. Corbyn’s position is essentially made up of attitudes and slogans.
For Kettle:
There’s nothing particularly wrong with being a faith-based socialist – but please don’t confuse it with politics.
Politics, of course, being the all-knowing domain of grown-up journalists like Kettle.

And just in case we need any more handy lessons in frivolous democracy and silly ideals, Michael White is also on hand to remind us what befell Syriza and the Greek people in pursuing such leftist 'indulgence'.

In other words, get back in your box. Get off the streets. Trust your Guardianista.

The connection those like Black and Corbyn have to real people on the street pose a growing threat to blandscape politics, such as the anodyne lines handed-down by Burnham, Cooper and Kendall. Those street feelings also undermine the Guardian cabal.

Listen to Mhairi's deeply-felt compassion as she relates the treatment of people subject to cruel sanctions, vicious cuts and the humiliation of foodbanks.

Black articulates not just a rejection of austerity but a true, hands-on case for the better society.

The establishment have an enduring interest in promoting the politics of selfishness, scapegoating migrants, blaming the poor and vulnerable, encouraging divisive animosity. But the politics of 'choice' over how to respond to this is like opening out a pair of empty hands. In one, a resort to hateful Daily Mail conservatism, in the other a plea from soothing Guardian liberals to stay with moderate Labourism.

The charade of 'Labour's rebuilding' goes on. But, high-handed politicians and a slap-down media are struggling to contain the disillusion within and beyond Labour ranks. Whether Corbyn wins this contest or not, there's a growing realisation that Labour, in its system-serving role, peddling itself as a credible alternative, offers nothing of progressive use. As we've seen in Scotland, it's irretrievably broken. Nothing of radical worth can come from a party now so tainted by decades of incorporation and betrayal. Whatever transpires for Labour, the mood for a new authentic politics is growing.

That's the enveloping concern for a losing Labour elite and its anxious media handlers. Last year's near convulsion for them came from the Scottish independence vote. Right now, in this 'summer of madness', it's the all-hands-on-deck operation to stop Corbyn. All of which promises greater consequential crises for Labour and its establishment network. In continuing emergency mode, their authority is being further eroded, their legitimacy more deeply exposed.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Peddling 'peace' and selling the aggressor state - Friends of Israel do street propaganda

It's a measure of Israel's increasing concern over its pariah status in the world that Zionist campaign groups are now delivering street-based propaganda. 

Glasgow Friends of Israel is one such organisation now engaged in a desperate charm offensive.

They proclaim, on their banners and in their literature, to be 'pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace'. Only one of these has the mark of truth.

As with their cynical display of Palestinian flags around the main flag of Israel, the key deception of this group is that it professes to be 'caring', 'giving' and 'receptive' towards Palestinians, while actually willing their continued subjugation and masquerading behind 'the peace process'. 

Beneath the Glasgow Friends of Israel message lies not a concern for Palestinian advancement, but a rearguard determination to protect Israel. It's a Zionist-first agenda, asserting the 'urgent need' for Palestinian 'compromise', while extolling the 'higher need' for Israel's continued existence, 'security' and control.  

The title 'Glasgow Friends of Israel' should be enough to signify the group's true allegiance and purpose. But just in case of any doubt, consider what their overall 'concern' for Palestinians actually amounts to.      

They refuse to accept as truth the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 (as forensically documented by eminent Jewish historian Ilan Pappe in his landmark book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine).

They never use the word Nakba, or refer to it as the defining historical trauma of Palestinians.

They don't recognise the primary Palestinian right of return, as defined by UN Resolution 194 (Article 11) and continually reaffirmed by the General Assembly.

They don't mention that Israel, through the Jewish National Fund, destroyed and covered-over more than 500 Palestinian villages and entire landscapes to erase any evidence of the Nakba murder and expulsion.

They don't consider Israel's West Bank settlements and annexation of East Jerusalem illegal (as stated in UN Resolution 242), colonial and part of a relentless Zionist expansionism.

They don't recognise the illegality of the apartheid wall (as stated by the International Court of Justice ruling in 1994), or its principal purpose as a blatant land-grab.

They don't believe that Gaza is under a state of illegal and inhuman imprisonment, insisting only on the 'benign motives' of Israel's 2005 'settler withdrawal'. They won't acknowledge that Israel has continued to perpetrate mass war crimes against Gaza, wilfully repeating the media-assisted fiction that it has been 'responding' to Hamas, rather than inflicting deliberate terror on Palestinians and civil infrastructure at large.

They shun the truth that Palestinians elected Hamas in free and fair elections. While denouncing Hamas as 'terrorists', intent on 'annihilating' Israel, there's no attempt to explore Hamas's much more complex elements, how it was originally sponsored by Israel, Hamas's efforts to forge diplomatic links and secure a long-term truce, its consistent engagement on 'two states', the Western-backed coup plan against it, or Israel's orchestrations over Hamas as the pretext for its 2014 massacre of Gaza. Whatever one's feelings towards Hamas, nothing educational or constructive is gained from the reductionist propaganda peddled by Friends of Israel. 

They won't call Israel's killing of peace activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, and the hijacking of other aid convoys to Gaza, international crimes.

They never refer to Israel's mass murder as 'terrorism', 'state terrorism' or 'annihilation'.  Their literature says: 'The Palestinians deserve better' than Hamas, but not, apparently, 'better than Israel's 60-year-plus oppression'. They don't cite Likud's (2006) Constitution which emphatically rejects Palestinian statehood.

There's no enquiry as to why armed resistance, relatively limited as it is, compared with Israel's mass military might, occurs. Nor is it ever conducted by 'Palestinians', always Hamas, the 'main enemy', forever 'manipulating' the Palestinian population. 

Their deceptive focus is on easy-to-denounce symptoms, rather than primary causes. History is ignored, Palestinian suffering erased. History 'begins' with the last Hamas rocket. Any idea that the path to peaceful resolution can only come through truthful acknowledgement of Zionism's founding crime can never be contemplated. Israel's theft, expulsion and ongoing murder must be rationalised as 'defensive survival'.     

They don't even view Palestinians in any respectful sense as a definitive people, treating them, rather, as a 'problem' to be 'managed', like other parts of the 'external Arab threat'. Palestinians have no agency, their rights, culture and aspirations subsumed by Israel's 'facts on the ground'. In their contorted, qualified call for a 'two state solution', Palestinians are an entity to be controlled, with 'concessions' granted according to Israel's prior interests and handed-down to them on Israel's terms.   

Does any of this strike any reasonable-minded observer as being in any sense 'pro-Palestinian'?

Much of the literature being distributed by Glasgow Friends of Israel and similar groups is supplied by Stand With Us, a right-wing, US-based 'advocacy' organisation with deep political ties to Israel and the wider pro-Israel lobby. Founded by wealthy benefactor Roz Rothstein, Stand With Us has been engaged in multiple Israel-protecting campaigns, from funding HelpUsWin, an online defence of the mass-murderous Operation Cast Lead, to defending Caterpillar, whose bulldozers Israel use as weapons of death and destruction. With a $4 million annual budget, it is particularly active around academic campuses and in targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In a key collaboration with the Israeli state, Stand With Us have been tasked with helping to "run 'interactive media war rooms' manned by students who will be trained to disseminate Israeli hasbara on social media platforms".

Again, how 'pro-Palestinian' are these kind of actions and affiliations? 

What Israel is doing, in it's relentless occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in its brutal siege of Gaza and in its apartheid treatment of Palestinians living inside Israel, amounts to an historic crime against humanity.

There are no 'two conflicting sides' here. There's an Occupied and an Occupier, an oppressed and an oppressor, an imprisoned and an imprisoner. Herein lies the moral choice. You can't be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. 

If you're a Friend of Israel, you're extending a hand of protective friendship to a serial aggressor, a brutal enforcer, an apartheid state. That nullifies any real regard for Palestinians.

Desmond Tutu has famously said: 'If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.'

Tutu and other veteran figures in the struggle against apartheid have called the treatment of Palestinians by Israel "worse" and "more terrifying" than that of South Africa. They have also reiterated their support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions as a necessary measure to overcome Israeli apartheid. Many more notable observers agree that Israel is an apartheid state. Such people are ignored or dismissed by groups like Glasgow Friends of Israel as having no credible view on the Palestinian issue. This is the level of their 'enlightened engagement' and quest for 'peace'.

Stuck in 'liberal-Zionist' paradigms, and subject to lifetimes of 'homeland-serving' indoctrination, many such Friends find it impossible to escape the Israel-first mindset. Yet, the truth of Palestinian suffering and injustice remains plainly obvious. The devious intention of campaigns like Glasgow Friends of Israel is to blur the lines, to create the impression of an 'intractable conflict', and, all too typically, to blame Hamas for the Palestinians' 'self-inflicted' plight.

With the reality of Israel's illegal occupation, war crimes and apartheid society becoming ever-more apparent, this kind of duplicitous 'two-sides' narrative provides Israel with welcome breathing space, respite propaganda which allows it to continue expanding its settlements, bomb Gaza and stifle Palestinian-Arab civil rights.

With ongoing aid and support from the US and its other international sponsors, Israel is being allowed to maintain its wicked aggressions while claiming that it's still looking to 'advance the peace process'.

But, as any sane observer can see, there is no 'peace process'. Nor is there any likelihood of Israel relinquishing its settlements, or giving up its claim to being a Jewish only state, rather than a democratic state for all. 

In negating to say any of this, and in failing to indict Israel and its backers as the principal obstacle to any real peace process, bodies like Glasgow Friends of Israel play a key, complicit part in that aggression, in prolonging the suffering of Palestinians, in thwarting any true path to a just and lasting solution.

In hiding behind the 'peace veil', protecting Israel and affecting to tell Palestinians what's 'good for them', this group represent the very worst form of Zionist duplicity and humanitarian evasion. Their deceit and distortions should be duly exposed. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Terror toys and nightmare enemies - building that young militarist mind

Stuck for an inspiring, mind-developing toy for your child? How about the Character Building Predator Drone and Remote Operator set?

Touchingly, the lego model base comes complete with a female RAF drone operator. 

Buyers at the HM Armed Forces site also learn that the real RAF M-Q Reaper aircraft can fly for 13 hours, provides real time intelligence and fires laser-guided missiles.

There's plenty of other additions in the Character Building series for your eager-to-learn-the-mechanics-of-killing toddler, such as the Army Royal Artillery Mega Set, including artillery gunners, guns and mortars, not forgetting those enemy soldiers waiting to be bombed in their enemy bunkers.

Parents might also consider the Character Building Army HVM LML Missile Platform, complete with High Velocity Lightweight Missile Launch.

Or maybe the RAF Tornado Fast Jet Set, capable of delivering a wide variety of weapons.

Watch with pleasure and pride as your child develops from inquisitive, keyboard-flicking drone-operator to full-on weapons fetishist.

(Information on the number of human beings murdered, and detail of life extinguished, by such weaponry - not included.)

What next, one wonders, for the HM Armed Forces Character Building series? Perhaps an RAF Grim Reaper RP2 Multiple Directing Annihilator Drone Missile Set, with Advanced Political Stealth Evasion Radar, and This Year's Terrorist Guidance Selector System. (Instructions on usage for Middle East region included. A UK/US/Saudi axis product, suitable for disturbed politicians of all ages.)

Campaigners close down Elbit's factory in Kent

Alternatively, there's more healthy, life-asserting figures for young minds to admire, such as the recent anti-militarist activists who closed down a number of UK factories run by Israeli arms company Elbit.

Hopefully, that kind of 'drone strike' will help save some lives.

Shamefully, the UK government sent £4 million worth of weapons parts to Israel in the immediate months after its killing spree in Gaza last year. Netanyahu must be very pleased with the delivery of those 'toys' and the political support for Israel it signifies.

Why aren't more of the public outraged by this death trade and the special treatment reserved for corporate arms profiteering? Largely because of how weapons and war are wrapped and bow-tied in a culture of 'giving' militarism. 

As the Queen led a minute's silence for the British victims of the Tunisian hotel attack, who would think this anything other than a noble, humanitarian gesture? But, like so much royal-militarist appropriation, while we're urged to observe the loss of 'ours', there will be no such remembrance for all the victims of Britain's economy of death, no media marking of those in foreign lands blown to bits by the jets, drones and missiles delivered by the UK, its allies and proxies.

And of '7/7', the same dismally-evaded truth, the same political, royal and militarist seizure of a commemoration. As John Pilger wrote in the immediate aftermath of that atrocity:
The bombs of 7 July were Blair's bombs. Blair brought home to this country his and George W Bush's illegal, unprovoked and blood-soaked adventure in the Middle East. Were it not for his epic irresponsibility, the Londoners who died in the Tube and on the No 30 bus almost certainly would be alive today.
Defence Minister Michael Fallon's latest call for bombing Syria, this time against Islamic State rather than Assad, returns us to the same weapons-obsessed 'solutions'. And it's not just the Telegraph, Mail and Sun banging the drums of war. The Guardian, too, is never short of war-promoting comment.

Loaded imagery. BBC's 'good-weapons' caption: 
'RAF jets have been involved in air strikes
against Islamic State targets in Iraq'
And, of course, there's the ever-dutiful British State Media amplifying the terrorist nightmare, repeating here, without a word of counter-comment, Cameron's plans to increase spending on drones: 
Mr Cameron wants the defence review, due to conclude by the end of the year, to prioritise resources that will help to protect the UK from evolving threats - not only extremism but also a more aggressive Russia and the risks posed by cyber attacks.
While reiterating Fallon's call for increased, Nato-advised 'defence' spending, the BBC also give helpful voice to the case for extended drone deployment: 
The prime minister will also visit RAF Waddington, the UK's drone base in Lincolnshire, from where operators fly unmanned aircraft over Iraq and Syria. The RAF's jets and drones are part of the coalition attacking IS in Iraq, but in Syria the drones are limited to a surveillance role - although ministers have begun setting out the case to extend the bombing campaign to the terror group's strongholds in that country.
Meanwhile, as our militarist-minded media turn a blind eye to drone terror, teachers are being asked to keep a vigilant eye on pupils with 'terrorist tendencies'. All, in the process, helping to keep dissenting young minds in check, while promoting 'British values'.

In the same Orwellian mode, here's an interesting account from one teacher (in a letter to Media Lens) who dared question the motivations behind the minute's silence for the victims of the Tunisian hotel:

Subject: Re: Propaganda in education

Hi David,

Very interesting discussion with my Head teacher this morning. She asked me to read the statement that will be read out to the school before a minutes silence at midday. I told her what I thought and said that I wouldn't be 'honouring' the dead in this way She has says that the group I teach at 12 will be covered by another teacher. I didn't think I'd ever see this kind of knee jerk politics infecting our schools.
[Name withheld]
From media-encouraged 'interventionism' to medal-draped royals, children and a propaganda-bombarded public at large are being sold a catalogue of militarist ideology. From demonic toys to sanitised remembrance, nightmare fears are being peddled about the 'terror enemy' and Britain's role as a 'benign' Action Man.

Isn't it all very reassuring? Alongside expanding civil surveillance, from monitoring classrooms to watching online chat sites, it's good to know those silent drones and roaring bombs are all helping to keep us safe and sleeping easier at night.

Unless, of course, you're a traumatised child in Gaza, or a wedding party in Afghanistan, or just walking down a road in Yemen, Pakistan or Iraq.

Still, it's all - our political guardians, military minders and mitigating media remind us - part of the 'necessary fight against terror', the 'dutiful deployment' of 'our good weaponry', and the 'character building' encouragement of our children.    

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Doucet's shameful film: Children of the Gaza war

A truly disgraceful piece of distortion from the BBC's Lyse Doucet.

The title of this film is a clear hint of the propaganda to come, based, as ever, on the fatuous 'two sides' narrative. There was no 'war', only another orchestrated massacre, a campaign of civil terror, in order to maintain Israel's wicked, illegal siege. From the first minute of this shoddy film, one just wants to urge Doucet: tell the truth, give the context!

Yes, children suffer and die, but why is this happening? Why have so many Palestinians been murdered? Why have over 500 children been slaughtered? Why are an entire population, notably the children, so deeply traumatised? Tell the truth, provide the context!

Israel is the aggressor force. Gaza is the key target. It lies in ruins. Yet, this truly despicable film affects to argue that Sderot is part of the same 'war zone'.

Continual reference is made to Israel targeting populated areas from where, it's claimed, Hamas were launching rockets, just part of the loaded message that Hamas are largely responsible for the carnage.

A key section of the film is given over to Hamas fighters, youth camp training and wielded weaponry. But there's not a single frame of an Israeli soldier, or the mass military operation engaged in the attempted annihilation of Gaza's people. There's no questioning, either, of how Israel has socialised so much of its youth to hate and fear Palestinians. 

Standing at a Hamas training camp, Doucet laments: "For the outside world it's hard to comprehend why parents would put children in situations like this." But there's no exploration of how Israel as a militarist, occupying state has conditioned so much of its own population to join in the historic oppression and mass murder of Palestinians. Indeed, the word 'occupation' is never used.

At one point, Doucet sits with the smiling Gazan kids and asks one of them: 'Why do you want to be a journalist?' The child replies in lovely innocence: 'So I can tell people what's going on in wars like this one'. If only Doucet could aspire to that same basic aim. One might ask Doucet, in turn: Why do you want to be a stenographer rather than a journalist?

We see more pictures of Gaza's ruins. Doucet says: "The donors promise a lot. But politics on all sides gets in the way." This is the extent of her 'explanation' of the carnage Israel has caused, the devastation it's unleashed, its refusal to help rebuild.

Doucet's grating commentary, over inappropriately lilting music, continues, with affected questions on whether the hate and suspicion can ever be overcome.

A scene of more families coming to settle in Israel's border locale raises not a word of comment on the nature of Israel's land appropriation, historic displacement of people and enduring occupation. The indoctrination of Israeli children in defending this is never mentioned, nor is the stark privilege of Israeli kids against the appalling conditions and despair of the children in Gaza. Doucet just smiles and says nothing of the staggering disparities.
I hope the families that Doucet interviewed in Gaza get to see how they've been used and exploited in this shabby, deceitful film.

An end credit announces that both Israel and Hamas could be indicted for war crimes, and that: 'In May and June there were more rounds of rockets fired from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes', the clear inference, as throughout this deeply-loaded film, that Israel is always 'responding' to provocative weaponry.

This is one of the worst examples of 'two sides' reportage ever shown. Israel couldn't have hoped for a greater piece of mitigating hasbara. Doucet's film is one of the most shameful pieces of 'war journalism' ever put out by the BBC.

She doesn't lack human empathy for the suffering Palestinian kids, such as little Syed, still haunted by the murder of his brother and three cousins on Gaza's beach. What she lacks, much more profoundly, is a sense of compassionate duty to say why these appalling things happened, and are still happening, to name the principal perpetrators, to be a witness for truth and justice.

Doucet's film is an abuse of journalism, and, in its pretentious evasions, an abuse of Gaza's suffering children.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Speaking names to power - re-framing the language of 'terror'

Jonathan Cook has made some excellent points on the supposed 'debate' between David Cameron and the BBC over whether to re-cast Islamic State as 'Daesh'.

If similarly applied, it would not, Cook asserts, be unreasonable for the BBC and wider media to cite the Israel Defence Forces as the 'Zionist Occupation Forces', and the Conservative Party as the 'Revolutionary Neoliberal Party'.   
This suggests multiple other possibilities in real-naming institutional villains and their military, political and economic oppressions.   
For example, the US, West or even 'international community' could be more accurately designated Neoliberal State. Nato could be fairly re-labelled Western Invading Forces, or, perhaps, Militant West.
The BBC itself could become British State Media - a moderated title denoting its main establishment-serving role, rather than any more tempting subversion of its lofty acronym.
Political and media appropriation of the language on 'terror' can also be reversed. In a brilliant edition of the Keiser Report on the tumultuous situation in Greece, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert turn the tables nicely in suggesting the entirely relevant use of 'financial terrorism', 'weapons of financial mass destruction' and 'economic warfare' to describe the actions of the Troika. 
In a further penetrating analysis, Keiser's guest, economics professor Steve Keen, takes apart the disastrous narrative of austerity economics, the repeated media misconceptions and distortions over debt, and talks candidly of the ECB as a 'central bank dictatorship'.
You won't, of course, hear the likes of Robert Peston air these kind of labels and indictments in his safely-worded BBC reports. 

But it's encouraging to see a really informing, alternative media using such well-defended vocabulary. Other useful language, with alliterative effect, might include terms like corporate control, naked neo-liberalism, militant monetarism, carnivorous capitalism, Orwellian officialdom, and state-sly surveillance.

Political 'ownership' and media manipulation of language is so normalised in headlined news and comment we barely give it a thought. The whole 'war on terror' lexicon gets unquestioningly presented as the narrative of 'external threat' without the slightest suggestion of Western states as principal terrorist agencies. 'Terror' and 'terrorism' are routinely voiced and written as things carried out by 'them', to be resisted by 'us' through the 'benign counter-actions' and language of states like 'ours'.

Similarly, corporate interests see their ideals continually prioritised, with, as we've seen in the 'mainstream' reporting of Greece, the 'dangers of default', 'urgency' of 'banking stability' and 'facing-up' to the 'debt burden' as imperative aims and issues.

Alongside BBC news, this orthodoxy has been blatantly apparent in Newsnight and other 'flagship' BBC output, all part of the system-preserving role of British State Media.

That same careful deference is also evident in the 'prudent' voice of the Guardian - see, for example, Cook's neat dissection of the Guardian's framing of Greece.

The use of such framing, as shown by people like Cook and Keiser, illustrates not only how we're being deeply manipulated, but also how it's possible to reclaim much of that language as a means of subverting power.